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Beijing: 7 nights
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Day 1 - Welcome to Beijing
Day 2 - Forbidden City, hutong tour & Lama Palace
Welcome to Beijing, the historic capital of the People's Republic of China. This vast city is known for its atmospheric narrow alleyways, lively food markets and elaborate temples. It is dominated by the Tiananmen Square and the 15th century Forbidden Palace complex, though other notable landmarks include the futuristic Birds Nest Olympic Stadium, the sacred Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, set within parkland on the outskirts of the city.
You will be greeted by your guide at the airport, who will assist you with your luggage, taking a private transfer to your hotel for an initial two night stay.
Today's tour will start from Tiananmen Square, the largest urban space in the world, from where we can orientate ourselves in the city, learn about the square's historical significance and appreciate its communist style architecture and monuments. From here, we walk into the famed Forbidden City, the former imperial palace that was home to 24 Chinese emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties for nearly 500 years. Large sumptuously decorated palaces, gates and halls are linked by landscaped gardens, traditional pavilions and spacious courtyards, lined with typical architecture and adorned with intricate statues, marble bridges and other fascinating details.
We will then continue with a rickshaw tour of a traditional hutong; atmospheric alleyways where we can still find examples of traditional life and customs. After a stop for a drink at a local bar we will visit the colourful Lama Temple, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet.
Day 3 - Great Wall & Ming Tombs
We start the day with a once-in-a-lifetime visit to one of the great wonders of the world and an enduring symbol of Chinese power. Located around 50 miles north of Beijing, Mutianyu is one of the very best preserved sections of the Great Wall, affording picture-postcard views, as the wall gently rolls over the surrounding hills.
On the way back to Beijing, we will stop to visit the impressive Ming Tombs, resting place of 13 Chinese emperors from the Ming dynasty. Surrounded by mountain ridges on three sides, the site shows off some wonderful Ming era artifacts, statues and architectural details. Upon returning to Beijing, we will make a quick stop to admire and photograph the world famous Birds Nest Olympic Stadium. It is one of the finest modern arenas in the world, surprisingly full of hidden symbolism.
Great Wall alternative excursion
Alternatively, there is the option to visit the wilder Jinshanling Great Wall section, which offers hiking opportunities and far fewer crowds. This is a full day tour from Beijing, so does not allow time for the tombs or the stadium, instead offering a more in-depth experience of the wall.
Day 4 - Temple of Heaven & Summer Palace
Day 4 - Temple of Heaven & Summer Palace
Today we will visit the 15th century Temple of Heaven, one of the most important in all of China. The site is a collection of over 90 buildings, the most important being the richly decorated Temple of Good Harvest, to where Ming and Qing dynasty emperors, seen as a child sent from heaven, would come each year to make a sacrifice and pray for a favourable harvest. A visit here teaches you about Dynasty era sacrificial rituals, cosmogony and philosophical beliefs, as well as giving the opportunity to appreciate ancient artwork and see locals going about their everyday lives and taking daily exercise in the surrounding parkland.
We continue with a visit to the grand Summer Palace, set amid peaceful landscaped parkland that feels a long way from the noise of downtown Beijing. The park is dominated by the huge Kunming Lake, whilst the palace buildings themselves sit on Longevity Hill. A visit here gives you the chance to learn more about the infamous Empress Cixi, who restored the palaces in the 19th century and spent a lot of her time here.
Day 5-7 - Beijing at leisure
Day 8 - Departure & return flight
Enjoy three days free time to do some shopping, relax or pursue your own interests. We have a range of optional excursions and tours to complete your time. These include:
Transfer to Beijing International Airport for flight to back to the UK.
Price guidelines for travel dates and room arrangement
Tailor this itinerary to match your travel interests and budget.
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