This outstanding itinerary encompasses two spectacular cities, Beijing and Shanghai, and two truly fascinating regions of Shaanxi and Guangxi, this immersive tour allows you to experience the Great Wall of China, Forbidden Palace, the Terra Cotta Warriors, Li River (on a cruise) and Shanghai’s intricate ancient neighborhoods that stand alongside modern developments.
Head down backstreets and meet locals at work, stopping to talk and watch how goods are made. While in Beijing you will also explore the temples and mosques of China in this unforgettable glimpse of how China has made its way to the world stage.
Day 1: Beijing
You’ll be picked up from the airport and met by your guide who will accompany you to your hotel.
As you enjoy the ride to the hotel, you will notice the “Bird’s Nest” – or Olympic Stadium, now recognised as one of the symbols of modern China and a triumph of architecture and the involvement of Ai Weiwei, the well-known Chinese artist.
After checking in, you will visit the famed hutongs (narrow alleys and streets of Beijing) near Houhai Lake. Then you will visit the Gulou, the Drum Tower where during the Ming Dynasty, the city marked the hours of the day with the rumbling of drums. The tower faces the Zhonglou, the Bell Tower, and gives visitors a glimpse of ancient Beijing.
Sooner or later you will probably join in a mahjong party, a social get-together around Chinese Chess or card games. The number of elderly swells around these very popular games, a gathering where bystanders often come to watch and your guide can help explain the rules.
Afterwards, you will finish your day with a refreshing change of decor and ambiance in the Wangfujing neighborhood, home to the famous Wangfujing road, the most commercial area of the capital. While you are there, you will get the opportunity to witness how modern China has become and how its fierce consumerism continues. Next door, the Donghuamen Market offers a delightful taste of the night markets in the city. No one in the whole world yells as loud as the wonton vendors in Donghuamen.
Once you have had enough of the market, you will return to your hotel for a rest.
Overnight in Beijing.
Day 2: Beijing
Your day will begin very early, but you will likely forget this inconvenience when you enter the Temple of heaven. At this time of the day, you will see the various activities the Chinese do in the morning. Tai Qi, Kung Fu, sabre practice, meditation, tango, and gymnastics are just some of them. The Chinese like to prepare for their day with physical exercises that they consider essential for their health. As well, some Chinese practice calligraphy with giant brushes and water on the park’s flagstones that aesthetically pleases for as long as the water evaporates.
You will also get to experience some of the more unusual types of exercise, such as people walking backwards whilst tapping the heads, arms and legs or people holding on to a fence and jumping up and down on the spot.
Next, you will discover the Temple itself and its simplicity in structure. Its hidden symbolism hints at beliefs even more ancient than Buddhism and Taoism and to a time when the Emperor was considered the direct authority on earth from the heavens.
Your guide will then take you to the discrete White Cloud Temple where Taoist monks wear their hair in chignons and superstitious visitors can touch the sculpture-murals representing the twelve Chinese Zodiac animals.
Towards noon, you will eat lunch at a vegetarian restaurant in the downtown section of the city. You will get to try a few better-than-real imitations of lamb kebabs and Peking duck and to pretend that you are a monk too.
Later, the afternoon will consist of a visit to the Yonghe Temple, the most visited temple in town. To understand the Tibetan Buddhism practised by both Tibetans and central Mongolians, this temple is fundamental for you to visit. With its 18-metre Buddha statue made from only one block of wood welcoming you, you can explore the grounds.
Your day will end with a visit to the Confucius Temple, named after the very man behind the moral codes and precepts that organised the majority of the social interactions of Imperial China. Even today, Confucianism still surfaces in China to be a part of the society.
Kung Fu show
Enjoy a traditional Kung Fu show. The Red Theater is originally known as Chongwen Worker’s Cultural Palace Theater.
Day 3: Beijing
Even though people like to falsely claim that it is visible from the moon, the Great Wall is one of the most important symbols of the country and must be visited.
Bright and early in the morning, you will depart from your hotel to visit the Mutianyu section of the Wall. Once you are there, you can benefit from the early morning sunrise in your photographs.
If the hiking seems too long after a while, you and your companions can ride the toboggan (optional) down the wall or have a picnic on the Great Wall. You will want to take some time to admire the wonderful rugged scenery.
Soon after, you will return to Beijing and visit the Summer Palace. Otherwise a simple Imperial garden, the site was completely renovated by Emperor Qianlong during the 18th century to become one the most important sites of the capital.
Afterwards, you will return to the capital. Overnight in Beijing.
Day 4: Beijing to Xian
In the morning you’ll head over to the Forbidden City.
During this visit to an unforgettable destination, you spend time in the more serene surrounding courtyards and rooms. Climbing the artificial coal hill just behind the Forbidden City provides a spectacular view of the entire site and lets you get a grasp of the layout of the whole of Beijing.
Later in the day you’ll travel to the train station for a night train in a soft sleeper cabin to Xi’an. In China, the train is the meeting place of the Chinese. People board the train, eat containers of instant noodles with water from their thermos in hand, gulp down unbelievable quantities of sunflower seeds, play cards, and clink glasses of beer or baijiu, the country’s rice liquor.
There exist many types of trains today. The most noticeable is the arrival of the ultra modern TGV, but the night trains provide a memorable experience. For anyone who has adventured in the different class cabins, this may be an unforgettable experience. There are: hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper train cabins.
Overnight on the train.
Day 5: Xian
When you arrive in Xi’an, your local guide will welcome you and provide transportation to the hotel.
You will then visit the infamous Terracotta Warriors. In 1974, a few farmers stumbled upon the warriors by accident.
It’s believed that aristocrats buried their slaves alive and then put them in their future tombs or coffins so that they might serve their masters beyond the living realm.
Afterwards, you will take a bike tour for an hour to discover and glide through Xi’an without traffic jams and crowds. You can even test out a tandem bike for something with a little more jazz.
At dinner, you will appreciate the unique ambience of a night market as you dine on the neighbourhood’s specialities of spiced lamb kebabs, flatbread and mutton soup with noodles.
Overnight in Xi’an.
Day 6: Xian to Guilin
The day begins with your journey to the airport and a visit along the way to the tomb of Emperor Jing located nearby. The importance of the contrast between the two excavation sites near Xi’an makes this visit essential.
Next, you will fly to Guilin where your guide will meet you.
This region is best known for its numerous minorities and its fantastic countryside of rocky peaks bordering the Li River, uncountable caves, the Longsheng terrace paddy fields and the Detain waterfalls. This part of your trip will see you take in spectacular nature and scenery.
You will discover the Reed Flute Clave that gets its name from the numerous reeds growing at the entrance of the cave. Local tradesmen use these reeds for the fabrication of flutes. When you enter the cave, you will have the opportunity to explore the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites that create a game of light across the cave’s walls with the use of a flashlight.
You will end your day with a walk around Shan Lake known for its two superb Sun and Moon pagodas.
Overnight in Guilin.
Day 7: Guilin to Yangshuo
Your guide will transport you to the pier to begin the cruise on the Li River.
Eighty-three kilometres separate Guilin, the capital of the province, from Yangshuo, a small market town. The town’s buildings follow the famous Li River where they are overshadowed by picturesque hills with fantastic names: the Elephant Trunk Hill and Folded Brocade Hill.
These superb natural formations have inspired poets, painters and photographers, and are seen today as one of the most capturing visits in the country.
Even though the majority of voyagers stop in Yangshuo to spend time on the commercial West Road, we suggest that you pursue your own trek on a bike to explore the countryside environment with its rice paddies, water buffalo and small villages.
For the night’s stay, you will have the choice to stay in Yangshuo itself or outside the town so you can be closer to nature.
Day 8: Yangshuo to Shanghai
Your day begins with your guide transporting you to Guilin airport and a flight to Shanghai.
Nowadays the economic powerhouse of China, on arrival your local guide will welcome you and help you enter the city on the Maglev, an electro-magnetic train built to impress visitors for its speed.
As you ride the train, you will be able to note the speed on a small monitor in each train car. The train can go up to 430km per hour.
Your bags will meet you at your hotel allowing you to travel light so you can converge on the nearby neighborhood of Lujiazui, the epicentre of some of the most famous buildings: the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower (where a shoe seller from Anhui Province and later Alain Robert, the famous urban climber, scaled the tower’s walls) and the never ending Shanghai World Financial Center (the tallest building in Shanghai), that you will visit and where you can admire the city from the highest panoramic terrace in the world.
Shortly after, you will take the famous Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, a mini subway line, to cross the Huangpu River to reach Puxi in a couple of minutes.
Next you will discover the Bund, the city’s famous walkway along some of Puxi’s historical buildings. The area dates back to the 1930s, Shanghai’s rich culture and European influence.
Then you will explore the famous Nanjing Road with its colorful signs and crowd of locals and tourists corresponding perfectly with the image of a modern Asian capital before finishing your day at People’s Square, the former site of the Shanghai Racetrack. You’ll then be taken to your hotel.
Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 9: Shanghai
Today, you are able to visit three museums of very different styles. We will start off with the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, and more precisely the model layout of Shanghai which covers a large part of the 3rd floor. This model city will really let you get your head around the layout of Shanghai, and understand its size.
From here you will head to one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the country, and in Asia: The Shanghai Museum. The collection of bronze statues on the first floor is unrivalled, and is complemented by a number of jade pieces of artwork, as well as Qing Dynasty furniture, Buddhist sculptures and other pieces of Chinese artwork.
For those interested in art, the day will end with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
Day 10: Shanghai
In the morning you will head for the French Concession, a symbol of a time when Western powers were accorded many privileges. You will start your trip with a stroll through Fuxing Park where you will have the chance to watch the Chinese practising their ritual of morning exercise. Especially worth watching are the tango dancers whose music fills every corner of the park.
Afterwards you will wander the surrounding roads, admiring the old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and different boutiques. During colonial times the French Concession was a no-go zone for the police and was home to gangsters, mafia, opium traffickers, prostitutes and people looking for a good time. Shanghai earned itself the title of one of the world’s vice capitals.
You will continue on to Xintiandi, an entirely renovated area that is considered one of the liveliest parts of the city. You can end your walk at Tianzifang, a maze of animated alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries similar to those found in Xintiandi but much more authentic.
Visit the local bazaar, where visitors and locals come to haggle. It’s a perfect chance for you to buy some souvenirs, or take a rest at the Huxingting tea house, which is located at the centre of the lake opposite the Yu Yuan Park, and is one of the most famous in China.
Your day will come to an end with a traditional Chinese massage, or “acupressure”, that concentrates on acupuncture points to stimulate the body’s natural healing throughout the whole body.
Overnight in Shanghai.
Today it’s time to say farewell to beautiful China. We’ll take you to the airport ahead of your onward journey.