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Harbin - Changchun - Yanji - Changbai Shan - Shenyang - Dalian

Heavenly Pool, Changbai Shan

The northeast of China, with plains, forests and mountains stretching towards the borders with Russia and Korea, is a land of extremes. Hot in summer and very cold in winter, it nevertheless provides much of interest to the visitor, both in terms of scenery such as the wild and spectacular Changbai Shan mountain range on the North Korean border, and historic interest from reminders of its turbulent past. Communities of Manchu and Koreans, among other minorities, add to the exotic flavour. Winter brings the chance to ski and other winter sports, plus Harbin's famous Snow and Ice festival.

Day 1  Arrive Harbin, the capital of China's northernmost province of Heilongjiang. Harbin was in the past the centre of Russian influence in China and still has a strong Russian flavour.(B)

Day 2  Tour of the city, including the main street, lined with old colonial buildings, the former Orthodox Cathedral of St Sophia, and Sun Island, in the middle of the Songhua River.(B, L)

Day 3  Free day in Harbin. Explore the streets, perhaps discovering Russian-style cuisine, the old Jewish synagogue, or enjoying the winter Ice and Snow Festival or the summer Music Festival if you are there at the right time of year. (B)

Day 4  Transfer to railway station for high-speed "bullet train" to Changchun (journey time 1 hour). Visit to the 'Puppet Emperor's Palace', the residence of China's last emperor Puyi after he was installed by the Japanese as emperor of their client state of Manchukuo in 1932 until its overthrow in 1945. (B, L)

Day 5  Changchun is also well-known today for its film and TV studio, known in some circles as the "Chinese Hollywood", and a tour of the studio is included. Transfer to airport for flight to Yanji. (B, L)

Day 6 and 7  Travel by car to the Changbai Shan nature reserve. This superb wilderness area runs along the China-North Korea border and boasts high mountains, alpine tundra, waterfalls and dense forests. The highlight is Tian Chi (Heaven Pool), a deep volcanic crater lake surrounded by high peaks. (B, L)

Day 13  Return to Yanji and fly to Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province and known in the past as Mukden. (B)

Day 14  Shenyang contains China's 'other' Forbidden City, built by the area's Manchu rulers in the early 16th century as a replica of Beijing's palace before they invaded China and ruled as the Qing dynasty. Also visit the North Tomb, the impressive tomb of Abahai, built in 1643. (B, L)

Day 15  Travel by train to Dalian, the region's only ice-free port, now a rich and thriving city due to its status as a special economic zone. Rest of the day free. (B)

Day 16  City tour of Dalian, including Xinghai Park with its modern aquarium. (B, L)

Day 17  Day tour to Lushan (security regulations permitting), formerly known in the colonial era as Port Arthur. Once Russian, then seized by the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, the highlights of the visit include the naval port, remains of the powerful coastal gun batteries on the hills overlooking the town, and the Japanese-Russian jail, once used by the occupying powers to jail opponents and dissidents. (B, L)

Day 18  Free day to explore Dalian, or relax on one of its beaches. (B)

Day 19  Transfer to airport or railway station for your onward journey. (B)