12 Days – Highlights of China

Highlights –

  • Explore the Forbidden City in Beijing, home to 9999 different rooms; and walk along the Great Wall. Learn to cook delicious Chinese food in the Hutongs.
  •  Be totally amazed by the Terracotta Warriors – an immense army of thousands of infantrymen, archers and cavalry riders.
  •  Be transported back to the decadent days of 1930s Shanghai with a walk through the French Concession. Explore the Lilongs – the old alleyways, and stroll through the exquisite Yu Yuan Gardens.

Tour Overview

Day 1. Arrival Beijing

Welcome to China!
On arrival in Beijing, we’ll be welcomed by the local guide and transferred to the hotel.

Overnight in Beijing

Day 2. Beijing

In the morning we’ll head to the Temple of Heaven. The Chinese flock here to do Tai Qi, Kung Fu, sabre practice, meditation, tango and gymnastics. Some practice calligraphy on the park’s flagstones using giant brushes and water.

Our next visit is to the Forbidden City. According to ancient beliefs it faces south, towards Tiananmen Square. The construction of the City finished in 1420 and served as the Imperial administrative centre throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties until the fall of the Empire in 1911.According to legend the Forbidden City is made up of 9999 different rooms. Restored in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics, the Forbidden City has since regained its youthful, vivid colours.

From here, we’ll make our way to the famed hutongs – the narrow alleys and streets of Beijing, located near Houhai Lake. We’ll visit the Gulou – the Drum Tower where during the Ming Dynasty, the city marked the hours of the day with the rumbling of drums. The tower faces the Zhonglou, the Bell Tower, and gives us a glimpse of ancient Beijing.

Overnight in Beijing

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 3. BeijingJinshanling Great WallBeijing

Get ready to walk the Great Wall! We’ll visit the Jinshanling Section where well retrace our steps back to the Qin Dynasty (more than 2,000 years ago) to find the first traces of the defensive walls. During the Ming Dynasty, workers restored and expanded the Wall to the height, width and length we recognize today.

With the lookout towers placed on the highest ridges, the guards could watch out for alarm fires down the wall in case of barbarian intruders. The wall slowed down Mongolian cavalry by forcing them to dismount from their horses before attacking.

At its peak, the wall extended over more than 6.000 kilometres across ancient Manchuria to the fort of Jiayuguan, where the Gobi Desert begins.

We’ll then drive back to the Hutong for a private cooking class where we’ll learn how to prepare three dishes. The class ends with a delicious meal of our freshly cooked dishes.

Overnight in Beijing

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 4. BeijingDatong

All aboard the high-speed train to Datong. On arrival, our local guide will take us to the hotel. Time for leisure.

 Overnight in Datong

Meals: Breakfast

Day 5. Datong

Today, we’ll visit the Yungang Grottoes.

The conversion of the Northern Wei people to Buddhism and their subsequent assimilation into greater Chinese society gave birth to the Yungang Grottoes in the 5th century AD. They are considered to be the symbol of the golden age of Buddhist cave art in China. Around 51,000 rock statues made by monks and other devout Buddhists were discovered in 252 different grottoes. In one of the grottoes, we can see a 17-metre-high statue of Buddha, one of the most impressive in all of China.

After visiting the grottoes, we’ll head back to Datong where we will visit the completely renovated city centre and discover the superb Huayan Temple.

Overnight in Datong

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 6. DatongPingyao

During our road trip from Datong to Pingyao, we’ll stop at the Suspended Temple.

On arrival in Pingyao, we’ll explore the city walls by foot to get a real sense of the layout of the streets below. Measuring 6km long, 10 metres high and numbering 72 watchtowers (each of which houses a piece of Sunzi War artwork) the town walls ensure that Pingyao is almost impenetrable to any invading force.

Overnight in Pingyao

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 7. Pingyao

Once a bustling, affluent commercial centre, today the village of Jingsheng has a quaint, small-town charm and is famous for its well-preserved Qing Dynasty architecture.

Without a doubt, the pièce de résistance is the Wang Residence, the sprawling courtyard estate of a prosperous local family. After turning to a life of business and politics, the family of former soybean farmers and tofu sellers earned a huge fortune – and built a home to match. With 231 courtyards and 2,078 rooms, the home is a monument to traditional Chinese architecture.

Originally named Zhongdu Temple, Shuanglin has a 1,500-year history. Built during the Northern Wei Empire, the temple’s hallowed halls are filled with an awe-inspiring collection of carved and painted statues from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. These incredibly rare, true-to-life figures range from Buddha and supernatural beings to mere mortals.

Overnight in Pingyao

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 8. PingyaoXian

Step onto the bullet train for the journey to Xi’an.

The capital of the Empire three times, Xi’an has played a decisive role in the history of the country. On the Silk Road, the city was an administrative site and a hub of commerce. During the reign of the first Emperor of China, the city had over a million people. Later, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 BC) the city became the most populated city in the world.

Xi’an is also a city of many cultures. During the days of the Silk Road, Muslim merchants from Central Asia left their influence in Xi’an. We’ll visit the Chinese-style Mosque and the vibrant surrounding neighbourhood where men wear white skull caps and women wear colourful headscarves.

Overnight in Xi’an

Meals: Breakfast

Day 9. Xian

This morning, be prepared for an incredible sight – the Terracotta Warriors!

In 1974, a few farmers stumbled upon the Warriors by accident. Little did they know that they had just discovered one of the greatest archeological finds in history!

Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (247 to 221 BC) built a mausoleum for his immense army of infantrymen, archers, and cavalry riders so they could protect him in the afterlife.  We’ll visit the three pits, one of which contains over 2,000 warriors – each one with a differently carved face.

There is also a small museum that houses two splendid bronze chariots along with other artifacts.

We can then take a cart tour or even a tandem bike to discover more of Xi’an. We’ll see the impressive Xi’an ramparts built during the Ming Dynasty. Today, they stand restored and reconstructed.

Overnight in Xi’an

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 10. XianShanghai

Today we’ll board a flight to Shanghai. After arrival and check in at the hotel, there is time for leisure.

Overnight in Shanghai

Meals: Breakfast

Day 11. Shanghai

In the morning we will head to the French Concession. We’ll stroll through Fuxing Park to watch locals practicing their morning exercise, including colourful tango dancers. We’ll wander past old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and boutiques. It’s hard to imagine that in the 1930s this area was once home to gangsters, mafia, opium traffickers and prostitutes!

We’ll continue our walk to Xintiandi, a renovated area and one of the liveliest parts of the city. In Tianzifang, we can wander through the maze of authentic alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries.

Our walk will end in the Old Town, which still has some of its old lilongs (similar to Beijing’s hutongs). This area is also home to the famous Yu Yuan Gardens, a superb example of the art of Chinese garden landscaping where rocks represent mountains; ponds represent lakes; and running water imitates rivers.

Overnight in Shanghai

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 12. ShanghaiDeparture

Let’s enjoy our last day in Shanghai until it’s time to check-out. In the afternoon, we will be taken to the airport for our onward flight.

Meals included: Breakfast


12 days / 13 nights

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