Essential China
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Until Dec 18

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 Chief Experience Officers, this adventure offers up a great combination of must-see highlights and free time to explore on your own.

  • Duration: 21 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of:
  • Physical rating: Average
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Supplier Tour ID: ACEC.A/230946
  • Starts: Beijing, China
  • Finishes: Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Age requirement: 12 +
You will Visit
  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Xi'an
  • Emei Shan
  • Chengdu
  • Yangtze River
  • Liuzhou
  • Yangshuo
  • Hong Kong



Day 1: Beijing

Arrive at any time.


Day 2: Beijing

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.


Day 3: Beijing

Explore bustling Beijing including the famous Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City.
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.


Day 4: Beijing/Shanghai

Enjoy a free morning before catching a bullet train to vibrant Shanghai.


Day 5: Shanghai

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.


Day 6: Shanghai/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.


Day 7: Xi'an

Arrive early and opt to cycle along 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.


Day 8: Xi'an

Enjoy a full free day to explore in and around Xi'an. Opt to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a beautiful, brick Buddhist temple.


Day 9: Xi'an/Emei Shan

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


Day 10: Emei 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.


Day 11: Emei Shan

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


Day 12: Emei Shan

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


Day 13: Emei Shan/Chengdu

Travel by local train to Chengdu. Free exploration in this tea & spice loving city. Enjoy a local Hotpot dinner.
Hotpot is a very local way to have a meal. We sit around a table with a pot built in the middle – the pot is divided into 2 halves (spicy vs. non-spicy usually). The restaurants flavoured soup is added and brought to a boil, then we can start adding our food in the pot to cook ( including vegetable, meat or fish). The table also offers various sorts of herbs, spices, oil etc so you can make your own soup to taste.


Day 14: Chengdu/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.


Day 15: Yangtze 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.


Day 16: Yangtze 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.


Day 17: Yangtze River/Liuzhou

Disembark in Yichang and board an overnight train to Liuzhou.


Day 18: Liuzhou/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.


Day 19: Yangshuo

Take a full-day bike ride through the surrounding countryside 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 garlic fried water spinach and stuffed aubergine.


Day 20: Yangshuo/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.


Day 21: Hong Kong

Depart at any time.

    • Your Discover Moment: Shanghai
    • Great Wall excursion
    • Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City guided tour
    • Shanghai Museum entrance
    • Xi'an orientation walk
    • Terracotta Warriors excursion
    • Emei Shan entrance
    • Leshan Giant Buddha visit
    • Panda Breeding Center excursion
    • Yangtze River boat trip through the Three Gorges with tributary excursion
    • Yangshuo countryside bike ride with local lunch
    • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities
    • Hotels (11 nts), basic monastery (3 nts), sleeper trains (3 nts), Yangtze boat (3 nts)
    • 1 lunch, 1 dinner
    • Train, local bus, air-conditioned bus, boat, walking, bicycle, taxi
    Group Leader
    • English-speaking Chinese Chief Experience Officer (CEO) throughout, local guides
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Tour Highlights:
  • 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
  • Explore Yangshuo's stunning karst landscape