Essential China

  • Hong Kong
  • China

Bargain in bustling markets, Walk the Great Wall and explore the Forbidden City, stand face-to-face with Terracotta Warriors, visit a panda sanctuary, cruise the Yangtze, bike through Yangshuo's karst landscape

Encounter the essence of China in all its wonderful diversity – climb the Great Wall and stare down the Terracotta Warriors before heading down south on this three-week tour of China's cultural and natural highlights. Rest your gaze on the giant Buddha of Leshan and explore ancient mountainside monasteries at Emei Shan, then float down the world-famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze River before stepping out to experience the vibrant rural life and stunning scenery of Yangshuo. With your accommodation and transport arranged by our expert CEOs, this adventure offers up a great combination of must-see highlights and free time to explore on your own.

was €2,39921 days from €2,159

(€102.81 per day)

Suitable for
All ages
Trip Code
ACEC
Travel Style
Classic
Service Level
Standard
Physical Grading
3 - Average
Trip Type
Small Group
Group Size
Max 16, avg 12
Transport
Train, local bus, air-con bus, boat, walking, bicycle, taxi.
Accommodation
Hotels (10 nights), basic monastery (3 nights), sleeper trains (4 nights), Yangtze boat (3 nights).
Meals
1 lunch
Other
  • Great Wall excursion and entrance (Beijing)
  • Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City guided tour
  • Shanghai Museum entrance
  • View more
    • Xi'an orientation walk
    • Terracotta Warriors excursion and tour
    • Emei Shan entrance
    • Leshan Giant Buddha visit
    • Panda Breeding Center excursion (Chengdu)
    • Yangtze River boat trip through the Three Gorges with tributary excursion
    • Yangshuo countryside bike ride with local lunch (full-day)
    • Border crossing
    • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.
Essential China itinerary
  • Day 1Beijing

    Arrive at any time.

    Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting

    The adventure begins tonight. Feel free to explore before your welcome meeting, but make sure you’re back in time to meet the group. After introductions, your CEO will review the details of your tour. Please note that normal check-in times apply at our start hotels, but you can usually store your luggage for the day if you arrive early.

    accommodation

    Hong Li Yuan Plaza

  • Day 2Beijing

    Head out to discover the wonders of the Great Wall of China.

    Travel north to the Great Wall. One of the most iconic sights in all of China, spend the better part of the day exploring and taking photos, soaking in the atmopshere.

    Private Vehicle

    Drive through the city and countryside to reach the Great Wall's Mutianyu section. Take the same transportation back.

    Great Wall Mutianyu Visit

    Climb the rolling hills of Huairou County at Mutianyu, one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall. Enjoy scenic views as the wall winds along mountain ridges, and take brag-worthy photos of the wall from any of the 22 towers.

    accommodation

    Hong Li Yuan Plaza

    Optional Activities:

    • Cable Car at Great Wall

      The cable car ride is about 5 minutes ride up to tower 14, from where you may walk to the highest point of Mutianyu Great Wall at Tower 23. The walk from ticket check to tower 10 is about 30 minutes.The cable car ride is a good option if you are hoping to save energy to challenge the Tower 23. Return ticket is recommended as you may spend more time on the wall.

    • Toboggan at Great Wall

      Toboggan Station is at Tower 6. The return ticket include a cable car up to Tower 6 and the Toboggan.

      After your hike on the Great Wall, opt to take a Toboggan ride back down instead of the cable car!

  • Day 3Beijing

    Visit the famous Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City before free time to explore.

    Explore the vast expanses of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Use free time to shop in the various markets scattered throughout the city, take a tour of the ancient hutongs (alleyways) in Beijing's old city or visit the Tibetan Monastery.

    Tiananmen Square

    Explore one of the world's largest public squares, home to the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Great Hall of the People.

    Forbidden City Tour

    Our CEO will steer around crowds and help make the most of a visit to the Forbidden City.

    free time

    Set out and explore this capital city.

    accommodation

    Hong Li Yuan Plaza

    Optional Activities:

    • Kung Fu Show - Beijing

      Follow the tale of a young boy on his journey to becoming a kung fu master through six gripping scenes told through traditional Chinese art and live modern dance. (Don’t worry; there are subtitles above the stage). Developed by some of China’s top stage directors and designers, the performance showcases the skills of its talented cast, most of whom are just 17 years old.

  • Day 4Beijing / Shanghai

    Enjoy a free morning before a bullet train ride to Shanghai. Overnight in Shanghai.

    Bullet train

    Relax an enjoy smooth ride at 300km per hour and scenery along the way.

    accommodation

    Kingtown Hotel Hongkou

  • Day 5Shanghai

    Take a walk along the bund before a visit to the world-famous Shanghai Museum. Opt to take in a breathtaking Chinese acrobat performance.

    Take an orientation walk down one of the city’s most famous streets, Nanjing Road, ending at the Shanghai Museum, one of the best in the country.

    Orientation Walk of the Bund

    Take a stroll along the Bund, a main road that follows the Huangpu River, with our CEO. This is a great opportunity to get a layout of the city and figure out what you want to explore next.

    Shanghai Museum

    Visit Shanghai Museum, home to a world-class collection of ancient Chinese art. Tour individual galleries devoted to such items as sculpture, bronze, ceramics, jade, coins, Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture, paintings, and calligraphy. Stop at the gift shop on your way out.

    free time

    Enjoy free time in this bustling city.

    accommodation

    Kingtown Hotel Hongkou

    Optional Activities:

    • Yuyuan Gardens

      Explore this tranquil, 400-year-old, five-acre garden. Climb to the top of the Rockery to see the greenery from above. Check out the Jade Rock and watch the swarms of goldfish swim around in the ponds. With multiple pavilions and halls there’s plenty to see. Depending on when you visit there may be flower shows or tea ceremonies in the area. Opt to visit the bustling bazaar located outside the gardens and hone your bargaining skills.

    • Shanghai Acrobatic Performance

      Enjoy a Chinese acrobatic show with tumbling, balancing and plate-spinning. There are amazing contortionists and high-wire walkers— truly not to be missed!

      Transport to the show takes between 30-40min by taxi.

  • Day 6Shanghai / Xi’an

    Enjoy free time before boarding an overnight train to Xi’an.

    Temples, markets, gardens and colonial enclaves are around every corner. Spend some time exploring the Yuyuan Gardens or the old alleyways.

    free time

    With so much to see and do, make the most of your time in this city.

    Basic overnight train (beds)

    Experience overnight travel like a local. Sit back and get some well-earned (and likely much-needed) rest en route to your next stop.

    Optional Activities:

    • Yuyuan Gardens

      Explore this tranquil, 400-year-old, five-acre garden. Climb to the top of the Rockery to see the greenery from above. Check out the Jade Rock and watch the swarms of goldfish swim around in the ponds. With multiple pavilions and halls there’s plenty to see. Depending on when you visit there may be flower shows or tea ceremonies in the area. Opt to visit the bustling bazaar located outside the gardens and hone your bargaining skills.

  • Day 7Xi’an

    Opt to cycle the ancient city walls or visit the Great Mosque.

    Arrive in Xi'an in the morning and, after checking into the hotel, opt to visit one of Xi’an’s most fascinating areas – the Muslim Quarter. Tour the lovely and unusual Great Mosque, a wonderfully serene place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, bargain at souvenir stalls and enjoy some of the best street food in China. The remaining city walls are a great place to watch the sunset or join the locals for ballroom dancing or tai chi in the early morning.

    free time

    Explore all the city as to offer.

    accommodation

    Guanzhong Hotel

    Optional Activities:

    • Cycling Xi'an City Walls

      Rent a bike and cycle the Xi’an city walls. The walls – built for protection in the Tang Dynasty and expanded in the Ming dynasty –are a great way to absorb local history. Hop off where you like and admire the views as you pedal along the 12m (39 ft) wide wall, which takes about 2 hrs to cycle along.

    • The Great Mosque

      Discover this hidden oasis behind the markets of the Muslim Quarter. Learn about the Great Mosque's centuries-old history, and explore the temples and gardens to see how Chinese and Islamic architecture came together in this place of worship.

    • Big Goose Pagoda Visit

      Head to the outskirts of the city to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a beautiful, brick Buddhist temple. Check out the Music Fountain Square at the base of the leaning pagoda at night to see an amazing light show.

    • Defachang Dumpling Banquet

      Dumpling banquets are a great way to experience the traditional Northern Chinese cuisine. Have a delicious meal trying all the different dumpling flavours.

    • Bell and Drum Towers - Xi'an

      Climb to the top of the Drum Tower for an unforgettable aerial view of the city. Back in the Han Dynasty the towers were used to echo the time to the city with bells in the morning and drums in the evening. Today the 63-ton bell still stands in one tower and drum performances happen daily in the morning and afternoon.

  • Day 8Xi’an

    Full day exploration in Xi'an.


    free time

    Explore all this city has to offer.

    accommodation

    Guanzhong Hotel

    Optional Activities:

    • Cycling Xi'an City Walls

      Rent a bike and cycle the Xi’an city walls. The walls – built for protection in the Tang Dynasty and expanded in the Ming dynasty –are a great way to absorb local history. Hop off where you like and admire the views as you pedal along the 12m (39 ft) wide wall, which takes about 2 hrs to cycle along.

    • The Great Mosque

      Discover this hidden oasis behind the markets of the Muslim Quarter. Learn about the Great Mosque's centuries-old history, and explore the temples and gardens to see how Chinese and Islamic architecture came together in this place of worship.

    • Big Goose Pagoda Visit

      Head to the outskirts of the city to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a beautiful, brick Buddhist temple. Check out the Music Fountain Square at the base of the leaning pagoda at night to see an amazing light show.

    • Defachang Dumpling Banquet

      Dumpling banquets are a great way to experience the traditional Northern Chinese cuisine. Have a delicious meal trying all the different dumpling flavours.

    • Bell and Drum Towers - Xi'an

      Climb to the top of the Drum Tower for an unforgettable aerial view of the city. Back in the Han Dynasty the towers were used to echo the time to the city with bells in the morning and drums in the evening. Today the 63-ton bell still stands in one tower and drum performances happen daily in the morning and afternoon.

  • Day 9Xi’an / Emei Shan

    Visit one of China’s greatest archaeological treasures—the Terracotta Warriors. Later, board an overnight train to Emei Shan.

    Private Vehicle

    Drive out to the Terracotta Warriors site, located about an hour out of the city.

    Terracotta Warriors Guided Tour

    Take a guided tour of the Terracotta Warriors where more than 8,000 clay soldiers and hundreds of replica horses and chariots stand in three pits. Learn why the Emperor Qin Shihuang commissioned the statues to serve as his army in the afterlife and how they were discovered. Spend a half-day exploring this archaeological wonder.

    Basic overnight train (beds)

    Experience overnight travel like a local. Sit back and get some well-earned (and likely much-needed) rest en route to your next stop.

  • Day 10Emei Shan

    Arrive in Emei Shan in the late afternoon and travel to the monastery for an overnight stay. Enjoy an orientation walk and some free time to explore the area.

    Settle in for a stay at the monastery – one of the highlights of the trip! Facilities are basic but the views and the experience will take your breath away.

    Orientation Walk

    Enjoy a brief walk with your CEO. He/she will give you some tips on finding things like supermarkets, main squares, and ATMs. For more specific or in-depth information, an official guided tour is recommended.

    free time

    Get outside and explore the area.

    accommodation

    Baoguo Monastery

    Optional Activities:

    • Tea Plantation Visit - Emei Shan

      Visit a family owned tea plantation near Emei mountain and gain a better understanding of China's tea culture and the locals' traditional way of life.

  • Day 11Emei Shan

    Hike around Emei Shan and learn more about the significance of the area.

    Spend a full day exploring the monasteries, stunning vistas and sites of Mt Emei – one of China's sacred Buddhist peaks.

    Emei Shan Hike

    Lace up your hiking boots for treks around Emei Shan. Continue to explore Mt Emei and the Giant Buddha and learn more about the region.

    accommodation

    Baoguo Monastery

  • Day 12Emei Shan

    Visit Giant Budhha in the morning, optional take a tour visiting local tea farm and one of the region's old villages.

    Leshan Giant Buddha Visit

    See centuries-old Dafo, the largest Buddha in the world, from a number of viewpoints. Opt to board a boat and head out into the Mingjiang River to get an overall view of the statue from afar, and then visit a beautiful forested park. Explore numerous carvings and temples before climbing down the path that travels from the statue’s head to its enormous toes. Be sure to take a break with a cup of tea in one of the teahouses in the park.

    Private Vehicle

    Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

    Private Vehicle

    Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

    accommodation

    Baoguo Monastery

  • Day 13Emei Shan / Chengdu

    Travel by local train to Chengdu. Free exploration in this tea & spice loving city. Enjoy a local Hotpot dinner.

    Private Vehicle

    Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

    Local train

    Climb aboard, take your seat, and get around like the locals do.

    Optional Activities:

    • Wenshu Monastery

      Wenshu Monastery definitely worth a visit during your stay in Chengdu. The monastery was first built in Tang dynasty (618-907). More than 500 pieces of painting and calligraphy by celebrities are stored in this monastery. The exquisite garden and solemn halls are other highlights of this place.

  • Day 14Chengdu / Yangtze River

    See the famous giant pandas up close at the Panda Breeding Centre before boarding a fast train to Chongqing. Later, board the Chinese-style boat and settle in before tomorrow's cruise down the mighty Yangtze River and through the Three Gorges.

    Giant Panda Breeding Center

    Visit the popular pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, created to provide an ideal breeding environment for these endangered creatures. Learn about their life cycle and habitat and take memorable photographs of these iconic national treasures. See a number of other rare species, including the little-known red panda. Arrive in the fall for a chance to see tiny newborn pandas.

    Local train

    Climb aboard, take your seat, and get around like the locals do.

    Chinese-style boat

    Float to your next destination in traditional style.

  • Day 15Yangtze River

    Enjoy the views from the deck and embark on riverside excursions up stunning tributaries and to historic sites.

    Spend two days on board a basic boat traversing through the Three Gorges en route to Yichang. Along the way take the opportunity to visit some of the many attractions and towns.

    There is the opportunity to leave the boat to take an early morning trip down a tributary of the Yangtze River.

    Yangtze River Cruise

    Spend two full days floating down the Yangtze River. The cruise is what you make of it — meet your fellow passengers, spend time reading and relaxing, and take in the spectacular scenery. Opt to take excursions along the way.

    Chinese-style boat

    Float to your next destination in traditional style.

    The cabins are clean, twin-share with private toilet and shower facilities, but not luxurious. There is basic Chinese food available in the restaurant on board.

  • Day 16Yangtze River

    Enjoy the views from the deck and embark on riverside excursions up stunning tributaries and to historic sites.

    Spend two days on board a basic boat traversing through the Three Gorges en route to Yichang. Along the way take the opportunity to visit some of the many attractions and towns.

    There is the opportunity to leave the boat to take an early morning trip down a tributary of the Yangtze River.

    Yangtze River Cruise

    Spend two full days floating down the Yangtze River. The cruise is what you make of it — meet your fellow passengers, spend time reading and relaxing, and take in the spectacular scenery. Opt to take excursions along the way.

    Chinese-style boat

    Float to your next destination in traditional style.

    The cabins are clean, twin-share with private toilet and shower facilities, but not luxurious. There is basic Chinese food available in the restaurant on board.

  • Day 17Yangtze River / Liuzhou

    Disembark in Yichang and board an overnight train to Liuzhou.

    Basic overnight train (beds)

    Experience overnight travel like a local. Sit back and get some well-earned (and likely much-needed) rest en route to your next stop.

  • Day 18Liuzhou / Yangshuo

    Drive to Yangshuo, a backpacker town set amongst the picture-perfect limestone karsts by the Li River. Opt to try a cooking class, practice tai chi or see the Light and Sound show produced by Zhang Yimou.

    Arrive in Liuzhou early in the morning and travel to the small countryside town of Yangshuo, where the Li River winds its way around thousands of limestone karst mountains. Every turn in the road brings you to another picture-postcard sight.

    Here, there are so many activities to choose from— bamboo rafting, rock climbing, hiking, acupuncture and traditional massage, the Light and Sound Show, calligraphy lessons, tai chi, or a countryside cooking class.

    Private Vehicle

    Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

    Orientation Walk

    This backpacker town is full of things to do and see. An orientation walk will get you situated and help you make the most of your time in this idyllic location.

    free time

    Head out and explore.

    Optional Activities:

    • Central Chinese Cooking Class - Yangshuo

      Calling all foodies! Get an inside look at real Chinese food with a tour of the Yangshuo market to learn about the ingredients used in the Yangshuo area. Afterward, learn to cook Chinese food in a traditional Chinese farmhouse in the beautiful countryside just outside Yangshuo. After the cooking class you can sit down and enjoy the delicious dishes you have prepared.

    • Chinese Language Lesson

      Enjoy a lesson in basic Mandarin and practice what you've learned with the locals.

    • Impressions Light Show (Liu San Jie)

      Take in the Light and Sound Show (Liu San Jie), a 1-hr performance that showcases the ethnic diversity of the region and tells the story of 'Third Sister Liu'. See more than 500 singers and dancers, many of whom are local farmers, perform on and around the beautiful Li River against the backdrop of the incredibly illuminated karst mountains. The show usually takes place at 8pm, and is located at the confluence of the Li and Yulong rivers on the outskirts of Yangshuo.

  • Day 19Yangshuo

    Take a full-day bike ride through the surrounding countryside with a local guide to gain insight into rural Chinese life. Enjoy lunch at a local family's home.

    Cycle out over the mostly flat fields to get more of a feel for the region. Ride past rice paddies with water buffalo and stare up at towering limestone karsts. En route, enjoy a delicious local lunch with options like the local beer fish, garlic fried water spinach and stuffed aubergine.

    Yangshuo Guided Cycle Tour

    Follow the guide and cycle over the flat(ish) landscape past rice paddies, local farmers, and water buffalo. Marvel at the limestone karsts and hear the legends of how they came to be.

    Optional Activities:

    • Impressions Light Show (Liu San Jie)

      Take in the Light and Sound Show (Liu San Jie), a 1-hr performance that showcases the ethnic diversity of the region and tells the story of 'Third Sister Liu'. See more than 500 singers and dancers, many of whom are local farmers, perform on and around the beautiful Li River against the backdrop of the incredibly illuminated karst mountains. The show usually takes place at 8pm, and is located at the confluence of the Li and Yulong rivers on the outskirts of Yangshuo.

    Meals Included

    • Lunch
  • Day 20Yangshuo / Hong Kong

    Travel back to Guilin for the fast train to Shenzhen, then cross the border into Hong Kong. Enjoy some free time to explore the city.

    Arrive late morning to Shenzhen, cross the border and catch the metro into the heart of Hong Kong, arriving late afternoon.

    Prepare for the change of pace as you enjoy your last night's dinner in the most dynamic city in Asia. Explore Stanley Market, shop, eat, go to the top of Victoria Peak or take a harbour cruise.

    Private Vehicle

    Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

    Local train

    Climb aboard, take your seat, and get around like the locals do.

    Border Crossing (China - Hong Kong)

    Ready for a little more ink in your passport? Grab your bags and get ready to check another country off your bucket list.

    Metro

    Get around underground via public transit.

    free time

    Start crossing a couple things off your list with some free time this afternoon.

    accommodation

    Pentahotel

  • Day 21Hong Kong

    Depart at any time.

    We highly recommend you book post-accommodation to fully experience this vibrant city.

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Booking conditions

Adventure Tour prices are subject to terms, conditions and availability.

Only 1 tour can be discounted per passenger per reservation booking. If multiple tours are booked the discount will be applied to the most expensive tour booked.