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The Best Sights of China- 27 Days

Destination: Beijing - Luoyang - Xian - Chengdu - Leshan - Mt. Emei - Chongqing - Yangtze River Cruise - Yichang - Shanghai - Mt. Wuyishan - Xiamen - Yongding - Guilin - Hong Kong
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An extravaganza of UNESCO World Heritage Sites - both natural and historical, this spectacular small-group journey highlights many of China's unique natural and historic wonders including some less known to the average Western visitor. If you've never heard of Fujian Tulou or Mount Wuyi, it's time to check them out.
Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$7130/persons 7130USD/Person

Day 1: Beijing
Welcome to Beijing! Meet your guide on arrival and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure.


Day 2: Beijing
Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre with a population of 21 million (2013), ranking it China's second largest city behind Shanghai. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates, treasures that make it the most popular tourist city in China.

Beijing was already a strategically important city in northern China for centuries when Kublai Khan decided to move his capital here from Karakorum in Mongolia. With the collapse of the vast Mongol empire in 1368 AD, Beijing, known as Da Du or Grand Capital at the time, lost its status as the country's capital but soon regained it when the imperial court of the successive Ming Dynasty moved here from Nanjing. Beijing continued to serve as China's capital after Manchu tribes dethroned the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 and established the Great Qing Empire (Qing Dynasty), which lasted till 1911.

Our first stop is the Forbidden City located in the centre of Beijing. Also known as Palace Museum or Gu Gong in Chinese, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties lived and carried out their administration. Construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years (1406-1420) to complete. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares or 180 acres. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

Lunch is at a family restaurant in a hutong neighbourhood. Hutong refers to an ancient alleyway with siheyuan or ''4-sided courtyard house" on both sides. The name hutong dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 A.D.). According to some experts, the word originated from the Mongolian language, in which it is pronounced as hottog and means "well." In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of hutong should be "a place where people live around".

Afternoon sightseeing at the Summer Palace, a well preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The imperial resort was first named Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 during the Second Opium War (referred to as Arrow War by the British). Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895 when the name was changed to Yi He Yuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, south of the hill. The sprawling complex covers an area of 290 hectares and the buildings inside consist of over 3,000 bays.

Today we enjoy a delicious welcome dinner at one of the top rated Beijing roast duck restaurants. (B/L/D)


Day 3: Beijing
Morning sightseeing takes us to historic Jingshan Park for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City from above. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace in the old days, serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 meters above ground, 89 meters above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird's-eye view of the surrounding area.

We then proceed to Tiananmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square is 880 metres from north to south, and 500 meters from east to west. Said to be the biggest of its kind in the world, Tiananmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. Tiananmen (Heavenly Gate) Tower sites at the north end of the square while the Monument to the People's Heroes dominates the centre. The square is flanked by The Great Hall of the People (west) and the National Museum of China (east). Chairman Mao's mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) sit in the south of the square. Considered one of the top 16 tourist attractions in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people's great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.

Afternoon sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Situated in southeastern Beijing the Temple of Heaven is China's largest extant sacrificial temple where, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperors conducted the elaborate and most exalted sacrifices addressed to "the Supreme Ruler of the Universe." Construction of the temple started in 1406, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, and took 14 years to complete. The temple was expanded under the Qing emperors Qianlong (1736-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). Occupying 2.73 square kilometres (roughly 1,700 by 1,600 metres), the area of the Temple of Heaven is more than twice that of the Forbidden City.

The famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, the largest of its kind in the world, sits right across from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in various guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by the Chinese. If you are interested, please ask the guide to drop you off there. However, you'll need to get back to the hotel by taxi, which costs about 50 yuan or $8. (B/L)


Day 4: Beijing
Today we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75km northeast of the city. Zigzagging over 6,000 kilometres from east to west along the undulating mountains, the Great Wall was built to hold off tribal invaders from the north. Construction of the earliest sections of the Wall started in the 7th century B.C. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today in Beijing is almost exactly the result of this effort. (B/L/D)


Day 5: Beijing - Luoyang
Free morning to relax or explore on your own. We board the new high-speed train for Luoyang following a light lunch. The four-hour rail journey cuts through fertile farmland dotted with villages, providing the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful landscape. The track we travel on is part of the new 2,298 km high-speed railway connecting Beijing and Guangzhou, the longest high-speed rail line in the world. The Chinese for the past 20 years have been on a building spree expanding the country's rail network and upgrading existing railways. This new rail service rivals France's TGV and Japan's "shinkansen" in terms of speed, comfort, cleanliness and onboard facilities.

Situated in the northwest of Henan Province, Luoyang is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. The 2010 census shows Luoyang and its suburban counties has a population of 6,549,086 inhabitants with 1,856,877 of the residents living in the city's five urban districts. Visitors coming here are primarily drawn by the Longmen Grottos, the historic White Horse Temple, and the annual Luoyang Peony Festival held between April 10 and May 10. (B/L/D)


Day 6: Luoyang - Xian
Morning visit to the magnificent Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating as far back as 493 A.D., the grottoes house a huge collection of ancient Buddhist sculptures carved out of cliffs on both sides of the Yi River.

We spend the afternoon touring White Horse Temple and Luoyang Folklore Museum. Board early evening train for Xian arriving 2 hours later. Eastern terminus of the fabled Silk Road and one of the ancient capitals of China, Xian is home to the world famous Terracotta Army. (B/L)


Day 7: Xian
Morning sightseeing begins with Shaanxi Provincial Museum. The modern, well-organized museum was completed in 1992 and traces the history of Xian from prehistory to Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The extensive galleries and exhibitions offer the visitor an excellent introduction to the area that greatly improves understanding of the numerous historical sites in and around the city.

After lunch we then visit the ancient grand mosque in the old town centre and the adjacent Muslim bazaar. The mosque was established in the 8th Century but the majority of the complex was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was further expanded in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this mosque is completely Chinese in its architectural style. It has neither domes nor traditional style minarets. (B/L)


Day 8: Xian - Chengdu
Morning visit to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Built on the excavation site, the museum is located 30km east of the city. Designed to follow the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) into eternity, the Terracotta Army represents one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

Free afternoon to explore on your own. We recommend Bell Tower and the ancient City Wall. You can reach both by Subway Line 2, which has a stop right next door to our hotel.

Evening flight to Chengdu, capital of populous Sichuan Province. (B/L)


Day 9: Chengdu
The urban area of Chengdu houses 14 million with half of that within the city's nine districts and the remainder in the surrounding regions. The municipality is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centres in Western China and is considered one of the most livable large cities in China. The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is also known as the "Country of Heaven", a phrase also often translated as "The Land of Abundance". The discovery of the Jinsha site suggests the area of Chengdu had become the centre of the Bronze Age Sanxingdui culture around the time of the establishment of the state of Shu, prior to its annexation by Qin in 316 BC. The city was named "Chengdu" when it was founded more than 2000 years ago, and the name has remained the same till the present day.

Morning tour of the Giant Panda Breeding Centre is followed by a visit to the excavation site of Jinsha, a significant archeological discovery in modern China. The Jinsha site was accidentally discovered in February 2001 during real estate construction. The site flourished around 1000 BC and shares similarities in burial objects with the Sanxingdui site located about 50 km away from Chengdu. Ivory, jade artifacts, bronze objects, gold objects and carved stone objects were found at the site. Unlike the site at Sanxingdui, Jinsha did not have a city wall. Jinsha culture (1200¨C650 BC) was a final phase of Sanxingdui culture and represents a relocation of the political center in the ancient Shu Kingdom.

Afternoon sightseeing at Wangjiang (River View) Park and the vibrant Kuanzhai (wide and narrow) Lane. (B/L)


Day 10: Chengdu - Leshan - Mt. Emei  
One hundred and sixty two kilometres south of Chengdu lies Leshan Giant Buddha. Carved out of a hillside in the 8th century, the statue measures 71 metres in height and looks down on the junction of three rivers. The 233-foot tall stone statue, built during the Tang Dynasty and facing Mount Emei is believed to be the largest stone Buddha in the world and by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.

After lunch, we continue on to Emei, one of the most sacred Buddhist mountains in China. The Mount Emei Scenic Area, with Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area being part of it, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Mt Emei is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China, traditionally regarded as the place of enlightenment of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra. This is the location of the first Buddhist temple built in China in the 1st century CE. The site has seventy-six Buddhist monasteries of the Ming and Qing period, most of them located near the mountain top. The monasteries demonstrate a flexible architectural style that adapts to the landscape. Some are built on terraces of varying levels, while others are on raised stilts. We ride the cable car to Jingding (3,077 m) and then walk an hour to reach the summit. (B/L)


Day 11: Mt. Emei - Chengdu - Chongqing 
After a leisurely morning exploration on your own, we drive back to Chengdu to board mid-afternoon train for Chongqing (2 hours). We board Victoria Cruises' Jenna following a delicious Sichuan hot pot dinner. (B/L/D)


Day 12: Yangtze Cruise
At 6,380km the Yangtze is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world after the Nile and the Amazon. The most impressive section of the Yangtze is the Three Gorges stretching 119km.

On today's shore excursion we visit a relocation village built for locals affected by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. Please note that at the cruise line's discretion the village visit may be substituted with Fengdu Ghost City. The Ghost City is a Buddhism and Taoism-themed tourist project rebuilt in the 1980s with extensive murals and sculptures depicting life in the Next World. (B/L/D)


Day 13: Yangtze Cruise
Admire nature's grandeur while sailing through spectacular Wu Gorge (45km) and Qutang Gorge (8km). Later this morning we navigate Shennong Stream on a small vessel. Originating in the southern slopes of Shennongjia Nature Reserve, the crystal clear river twists and turns 66 kilometres through forested mountains before emptying into the mighty Yangtze. Please note this excursion may be replaced with a similar one on Daning River, another Yangtze tributary. (B/L/D)


Day 14: Yichang - Shanghai
Morning visit to the Three Gorges Dam site. Construction of the dam started on December 14, 1994 with completion date set for 2009. Due to additional projects such as the underground power plant with six additional generators, the dam did not become fully operational until the end of 2011. The dam raised the water level the third time to 172.5 metres by the end of 2008. The Chinese government estimated the cost of the construction to be $27 billion while some Chinese scholars and international organizations estimated the actual cost could be as high as over $80 billion. The project upon completion will become the largest hydroelectric dam in the world with a reservoir stretching hundreds of kilometres upstream. We disembark in Yichang around noon and fly to Shanghai. (B/L/D)


Day 15: Shanghai
Before 1949, Shanghai was widely known in the West as a city of quick riches and paradise of the adventurers. After four decades of anemic growth in a state planned economy, Shanghai is roaring back to recapture its position on the world stage. With a population of 23 million and rapid economic expansion in the last 20 years, Shanghai has again become a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport.

Our sightseeing today begins with a walk on the Bund, a waterfront promenade famous for its landmark neoclassical buildings of European style. We then visit Shanghai Museum, Jade Buddha Temple and Yu Garden in the old town centre. Evening entertainment is a dazzling acrobatic show. (B/L/D)


Day 16: Shanghai - Suzhou - Shanghai
Enjoy a full-day excursion to Suzhou today.

Eighty kilometers to the northwest of Shanghai, ancient Suzhou is most famous for its gardens, canals and silk industry. In late 13th Century a Venetian named Marco Polo visited Suzhou and he was very impressed by what he saw. He vividly described the prosperous silk making trade and dubbed Suzhou Venice of the East due to the small waterways crisscrossing the city. Our schedule today takes in historic Tiger Hill, Humble Administrator's Garden and a short cruise on the Grand Canal. If time permits, we'll stop by the silk spinning mill before returning to Shanghai.

Tiger Hill has been a popular tourist destination for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as is evident from the poetry and calligraphy carved into the rocks on the hill. The hill is so named because it is said to look like a crouching tiger. Another legend states that a white tiger appeared on the hill to guard it following the burial of King Helu. The highlight here is the brick pagoda constructed between 959 and 961 AD as part of Yun Yan Buddhist temple. Because of its unintended tilt to one side (2.34 meters off towards northeast), the pagoda is also called by some China's Leaning Tower of Pisa, except this one is 200 years older than the bell tower in Italy.

The traditional Humble Administrator's Garden is a masterpiece listed by the UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site with a style in sharp contrast with the Yu Garden of Shanghai. (B/L/D)


Day 17: Shanghai - Wuyishan (Mount Wuyi)
Today is a free day to explore on your own. Our recommendations include Jinmao Tower, the Maglev train and French Concession (extra-jurisdictional territory from 1849 to 1946). Transfer to the airport for evening flight to Wuyishan - there's no daytime flight available according to current flight schedule. (B)


Day 18: Wuyishan
The UNESCO declared Mount Wuyi a World Heritage Site in 1999 and the UN agency describes that "Mount Wuyi is the most outstanding area for biodiversity conservation in south-east China and a refuge for a large number of ancient, relict species, many of them endemic to China. The serene beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine Bend River, with its numerous temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, provided the setting for the development and spread of neo-Confucianism, which has been influential in the cultures of East Asia since the 11th century. In the 1st century B.C. a large administrative capital was built at nearby Chengcun by the Han dynasty rulers. Its massive walls enclose an archaeological site of great significance."

We spend the day exploring the wonders of nature at Yixiantian, Huxiao Crag and Tianyou Peak Scenic Area. (B/L)


Day 19: Wuyishan
Sightseeing at Mount Wuyi continues. Visits to Xiamei Village and a local teahouse for refreshments are on the agenda. Activities scheduled for today also include a 2-hour ride on a bamboo raft down the river snaking through spectacular scenery. (B/L)


Day 20: Wuyishan - Xiamen
We fly to Xiamen early in the morning (40 minutes) and spend the rest of the day in Xiamen exploring Gulangyu Island where the major attractions are Shuzhuang Garden, Piano Museum, Haitian Tanggou and Longtou Road. (B/L)


Day 21: Xiamen ¨C Yongding - Xiamen
After breakfast we drive 3 hours to Yongding County to visit Chuxi Hakka Earth Buildings located in Xiayang Town. The complex consists of 5 round and 31 square earth buildings, representing the best of Fujian Tulou (earth buildings, UNESCO World Heritage Site). Our tour includes the showpiece, Jiqing Lou, and Hakka History Museum. We return to Xiamen in late afternoon. (B/L)


Day 22: Xiamen - Guilin
Free morning to explore on your own.

Late afternoon flight to Guilin. A small city by Chinese standards, Guilin has long been renowned for its unique scenery. The name Guilin literally means "forest of sweet osmanthus", owing to the large number of fragrant sweet osmanthus trees in the city. (B/L/IM)


Day 23: Guilin (Li River cruise) 
We begin today with a five-hour cruise down the Li River. The 83km stretch of the river between Guilin and Yangshuo affords breathtaking scenery as the river snakes through tall karst mountains, gigantic bamboo sprays, and picturesque villages -- sights that have inspired countless poets and painters for generations.

We disembark in Yangshuo after lunch and drive back to Guilin. We stop by a village en route. (B/L)


Day 24: Guilin - Hong Kong
Morning at leisure. A walk along the Li River in front of the hotel is a wonderful way to soak in the beauty and tranquility of this lovely city.

We gather in the lobby in mid-afternoon to set out for the Reed Flute Cave. Created by an underground river more than half a million years ago, Reed Flute Cave, which served as an air raid shelter during World War II, is a karst cavern of stalactites and stalagmites. Resembling the set of a science fiction movie, the cave is bathed in artificial purple-blue light.

On the way back to the hotel we'll climb the scenic Fubo Hill (63 metres). Those not interested can be driven back to the hotel, which is only 2 kilometres away.

Optional Longji Excursion
You may forgo all of the above activities and choose this physically challenging excursion instead. Located about 80km (2 hours drive) from Guilin, Longji is famous for its terraced rice fields. Built by the local farmers of different ethnic groups from Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the fields spread 500 meters from the foot of Mount Longji to the mountaintop covering an area of 66 square kilometres.

The scenery is at its best in early May (planting) and late September (prior to harvesting). There's not much to look at between mid-October and late April. During the summer, the hike up the hill in high heat and humidity can be too much to bear for many.

Evening flight (1.5 hours) to Hong Kong. Upon arrival, meet you guide and transfer to the hotel.


Day 25: Hong Kong
Our guided tour today begins with a ferry ride across Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central. The heart of Hong Kong's business district, Central is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational financial services corporations. Consulates general and consulates of many countries are also located in this area, as is the government of Hong Kong. The area, with its proximity to Victoria Harbour, has served as the centre of trade and financial activities from the earliest days of the British colonial era in 1841, and continues to flourish and serve as the administrative centre after the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997.

We then take the tram to reach Victoria Peak, which is also known as Mount Austin or The Peak among locals. It is located in the western half of Hong Kong Island with an altitude of 552 meters (1,811 feet). The peak offers sweeping views over Central, Victoria Harbour, Lamma Island and the surrounding islands.

After a quick dim sum lunch, we proceed to Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, located on Lantau Island. This is a bronze statue of a Buddha Amoghasiddhi, completed in 1993, with a height of 34 metres (112 feet) and a weight of 250 metric tons. (B/L)


Day 26: Hongkong
Transfer to the airport on your own to board return flight. Taxi to the airport costs about $258 HKD or $33 USD. The alternative is using the free Airport Express Shuttle (20 minutes) to get to the Airport Express Train Station in Tsim Sha Tsui and riding the train (21 minutes) to the airport. The shuttle bus comes around every 20 minutes between 06:30 and 23:30 and drops you off right in front of the train station 20 minutes later. The train leaves every 10 minutes during daytime from 05:50 to midnight and the travel time from Kowloon station to the airport is 21 minutes. Depending on the airline, you may be allowed to check in at the train station. The train ticket is $90 HKD. We feel going to the airport by train is an excellent choice for singles departing between 6:30 AM and midnight. (B)


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