Since the days of Marco Polo, China has fascinated our western minds in the most compelling way. The country’s immense size, almost unimaginable wealth and other-worldly culture have together woven an intoxicating and quite irresistible spell.
The Chinese today are living through an astonishing transformation. As well as being justly proud of their long history and unique cultural legacy, they’re keen to show you their huge achievements as a rapidly growing world superpower. China has always been a nation of superlatives. The most populous on earth, it’s also the fourth largest. Silk, tea, paper money, porcelain and gunpowder all originated here. Effectively closed to outsiders for most of its history, China has developed its own unique character, language and society.
At the heart of Beijing lies the Imperial Palace. Collectively called the ‘Forbidden City’, it contains a staggering 9,999 rooms. Adorned with paintings of dragons and phoenixes, carvings and inscriptions, it’s crowned by typically Chinese turned-up roofs with gold-hued tiles. Tiananmen Square, the final resting place of Chairman Mao, holds a staggering 600,000 people. The Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven are stunning in their simplicity and laden with symbolism. And beyond the city lies the stupendous Great Wall, the largest structure ever built by man and one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Two centuries before the founding of ancient Rome, Xian was already a world-class city and gateway to the Silk Road. Home to over a dozen dynasties, it houses the extraordinary Terracotta Army. First discovered by farmers digging a well, the life-size and remarkably preserved warriors all have their own individual features. They’ve guarded the tomb of the first Qin Emperor for more than two millennia.
Guilin has some of China’s most breathtaking scenery. Beautifully set around four lakes and two rivers, it’s surrounded by the karst limestone scenery of lush forest-covered peaks and pinnacles. You’ll also visit the extraordinary Longshen Rice Terraces, carved into the hills in their thousands over centuries by the hands of Yao tribesmen.
In Chengdu, you’ll see some of the world’s most endangered and enchanting animals – Panda bears. This is the leading Panda research and breeding centre in China. We’ll visit them in the morning while they’re still active, and before they sleep for the rest of the day after eating their fill of bamboo.
Our three-day cruise on the Yangtze is a welcome change of pace as our five-star ship, the RV Century Glory, navigates through the spectacular Three Gorges. Shanghai, China’s wealthiest city, is an intoxicating mix of colonial tradition and modern economic dynamism. The riverside Bund became one of the greatest trading centres of the world. Today this lovingly restored waterfront contrasts with the forest of skyscrapers that cover the skyline.
China is also home to one of the world’s great cuisines – with the ubiquitous Peking Duck from the north, chillies from the west and fruit and carp from the sub-tropical climate of the south. Real Chinese food is both a revelation and a gourmet paradise. In Britain our standard greeting is ‘How are you?’ In China, it’s ‘Have you eaten today?’
This tour is a remarkable journey of discovery of one of the world’s most ancient cultures, aspects of which are almost beyond our comprehension, blended with a remarkably stunning topography and a staggering pace of modernisation.
Depart on your overnight flight direct to Shanghai.
Transfer to our hotel, the four-star superior Central Hotel for one night with breakfast. This evening we enjoy a fascinating stroll along the colonial ‘Bund’, Shanghai’s riverside promenade.
This morning you experience a thrilling ride on China’s new 186mph high speed train service to Beijing. On arrival we transfer to our hotel, the four-star Grand Mercure Beijing Central Hotel for three nights with breakfast.
Our first stop is at Tiananmen Square, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the entrance to the Forbidden City, where Chairman Mao announced the birth of the People’s Republic in 1949. Through the central arch you enter a different world: spread over 250 acres, with 9,999 rooms, this was the seat of imperial power for 600 years. After an included lunch we continue our tour with a visit to the great Summer Palace. This evening we have the option to attend a Kung Fu show, with dinner.
Today is one of the tour’s highlights as we drive towards the mountainous areas to the north and the aptly named Great Wall of China. The section you’ll see is at Mutianyu, a popular spot, but much less visited by the masses, so you can experience it at its best. We pass through farms, fruit orchards and then in the distance, we catch our first glimpse of the amazing Great Wall snaking like a sinuous dragon’s tail along the forested ridges above. The views from the top are simply superb: endless folds of hills and mountains in all directions – a wild landscape, as untamed as when the wall was built. Lunch is included today.
This evening we enjoy the classic local dish in one of Beijing’s best restaurants: a Peking Duck banquet which in this, its purest form, takes chefs five years to learn the roasting process and 15 years to master it!
This morning we fly to Xian. On the way from Xian airport we visit the remarkable Hang Yang Ling tomb and Underground Museum which displays some of the 40,000 funeral objects and statues unearthed around the tomb of the first Han Emperor. We then see the city’s imposing Ming Dynasty walls, 40ft high and stretching for nine miles. Prior to Beijing, Xian was the centre of Chinese imperial power for over 2,000 years, as well as the start of the famed Silk Route to the West.
We stay two nights with breakfast at the four-star Holiday Inn Xi’an Big Goose Pagoda.
Another highlight is today’s visit to the stunning Terracotta Army. The first Qin Emperor united China’s warring factions and began the construction of the Great Wall. Guarding the tomb itself is his Terracotta Army. Drawn up in traditional battle order, the vanguard consists of rows of archers and crossbowmen, followed by columns of infantry and chariots. Each figure is unique, life-size and lifelike – a unique experience! Lunch is included today.
This evening you have the option to see the spectacular Tang Dynasty show, which interprets ancient Chinese myths through dance and music.
Today we fly to Guilin. We see another of China’s great wonders: the Longshen Rice Terraces. Over hundreds of years the ethnic Yao tribes have cut thousands of rice terraces into the steep hills and over every fold of the landscape. Our hotel for two nights in Guilin is the four-star Bravo Hotel with breakfast. Lunch and dinner are included today.
We board our excursion boat for a cruise down the Li River. This has to be one of the most beautiful river journeys in the world: rising from flat rice paddies around the river are thousands of conical-shaped limestone peaks and pinnacles covered in verdant tropical forests. After an included lunch on board, you’ll have some free time in the picturesque riverside town of Yangshuo before returning to Guilin.
We fly to Chengdu for one night at the four-star Tianfu Sunshine Hotel with breakfast. This afternoon we walk through Jin Li Street, a recreation of a traditional shopping street, with plenty of local handicrafts and places to sit down and relax with some local green tea or coffee.
Spread over 200 acres the Chengdu Panda Breeding & Research Centre has been beautifully landscaped with bamboo-shaded pathways leading to the large panda enclosures. One of the most popular stops is at the baby panda enclosure where there will usually be 3-4 youngsters climbing over specially constructed bamboo frames.
We experience one of China’s high-speed express trains for the 2hr journey to Chongqing where we board our river cruise ship and home for the next three nights, the five-star RV Century Glory. Lunch is included today.
After breakfast there is the option to visit Fengdu, the ‘Ghost’ City, or participate in some of the various activities on board. In the afternoon we visit the remarkable Shibaozhai Pagoda, rising twelve stories up a sheer cliff face, this delicate structure is the architectural jewel of the Yangtze.
Today we enter Qutang, the first Yangtze gorge, continuing through the Wu Gorge just before lunch. This afternoon we transfer to a smaller riverboat for a leisurely cruise upstream on one of the Yangtze’s Lesser Three Gorges, the Shennv or ‘Goddess’ Stream. This is a newly opened and less visited 15-km long tributary of the Yangtze with some truly spectacular views through very narrow gorges, surrounded by pristine jungle-clad sheer cliffs rising up to 300ft.
Tonight it’s the Captain’s Farewell Banquet followed by dancing in the lounge. Afterwards, head out on deck to watch the ship passing through the five massive ship locks and watch in awe as the vast steel doors close behind us and our ship perceptively descends.
Cruising downstream through the lower Xiling gorge towards the colossal sized mammoth project of the Three Gorges Dam, we disembark at Yichang and fly to Shanghai. We stay for two nights at the four-star Central Hotel, located right on Jiujian Road, a 10-minute stroll to the Bund and People’s Square.
This morning we have a short tour of the principal sights, including the Jade Buddha temple and the Yuyuan Gardens. We’ll pass the British Consulate, the oldest building on the Bund, plus the former headquarters of the famous trading house of Jardine Matheson. This evening you have the option to see the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic show.
This morning we catch the world’s fastest train, the Maglev, on our way to Shanghai’s Pudong airport for our direct flight home, arriving home later the same day.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room with single rooms available at the relevant supplement. Price includes:
Not included: Chinese visa - see Visa Information section below.
Things to note:
Along with a valid passport, UK citizens must have a visa in order to travel to China. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit
Visa cost is £151 per person. Applications are initially made online, however you must also go in person to a Chinese Visa Application Centre in either London, Manchester or Edinburgh for biometric data (fingerprints) to be collected. Full details of how and when to apply will be sent with your booking confirmation.
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
Please note that visa costs may be subject to change.
All included lunches and dinners are Chinese meals and are set menus of several courses and dishes shared around tables of 6-10 persons, one local beer or soft drink is normally included as is unlimited Chinese tea. Breakfasts are buffet style with western food options.
Hotel beds can be ‘firm’ in China and rooms are normally twin-bedded. Requests for double beds can be made but not guaranteed in advance.
Itinerary may be subject to change depending on domestic flight timings and Yangtze & Li river water levels.
There is no specific health advice for this tour, though it is always advisable to contact your GP six to eight weeks prior to travel. For mobility related queries please contact the reservations team.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Shanghai Pudong International Airport||Shanghai||30 mins||Shanghai||Shanghai Pudong International Airport||30 mins|
This was a fascinating but exhausting tour - at least for a geriatric like me. First, I would like to give huge thanks to Chris, our tour manager who was well informed, very competent and always helpful. The travel arrangements ...
Eileen and Brian Barnes
Wow!! What a fabulous time we had. The organisation was superb, everything ran smoothly and our tour manager Chris was fantastic. All the local guides were great, speaking English well and very knowledgeable. We were lucky that we...