Visit the ancient capitals of the Chinese Empire Beijing, Xi`an and Luoyang and explore the majestic monuments and historical tradition. Witness the art of kung fu where it originated, the Shaolin Temple; see the Terra Cotta Warriors alongside an on-site archaeologist; and take a leisurely bamboo raft ride down the Li River on a fascinating journey through China.
DAY01: Arrive Shanghai, China
Arrive in Shanghai, where you are met and transferred to your Condé Nast Traveler Gold List Hotel.
DAY02: Shanghai | Ancient Traditions and Modern Art
Ride to Zhujiajiao, where you embark by boat to a traditional water village of canals spanned by stone bridges. After lunch, explore Shanghai’s rapidly developing M-50 Art District and Museum of Contemporary Art. Tonight, meet fellow guests when you gather for a welcome dinner.
DAY03: Shanghai | Stroll the Bund
Stroll the Bund, the waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River, popular with locals and visitors alike. Visit Yu Garden and Old Town, the original site of Shanghai, founded during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Savor a lunch of steamed dumplings at a local restaurant. Then, transfer to the airport and fly to Beijing. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel.
DAY04: Beijing | Discovering the Great Wall
Today, head to the Great Wall, stopping for lunch en route. Begun as a series of fortifications as early as the seventh century BC, the Great Wall was built to defend China’s historical northern border. Walk or ride a cable car to the top of the wall’s well-preserved and less-frequented Mutianyu section and revel in magnificent vistas of the surrounding countryside.
DAY05: Beijing | Tai Chi and Tiananmen Square
Partake in a morning tai chi class at the historic Temple of Heaven. Built in 1420, it’s considered the most beautiful example of Ming Dynasty architecture. Proceed to the hutongs, a network of winding alleyways, where you Ride Like a Local by pedicab. After lunch, visit culturally significant Tiananmen Square, site of several key events in Chinese history. Continue to the Forbidden City, seeing the Chinese Imperial Palace — former home of the royal families — now the site of the Palace Museum.
DAY06-07: Luoyang | The Birthplace of Kung Fu
Fly to Luoyang and transfer to your hotel. The next day, experience a fabled chapter of Chinese history come to life, as you visit legendary Shaolin Temple and witness a thrilling demonstration of Shaolin kung fu by monks. This Zen Buddhist monastery is considered the birthplace of the martial arts, first formalized here in the sixth century. Stroll through the stone and brick Pagoda Forest. Enjoy lunch before visiting the Songyang Academy of Classical Learning, renowned center of Confucian philosophy. Dine locally and embrace the colorful nightlife of Luoyang.
DAY08: Luoyang/Xian | Buddhism Explored
Explore the spectacular Longmen Caves, a memorable opportunity to experience the rich history and arts of ancient China. Devoted to the Buddhist religion, its grottoes and niches contain the largest, most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties. After an authentic lunch at a local restaurant, journey to White Horse Temple. Considered the first Buddhist monastery built in China, it was established in the first century. Then, board a high-speed train to Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province. Set amid the Guanzhong Plain, it is one of the oldest cities in China. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
DAY09: Xian | Magnificent Terra Cotta Warriors
Today, accompanied by one of Xian’s leading archaeologists, visit the excavation site of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, the life-size army created during the Qin Dynasty to protect Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, in his afterlife. More than 8,000 soldiers, each with a unique face, exhibit remarkable craftsmanship. Enjoy a Chef’s Table experience that includes a private noodle-making demonstration in the museum’s restaurant. After lunch, enter the Ancient Gate of Xian’s impressive City Wall with the option to cycle along its ramparts.
DAY10: Chengdu | Up Close with Giant Pandas
Rise early and fly to Chengdu, the charming capital of Sichuan province. Discover the beautiful, well-preserved Wenshu Temple, which dates back to the sixth century. Stroll along ancient Jinli Walking Street, built as a commercial street during the Shu Kingdom. Jinli Street was reconstructed in 2004 to resemble the traditional architectural style of Sichuan province during the Qing Dynasty. Watch traditional Chinese handicrafts being made and folk artisans putting on entertaining shows, such as shadow puppetry or a hand-puppet performance.
Visit the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center. This insititute provides pandas with a nurturing environment and affords an unforgettable opportunity to come face to face with these endangered living symbols of China, as they roam freely in their natural habitat.
DAY11-12: Guilin | The Li River by Bamboo Raft
Transfer to the airport and fly to Guilin, a gateway for exploring the region’s most impressive geography. Check in to your hotel and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure. The following day, embark on a leisurely bamboo raft trip on the Li River, drifting quietly downstream to Xingping past stunning limestone peaks. Observe life along the shore, where fishermen use cormorants to collect their catch and farmers still cultivate rice paddies by hand. After a visit to Xingping’s old town, transfer to Yangshuo for lunch, and then ride a bicycle or golf cart through the beautiful nearby countryside, absorbing the scenery en route. Later, dine at the Left Bank Café, a favorite among Guilin locals, offering panoramic views of the Li River.
DAY13: Guilin | Elephant Trunk Hill & Reed Flute Cave
Journey to Elephant Trunk Hill, a popular landmark along the Li River that brings to mind an elephant drinking from the water. Continue to Fubo Hill, a visually stunning rock formation that causes the river to eddy and is therefore said to subdue the waves. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before visiting picturesque Reed Flute Cave, a natural wonder carved out of the karst limestone mountains over millions of years. Later, fly to Hong Kong, China’s glittering gateway of international trade and finance, where you transfer to your hotel and relax.
DAY14: Hong Kong | Victoria Peak & Floating Villages
Depart for Sheung Wan, one of the earliest British settlements. Stroll through an herbal medicine market, and stop at Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road for an informative look at a typical Chinese temple. Enjoy a panoramic view of the city, Victoria Harbour and Lamma Island from atop Victoria Peak. Continue to Aberdeen for a leisurely sampan (wooden boat) ride through the floating villages of the Tanka community, observing the ebb and flow of everyday life. After lunch, spend your afternoon at leisure. Tonight, gather with fellow guests for a farewell dinner.
Day 15: Depart Hong Kong