Beijing-Xi’an-Chongqing-Yangtze River Cruise-Yichang-Shanghai 11 days 10 nights luxury tour
- Cruise down the Yangtze River, China’s most important river and the world’s 3rd longest. On your cruise you’ll go on onshore trips to exciting destinations and you’ll cap it off with a visit to the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest dam
- On this tour you’ll travel in high fashion, with the best hotels, meals, and cultural entertainment at your disposal
- Explore the three most famous cities of China: Beijing, China’s capital and Olympic city, Shanghai, China’s largest city and it’s window to the west, and Xi’an, China’s ancient capital and home to the Terracotta Warriors and other attractions that were vital to the development of Chinese culture.
(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
Day 1 arrive in Beijing
Upon arrival at the Beijing airport, you will be me by your local English-speaking guide, and he/she will take you to your hotel, the Beijing International Hotel, a 5 star hotel located in downtown Beijing. If time permits, we can get started with some sightseeing, but if not, you are free to spend the night at your own leisure, and resting up for the days ahead.
Day 2 Beijing (B, L, D)
After breakfast in the hotel, we’ll make the short drive outside the city to the Great Wall at Badaling. Badaling was the first section of the Great Wall to be opened to the public in 1957, and is therefore the best known among visitors. Badaling was the site of U.S. President’s Richard Nixon’s visit to the Great Wall on his historic trip to China, and is a popular choice for celebrities, foreign dignitaries and leaders (U.S. President Obama visited Badaling in November of 2009). Badaling also offers incredible views of the wall winding and twisting along the hills. After a delicious lunch we will make the short journey by minibus to the Ming Tombs.
The Ming Tombs, about 50 km/31 miles from Beijing, are where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) are buried. This site was carefully chosen for its feng shui principles by the third Ming emperor Yongle (who also moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing and began construction on the Forbidden City). The tomb we will visit, Dingling, is the tomb of the Wanli Emperor. It is the only one of the Ming Dynasty Tombs to have been excavated. It also remains the only imperial tomb to have been excavated since the founding of the People's Republic of China. After viewing the tombs, we will head to the “Shenlu”, or the Spirit Way. The Spirit Way leads into the complex, lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, with a front gate consisting of a three-arches, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate". The Spirit Way, or Sacred Way, starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, this archway is one of the biggest stone archways in China today.
For the evening you will enjoy a delectable dinner o Peking Duck, Beijing’s signature culinary dish. Then, for the evening’s entertainment, you will be able to watch Beijing Opera (sometimes known as Peking Opera). Beijing Opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. In the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1790), the four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and combined with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's theoretical circle of the time. Over a period of more than half a century of combination and integration of various kinds of opera there evolved the present Beijing Opera. Beijing Opera is the most significant of all operas in China, and it has a richness of repertoire, great number of artists and audiences, that give it a profound influence in China and plays a large role in Chinese culture.
Day 3 Beijing (B, L, D)
After breakfast in the hotel we will head over to the center of Beijing, Tiananmen Square. The largest public square in the world, Tiananmen Square is seen as China’s political center. Its grounds have seen some turbulent moments, from the May 4th Movement of 1919 to the political turmoil of 1989. The south of the square is marked by the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, while the center of the square is dominated by the Monument to the People’s Heroes, an imposing 10-story granite obelisk. To the east is the National Museum of China, and to the west is the Great Hall of the People, home to China’s legislative bodies. The north of the square is dominated by the Gate of Heavenly Peace, known for its iconic portrait of Mao Zedong, and is the national emblem of China.
After walking across the street, we will enter what is perhaps the greatest attraction in China, the Forbidden City. After walking across the square we will enter the Forbidden City (known in Chinese as Gu Gong), the largest surviving palace complex and the former home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The Forbidden City is one of the greatest attractions in the world. Built by the third Ming emperor between 1406-1422, the Forbidden City served as the official residence to the Emperor of China until the last emperor, Puyi, was forced to evacuate in 1924. The Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section, or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. The northern section, or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal family. Consisting of 980 buildings and with 8,707 bays of rooms, the Forbidden City is the best example of classical Chinese architecture in the world, and is a wonder to behold.
To continue our theme of imperial royalty, we’ll go from the Forbidden City to the royal family’s retreat from the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace. Being northwest of the city center, the Summer Palace has the largest royal park and being well preserved, the Summer Palace is ranked amongst the most noted and classical gardens of the world. In 1998, UNESCO listed it as one of the World Heritage Sites. Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French allied force of 1860 and was destroyed by fire. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it for her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). She spent most of her later years there, dealing with state affairs and entertaining.
Highlights not to be missed are climbing Longevity Hill, viewing the Empress Dowager Cixi’s extravagant Marble Boat, and talking a walk down Suzhou jie, a canal meant to resemble the beautiful river city of Suzhou.
Day 4 Beijing-Xian (B, L)
Following breakfast we’ll make the short drive to the Temple of Heaven park. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The Temple of Heaven park is best known for the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, an iconic building famed for its magnificent triple-gabled circular roof. You will also have an opportunity to walk the same imperial walkway that the same emperors walked hundreds of years ago in their holy rites. You will also see Beijing’s senior citizens using the park grounds for everything from tai chi and ballroom dancing to bullwhip practice!
In the afternoon, you’ll be taken to the airport, and you will fly on to Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province in north-central China. Upon arrival you’ll be met at the airport by your local English-speaking guide. For your stay in Xian you will be lodging at the 5 star Sheraton Hotel.
Day 5 Xian (B, L, D)
Following breakfast you’ll then be taken to Xian’s greatest attractions, and one of the greatest sites in all of China, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum is the result of the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum. Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.
The museum is divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China's National Day, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back. No. 2 Pit, found in 1976, contains over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. It was unveiled to the public in 1994. Archeologists came upon No. 3 Pit also in 1976. It is the command center of the armed forces. It went on display in 1989, with 68 warriors, a war chariot and four horses.
Following our visit with the Terracotta Warriors, we’ll then step back to an even earlier time at the Banpo Neolithic Museum. Located in the eastern outskirts of Xi’an city, the Banpo Museum is the first prehistoric excavation site museum in China. Banpo (half slope) Village was a typical Neolithic Matriarchal community of the Yangshao (Respect Splendid) culture (5000-3000 BC) around 6000 years ago. The Yangshao culture was named after the first discovery of this civilization in Yangshao, Henan Province. About 400 sites of this type have been discovered around the Yellow River Basin, and the Banpo site is the largest one. The site was discovered in 1953 during the construction of a power plant. The excavation work lasted four years, and the Banpo site was first opened to the public in 1958. Since then, two million people have visited it.
For dinner, you’ll have a real treat in store for you in the form of the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show. The Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show, a wonderful performance of the ancient music and dance, is a must when you visit Xian. The city, which was formerly known as Chang'an has a very long history, and was the imperial capital during 13 dynastic periods. Of these, the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) was the most prosperous and glorious of all.
The Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show is an outstanding exponent of this ancient stable and prosperous society, keeping alive its splendid culture and providing an insight into the peaceful life style of the period. As an art form, the show has its roots in folk fetes, when dances were first performed by people as part of rituals of prayer for a good harvest or a better life. Combining poetry with the skilled playing of musical instruments, singing, dancing and also stunning costumes, the modern presentation is certain to give you an impressive view of ancient China including its splendid history, brilliant arts, distinct traditions and customs.
Day 6 Xian-Chongqing-Yangtze River Cruise (B, L, D)
After breakfast we’ll make the short drive to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a pagoda surrounded by a still functioning Buddhist temple (named Da Ci’en Temple). The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China. The Pagoda was built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) for the study of Buddhist scriptures. Although it has been attacked by centuries of weather, war and seismic activity, which destroyed most of the original material of the structure, a pagoda by this name and style still exists on the site. The Tang regime gave orders to build a chamber for the translation of Buddhist scriptures in an effort to have the then widely renowned Master Xuanzang agree to be the head of the temple. Xuanzang was a Buddhist monk who traveled to India, translated Sanskrit scriptures and developed theories of consciousness, karma and rebirth that were adopted by some later popular schools of Buddhism.
The hallowed pagoda is an architectural marvel. It was built with layers of bricks without any cement. The bracket style used in traditional Chinese architecture was also used in the construction of the pagoda. The seams between each layer of bricks and the " prisms' on each side of the pagoda are clearly visible. The grand body of the pagoda with its solemn appearance, simple style and high structure, is indeed a good example of Chinese traditional architecture.
Then you can unwind a bit by taking a leisurely stroll on the Xi’an City Wall. It's the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Xi'an City Wall was erected in the 14th century Ming Dynasty, under the regime of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. When Zhu Yuanzhang captured Huizhou, long before the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, he was admonished by a hermit named Zhu Sheng, who told him to "build high walls, store abundant provisions and take your time in proclaiming yourself emperor." If you like, you have the option of renting a bike or a rickshaw on the wall in order to cover more ground in a shorter time.
In the late afternoon, you’ll be driven to the Xian airport, where you’ll fly on to Chongqing, a large city in southwestern China near Sichuan. Upon arrival you’ll be met at the airport by your guide. You’ll be taken to your Yangtze River cruise ship, and the cruise will depart tonight. You will have a welcoming dinner on the cruise ship, and you’ll have the rest of the night to walk around the ship.
Day 7 Yangtze River Cruise (B, L, D)
After breakfast on the ship you’ll take a visit onshore in order to visit the Ghost City of Fengdu County. It used to be a burial area with scores of temples and shrines and a small ancient town. Due to the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam, the ghostly city is underwater. However, a hill and dozens of temples remain in the big artificial lake behind the dam. So that part can still be visited. It is a large burial and temple area. The area above the “Door of Hell” remains. It is interesting that Chinese have traditional conceptions of hell that are somewhat similar to Western ideas. At the site, people can see statues and frescoes about hell with brightly painted images of demons and other eerie items.
You can spend the rest of the day enjoying the scenery from the cruise ship, and in the evening a dinner will be held aboard the cruise ship.
Day 8 Yangtze River Cruise (B, L, D)
You will take a small boat from the cruise ship to Shennong Stream. Shennong Stream is a tributary of the Yangtze River, and its fast-flowing, crystal clear water runs southwards through deep gorges. The stream races past large and small karst caves, flocks of swallows, sheer cliffs, deep gorges, waterfalls, three-colored springs, rapids, the ancient plank path, a suspended coffin in the cliff, groups of ancient tombs and marvelous karst formations. There are displays of Chinese art and of artifacts saved from the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam and the artificial lake. It instructs on the 3 Gorges region, the 3 Gorges Dam, the history of Chongqing and the surrounding area, Chinese history, and prehistoric times.
You’ll also sail into the western section of Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Three Gorges (at 66 kilometers, compared to Wu Gorge at 44 kilometers and Qutang Gorge at 8 kilometers). Xiling Gorge was renowned for its winding waterway that suddenly narrowed into treacherous rapids or skirted over dangerous shoals. In spite of the risks (Xiling Gorge was dubbed as a "death passage"). Ships were compelled to pass through its waters regularly, as there was little alternative. It was also for this reason, among many others, that the Three Gorges Dam project was justified. It has turned what was once a "death passage", where many ships went aground, and some even completely destroyed, into a gent waterway whose surface today more fittingly be compared to the placid waters of a lake. Xiling Gorge is the last of the Three Gorges as one sails down from this stretch of the Yangtze, and it marks the end of the narrow, twisting and turning corridor that has been so treacherous in the past.
In the evening, various shows and performances will be held in the cruise ship. These include costume shows, magic shows, traditional Sichuan Opera, and magical Mask Changing.
Day 9 Yangtze River Cruise-Yichang-Shanghai (B, L, D)
In the morning you will arrive at the enormous Three Gorges Dam. Construction was begun in the 80's, and was completed in 2008. It backs up the Yangtze River for 550km, making it the world's largest dam. Due to the fact that the water rises to a level of 185m behind the dam, millions of people have had to be resettled, bridges moved and historical relicts secured. The energy production capabilities of the dam are estimated at 84.7 billion kilowatts, equivalent to 18 nuclear reactors. The three single stage locks guarantee that ship traffic is not delayed.
The Three gorges Dam is the largest water conservancy project undertaken by man, and various Chinese officials have dreamed about the project for hundreds of years. It is 2,335 meters wide on the top, and 130 meters wide at the bottom. The views from the top of the dam are stunning, so don’t forget to bring your camera!
You will then arrive in Yichang, where you will be met and taken to the airport by your guide. You will fly on to Shanghai, and when you arrive you’ll be met by your English-speaking guide. For your stay in Shanghai you’ll stay in the 5 star Grand Pacific Hotel.
After a bit of relaxing at the hotel, your first stop on today’s touring will be the Bund, Shanghai’s most famous and recognizable landmark. The Bund is a waterfront embankment and has been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years. It affords marvelous views across the river of the Pudong district and its numerous towers. The most famous and attractive sight which is at the west side of the Bund are the 52 various buildings of different architectural styles including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Renaissance.
Across the river we’ll visit he Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the most distinctive landmark of the Shanghai skyline. From the top of the tower you can get marvelous views of the Bund and the east bank of Shanghai.
Day 10 Shanghai (B, L, D)
Following breakfast, we’ll start our day in Shanghai with a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple. The Jade Buddha Temple is one of the richest and most frequented Buddhist Temples in Shanghai. Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai is an active temple, with 70 resident monks at the last count. The 70 monks who live and work there can sometimes be seen worshiping. inside, the centerpiece is a 1.9-meter-high white jade Buddha, which was installed here after a monk brought it from Burma to Zhejiang Province in 1882. The seated Buddha, encrusted with jewels, is said to weigh about one thousand kilograms. A smaller, reclining Buddha from the same shipment lies on a redwood bed. In the large hall are three gold-plated Buddhas, and other halls house ferocious-looking deities. Artifacts abound, not all on display, and some 7,000 Buddhist sutras line the walls.
Afterward you’ll have a chance to stroll along Yuyuan Garden. Yuyuan Garden is a famed classical garden, and even though it may be small, it contains numerous pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters, and all have unique characteristics. There are six main scenic areas in the garden: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden. Each area features several scenic spots within its borders.
Following a Chinese lunch we’ll cap off our day of touring with a visit to the city premier museum, the Shanghai Museum. The Shanghai Museum is a world famous museum of ancient Chinese art and culture. The exterior design of the round dome and the square base symbolizes the ancient idea of a round heaven and a square land. The museum is divided into eleven galleries and three exhibition halls. The eleven Galleries cover most of the major categories of Chinese art: Ancient Bronze, Ancient Ceramics, Paintings, Calligraphy, Ancient Sculpture, Ancient Jade, Coins, Ming and Qing Furniture, Seals, and Minority Nationalities. The museum is a wonderful primer on ancient Chinese culture, and is a must-see when coming to Shanghai.
In the evening in addition to a splendid dinner if Shanghai cuisine, you’ll be treated to a performance of Chinese acrobatics.
Day 11 depart Shanghai (B)
Following breakfast in the hotel you will be taken to the airport, and you will fly on to your next destination, thus ending your luxury tour with Great Wall Adventure Club.