China: Imperial Treasures and Natural Wonders

With the Great Wall’s 13,170 miles, Xian’s 8,000 terra-cotta warriors, the Forbidden City’s 800 palaces, China has a predisposition for grandeur. But the magic of the Middle Kingdom lies in personal encounters, whether it's a rickshaw ride through old Beijing or a tai chi lesson on a riverboat. Get an insider’s take on this country of contrasts, meeting conservationists and archaeologists, navigating karst caves and misty gorges, and exploring the legacy of ancient empires and the futuristic momentum of Shanghai.

 

March 31 - April 15, 2020

A 16-day journey from Beijing to Shanghai

China - Imperial Treasures and Natural Wonders

Day 1 - Arrive Beijing, ChinaArrive in Beijing and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the capital. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
The St. Regis Beijing
Day 2 - BeijingStroll the vast and historic Tiananmen Square and then navigate the 900-some buildings and temples of the Forbidden City before heading to a traditional hutong neighborhood for a rickshaw tour. Delve into imperial Beijing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by gardens. Try tai chi with a master practitioner. Meet with National Geographic grant recipient Boju Zhang from Friends of Nature, China's oldest environmental organization, to hear about his latest conservation efforts in the capital city. Tonight, feast on Peking duck with your fellow travelers.
The St. Regis Beijing (B,L,D)
Day 3 - Great Wall/BeijingStep back in time at the less visited Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, which retains the fortification’s original character.
The St. Regis Beijing (B,L)
Days 4 & 5 - Xi'anRide first-class on the high-speed train to Xi’an, once the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and the capital of China. On a special behind-the-scenes visit to the Institute of Archaeology—normally closed to the public—learn about latest excavations and see the terra-cotta warriors up close. After breakfast the next day, view the legendary terra-cotta army, composed of thousands of soldiers, chariots, and horses that were buried around 210 b.c. at the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Later, walk or ride a bike atop the massive city wall. During free time, browse the maze of markets and sites in the Muslim Quarter.
Sofitel Xi’an on Renmin Square (B,L,D; B,L)
Day 6 - Yichang/Yangtze RiverFly to Yichang, and set out on an afternoon city tour before boarding a luxurious riverboat for a four-night voyage on the Yangtze through the breathtaking Three Gorges region.
Yangzi Explorer (B,L,D)
Days 7 - 9 - Yangtze RiverOn daily excursions, visit the world's largest engineering project at the Three Gorges Dam; venture into narrow tributaries by local sampan boat, taking in gorgeous scenery; in Fuling choose between the 816 Underground Project, the world's largest artificial military cave, or the Baiheliang Underwater Museum. Back on the ship, learn about traditional healing and local crafts, enjoy morning tai chi, and gaze at the dramatic gorges.
Yangzi Explorer (B,L,D daily)
Days 10 - 11 - Chongqing/ChengduDisembark this morning and travel to Chengdu, stopping to visit the Dazu Grottoes, a World Heritage site where centuries-old rock carvings depict Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist themes as well as scenes of ordinary life during the Tang Dynasty. Arrive in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. For dinner tonight, savor a hot pot, a Sichuan favorite. Spend the next day at the Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base overseen by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. We’ll have the chance to prepare meals and feed the pandas, help clean the enclosures, and hear about conservation efforts. Return to Chengdu for dinner.
The St. Regis Chengdu (B,L,D daily)
Day 12- 13 - Guilin/YangshuoDescend into the Reed Flute Cave, a subterranean spectacle of stalactites and stone pillars. Admire the stunning karst landscape on a hike through the countryside. The following day, embark on a cruise down the Li River. Glide beneath limestone pinnacles and terraced rice fields that have inspired Chinese artists for generations, and stop to browse at a local market. Return to Guilin for an evening on your own.
Shangri-La Hotel Guilin (B,L,D; B,L)
Days 14 - 16 - ShanghaiThis morning, fly to bustling Shanghai. Over lunch, meet with conservationist and wildlife photographer Jing Li, a National Geographic grantee working to conserve critically endangered birds in the greater Shanghai area. After lunch, zoom up to the observation deck of China’s tallest building, Shanghai Tower, for a panoramic view of the skyline. This evening, stroll neon-lit Nanjing Road and the historic Bund waterfront. Begin the day meandering among the pavilions, ponds, and zigzag bridges of Yu Garden, Shanghai’s celebrated classical Chinese garden, dating back to 1559. Peruse an intriguing range of antiques and goods at the Old Bazaar. Tonight, toast your Chinese adventure at a local restaurant. The following day, transfer to the airport for your return flight.
Fairmont Peace Hotel (B,L,D; B)