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Ancient Dynasties of China

Trip Length

Trip Code

16 days PCDC
Minimum Age

Countries Visited


Start City

End City

Beijing Shanghai
Ancient Dynasties of China

The ancient dynasties of China are revealed on this 16-day journey – ancient and modern, cultural and historical. From a remote section of the Great Wall to visiting the medieval town of Pingyao but not before the Hanging Monastery of Datong. Our adventure unravels the myths of Kung Fu at the Shaolin Temple followed by exploring the ancient canal towns of Zhouzhang. Finally, our journey ends in the vibrant city of Shanghai which shows the modern face of China.

Ancient Dynasties of China

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1: Beijing

Meals included: 1 dinner

Accommodation: Dong Fang Hotel or similar, Beijing

On arrival in Beijing you are transferred to your hotel. In the evening you meet your tour leader and the other group members for a pre-tour briefing. This is followed by a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant where we get to dine out on the local speciality - Peking Duck.

Day 2-3: Beijing

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Dong Fang Hotel or similar, Beijing

Beijing offers endless opportunities for exploration. Strolling through Tiananmen Square we make our way to the enormous Forbidden City, built more than 500 years ago and off limits to commoners for almost all that time, is a truly amazing place. Its size might surprise you (it is huge!), but what makes it fascinating is that every square metre is interesting, ranging from intricately carved walkways to colourful, painted ceilings. We visit the Temple of Heaven, which is a fine examples of extraordinary workmanship. We also travel to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience. There is some free time in the itinerary, allowing you to make your own discoveries. Our hotel is located in the south of the city and a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises. There are good shopping opportunities at the various markets around the city, such as the centrally located Dashilan Market. In the evening, you have the chance to enjoy a performance of the unique Beijing Opera (optional).

Day 4-5: Datong

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch

Accommodation: Datong Hong Qi Grand Hotel or similar, Datong

We have a morning visit to the Summer Palace in Beijing, and then we catch an afternoon train for the five-and-a-half hour journey to Datong. Now an industrial city and transportation hub, Datong once served as a military stronghold throughout numerous dynasties and also as a capital of some ancient kingdoms. In those days it flourished in trade, agriculture and was a centre for Buddhism. A tour to the Yungang Grottoes, one of the three great Buddhist grottoes in China, is a highlight. Construction began as early as 460AD. There are over 50,000 Buddha statues carved into the caves by over 10,000 artisans, stonemasons and their assistants. We also drive for a hour south and spend time exploring the unique Hanging Monastery. This amazing Buddhist temple appears to be glued to the side of a cliff.

Day 6-7: Pingyao - overnight train

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Yixingyi Tongfu Inn or similar, Pingyao

We depart at dawn and catch an early morning train to Pingyao. There are not many trains that service this route and the more comfortable air-conditioned train only leaves at this early time of the day. The journey takes about 8 hours. In Pingyao we spend a night in a historic traditional style Chinese inn. A delightful day is spent exploring this ancient town designed in the shape of a tortoise - a traditional Chinese symbol for longevity. It is full of temples, traditional architecture, city walls, watchtowers and battlements. China’s earliest banks were set up in Pingyao, which at a stage during the Qing Dynasty, was the financial headquarters of the entire country. Boarding an overnight train, we travel soft-class sleeper and slowly head towards Xian.

Day 8-9: Xian

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch

Accommodation: Union Alliance Hotel or similar, Xi'an

Xian is a wonderful place to explore. Food options are excellent here, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great little dumplings in Chinese cafes. 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 us to these entombed statues, considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century. Over 6000 of them were individually sculpted from clay, each having a different costume, height, 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 only discovered the underground vault, which was home to this army for two millennia, in 1974. Xian also has a wonderful Muslim Quarter. A free day can easily be spent wandering the narrow streets where we find quaint shops, lively markets, groups of white-bearded men in skull caps sipping tea in cafes, and the Great Mosque, one of the most important in China.

Day 10-12: Luoyang - Shaolin - overnight train

Meals included: 3 breakfasts

Accommodation: New Friendship Hotel or similar, Luoyang

A short train journey from Xian takes us to Luoyang where we base ourselves for the next 2 nights. Luoyang was the imperial capital of 13 dynasties. Luoyang is a great city for people watching. As there is a peoples square which is one of the most lively in China. In this square you can witness people ballroom dancing, doing Kung Fu, Tai chi or just wanting to practice their English with you. The following morning we visit the famous Shaolin Temple. It is here we can witness 1000s of students training in the ancient art of kung fu under the watchful eye of their master. After visiting the temple we can attaned a kung fu demonstration by some of the gifted students.. The following day we visit the Longmen Grottoes. The Longman Grottoes began in 493 and stretches 1 km in length and houses 100,000 statues with the most impressive Buddha standing 17.2 metres in height. Late in the afternoon we catch an overnight train to the exciting metroplis of Shanghai.

Day 13-14: Shanghai

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Bund Riverside Hotel or similar, Shanghai

In the morning we arrive in Shanghai and transfer to our hotel located near the famous Bund or waterfront area, where dozens of imposing European colonial buildings, remnants of the concession era, line the promenade. This is an excellent place to rub shoulders with the locals. The shopping area on Nanjing Road is situated nearby. We enjoy free time in Shanghai, and your tour leader can show you how to get to the famous Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, a fascinating highlight of the city and worth exploring for its tranquil Chinese garden and wonderful dumplings. This evening the tour leader can organise tickets to the famous Shanghai acrobats(optional). The following morning is a free morning where the tour leader can organise many activities for you from visiting the impressive Shanghai museum, to a morning cruise along the Bund or an excursion to one of the tallest buildings in China the Jin Mao tower for a view of the expansive Shanghai area.

Day 15: Zhouzhuang - Shanghai

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Bund Riverside Hotel or similar, Shanghai

In the morning we are transported by a private coach to Zhouzhuang where we spend the day exploring this ancient well preserved town. Zhouzhuang is the most famous water town in China and you can walk where Marco Polo once walked as he roamed these streets in the 1200s in what is known as the Venice of the East.

Day 16: Shanghai

Meals included: 1 breakfast

The tour ends after breakfast. You should arrange an evening flight out, or stay an extra day, if you wish to have time to explore more of Shanghai. A transfer to the airport is not included, however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.

Your Trip

What's Included

• The services of Peregrine’s expert English-speaking local tour leader throughout the tour and local guides at some sites.


• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where applicable): Beijing, Datong, Xian, including the Terracotta Warriors, and the water town of Zhouzhuang.


• Walk on the Great Wall at Jinshanling.


• Visit famous Buddha caves near Datong (Yungang Caves) and Luoyang (Longmen Caves).


• Discover the medieval town of Pingyao.


• See kung fu demonstration in Shaolin


• Overnight trains from Pingyao to Xian and Luoyang to Shanghai in a ‘soft-class’, four-berth compartment.

• Arrival transfer.

Summary of accommodation, transport & meals




Not Included

International and domestic departure taxes, departure transfer, visas, insurance, other meals, any optional tours and activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.

What to know


Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please talk to your doctor about the up-to-date information for this region.  We're travel experts, not doctors and defer to the medicos when it comes to inoculations.

Visas and Permits

Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip – this is your responsibility. Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and vary for different nationalities and you should check visa requirements with your travel agent or relevant consular authority well before travel.


Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.

We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.

Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance


Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival and Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain outside your country of residence. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements.



Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.

Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
Dongcheng District
Beijing 100006
+86 10 6406 7328


* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by your booking agent. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that your trip visits.
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not.
* Itinerary – please print off a copy of your specific trip itinerary from our website and include it with your application, listing the dates you will visit each destination.
* Photocopy of your passport.
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required).
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements.


We require you to send the following at the time of booking, or no later than 60 days prior to travel: Clear, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport
Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well.


You are required to have travel insurance before heading off on a Peregrine trip. Insurance can be organised by your Peregrine representative or your travel agent.

Responsible Travel

Our Responsible Travel ethos is at the heart of everything we do, from getting the basics right like respecting local cultures and the environment, to initiating projects that make positive contributions to communities, to our staff’s fundraising efforts and offsetting our carbon emissions.
Please visit our Responsible Travel ( page for more information.

Customs and Culture

Our Pre Departure Information or Travel Dossier (provided upon booking a trip) provides tips on how you can show respect for the local customs and culture in the country you are travelling in. Your leader will also help steer you though the complexities of local cultural norms.

Pre Departure Information
The information listed above is a brief description of some things you may need to consider when booking a trip. Once a tour is booked you will be provided with a link to your Travel Dossier which will contain detailed Pre Departure information.

Further Reading


There are a number of books which make interesting reading and provide insight in the history, politics and culture of the country. Suggestions are: Wild Swans-Jung Chang The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices-Xinran Riding the Iron Rooster-Paul Theroux From Heaven Lake-Vikram Seth One’s Company-Peter Fleming Red China Blues-Jan Wong Mr China’s Son: A Villager’s Life-He Liuyi China, Renaissance of the Middle Kingdom-Odyssey Guide China-Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrase Book-Lonely Planet. The following are recommended for travellers on the Silk Road: The Great Game-Peter Hopkirk Foreign Devils on the Silk Road-Peter Hopkirk.

Important Information

Infrastructure and Itinerary Changes

China is a developing country whose infrastructure, values, customs and standards differ from what you are used to at home. Please bear this in mind as you are travelling in this exciting country and respect the fact that you should not impose your standards and expectations on the culture there. The driving habits in these places are something for which you ought to prepare yourself for!

Occasionally it may be necessary to amend this itinerary for reasons beyond our control, such as bad weather and poor road conditions. Changes to train schedules can sometimes occur, which may also lead to changes to this itinerary.

Travelling During Holiday Periods

When travelling during local holiday periods, be prepared for some inconveniences. This is especially so during the Spring Festival holiday period (Chinese New Year) and the National Day Golden Week.

2013 is the Year of the Snake. In 2014 Chinese New Year day will be on Friday 31st January, ushering in the Year of the Horse. All days from 30th January to 5th February 2014 are designated as public holidays. In 2015 Chinese New Year will be on 19th February (Year of the Sheep) and in 2016 it will be on 8th February (Year of the Monkey). The greeting in Mandarin for ‘Happy New Year’ is ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, whilst the greeting in Cantonese is ‘Gong Hey Fat Choy’. China’s National Day is on 1st October and this ushers in a 7-day national holiday known as Golden Week. During these holiday periods, most businesses will be closed as the local people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during these holiday periods, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required.

Train Travel in China

Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 4-berth ‘soft-sleeper’ class, which are four beds in a compartment. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths. There are urns or thermos flasks for making hot beverages. It is quite possible that we may be divided over a series of separate compartments and some of us may have to share our compartment with other train travellers. There is no single supplement available for the train. Train travel is an integral part of the China travel experience and offers some of the best chances of meeting and making friends with the locals.

Local Tour Leaders

By employing and training local tour leaders to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour leader’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.

Adventure in China

This is an ‘adventure’ trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local culture. Please be open-minded. Please note that on your tour, you may link up with passengers booked on other tours in our Asia program.

About this Information

The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please keep this in mind when you read it and check with us if you want to be sure about something. The document was correct at time of printing, but you can check online for the most up to date version.  If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!

Last Updated

10 January 2014

General Contact Details

Peregrine AdventuresPhone: 1-800-663-5132
Web: Visit Peregrine