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Beijing: 4 nights - Xi'an: 3 nights - Lhasa: 3 nights - Mount Emei: 2 nights - Chengdu: 2 nights - Longsheng: 1 night - Guilin: 1 night - Yangshuo: 2 nights - Shanghai: 4 nights
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Day 1 - Welcome to Beijing
Day 2 - Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Temple of Heaven
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 a four night stay.
Day 2 - Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Temple of Heaven
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.
After lunch 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.
In the evening there is a spectacular Kung Fu show.
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.
In the evening you will enjoy a traditional duck dinner at a local restaurant.
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 - Beijing Summer Palace
Today we visit 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.
PM at leisure in Beijing.
Day 5 - Bullet Train to Xi'an
Day 6 - Xi'an City Tour
Day 7 - Terracotta Army
Travel by high speed futuristic Bullet Train to the city of Xi'an, a journey time of between 4 and 5 hours. You have time at leisure to enjoy a stroll through the city in the afternoon and evening.
Day 6 - Xi'an city tour
Today, you will be shown around the ancient city and its impressive city walls. Once the starting point of the legendary Silk Road and a capital for eleven dynasties, the city has retained a great deal of its mystique and boasts an impressive array of sights, including the Great Mosque, the Muslim quarter and the traditional drum and bell towers. We will also visit the Big Goose Pagoda, built in the centre of the Dacien Temple grounds to house precious Buddhist scripts, brought back from a seventh century pilgrimage to India by Tang monk Xuanzang. The structure stands 64 metres tall and is comprised of seven stories. You can climb the inside and throw coins out of the windows for good luck.
Lunch and dinner is included today.
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.
Lunch is included and in the evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner of traditional Chinese dumplings, followed by the wonderful Tang show. The Tang Dynasty (618-907) is distinguished as one of the most progressive and prosperous era in the history of China. The music and dance of the era fused the culture inherited from the preceding dynasties with elements of the new and exotic cultures that came along the Silk Road. With authentic Tang musical instruments - bells, drums and zithers, the show will take you back to the Tang Dynasty, and present you the art of that golden age.
Day 8 - Transfer to Tibet
Day 9 - Jokhang Temple & Drepung Monastery
Day 10 - Potala Palace, Norbulingka & Sera Monastery
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.
All meals are included in your three days in Lhasa.
Your experience of the Holy City of Lhasa starts at the very heart of the city and the centre of the Tibetan universe. 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.
We then continue to Drepung Monastery, one of the great Gelukpa monasteries of Tibet, and in its heyday home to up to ten thousand monks, at the time the largest of its kind in the world. Today, numbers have dwindled substantially following the mass exodus of monks during Chinese occupation. However, it has remained largely intact following the Cultural Revolution and a tour is a fascinating experience in the company of an expert guide. The views from the roof of the surrounding Kyichu Valley are sensational.
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 the repression suffered by Tibetans during the Chinese occupation, eventually forcing the Dali Lama to flee to India. The roof terraces house the former residences of the Dalai Lama and afford sweeping views of the city.
The day continues at Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai Lama, set within relaxing landscaped parkland on the outskirts of Lhasa. We conclude at Sera Monastery, an important centre for religious activity that is today renowned for the lively afternoon debates held by its resident monks.
Day 11 - Transfer to Mount Emei
Day 12 - Mount Emei tour
Day 13 - Leshan Giant Buddha
Day 11 - Transfer to Mount Emei
You will be transferred to Lhasa airport for your morning flight to Chendgu. On arrival you will be met by your guide and driver and be transferred three hours south to a comfortable hotel at the foot of Mount Emei. Enjoy time in the afternoon to relax and recuperate or explore the surrounding area. Lunch and dinner are included.
Day 12 - Mount Emei
Today we will explore Mount Emei, one of four sacred Buddhist mountains in China. Many temples, monasteries and pavilions are dotted along the side of the mountain, connected by a combination of steep staircases and cable cars. There are also buses which journey up the mountain to make life easier. At Mount Emei you can explore its rich cultural heritage and understand its sacred importance in the company of an expert guide. Lunch and dinner are included.
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 climb up the steps to come face-to-face with the Giant Buddha, for a close up view. You will then return to Chengdu and again have all meals included during the day.
Day 14 - Panda Research Center
Day 14 - Panda Research Base
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. Cleverly 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.
You will visit early in the morning to see the pandas at their most active and have some time at leisure in the afternoon to relax, explore Chengdu's markets and do some shopping.
Day 15 - Transfer to Longsheng
Day 16 - Longji Rice Terraces
You will be transferred from your hotel to Shanghai airport for the short flight to Guilin. Here you will be met on arrival and be driven an hour and a half north to Longsheng, where you will stay overnight in a charming lodge. There will be time to walk around the village and enjoy the peaceful countryside.
Lunch and dinner are included in today's activities.
Today we will explore the incredible rice terrace landscape around Longsheng, enjoying the best panoramic vistas of the area, as well as exploring the local minority villages to learn about 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.
We transfer back to Guilin later, enjoying a local dinner and staying overnight here.
Day 17 - Li River Cruise
Day 18 - Hiking or cycling in Yangshuo
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. 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.
Lunch and dinner are again included and 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 Yangshou.
This morning we will take a guided hike or cycle ride to explore the beautiful countryside and karst landscape around Yangshou in more depth. 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.
Day 19 - Transfer to Shanghai
Day 20 - Highlights of Shanghai
Day 21 - Shanghai at leisure
This morning you will be driven back to Guilin airport for your flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival you be welcomed by your guide and drive and take a short transfer to your hotel and will be given a short introduction to the city. This afternoon you will have some time at leisure to explore Shanghai, or could book on optional half-day tour.
Shanghai is China's most developed mega city, a futuristic metropolis symbolised by its forest of towering skyscrapers. However, if you know which street to turn down, you can still find relics of a bygone era and the occasional oasis of calm.
The Jade Buddha Temple is one such example, rebuilt in 1918 to replace the original one that was destroyed during the revolution and to house two impressive jade Buddhas. The 16th century Yu Yuan is a quintessentially Chinese garden, with many fascinating details throughout the various areas, divided by undulating dragon walls. One of the best spots in Shanghai is the Bund waterfront, lined with historic banks, offices and hotels on one side and on the other, sweeping views across the Huangpu River to the skyscrapers of Pudong - one of the world's most iconic skylines. The most recognisable of these towers is the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, offering fine views from its viewing platforms.
Lunch and a special dim sum dinner is included, plus in the evening you will enjoy a spectacular acrobatics show to complete an unforgettable day.
Enjoy time at leisure in Shanghai to relax and do some last minute shopping or sightseeing.
Day 22 - Suzhou's Classical Gardens
Day 23 - Return flight to UK
On your last full day you will take a short bullet train ride north to the small picturesque city of Suzhou. Here you will be guided around some of the most attractive classical Chinese gardens, with lunch included. You will then return to Shanghai for the evening by Bullet train.
You will be transferred to Shanghai International Airport for your flight back to the UK.
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