Discover the many faces of China on this fascinating 16-day adventure. See the imperial treasures of Beijing, including the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Meet several thousand Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian. Explore both ancient and contemporary Shanghai, the “New York City” of China. Enjoy a 6-day Yangtze River cruise. Plus, experience Lhasa on the Tibetan Plateau, the “Roof of the World,” set high in the Himalayas. Spend three spiritually enlightening days visiting Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace and much more.
Day 1 - Beijing
Fly to Beijing, China’s imperial capital whose rich history dates back more than 3,000 years, then transfer to your hotel. 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 traditional Chinese meals at restaurants and Western-style meals at your hotels.
Day 2 - Beijing
Beijing embodies the beating heart of China, brimming with massive monuments to a storied past and robust economic centers. Witness two of its 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 today, 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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 3 - Beijing
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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4 - Xian
Before departing Beijing, tour the city’s hutongs via rickshaw.† During this rare glimpse into the traditional ways of the culture of Old Peking, you will navigate narrow warrens and admire the well-kept courtyards of families who still live in this richly historic community. After lunch, fly to Xian, celebrated as the eastern terminus of Asia’s Silk Road. More than 3,000 years of history have unfolded here, including 1,100 as the capital city of ancient dynasties. From 618 to 907 AD, this city presided over one of China’s most glorious cultural periods, spreading its influence throughout Asia into Europe and Africa. This evening after dinner, relax at your hotel. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
†Rickshaw tour available only on Beijing to Shanghai itinerary direction.
Day 5 - Xian
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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6 - Lhasa
Fly to Lhasa, the spiritual and cultural center of Tibet, often celebrated as “The Roof of the World.” To Tibetan Buddhists, Lhasa is a holy land—the pilgrimage center of the region. Breathtaking Himalayan beauty, ancient culture and spiritual tradition converge here, drawing those who seek serenity and peace. The highest capital in the world, it has been compared to the fabled kingdom of Shangri-La, the earthly paradise of perfect harmony. This afternoon, join a Lhasa family in their home for the warmest of welcomes. Share tea with your hosts and witness the gentle ways in which Buddhist beliefs and practices are woven into everyday life. Later, enjoy fresh Tibetan dishes for dinner at a local restaurant. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7 - Lhasa
Step into the spiritual sanctuary of Tibetan Buddhism this morning—the 1,300-year-old Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is Lhasa’s holiest place, and you are likely to share your experience with pilgrims who have traveled far to view the revered icon of their religion: an ancient and bejeweled statue of the Buddha, Jowo Shakyamuni. After a local lunch, explore the adjacent maze-like Barkhor Market in Old Lhasa, a circumambulation route for arriving pilgrims. As you browse the stalls for prayer flags, incense and butter lamps, it is impossible not to be moved by the devotion around you. Later, visit the Tibetan Museum to learn about the area’s history and folk culture. Tonight, enjoy a traditional Tibetan dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8 - Lhasa
This morning, tour the magnificent Potala Palace. This towering hilltop fortress, traditional home of the Dalai Lama, rises 13 stories and boasts 1,000 rooms and the tombs of several Dalai Lamas. It is a stunning repository of the statues, tombs and personal effects of its past revered residents. Later, visit Sera Monastery, spiritual and educational center of the Gelug sect. In this active and vibrant temple, monks become proficient in the ways of Tibetan Buddhism through passionate debate that relies as much on gesture as it does on logic. You may meet a monk or monk-in-training during your visit. Enjoy lunch and dinner in local restaurants. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9 - Shibaozhai
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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10 - Three Gorges
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 Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest and most spectacular of the three large gorges. Then, board a smaller boat for an excursion through the Goddess Stream. Sail through these remarkable canyons flanked by towering cliffs. Along the way, see fascinating sites including the hanging coffins of the Ba people and the ancient plank road carved into the cliffside. Return on board for lunch, and spend the afternoon sailing through Wu (‟Witches”) Gorge, renowned for its magnificent scenery. Dinner is served on board. This evening, sail through the 5-stage locks of the Three Gorges Dam. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 11 - Three Gorges
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. Lunch and dinner are served on board while you cruise through Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Three Gorges. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 12 - Jingzhou
This morning, 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. Return to your ship for scenic cruising. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 13 - Wuhan
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 your ship for dinner on your final night on board. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 14 - Shanghai
After breakfast, disembark in Wuhan. Fly to Shanghai, the “Paris of the East,” China’s largest city and one of the world’s most important ports. 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. British, French and American traders were granted parcels of land here known as concessions in the 19th century; today, their influences blend with a distinct Chinese sensibility. Shanghai remains one of China’s most open and welcoming cities. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 15 - Shanghai
This morning, see Old Shanghai and travel along the elegant Bund, stopping to admire historic banks and customs houses and breathtaking city views. At the Shanghai Museum, one of China’s finest collections, admire decorative ceramics, bronzes, calligraphy and paintings from the region’s past. After lunch, 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. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before seeing the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe from the best seats in the house. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 16 - Shanghai
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight. Consider extending your China journey with 2 extra nights in Shanghai to further explore this fascinating city. (Breakfast)