Grand tour of China
Since the days of Marco Polo, China has fascinated our western minds in the most compelling way. The country’s immense size, almost unimaginable wealth and other-worldly culture have together woven an intoxicating and quite irresistible spell. But the Chinese today are living through an astonishing transformation. As well as being justly proud of their long history and unique cultural legacy, they’re keen to show you their huge achievements as a rapidly growing world superpower. China has always been a nation of superlatives. The most populous on earth, it’s also the fourth largest. Silk, tea, paper money, porcelain and gunpowder all originated here. Effectively closed to outsiders for most of its 6,000 year recorded history, China has developed its own unique character, language and society. At the heart of Beijing lies the spectacular Imperial Palace. Here, emperors issued decrees to kneeling dignitaries for hundreds of years. Collectively called the ‘Forbidden City’, it contains a staggering 9,999 rooms. Adorned with paintings of dragons and phoenixes, carvings and inscriptions, it’s crowned by typically Chinese turned-up roofs with gold-hued tiles. Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest plaza and final resting place of Chairman Mao, holds a staggering 600,000 people. The immense Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven are stunning in their simplicity and laden with symbolism. And beyond the city lies the stupendous 4,000-mile Great Wall, the largest structure ever built by man and one of the new seven wonders of the world. Two centuries before the founding of ancient Rome, Xian was already a world-class city and gateway to the Silk Road. Home to over a dozen dynasties, it houses the extraordinary 6,000-strong Terracotta Army. First discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well, the life-size and remarkably preserved warriors all have their own individual features. They’ve guarded the tomb of the first Qin Emperor for more than two millennia. Although on a much smaller scale than Beijing or Xian, Guilin has some of China’s most breath-taking scenery. Beautifully set around four lakes and two rivers, it’s surrounded by the stunning karst limestone scenery of lush forest-covered peaks and pinnacles. You’ll also visit the extraordinary Longshen Rice Terraces, carved into the hills in their thousands over centuries by the hands of Yao tribesmen. In Chengdu, you’ll see some of the world’s most endangered and enchanting animals – Panda bears. This is the leading Panda research and breeding centre in China. We’ll visit them in the morning while they’re still active, and before they sleep for the rest of the day after eating their fill of bamboo. Our relaxing three-day cruise on the Yangtze is a welcome change of pace as our five-star ship, the 428-foot long river cruiser RV Century Sun, navigates through the spectacular Three Gorges. There are wonderful views from the balcony of every cabin and the service onboard is just as perfect. Shanghai, China’s wealthiest city, is an intoxicating mix of colonial tradition and modern economic dynamism. Occupied by the western powers during the 19th century, the riverside Bund became one of the greatest trading centres of the world. Today this lovingly restored waterfront contrasts with the forest of skyscrapers that cover the skyline – with more seeming to rise up every day. But China is also home to one of the world’s great cuisines – with the ubiquitous Peking Duck from the north, chillies from the west and fruit and carp from the sub-tropical climate of the south. Real Chinese food is both a revelation and a gourmet paradise. In Britain our standard greeting is ‘How are you?’ In China, it’s ‘Have you eaten today?’ This tour is a remarkable journey of discovery of one of the world’s most ancient cultures, aspects of which are almost beyond our comprehension, blended with a remarkably stunning topography and a staggering pace of modernisation.
- Visit the astonishing Great Wall of China, the only man-made monument visible from space
- See the world-famous Terracotta Warriors and the less visited underground museum
- Tour of the Panda Breeding & Research Centre with a local guide
- Guided tour of the Temple of Heaven and the imperial gardens at the Summer Palace in Beijing
- See the man-made wonder of the Longshen Rice Terraces
- Enjoy a full-board, five-star Yangtze River Cruise and travel through the world’s largest ship locks of the Three Gorges Dam
- City tour of Shanghai taking in Jade Buddha temple, Yuyuan Gardens and the old British Consulate
- Guided tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City - the world’s largest concentration of preserved ancient wooden buildings
- Travel from Shanghai to Beijing on one of China's new 186mph high speed trains
- City tour of old Beijing’s historic quarters by cycle rickshaw
- Cruise the world-famous Li River and visit the picturesque riverside town of Yangshuo
- Stay in hand-picked five-star and four-star hotels, with breakfast daily and 14 meals, which includes a Peking duck banquet
- Services of our experienced tour manager
- Return travel from the UK with transfers to and from the hotel included
- The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room with single rooms available at the relevant supplement. Price includes flights to and from Shanghai; 14 nights’ accommodation in four-star hotels including 3 nights on board a five-star Yangtze cruise ship; daily breakfast, and 14 meals; all tours and entrance fees as described; all transfers; all touring as mentioned; all local accommodation taxes and airport/flight taxes; four domestic flights and two rail journeys; hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
- Included excursions are: guided tours of Beijing, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, Xian, Guilin, Chengdu and Shanghai; visits to Panda Breeding & Research Centre, the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army and museum, the Longshen Rice Terraces; Li River cruise and visit to Yangshuo
- Not included: Chinese visa
- Things to note:
- - Itinerary may be subject to change depending on domestic flight timings and Yangtze & Li river water levels.
- - All included lunches and dinners are Chinese meals and are set menus of several courses and dishes shared around tables of 6-10 persons, one local beer or soft drink is normally included as is unlimited Chinese tea. Breakfasts are buffet style with western food options.
- - Hotel beds can be ‘firm’ in China and rooms are normally twin-bedded. Requests for double beds can be made but not guaranteed in advance.
Depart on your overnight flight direct to Shanghai.
Transfer to our hotel, the four-star superior Central Hotel for one night with breakfast. This evening we enjoy a fascinating stroll along the colonial ‘Bund’, Shanghai’s riverside promenade.
This morning you experience a thrilling ride on China’s new 186mph high speed train service to Beijing. On arrival we transfer to our hotel, the four-star Mercure Downtown for three nights with breakfast.
Our first stop is at Tiananmen Square and the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the entrance to the Forbidden City, where Chairman Mao announced the birth of the People’s Republic in 1949. Through the central arch you enter a different world: spread over 250 acres, with 9,999 rooms, this was the seat of imperial power for 600 years. After lunch we continue our tour with a visit to the great Summer Palace. This evening we have the option to attend a Kung Fu show, with dinner.
Today is one of the highlights of the tour as we head towards the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu. Although a popular spot, it’s much less visited by the masses. As we approach, your first sight of the Great Wall is as it snakes along the forested ridges above – a wild landscape, as untamed as when it was built. After lunch we visit the great Temple of Heaven in Beijing: the park surrounding is full of locals playing board games, dancing, exercising, playing music and singing – a glimpse of the real Beijing. This evening we enjoy the classic local dish: a Peking Duck banquet.
This morning we fly to Xian. On the way from Xian airport we visit the remarkable Hang Yang Ling tomb and Underground Museum which displays some of the 40,000 funeral objects and statues unearthed around the tomb of the first Han Emperor. We then see the city’s imposing Ming Dynasty walls, 40ft high and stretching for nine miles. Prior to Beijing, Xian was the centre of Chinese imperial power for over 2,000 years, as well as the start of the famed Silk Route to the West. We stay two nights with breakfast at the four-star Tianyu Gloria Grand Hotel.
Another highlight is today’s visit to the stunning Terracotta Army. The first Qin Emperor united China’s warring factions and began the construction of the Great Wall. Guarding the tomb itself is his Terracotta Army. Drawn up in traditional battle order, the vanguard consists of rows of archers and crossbowmen, followed by columns of infantry and chariots. Each figure is unique, life-size and lifelike – a unique experience! Lunch is included today.
Today we fly to Guilin. We see another of China’s great wonders: the Longshen Rice Terraces. Over hundreds of years the ethnic Yao tribes have cut thousands of rice terraces into the steep hills and over every fold of the landscape. Our hotel for two nights in Guilin is the four-star Bravo Hotel with breakfast. Dinner is included tonight.
We board our excursion boat for a cruise down the Li River. This has to be one of the most beautiful river journeys in the world: rising from flat rice paddies around the river are thousands of conical-shaped limestone peaks and pinnacles covered in verdant tropical forests. After lunch on board, you’ll have some free time in the picturesque riverside town of Yangshuo before returning to Guilin.
We fly to Chengdu for one night at the four-star superior Tianfu Sunshine Hotel with breakfast. This afternoon we walk through Jin Li Street, a recreation of a traditional shopping street, with plenty of local handicrafts and places to sit down and relax with some local green tea or coffee.