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From Beijing and Shanghai to Xi'an and Lijiang, discover China's unique and diverse past

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Itinerary Highlights

  • Walk the iconic Great Wall of China
  • Discover Lijiang's picture perfect, UNESCO World Heritage Site old town
  • Hike the serene Cangshan Mountain
  • Learn tai chi in Beijing's Temple of Heaven
  • Take the world’s fastest elevator up the Shanghai Tower for incredible city views
  • Discover the wonder of Xi'an's Terracotta Warriors
  • Let the Tiger Leaping Gorge take your breath away with its beauty

What's Included

  • Luxury accommodation throughout
  • Full support from your travel designer and concierge before, during and after your trip
  • Private transfers
  • Expert guides in each destination
  • Our help with restaurant recommendations and reservations
  • Privately guided tours and experiences mentioned on this itinerary
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

This is an epic exploration of China’s most beautiful, historic and iconic sights, mixed in with plenty of classes and experiences for you to truly learn about the incredible cultures found in this huge country.

Starting in Beijing, you’ll be stunned at the grandeur of the past palatial home to China’s emperors, The Forbidden City, before finding yourself at the most iconic of all Chinese sites of interest: the glorious Great Wall of China.

Flying over to Xi’an, you’ll walk the city walls before discovering the World famous Terracotta Warriors, giving you incredible visual insight into the beginnings of the Qin Empire. Next, you’ll head over to the picturesque towns of Dali and Shaxi where you’ll explore the charming old town, as well as the traditional Bai village of Xizhou, where you’ll learn how to make rushan cheese.

China’s historic and quaint towns are just part of the beauty of this country, so for some natural wonder, you’ll enjoy a hike up the incredibly scenic Cangshan Mountain before heading into Lijiang. Delve deeper into the Naxi culture at the Dongba Cultural Museum before visiting the quaint Yuhu Village found at the base of the marvellous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Get your cameras ready for a visit to the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge, before flying over to your final destination: Shanghai.

In Shanghai you’ll get to know both the modern and the historic side of the city, with a visit to Xintiandi which is found hidden amid an infusion of upscale, modern developments. Take a tranquil stroll through the Yuyuan Garden followed by Shanghai’s Jewish Quarter, before ending your trip on the ultimate high, at the 546-metre tall observatory in the Shanghai Tower.

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-4

Beijing

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Accommodation in Beijing

The Forbidden City The Forbidden City

Step inside the Forbidden City, a massive imperial palace once home to China’s emperors and the geographic center of this endless metropolis. The gates were shut to all but the royal household and their entourage of eunuchs and concubines for 600 years until, in 1924, a powerful warlord gave the last emperor just three hours to leave. Beyond the imposing red walls to the south lies Tiananmen Square, where, Chairman Mao, China’s most powerful ruler lies embalmed in a glass coffin within his own giant mausoleum.

Beijing's ancient neighborhoods Beijing's ancient neighborhoods

Ask the residents of Beijing’s hutong alleyways, the crisscrossing mazes of courtyards and alleyways which make up the heart of the city, and they’ll tell you that anyone who lives further out isn’t really a Beijinger. You’ll see elders whiling away the night with a game of Chinese chess or mahjong, shopkeepers selling traditional snacks like jianbing (pancakes) and baozi (steamed buns), and hear calls announcing the arrival of the knife sharpener or cardboard collector. It is in these ancient neighborhoods where the capital’s distinct culture was generated and where it continues to thrive today.

china-great-wall
The Great Wall of China The Great Wall of China

Visit one of the great wonders of the world, the Great Wall. You will be brought to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which is located in Huairou County a short way outside of Beijing. This section of the wall enjoys a special significance as it connects Juyongguan Pass in the west with the Gubeikou Great Wall in the east and was first built in the Northern Qi Dynasty between approximately 550 to 557 AD. You'll be accompanied by a historian who will give you insight into the fascinating creation of the Wall and bring to life the sheer scale and human effort that went into creating it.

Temple of Heaven and Tai Chi Temple of Heaven and Tai Chi

In the early morning light you'll be brought to see the Temple of Heaven, a fascinating complex of temples and altars set in a park. During the Imperial Period the emperor and a magnificent procession of some 1,000 eunuchs, courtiers, and ministers would visit the temple twice a year. At the winter solstice the emperor would express thanks for the previous harvest, and then on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year he would ask the gods of sun and moon, clouds and rain, and thunder and lightening to bless the coming harvest. Upon arrival here, you will take part in a tai chi class, before taking time to explore the temple.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to the airport

Flight

Flight to Xi'an

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Days 4-6

Xi'an

Accommodation in Xi'an

Xi'an city wall Xi'an city wall

Ascending to an imperious height of 12 metres, the only way in or out of downtown Xi'an is to pass through cavernous openings in the oldest, largest, and best-preserved city wall in China. But the best way to experience the fortifications is by walking on top of them. The circuit is the best way to soak in views of the ancient city within and the modern metropolis outside.

terracotta-army-xi-an-china
The Terracotta Warriors The Terracotta Warriors

Shaanxi Province is often considered the birthplace of Chinese civilisation. The capital of the empire three times, Xi'an played a major role in the history of the country. Today you will visit the Terracotta Warriors with your expert guide.

In 1974, a few farmers stumbled upon the warriors by accident, a mistaken discovery that ended up being one of the greatest archeological finds in history. Inspired into creation thanks to Qin Shi Huangdi's fear of malevolent spirits, this grand mausoleum houses the emperor's immense army of infantry men, archers and cavalry riders to protect him in the afterlife. Each of the warriors has a different face from a soldier during the Emperor's life.

The statues are viewable in three separate areas. Begin with pit number two (that is still being excavated) and three (that shelters the majority of items). You'll end with pit number one, the most impressive with about 2,000 warriors. There is also a small museum on site that houses two splendid bronze chariots found in 1980 west of the mausoleum.

Chinese dumpling tasting Chinese dumpling tasting

Xi'an claims to be the birthplace of Chinese dumplings, and whether or not that’s true, local chefs have elevated the humble staple to the most sophisticated culinary heights. Head to Xi'an’s most popular dumpling joint where these little hand-pinched dough parcels of ground meat and vegetables are crafted into all shapes and sizes, and have a go yourself at making everybody's favorite Chinese snack.

Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque

As Islam flowed along the Silk Road into China 1,300 years ago, its followers, both local and foreign alike, settled in a busy commercial area of the capital, Chang’an. After centuries of prosperity, the very same Muslim Quarter is still one of the most bustling areas of modern-day Xi’an, and a sensory feast of neon signs, exotic spices, and barbecued fare. Islam flourished around the Great Mosque in the heart of the Xi’an’s thriving Muslim Quarter. Entering the elegant grounds at sunset, you might mistake the undulating roofs and colonnaded halls for a Chinese temple until the evening call to prayer confirms that this is instead a potent fusion of Chinese and Islamic culture.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to the airport

Flight

Flight to Dali

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Day 6-9

Dali and Shaxi

Accommodation in Dali and Shaxi

Dali Old Town Dali Old Town

Enter a world of traditional handicrafts and Bai architecture as you stroll along the cobbled streets of Dali Old Town. Protected from bandits and invaders by 6-meter-deep stone walls, Dali was once an important outpost on trade routes that spanned Tibet and Southeast Asia and has been the center of the Bai universe for more than a thousand years. Today, this charming checkerboard town of crisscrossing streams and lanes has become a popular stop off for travelers, and you’ll no doubt find yourself swept up in Dali’s irresistibly laid-back vibe as you wander its narrow lanes and sip tea in the tranquil surrounds of a traditional Bai courtyard home.

Xizhou visit with rushan making class Xizhou visit with rushan making class

Today you'll walk through Xizhou, a traditional Bai village on the shores of Erhai Lake. You'll explore the markets, taking in some of the most beautiful buildings in the village, learning what makes Bai architecture unique. Along the way, you’ll stop for Xizhou pizza, a culinary treat that delights the taste buds of locals and travelers alike. Peer into the courtyards of white-walled mansions in the tranquil town of Xizhou. After exploring the wet market, get ready for an education in making rushan, a dried, cow’s milk cheese which is rolled and fried before eating, and chow down on this delicious, if indulgent, local snack.

Zhoucheng Zhoucheng

A resplendent artisan village resting at the base of Cangshan Mountain, Zhoucheng is a major center of Bai culture renowned for its unique tie-dye products. You’ll see up close how the locals use indigo-based dyes to transform white cotton fabric into a dazzling variety of patterns and scenes, using the same simple stick tools and rubber bands as their predecessors centuries before.

Cangshan mountain hike Cangshan mountain hike

To the west of Dali rises Cangshan mountain, a collection of 3,500m peaks which offer epic views of the town and lake sprawling through the valley below. Only in 1991 did construction begin on the Jade Cloud Road, a paved and sometimes precipitous walkway which leads you high up the mountain, past waterfalls and through secluded temples. The hike usually takes around 2 hours with an opportunity to camp for the most intrepid.

One night in Shaxi One night in Shaxi

Travel to Shaxi, a beautifully preserved market town nestled in the idyllic rural landscape halfway between Lijiang and Dali. The town was once a bustling outpost where horses and tea, among other exotic goods, changed hands en route to Burma and Tibet. With Buddhist grottoes, lively weekend markets, and delightfully simple rural cuisine sourced straight from the surrounding farmland, Shaxi is packed with cultural intrigue and pastoral charm.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Lijiang

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Days 9-12

Lijiang

Accommodation in Lijiang

Lijiang's Old Town Lijiang's Old Town

Defined by an intricate network of canals and cobbled lanes, the atmospheric Lijiang Old Town constitutes a dreamlike scene, and it is that charm, along with its inscription onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997, that makes this town such a popular and rewarding attraction in China. You will be met in the morning by your guide for a tour of the Old Town, taking you down some of the quieter lanes before they fill with visitors. While here, you can mingle with local Naxi people, descendants of Tibetan tribes.

Dongba Cultural Museum Dongba Cultural Museum

Dive into the detail of Naxi culture with a quick stop at the small but excellent exhibits of the Dongba Cultural Museum. Your expert guide will use the collection’s artifacts to illustrate the history of trade routes which spread all the way through Burma to India. But the undisputed highlight, is the Naxi script itself, a system of picture writing so creative that some texts can only be understood by whoever who wrote it.

Yuhu Village Yuhu Village

A 30-minute drive from the center of Lijiang, Yuhu Village is a small community at the base of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. There, you'll visit the home of Joseph Rock, famed Austrian-American botanist, explorer, and chronicler of the Naxi people. Yuhu’s stone buildings represent a unique architectural style, their windows overlooking pristine alpine meadows, summits rising in the distance.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Tiger Leaping Gorge

Legend has it that whilst fleeing a hunter through the mountains of northern Yunnan, a tiger leapt across the raging rapids blocking its escape. This is how Tiger Leaping Gorge got its name, but its reputation comes from epic hiking trails shared with local shepherds and farmers that deliver views of outstanding natural beauty below. The hike is not for the fainthearted, after all, this is one of the deepest gorges in the world at 3,790 meters deep.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to the airport

Flight

Flight to Shanghai

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Days 12-15

Shanghai

Accommodation in Shanghai

Fuxing Park Fuxing Park

A vestige of the French colonial era, Fuxing was once a private Ming Dynasty park that is now the beating heart of Shanghai’s local life. Boasting some of China’s best people watching opportunities, keep an eye out for ensembles of locals singing songs en masse (of varying talent), ballroom dancing, or even the occasional saxophone quartet.

The French Concession The French Concession

Shanghai’s former French concession represents every aspect of the city’s short but tumultuous history. This guided walk is your chance to dip in and out of its modern boutiques and chic cafes, and witness the local bike fixers, propaganda art, street tailors and dumpling hawkers that have been there much longer. The area was governed by France but was populated by a cosmopolitan mix of the city's wealthy political elites. Your local guide will lead you through the old lanes still lined with Russian churches, British townhouses and even French châteaux.

Xintiandi Xintiandi

Xintiandi still bears the traces of an older Shanghai, hidden amidst an infusion of upscale, modern developments. Housed behind its restored facades are international restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and bars. The neighbourhood brings together the heady, glamorous atmosphere of decades gone by and the comforts of a modern city. You'll explore the area on foot, strolling through sights new and old.

Yuyuan Garden Yuyuan Garden

Manufacturing and mega-cities may be the name card of today’s China, but Yuyuan Garden is a postcard example of a more traditional side to the country, one of beautifully manicured gardens, punctuated with rocks and trees, interspersed with green ponds and framed by white walls with circular doorways. Built in what is now downtown Shanghai by a Ming Dynasty official, Yuyuan Garden’s pavilions and bridges, rockeries and teahouse, will transport you to a world far away from skyscrapers and bullet trains.

Shanghai Museum Shanghai Museum

Sat in People’s Square and shaped like an enormous ancient Chinese cooking vessel, the Shanghai Museum delivers on the inside everything that its bold and confident design promises on the outside. In world-class exhibitions, you’ll learn how huge 3,000-year-old bronze wine vessels can be poured using just one hand, and why ancient history was recorded inside cooking pots. Shanghai Museum’s extensive collection cover everything from bronze, jade, and ceramics to calligraphy, painting, and furniture, meaning whatever your taste in Chinese antiquities, there will be something for you.

Shanghai's Jewish Quarter Shanghai's Jewish Quarter

Uncover the veiled stories of Shanghai's Jewish Quarter, which went from burgeoning business center and political haven to windswept ghost town in a matter of decades.

Shanghai Tower Shanghai Tower

The world’s fastest elevator can take you to the 546-meter high observatory on the 118th floor of Shanghai Tower, where you will have a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of Shanghai’s renowned buildings, natural beauties and ever-changing sky. China is a land of superlatives and nowhere exemplifies the extremes of this country better than the record-breaking Shanghai skyline. Ride the world’s fastest elevator to the world’s highest observation deck in China’s tallest building and feel yourself blown away by awe-inspiring views of one of the planet’s largest cities, all while learning about the architecture which Makes these gravity-defying feats of engineering possible.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Maglev levitating train to Shanghai airport

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