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Highlights of Classical China - 19 Days / 18 Nights
Highlights of Classical China - 19 Days / 18 Nights

Highlights of Classical China - 19 Days / 18 Nights

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Beijing - Datong - Pingyao - Taiyuan - Xi'an - Guilin - Yangshuo - Hangzhou - Xidi - Huangsan - Shanghai


The ‘China’ in some travelers’ minds may stop at the Forbidden City, the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors, but the country has so much more to offer, particularly by way of exceptional cultural and natural attractions. We’ve been to them all, studied them closely and now selected and put together what we consider to be the best package representing all that ‘Classic China’ has to offer. From the huge Buddha Statues of Datong, to the Yellow Mountains passing by the sugarloaf mountains of Guilin, China always provides surprise through its variety. This package will take you on a trip through the most basic elements of one of the most varied and interesting civilisations on the planet, while the distances between them only serve as a witness to the immense power of the Chinese civilising force.

Day 1 - Arrival in Beijing

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Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to the hotel.

Welcome to Beijing, capital of the “Middle Kingdom”! “Bei” means “north”, and jing means “capital”, making Beijing literally the “capital of the north”, as opposed to “Nanjing” which was the capital of the empires ruling Southern China.

This fascinating place has become a thriving metropolis in recent years, and was brought back to the attention of everyone on the world stage in 2008 when it hosted the Olympic Games.

During the transfer to your hotel, you will be able to peek a glimpse of the National Stadium, one of the most celebrated symbols of modern China. The “Bird’s Nest”, as it is commonly known, is an architectural masterpiece, to which the famous artist Ai Weiwei contributed. It is here where the unforgettable spectacle of the opening ceremony and athletics events took place

You will then head by foot into Beijing’s hutongs (famous alleyways found only in Beijing). The hutongs are less road and more an extension of people’s homes, and you will be able to witness old people having their hair cut in the street or whiling away the hours playing mah-jong, Chinese chess or cards, whilst young children play in the communal courtyards.

Most locals still use the bicycle as their main mode of transport and as such we have arranged for you to meet a bicycle repair man.

From here we will visit the Drum Tower, where the passing of the hours was signaled by a drum roll during the Ming era. The tower is opposite the Clock Tower, and provides a pleasant insight into old Beijing (we offer an optional tour of the Clock Tower).

A visit to the Wangfujing area of the city, the main shopping street of the capital, provides somewhat of a change of atmosphere. Here you can see for yourself the rampant consumerist spirit alive in the large cities and get a measure of modern urban China.

We will return to the hotel.

Overnight in Beijing

Distance and journey time:

Beijing airport – Beijing city (approx. 30km): 40 min

Day 2 - Beijing (B)

You’ll need to get up early for this trip, but this sacrifice will soon be forgotten when you visit the Temple of Heaven’s park to witness a uniquely Chinese morning ritual – public exercise. Beijingers, who believe that morning exercise is essential for their well-being, prepare for the day ahead with a mixture of Taiji, kung-fu, sword-dancing, meditation, tango and gymnastics. Others practice calligraphy, using large specialist brushes to write beautiful Chinese characters in water on the flagstones of the park. However, because of the intense Beijing heat the characters evaporate more or less straight away. It’s a truly artistic spectacle and adds a certain mystique to the park… You will also get to experience some of the more unusual types of exercise, such as people walking backwards whilst tapping the heads, arms and legs or people holding on to a fence and jumping up and down on the spot.

After this you’ll be able to discover the Temple itself, which is notable for its architectural simplicity and its symbolism reflecting early Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. Here, emperors would forge the link between the round sky and the square earth through sacrificial rituals based on the founding principles of this ancient civilization. 

Your itinerary will then take you to the lesser known White Cloud Temple where Taoist monks still wear their hair in a traditional style. Visitors come here to rub sculptures representing the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac.

If time allows you’ll also be able to visit Beijing Mosque, a symbol of the expansion of Muslim merchants from Central Asia throughout China.

The afternoon will be dedicated to a visit to the Yong He Gong Lama Temple, more visited than the other temples and is key to understanding Tibetan and Inner-Mongolian Buddhism. The temple is known for its 18 metre high Buddha statue carved out of a single block of wood.

Your day will finish with a visit to the Temple of Confucius. Confucius, his teachings and moral codes are a cornerstone of Chinese culture, dictating nearly all social interactions in Imperial China. Confucianism is once again becoming an important part of modern Chinese society.

Option: Enjoy on the evening theKung Fu show in Red theater! The Red Theater is originally known as Chongwen Worker's Cultural Palace Theater. After the renovation, the stage facilities has been dramatically improved and now the theater specializes in traditional Chinese performances, such as "The Legend of Kung Fu".

Overnight in Beijing

Day 3 - Beijing (B,L)

The Great Wall is one of the most famous symbols of China and should not be missed. You have to go back to the Qin Dynasty over 2000 years ago to find the first traces of defensive walls that were slowly unified and linked under the greater restoration project of the Ming Dynasty and created the Wall we know today.

The Wall stretches for over 6000km from ancient Manchuria to the fort at Jiayuguan at the edge of the Gobi desert in the west.

Running along high ridges, the Wall offered an excellent vantage point to the north allowing watch tower guards to raise the alarm on any potential threat from invading barbarian hordes. The wall was also high enough to slow the progress of expert Mongol Cavaliers who were forced to dismount in order to continue their attack.

You will visit the Mutianyu section of the wall, and your trip will begin with an early morning departure from the hotel meaning that your photographs of the Wall will be graced with the spectacular morning light.

If you feel like the long walk up to the Wall is too much, you can take the cable car and coming back down you can enjoy the toboggan ride to the bottom (optional).

Depending on time, you will also be able to have a picnic on the Great Wall whilst admiring the stunning, rugged scenery all around.

Once back in Beijing, you will visit the Summer Palace. At one time a simple imperial garden, the site was totally redesigned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th Century becoming one of the capital’s major sites. A mix of temples pavilions, lakes, pagodas and gardens make up this harmonious representation of Chinese culture and architecture. The Long Corridor, the Marble Boat, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill are the key landscape features of the Summer Palace gardens. After your visit to the Summer Palace, you will be taken back to the hotel in central Beijing.

Overnight in Beijing

Distance and journey time:

Beijing city– Mutianyu Great Wall (approx. 75km): approx 2 hours

Mutianyu Great Wall – Summer Palace (approx. 75 km): 1h45

Summer Palace – Beijing city (approx. 22 km): 40 min

Day 4 - Beijing - Datong (B)

You’ll have the morning free to spend enjoying the hotel facilities or alternatively to do a bit of shopping.

In the morning we will head over to the Forbidden City, immortalised in the films “Curse of the Golden Flower” by the famous Zhang Yimou and the cult classic “The Last Emperor”, by Bernado Bertolucci, which tells the incredible story of Puyi a Manchu Prince raised by his mother and taking his place on the throne as the Emperor of China at the age of just 3 years old.

Most Chinese buildings face south, which according to ancient beliefs symbolized the barbarian threat and potential invasion from the north. This explains why the main entrance to the Forbidden City faces south towards Tiananmen Square, the third largest city square in the world.

The construction of the City was finished in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle, 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.

In order to simplify this huge site, it is often divided into three parts:

- The official palaces which were used for lavish ceremonies, imperial exams and governmental meetings.

- The Imperial lodgings and gardens where the Emperor, Empress and visiting ambassadors resided.

- The surrounding areas which house temples, libraries and further gardens.

Note: From 13 Jun 2015 the Forbidden City access to visitors will be limited to 80 thousand/day. Passport copy must be provided at least 11 days advance for personal registration (preferably 2 weeks in order to assure a successful booking); and it will not be possible later on to modify its date.

Visitors are required to bring their passport for security check upon their visit to the monument.

Lovingly restored for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Forbidden City has regained the youthful and vivid colours of its former glory. Take your time during this visit to such an unforgettable destination; you spend time in the more serene surrounding courtyards and rooms. Climbing the artificial coal hill just behind the Forbidden City provides a spectacular view of the entire site and lets you get a grasp of the layout of the whole of Beijing.

In the evening you will be transferred to the train station where you will board the night train to Datong. The trains in China are incredibly lively places, as passengers enjoy instant noodles made with hot water from the boilers at the end of every carriage, consume astronomical amounts of sunflower seeds, play cards and drink beer or baijiu (a type of very strong Chinese rice wine). It’s a truly unforgettable experience.

Overnight on the train

Train Station: Beijing -Datong

Train number: 1133

Estimated departure time: 23:02

Estimated arrival time: 05:21(+1)

 

Second class tickets are included (what ticket class have been quoted as standard with explanation)

Fx: Soft berths tickets are included; there are 4 soft berths in one cabin, please consult us if you would like to have the whole cabin to yourselves or for other ticket classes. (Tickets and class depend on availability and are subject to change)

Day 5 - Datong (B)

Upon arrival you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your hotel.

Welcome to Datong, the ancient capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty! The fall of the Han Empire (which reigned from 206 B.C to 220 A.D) meant that from the start of the 3rd Century there was an explosion in the number of smaller rival empires.

Even though nowadays Datong is known for the deadly coal mines which surround the city, it is still important as the starting point for anyone wishing to visit the incredible Yungang Grottoes.

From Datong we will head to 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, which are considered by some as a symbol of the golden age of Buddhist cave art in China. Around 51,000 rock statues made by monks (one of them being the famous monk Tanyao) and other devout followers of Buddhism were discovered in 252 different grottoes throughout China. Some of the grottoes at Yungang house thousands of statues of different Bodhisattvas whilst others are home to giant statues of Buddha, such as number 5 grotto which has a 17m high statue of Buddha and is one of most impressive in the whole of China.

After visiting the grottoes we will head back to Datong where we will visit the completely renovated city centre and discover the superb Huayan Temple (its name given to it by the branch of Buddhism that it represents) constructed by the Khitan People who founded the non-Chinese Liao Dynasty (907-1125). The Khitan, who were originally “barbarians” and then began to follow Buddhism before being assimilated into mainstream Chinese culture, have a very similar history to that of the Northern Wei.

You will also be able to walk by the Nine Dragon Wall (a type of screen wall) which is the longest in the country - measuring 45m in length, leaving some people rather perplexed by its size but setting the benchmark for Chinese screen walls. Chinese “screen walls” are found in most traditional buildings and the degree of intricacy of the screen was used to reflect the social standing of its owner. The screens also had a more practical purpose which was to give some privacy to visitors who wished to change their clothes before entering the building.

Afterwards you will be taken back to the hotel.

Overnight in Datong

Distance and journey time:

Datong train station – Datong city (approx. 6km): 10 min

Datong city – Yungang caves (22km): 40 min

Day 6 - Datong - Pingyao (B)

We will head to Pingyao, along the way stopping at the Suspended Temple and then the Yingxian pagoda.

The Suspended Templeis another fine example of the Northern Wei architecture and it has retained much of its original layout. The temple is suspended from a cliff face 50m above a gorge formed by the Jinlong River, thanks to an ingenious wooden construction which is supported by beams which are built into the rock-face. It was built in this way so as to avoid the floodwaters of the river below. The two main parts of the temple are linked together by a rickety, narrow walkway which despite its shoddy appearance has managed to survive years of storms and battering by the wind. All 3 of China’s main religions (Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism) were worshipped in the temple and it was not only a place of worship but also a resting point for travelers. If you suffer from vertigo then don’t worry, this magnificent piece of architecture is as impressive from down below as up at the top.

We will continue for our final destination of Pingyao

Upon arrival at the train station you will be welcomed by your guide and transferred to the city centre.

Pingyao is the best preserved medieval city throughout the whole of China. A collection of paved alleyways, lined with traditional courtyard style homes lit with red lanterns and surrounded by perfectly conserved reinforced city walls. The town is a perfect example of the traditional China that most people have in their minds. Pingyao prospered under the Ming Dynasty when it was established as a market town; however, it was during the Qing dynasty that Pingyao developed into the incredible walled city that we know today when it was established as the nation’s first financial centre.

Note: all the transfers inside Pingyao old town are done by electric car or on foot, all the visits outside will be done by private car

Explore the city walls by walk, 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.

Pingyao is attracting a growing number of tourists, and as a result some of the 4000 Ming and Qing homes have been transformed into little restaurants, boutiques and quaint hotels. It’s in one of these hotels that you will spend the night maybe sleeping on a traditional kang, which is a bed made of bricks and heated by a small fire beneath.

Overnight in Pingyao

Distance and journey time:

Datong city – Suspended temple (approx. 80km): 1h30

Suspended temple – Yingxian pagoda (approx. 60km): 1h

Yingxia pagoda – Pingyao old town (approx. 340km): 4h

Day 7 - Pingyao (B)

After breakfast you will head off to explore some of the other main interests of the region, the merchants’ houses and cave dwellings. 

Many local merchants amassed immense fortunes during the Ming and Qing dynasties and built themselves huge palatial homes. A perfect example of one of these homes is the Wang Family Residence, which is made up of an imposing labyrinth of courtyards, small gardens, temples and narrow stairways.

On the way back to Pingyao we will stop in Zhangbicun, a small village famous for its underground tunnels. An incredible network of defensive tunnels was constructed during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) in order to prepare for any attack by the Tang. Unfortunately however they failed in their purpose and the Tang ruled from 618-907. The tunnels are built 30m underground and extend for around 1500m. This small town on the surface also offers a lot to visitors who can enjoy its mix of paved streets and houses constructed during the Chinese Middle Ages.

This trip will also enable you to explore some of the Cave Dwellings that the region is famous for. Even though we can’t give an exact figure, it’s thought that around 30 million people in China still live in cave dwellings that are built into the loess sedimentaryrock (according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times on 18th March 2012). These types of loess cave dwellings are primarily found in the 3 provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan which are often considered as the cradle of Chinese civilisation. Even though the conditions in these cave homes are very basic, with no running water and mains electricity supply, they have their advantages. The temperature inside the caves remains at a constant all year round, protecting the inhabitants from the bitter cold winds in winter, and keeping them cool and fresh in the hot summer months.

Your day will end with a visit to the Shuanglin Buddhist Temple (literally Temple of the Double Forest) which is just outside Pingyao. Founded during the Northern Wei Dynasty, the temple is well known for its finely sculptured statues which have been very well preserved and still retain their original colours.

Upon returning to Pingyao you will be able to enjoy the evening discovering the narrow streets of the old town which are lit by red lanterns hanging from doorways, typically associated with Northern China.

Overnight in Pingyao

Distance and journey time:

Pingyao – Wang family Residence (approx. 50km): 50 min

Wang family Residence – Zhangbicun: (20km): 30 minutes

Zhangbicun – Pingyao (40km): 50 min 

Day 8 - Pingyao - Taiyuan - Xian (B)

We therefore encourage you to take a morning stroll to really soak up the atmosphere of Pingyao at its best, the city streets outside fill with the sights, sounds and smells as people on bikes and vendors fill the streets selling a promising (or not) breakfast.

After your morning stroll, you will head off to explore Rishengchang, who started off as a small dye store in the 17th century and grew into China’s first bank, opening branches throughout China. A true success story, Rishengchang helped to contribute to Pingyao’s success and establishment as China’s first financial centre.

After you will visit the local yamen, which during Imperial times was home to the administrative centre, courthouse and sometimes even a prison. The accused would present themselves in front of a judge who had the power to sentence them with punishments ranging from a simple fine, to amputations.

After this charming visit, you will continue on to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province. Here you will visit the Jinci, a remarkable building constructed in honour of Prince Shuyu who founded the Jin state (772-403 B.C). The term “Jinci” is made up of the words “Jin”, name of the Jin kingdom, and “ci” which means “ancestral temple”. This visit will give you an insight into ancestor-worship, a fundamental practice of Chinese culture that has endured to this day.

The Hall of the Holy Mother (Shuyu’s mother and to whom this site is dedicated), is a perfect example of its type. Take time to examine the superb wooden dragon sculptures that surround the temple, often only found in imperial places of worship. 

Afterwards you will be taken to the airport and flown to Xi’an where you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel.

Overnight in Xi'an

Distance and journey time:

Pingyao old town – Taiyuan city (approx. 110km): approx 1h30

Taiyuan city - Taiyuan airport (approx. 25km): approx 45 min

Xi’an airport – Xi’an city (approx. 35km):  50 min 

Day 9 - Xian (B)

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Welcome to Shaanxi Province which is considered the birthplace of Chinese civilization. Xi’an has played a definitive role in the nation’s history, having thrice served as the capital of the Middle Empire, as well as an administrative centre and the end (or start) point on the Silk Road – the trade route along which Chinese silk (as well as a number of other products), which only the Chinese knew how to produce, were exported. The city, previously called Chang’an, had already reached a population size of 1 million during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi, the first emperor to unify the “warring states” in 221BC, and under the Tang Dynasty (618-907) became the world’s most populous city.

Upon arrival we will head to the Terracotta Warriors

The site which was unearthed in 1974, was discovered by some simple peasants who were digging a small hole and it’s hard to imagine how they felt when they discovered these immense underground caverns full of thousands of warrior statues stood in line in battle formation. The site is now considered as one of the largest archaeological discoveries in world history.

Emperor Qin Shi had this mausoleum constructed to protect himself from the spirits of the underworld. The different warriors, archers and cavaliers (all made from terracotta) each have a uniquely different face and were exact copies of real life soldiers who served the emperor at the time of construction. Historians believe that the Emperor wished to continue reigning in the afterlife as he had done before death, and for this reason he commissioned the construction of his terracotta army.

The statues are separated into 3 pits. You will start off with a visit to pit number 2 (which is still being excavated today and where there are only a few warriors fully on show) followed by pit number 3 (which has been mostly uncovered) and then finishing with pit 1 which is the most impressive of the 3, housing around 2000 soldiers.

In 1980 just to the West of the mausoleum 2 splendid bronze chariots were discovered and are on display in the small museum also on site.

Heading back to Xi’an we will discover the impressive city walls that were constructed during the Ming Dynasty. Mostly destroyed and then restored, they are some of the only town walls still left in China. To discover the walls you will go on a bike ride (or in an electric car – for which there is a surcharge) lasting about an hour.

The trade route between China and the Middle East and the merchants that came with it saw the introduction of Islam into the country. Modern China now has a number of Muslim minorities, numbering around 15 million people.

The Hui are one of these minorities and make up a sizeable portion of the population of Xi’an. You will visit Xi’an’s main Mosque, which is built in a Chinese style, and the very lively Muslim quarter which surrounds it. This area is made up of butchers, a number of shops of all kinds and men wearing white skull caps and women wearing colourful headscarves.

In the evening you can dine at the night market, choosing from a selection of local delicacies including spiced lamb kebabs, flatbreads and mutton soup noodles.  

Overnight in Xi'an

Distance and journey time:

Xi’an city – Terracota army (approx. 45km):  50 min 

Day 10 - Xi'an / Guilin (B)

En route to the airport you will visit the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi which is a perfect stop before you board the plane for Guilin.

Emperor Jingdi reigned during the Han Dynasty (188 – 141 BC) and was a completely different kind of Emperor to Qin Shi. If Qin Shi is associated with cruelty and military spending, then Jingdi is better known for his humanism and his diplomatic relations.

His tomb, which was opened to the public in 2006, houses a number of figurines representing eunuchs, servants and pets giving us an idea of daily life during the Han Dynasty as opposed to the Qin Shi’s mausoleum which focused more on war.  You will be able to view the recently unearthed statues from the glass floors of each pit. The visit will also incorporate an excellent little museum which allows you to see some of the most well preserved pieces. The excellent layout and quality of the site makes this trip unmissable. 

We will fly to Guilin where you will be met your guide and transferred to the city centre.

Welcome to Guangxi Autonomous Region, famous for its numerous ethnic minorities and its stunning scenery which includes the rock peaks which border the Li River, the endless number of caves, the rice terraces at Longsheng and the waterfalls of Detian.

You will discover the Reed Flute Cave which takes its name from the number of reeds which grow at the entrance of the cave and which are used in the making of flutes. You will be given torches, so that you can admire the stunning stalactites and stalagmites that haven’t already been brought to your attention by the somewhat kitsch lightshow put on for tourists.  

The day will finish with a pleasant stroll round Shan Lake known for its two marvelous pagodas, one dedicated to the sun and the other the moon.

Overnight in Guilin

Distance and journey time:

Xi’an city – Han Yangling tomb (approx. 27km):  40 min

Han Yangling tomb – Xi’an airport (approx. 30km): 25 min

Guilin airport - Guilin city (approx. 30km): approx 45 min

Day 11 - Guilin - Yangshuo (B,L)

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Transfer to the pier in order to begin the part of our journey which involves crossing the Li River.

Our destination Yangshuo, a small town which has become ever more popular over the last 15 years, is just 83 kilometres (51 miles) from the provincial capital, Guilin. Boats slowly snake down the famous Li River, between the unusual shapes of the sugarloaf mountains, carrying unusual names often drawn from popular legends such as “Nine Horse Fresco Hill” or “Lion Watching the Nine Horses”, logically right opposite the former. These superb Karst formation hills have inspired poets, painters and photographers, and are today one of the most popular tourist sites in the entire country.

While many travelers stop their journey in the somewhat commercial West Road in Yangshuo, You will continue on bike into the surrounding countryside, boasting rivers, water buffalo and dozens of tiny villages scattered amongst the giant looming karst hills. You will be given the choice of either staying in Yangshuo itself, or in one of the surrounding villages just outside the town to be closer to nature.

Optional: Enjoy on the evening the show Impressions Liu Sanjie. Created by the famous director Zhang Yimou of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ fame. Here in the heart of the Karst formation countryside, hundreds of actors including local fisherman, imitate scenes from rural life by dressing up in traditional costumes of the minorities of the region. 

Overnight in Yangshuo

Distance and journey time:

Guilin city – Guilin pier (approx. 2km): 5 min (depending on your hotel location)

Yangshuo pier – Yangshuo hotel (depending on your hotel location: 7km for Yangshuo resort: 15min / 8km for Secret garden and 2,5Km for Giggling Tree for examples)

Day 12 - Yangshuo - Guilin - Hangzhou (B)

You will be taken to Guilin airport where you will fly to Hangzhou, the ancient capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and now capital of Zhejiang province.

Upon arrive you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your hotel.

Marco Polo described Hangzhou as a heaven on earth, at least in part due to the ‘West Lake’, a recent addition to UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Its creation in the 8th century by the then governor transformed what had simply been marshland into the park that exists today. In modern times locals make daily visits to this harmonious area of gardens, shops and pagodas to take a stroll. Each season offers something different: in winter the snow rests upon the water and transforms the lake into a piece of art with frozen plants, in spring the peach and plum trees are in full bloom bringing colour back to the park, and in summer innumerable water-lilies create a perfumed blanket on the lake’s surface. The locals like to say that the moon is bigger and more beautiful in autumn, and this can best be seen from the ‘three pools mirroring the moon’ on Xiaoling Island.

A peaceful bike ride around the area will let you explore one of the most famous and picture-perfect symbols of traditional China. The curved bridges lead to small islands in the heart of the lake, and there you can discover, amongst other things, the charmingly romantic Quyuan gardens.

You will also visit the adjacent tea plantations, the other specialty of the region of Zhejiang and home to Longjing tea – one of the most prized and expensive teas in the world. The bright green tea fields are often planted at high altitude and in perfectly designed plots straddling the mountain edges creating a true visual spectacle.

Originally consumed as a medicinal plant, the tea rapidly grew to become the Chinese’s favorite drink and starting during the Tang dynasty (618-907) was traded all around the world.

Chinese tea culture known for its diversity, complexity and richness can easily be compared to that of the Western world’s wine culture. Apart from the effects of over consumption of the two differ vastly…

During your visit you may also have the opportunity to meet a local tea producer who will be able to introduce you to the different types of tea: green tea, black tea, Oolong tea, fragrant tea, white tea or even ancient ‘tea bricks’.

Overnight in Hangzhou

Distance and journey time:

Yangshuo – Guilin airport (approx. 85km): 1h30

Hangzhou airport – Hangzhou city (approx 30km): approx 1h

Day 13 - Hangzhou - Xidi (B)

Your first stop will be to the Huqingyu Tang Museum of Chinese Medicine, which is found in the Huqingyu pharmacy built in the 19th century. Chinese medicine is a fundamental and fascinating part of Chinese culture, and learning about it shouldn’t be avoided without good reason! If you don’t already know about this type of medicine, it will make you abandon all sense of western logic. The following explanation should help prepare you for the visit.

The museum not only boasts an impressive collection in its famous drawers full of unlikely ingredients, it additionally is housed in a building of typical pharmacy architecture complete with panelling, lanterns and a small garden that make it well worth the trip.

The journey to Wannan in Anhui province is fairly long

Prosperous merchants in the region, mostly from tea, bamboo and salt built large houses in the area which forms the mainstay of the very interesting local architecture. Three main characteristics of the local architecture still remain: the exterior walls which have been chalked white, the black tile roofs with superbly sculpted gables, the tianjing (literally mirrors to heaven) – indoor courtyards lit by skylights, and finally the paifang, commemorative arches dedicated to the most successful candidates from the Imperial exams.

Night in a village in Yixian district, which you will have the chance to explore further in the morning.

Overnight in Xidi

Distance and journey time:

Hangzhou – Xidi (approx. 270km): 4h30 

Day 14 - Xidi - Huangshan (B)

First off, you will visit the village of Hongcun, one of the most talked about and original examples of applied fengshui. The village’s arrangement resembles the silhouette of a water buffalo, with its “intestines” being canals and its “stomach” housing a lake where the canals begin. Two large trees outside the village represent the buffalo’s horns.

Because the village used to have many fires before the fengshui master even laid eyes on the terrain, the symbolism of a water buffalo was not lost on the locals once the master arrived. With more than enough water to fight future fires, the town’s new arrangement helped the village prosper.  

In the meantime, you will visit the Chengshitang residence build by a salt merchant. Now it represents the refinement and prosperity of the region.

You will also meet a fengshui master who will explain to you the secrets of this centuries-old practice. Furthermore, movie fans will recognize the entrance to the village where in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the sword thief tries to shake off Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) during a chase sequence on top of the village’s roofs. You will be able to talk with a local villager about the stories of the making of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Your afternoon will begin with a bike ride through two neighbouring villages: Lucun, famous for its high class wood carving and Tachuan is a seemingly timeless village. It is located at the entrance of a valley that in fall is masked in red and yellow autumnal tones, which enhances the resplendent chalked white houses and makes for an exquisite photograph. Ta is the Chinese word for Pagoda, just like the name given to the village by those who conceived it. Tachuan is not as well-known as some of the other villages, with Wannan having become a victim of its own success, letting you have a glance at something much closer to local everyday life. The best way to pass the time in Tachuan is by losing yourself in the labyrinth of grey-marble alleyways or by taking yourself out into the surrounding countryside, away from the hubbub and the noise, so that you can fully appreciate the history and symbolism of this extraordinary region.

After returning the bikes, you will travel to Mukeng Bamboo Forest where in the film, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and Yu Jiao Long (Zhang Ziyi) move with incredible skill (and a lot of wires) on the bamboo stalks without breaking them. As you like, you can seclude yourself momentarily in the calm and serenity of this emerald forest.

We will continue the journey to the Huangshan (Yellow Mountains), ascending by cable-car and spending the night at the summit. The nights here are fresh and the weather unpredictable, as such waterproofs, walking shoes and warm clothes are a necessity.

Distance and journey time:

Xidi - Hongcun (approx. 19km): 30min

Hongcun – Lucun (approx. 500m): 2 min (by bicycle) 

Lucun - Tachuan (approx. 5km): 40 min (by bicycle) 

Tachuan – Mukeng (approx. 3km): 8 min

Mukeng – Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) park entrance (approx. 60km): 90min

Day 15 - Huangshan - Shanghai (B)

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This site takes its name from an ancient tradition whereby each mountain was named after its most famous visitor and in the case of Huangshan this was the Yellow Emperor (or in Chinese Huangdi), one of the founding fathers of Chinese civilization who lived in the 3rd century BC.

A few curved pine trees similar to bonsai trees miraculously manage to grow on the granite ledges and are a perfect addition to this living painting, and when the weather is nice this is truly a phenomenal spectacle. Your walk to the top will be similar to that of a monk (or Kung Fu Panda for the young ones) as you go on a pilgrimage following endless steep stairs that wind their way up the mountain face.

Option: Once at the foot of the mountain you have the option to sooth your aching feet at the local hot spring (which the Chinese are crazy about) in which the Emperor also used to bathe thousands of years ago. The springs offer a variety of treatments using coffee, different types of alcohol and even fish baths where small fish will nibble away at your dead skin (something which you have to see in person because there is no way that this treatment can be done justice in writing!) and a number of other types of massage.

You will be taken to Huangshan airport where you will take a late flight to Shanghai.

Welcome to Shanghai! This city has an important place in Chinese history the first area to be colonised by western powers in the 18th century, to then becoming the first seat of the Communist Party, and nowadays being the economic powerhouse of China. The recent history of this city has been a real rollercoaster!

Overnight in Shanghai

Distance and journey time:

Huangshan park entrance – Huangshan airport (Tunxi) (approx. 75km):1h30

Shanghai Pudong airport - Shanghai city (approx. 45km): 1h

OR

Shanghai Hongqiao airport - Shanghai city (approx. 15km): 30 min

Day 16 - Shanghai (B)

In the morning we will head for the French Concession, a symbol of a time when Western powers were accorded many privileges. You will start your trip with a stroll through Fuxing Park where you will have the chance to watch the Chinese practicing their ritual of morning exercise. Especially worth watching are the tango dancers whose music fills every corner of the park.

Afterwards you will wander the surrounding roads, admiring the old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and different boutiques. During colonial times the French Concession was a no-go zone for the police and was home to gangsters, mafia, opium traffickers, prostitutes and people looking for a good time. Shanghai earned itself the title of one of the world’s vice capitals.

Shanghai Triad by Zhang Yimou is a faithful depiction of the city in the 1930s.

You will continue on to Xintiandi, an entirely renovated area that is considered one of the liveliest parts of the city. You can end your walk at Tianzifang, a maze of animated alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries similar to those found in Xintiandi but much more authentic.

Back to the future with the visit of Pudong district! Not long ago, Pudong district was just a marsh where only farmers and water buffalo frequented. Now, the area has become one of the most important business centers in Asia with skyscrapers popping up like mushrooms next to old Shanghainese banks each year. 

When you come to Shanghai, “dong” means “east” and “xi” means “west.” The Huangpu River separates the Puxi and Pudong areas. Puxi is the entire downtown region of the city west of the river while Pudong is the whole region of the city east of it. 

You will converge on the nearby neighborhood of Lujiazui, the epicenter of some of the most famous buildings: the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower (where a shoe seller from Anhui Province and later Alain Robert, the famous urban climber, scaled the tower’s walls) and the never ending Shanghai World Financial Center (the tallest building in Shanghai), where you can admire the city from the highest panoramic terrace in the world.

Option: You can take a break at the 100 Century Avenue café and enjoy some refreshments when you arrive.

Shortly after, you will take the famous Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, a mini subway line, to cross the Huangpu River to reach Puxi in a couple of minutes.

Next you will discover the Bund, the city’s famous walkway along some of Puxi’s historical buildings. The area dates back to the 1930s, Shanghai’s rich culture and European influence.

Then you will explore the famous Nanjing Road with its colorful signs and crowd of locals and tourists corresponding perfectly with the image of a modern Asian capital.

If you feel the urge, please do not hesitate to stroll the neighboring streets animated by the sight of locals recycling materials from the public waste bins, the uncountable number of restaurants and the smells from the fruit stalls.

Once you are finished with your stroll of Nanjing Road, you will arrive at People’s Square, the former site of the Shanghai Racetrack (and the site of your next extensive visit), and be transported back to your hotel.

Overnight in Shanghai

Day 17 - Shanghai (B)

We will start the day by heading to the People’s Square.

This day will see us visit three museums of very different styles. We will start off with the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, and more precisely the model layout of Shanghai which covers a large part of the 3rd floor. This model city will really let you get your head around the layout of Shanghai, and understand just its size. A stunning panoramic cinema which shows a short video explaining how the city developed into the metropolis it is today will also help you get your head around Shanghai’s recent development. On the 4th floor there are some more interactive displays, which are perfect for the young (or the young at heart) and include a simulator of a boat being docked at Yangshan deep water port. 

Depending on the exhibitions on show at the time you visit, and the photographs on display on the second floor, you should be able to get a grasp of how the city has evolved over time and get a look into its captivating history.

From here you will head to one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the country, and in Asia: The Shanghai Museum. The collection of bronze statues on the first floor is unrivalled, and is complemented by a number of jade pieces of artwork, as well as Qing Dynasty furniture, Buddhist sculptures and other pieces of Chinese artwork. The audio guides on offer are excellent, and it’s really worth taking your time to explore the museum.

For those interested in art, the day will end with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

The delightful People’s Park offers visitors an enjoyable place to relax at the heart of the People’s Square. The park has a small lake, a number of food stands and countless places to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. The area is surrounded by a number of cafés and restaurants. Alternatively you could stroll back up Nanjing Road to the Bund, where you can take in the Shanghai skyline at night.

We will head back to the hotel and retire for the evening.

Option: Enjoy on the evening the shows “ERA” in Shanghai has become one of the most popular evening entertainments in the city. Now, it has been staged for 6 years. ERA is a multimedia odyssey whose inspiration is a direct result of the combination of traditional Chinese acrobatic arts and modern technology

Overnight in Shanghai

Day 18 - Shanghai (B)

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Our day will start by travelling to Suzhou. Suzhou is the most famous of the ‘Venices of China’ – a collection of small towns which are compared to the illustrious Italian city because of their intricate network of canals and stone bridges. The world-famous Suzhou Gardens are considered some of the most beautiful in the entire country.

Your will start your time in the town by taking a morning bike ride round the narrow streets of the old town, a good way to avoid the early tourist crowds that flood the gardens. China’s famous love affair with the bicycle over the last 15 years is no more evident than in Suzhou and is putting up a brave fight against the rise of the electric bike. Cycling along the cobbled streets, you will notice the white sculpted wooden facades and black tile roofs of the local houses. You will also pass by the many canals and notice the locals who still often use the water to wash their clothes and clean their homes.

You will discover the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Master of the Nets Garden, Traditionally Chinese gardens are a miniature reproduction of nature: the presence of rocks represents mountains, ponds represent lakes and running water imitating rivers. The quest for harmony takes precedence over the rigorous geometrical planning that you would see in most Western gardens. Their shape is therefore never rectangular, encouraging visitors to wander around with only their thoughts and no definite aim. The Chinese believe that one should tend to his garden as one would his soul, a lifestyle practiced by retired scholars and rich merchants of the region.

The finale of your day will be a traditional Chinese massage, or “compression” that concentrates on acupuncture points to stimulate the body’s natural healing throughout the whole body. It is a perfect conclusion for this trip full of contrasts and lessons.

Overnight in Shanghai

Distance ET journey time:

Shanghai city– Suzhou (approx. 100 km): 1h30

Day 19 - Shanghai (B)

You will be taken to the airport where you will catch your return flight.

Distance and journey time:

Shanghai Pudong airport - Shanghai city (approx. 45km): 1h

OR

Shanghai Hongqiao airport - Shanghai city (approx. 15km): 30 min

Tour Duration: 19 Days / 18 Nights
Tour Operates: Year Round / On Demand
Tour Price: Available upon Request

Rates vary frequently. Please conatct us to get the best possible price based upon your travel period and specific touring needs.


Our services include:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner).
  • English speaking guide(no shopping basis rates) (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits

Our services do not include:

  • Other meals not mentioned
  • Visa for China
  • Other services than mentioned
  • International and domestic flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.

 

Notes:

  • We strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance (covering emergency medical evacuation) for trips to China.
  • Reservations during peak times (Christmas, New Year, Chinese Lunar New Year, Chinese and National Holidays) may be subject to supplementary charges.
  • Rooms at hotels are available only from 1400 on arrival day till 1200 on departure date. A supplement will be added if early check-in or late check-out is desired.
  • Please note that all the above services & tours have yet to be booked, they are proposed for your information only and we will not make any reservations before we receive your confirmation to do so.
  • If one or some proposed service(s) is (are) not available at the moment of booking, we will try to find other possibilities/options or other similar service(s) in order to avoid changes to the program. 

 

Creating Unique Touring Experiences
All the touring itineraries on this website have been carefully crafted by our in-country management teams and represent a series of experiences we can certainly recommend. However, we understand that every travel experience should be as unique and individual as each traveler. Our consultants are waiting to hear from you so that we can tailor or custom design a China Tour to your individual specifications.


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REVIEWS

icon-quote-l  Andrew is fantastic guide. His English is very good and he is very friendlym polite and professional.  icon-quote-r

Cathy Lovern

Exo Foundation

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