13 days China highlights tour with Yangtze River cruise
This tour balances a historical & cultural exploration in the top cities of China and a memorable Yangtze river cruise. Start in Beijing, explore the cultural heritages including the Great Wall and Forbidden City, then head to Xi'an for the 8th wonder of the world - Terracotta & Warriors, afterwards head to pay a visit to the most adorable animal in the world - Giant pandas in Chengdu. Followed by the most dramatic natural landscapes when you sail through the Three Gorges on Yangtze River. Tour ends when you get to Shanghai, one of the major cities in China. More awaits in this journey!
Upon arrive at the Beijing airport or railway station, be met and assisted to your hotel by the Beijing tour guide and driver. Rest of the day is on your own to explore this capital city.
Be arranged to visit Tiananmen Square at the center of Beijing city - regarded as the largest in the world, is an important place for Chinese people to hold a celebration or other big occasions. Then head to Forbidden City - an ancient palace complex where 24 emperors had lived and worked during both the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
After lunch, drive to visit Summer Palace, a royal garden that surrounding Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill more traditionally known as Wanshou Shan. It is one of the four classic gardens of China. This palace was built by the emperors during Qing dynasty as a summertime retreat. You will easily see many spectacular gardens, palaces and temples throughout.
After breakfast, drive to visit the Temple of Heaven in south Beijing. It is a holy imperial temple where emperors once prayed for a good harvest and offered sacrifices to the God of Heaven during every winter solstice. You will have a glimpse of this masterpiece of architecture and landscape design.
Afterward, drive to Mutianyu Great Wall, one of the best section to explore the Great Wall of China. It will take about 2.5 hours to get there by private car. Upon arrival enjoy 2 to 3 hours of walking along with this ancient defense and have a glimpse of the magnificent scenery as the wall winds its way across the mountains. If you don't feel like walking up, you can also choose to ascend and descend via a cable car or slide your way down in a toboggan.
On the way back to your hotel, you may have a quick stop at the Olympic Green to overlook at Bird's Nest and The Cube. Then drop you off at your hotel, rest on your own for the rest of the day.
After breakfast, drive to visit the Lama Temple, which also known as the Yonghegong Temple. It is a temple and monastery of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. It contains the largest wooden Buddha in the world. (Optional: if you are more interested in the local people’s life, You can visit Beihai Park instead).
Afterward, you will have 1-2 hours to feel the traditional Hutong culture by visiting the Shichahai in west Beijing. Traveling by rickshaw through century-old Hutongs in Shichahai before their demolition. Walk along the old Yandai Xiejie which has an 800-year history surrounding Beijing's Drum Tower. Plenty of time for you to explore on your own to nearby Nanluoguoxiang for tasting some local snacks or buying some souvenirs from the many antique shows for your family and friends.
In the afternoon, take the high-speed train to Xi'an (about 5-6 hours). Upon arrival in Xián, to be picked up and transferred to the hotel.
The first spot of your tour today is one of the must-see attractions in China, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, recognized as the 8th wonder of the world. 'Discovered by chance' by some local farmers in 1974, thousands of life-sized Terracotta Warriors, horses, and chariots were unearthed, those crafted figures date from 210 BC and were meant to guard the first emperor of China. Each year it attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.
Then head back to downtown and visit Xi'an City Wall, one of the oldest and best-preserved city walls across China, you can choose to take a walk along the city wall or rent a bicycle. Afterward, pay a visit to Shuyuan Men ancient cultural street, where you can find some traditional Chinese arts and crafts, a good spot for souvenirs. Finally, move to visit the Muslim Quarter and Great Mosque to feel the unique ethnic culture of Hui and try the local snacks.
Take an early morning train to Leshan from Xi'an (D4109, 07:56 - 13:07), Leshan train station pick up and transfer to visit Leshan Grand Buddha. The grand Buddha was completed in 803 of Tang Dynasty after 90 years' construction and enjoys the fame of the biggest sitting stone sculpture in the world with a 71-meter height. Carved on the cliff face, the sculpture is well designed with perfect balance and effective water drainage system. You can also choose to have a boat tour to see Leshan Grand Buddha (fee is on your own). Leshan is quite famous for its tasty food, you may take lunch on one of the food streets before you start the tour to the big Buddha.
When the visit ends, take the high-speed train to Chengdu (about 1 hour) for the overnight.
After breakfast, head to the Chengdu Panda Base to see the adorable pandas. Morning is considered as the best time to visit Panda center as you will catch the feeding time and the pandas are at their most active. Walk through the forested landscape, watch as giant pandas play, nap, and munch bamboo; visit the panda nursery, subadult enclosure, and adult compound; and watch informational videos on panda behavior and the challenges of working with and breeding captive pandas. If time is allowed, pay a visit to People's Park, a great place to get insight the daily life of locals who come here relax, exercise, play games like Mah-jongg and chess, sing and dance, or find love matches for their loved ones. You will be arranged to have a cup of tea like locals in the open-air Heming Tea House, a great place to slow down and rest your legs.
Then take the high-speed train to Chongqing (about 2 hours), upon arrival, you will be ready to get on the luxury cruise at Chongqing Pier. At 21:30 your memorable Yangtze River begins.
This morning the ship will stop at Fengdu (It is an optional tour), where you will visit the Ghost City, which is famous for its temple dedicated to the King of the Underworld, an association dating back to the Han Dynasty. Afternoon have an excursion to Shibaozhai with its impressive wooden pagoda.
P.S. Depending on river conditions and the cruise you choose, the excursion site today could be different.
Today you will enter Three Gorges, the highlights of your Yangtze River Cruise. Morning you will pass through the first two Gorges —Qutang Gorge and Wu Gorge. Qutang Gorge is the shortest (5 miles), narrowest (500 feet), and most dramatic. The 25-mile long Wu Gorge is known for its quiet beauty, forest-covered mountains, and cliffs so sheer that the sun barely penetrates the precipices. Transfer to another vessel for a relaxing excursion through the attractive gorges of Goddess Stream. Depending on river conditions, an alternate excursion may be substituted to the gorges of Shennong Stream. Back to the cruise to continue your cruise to Xiling Gorge, the longest (41 miles), and deepest of the Three Gorges.
P.S.: Additional optional shore excursion (available in the morning, river conditions permitting) to White Emperor City, an ancient city overlooking the western end of Qutang Gorge.
Visit the site of the Three Gorges Dam Project in the morning, then sail the eastern part of Xiling Gorge, disembark at Yichang around 12:00. To be met at Yichang pier and drive you to Yichang for the flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival at Shanghai, airport picking up and transfer to your hotel.
Morning visit Yu Garden, a beautiful garden built by a government official during the Ming Dynasty, and it's well known for its Exquisite Jade Rock. Afterwards, walk through Shanghai Old Street and have an understanding of the history of Shanghai.
Then head to Xintiandi in the French Concession. It was the location of the first congress of China's Communist Party, however today it is a hip cultural center of Shanghai. There are many cafes, bars, bookstores and boutiques.
After lunch, visit the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, which documents the changing face of Shanghai and is an essential visiting point for those interested in the evolution of the city. A perfect scale model of the entire city on the 6th floor shows planned and recent developments of Shanghai.
Finally, cross the Huangpu River and visit the Shanghai Tower at the tip of Lujiazui in the Pudong District. By the side of Huangpu River, opposite The Bund, makes the Oriental Pearl TV Tower a distinct landmark in the area. At last walk along Shanghai Bund and Nanjing road, getting close to the local modern life.
In the morning drive to visit Tongli water town in Suzhou, an ancient town which has over 1,000 years' history. The town is famous for a system of canals and featured by water, bridges and ancient architectures. You will be arranged to have a boat tour on the canals for witnessing the breathtaking scenery of Tongli town. Walking on the small alleys to discover this ancient town. Drive back to Shanghai in the afternoon, freely explore Shanghai on your own.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your departure flight to the next destination.
Notes: Shanghai has two airports - Hongqiao Airport and Pudong Airport. Please make sure you go to the right one for the departure.