from $2761.65

Essential China

Tour Map

Tour style - Active & Adrenaline, Wildlife & Nature, Culture & History

21 days

Encounter the essence of China in all its wonderful diversity—climb the Great Wall and stare down the Terracotta Warriors before heading down south on this 3-week tour of China's cultural and natural highlights. Rest your gaze on the giant Buddha of Leshan and explore ancient mountainside monasteries at Emei Shan, then float down the world-famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze River before stepping out to experience the vibrant rural life and stunning scenery of Yangshuo. With your accommodation and transport arranged by our expert CEOs, this adventure offers up a great combination of must-see highlights and free time to explore on your own.
  • Day 1 Beijing

    Feel free to arrive in Beijing at any time today, as there are no planned activities. The group will meet at 1800hrs. Please check for a notice from your Tour Leader. Following the meeting, there's an option to eat some delicious Beijing delights with your new group.

  • Day 2-4 Beijing

    On Day 2 we travel north to the Great Wall. An incredible piece of engineering stretching 6000km westwards along the mountain ridgs north of Beijing, it was originally constructed to protect the Chinese empires from the Mongolian 'barbarians' of the north. *Please note: if you have pre-booked the China Cultural Theme Pack your CEO will inform you when you will see each show throughout your tour: Shaolin Kung Fu Show (Beijing), Acrobat Performance (Shanghai) and the Li River Light Show (Yangshuo). Spend the morning of Day 3 exploring the vast expanses of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Use your free time to shop in the various markets scattered throughout the city, take a tour of the ancient alleyways (hutongs) in Beijing's Old city or visit the Tibetan Monastery. In the late afternoon of Day 4 board an overnight train to Shanghai (approximately 17hrs).

  • Day 5-7 Shanghai

    After arriving and checking into the hotel, take an orientation walk down one of the city’s most famous streets, Nanjing Road, ending at the Shanghai Museum, one of the best in the country. Explore the city during the free day 6. Temples, markets, gardens and colonial enclaves - the possibilities are endless - are around every corner. In the afternoon of Day 7, board an overnight train to Xi’an (approximately 18hrs).

  • Day 8-9 Xi'an

    Arrive in Xi'an in the early morning and, after checking into the hotel, opt to visit one of Xi’an’s most fascinating areas – the Muslim Quarter. Opt to tour the lovely and unusual Great Mosque (a wonderfully serene place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city), great souvenir stalls and enjoy some of the best street food in China. The remaining city walls are a great place to watch the sunset or join the locals for ballroom dancing or tai chi in the early morning. This former imperial capital is also homebase for a day trip to the Terracotta Warriors, situated a short drive out of town (approximately 1 hour). The warriors were re-discovered in 1974, having been buried for over 2000 years. All face east in battle formation, complete with horses and chariots to guard the tomb of the emperor Shi Huang Di.

  • Day 10 Chengdu (1D)

    Morning flight to Chengdu. The city has managed to preserve some of its traditional flavor, so keep a sharp eye out for legendary teahouses and some of the most interesting food in China, including the spicy Sichuan hot pot. Take a full day to explore the teahouses and the streets of Chengdu, get a massage and perhaps sample some of the local specialties. Go to the Sichuan cultural performance - a cultural experience not to be missed.

  • Day 11-12 Panda Breeding Center and Emei Shan

    See the famous Giant Pandas up close at the Panda Breeding Centre and continue on to Emei Shan (Mountain), one of China's sacred Buddhist peaks. Spend a full day exploring the monasteries, stunning vistas and sites of Emei. Dotted with monasteries and temples, Emeishan is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains of the Middle Kingdom. Although now there are only about 20 active temples, there were once over 100 housing several thousand monks. Various hikes can be arranged, or optional motor transport and cable cars are available for part of the route. (Please note: only Emeishan entry ticket is included, others are not.) Our stay in a monastery is one of the highlights of the trip. Facilities are basic but the experience and views are breathtaking.

  • Day 13 Leshan/Chongqing

    Depart Emei for Leshan (approximately 1.5hr drive), home of Dafo 1,200 year old largest stone carved Buddha in the world, we can explore this awesome sight from a number of viewpoints. One option is to board a boat and head out into the Mingjiang River to get an overall view of the statue from afar, and then visit the beautiful forested park. There are numerous carvings and temples to explore before climbing down the path from the serene head to the enormous toes. Don't miss taking a break with a cup of tea in one of the teahouses in the park. From Leshan we travel by bus to Chongquing. In the evening transfer to Wanzhou to board a Chinese boat for a journey through the mighty Yangtse River area.

  • Days 14-16 Yangtze River/Three Gorges

    Spend 1 full day on board a basic boat traversing through the Three Gorges en route to Yichang. Along the way take the opportunity to visit some of the many attractions and towns. There is the opportunity to leave the boat to take an early morning trip down a tributary of the Yangtse River. The cabins are clean, twin-share with private toilet and shower facilities, but not luxurious. There is basic Chinese food available in the restaurant on board. Day 16 we disembark the ship in Yichang for a quick trip past the famous Three Gorge dam before traveling overland to Wuhan to catch an overnight train to Guilin (approximately 15hrs).

  • Days 17-19 Yangshuo (1L)

    Arrive in Guilin on the morning of Day 17 and transfer by public bus (approximately 1½ hours) to the small countryside town of Yangshuo, where the Li River winds its way around thousands of limestone karst mountains. Every turn in the road brings you to another picture-postcard sight. On Day 18, take a full-day bike ride through the surrounding countryside with a local guide to gain an insight into rural Chinese life. En route, enjoy a delicious local lunch. Try beer fish, garlic fried water spinach and stuffed aubergine! Travel back to Guilin in the afternoon by public bus and board an overnight train to Shenzen in the evening of Day 19 (approximately 15hrs).

  • Day 20 Hong Kong

    In the afternoon arrive in Shenzhen, cross the border and catch the metro in to the heart of Hong Kong for the late afternoon. Prepare for the change of pace as you enjoy your last night's dinner in the most dynamic city in Asia. Explore Stanley Market, shop, eat, go up Victoria Peak or take a harbor cruise. You may wish to arrange extra nights' accommodation in this exciting city.

  • Day 21 Hong Kong

    You are free to depart at any time on day 21.

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