Itinerary 11 Days / 10 Nights
Day 1: Beijing
Arrive in Beijing and meet your local guide before enjoying spectacular views of Bird Nest Olympic Stadium and the city en route to your downtown hotel. Later, head over to Houhai Lake to explore Beijing’s ancient hutong alleyways by rickshaw. Wind your way through the maze of narrow streets teeming with life before stopping by the centuries-old Drum Tower, built during the Ming Dynasty. Savour the unique views above the sprawling rooftops of old Beijing.
Stop by a traditional bicycle shop to chat with locals, and have some fun learning how to play mahjong, a traditional Chinese board game. Master the art of this ancient pastime and watch seasoned locals face off in front of crowds of curious bystanders. End the day with a visit to Wangfujing, Beijing’s bustling market district. Browse hundreds of colourful stalls before heading to Donghuamen Market, packed with vendors hawking everything from giant centipedes to cooked seahorses on skewers.
Day 2: Beijing
Embark on a full day exploring China’s most revered spiritual monuments. Begin the day with a visit 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 for good harvests. Outside, witness a fascinating spectacle of locals greeting the sun with their daily kung fu and qigong exercises.
Afterwards, head over to the White Cloud Temple and see Taoist monks wearing their hair in traditional chignons. Watch out for superstitious visitors touching sculptures of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals for good luck. Later, wander over to the Niujie Mosque, the oldest mosque in Beijing built by merchants from Central Asia. Afterwards, head downtown for a delicious lunch of vegetarian specialties popular among Buddhist monks, including faux lamb kebabs and faux Peking duck.
In the afternoon, venture over to the Yonghe Temple, the single most visited temple in Beijing. Central to Tibetan Buddhism it features an 18m Buddha statue carved from a single block of wood and has peaceful courtyards ideal for a promenade in the afternoon. End the day at the Temple of Confucius, the second largest Confucian temple in China before returning to your hotel.
*Optional: Spend the evening at a Kung Fu show in the Red Theatre, downtown.
Day 3: Beijing
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.
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.
Day 4: Beijing - Xi’an
Start the day with a visit to the Forbidden City, the ancient seat of Chinese political power for almost 500 years and once home to China’s last ruling dynasty. Explore its tranquil courtyards and imperial courtrooms before climbing the coal hill behind it for spectacular views of Beijing’s sprawling skyline.
After lunch at local restaurant, enjoy some leisure time at BeiHai Park. A good example of a classic Yuan dynasty imperial garden, it also has the benefit of being good to visit in all seasons and is a popular place for locals to spend a day with families and friends.
In the late afternoon, transfer to Beijing western railway station and board the night train to Xi’an in a soft sleeper cabin. Mingle with locals as you snack on some instant noodles or enjoy a beer, known as “baiju”, while playing cards with your cabin mates or unwinding in the privacy of your own room (available at extra cost). While luxurious options are available, we recommend making the journey in joint cabins to get a glimpse of the cheerful disposition typical of travelling by train in China.
Day 5: Xi’an
Rise and shine as you arrive in Xi’an in the morning. Meet your local guide and transfer to a restaurant for breakfast. Continue your day amongst the famous Terracotta Warriors buried with the First Qin Emperor over 2,000 years ago. Hear about its accidental discovery by a local farmer before wandering around its earthen pits. Grab a souvenir from the museum before embarking on a one-hour of cycling along Xi’an’s old city wall. Share a tandem bike with your travel companion and pedal alongside one of the oldest fortified walls in China.
Later, pay a visit to the city mosque in the town centre, and learn about China’s Hui ethnic minority, descendants of Central Asian merchants who travelled on the ancient Silk Road, whom are predominantly Muslim. Take a stroll around the Muslim district of the city and browse its eclectic boutiques and butcher shops. In the evening, wander through the bustling night market and get a taste of hearty local cuisine, feasting on spiced lamb kebabs, flat bread and mutton soup.
*Optional: End the evening with a visit to one of the city’s biggest internet cafes and get a glimpse of the internet gaming phenomenon sweeping across China. It is here where you will see the new generation of Xi’an’s other “buried warriors” – transfixed by their computers.
Day 6: Xi’an - Guilin
Early in the morning, visit the tomb of Emperor Jingdi, immortalized in Chinese history for his humanist and diplomatic rule. Housing hundreds of small figurines depicting normal scenes of everyday life, it stands in stark contrast to the imposing militarism of the Terracotta Warriors. Walk on glass panels over the pits of newly unearthed statues before departing for the airport and boarding your flight to Guilin.
In the afternoon, arrive in Guilin where your next guide will meet you before taking you to your hotel. After checking into your room, head to Reed Flute Cave and explore its impressive collection of stalactites and stalagmites light up in a rainbow. Watch local tradesmen collect reeds at the cave’s entrance to fashion handmade flutes before ending the day with a leisurely stroll around picturesque Shan Lake.
Day 7: Guilin - Yangshuo
Start the day with a relaxing cruise along the tranquil waters of the Li River towards Yangshuo, a small market town, 83km away. Take in spectacular views of the river whilst admiring the surrounding karst mountains that have inspired poets and artists for centuries.
Later, cruise by local rice farmers at work and herds of water buffalo as you explore the stunning countryside by bike. Stop in at some small villages to get a glimpse of local life before heading back to your accommodation for the evening.
Day 8: Yangshuo - Guilin – Shanghai
In the morning, transfer to Guilin airport for your flight to Shanghai. Arrive in Shanghai, greeted by your local guide before boarding the Maglev, Shanghai’s flagship, high-speed train. Watch as the speed dial climb as high as 430km per hour as you hurtle towards the heart of China’s commercial centre.
After a short subway connection arrive at Lujiazui station in the heart of Pudong district, home to some of Shanghai’s most impressive skyscrapers. Once an empty marsh inhabited by water buffalo, the area is now one of the most important business districts in Asia, with new skyscrapers sprouting along the Huangpu River every year.
Venture over to the neighbouring district of Lujiazui, home to the tallest building in Shanghai – the Shanghai World Financial Centre. Step inside and climb to the to the world’s highest panoramic terrace. There, admire the best views of the Shanghai skyline before heading over to the famous Bund Sightseeing Tunnel.
Take a stroll along the west bank of the Huangpu River and marvel at the sprawling European architecture of the Bund which dates back to the 1930’s, before hitting the shops on Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping strips. Savour the aromatic smells wafting from nearby restaurants and food stalls as you weave your way through the back streets. Later, arrive at the People’s Square before returning to your hotel.
Day 9: Shanghai
Start the day roaming around People’s Square before heading to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. Marvel at the scaled model of Shanghai that occupies the entire third floor as your wrap your head around the layout and size of the city. Immerse yourself in the history of Shanghai’s evolution into a booming metropolis before heading to China’s most famous museum, the Shanghai Museum. Browse its impressive collection, including one gallery of bronze statues some which date as early as the Neolithic period.
In the afternoon, wander through the galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) before returning to the People’s Park for an afternoon snack. Soak up the energy of the city coming alive at night as you go cafe-hopping around the square. Take a walk along East Nanjing Road to the Bund for a spectacular view of Shanghai’s skyline before heading back to your hotel.
Day 10: Shanghai
Start the day with a visit to the ritzy French Concession enclave, a former French colonial settlement that was signed over to China in 1946. Despite redevelopment over recent decades, the area has retained its distinct character as a premier residential and retail district in Shanghai.
Stroll through Fuxing Park and watch locals partake in morning exercise classes before venturing through the charming backstreets teeming with refurbished colonial buildings. Grab a coffee at one of the chic cafes before browsing the trendy boutiques. Immerse yourself in the history behind one of the worlds “vice capitals”; previously a red light district frequented by the local mafia and the city’s opium traffickers in the 1930’s.
Continue on to Xintiandi, an affluent car-free shopping, eating and entertainment precinct that has been entirely renovated in recent years. Later, wind your way through the maze of alleyways in Tianzifang, buzzing with busy restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries. End your walk in Shanghai’s charming Old Town, the largest example of traditional Chinese architecture in the city. Dine like a local at one of the street stalls while watching hoards of people walk home from work.
On your way back to the hotel, stop by the picturesque Yu Yuan Gardens and learn about the art of traditional Chinese garden landscaping. Understand the delicate balance of creating harmony with penjing, or small bonsai trees. Later, grab some souvenirs at the local bazaar before relaxing at the refined Huxington Tea House overlooking the grounds of Yu Yuan Park. Unwind with a traditional Chinese massage, or “acupressure”, used to stimulate the body’s natural healing powers.
Day 11: Shanghai
Transfer to the airport for your return flight home. If you are going to continue travelling, please consult with us about your plans.