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Central China explorer

Beijing - Datong - Wutaishan - Taiyuan - Pingyao - Yuncheng - Luoyang - Zhengzhou


North central China, in the provinces of Shanxi and Henan, was one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, at the centre of trade routes and of strategic importance. As a consequence it acquired a rich inheritance of historical and religious sites. By-passed in more recent times, the area is now revealing the wealth of its historical and architectural treasures to give a flavour of the glories of the past.

An escorted tour with your own English-speaking guides and car and driver, using mostly 4- and 5-star hotels.

Day 1  Depart London Heathrow

Day 2  Arrive Beijing. Met on arrival and transfer to 5-star hotel.

Day 3   Travel by train westwards to the city of Datong, in Shanxi province, through the sparse, dusty landscape of the loess plateau. Transfer to 4-star hotel. (B)

Day 4  Visit to the grandiose Yungang Caves just outside Datong, a series of Buddhist grottoes carved from a cliff around AD 400 and one of the treasures of Chinese art and sculpture, before travelling on to the dramatic Hanging Temple of Hengshan, perched halfway up on the side of a sheer cliff. Return to Datong. (B, L)

Day 5  Drive via the impressive wooden pagoda of Yinxian to Wutaishan, one of the four holy mountains of Chinese Buddhism and home to a rich medley of historic temples. (B)

Day 6  Visit some of Wutaishan's evocative temples before continung across the mountains to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province.

Day 7  Visit the Jinci Temple in Taiyuan before travelling by road to the small town of Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage site. En route stop at the noted for its statuary, and Qiao family mansion, once the home of a wealthy merchant family and used in Zhang Yimou's film Raise the Red Lantern. On arrival at Pingyao stay at one of the guesthouses created from original houses inside the walls and furnished in antique style such as the Dejuyuan Inn or Changyifeng Inn. (B)

Day 8  Explore Pingyao, whose massive and complete town walls encompass a maze of narrow streets lined with Qing dynasty shops and houses. Visit China's first bank, and the Yamen, the office of the city magistrate.

Day 9  Head out of the town to visit the Shuaglin Temple, noted for its statuary, before travelling southwards to Yuncheng stopping en route at the Guangsheng Temple, noted for its multi-coloured glazed tile pagoda and murals dating from the 13th century.

Day 10  Visit the 'iron bulls' of Yuncheng, cast over 1,300 years ago, once the anchors for a pontoon bridge across the Yellow River, before travelling on to Luoyang, once an imperial capital. (B)

Day 11  Excursion to the Longmen Grottoes, where tens of thousands of images of Buddha and his disciples carved into caves and cliffs in the 6th to 10th centuries AD form one of the masterpeices of Chinese art (B)

Day 12  Visit to the world famous Shaolin Temple, centre of the martial art of kung fu, followed by the Kangbaiwan Manor, the huge walled compound of a wealthy feudal family dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. Continue to Zhengzhou for overnight stay. (B, L)

Day 13  Transfer to railway station for high-speed bullet train to Beijing. Transfer to your hotel. (B)

Day 14  Transfer to airport for flight back to UK, arriving later the same day (B)