Day 01 : Departure London Heathrow
You will board to plane from London Heathrow to Beijing.
Day 02 : Arrival Beijing
Greeted at the airport and transfer to the hotel, meet your local guide in the lobby of the hotel. In the afternoon there is an optional excursion to the Summer Palace and Kunming Lake in the north-west of the city. This spellbinding complex was where China’s emperors and their families would retreat from the heat and intrigues of the Forbidden City. Here they could relax in the lavish pavilions of Longevity Hill, meditate in the temples, and stroll through the landscaped gardens around Kunming Lake. The vast and sumptuous Summer Palace provides a range of striking views and boasts beautifully decorated buildings and courtyards, which are charged with history. Admire structures whose grandeur is matched only by their wonderfully evocative names such as the Temple of Buddhist Virtue, the Hall of Jade Ripples, the Cloud-Dispelling Hall, and the Hall of Happiness and Longevity. Kunming Lake is a large manmade pond, expanded over centuries, which has three isles that are believed to represent the ‘three fairy islands of the Eastern Sea’. Two can be reached by bridge, including Nanhu Island, which is linked to the shore by the sensational Seventeen-arch Bridge.
Overnight in Beijing
Day 03 : The Great Wall (Beijing)
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before departing for a brief drive to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. This stretch was built in 1505 in the strategically important Guan Valley in order to keep out the Mongol hordes from the north. Nowadays, tourists flock from all over the world and it is the most visited part of the Great Wall. Having been reconstructed to replicate its original appearance, this section gives a realistic vision of the Great Wall’s sheer immensity. For a journey further into China’s past, next is a visit to the Imperial Tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the Great Wall. The Ming Tombs are located some 45km north of Beijing in the valley below the Jundu Mountains. The location was specifically chosen because of its harmonious environment, and it was designed in an arc form to ward off evil spirits from the north. This monumental and serene complex is accessed through the imposing Great Red Gate and then reached via the 7km-long Sacred Way, which is lined with statues of guardians such as camels, elephants, lions, soldiers, and imperial chamberlains. Explore the Changling Tomb, which is the final resting of the Yongle Emperor, who reigned in the early 15th century and is considered one of China’s greatest rulers. On return to the city, there is the chance to take a picture stop at Olympic Park, built during the 2008 games, and considered to be the lungs of the city.
Overnight in Beijing
Day 04 : Beijing: Sightseeing Tour (Beijing)
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a full day visiting four of Beijing’s most famous landmarks. First up is the enormous Tiananmen Square, one of the world’s largest urban plazas, which is the location of the Chinese parliament, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the National Museum of China, the Zhengyangmen Gate Tower and the Tiananmen Gate (‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’) which gives access to the Imperial City, within which is the Forbidden City, hidden from the prying eyes of commoners by 10-metre-high walls. Head inside and as you stroll along the stretch leading from the Tiananmen Gate to the Meridian Gate, which leads to the Forbidden City proper, the sense of anticipation gives way to awe as you take in the sheer majesty of this incomparable treasure – one that for centuries no commoner or foreigner could enter and live to tell the tale. Construction began under the Yongle Emperor in the early 15th century and it was meticulously designed to be in harmony with philosophical, religious and hierarchical principles. Thus all roof tiles were yellow, which was the emperor’s colour and could not be used by commoners, while no other building in Beijing could be taller than the Forbidden City. Among the city’s attractions visited are: the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, the Hall of Preserving Harmony and the Palace of Heavenly Purity as well as the Hall of Union and Palace of Earthly Tranquillity. Explore this beguiling UNESCO World Heritage Site and marvel at the magnificent temples, halls, pavilions, palaces and courtyards. Enjoy a local lunch after the visit. Adjacent to Forbidden City is Jingshan Park, which stretches out over the manmade 45-metre-high hill of the same name. It is the highest point in Beijing and was built as a private garden for emperors and their families. Like all imperial projects, Feng Shui was at the fore of the planning process, and there are five peaks on the hill, each crowned by a pavilion. The views over the Forbidden City and the rest of the capital are breath-taking. To end your day in Beijing we journey on to the Temple of Heaven, which is located 3km south of Tiananmen Square. This Buddhist complex dates from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of the three main structures, the most impressive is surely the 32-metre-high Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which is the oldest building in the temple. Towards north end of the Temple of Heaven, you will visit the pearl market.
Overnight in Beijing
Day 05 : Beijing – Xi’an
Begin the day with a tour of Beijing’s intricate alleyway ‘Hutongs’ in style, aboard a nifty pedal-powered Rickshaw. Stop off to visit a local family and dine in authentic Beijing fashion (think an array of dishes and an emphasis on congeniality) before taking a leisurely stroll around popular Houhai Lake. Bid farewell to Beijing and transfer to the train station for high-speed train Arrive at Xi’an railway station and transfer to your hotel.
Overnight in Xi'an
Day 06 : Xi’an
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a trip to the countryside on the outskirts of Xi’an to visit a priceless treasure that was unknown to humanity until some farmers stumbled upon it four decades ago. What they encountered has since become a global phenomenon, with parts of the so-called Terracotta Army being exhibited all over the world. There are thousands of armed warriors, each one different, lined up in rows according to military rank as well as hundreds of horses and chariots. The figures were made by an army of artisans and were buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, who died in 210 BC. To see them all before your very eyes is a truly unforgettable experience. The afternoon’s activity is an excursion to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which has stood here since the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century. It has been expanded and renovated many times but its main purpose of housing Buddhist scriptures brought back from India by the traveling monk, Xuanzang, has remained the same. Then you will be stopping at a Jade factory on the way back.
Overnight in Xi'an
Day 07 : Xi’an – Chongqing – Yangtze River (Chongqing)
Within the city walls and to the northwest, stands the great Mosque and Muslim market. A blend of Chinese architecture and Muslim traditions the Mosque comprises a stone gateway and carved wooden interior with high ceilings to offer worshippers a space in accordance with their religious devotion. The Muslim market remains a feast for bargain hunters and in days of old was served by the Silk Road bringing fine fabrics, exotic goods, and perhaps even religious influence from far beyond the borders of the mighty Chinese empire. Once sated with souvenirs, we depart for Chongqing via high-speed train, where we meet with the Yangzte River. Enjoy (time allowing) the delights of Chongqing as the evening approaches and board your Yangzte River cruise vessel for the next leg of the journey.
Overnight in a cabin aboard Yangtze cruise on full board.
Day 08 : Yangtze River Cruise
Today the ship departs from Chongqing. Enjoy a guided tour of the Yangtze River and in the afternoon visit Shibaozhai. Take in the Shibaozhai Pagoda, named for its connection with the study of spirituality and the array of shrines and visual references to the afterlife. A chance to stretch your legs and climb the 12 floor Shibaozhai Pagoda is another option before returning to the boat for the onward journey.
Overnight in cabin aboard Yangtze cruise on full board
Day 09 : Yangtze River Cruise
Today you will pass Qutang Gorge and Wu Gorge. In the afternoon tour “Lesser Three Gorges”. The Lesser Three Gorges mark your progress along the Yangtze and draw your head up beyond the rock walls to the vegetation above. When in season, a species of mountain flower can be seen at the highest heights of the gorges welcoming you as you pass.
Overnight in cabin aboard Yangtze cruise on full board
Day 10 : Finish Yangtze River Cruise In Yichang – Shanghai
The Three Gorges Dam dwarfs even the sizeable vessel on which you find yourself and as a major route for shipping, its locks are of equal magnificence. Take a moment to stand in awe of these huge feats of engineering. Your Yangtze River cruise reaches its final destination and from your final port of call in Maoping takes a transfer to the train station for high-speed train D638 (14:14 – 22:38) to Shanghai arriving in the evening. Once in Shanghai allow us to transfer to your hotel in ‘the pearl of the east’.
Overnight in Shangai.
Day 11 : Shanghai Sightseeing Tour
Have breakfast at the hotel before enjoying a guided morning stroll through Shanghai’s old town, which has somehow survived China’s impressive modernisation push of the past two decades. Almost huddled beneath the modern high-rises, the two and three-storey narrow streets of the earthy old city offer an astonishing contrast to the glistening new Shanghai. Mingle with pedestrians and cyclists as they weave about, heading to and fro in this warren of family-run shops and diners, before returning to your accommodation. In the heart of the old city is the Yu Garden, a classical Chinese garden, which is crammed with richly decorated pavilions, halls, towers, rockeries and ponds, some dating from as far back as the Ming Dynasty four centuries ago. Here you will find a tranquil spot for respite from the modern pace of life in this at times hectic city of more than 24 million souls. Have lunch at a local restaurant and then head to the Jade Buddha Temple, where you can admire jade, marble and gold Buddha statues. Its central location makes this one of the livelier temples in Shanghai. Next onto The Bund, the riverside quay crammed with historic bank buildings from the decades when foreign powers controlled large swaths of Shanghai as ‘concessions’. There are 52 landmark buildings along this 1.5km promenade, ranging in style from neo-classical to art deco. Among the more eye-catching structures are the eight-storey Customs House and the China Bank of Communications Building. Head for a guided walking tour of Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s pedestrianised commercial hub, where the thousands of shoppers are dwarfed by the neon signs and the skyscrapers of modern Shanghai. The immense energy, colour and spectacle of the boulevard is a microcosm of Shanghai all condensed into one place. On the way you will also visit a silk factory.
Overnight in Shanghai
Day 12 : Final Departure
Savour a final breakfast at the hotel before checking out and continuing on your journey, whether it’s to catch a return flight or onto another location in China or further afield.