Fly to Shanghai, China’s largest city, then transfer to your hotel. An intoxicating city of paradoxes, Shanghai is celebrated for both its colonial-era architecture along the famous Bund promenade and the futuristic skyline of its glittering Pudong district. Your Tour Director will help you check in and accompany you throughout your cruisetour. Enjoy free time to relax or explore. Throughout your journey, you will enjoy a variety of traditional Chinese and Western-style meals.
This morning, tour Old Shanghai and travel along the elegant Bund, stopping to admire historic banks and customs houses and breathtaking city views. Then, stroll the pathways of the exquisite Yuyuan Garden. Dating to the Ming Dynasty, this oasis was specially built by Pan Yunduan, a 16th-century governor of Sichuan, for his aging father. After lunch in a local restaurant, tour the Shanghai Museum, one of China’s finest collections, and admire decorative ceramics, bronzes, calligraphy and paintings from the region’s past. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before seeing the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe from the best seats in the house. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, prepare for your flight to Wuhan. Upon arrival, embark your Viking-owned and -operated ship, docked close to Wuhan’s historic waterfront. For the next five days, you will sail into an astonishing world where fishermen scoop their catches with large handmade nets, families tend to water-laden rice fields and timeless monasteries perch on cliff walls. Throughout your cruise, you may choose between Chinese or Western meals, participate in tai chi on deck each morning, play mahjong, attend destination-relevant lectures and immerse yourself in traditional China during numerous tours and activities. (B, L, D)
Ancient and modern intermingle in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. Former cradle of the brilliant Chu Civilization, Wuhan was an important commercial hub, as its merchants set out on the Yangtze on trade missions. It remains a central economic presence today. Visit the Hubei Provincial Museum, where you can hear the music of ancient bronze bells and view relics from 400 BC. Return to the ship and set sail this evening. (B, L, D)
After a morning of sailing, arrive in Jingzhou, the seat of 20 emperors during the Zhou Dynasty, from 1046 BC to 256 BC. As you approach, remarkably preserved city walls, gates and watchtowers emerge on the river’s banks, legacies of Jingzhou’s days as an important military outpost. During your visit, you will stop by an elementary school sponsored by Viking. The children will greet you with a charming song and dance. Then spend time amid their contagious enthusiasm, perhaps getting to know a little about them and their lesson plans. (B, L, D)
This morning, disembark for a tour of the Three Gorges Dam. The world’s largest hydroelectric power project took almost 20 years to build. During your visit, you will see the inner workings of this massive structure up close. Learn how the dam controls flooding and how it led to the relocation of 1.25 million people. Return to your ship and sail through the 5-stage locks of the Three Gorges Dam. Dock overnight at Badong. (B, L, D)
For the next 150 miles, travel the most scenic stretch of the Yangtze as it forces its way through a spectacular series of limestone ridges known as the Three Gorges. During breakfast, cruise through Wu (‟Witches”) Gorge, renowned for its magnificent scenery. Then, board a smaller boat for an excursion through the Goddess Stream. Sail through these remarkable canyons flanked by towering cliffs as you listen to the informative commentary of your Program Director. Along the way, see fascinating sites including the hanging coffins of the Ba people and the ancient plank road carved into the cliff side. Return on board for lunch, then spend the afternoon sailing through Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest and most spectacular of the three large gorges. Dinner is served on board. (B, L, D)
This morning, visit Shibaozhai Temple, a 12-story pavilion built in 1650 along the Yangtze. The bright red pagoda, an impressive example of Qing Dynasty architecture, was erected upon a hill and became easier to access after the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. As you explore, you may see the Duck Well. Legend says that a duck dropped into this hole will reappear in the Yangtze. At the small Rice Flowing Well, from which rice once poured at a slow trickle, consider the fable of the greedy monk who chiseled a larger hole—only to stop the flow completely. Tour the pavilion and temple before returning on board for lunch. This afternoon, marvel at the spectacular Yangtze scenery as you cruise past mist-laden mountains and limestone cliffs cloaked in green. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, disembark and enjoy a scenic drive through the steep hillsides of Dazu. Then after lunch in a local restaurant, visit the Dazu Stone Carvings, a spectacular collection of elaborate sculptures etched into the rock faces of mountainsides. Throughout this expansive UNESCO World Heritage Site, some 50,000 statues and 100,000 Chinese characters seem to emerge from the cliff sides. After time to explore this remarkable site, return to Chongqing. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, disembark and fly to Lijiang, watched over by the spectacular Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This 2,000-year-old market village and UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for the canal-lined warrens and intimate enclaves of its remarkably preserved Old Town. Upon arrival, sample local specialties during lunch. Then visit the residence of Dr. Joseph Rock in the city’s Yuhu Village. Dr. Rock was a respected botanist and explorer who chronicled many of his observations about the 20th-century Yunnan province in National Geographic magazine. After checking in to your hotel, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (B, L, D)
Arise in Lijiang today. After breakfast, the day is yours to explore this charming city, once the center of silk embroidery and a major stop on the famed Tea Horse Ancient Road. The Dayan Old Town is a pleasure to peruse, with its orderly waterways and bridges. The timber and mud-brick houses you will see are a legacy of the Nanjing traders who once passed through. You will have many opportunities to browse charming shops for local handicrafts, silk and other locally made products. (B)
Enjoy another free morning exploring the atmospheric streets and lovely waterways of Lijiang’s Old Town. Lunch is included at a local restaurant. This afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to Chengdu. Explore the Sanxingdui Museum, a repository of cultural and historic relics of gold, jade, stone, bronze and more. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, visit some of Chengdu’s most famous residents at the Panda Base. Here, you have a chance to see these incredible creatures in their natural habitat. After dinner, attend the Sichuan Opera for an unforgettable evening marked by dramatic music, colorful costumes, fire-breathing and bian lian, or face-changing. (B, L, D)
Fly to Xian this morning after breakfast and arrive in time for lunch at a local restaurant. Xian was a key city of the Tang Dynasty. From 618 to 907 AD, this dynasty presided over one of China’s most glorious cultural periods, spreading its influence throughout Asia into Europe and Africa. Visit the South City Gate and City Wall to witness remnants of its power. Enjoy dinner this evening at a local restaurant. (B, L, D)
View what many call the Eighth Wonder of the World today: the magnificent Terra Cotta Warriors. At the enormous mausoleum where Emperor Qin Shi Huang was laid to rest over 2,000 years ago, see the 8,000 life-sized sculpted warriors, archers and infantrymen that were buried with him. Remarkably, each man and horse was molded with its own distinctive features. The incredible archaeological site was discovered by local farmers in 1974. After lunch, use your free time to further explore Xian. During this evening’s optional excursion, see the ancient history of China come to life during a colorful and exuberant Tang Dynasty Dinner Show. (B, L, D)
Today, fly to Beijing, China’s imperial capital whose rich history dates back more than 3,000 years. Beijing embodies the beating heart of China, brimming with massive monuments, a storied past and robust economic centers. It is inarguably China’s historic and cultural center. Yet Beijing exudes an intimate side, found among the quiet warrens of hutongs. These tidy residential pockets recall the Peking of old and bring visitors back to China at its most authentic. Check in to your hotel and dine in this great city; enjoy free time this evening. (B, L, D)
Experience one of the world’s most iconic sites today. Travel to the Badaling Hills to behold one of the most impressive and best preserved sections of the Great Wall of China. Built and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century AD to keep barbarian nomads out of the empire, this UNESCO World Heritage Site of sandstone and earthwork stretches some 4,000 miles. Explore its winding pathways and marvel at the panoramic views from its ramparts.
After a lunch of local specialties, visit the Sacred Way, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk the tree-lined avenue guarded by massive sculptures of elephants, lions and camels to the Ming Dynasty tombs. This evening, dine at a local restaurant and relax at your hotel, or enjoy an optional Peking duck dinner, a dish once reserved only for emperors. (B, L, D)
Witness two of Beijing’s cultural treasures this morning. In the massive Tiananmen Square (meaning “Gate of Heavenly Peace”), the epicenter of ancient and modern Chinese history, view the exterior of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum. You will also see the tower that marks the northern edge of the square; built in 1417, this was long the stage from which new emperors were declared. Then, tour the nearly 1,000 buildings of the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and accessible only to emperors and their families and court for 500 years. Walk its grounds among the opulent palaces, pavilions, courtyards and imperial gardens within the 26-foot-high walls.
After lunch in a local restaurant, with time permitting, explore Beijing independently. Enjoy dinner this evening, or attend The Legend of Kung Fu for a beautiful display of performance art with roots dating back 4,000 years. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight. Or, continue your China journey with 2 additional nights in Beijing to further uncover its imperial treasures. (B)