China Panorama

Travel Idea:

China Panorama

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Length of trip:

20 days

Approximate price of this trip per person:

from $ 3700

Best travel dates to go:

Aug 16, 2008 to Sep 13, 2008; Sep 06, 2008 to Oct 04, 2008;


Detailed Description of this trip:

This is a comprehensive journey through China, taking in the splendors of the south and the historical and natural icons of the north. Beginning in Kunming and continuing to Dali and Lijiang, home to a wide array of ethnic minority people, you explore ancient historic towns and enjoy sweeping panoramic views. At Tiger Leaping Gorge, enjoy a memorable walk in spectacular surroundings. In Guilin and Yangshuo, you encounter more magical scenery with picturesque villages set against a backdrop of jagged limestone hills as you bike through the stunning landscapes. Flying east to Chengdu, you view giant pandas and the world’s largest Buddha statue in Leshan, as you witness amazing Buddhist sculptures in caves in Dazu. Visit the famous Terracotta Warriors in Xian and enjoy a comfortable cruise on the fabled Yangtze River. The final highlight is a visit to Beijing, home to the famous Forbidden City and Summer Palace.



Trip Itinerary:

  • Day 1 - Kunming

    Arrive Kunming.
    Hotel

    On arrival in Kunming, you will be transferred to your hotel, located right in the middle of town.

    Food and Dining

    You meet your tour leader and other group members at a pre-tour briefing, and then head out for an optional group dinner.

  • Day 2 - Dali

    Kunming - Dali.
    Sightseeing

    Kunming is a vibrant and bustling city with a flourishing Muslim area, exciting markets, interesting temples and a strong ethnic minority influence. A half-day walking tour will take in the more interesting sites of Kunming, including watching the locals practicing tai chi in the morning in People’s Square, and meandering through the bird and flower market, leaving some time for you to make your own explorations.

    Bus

    Depart by bus in the afternoon for Dali.
    Meals: Breakfast

  • Day 3 - Dali

    Sightseeing

    Dali is one of the favorite places for travelers in China. Resting near the banks of Er Hai Lake with the Cang Shan mountain range forming an impressive backdrop, the town’s cobblestone streets, ancient stone houses and laid-back charm make it a wonderful place to relax. It is also home to the proud Bai people, a traditional minority tribe renowned throughout China for their craftsmanship.

    Sightseeing

    There is much to explore in your free time in Dali. There is a chance to go boating on Er Hai Lake and travel across to the village of Wase, or catch a chairlift up and hike in the mountains behind Dali (stopping at the occasional monastery along the way).

    Bicycling

    You can also cycle to nearby villages or just stroll around town. Several small stone hamlets lie close to Dali and make for a highly rewarding half-day trip by bicycle or local bus.

  • Day 4-5 - Lijiang

    Bus

    After a free morning in Dali, take a spectacular local bus journey through the rambling Bai and Yi hamlets, beneath towering mountains and over lush alpine passes, taking you to Lijiang, the former capital of the famed Naxi Kingdom.

    Sightseeing

    The Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets, narrow canals and decorative wooden houses - a wonderful place to wander around and imagine being in a bygone era. After a morning bus journey, you spend the rest of the day exploring this fascinating place. A walk up to the Wangu Pagoda on Lion Hill offers an impressive view of the rooftops of the Old Town.

    Hotel

    Your accommodation is located right in the middle of the Old Town and set up like a local Naxi house, but the rooms contain all facilities that one would expect at home!

    Performing Arts

    In the evening, you can witness a performance of the local Naxi orchestra (optional), a unique and entertaining musical experience (pending schedules). You may need to repack your luggage in preparation for the trek. Extra luggage can be stored in the vehicle, but remember to pack all your valuables to carry into Tiger Leaping Gorge.

  • Day 6-7 - Lijiang

    Tiger Leaping Gorge.
    Bus

    Another breath-taking journey takes you past the upper reaches of the Yangtze River to one of the world's deepest gorges and China’s most spectacular natural scenery.

    Sightseeing

    Part of the Yangtze River thunders through Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is in turn framed by 16,400-foot-high mountains. A memorable walk in the gorge is a wonderful way to take in its awesome beauty, with overnight stays in the local villages such as the enchanting Ben Di Wan.

    Bed & Breakfast

    The facilities in the village accommodations are extremely basic, as you are visiting a remote area frequented only by adventurous travelers.

    Hiking

    Please note that this walk is geared towards travelers who like to enjoy some physical activity, but it is not an extreme trek for advanced mountain walkers. The walk can be quite challenging for some people, depending on weather conditions and good footwear, (preferably hiking boots), is essential. It is necessary to bring warm clothing, especially for the evenings and for the cooler months. The degree of difficulty on the particular trail that you take will vary greatly, depending on the time of year. Your tour leader may not be able to advise you of the actual trekking itinerary until the last minute.
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, 2 Dinners

  • Day 8-9 - China

    Zhongdian.
    Bus

    After completing a morning walk, you reunite with your mini-bus and drive to Zhongdian, a town set on a high plateau with a distinctly Tibetan feel.

    Sightseeing

    Home to a range of minority groups from western China, it encapsulates much of the region's fascinating qualities. Yaks are seen grazing on vast alpine plains and the farmhouses are built in a distinctive local style. Due to Zhongdian’s high altitude (10,500 foot), it is advisable to bring warm clothing. (Please note that sometimes due to bad road conditions caused by poor weather, it may not be possible to travel to Zhongdian. If that is the case, additional time may be spent in Lijiang). The highlight of Zhongdian is a visit to the Songzanlin Monastery, restored since the ravages of the Cultural Revolution and once again a place of homage for Tibetan Lamaism. You also visit a Tibetan family and gain an understanding of their unique way of life. Meals: 2 Breakfasts

  • Day 10 - Kunming

    Commercial Flight

    Fly back to Kunming for another overnight.

    Sightseeing

    You have a free afternoon to wander around. There is an interesting Muslim area and the thousand-year-old Yuantong Temple is city’s largest Buddhist complex. To the south of the city are two small pagodas dating from the Tang Dynasty. Meals: Breakfast

  • Day 11-13 - Guilin

    Guilin - Yangshuo.
    Commercial Flight

    Fly to Guilin (you may be unescorted).

    Bus

    Your journey continues to Yangshuo, a village a few hours’ drive from Guilin. Yangshuo is nestled among the imposing limestone karst formations that have inspired poets and painters for centuries.

    Hotel

    This small town is a haven for back-packers and here you stay in a lovely local hotel.

    Bicycling

    Yangshuo offers a relaxed and intimate atmosphere and is an excellent place to explore by bicycle. You join one of the locals and spend a few hours exploring the wonderful scenery in the surrounding countryside, including Moon Hill, and meeting some of the inhabitants of the nearby villages.

    Food and Dining

    You finish your bike ride by enjoying a home cooked lunch in the local’s family home.

    Sailing

    A boat trip on the Li River to the surrounding market town of Fuli is an option to consider in your free time.

    Shopping

    This is also one of the better places for souvenir shopping.

    Train

    On Day 13, you return to Guilin to catch the overnight train to Wuhan, traveling in “soft class” sleepers that are four berth compartments. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

  • Day 14-15 - Chengdu

    Chengdu - Leshan.
    Commercial Flight

    Catch a flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Sichuan is known for its hot, spicy dishes, considered by the Chinese as the best cuisine within China. In such a food-loving country, that is no easy achievement.

    Arts, Crafts and Antiques

    A history of trade built on ‘cottage industry’ handicrafts has had a major influence on the development of Chengdu. Recent changes in the regulations in China have seen a revival of this tradition of private industry, and, at almost every turn, you see signs of a thriving market. There is free time to explore the city.

    Sightseeing

    There is a large statue of Chairman Mao in the middle of the city and the tranquil Renmin Park is well worth a visit, with its beautiful gardens and interesting teahouses. On a day trip, travel to Leshan, to see the world’s largest Buddha, carved into the hillside near the confluence of the Dadu and Min Rivers. A seated figure (as opposed to the ‘standing’ or ‘reclining’ Buddha images found elsewhere), it is a staggering 71 meters/233 feet high. It is over 1,000 years old and took almost 100 years to build. It is not only impressive at close quarters, but can be viewed on a boat from a distance, in order to gain a different perspective.

    Sightseeing

    One morning we also visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base situated near the city. The giant panda is one of the world’s most endangered species and has become an icon for conservation movements everywhere. It is still found in parts of the Sichuan province, but is very difficult to spot in the wild.
    Meals: 2 Breakfasts

  • Day 16 - Dazu

    Bus

    Travel by bus to Dazu County to visit the remarkable Baoding Shan (Treasured Summit Hill).

    Sightseeing

    Here are a series of Buddhist sculptures created between 1179 and 1249. These amazing works of art were created by mystic monks and incorporate many of the natural features of the surrounding hillside. The highlight is a 31-meter long Reclining Buddha.

    Hotel

    Overnight in a nearby hotel. The accommodations standard here are very basic, as Dazu is a small town with very little in the way of tourism infrastructure. Staying here will give you a taste of the 'real' China, but you will need bring with you your spirit of adventure!
    Meals: Breakfast

  • Day 17-19 - Chongqing

    Yangtze River Cruise.
    River or Barge Cruise

    Transfer to the city of Chongqing where you board a boat for a cruise on one of the great rivers of the world. The Yangtze is, at 3,900 miles, the world’s third longest waterway. It rises deep in the heart of the province of Qinghai, to the north of Tibet, and flows eastwards until it empties into the East China Sea near Shanghai.

    Sightseeing

    Effectively dividing the country into north and south, the river not only supplies the rural heart of China, but has also spawned many industries reliant upon its power. You pass the construction site of the massive new dam and travel along one of the most picturesque sections, through the Three Gorges. The ‘Sanxia,' as they are known in Chinese, stretch for 125 miles and vary from 330 feet to 1000 feet in width.

    River or Barge Cruise

    You enjoy your cruise on a tourist class boat spending four nights on board and sleeping in twin-share cabins with private facilities, in accommodation similar to a small hotel room. Bedding and sheets are provided. Please note that all rooms on the Yangtze cruise are on a twin share basis. If you are not already sharing a room with someone from your group, you may be required to share with someone (of the same gender) from another tour group. Single occupancy rooms are not always available and can never be guaranteed.
    Meals: 3 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners

  • Day 20 - Xian

    Yichang - Xian.
    Bus

    After disembarking from the boat, travel by bus to Wuhan through some typical Chinese rural areas.

    Train

    Catch your overnight train to Xian. Meals: Breakfast

  • Day 21-22 - Xian

    Food and Dining

    Capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China, Xian is a wonderful place to explore. Food options are excellent here, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great little ain Chinese cafes.

    Historical and Educational Tours

    Widely regarded as the first capital of a united China in 221 BC, the city is rich in history. A half-day tour to the renowned Terracotta Warriors introduces you to these entombed statues, considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century. Over 6,000 of them were individually sculpted from clay, each having a different costume, height, and even facial expression. They are standing in battle formation, facing east in order to protect the tomb of China’s first emperor, the great Qin Shihuang. Peasants digging a well discovered the underground vault, which was home to this army for two millennia, in 1974.

    Sightseeing

    A free day can easily be spent wandering the narrow streets where you find quaint shops, lively markets, groups of white bearded men in skull caps sipping tea in dingy cafes, and the Great Mosque, one of the most important in China.

    Train

    On Day 23, depart by sleeper train to Shanghai. Meals: 2 Breakfasts, Lunch

  • Day 23-25 - Shanghai

    Hotel

    In the morning, arrive in Shanghai where you will be met and transferred to your hotel near the famous Bund waterfront area.

    Shopping

    Lining the waterfront are dozens of imposing European colonial buildings and remnants of the concession era. This is an excellent place to rub shoulders with the locals and shop on the nearby Nanjing Road. You have much free time in Shanghai, but your guide will help you get to the famous Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, which is a fascinating highlight of the city worth exploring just for its gardens and food stalls.

    Performing Arts

    In the evening, there is a chance to see a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats. Keen photographers are rewarded by an early start to the day, as scores of locals practice tai chi along the waterfront at dawn.

    Sightseeing

    The old French Quarter is also a great place to wander around, and the Jade Buddha Temple and the impressive Shanghai Museum are definitely worth a visit. The gleaming towers on the Pudong side reflect China’s march towards modernization along with the rapid changes that are taking place.

    Train

    On the evening of Day 25, you board another overnight train for your final destination, Beijing. Meals: 3 Breakfasts

  • Day 26-28 - Beijing

    Sightseeing

    Beijing offers endless opportunities for exploration. The enormous Forbidden City, built more than 500 years ago is a truly amazing place with its intricately carved walkways to colorful, painted ceilings. The Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven are two other fine examples of extraordinary workmanship. You also travel to Simatai, a largely unrestored and more authentic section of the Great Wall, uncrowded with hordes of other tourists. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular countryside is an unforgettable experience. There is also ample free time allowing you to make your own discoveries.

    Hotel

    Your hotel is centrally located, and a short walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises.

    Performing Arts

    In the evening, you have the chance to enjoy a performance of the unique Beijing Opera or the spectacular acrobats. (optional)
    Meals: 2 Breakfasts

  • Day 29 - Beijing

    Beijing - Onward.
    Food and Dining

    Your tour ends after breakfast.

    A transfer to the airport is not included, however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.
    Meals: Breakfast

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