This 18 day Classic Yangtse and Beyond tour is a great way to see all the natural beauty and experience the fascinating history that China has to offer. You will discover so much as you walk through the thronging cities of Shanghai and Beijing and the cobbled streets of Yangshuo. Icons such as the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall are not to be missed, but a sojourn into backstreets and local homes is a real treat. And a memorable cruise along the Yangtze River reveals soaring mountains and tranquil rivers. On this journey, the ancient culture of this historic land will offer up incredible relics and fascinating insights, and natural wonders will provide breathtaking scenery as you travel by road, boat, rail and air.
On arrival in the Chinese capital Beijing you will be met by one of our experienced tour representatives and taken to your city hotel where you will stay for the next three nights. Time to relax and possibly explore the area around the hotel before an evening meeting with your tour leader and the rest of the group for a welcome dinner and a briefing about all the delights to come.
Begin your exploration of one of the great cities of the world. From one thousand years of dramatic history to a dynamic modern metropolis, Beijing offers a great insight into China’s past and future. Walk through Tiananmen Square and pass through the Gate of Heavenly Peace and under the portrait of Chairman Mao to enter the splendid Forbidden City. Leave by the North Gate and head into one of Beijing’s few remaining ‘hutongs’ or traditional lanes in the backstreets and have lunch with a local family. Later stroll to the city’s famous Drum Tower and this evening you can visit the Wangfujing night markets.
The Great Wall
This morning travel to Mutianyu, 56 miles north-east of Beijing, to visit China’s most famous attraction – the Great Wall, which was built more than 2,000 years ago and extends 3,107 miles from the Shanhaiguan Pass on the east coast to the Gobi Desert in the west. At Mutianyu you take the cable car up to the Wall and spend plenty of time walking or climbing sections admiring the panoramic views. Back in the city tonight you will have a chance to feast on Beijing’s famous roast duck for dinner.
Beijing to Xian
See one of China’s most iconic temples, the Temple of Heaven, which is located within a vast park. In the early mornings the area is alive with tai chi enthusiasts, elderly men practising calligraphy, dancers and performers reciting Beijing opera. From here head to the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall for a glimpse of the city’s past and present development. In the afternoon visit the magnificent Summer Palace, which is filled with temples, pavilions, gardens and decorated corridors and end your day with an educational stop at a pearl factory. Later this afternoon you will transfer to the Beijing Railway Station to board your fast train to Xian, arriving in the evening.
After breakfast enjoy a tour of this culturally diverse and very exotic Chinese city. Xian is close to the banks of the Yellow River and has a history dating back to 1000BC. The city was the starting point for the world’s most famous trade route - the Silk Road. On today’s tour walk the Old City Walls and see the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Later explore the heart of Xian’s Muslim Quarter and visit the Great Mosque. This evening you can sample Xian’s famous dumplings at a local restaurant.
The Terracotta Warriors
Start today as the locals do, with a morning stroll through the city park. Children and elderly alike are doing their morning exercises, playing badminton, singing, or practising the ancient arts of tai chi or calligraphy. Then take a short drive to see the truly remarkable Army of Terracotta Warriors - one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. Still under excavation, these thousands of life sized terracotta warriors and horses were only unearthed in 1974 after being buried for 2,000 years. Each figure is unique in facial features and expression. After lunch visit a Terracotta Warrior Factory to learn about the complex production process of these fascinating artworks.
Xian to Guilin
Today you are taken to the airport for your flight to Guilin, a city on the banks of the Li River and famous for its unique limestone hill landscape. Climb the stone steps to the top of the local Fubo Hill to see 360 degree views over the Guilin rooftops and the limestone mountains that encircle the city. This evening you can walk around the Central Square and lake area near the hotel which comes alive with fountain shows, lighting displays and a market.
Guilin to Longsheng
Take a wonderful day trip from Guilin to Longsheng to explore some of China’s beautiful rural countryside. Drive past spectacular scenery of towering karst cliff landscapes and climb the winding road that snakes up the mountainside to an area that is home to various ethnic minority groups. Wander through the maze of little stone pathways and traditional wooden houses on stilts of the White Yao village, and take a short hike further up the mountain to admire some of China’s most spectacular rice terrace scenery.
Li River cruise
This morning you are taken to the pier to board your boat for a memorable journey along the Li River. The trip takes you past tranquil farming and fishing scenes and picturesque villages. The main attraction, however, is the stunning limestone karsts that tower above the river creating a magical landscape. The unique and natural beauty of this region has for centuries been an inspiration to Chinese artists and poets. Arrive at Yangshuo and walk the cobblestone streets, relax in a cafe, and enjoy the colourful atmosphere of this enchanting town. In the evening you can see a performance of the town's breathtaking light and sound show.
Pack your spirit of adventure and head out into Yangshuo’s beautiful countryside on bicycles. Explore villages, rice paddies, lotus fields and fish farms on tracks and enjoy amazing images of rural life. The afternoon is at leisure so you can visit the local markets and shop in the stalls. If you are feeling energetic, climb Green Lotus Peak for some rewarding views across the town and surrounding karst landscapes.
Yangshuo to Yangtze River
Join your group this morning for an early tai chi lesson and learn more about the complexities of this ancient martial arts form. Enjoy some free time in charming Yangshuo then drive through the countryside back to Guilin airport for your late flight to Chongqing. On arrival make your way to the river port and board the boat for your cruise through some of the Yangtze River's most spectacular landscapes.
Yangtze River cruise
Cruise downstream from Chongqing and pass small towns whose existence is tied to the waters of the Yangtze. Your first stop is at Shibaozhai, a 12 storey high red wooden pagoda. Shibaozhai dates back to 17th century and can be climbed via a spiral staircase. Since the completion of the Three Gorges Dam project in 2009 this site, which was once connected to the river bank, has been an island. This evening enjoy a buffet dinner on board.
Yangtze River cruise
Rise early today to admire the magnificent river landscapes as your boat passes through the towering cliffs and mountains of the first and second gorges, Qutang and Wu Gorge. In the afternoon transfer to small boats for a trip up the smaller gorges to Daning River. This area features superb natural scenery interspersed with rural scenes. You will enter the third of the main gorges, Xiling Gorge, later in the day and this evening join the Captain's Banquet for dinner. Tonight the cruise ship will pass through the massive five level ship lock and dock downstream of the mighty dam wall.
Three Gorges to Shanghai
Visit the incredible site of the Three Gorges Dam Project. Completion of the project in 2009 saw the flooding of 20 towns and involved the relocation of about 1.3 million people. Return to your cruise boat and continue sailing to Yichang, where you will disembark after lunch and take an afternoon flight to your final destination, Shanghai. Once known as the Pearl of the Orient, Shanghai has emerged again as one of Asia’s most important cities. Tonight you may wish to cross the river to Pudong, and take in magnificent views of Shanghai at night from the observation deck of China’s tallest building – Shanghai World Financial Centre.
Today your city tour will take you to the historical riverfront area known as the Bund - Shanghai’s former ‘Wall Street’. Home to an impressive collection of 1920s neoclassical buildings this area attests to Shanghai’s former greatness. From the Bund head to the Old Chinese Quarter and take a relaxing walk through the peaceful Yu Garden. For lunch you might like to savour the famous local dumplings before picking up a souvenir in the bustling market area. Continue to the Shanghai Museum, then wander through neighbouring People's Square.
Head out to the suburbs of Shanghai to the charming old world atmosphere of nearby Zhujiajiao, a traditional water canal town dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Here, you will visit some of the main sights such as the Yuanjin Monastery, Taoist Temple and the great Qing Post Office. Browse through stores selling local produce and souvenirs along Great North Street. The town's network of waterways, old wooden waterside houses, arch stone bridges and narrow paved lanes are the perfect setting for your peaceful canal cruise. This evening you are off to the theatre to see the world famous Chinese acrobats in a mind-bending performance of skill and agility.
This morning you will visit the peaceful Yu Garden . Afterwards you will veer off the typical tourist trail again and explore more of real Shanghai by taking a walking tour through the backstreets of the Chinese Old Quarter. These small streets and markets are bustling with local life. Laundry hangs across footpaths and locals haggle over the price for fruit and vegetables. Finish your walk in the modern entertainment complex of Xintiandi, where you have time for shopping. In the evening join your group for a farewell dinner.
Today your classic tour of China's highlights comes to an end. Perhaps time for some last minute shopping or sightseeing in Shanghai before you are met by our tour representative and taken to the airport for your onward travel or to begin your journey home.