Tiananmen Square provides your gateway to the UNESCO-designated Forbidden City, complete with palaces and gardens that housed China’s emperors for 500 years. Savor a treasure of a different kind over lunch—Peking Duck—a dish once served to emperors. Complete your imperial heritage exploration at the Temple of Heaven—another UNESCO World Heritage site and a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design.
What lies behind the doors of the 500-year-old courtyard houses in Beijing’s hutongs? Find out as you explore the area via rickshaw and sit down for lunch with a local family. Two towers mark the neighborhood—one, a 600-year-old bell tower, hosts a traditional tea ceremony that will remind you of tea’s central place in China’s culture. Cap off your day at the Great Wall, followed by a Welcome Dinner with complimentary wine at the base of the Great Wall itself.
Emperors fled the summer heat to relax by the shores of Kunming Lake, where they created a Qing Dynasty garden embodying the highest achievement in Chinese landscape design. Stroll the Long Corridor, admiring the bridges and temples, and drift over the peaceful waters in a boat. From Beijing, fly to Xi’an, where you’ll settle into the Shangri-La Hotel and be treated to a traditional dumpling banquet.
Twenty-two centuries ago, Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified a huge area (and gave it his name)—and he intended to keep what he conquered, even in the afterlife. He created an astonishing terra-cotta army to guard his tomb, which laid undisturbed until the 20th century. Only about 8,000 of the UNESCOdesignated Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses have been excavated, and they still stand in battle formation at the museum dedicated to this amazing archaeological discovery. A jade workshop shows off another aspect of Chinese artistry, and a lovely traditional dinner and a cultural performance that re-creates the music, folk dances and gorgeous silk costumes of the Tang Dynasty provide the perfect ending to the day.
High on the Tibetan Plateau, Lhasa, the cultural and historical capital of Tibet, is both a thriving modern town and a mystical destination of pilgrimage. Check into the Shangri-La Lhasa hotel, where dinner comes with amazing views of the world’s highest city.
Jokhang Temple, where butter lamps flicker and incense fills the air, is the holiest site in the holy city. Deepen your understanding of Tibet’s history at the Tibet Museum, meet a local family, and conclude an enlightening day with dinner at the hotel.
Lhasa is certain to elicit awe with visits to some of its most sacred places. Be captivated and inspired by a mystic sense of peace at the jewel-bedecked tombs and golden altars of Potala Palace, the UNESCO-honored historic home of the Dalai Lamas, and at Sera Monastery, where Buddhist monks still practice their faith under the watchful eye of Manjashuri, the God of Wisdom.
Before boarding your ship in Chongqing, visit the giant pandas at the zoo.
Mist-shrouded peaks loom above the winding Yangtze as you cruise through the Three Gorges region, offering views straight out of China’s iconic watercolor illustrations. A stop at Shibao Pagoda, built into the side of a steep hill, offers a colorful encounter with some unusual legends. End the day with the Captain’s Welcome Reception.
The turquoise waters of the Goddess Stream shimmer around your small boat as sheer cliffs rise high overhead. The day offers one of China’s most amazing contrasts, for your ship will leave these peaceful waters to navigate the Three Gorges Dam locks. Bid adieu to the river with a Farewell Dinner.
Note: Due to water conditions, we may substitute a Shennong Stream boat tour if the Goddess Stream is not available.
As the world’s largest hydroelectric project, 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 the landscape, but its scale is a tribute to the nation’s ambition. Fly to Shanghai, where you’ll check into the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Past, present and future combine on the exciting, busy streets of Shanghai, one of the world’s most exhilarating cities. The Bund, Shanghai’s famed waterfront promenade, brimming with spectacular skyscrapers designed by world-famous architects, reminds you that this city was the West’s gateway to China, while Shanghai’s Old Town—the original walled city with traditional teahouses, temples, narrow alleyways and markets—reminds you of its legendary heritage. Whether looking forward to the future or back at the past, one thing remains constant—dim sum. Be treated to a traditional dim sum lunch complete with dumplings, steamed buns and rice noodles. Cap off the day watching the famous Shanghai acrobatic troupe perform their astonishing, gravity-defying routines.