Day 1 - Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is a place where ancient history and the modern world combine. Although the original terminus of the Silk Route was Xi'an, the infamous Mongolian warlord Kublai Khan made Beijing his capital and extended the route to it. During the Ming dynasty two of the city's great monuments were built – The Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven – which you'll visit later in the trip. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. After arriving in Beijing, there will be plenty of time for relaxing, meeting the other members of your group, and exploring explore the Beijing Streets – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises. Maybe head out with the group to enjoy the first of many superb Chinese meals.
Day 2 - Great Wall
Pull on some comfy shoes and head to perhaps China’s best-known attraction, the Great Wall (approximately 2 hours). As historically significant as it is visually striking, this experience is often said to be one of the most memorable of the trip. Stretching over 5,000 kilometres from the coast in the east, the wall was built as a defence against invasion from the horsemen of the far north. Surrounded by woodland and countryside and around 90 kilometres from Beijing, the 1,500 year old Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is considered one of the best preserved and restored parts of the wall. Renowned for its Ming Dynasty guard towers (there are 22 of them over this 2,250 metre-long stretch) and built mainly of granite, the wall is an impressive sight at over 7 metres high and more than 4 metres wide. You’ll walk along a section of the wall, taking in the surrounding scenery and getting a feel for the sheer size of this amazing construction. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for lots of steps! For those wanting a more relaxing way to get to the top of the wall there is the option of taking a cable car. Return to Beijing by private bus for an early duck dinner and then some free time, if you still have the energy.
Day 3 - Beijing
This morning after breakfast, head out to discover the Chinese capital. Travel by public transport to Tiananmen Square, which is the largest town square in the world and big enough to hold one million people! Just next to the Square is the Forbidden City, once home to the Emperor and his family. The maze of buildings within the City became the symbolic and literal heart of the capital and the kingdom. Symbolism abounds here; dragon and phoenix represent emperor and empress, and construction followed the principles of Yin and Yang – the balance of negative and positive forces. Tonight we are in for a treat as we head out for a night of acrobatics at a Beijing acrobatic show.
Day 4 - Beijing and overnight train
Today we take a local bus to visit the Temple of Heaven Park, a masterpiece of Chinese architecture, set in beautiful surroundings where people enjoy tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
In the afternoon we will head back to the hotel (1 room per family provided), where there’s the chance to freshen up before transferring to the train station (approximately 30 minutes ) and boarding an overnight sleeper train to Xi'an (approximately 12 hours).
Notes: Train travel in China is a great way to mix with local people. On soft sleeper trains compartments are closed with two tier bunk beds, four to a cabin. Sheets, pillows and blanket are provided, with luggage is stored in the cabin. There are basic bathroom facilities at the end of each carriage with a toilet and washbasin. It's a good idea to bring your own toilet roll and some wet wipes. Please keep in mind that standards of cleanliness will not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is provided for making tea, coffee or instant meals. You will need to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork to prepare your own meals. Most trains have a dining carriage and limited snacks can be purchased en route. Please be prepared that you may have to share a carriage with persons outside of the group. Why not use your free time on the train for an informal language lesson from your leader or a local and learn a few simple words to use in your travels?
Day 5 - Xian
Explore the historical splendour of this ancient city on a walking tour. Dating back 6,000 years and once known as the main eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road, Xi’an served as the imperial capital of 11 dynasties, holding a wealth of history within its cobbled pavements.
The city itself has spread beyond these walls, but the centre still retains the original grid formation, making it easy to navigate. We'll be taken by our Group Leader on a walk to the city wall where we will get to bike on top of the city walls, a fantastic way to experience the city from a different angle. Visit our friends at a local charity: Huling ("wise spirit") and learn about the great work they are doing for the mentally challenged members of the community , a project supported by the Intrepid Foundation.
We will take a night time tour of the city when the Bell and Drum towers are lit up and end up enjoying another Chinese delicacy, a dumpling dinner.
Day 6 - Xian
Xi'an is, of course, famous for the Terracotta Warriors, guarding the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Although this vast army was buried some 22 centuries ago, it was only discovered as recently as 1974. Today we drive to the site (approx. 1.5 hours) which is spread over several pits. The sheer size of the assembled terracotta army and the excellent displays really feed the imagination. The amazing Bronze Chariots and Horses that were restored from over 3000 pieces when originally excavated on site are also on display. There is also an interesting museum housing a collection of artefacts from the original digs.
Day 7 - Chengdu
Wave goodbye to Xi’an and transfer (approximately 1 hour) to the airport, where you’ll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Chengdu is most famous for two things – the pandas living in the mountains, and the food. Its hot, spicy dishes are considered by the Chinese to be the best food in China. In such a food-loving country, this is no mean feat! Spend the day exploring the Old Town and Tibetan quarters of this quaint provincial area. Go on a walking tour with your leader to visit Tianfu Square, where a giant statue of Chairman Mao stands tall. Relax in one of the most popular parks in Chengdu, Renmin Park (People's Park), where you can experience the amazing Chengdu tea culture, an essential part of people's daily life. This is a relaxing spot to spend a few hours – catch up on gossip in the tea-houses and watch locals exercising, singing, playing Mahjong or relaxing in their bamboo chairs drinking tea. Don't be surprised if somebody comes up to you with an offer to clean your ears! Be sure to tempt your taste buds and test your tongue at dinner tonight. We will try an authentic hot pot – a big pot of spiced broth where everyone can have fun selecting and cooking their own ingredients.
Day 8 - Chengdu
Globally, Chengdu is famous for the panda research centre, which you’ll visit this morning. China’s national pride, the giant panda is a rare and increasingly threatened creature, but here you can witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endearing endangered species. The research centre is home to both giant and red pandas, and you can marvel at these incredible creatures in a close approximation of their habitat. It’s an early start as pandas are only active for a few hours of the day to eat and exercise, but the opportunity to get close to these remarkable animals is an experience not to be missed. Watch them play, eat bamboo and climb the trees. If you’re lucky enough you might even get to see newborns taking their first steps in the nursery (July-September).
Day 9 - Yangshuo
Today we take a flight from Chengdu to Guilin then get transferred to Yangshuo. Located deep within the karst peaks of Guangxi province, Yangshuo is a haven for many visitors, away from the hustle and bustle of ever-developing China; a place where you can stop and slow down – but not completely. Take a short walking tour with your leader to familiarize yourself with this laid-back town.
Day 10 - Yangshuo
Start this more chilled portion of the trip at an easy pace – the same as the locals. Test out your moves with a local Kung Fu or Tai Chi teacher.
In the afternoon, visit a local farmers' market, where you can get a feel for the regional produce and daily life. Then make a short drive to Chaolong, where you can put this new knowledge to use and learn the art of Chinese cooking. This class will allow the whole family to learn the techniques and skills of Chinese cuisine from experienced chefs, and after an afternoon trying out delicious recipes, you can eat what you’ve made for dinner! With recipes that are easy to make and ingredients readily available outside of China, you’ll soon be wowing friends and family back at home.
Day 11 - Yangshuo
Continue your Yangshuo adventure today, beginning with a chance to explore some more of one of China’s most epic landscapes. Head out of town on bikes to cycle through the surrounding countryside, and gain an insight into Chinese rural life on a ride where each turn in the road brings you to another picture-postcard location. Have lunch at a local farmer's restaurant before you continue your journey back into town.
Day 12 - Hong Kong
This morning around 8am, head to the train station and board the Bullet train towards Hong Kong. Experience the rush of speeding 300 km/h on the bullet train from Guilin to Shenzhen, before continuing on to Hong Kong.
Arrive in the city around 5-6pm and take an orientation walk to get you settled in a city full of surprises just waiting to be uncovered. If there’s the time (and energy), end the day with the Symphony of Lights laser show in Victoria Harbour.
Day 13 - Hong Kong
Hong Kong has been back under Chinese rule since 1997 and it is a truly unique place where east and west meet. The vibrant and fast paced city is only minutes away from quiet islands and beaches.
Today is free to explore some of the delights and soak up this unique city before our trip ends the following morning.
We suggest exploring Hong Kong Island on foot, take the tram to Victoria Peak for a panorama view of the city, or relax on the beach at causeway bay or Stanley. Whatever you want to do or find, you name it, Hong Kong offers a mix between East and west like no other.
Day 14 - Hong Kong
It’s time to end this enlightening journey into the heart of China – there are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart our accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money