Explore the spellbinding Yunnan Province on this 16-day tour through some of China’s most dazzling landscapes. Discover ancient cultures, exotic traditions and extraordinary countryside on this unforgettable trip, starting in majestic Beijing. Hike the Great Wall and visit Tiananmen Square before heading to the snow-capped mountains of Lijiang, home to the Naxi people. Visit the Jade Snow Dragon Mountain, marvel at Pudacuo National Park and see the majestic Tiger Leaping Gorge in Shangri-La. Sail down the Li River in Yangshuo before ending your tour in bustling Shanghai.

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Highlights

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Itinerary idea in detail

Includes international flights from a choice of UK airports, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

  • 1

    Arrive in Beijing and meet with your local guide before transferring to your hotel. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon strolling through the pulsing streets of downtown Beijing, China’s political hub for the past eight centuries and the country’s second largest city.

  • 2

    In the morning, take a stroll around Tiananmen Square, one of the largest public squares in the world and among the most well-known historical sites in China. Continue on to the Forbidden City, once the seat of Chinese political power for almost 500 years and home to China’s last ruling dynasties. Explore its serene courtyards and its stately rooms before climbing the artificial coal hill behind it for spectacular views of Beijing’s sprawling skyline.

    In the afternoon, visit the Summer Palace, built by Emperor Qianlong as a gift to his mother in the 18th century. Wander through the tranquil grounds where imperial staff would flee from the stifling rooms of the Forbidden City during summer. Grab a refreshing beverage in the shady grounds before wandering through its famous pavilions and scenic lakes, including Kunming Lake and the Seventeen-Arch Bridge. Head over to the intricately carved Marble Boat before hiking to the top of Longevity Hill for panoramic views of the complex.

  • 3

    After breakfast, journey to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China to experience one of the world’s most spectacular sights. Enjoy amazing views of the surrounding landscape as you scale the iconic walls spanning more than 6000km across China. Hike along the wall’s high ridges and explore its ancient watchtowers, dating back more than 2000 years. After your hike, settle down for a picnic lunch on the Great Wall, while savouring superb views of the countryside. If you’re feeling adventurous, glide down the wall on a toboggan or see more of this section by cable car.

    Later, visit the Sacred Way, a hidden path leading to the 13 tombs of the Ming Emperors. Take a leisurely afternoon stroll through the tranquil grounds of these 13 imperial tombs located in suburban Changping District and designed in the art of feng shui. In the afternoon, relive the excitement of the 2008 Olympic Games with a photo stop at the remarkable Bird Nest Stadium and the Water Cube.

  • 4

    In the morning, head to the Temple of Heaven, a 15th century architectural masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Study its intricate design and stately prayer rooms before heading over to the magnificent imperial altar, once reserved for emperors to pray and make offerings for good harvests. Outside, witness a fascinating spectacle of locals greeting the sun with their daily Qigong and kung fu exercises.

    Continue with a visit to Panda House in Beijing Zoo, and observe China’s cuddly national icon lazing about in custom made enclosures.

    Get behind the wheels of an authentic Chinese rickshaw as you wind your way through the hutong alleyways, built during the 13th century. Get a glimpse of daily life within the traditional courtyard houses and local markets away from the soaring skyscrapers of modern Beijing. Grab a street snack before heading back to your hotel.

  • 5

    In the morning, transfers to Beijing airport for your flight to Dali. There, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel. Then climb Cangshan Mountain, which includes over 18 peaks, whose highest summit reaches up to 4,000m above sea level.  Take in the view of ancient Dali below, and the rivers and streams gushing down the mountainside. Next, visit the Three pagodas located near the foot the mountain, facing the west shore of Er Hai Lake. The pagodas form a symmetrical triangle, and are one of the landmarks of Dali city. Later, transfers to you hotel and spend the night in Dali.

  • 6

    In the morning, depart from the hotel for a wonderful cruise on the Er Hai Lake, or “the Ear-Shaped Sea”. Beside the Cangshan Mountain and Dali City, it is the second largest high land lake and one of the seven biggest fresh water lakes of China. Afterwards, head to Xizhou Village, and enjoy a Three Tea ceremony performance by the Bai people. The three cups of tea are each distinctive, the first bitter, second sweet and the third leaving an after taste. The Bai people are one of the 25 minorities groups in Yunnan. Then, drive to Lijiang where you’ll stay for the night.

  • 7

    Embark on a full day adventure to the mystical Jade Snow Dragon Mountain range near Lijiang. Consisting of 13 foggy peaks, including the highest summit of Mount Shanzidou, the mountain range boasts some of the most spectacular views in the country and an unrivalled view of the Black Dragon Pool below. Continue over to the Jade Water Village, 25km from Lijiang and named after the sacred natural stream that flows from the mountain range. See the traditional homes of the Naxi people and the Dongba mural gallery, dedicated to their ancient pictographic language.

    Return to your hotel in Lijang and enjoy some free-time.

    *Optional: Lijiang impressive Show. In the afternoon, enjoy a magnificent outdoor show by Naxi performers against the incredible backdrop of the Jade Snow Dragon Mountain. A creation of famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, the show provides a fascinating insight into the traditions and lifestyle of the local ethnic culture.

  • 8

    In the morning, visit the famous Black Dragon Pool, in scenic Jade Park at the foot of Cangshan mountain. Head to the North entrance of the park to see the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture, before heading to Lijiang Old Town. The Old Town transports people to another era, with its maze of cobblestone alleys and notable architecture infusing Han and Zang with traditional Naxi dwellings. The “City of Bridges” also has an elaborate water system that has supplied the town for centuries and still works today. Take a stroll and learn more about this distinctive UNESCO site.

  • 9

    Start the day with a relaxing drive to Shangri-La with a scenic photo stop at the first bend of the Yangtze River – China’s longest running river. Running from the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea, the Yangtze is the third longest river in the world, stretching 6000km. Witness one of the sharpest turns in the river as it bends 90 degrees from south to east within a distance of 1km, a visually stunning carving into the countryside. Later, head up to Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the largest and deepest gorges in the world. Hear the legend behind the name and grab some photos with this amazing backdrop before driving the final stretch to Shangri-La.

    Translated from Tibetan as the “sun and moon in heart”, Shangri-La provides visitors with an endless view of serene grasslands and snowy mountain tops. Upon arrival, visit the old town, a specimen of Tibetan architecture. Learn about the town’s fascinating history as a checkpoint on the ancient Tea Horse Road and a hub for Han-Tibetan exchange. Wander through the village and follow its streets, laid out in the form of an eight-petal lotus flower, in accordance with Buddhist tradition. Afterwards, return to your hotel in Shangri-La.

  • 10

    In the morning, venture to the Pudacuo National Park, that combines the Bita Lake Nature Reserve and beautiful Duhu Scenic Area. Experience China’s rich natural diversity hands-on as you hike through this stunning World Heritage Site, home to over a large portion of China’s plants and mammals. Despite only spanning almost 1% of China’s landmass, it is also home to 100 endangered species, including the black-necked crane and the rare Himalayan Yew. After, continue on to Song Zan Lin Temple, known as the Little Potala Palace and modelled on the traditional home of the Dalai Lama. Infusing elements of traditional Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Han architecture, it was once home to 2,000 monks before sustaining heavy damage during China’s Cultural Revolution.

    After lunch, transfer to the airport for your flight to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

  • 11

    In the morning, enjoy a day exploring the Stone Forest, a collection of hundreds of differently shaped rocks on the eastern fringe of Kunming city. Formed some 280 million years ago, this spectacular rock formation has been etched into the mountain by intense sea erosion and massive earthquakes. Following your hike, travel to the airport for your flight to Guilin.

    Arrive in Guilin and meet with your friendly local guide before transferring to your hotel. Located on the west bank of the Li River, Guilin is known for its shapely Osmanthus trees that grow throughout the city and the breath-taking limestone karst formations surrounding the city.

  • 12

    Embark on a full day tour through the coiling fields of the Longji Rice Terraces. Hike the centuries old layers of rice terraces carved along the mountain side. Take in the spectacular views before reaching the summit referred to as the “Dragon’s Backbone”.

    After lunch, spend the rest of the day basking in the impressive countryside scenery of Longsheng, before transferring back to your hotel in Guilin.

  • 13

    In the morning, travel to Yangshuo before where you’ll kick back on a cruise along the Li River. Breathe in the fresh air whilst you take in spectacular karst landscapes, then get up close and personal with local fishermen who used trained birds to bring in their catches. Tuck in to your lunch as you sail through this majestic scenery.

    Upon arrival in Yangshuo, wander over to West Street. The oldest part of town, West Street dates back over 1400 years, take in the history as you explore the maze of handicraft shops. In the afternoon, head to Silver Cave and venture in its otherworldly caverns, forged out of karst limestone and stretching 10km into the mountain. Then, transfer back to Guilin and spend the night at your hotel.

    *Optional: In the evening, witness a spectacular display of lights and theatre as hundreds of local farmers, fishermen and dancers perform the famous “Impression Liu Sanjie” show against the stunningly lit backdrop of the Li River and karst mountains.

  • 14

    In the morning, make your way to the airport for your flight to Shanghai. Arrive and be welcomed by your guide before transferring to your hotel in the city. Later, wander through the bustling streets of China’s largest metropolis and the commotion of downtown, the heart of China’s booming financial centre. Make your way over to the west bank of the Huangpu River and marvel at the sprawling waterfront architecture of the Bund before a leisurely stroll along Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest retail precincts.

    In the afternoon, explore the financial district of Pudong on the east bank of the Huangpu River and take in the impressive city view from the top of Shanghai World Financial Centre. In the evening, visit the converted residential district of Xin Tian Di and experience the best of the city’s nightlife. Known by locals as “New heaven on earth”, Xin Tian Di is home to China’s trendiest nightclubs, restaurants and boutiques.

  • 15

    Enjoy a free day of leisure time in Shanghai.

  • 16

    Transfer to Shanghai International Airport for your flight home.

Accommodation options

While the itinerary price reflects the suggested accommodation, Audley trips are 100% tailor-made, and a specialist can help you select the option best suited to your tastes and budget.

Booking Policy

  • English speaking, local guide
  • All accommodation listed
  • Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals listed

  • Entry visas
  • International airport departure taxes
  • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Drinks, other than water on activity days
  • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip…)
  • Travel insurance
  • All other services not listed in ‘inclusive’

Please note: During high season periods (such as Christmas and New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.

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9 May 2024 ★★★★★

Our 2-week trip to Thailand was fantastic! Chiang Mai felt completely magical and Koh Samui was beautiful. We managed to have fun even on the rainy days. Our guides were perfect, very knowledgeable and a lot of fun, with great insights into the local culture. I've been recommending Absolute Asia Tours to all my friends and I can't wait to travel with you guys again! The coordination of everything was very well done.

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22 May 2024 ★★★★★

Our recent trip to China and Mongolia was a great success. Overall we found Absolute Asia Tours services to be excellent throughout the two weeks we were in Asia. For us, Mongolia was definitely the highlight. We thoroughly enjoyed or local guides and drives and they were unfailingly knowledgeable, helpful and amusing. Their languages skills were excellent and we felt that we recieved real insight into this fascinating country. We were intinially drawn to the idea of this trip by the reports of the world class fihing and we were absolutely not disappointed. The fishing guide was first rate and we caught more fish than we could have hoped for - more than 25 each day - with the added bonus of being the only other people in sight for miles arround. AAT created a private ger camp for us on the Onon River and we enjoyed delicious food prepared by our chef in a beautiful unspoled atmosphere. They alo arranged for us to visit a nomadic family and spend time with them at home and organized a dinner with an anthropologist with expert knowledge of the region. AAT fullfilled their promise to tkae us to us to one of the world's best fishing destinations in comfort and style. We would be happy to travel with AAT again and will definitely recommend them to our friends.

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16 May 2024 ★★★★★

We've had two "A+" experience with Absolute Asia Tours. It is a pleasure to work with an organization where I feel confident that what you say will happen, happens. This was true with our complicated China itinerary six years ago, and was true with our recent itinerary in Vietnam. your on the ground guides and logistics were top - notch, and I would recommend you to anyone to visit Asia.

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17 January 2024 ★★★★★

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Hope

2 January 2024 ★★★★★

We had an awesome time on cycling tour with AAT! It was incredible, filled with good vibes, laughs & a fantastic way to explore Vietnam & Cambodia. Tony our guide made it special by introducing us to locals and showing us the real charm of these countries. The whole tour was well-organized & the way they took care of us awesome. It's an unforgettable trip and I'll definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Southeast Asia.

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1 January 2024 ★★★★★

My group of six completed a 30 day cycling tour in Asia with AAT. We traveled form Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket & Saigon to Siem Reap. Every day we pedaled through stunning countryside views, passing villages, fields & limestone karsts. Our guide Tony was fantastic-interesting, friendly & personable. This experience stood out as the highlight of our Asia trip.

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