IMPERIAL PALACES, TIBETAN MONASTERIES & INSPIRING LANDSCAPES

Enjoy a grand cross-country tour of China, visiting its most iconic sights, seeing pandas up close, journeying through spellbinding scenery and exploring its fascinating cities.

Travel Highlights

  • Explore Beijing's iconic sights to learn about its Imperial and Communist past
  • Hike on the Great Wall of China at one of the most atmospheric sections
  • Take the Bullet Train to historic Xi'an to discover its beguiling Muslim Quarter
  • Get a closer look at the 8,000 members of the famous Terracotta Army
  • Visit the former residences of the Dalai Lama in the Tibetan capital Lhasa
  • See baby pandas up close in Chengdu and the 71m high Giant Buddha
  • Be awed by the spectacular rice terraces and karst landscape near Guilin
  • Delve into exotic Hong Kong, discovering local markets and tranquil islands

Journey Breakdown

Route Map

Click on a marker to read about each location.

The Mandarin Tour
Travel Itinerary

Beijing & Forbidden City
Day 1 - 4

Day 1 - Fly to Beijing

Day 2 - Welcome to Beijing

Day 3 - Special tour - Beijing's past & present

Day 4 - At leisure or optional tours

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 1 - Fly to Beijing

Depart on your overnight flight from the UK to Beijing.

Day 2 - Welcome to Beijing

Upon arrival you will be greeted by your guide at the airport, who will assist you with your luggage and will take a private transfer to your hotel for a four night stay. You will have the remainder of the day free to rest and recover from your flight and perhaps explore the local area near your hotel.

Day 3 - Special tour - Beijing's past & present

Our special tour of Beijing has been designed to give you a comprehensive overview on the history and modern day life of the Chinese capital. We will journey through the Dynastic and Communist history of China, before exploring two of its main philosophical systems to better understand local culture.

We start in the vast Tiananmen Square to learn about its historical significance and appreciate its communist style architecture and monuments. Generations of Chinese families line up to have their family portrait with Chairman Mao's image at one end, whilst his immense mausoleum sits at the other.

From here we will walk into the Forbidden City, home to 24 Chinese emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties for nearly 500 years. Throughout are sumptuously decorated palaces, gates and halls, linked by landscaped gardens, traditional pavilions and spacious courtyards. This is the best place in the city to learn about China's imperial roots.

We continue along the central axis of Beijing, heading north to climb Coal Hill, man-made to provide good Feng Shui for the Forbidden City. From here we get a panoramic view across the city and also appreciate the special architecture of central Beijing; the yellow rooftops of the imperial city, the large lakes and gardens amid which emperors relaxed, the grey roofs of the city's hutongs and the surprising abundance of verdant trees.

After lunch in a local restaurant, we will head to the little-visited Confucius Temple, dedicated to the philosopher whose ideas continue to play a key role in Chinese society. The quiet grounds are filled with beautiful structures and it is here that we can best understand how Confucius defended his ideas, how they eventually gained prominence and why they are still valid today.

Nearby is the Lama Temple, the largest Buddha temple outside of Tibet. This is a great place to see how Buddhism has once again gained acceptance in Chinese society, learning more about its teachings and belief system and how it fits together with Taoism and Confucianism.

If there is time and you wish to see it, we could catch the last Drum Show performance at the Drum Tower.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4 - At leisure or optional tours

Today you will either enjoy a day at leisure in Beijing, or you could choose optional activities according to your particular interests. We have a number of different half and full day excursions to choose from, including:

  • Summer Palace & Old Summer Palace ruins
  • Temple of Heaven, local life & lesser-visited Beijing
  • Behind the scenes Hutong tour
  • 798 Art District
  • Beijing's Museums

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The Penta Hotel Tour - Holidays to Beijing & Great Wall

Penta Hotel

Described as a "neighbourhood lifestyle hotel", the Penta is a distinctive 4 star contemporary hotel, close to the Temple of Heaven and a short walk from the subway. The laid-back hotel offers 307 ensuite rooms in a minimalist style, including family rooms, as well as the use of bikes and maps to ex…

Deluxe Experience

The Red Wall Garden Hotel Tour - Holidays to Beijing & Great Wall

Red Wall Garden Hotel

This delightful boutique hotel is centred around a traditional courtyard in the historic Shijia Hutong, to the east of the Forbidden City and close to popular food and shopping streets. Rooms are a blend of classic and contemporary decor, with modern facilities, luxurious bedding and marble bathroom…

Great Wall of China
Day 5

Day 5 - Hike the Great Wall of China

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 5 - Hike the Great Wall of China

One of the highlights of your China holiday will undoubtedly be the chance to walk along the Great Wall of China. In our own personal experience, the best way to experience the true majesty and atmosphere of the wall is to begin a hike at one of the lesser-visited parts, seeing the wall in its wild and untamed state. One such hike begins at the Zhenbeikou watchtower, a two hour drive north of Beijing, and ends at the popular Mutianyu section, where the wall has been restored and cable cars provide an easy way to exit. This is a great way to combine a wild and restored section. The hike lasts around 5 miles, starting with a fairly arduous climb through a forested area. Although tricky in places, it will be appropriate for most visitors and provides breathtaking views throughout, often with no other visitors in sight!

Great Wall alternatives: Another wild section, with easier initial access is Gubeikou, which also allows you to exit the Wall at different points, should you wish to cut short the hike. Jinshanling is the most beautiful and atmospheric of the restored parts, with wonderful views and less tourists. Visiting Mutianyu by itself (no hiking) is a shorter experience and so allows time to visit the impressive Ming Tombs on the way back to the city, resting place of 13 Chinese emperors from the Ming dynasty. We do not recommend a visit to Badaling as this gets extremely busy and provides little of the true essence of the Great Wall.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Xi'an & Terracotta Army
Day 6 - 8

Day 6 - Bullet Train to Xi'an

Day 7 - See the 8,000 strong Terracotta Army

Day 8 - Xi'an at leisure

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 6 - Fly to Xi'an

Today you will be transported to the station for your high speed Bullet Train to the ancient city of Xi'an, a journey of around four and a half hours. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel, with time at leisure in the afternoon.

Once the starting point of the legendary Silk Road and a capital for eleven dynasties, Xian has retained a great deal of its mystique and boasts an impressive array of sights, which we will explore over the next two days.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 7 - See the 8,000 strong Terracotta Army

We begin today with a visit to the famous Terracotta Army, just outside Xi'an. 8,000 individually sculptured clay warriors, horses and archers proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder in three large excavated pits, protecting the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang. At first it is the sheer number that overwhelms, but on closer inspection you begin to notice the extraordinary level of detail that went in to them, with each figure seemingly sporting a different expression and hairstyle. It's not hard to imagine this as a real army in waiting, awakening at the slightest hint of danger. Afterwards we can visit the home of the farmer who accidentally discovered the Terracotta Army.

In the afternoon we return to the city and explore the Muslim Quarter. We will visit a traditional courtyard mansion, owned by a former official during the Ming Dynasty. Dating back 400 years, the property shows the wonderful architectural style of the time and offers cultural activities and demonstrations including shadow puppetry and paper cutting. Following this there will be time to explore the temple and the lively food market.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8 - Xi'an at leisure

Today you will have time at leisure to explore Xi'an and pursue your own interests. Alternatively, you may wish to undertake additional tours, including:

  • Cycle around the ancient city walls
  • Big Goose Pagoda, built to house precious Buddhist scripts
  • Shaanxi Historical Museum - one of China's most renowned museums
  • Han Yangling Museum and Archaeological sites
  • Venture into Huxian County to see the colourful folk art of the Huxian painters. Learn about calligraphy and painting and experience the farmers' way of life in China

Meals Included: Breakfast

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The Mercure on Renmin Square Tour - Holidays to Xian & Terracotta Army

Mercure on Renmin Square

The Mercure hotel has become a fixture of Renmin Square, alongside landscaped gardens and historic buildings. With over 100 well-equipped and tastefully decorated rooms and suites and a wonderful location right in the heart of ancient Xi'an, this 4 star hotel is a popular choice amongst visitors. 

Deluxe Experience

The Sofitel on Renmin Square Tour - Holidays to Xian & Terracotta Army

Sofitel on Renmin Square

This modern 5 star hotel curves gracefully along the side of the historic Renmin Square, right in the heart of this ancient city and within easy reach of the Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Great Mosque and the Forest of Steles. 178 spacious rooms are equipped with modern facilities and special touches, suc…

Lhasa
Day 9 - 11

Day 9 - Welcome to Tibet & Summer Palace

Day 10 - Potala Palace, Pilgrims & Jokhang Temple

Day 11 - Sacred Lake & Monks Debate

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 9 - Welcome to Tibet & Summer Palace

This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Lhasa in Tibet. Here you will be met on arrival by your local guide and driver who will welcome you to the city and get you settled in to your hotel. You will now be at high altitude so it is best to take it easy and drink plenty of water to help your body acclimatise. As a gentle introduction to Lhasa, we will visit the Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai Lama, set within relaxing landscaped parkland on the outskirts of Lhasa. Following lunch at a local restaurant you will have the afternoon free to relax and wander around the charming old town.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10 - Potala Palace, Pilgrims & Jokhang Temple

We start the following day with a tour of the Potala Palace, the defining symbol of Lhasa and Tibet. The winter home to ten Dalai Lama's, the huge 17th century structure is one of the most poignant on the planet, telling the story of life here before the Dali Lama was forced to flee to India. The roof terraces house the former residences of the Dalai Lama and afford sweeping views of the city.

We then drive into the very heart of the old town, stopping to take lunch. The colourful Jokhang Temple is the most sacred place in Tibet, a destination for pilgrims from across the Buddhist world. It is encircled by the lively Barkor Street, around which pilgrims walk in a clockwise directions, spinning prayer wheels as they go or prostrating themselves fully along the ground. Watching their incredible devotion is a privileged experience for any visitor. We tour the Jokhang Temple and enjoy the sweeping views from the rooftop.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 11 - Sacred Lake & Monks Debate 

This morning we drive out of Lhasa and through the mountains to the sacred Yamdrok Lake. Upon arrival there will be plenty of time to enjoy the sumptuous views from the lookout point and see the yaks up close on the shore. We then return to Lhasa and visit Sera Monastery, arriving in time to watch the monks in their fascinating afternoon debate sessions.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The House of Shambhala Tour - Holidays to Lhasa

House of Shambhala

Full of endearing Tibetan charm and located in the very heart of the charming Lhasa old town, this 4* courtyard hotel is a wonderfully authentic base from which to explore the city. The 13 rooms are decorated in traditional Tibetan style, creating a warm and welcoming environment, with a good range …

Deluxe Experience

The St Regis Tour - Holidays to Lhasa

St Regis

Starwood hotels follow their legacy of luxury accommodation with this fabulous 5 star hotel in Lhasa. 162 large sumptuous rooms and suites provide exquisite spaces in which to relax and unwind after a day exploring the high altitude city. These feature welcoming sofas, walk-in closets, powder room, …

Chengdu & Panda Centre
Day 12 - 13

Day 12 - Fly to Chengdu & time at leisure

Day 13 - Baby & Giant Pandas up close

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 12 - Fly to Chengdu & time at leisure

This morning you will fly from Lhasa to Chengdu, where you will be met upon arrival by your guide for the next few days and transferred to your hotel. You'll have today at leisure, perhaps to relax in the large People's Square, taking tea at one of the large outside teahouses and observing local life here. South of the river is the lively Jinli Street, lined with traditional buildings and shops and stalls selling locally created artwork, handicrafts, paper cuts and calligraphy. This is a great place to spend the afternoon shopping for gifts and souvenirs.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 13 - Baby & Giant Pandas up close

Of course, no visit to Chengdu would be complete without going to the nearby Panda Research Base - there is simply no better place to see these impossibly cute and highly endangered animals up close. Designed to replicate the natural bamboo habitat of the panda to encourage breeding, the centre is respected the world over for its ongoing research and conservation efforts, not just for the giant pandas, but also for red pandas and black swans. We visit early in the morning to see the baby pandas at their most active, returning to the city for midday. The afternoon will be yours at leisure to further explore the city, perhaps visiting the Wenshu Monastery.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The Buddha Zen Tour - Holidays to Chengdu & Pandas

Buddha Zen

Located close to the Wenshu Yuan Monastery, this spiritually themed 4 star hotel aims to give visitors an insight into traditional Buddhist life. It offers 35 tranquil rooms and well-equipped rooms, all thoughtfully and elegantly decorated in a style true to the spirit of the hotel. The courtyard-st…

Deluxe Experience

The The Ritz-Carlton Tour - Holidays to Chengdu & Pandas

The Ritz-Carlton

As you might expect from a Ritz-Carlton, this hotel delivers luxury and service on an unparalleled level in Chengdu. Its collection of spacious and stylish rooms all offer fine city views of Chengdu's skyscrapers and offer a host of facilities and features including:

  • Twice-daily housekeeping atte…

Leshan Giant Buddha
Day 14

Day 14 - Come face-to-face with the 71m Giant Buddha

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 14 - Come face-to-face with the 71m Giant Buddha

Today we will drive around 2 hours south of Chengdu to visit the magnificent Leshan Giant Buddha. Measuring in at 71 metres high, the 1,200 year old Buddha watches over the confluence of three rivers and looks out onto the sacred Mount Emei. We will take a boat ride to enjoy panoramic views of the Buddha and then climb up the steps to come face-to-face with it, for a close up view. You will then return to Chengdu by road.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Longji Rice Terraces
Day 15 - 16

Day 15 - Spectacular caves & drive to Rice Terraces

Day 16 - Magnificent views of Longji Rice Terraces

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 15 - Spectacular caves & drive to Rice Terraces

You will be transferred to the airport for the short flight to Guilin, where you will be met on arrival and shown around the dramatic rock formations and ancient inscriptions of the nearby Reed Flute Caves. We will then take a scenic two hour drive north to Longsheng, where you will stay overnight in a charming lodge. There will be time to have lunch, walk around Ping'an village and enjoy the peaceful countryside.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 16 - Magnificent views of the Longji Rice Terraces

Today we will explore the incredible Longji Rice Terrace landscape, enjoying the best panoramic vistas of the area and learning about local life here. The landscape changes throughout the year here, depending on the seasons. In spring, the terraces are irrigated and so brim with water, before turning lush green over the summer. The autumn brings beautiful golden hues, before snow falls add to the drama in winter. Lunch is included, before transferring back to Guilin by road.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The Longji Star Wish Tour - Holidays to Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Star Wish

The Longji Star Wish hotel is a fantastic base from which to explore the rice terraces of the region, indeed without even leaving the hotel you can enjoy panoramic views from the rooftop terrace. The cosy rooms are attractively furnished with bamboo or wooden panelling and all well-equipped to weste…

Deluxe Experience

The Li-An Lodge Tour - Holidays to Longji Rice Terraces

Li-An Lodge

The renowned Li-An Lodge is located in the heart of the Longji region at Ping An village, overlooking gracefully curving rice terraces for as far as the eye can see. Its attraction goes far beyond its spectacular views, with 16 individually and tastefully designed rooms, decorated with beautiful Chi…

Guilin & Yangshuo
Day 17 - 18

Day 17 - Cruise past the karst peaks along the Li River

Day 18 - Hike or cycle through the wonderful landscapes

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 17 - Cruise past the karst peaks along the Li River

The highlight of a trip to Guilin is the chance to drift down the Li River to Yangshuo, passing through the infinite limestone sugarloaf peaks which rise dramatically out of the ground, so creating one of the most arresting vistas in the country. Bamboo groves and paddy fields line the river's edge, where we can also observe water buffalo and local peasants working the land. Lunch is included on-board. In Yangshuo, as the light begins to fade, traditional fishermen emerge on their bamboo rafts, to which cormorants are tethered, to help them locate the best fish, a tradition practiced since ancient times.

In the evening, you will enjoy the spectacular Impression of Liu Sanjie show, which takes place the Li River in Yangshou. It fuses musical, lighting, dance and story telling elements to create a dramatic spectacle. It is performed by local actors from the nearby minority villages and was directed by proclaimed film director Zhang Yimou, who was responsible for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Stay overnight in Yangshuo.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 18 - Hike or cycle through the wonderful landscapes

This morning we will take a guided hike or cycle ride to explore the beautiful countryside and karst landscape around Yangshou in more depth. There is also the option of undertaking an early morning bamboo raft to enjoy the river at a quieter time. After lunch (included) you will then have the rest of the day free to relax or explore at your leisure, perhaps watching the local cormorant fishermen show in the evening.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The Guilin Bravo Tour - Holidays to Guilin & Yangshuo

Guilin Bravo

Located on the edge of Ronghu Lake, a ten minute walk to the city centre, the Guilin Bravo hotel offer 329 spacious and well-appointed ensuite rooms and suites. Of these, 160 have lake views and all enjoy good modern facilities. There is a sauna, an attractive patio cafe and bar area and two restaur…

Deluxe Experience

The Green Lotus Tour - Holidays to Guilin & Yangshuo

Green Lotus

The misty karst hills of Yangshuo provide a spectacular backdrop to this luxury 5 star hotel, which takes its name from the nearby Green Lotus Peak. It offers 333 modern and well-equipped rooms and suites, more than 80% of which enjoy river views. A garden restaurants boasts further splendid views a…

Hong Kong
Day 19 - 22

Day 19 - Ride the Bullet train to Hong Kong

Day 20 - Special 'local life' Hong Kong tour

Day 21 - Tranquil islands or Portuguese heritage

Day 22 - Time at leisure & return flight to UK

View Description

Itinerary Description

Day 19 - Ride the Bullet train to Hong Kong

This morning you will be transferred to the station to take the 300km/h Bullet Train from Guilin. The train will take around three hours to arrive in Shenzhen, from where you will have a private transfer into Hong Kong, passing through immigration on the way.

Hong Kong offers a great mix of exoticism and familiarity. It is perhaps the easiest city for western travellers to get about it, travelling on the efficient MTR underground system, which reaches as far as some of the outlying islands. You will enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to perhaps take the iconic Star Ferry across the water to Hong Kong Island. Here you can ride the tram to The Peak, for one of the world's great urban vistas, especially as the sun goes down and the light's begin to twinkle at dusk.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 20 - Special 'local life' Hong Kong tour

Your local guide will today lead you on our special tour designed to introduce you to local life in Hong Kong. We start in the thriving markets of Mong Kok in Kowloon, starting at the bird market, where locals often gather to socialise with their birds sat next to them in cages. We continue on to the goldfish market to admire the amazing colour and detail of the tropical fish on sale here, often at extremely high prices. The next stop is the Chinese Jade Market and then on to the Tin Hau Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, who is revered by fishermen and those who spend their working lives at sea.

We then leave Kowloon and drive to the south of Hong Kong Island to the Aberdeen fishermen community, where fishing junks are juxtaposed markedly against the towering skyscrapers. We will take a short sampan boat ride to learn more about their ways of life and enjoy a dim sum lunch aboard the famous Aberdeen Jumbo Kingdom. Next up is the Central business district and the world's longest continuous escalator system, a convenient way to see the bustling city hillside. Hollywood Road in westernised district of SoHo is next, known for its antique shops. Finally, we finish at the Man Mo Temple, one of Hong Kong's oldest and most important and where giant incense coils hang from the ceiling, imparting a fragrant, smoky haze. The temple is dedicated to the God of Literature and the God of War.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 21 - Hong Kong at leisure - tranquil islands or Portuguese heritage

Taking the ferry across the water to Macau, a bastion of Portuguese heritage, is an excellent day trip, as is a visit to the tropical and tranquil Lamma Island, reached by boat from Aberdeen fishing harbour in the south. Closer yet is Lantau Island, famed for its large seated Buddha and temple, reached by a panoramic cable car. At the far end of the island, Tai O is an immensely charming and timeless fishing village, whilst one of the region's best beaches can be enjoyed a short bus ride away at Cheung Sha.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 22 - Time at leisure & return flight to UK

Meals Included: Breakfast

Accommodation

Preferred Accommodatoin

First Class

The Hotel Stage Tour - Holidays to Hong Kong & Macau

Hotel Stage

Hotel Stage exudes contemporary and creative charm, a welcoming haven from the busy streets of Kowloon. Spacious and minimalist rooms offer a range of modern facilities, including a complimentary smart phone which you can carry about the city to browse the internet, consult maps, make international …

Deluxe Experience

The InterContinental Grand Stanford Tour - Holidays to Hong Kong & Macau

InterContinental Grand Stanford

Conveniently situated in the south of Kowloon, overlooking the iconic Victoria Harbour and close to an MTR station, the InterContinental is a renowned 5 star hotel. 572 luxurious rooms and suites afford harbour, courtyard or city views and come equipped with all the necessary amenities you'll need, …

Travel Details
Mandarin

What's Included

  • International return flights
  • 3 internal flight as shown
  • Bullet Train tickets as described in itinerary (First = 2nd class, Deluxe = 1st class)
  • 20 nights accommodation as shown on the itinerary
  • Meals as described in the itinerary
  • Transfers to and from airport
  • Excursions listed, all with expert, English-speaking guides and private vehicle
  • Prices are per person based on two sharing a room
  • Prices for Special Events, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter on request

Price Breakdown

Prices are per person. Please request a quote for Special Events, Christmas, New Year's Eve & Chinese New Year.

Season Low Season High Season
Travel Dates 03/10 - 15/06 16/06 - 02/10
Room Arrangement Tourist First Deluxe Tourist First Deluxe
Multiple Travellers - Twin Room - £4,760 £5,501 - £5,161 £6,022
Multiple Travellers - Own Room - + £723 + £1,289 - + £897 + £1,576
Single Traveller - Own Room - + £2,270 + £2,842 - + £2,446 + £3,137
Season Low Season High Season
Travel Dates 03/10 - 15/06 16/06 - 02/10
Room Arrangement Tourist First Deluxe Tourist First Deluxe
Multiple Travellers - Twin Room - €4,812 €5,701 - €5,709 €6,828
Multiple Travellers - Own Room - + €868 + €1,547 - + €661 + €1,389
Single Traveller - Own Room - + €2,724 + €3,410 - + €2,520 + €3,263
Season Low Season High Season
Travel Dates 03/10 - 15/06 16/06 - 02/10
Room Arrangement Tourist First Deluxe Tourist First Deluxe
Multiple Travellers - Twin Room - $5,188 $6,151 - $5,709 $6,022
Multiple Travellers - Own Room - + $940 + $1,677 - + $1,166 + $2,855
Single Traveller - Own Room - + $2,952 + $3,694 - + $3,180 + $4,885

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