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The Grand Tour

Beijing - Xi'an - Guilin - Longji - Chengdu - Chongqing - Yangtze River cruise - Tongli - Shanghai

Longji rice terraces

Guaranteed departure dates with minimum of 2 passengers

A comprehensive tour of China with a 5-star Yangtze cruise and including the Great Wall, Terracotta Army and giant pandas but also seeking to give a broad picture of different aspects of China today, from busy modern cities to rural ethnic minority areas. Optional extension to Hong Kong.

A select group tour based on 4- and 5-star hotels and 5-star Yangtze cruise boat, with most meals included and with cultural evening shows. All cabins on the boat have private balconies.

Hotels awarded TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence.

Day 1  Depart London Heathrow or regional airports.

Day 2  Arrive Beijing. Met on arrival and transfer to the Holiday Inn Express Dongzhimen, popular with westerners, or similar. Rest of the day free.

Day 3  Start the day with a visit to Tiananmen Square, followed by the Forbidden City - the complex of buildings in the heart of Beijing that was the centre of power for China's rulers for over 400 years. Explore both the grand halls and some of the smaller rooms and courtyards that housed the imperial family. Then visit the imposing Temple of Heaven where emperors prayed for good harvests. Also visit a shop selling freshwater pearls. In the evening enjoy the warm atmosphere of a welcome dinner featuring that delicious local delicacy Peking duck. (B, L, D)

Day 4  Full day excursion to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, about 1.5 hours drive north of Beijing. The wall here is not so busy at some other sections and is very scenic as its winds its way down the mountainside. Includes cable car up to the wall. Walk along part of the wall and explore the many fascinating aspects of this iconic symbol of China's past. En route to the wall pass the 2008 Olympic stadium, known as the 'Bird's Nest' and the 'Water Cube' - the national aquatic centre. Also visit a workshop carving items from jade, a stone of special significance to the Chinese. After dinner enjoy a colourful and energetic kung fu show displaying martial arts. (B, L, D)

Day 5  Visit to the beautiful gardens and pavilions of the Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing, where emperors relaxed away from the summer heat of the capital, before transfer to railway station for high-speed 'bullet train' to Xi'an, capital of China for many centuries. Transfer to the 4- to 5-star Holiday Inn Big Wild Goose Pagoda Hotel or similar. (B, L)

Day 6  Full day excursion to the Terracotta Army, created by China's first emperor over 2,000 years ago to guard his tomb for eternity. Return to Xi'an city to see the Grand Mosque and the atmospheric streets of the surrounding Muslim Quarter, originally settled by Arab and Persian traders over 1,000 years ago. Also visit a workshop creating replica warriors using traditional techniques. Enjoy a 'Tang Dynasty' music and dance show in the evening evoking the sights and sounds of old China, together with a delicious speciality dumpling dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 7  In the morning visit Xi'an's impressive medieval city wall, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda , and the rich archaeological collections of the Shaanxi Historical Museum before transfer to airport for flight to Guilin, in the south-east of the country noted for its stunning scenery reminiscient of Chinese painting. Transfer to 4-/5-star Grand Lijiang Waterfall Hotel, or similar. (B, L)

Day 8  Cruise on the Li River to the small riverside town of Yangshuo, past beautiful scenery of limestone peaks and flat rice paddy fields. Browse Yangshuo's shops and market before transfer back to Guilin by road in the afternoon. (B, L)

Day 9  Excursion into the hills northwest of Guilin, home to ethnic minority hilltribe groups such as the Yao and Zhuang who have their own distinctive culture and customs. Experience rural China with visits to local villages with their dramatic wooden houses. Explore the impressive terraced rice fields of Longji, or the Dragon's Backbone, created by Zhuang farmers. Overnight at guesthouse in Ping An village (simple accommodation, walking uphill required - may not be suitable for those with difficulty walking. Take an overnight bag, leaving suitcases at hotel in Guilin) (B, L, D)

Day 10  After breakfast transfer back to Guilin for flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Transfer to 4-star Yinhe Dynasty Hotel or similar. (B, L)

Day 11  Full day excursion to the imposing Giant Buddha at Leshan, one of the world's largest Buddha statues carved from a cliff overlooking the Min River in the 8th century AD, a feat that took 90 years to complete. On the return journey to Chengdu stop at Huanglongxi, a well-preserved old town with cobbled streets, wooden houses and shops giving an authentic taste of history. (B, L)

Day 12  Excursion to the Panda Research Base on the outskirts of Chengdu dedicated to conserving this endangered species where many pandas are kept in semi-naturalistic surroundings and which runs a successful breeding programme. After lunch, transfer to railway station to join your high-speed train to whisk you through the countryside on the two-hour journey to Chongqing. On arrival, transfer to join your 5-star deluxe Yangtze River cruise boat from American Victoria Cruises for departure later that evening (B, L)

Day 13 to 14  Yangtze River cruise downstream through the dramatic Three Gorges, including shore excursion to the wooden pagoda of Shibaozhai and trip in small boats through the smaller gorges of the Goddess Stream, one of the Yangtze's tributaries. (B, L, D)

Day 15  Yangtze River cruise, including shore excursion to the mighty Three Gorges Dam. Arrive Yichang around lunchtime and disembark. Transfer to airport for flight to Shanghai, the economic powerhouse of modern China. Met on arrival and transfer 5-star Sunrise on the Bund Hotel or similar (B)

Day 16  Day excursion to the 'water town' of Tongli with its old houses and canals typical of small towns of the Yangtze delta region. Visit the beautiful Tuisi Garden, created by a retired official in the 19th century, and take a boat trip on the town's maze of canals. Return to Shanghai. (B, L)

Day 17  Full day city sightseeing tour of Shanghai, to include the Yu Garden - a traditional house and garden in old China town district; the famous Bund or waterfront with its European-style former banks and trading houses; and the Shanghai Museum with its rich collection of art and antiques. Then take a boat trip on the Huangpu River that flows through Shanghai, giving you the best view of the city's modern striking skyline. (B, L)

Day 18  Free day at leisure in Shanghai. (B)

Day 19  Transfer to airport for flight back to UK, arriving later the same day. (B)

EXTENSION TO HONG KONG - please ask for prices

Day 19 Transfer to airport for flight to Hong Kong and transfer to your 4- or 5-star hotel in Kowloon. (B, L)

Day 20  Half day tour of Hong Kong, to include Victoria Peak and Aberdeen Harbour. Afternoon free. (B)

Day 21  Transfer to airport for flight back to UK, arriving later the same day or early the following morning depending on airline schedules. (B)


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