Tiananmen Square is your gateway to the Forbidden City, a vast complex of palaces, gardens and offices that housed China’s emperors for 500 years. Savor a treasure of a different kind over lunch—Peking Duck, served to emperors since the 13th century—and wonder at the UNESCO-designated Temple of Heaven, where emperors performed rituals to guarantee the empire’s safety.
What lies behind the doors of the 500-year-old courtyard houses in Beijing’s hutongs? Find out as you explore this historic residential neighborhood that developed around the Forbidden City during the 15th century via rickshaw and sit down for lunch with a local family. Cap off your day at the Great Wall, followed by a Welcome Dinner with complimentary wine at the base of the Great Wall itself.
Qing Dynasty emperors fled Beijing’s summer heat to relax by the shores of Kunming Lake, where they built their Summer Palace and created a garden that embodies the highest achievement in Chinese landscape design. Stroll the inviting Long Corridor, admiring the bridges and temples adorning the man-made lake, and drift over its peaceful waters in a boat that offers ravishing views.
Fly to Xi’an and check into the Shangri-La Hotel. Enjoy a traditional Xi’an dumpling banquet in the city widely considered the home of this savory tidbit.
The life-sized Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses were made over 2,200 years ago to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor, yet it wasn’t until the last century when about 8,000 of these figures were excavated. They represent the army that protected the empire, but they were just part of its defenses: China’s first great wall still guards China’s first capital, both of which you’ll visit. Get in the spirit of the Tang Dynasty with a traditional Chinese dinner, accompanied by a cultural performance.
Jade has been cherished in China for 10,000 years. Watch artisans carving intricate designs and learn what to look for when buying this special stone before flying to Hangzhou, a lakeside city legendary for its beauty, where you will check into the luxurious Shangri-La Hangzhou Hotel.
One of China’s most idyllic visions—West Lake, where wooded hills, colorful pagodas and placid waters lure you with their serenity, and Lingyin Temple, one of China’s oldest Buddhist shrines, adds to your soul-soothing pleasure. At nightfall, the lake becomes the stage for an open-air show of light, dance and music, which is directed by famous Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who also helmed the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Whether you’re exploring old or new Shanghai, one thing remains constant—dim sum. Indulge in a traditional dim sum lunch, complete with dumplings and steamed buns, before venturing out to explore, and cap off the day with the famous Shanghai acrobatic troupe performing their astonishing, gravity-defying routines.
Shanghai is one of the world’s most exhilarating cities, and your hotel, the Pudong Shangri-La, gives you a great view of both its 19th-century commercial heritage and its 21st-century skyscrapers: The Bund, Shanghai’s historic promenade, lines at Huangpu River opposite the hotel, the Oriental Pearl Tower, perhaps the city’s best-known landmark, is next door. Enjoy a delicious hotel dinner.
Fly to Yichang and get the adventure started with a meal at Fangweng, a famous cliffside restaurant. Explore the Sanyou Cave, known for its incredible inscriptions, at the northern edge of the Xiling Gorge. Then board the ship to embark on your next adventure down the mighty Yangtze.
The Three Gorges Dam is designed to control flooding on the Yangtze and provide electrical power for a huge part of the country. The controversial project has forever altered China’s landscape, but its scale is a tribute to the nation’s ambition. Get to know some of your fellow passengers during the Captain’s Welcome Reception.
Float through one of the world’s most exquisite landscapes: The pristine turquoise waters of the Goddess Stream shimmer around your small boat and sheer cliffs rise high overhead.
Note: Due to water conditions, we may substitute a Shennong Stream boat tour if the Goddess Stream is not available.
Mist-shrouded peaks loom above the winding Yangtze for miles as you cruise through the Three Gorges region. Every view is a picture straight out of China’s iconic watercolor illustrations. A stop at Shibao Pagoda, built into the side of a steep hill that is now an island as a result of rising waters from the Three Gorges Dam, offers you a colorful encounter with some unusual legends. The Captain’s Farewell Dinner caps off your cruise.
You’ll start your day with pandas at the Chongqing Zoo before exploring Chongqing landmarks on a city tour. Be sure to work up an appetite, because you’ll stop for lunch at a local restaurant. After, you’ll head for the world-famous Stilwell Museum to observe relics of American General Joseph Stilwell. Dinner will be served at the Hilton Chongqing, right before checking in for a comfortable night’s stay.
Poets have long paid tribute to Guilin’s amazing natural beauty, and poetry will come to life in the rainbow-colored stalactites and stalagmites of the Reed Flute Cave—crystal dragons and castles. What will you see? Let you imagination roam in this fantastic natural wonder. Then, taste history at a plantation that grew tea for Ming emperors.
Chinese poets and painters have celebrated these mist-wreathed peaks that can be found along the Li River. While sailing the Li River, you’ll feel as if time has stood still with quaint villages, fishermen plying the water in tiny boats and grazing water buffalo. Once in Yangshuo, experience a town that has been a leading economic and cultural center since the Tang Dynasty and is now a popular destination for adventure travelers.
Note: The Cruise/Tour Manager will not accompany you to Hong Kong. You will have the services of a local expert instead.
This vertical city, with its 100-story skyscrapers, never sleeps. Delve into its historic neighborhoods—Victoria Peak, the Aberdeen Fishing Village—and check out bargains at Stanley Market.