Join our expert Chinese Trip Leader on this classic intimate journey showcasing Chinas most important sites plus the ancient water towns connected to Shanghai. In the congenial company of never more than 16 guests, youll enjoy in-depth sightseeing and authentic cultural encounters not available to larger groups. Savor fine cuisine and retreat every night to our 5-star hotels.
Day 1 - Welcome to Beijing
On arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to our luxurious hotel in the heart of the capital.
Day 2 – In + Around Beijing
Your expertly guided, full-day exploration begins in Tiananmen Square. Covering more than 100 acres in the heart of the city with a scale reminiscent of Moscow’s Red Square or the Piazza San Marco in Venice, it ranks as one of the grandest public plazas in the world. Then follow in the footsteps of Ming Dynasty emperors as you explore the magnificent palaces, courtyards and pavilions of the sprawling Forbidden City #WHS#. It is said that there are 9,999 rooms within these imposing walls and although you won’t see everyone, your guided tour offers a fascinating look into the splendor of Imperial life centuries ago.
Then explore by rickshaw through the narrow lanes of a Hutong, one of the citys few remaining enclaves of traditional, centuries-old courtyard homes. After lunch, youll tour the resplendent Summer Palace #WHS#. Set on wooded hills surrounding a tranquil lake, this assemblage of pavilions, palaces and gardens offers a fascinating look into Imperial life long ago. From April to November, our tour of the Summer Palace includes a boat ride on Lake Kunming, a delightful and tranquil way to experience the architectural landmarks and sublime natural beauty of this World Heritage Site. Tonight’s festive Peking Duck banquet is accompanied by wine and local beer. Meals B+L+D
Day 3 - The Great Wall
The Great Wall #WHS# stretches for nearly 4,000 miles across northern China - its oldest sections dating back more than 2,000 years when various states and dynasties first began to build these defensive walls. A few centuries after these earliest sections were constructed, Emperor Qin Shihuang consolidated them into a single, massive fortification to guard his empire against Hun invaders from the north. Succeeding emperors maintained, reconstructed and built anew, and much of what is seen today is the result of work that was done during the Ming Dynasty. As a result the wall is not uniform throughout its length; situated farther from the capital than other parts of the Great Wall, the section at Mutianyu draws fewer visitors and is celebrated for its many defensive towers and splendid setting amidst the rugged mountains. Ascending by cable car, youll walk atop the Great Wall here at Mutianyu as our expert guide shares dramatic stories of its past. Back in the city, the rest of your afternoon and evening is free to enjoy and dine as you wish. Meals B+L
Day 4 - Fly to Xian
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Xian, China’s ancient capital for 13 dynasties. On arrival, you’ll be met and transferred to our deluxe hotel, ideally situated within the old defensive walls of the city. A+R guests enjoy a complimentary upgrade to Club Floor Guestrooms with high-speed Internet and access to the Club Lounge for breakfast and cocktails. After settling in, youll rejoin your guide to visit Hanyangling Underground Mausoleum. With its royal tombs, ceremonial sites and numerous other burial pits this archaeological site offers fascinating insight into life, culture and society during the ancient Han Dynasty. This evenings congenial dinner features savory dumplings - a regional specialty and favorite. Meals B+D
Day 5 – Behold the Terra Cotta Army
Farmers stumbled upon the site while digging a well in 1974; today the Terra Cotta Army #WHS# is still regarded as China’s greatest archaeological discovery. Set out this morning to visit the excavation site and marvel at the exquisite details of these clay warriors buried 2,000 years ago to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor. It has been estimated that more than half a million laborers and craftsmen worked for nearly 40 years to complete the tomb - and the thousands of terra cotta soldiers, horses and chariots that were to serve the Emperor in the afterlife. After lunch, you’ll visit the ancient defensive walls of the city before returning to your hotel. Meals B+L+D
Day 6 – Marco Polo Fell in Love with Hangzhou… You Will Too!
After breakfast, we’ll take you to the airport for your included flight to Hangzhou, where youll be escorted to our 5-star hotel. Just outside of the city, youll visit an authentic working tea plantation to spend time with the farmers amidst their lush fields. From preparing the soil to picking the tea leaves, your time on the tea plantation is a fun way to learn about the ancient techniques that ensure the high quality of the region’s esteemed teas. Back in the city, a guided stroll along the shores of West Lake reveals why Hangzhou is heralded as one of China’s loveliest cities - as evidenced by an ancient Chinese proverb, “Above there is Heaven; below there is Hangzhou.” Indeed, these landscapes have inspired artists and poets for centuries, and today you’ll have a chance to experience its enchanting scenery for yourself. Meals B+L
Day 7 - Onward to Wuzhen + The Garden City of Suzhou
Departing Hangzhou this morning, you’ll travel to Wuzhen for a glimpse into what life was like during the Ming Dynasty! Set along an ancient canal that stretches north from Hangzhou toward Beijing, Wuzhen is an enchanting water town famous for its centuries-old homes and shop-houses, now splendidly restored. Ancient stone railings, picturesque courtyards and arching bridges of wood and stone add to the evocative ambiance. Not only the architecture, but the rhythms of daily life have also been preserved here – making Wuzhen a veritable living museum. Experience it all with our guided tour, including a boat excursion along its ancient canals - a delightful way to experience the evocative atmosphere of this timeless place. Then continue to Suzhou and check in to our 5-star hotel, where you’ll have time to refresh before dinner. Meals B+L+D
Day 8 - Discover Suzhou
Tour the exquisite Garden of the Master of the Nets #WHS#. Originally laid out 1,000 years ago during the Song Dynasty, this classic Chinese garden is one of the city’s most refined with landscaped waterways, pavilions, meandering pathways and a delicate footbridge a mere 12 inches wide. The diminutive Inner Garden was the model for the Ming Hall Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Then experience a popular Chinese pastime as you join city residents to fly a kite at the impressive Panmen Gate, one of Suzhous most notable ancient landmarks. Learn how silk is made at a local workshop before traveling to Shanghai where you’ll check in to our luxury landmark hotel. Meals B+L
Day 9 – Out + About in Shanghai
Today’s full-day sightseeing begins at the Shanghai Museum, highly regarded for its expansive collection encompassing thousands years of Chinese arts and culture - including ancient bronzes, celadon pottery, precious jade, Buddhist sculptures and exquisite Ming Dynasty furniture. Along the elegant waterfront Bund, you’ll learn about the impressive landmarks built more than a century ago by Japanese and European trading companies.
After lunch at Casanova, one of the citys most stylish restaurants, youll continue your sightseeing at the lovely Yu Yuan Garden. Originally established in 1577 by a government official for his aging parents, the gardens unique ensemble of plantings, lotus ponds, winding paths, pavilions and bridges is revered as a superb example of classical Chinese landscaping during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This evening, you’ll gather with your fellow travelers for a congenial farewell dinner featuring Shanghai’s fine regional cuisine. Meals B+L+D
Day 10 - Depart Shanghai
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your onward flight. Meals B