In Beijing you’ll visit the vast Tiananmen Square and the secretive but beautiful Forbidden City, home of China’s emperors for centuries. Then, of course, you’ll walk along the Great Wall, before setting off for the ancient city of Pingyao, founded 2700 years ago. In Xi’an you’ll encounter the fabled terra cotta warriors and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, whilst Shanghai is a microcosm of both ancient and modern China.
London – Beijing
Fly in the late afternoon from London to Beijing, arriving the next morning.
You’ll be met at Beijing Airport and taken to your luxury hotel in the heart of China’s most important city. You’ll find Beijing is full of highlights – a great starting point for your Highlights of China tour. You’ll begin with Tiananmen Square – the world’s largest – before entering the renowned Forbidden City; the former 9,999-room palace of the Ming and Qing emperors. Quite a contrast to your next destination; a local Hutong residence reached by rickshaw. Then you have a choice – visiting the Temple of Heaven, or attending a Chinese cooking class.
Your final day in Beijing is taken up with a tour of the Great Wall of China. This world-renowned fortification was built in 1569 to protect China from barbarians and remains of one the planet’s foremost sights – allegedly it can even be seen from space.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing.
In the morning a fast train will whiz you over to Pingyao where you’ll be staying within the old walled city, surrounded by quaint streets, interesting curio shops and tempting restaurants. Built between 1045 BCE and 256 BCE the old city has over 2700 years of history and has long been a centre of trade. Your guide will point out many examples of ancient Ming and Qing architectural influences in the fine buildings stretching along the First Bank. A great way of seeing Pingyao at your own pace is to take a bicycle tour of this ancient trading city.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Jing’s Residence.
Board another fast train and in about three hours you’ll be in Xi’an where you’ll be staying in the midst of a great historic city that was China’s capital for 13 dynasties. You’ll be ideally placed to explore centuries-old Renmin Square, the city’s vibrant shopping district and the famed Bell Tower.
The following day you should prepare for a genuine revelation as you come face-to-face with the people of the past; an army of soldiers carved from terra cotta over 2200 years ago. The legendary Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses has over 1700 fully restored figures, each one different. It’s an impressive sight, but Xi’an has another absolutely stunning attraction. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda in the monastery was built in 589 AD and is one of China’s oldest structures. Today it houses over 130,000 relics of great historical importance dating back from the 12th century BCE to the 10th century CE.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at the Sofitel Xi’an.
Xi’an – Guilin
After touring the Xi’an City Walls – China’s most ancient and best preserved – you’ll experience Muslim Street with its beautiful mosque, busy restaurants and souvenir stalls, before transferring to the airport for your flight to Guilin. Here you’ll be staying in a luxury hotel overlooking the Li River, so you’ll be ideally placed to cruise along the river through ethereal countryside punctuated by mysteriously-shaped hills and cliffs fading into the distance in a series of blue tones. Absolutely breath-taking.
At the pretty town of Yangshuo you can browse round the sights and drift down a tributary of the Li on a traditionally-built bamboo raft. In the evening you’ll enjoy a display of fishing by local fishermen and their cormorants.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe river view room at Shangri La Guilin.
Today you fly from Guilin to Shanghai where you’ll be welcomed at the airport and taken to your Art Deco hotel in the People’s Square, offering great access to the city’s metro lines and many of its most important sights. The next morning you’ll have the chance to tour the Bund, an area full of magnificent colonial-era buildings that were the city’s great trading houses and banks in the early 1900’s.
You will also visit the beautiful Yu Gardens before moving on to the French Concession District with its distinctive, European-style architecture. The fashionable Xintiandi or Tianzifang areas are also close by.
Stay: Two nights in a Shanghai grand room at the Yangtze Boutique Hotel.
Shanghai – London
You’ll wave goodbye to Shanghai in the morning, arriving back in London mid-afternoon.