Itinerary: China Heritage Tour
Places Covered: Beijing (4nights) – Xian(2nights) – Shanghai (3nights)– Yangshuo (3nights) – Kunming (2nights) – Lijiang (2nights)- Beijing – Onward Destination
No. of days: 16nights/17days
Days 1: Beijing: Arrive at Beijing International Airport. Check in a hotel. After some relaxation and acclimatization start for some sightseeing in Beijing, a modern and sprawling city situated in north China and also the capital of the country.
Beijing is home to China’s imperial past and also the modernity which has come with the rapid progress of the country. Make a visit to the Forbidden City and explore its historical legacy. Forbidden City, which saw 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911), is the best preserved imperial palace in China. This used to be a palace site and it is interesting to see what different rooms the Chinese emperors used in the past. The buildings, quite similar in style, and gardens are quite amazing.
Return towards the evening. Try out some lovely Chinese cuisines at one of the city restaurants. Overnight in Beijing.
Day 2: Beijing: After breakfast drive some 90km to reach the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. This is supposed to be the best section of the wall as crowds is less here and it boasts of spectacular views. In addition, there is a cable car to go up the Great Wall.
Afterwards stop at a garden restaurant to feast on some lovely Chinese cuisines for the lunch. After finishing the lunch go to visit the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Often regarded as a Taoist Temple, the Temple of Heaven complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The circular Altar mound, Echo Wall, and spectacular Imperial Vault are the highlights of the Temple of Heaven.
Go for dinner to one of Kaorouji’s flat-bottomed boats. This is a unique dining experience where a meal is served aboard a narrow canopied flat-bottom boat. A single oarsman guides the boat in a gentle arc around the man-made lakes Qian Hai and Hou Hai. Up to eight people can dine in a bottom at one time. The entire trip takes roughly two hours. Overnight in Beijing.
Day 3: Beijing: After breakfast leave for a sightseeing tour of Beijing. Go and visit Tiananmen Square
In the afternoon visit the Lama Temple, one of Beijing’s most famous monasteries. Lama Temple, also called Yonghe Lamasery, was earlier an imperial palace, before being converted into a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Afterwards, stroll through the lakes and Hutong alleys of the Back Lakes and explore Beijing’s charming lanes in a rickshaw or bike. Visit a local family who has lived in the Hutongs for generations. They can offer a local perspective of history.
Have a delicious dinner in the evening. Overnight in Beijing.
Day 4: Beijing: After breakfast in the morning start for the Summer Palace. This is an enormous park with pavilions, vividly painted corridors, temples, and lakes surrounded by hills. Originally the royal summer retreat, Summer Palace still makes a nice place to escape the heat of the summer. You can climb the hill or take a scroll in the gardens.
Afterwards, take a large dragon boat tour on Lake Kunming. Enjoy lunch at a charming traditional restaurant.
In the afternoon visit Ming Tombs Scenic Area, some 50km northwest of Beijing. The area has mausoleums of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Spread over an area of over 120 square kilometers, Ming Tombs are the best preserved tombs in China where millions of tourists come every year.
Sacred way at Ming Tombs is also fascinating thing to experience. It starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area.
Take a stroll in the evening. Have dinner in one of the restaurants serving authentic Chinese dishes. Overnight in Beijing.
Days 5: Xi’an: Get up early in the morning and with an early breakfast drive to the airport to catch a flight to Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province in central China. Check into a hotel on arrival in Xi’an.
Start the sightseeing tour of Xi’an by visiting Shanxi History Museum. Later in the day wander through the artist’s quarter, and visit Stele Forest Museum. Take a stroll along the City Wall which gives a good overview of the city. In the evening go out and have dinner at one of the restaurants. Overnight in Xi’an.
Day 6: Xian: Start in the morning and head for Terra-Cotta Warriors, considered one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world. Thousands of life-size, vivid terracotta warriors are built with the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, who united China some 2300 years ago. Horsemen, longbow bearers, archers, and senior officers and generals have all been positioned in a grand ancient army formation.
In the afternoon go on to visit the Great Mosque located in the center of the city. The mosque, built in the 8th century, is the largest and one of the most important Islamic places of worship in China.
In the evening enjoy an alfresco dinner of kababs in the Muslim markets. Overnight in Xian.
Days 7: Xian – Shanghai: After breakfast in the morning, visit Big Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist pagoda built in 652 during the Tang dynasty. The pagoda, which had originally five stories, has been rebuilt and renovated later by different rulers. The pagoda’s main function was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang, better known as HsuanTsang in India.
Take an afternoon to Shanghai, biggest city of China which has emerged as a global financial center. Check into a hotel on arrival. Afterwards, visit the beautiful Jade Buddha, which is notable for statues of the four heavenly kings and two Shakyamuni sculptures. Carved from white jade, one of these impressive statues stands nearly two meters high in the Wentang Main hall, where a collection of Buddhist manuscripts is also kept.
In the evening go for Shanghai Acrobatics, a two-hour show held every evening. Enjoy gravity-defying contortionism, juggling, chair-stacking, and plate-spinning acts performed on the stage. Have a nice dinner at one of the city restaurants. Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 8: Shanghai: Start a full day sightseeing tour of Shanghai after a nice breakfast at the hotel. First destination is Shanghai Museum, China’s most important museum of classical Chinese art. The four floors of museum have impressive displays of bronzes and ceramics from prehistoric cultures to the 19th Century, ink drawings, calligraphy and seals, as well as large collections of art from ethnic Chinese minorities. It has also a large collection of jade, coins and furnishings from the Ming and Qing periods.
Afterwards, visit Yu Garden (Yù Yuán), also known as the Garden of Happiness. Spread over more than five acres, the garden has an inner and an outer section. Wander around the garden and do some souvenir shopping in the surrounding bazaar. Have a look at the floating tea house and enjoy green tea.
Towards the evening go for a stroll on the Shanghai Promenade, known more by the name Bund. The promenade runs along the west bank of the Huangpujiang River and has retained a European feel. The Bund is a great place to embark upon a sightseeing tour on a boat around the port and the confluence of the Huangpujiang and Yangtze rivers.
Have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants on the Bund. Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 9: Shanghai: Start the day by visiting former French Concession area of Shanghai, now referred to as Tianzifang. This has been transformed from a residential area into a fascinating arts and crafts destination. The character of this old European district has been carefully preserved in its architecture and layout, with numerous small laneways and alleys. It has many small galleries and craft shops rather than the bigger stores found elsewhere in the city. It also has several shopping opportunities.
Explore some shopping at Xintiandi, an affluent pedestrian zone that retains some of the ambience of the old city. Or else, you can go on to explore shopping at Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s principal shopping street. Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 10: Yangshuo: Start the day after breakfast and transfer to the airport. Catch the flight to Guilin, a relatively small city in northeast Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Arrive in Guilin and transfer to Yangshuo, one of the loveliest rural areas of the country. Check into a resort.
Visit the town area where there are numerous cafes and restaurants. Many of these are run by people from different countries. You can gaze at the karst landscape with hundreds upon hundreds of limestone hills of various sizes dotting the countryside. All of these are all along the Li River that winds across the town. The most popular hills among the tourists have been the Green Lotus Peak (Bilian Peak) and the Shutong Hill (Schoolboy Hill).
If you are interested in some walking you can go up the Antenna Hill, the karst pinnacle overlooking the town. A spectacular view of Yangshuo waits for you at the top.
Have dinner at one of the restaurants. Overnight in Yangshuo.
Day 11: Yangshuo: Go on a full day boat tour of Yangshuo. Go for a boat ride in the Yangdi-Xingping scenic area, a stretch along the Li River regarded as the most beautiful by many and this explains the reason for its popularity among the tourists. However, if boat and river makes you a bit wary, better opt for an easy hike of 24km (5 to 6 hours) on a laid track along the Li River. This track goes past several farms.
Towards the late afternoon you can go for a Chinese cooking class in the town. Have a nice dinner. Overnight in Yangshuo.
Day 12: Yangshuo: There are a number of activities you can indulge in Yangshuo. A bike tour in the countryside is definitely worth trying. This will take you past the local villages with people working in paddy fields, and opportunities to taste local fruits directly from the plants.
You can cycle up to the Moon Hill, a huge piece of rock with a moon-shaped hole, which is considered a highlight of Yangshuo’s countryside. The 800 marble stairs called “Appreciating Moon Path” can lead you to the top of the hill. You can also try hands on rock climbing at Moon Hill. There are as many as 14 rock climbing routes on the north-west side of Moon Hill.
If you want some more of river instead of Moon Hill, you can go to Yulong River Valley, a valley which can easily rival Yangdi-Xingping stretch in beauty. You can raft down the river on bamboo rafts. If you want to cycle, you can see the valley by cycling along riverside tracks.
Have a nice diner in the evening at one of the many restaurants in the town. Overnight in Yangshuo.
Day 13: Kunming: Check out after an early breakfast. Drive to Guilin Airport to catch a flight to Kunming. Transfer to the hotel on arrival at the Kunming Airport.
After lunch go for some sightseeing in the city. This is mainly to acclimatize to the conditions of Kunming, specially coming from an area of sublime beauty like Yangshuo. Visit Kunming Flowers and Birds Market, a public spot for leisure, shopping, and trading. You can see shops and stalls of various kinds featuring flowers, birds and fish.
Afterwards visit The Bamboo Temple, situated on Yu’an Mountain to the northwest of Kunming. This was established initially during the Yuan dynasty and was the first temple dedicated to Zen Buddhism in Yunnan.
Return to the hotel, have lunch and enjoy a well deserved peaceful overnight sleep.
Day 14: Kunming: Start in the morning on a drive of 90km towards southeast of Kunming to reach the Stone Forest, often referred to as Shilin by the Chinese people. This is an area of limestone formation in different shapes. Spread over an area of over 500 square kilomter, the Stone Forest is a must visit place for all kinds of visitors. The whole area, formed over millions of years ago, is divided into seven parts. Two of these parts – the Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village – have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Stone Forest area is home to Naxi people, who are known for their colorful embroidery and dance form. Explore these on the tour and have a nice lunch in a restaurant with Stone Park in the backdrop.
In the afternoon, after you transfer back to Kunming, go and visit Yuantong Temple, the largest and most ancient Buddhist temple in Kunming.
Have a nice dinner and a stroll before heading to the hotel. Overnight in Kunming.
Days 15: Lijiang: Start early in the morning and drive to the airport to catch a flight to Lijiang, a city in the northwest of Yunnan province. Lijiang is famous for its Old Town, a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Transfer to your hotel on arrival in Lijiang. Have a quick breakfast and leave for Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. For this you will have to take a cable car. There is a glacier park up above the mountain which you can see climbing the stairs. Make sure you have a wind barrier and if breathing can be a problem at high altitudes, better hire oxygen canisters. If interested, after the visit to Glacier Park, you can visit Blue Moon Valley. There are about six lovely blue lakes and a lovely path is available for one to walk round all the lakes.
One can also visit Yak Meadows. Also make a point to see Impression Lijiang Show. There are shows at 9am, 11am and 2pm.
Try some traditional Naxi cuisine in the evening. Overnight in Lijiang.
Day 16: Lijiang: After breakfast set out for exploring the enchanting Old Town of Lijiang. Best way to do is on a bicycle.
Located at an altitude of 7,874 feet above the sea level on a plateau, Lijiang is spread in an area of 3.8 square kilometers. It is surrounded by tree-covered Lion Mountain in the west, Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the north, vast fertile fields in the southeast and crystal clear water keeps running through the town. The buildings in Lijiang have been constructed in its own unique Naxi style, which, in turn, has emerged merging the architectural styles of Han, Bai, and Tibet.
Naxi people, who pay much attention to the decoration, have built their houses close and they are all diverse. The lanes in the Old City are narrow and meandering. The center of the Old Town is the Square Street, or Sifangjie in Chinese. Four main streets radiate from Square Street and extend to the four different directions. A number of lanes extending in all directions form a network and connect every corner of the town. Streets are paved by all weather local bluestones.
Practical use of water is a part of the daily life of the residents in the old Town. This is demonstarted by the way they use the sluice at the center of the Old Town. This is opened late in the night and the resulting current of water flushes and washes all the streets to keep the town clean.
Nightlife in the Old Town is also special and colorful. You can see a unique mix of tradition and modern fashion sense on the streets of Old Town. Naxi music and dance shows are performed in several theaters and bars and cafes.
Authentic Naxi Cuisine should not be missed and you have it in your lunch as well as in your dinner. Overnight in Lijiang.
Day 17: Lijiang – Beijing – Onward Destination: After breakfast, do some souvenir shopping and enjoy some more of Naxi Cuisines. Drive to Lijiang Airport early in the afternoon. Take a flight to Beijing (or Shanghai) from where you can take connecting international flight for your desired destination.