Discover a land so filled with contrasts that every visit, every destination, every encounter is a chance to be surprised and intrigued. China is a country of seemingly limitless possibilities. The place that invented fireworks and umbrellas, kites and the abacus continues to astound visitors with constant invention and reinvention. Here modernity and tradition intertwine and produce stunning architecture, succulent cuisine, and fascinating cultural expressions. Progress and conservation also seek some sort of harmony, particularly when it comes to protecting and fostering future generations of that most adorable icon of China—the giant panda. In this country the span of centuries—indeed millennia—finds expression in wonders big and small, from the Great Wall to unexpected temples in hidden corners and quiet moments of contemplation in placid parks. China is a land of contrasts, and that is what makes it so alluring.
Slightly Active. May involve some walking and climbing.
China is characterized by a continental climate, and the climate differs from region to region because of the country’s extensive territory and complex topography (latitudes span nearly 50 degrees). Most parts of China have a clear division be-tween seasons. In winter, northerly winds from high latitude areas keep the northern part cold and dry, while in summer, monsoons from southern coastal areas bring warmth and moisture. The rainy season runs from May through August and typhoons frequently occur in the southeast coast between July and September. Consequently, China is best visited in the Spring and Fall, avoiding the sweltering heat and monsoons, as well as the winter cold.
Fly to Beijing, arriving next day, where you will be escorted to your hotel located near historic sites. BEIJING CROWNE PLAZA WANGFUJING HOTEL. (Meals Aloft)
Wear comfortable walking shoes today as your tour will cover some of the largest historical areas in the world. (Early risers will have the opportunity to view the guard of honor raise the Five Star Red Flag of China so it may fly high in the sky above Tiananmen Square.) Begin your journey at Tiananmen Square, one of world’s largest public squares. While here you will also see the Monument of the People’s Heroes and the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where Chairman Mao’s body lies in a crystal coffin. Enter the Forbidden City, a World Heritage Site, which is a resplendent repository of artifacts and architecture of Imperial China. In the afternoon, explore the Temple of Heaven and experience the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which was believed to be the exact point where Heaven and Earth meet. Tonight is free to enjoy one of the many exciting dining options either at or near your hotel. BEIJING CROWNE PLAZA WANGFUJING HOTEL. (B,L)
This morning visit the Summer Palace, a magnificent integration of natural and manmade features of astonishing esthetic impact. Set upon 726-acres of beautifully landscaped gardens – almost 75% is covered by lakes – 3,000 majestic structures reside on the grounds, including pavilions, towers, bridges and corridors. The quintessential Chinese garden, it is ranked as one of the most noted and classical gardens of the world. Continue to a cloisonné factory to see how this traditional art has developed for over 500 years. Then venture off the beaten path and see the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which crawls along the spine of high craggy peaks. The use of a cable car is required to reach the lofty fortifications. A traditional favorite is on the menu tonight at Xiheyaju Restaurant – Peking Duck. BEIJING CROWNE PLAZA WANGFUJING HOTEL. (B,L,D)
Travel back in time by pedi cab on a tour to the labyrinth of traditional hutongs (alleys) in old Beijing. Lunch will be hosted by a local family. Then, take a flight to Xian, the seat of power for four dynasties and the beginning of the Silk Road. See the ancient fortifications before enjoying a delicious dinner of authentic dumplings. In the morning, march to see the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses where an estimated 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses were buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Observe the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and enjoy dinner and a show at the Tang Dynasty Theater. By combining poetry with the skilled playing of musical instruments, singing, dancing and also stunning costumes, you’ll have an impressive view of ancient China including its splendid history, brilliant arts, distinct traditions and customs. XIAN HILTON HOTEL. (B,L; B,L,D)
Fly to Chengdu then drive to Bifengxia Panda Center, the base of China’s efforts to preserve the giant panda. Currently, there are fewer than 1,400 pandas left in the wild and 80% were located in the Sichuan province. After the earthquake in Wolong in 2008, Bifengxia has become the base of China’s giant panda protection and plays a vital role in the destiny of the endangered species. The name bifengxia means green peak canyon and it is within this lush landscape of rolling hills that research is carried out at the science facility which you will visit to learn about the pandas, and also see these lovable animals. THE HONGZHU HOTEL. (B,L Daily)
Return to Chengdu in the morning stopping along the way to view the Leshan Buddha from the river below. Arise the next morning and make your way to the Panda Breeding Research Center, home to the giant panda as well as endangered red panda. On a tour of the facility, learn about the Center’s conservation and breeding efforts. Enjoy a wonderful lunch and afterward learn about the 2200-year-old Dujiangyan Irrigation System that is still in use today. Chengdu is famous for its glorious silk brocades and fine silk embroidery and you’ll visit a Brocade museum and the old town of Jinli. Tonight travel to the historic Shu Feng Ya Yun tea house for a night of Sichuan Opera, the oldest form of local opera dating back to the Ming dynasty. CHENGDU SHERATON LIDO HOTEL. (B,L,D; B,L)
Return to Beijing today and connect with your flight home. Bid farewell to this mysterious land and take with you the fondest memories of the wonders you’ve experienced. (B, Meals Aloft)/p>
Fly to the beautiful city of Guilin and visit the geologically unique Elephant Trunk and Fubo Hill, as well as cast your eyes upon the ornate Ming era Puxian Pagoda. Then foray into Ping An to see its wedding cake tiered rice terraces, to enjoy traditional food favorites and experience the grace of communities that dress and practice ancient traditions of their ancestors. Perhaps one of the most scenic rides awaits you next as you take a river boat down the winding course of the Li River to absorb the mystical beauty of its pinnacled peaks bedecked in skirts of bamboo forest. Disembark in quaint Yangshuo, then push on to Moon Hill and climb its 800 steps to Crescent Cave with its spectacular views. Enjoy the Yinxiang Liusanjie outdoor show created by Yimo Zhang, the chief director for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Return to Guilin and fly to Shanghai where you experience the serene beauty of the Ming Dynasty era Yuyan Garden, a place of quiet respite amid the mercurial flow of Shanghai. From the Shanghai Museum to Nanjing Road to The Bund, you’re sure to be captivated by the largest city in China.
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