China – Monuments and waterways – 15 days from £2,603pp*
This itinerary isn’t set in stone. Pick, mix, swap however you like – your trip will be totally tailor made for you.
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing
Touch down in the capital of Beijing, where you’ll be welcomed and taken to your hotel.
Day 2 Beijing
Follow your guide to the centre of the city where you’ll find the imposing Tiananmen Square, packed with monuments. See the Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People and Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, before watching the raising of the national flag.
Next stop is the Forbidden City, a complex of palace buildings housing a museum packed to the rafters with artworks, religious relics, weapons, ceramics and more.
Last stop for the day is the Temple of Heaven in the southern part of the city. It’s China’s largest existing complex of ancient sacrificial buildings and is three times the size of the Forbidden City. Your guide will show you the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar.
Day 3 Beijing
Time for a tour of the Great Wall at Badaling, one of the best-preserved sections of this world-famous construction. Then head to the Bird Nest Stadium, home to the 2008 Olympics, to see this vast structure up close.
Day 4 Beijing – Xi’an
Today you’ll visit the Summer Palace in the western outskirts of Haidian District. This impressive royal park is peppered with pavilions, gardens and towers. Don’t miss the bridge over Kunming Lake with its 17 arches.
Onward to Xi’an, one of the country’s oldest cities and with plenty of archaeological delights in store. Visit the ancient city wall, built by the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in the 14th century to protect the city and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can walk the full circuit along the top and explore its many decorated gates at ground level.
Day 5 Xi’an
Today you’ll come face to face with the famous Terracotta Warriors, associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC), in one of the largest archaeological sites in the world. See thousands of life-sized soldiers and horses laid out in battle formations in the pits here.
Move on to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, relatively plain in style and built to house Buddhist scriptures and relics.
Day 6 Xi’an – Guilin
Travel to the city of Guilin, famous for its imposing hills, lakes and green spaces. Your first stop is the unmissable Reed Flute Cave, with its striking stalactites and rock formations atmospherically illuminated for your visit.
Day 7 Guilin – Yangshuo
Enjoy a cruise down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo, noting the dramatic limestone peaks covered in vegetation. Watch local life in action: water buffalo patrolling the fields, workers in the rice paddies and fishermen floating by on bamboo rafts.
Day 8 Yangshuo – Chengdu
Take in the landscape at Yangshuo, with its karst hills, labyrinthine caves and crystal-clear waters, and witness the gentle pace followed by locals who preserve a traditional way of life.
Today you’ll move on to Chengdu, located in the west of the Sichuan Basin and home to giant pandas.
Day 9 Chengdu
Visit the local panda research centre, particularly famous for its giant panda breeding programme. Over 20 other rare and endangered species are protected and bred here. Continue to the Sanxingdui Relic, three imposing earth mounds said to have been cast down by the Heavenly Emperor.
Day 10 Chengdu – Chongqing
Take some time to explore the traditional restored buildings of Chengdu’s Jili Street and taste some of the local snacks on offer. Then you’re off to the port city of Chongqing, set where the Yangtze and Jialing rivers meet.
Day 11 + 12 Yangtze River – Yichang
Set sail and spend the next two days taking in the views from the Yangtze River. Your excursions include a visit to the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, a massive dam and hydro-electric power station, and a trip through scenic Xiling Gorge, with its stunning natural landscape.
Day 13 Yichang – Shanghai
Time to travel to the alluring city of Shanghai, China’s largest financial and commercial centre.
Day 14 Shanghai
Shanghai combines a heady mix of modern and traditional Chinese styles. Start off with the Jade Buddha Temple, built in 1882 to house two jade Buddha statues. The original temple no longer stands here, but the statues inside the newer structure are the originals.
Next, visit the Yuyuan Garden (or Yu Garden) in downtown Shanghai. This traditional Chinese garden was built during the Ming Dynasty. Seek out the Great Rockery, the Exquisite Jade Rock and the various halls, pavilions and cloisters.
Move from the tranquillity of the garden to stroll along the Bund, a popular waterfront area lined with tall buildings in various styles, including skyscrapers. Then end the day’s tour at the soaring modern Orient Pearl Tower. At 468 metres, it’s the highest tower in Asia and the third highest in the world.
Day 15 Time to go home
Say goodbye to China. Board a high-speed train to the airport, ready for your flight home.
*Prices are based on private arrangements (not lower priced escorted tours with set dates). Quality three star accommodation is quoted here (unless mentioned otherwise), with breakfast included and other meals where mentioned. Mostly private transfers with an English speaking driver/guide and all activities mentioned, with top guides, are included. Domestic flights and transport all included from Day 1 to end point. Can be tailored to your needs, so prices could be lower for budget arrangements or higher for luxury.
International flight is not included