Itinerary: China Nature Tour
Places Covered: Beijing (3nights) – Lijiang (2nights) – Zhongdian (2nights) – Shanghai (3nights) – Zhujiajiao – Onward Destination
No. of Days: 10nights/11days
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. Start with 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.
Go and visit Tiananmen Square. If you are willing to go around some more, then go on to visit 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: Lijiang: Early in the morning drive to the airport to catch flight to Lijiang. Transfer to the hotel on arrival. After acclimatizing with the new surrounding start sightseeing tour of Lijiang, a city in the northwest of Yunnan province.
First of all visit Black Dragon Pool, whose park contains several exhibitions about the local inhabitants, the Naxi people, one of the ethnic minorities of China. First of all head to the Dongba Culture Research Institute, which shows how Naxis have preserved their 1,400-year-old heritage. Explore Five-Phoenix Pavilions, the 16th century architectural treasures. Be in time at the Lijiang Municipal Museum to see Naxi Dongba Culture Exhibition where you can see displays devoted to the ancient manuscripts, costumes, rituals, instruments, and houses of the Naxi.
Have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the Old Town. Overnight in Lijiang.
Day 5: Lijiang: Start the full day tour of the Old Town, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First stop should be the vegetable market and then take a stroll through the residential areas. You can see people engaged in day to day chores. Climb to Wang Gu Lou Pagoda and take a good view of the Old Town and the peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. While descending down Wang Gu Lou Pagoda come visiting Mu Family Palace, a replica of the palace of Lijiang’s rulers from the Ming period. Also visit Nature Conservancy’s Exhibition Center, where you can see the conservancy’s work in rural Yunnan Province.
Have lunch at one of the restaurants and head to explore villages nearby Lijiang. You can see and interact with Naxi farmers living in their stone house in these villages.
Go and watch the performance of the Naxi musicians in Naxi Orchestra. There are 24 musicians in the orchestra who play melodies on ancient stringed instruments. This is something you cannot find elsewhere in China. Have dinner at one of the restaurants. Overnight in Lijiang.
Day 6: Zhongdian: After breakfast start from Lijiang for Zhongdian, a drive of around four hours. You will get plenty of photo opportunities on the way in terms of natural wonders.
On the way stop at Yangtze River near Shigu Village and see Red Army Memorial, which is a statue of a soldier and a Naxi farmer. This was built to commemorate the winter crossing of the Yangtze by 20,000 Red Army soldiers at the start of the Long March in 1934.
Continue your drive to Zhongdian, which is located at 10,500 feet. Ward off altitude sickness by drinking plenty of water during the ride. Check into a hotel on arrival in Zhongdian. Acclimatize yourself with the place.
Try some ginger tea and take a visit to Songzanlin Monastery, Zhongdian’s most famous monument. Have dinner at a restaurant. Overnight in Zhongdian.
Day 7: Zhongdian: After breakfast start a full day sightseeing tour of Zhongdian, which is referred to as Gyalthang (pronounced gehl-tung) by the locals. There are three rivers running parallel to each other. These are Mekong, Salween, and Yangtze. The town is also set amid a stunning landscape of tranquil lakes surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Together all these have made it possible for Zhongdian to be on the list of UNESCO Natural Heritage Sites.
Visit the New Town vegetable market. You can see Khampa Tibetans in their traditional attire and some Buddhist monks in the market buying necessary items. Next visit the Tibetan-style Old Town where you can see a number of shops selling different items. Take a look at Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Museum where you can know more about Tibetan minorities.
Have lunch at one of the restaurants. Later in the afternoon drive to Nixi town to see artisans at Tibetan Black Pottery Workshop working on clay with their hands and wooden tools. Visit Five Wisdom Buddha Temple afterwards. This is located in Ringha village – a village also known for growing medicinal herbs.
You can visit a traditional Tibetan farmhouse and have tea, if you want. If you are interested you can get an herbal massage at one of the traditional spas. Return to the town and have your dinner. After dinner witness the wonderful Tibetan dance, performed by the local men and women. You can also join in if you so want.
Overnight in Zhongdian.
Day 8: Fly to Shanghai: Catch the 8:35 a.m. flight out of Zhongdian that gets you into Shanghai at 1:10 pm. Transfer to the hotel. Have lunch and take some rest.
Late in the afternoon, visit Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront promenade. This is a testimony to both past and the future of this city. On one side of Huangpu River you can see former banks and trading houses from the 1920s and ’30s, and other side of the River you can see the space-age skyline of Pudong—the city’s plush and modern day financial district.
Visit Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s best shopping destination, in the evening. Have dinner at one of the several restaurants on the Bund. Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 9: Shanghai – Zhujiajiao – Shanghai: Go and visit Zhujiajiao, one of the few traditional water towns left in China. It is almost an hour drive from Shanghai. Enjoy the canals, bridges and narrow lanes lined with shops in Zhujiajiao. One place worth seeing in Zhujiajiao is the City God Temple. Also visit the Qing Dynasty Post Office, a sweet museum inside an old postal station. This shows quite artistically how letters were delivered from the Forbidden City to the rest of China in the 18th and 19th Century.
Return back to Shanghai and take a tour of Old Shanghai. Look at the alleys, lane houses, and tiny pockets of the city which have not yet been demolished to make new buildings. A must see during this tour is the French Concession, the area where French had their sphere of influence. Walk along Fenyang Road and see for yourself the houses where Chiang Kai-shek and the Song Sisters once lived.
Have an early dinner and afterwards go for a multimedia spectacular Shanghai’s acrobatic shows. Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 10: Shanghai: Start the full day sightseeing of Shanghai by visiting Shanghai Museum. This is arguably China’s single best museum, and there are ancient bronze, ceramics art works preserved here along with paintings, furniture, jade, coins and calligraphy. You can see the different kinds of costumes used by the ethnic minorities of China.
Have lunch at one of the several restaurants in Shanghai. After lunch, visit Yu Yuan Gardens, a traditional Chinese garden dating from 1559 that covers five acres and includes pools, pavilions, rockeries, and a zigzag bridge. It’s highly popular aong tourists and often crowded.
Go and have dinner at a nice city restaurant. Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 11: Shanghai – Onward destination: After breakfast in the morning transfer to the airport to catch your international flight for onward destination.