23 days

China Panorama

China Panorama

Chengdu's Giant Pandas and Sichuan cuisine

Lijiang - former capital of the Naxi Kingdom

Yangtze River and Tiger Leaping Gorge

The Forbidden City

Terracotta Warriors of Xian

Songzanlin Monastery - a place of homage for Tibetan Lamaism

The Bai traditional minority tribe of Dali

Kunming's flower and bird market

Shanghai

Trip rating
  • This is a comprehensive journey through China, taking in the splendours of the south, including colourful Yunnan Province, as well as 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, we explore ancient historic towns and enjoy sweeping panoramic views. Tiger Leaping Gorge is the perfect place for a memorable walk in spectacular surroundings. Flying east to Shanghai we discover the modern face of China wth amazing skyscrapers towering over historic Art Deco buildings. We view giant pandas in Chengdu, visit the fabled Terracotta Warriors in Xian and enjoy a comfortable cruise on the fabled Yangtze River, surrounded by dramatic gorges. We also have the opportunity to dine on the famous hot and spicy cuisine of Sichuan. The final highlights are found in the capital, Beijing - home to the renowned Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, not to mention the Great Wall of China.

    Why we love it

    • This is a comprehensive journey through China, taking in the splendours of the south, including colourful Yunnan Province, as well as 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 will explore ancient historic towns and enjoy sweeping panoramic views.
    • Tiger Leaping Gorge is the perfect place for a memorable walk in spectacular surroundings.
    • In Shanghai you will discover the modern face of China wth amazing skyscrapers towering over historic Art Deco buildings.
    • You will view giant pandas in Chengdu, visit the fabled Terracotta Warriors in Xian and enjoy a comfortable cruise on the fabled Yangtze River, surrounded by dramatic gorges.
    • You will also have the opportunity to dine on the famous hot and spicy cuisine of Sichuan.
    • Exploring the capital, Beijing - home to the renowned Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, not to mention the Great Wall of China, finishes the trip on a high note.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Kunming

    • Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
    • Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
    • An arrival transfer is included, please ensure you advise us of your flight details so we can confirm this service for you.
    • Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
    Haikun Hotel or similar

    Day 2-3 - Dali

    • Depart Kunming by bus and prepare for the adventure ahead as you travel through the countryside to Dali (approx 6 hours).
    • Dali is a favourite among travellers 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.
    • Dali is home to the proud Bai people, a traditional minority tribe renowned throughout China for their craftsmanship.
    • There is a chance to go boating on Er Hai Lake and travel across to the village of Wase, or spend a day catching a chairlift up and hiking in the mountains behind Dali (stopping at the occasional monastery along the way).
    • 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.
    Lan Lin Ge Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 4-5 - Shaxi

    • What makes Shaxi so special is that unlike many other ancient towns in Yunnan, it has been restored rather than rebuilt and being off the main highways it hasn't seen the rapid development of the tourist industry as other places like Lijiang and Dali have. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities living their traditional lives, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the original walled town gates and market square proving that Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail.
    • Walk the mountain trails with a local guide to Shizong Temple (4-5 hours return), perhaps taking a picnic lunch along to make the most of the beautiful "danxia" landscape.
    • The hike takes up up to around 2400m above sea level and is accessible to all travellers with a reasonable level of fitness. Bring your walking poles if you have them as these will also be useful for the more challenging Tiger Leaping Gorge hike. For those travellers who wish to sit out this activity there is the option to stay in Shaxi for the day instead.
    • In the evening, take the opportunity to mix with the locals on the town square where it's not rare to see impromptu dancing, singing and games happen that we are welcome to join in or observe!
    Huishui Guesthouse or similiar
    Breakfast

    Day 6-7 - Tiger Leaping Gorge

    • Another breath-taking journey on the private mini-bus 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.
    • Part of the Yangtze River (known here as the Jinsha River) thunders through Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is in turn framed by 5000-metre-high mountains. In the gorge, a sheer cliff face rises from the raging torrents. A memorable walk in the gorge is a wonderful way to take in its awesome beauty, passing local villages such as enchanting Ben Di Wan.
    • Please note that this walk is geared towards travellers who like to enjoy some physical activity, but it is not an extreme trek for advanced mountain trekkers. The walk can be quite challenging for some people depending on the 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 in general. 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.
    • As we stay in 2 different guesthouses and use a combination of walking and our own transport to get between them, travellers will need to pack a day pack each day and leave our main luggage in storage.
    Tina’s Guest House or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 8-9 - Lijiang

    • Lijiang, a former capital of the famed Naxi Kingdom. The Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets, narrow canals, and decorative wooden houses, a wonderful place to wander around and imagine being part of a bygone era.
    • A walk up to the Wangu Pagoda on Lion Hill offers an impressive view of the rooftops of the Old Town. 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 of the facilities that one would expect at home.
    • In the evening, you can witness a performance of the local Naxi orchestra (optional), a unique and entertaining musical experience (please check schedules in Lijiang to see if the show is on during your visit).
    Sanhe Naxi Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 10 - Kunming - Shanghai

    • After a flight from Lijiang to Kunming, you will transfer to another flight that takes you to Shanghai.
    • You will be met on arrival in Shanghai and transferred to your hotel located near the famous Bund or waterfront area, where dozens of imposing European colonial buildings, remnants of the concession era, line the promenade.
    • As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
    Bund Riverside Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 11 - Shanghai

    • The Bund is an excellent place to rub shoulders with the locals. The shopping area on Nanjing Road is situated nearby.
    • You will enjoy some free time in Shanghai, and your tour leader will 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 food stalls.
    • There is also the option to see the impressive Shanghai acrobats perform or have a beer in the highest bar in the world.
    • Shanghai certainly looks impressive from the 87th floor of Jinmao Tower.
    Bund Riverside Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 12 - Zhouzhuang - Shanghai

    • In the morning a private coach will transport you to Zhouzhuang where you will 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. It is known as the Venice of the East. Perhaps end your last evening in Shanghai with a optional beer or cocktail in the highest bar in the world.
    Bund Riverside Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 13 - Chengdu

    • You will 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, this is no mean feat.
    • A history of trade built on cottage industry, handicrafts have 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 will see signs of a thriving market.
    • There will be free time to explore the city.
    • 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 interesting tea-houses. Renmin Park is full of locals exercising, singing, playing Mahjong or relaxing in their bamboo chairs drinking tea. A relaxing spot to spend a few hours.
    Chengdu Garden City Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 14-16 - Chengdu - Yangtze River Cruise

    • In the morning you will 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.
    • In the afternoon you will take a train to Chongqing, where you will board a boat for a cruise on one of the great rivers of the world. Before boarding, you may wish to purchase some small snacks to take with you on the boat.
    • At 6300 kilometres, the Yangtze (also known locally as the Chang Jiang) is the world's third longest waterway. It winds deep into the heart of the province of Qinghai, to the north of Tibet, and flows relentlessly eastwards until it empties into the East China Sea near Shanghai.
    • 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. The Yangtze has also inspired poets, writers and travellers over the centuries.
    • You will travel along one of the most picturesque sections, through the renowned Three Gorges. The 'Sanxia', as they are known in Chinese, stretch for 200 kilometres and vary from 100 metres to 300 metres in width.
    • You will enjoy your cruise on a tourist-class boat between Chongqing and Yichang.
    • This is a much more comfortable way to travel than on the local boats that ply the same route, and offers a fascinating insight into life along the river. You will spend three nights on board and sleep in twin share cabins with private facilities in accommodation similar to a small hotel room.
    • Bedding and sheets are provided, as are all meals throughout the cruise. 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 outside your group. This could be a member of another tour group or a local person.
    • If you have paid a single supplement, please note that this does not cover the cruise.
    • The Yangtze River region is one of the most industrialised and rapidly developing areas in China. We travel on Chinese tourist boats rather than luxury tourist vessels. We like to call it a river trip, rather than a traditional cruise. The Chinese authorities oversee the travel of all boats on the Yangtze, and we've found that quality and stability of service (including that of the food served on board) isn't high on their list of priorities. We do everything we can to ensure standards are maintained for our river trip but some things are outside our control. We use a range of different boats, depending on availability and the date of our departure. All boats are of a standard which complies with our required safety standards, although the size and age of boat varies from trip to trip. As the departure times of the boats are subject to frequent change this can mean that we need to make some changes to our itinerary and at times we've been unable to see all three gorges due to the boat schedule or poor visibility. Any changes made will be done with the aim of giving you the best possible Yangtze experience but we'd like to forewarn you of the possibility. Your leader will update you of any changes at your group meeting.
    Yangtze cruise
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 17 - Yichang - Xi'an

    • Yichang is a small city by Chinese standards. Before disembarking from the boat, you will enjoy a tour of the amazing Three Gorges Dam. You will then have some free time before boarding your an overnight train from Yichang to Xi'an. The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
    • Visit the Terracotta Warriors and hear all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public. More pits were recently opened so you may even be lucky enough to see archaeologists at work, carefully unearthing and restoring these ancient relics.
    • Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use soft sleeper class trains for this journey. These are closed compartments with two-tiered bunk beds (four to a compartment) and sheets, pillows and a blanket provided. Luggage storage space is inside the cabins. Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and there are often snacks available on the train along the way. You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where, due to ticket availability, the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. If the group number doesn't divide into four then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers.
    Union Alliance Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 18-19 - Xi'an

    • Capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China, Xi'an is a wonderful place to explore.
    • Food options are excellent here, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great little dumplings in Chinese restaurants. Widely regarded as the first capital of a united China in 221 BC, the city is rich in history.
    • A nearly full-day tour (6-7 hours) to the renowned Terracotta Warriors introduces you 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, 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. 6000 warriors were buried, however we only get to see the approximate 1500 that were excavated.
    • Peasants digging a well only discovered the underground vault, which was home to this army for two millennia, in 1974.
    • Xi'an also has a wonderful Muslim Quarter. A free day can easily be spent wandering the narrow streets where you will 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.
    Union Alliance Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 20-22 - Beijing

    • You will depart Xi'an on a fast train to Beijing on Day 20, (approx 6 hours).
    • Beijing offers endless opportunities for exploration. 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 truly fascinating is that every square metre is interesting, ranging from intricately carved walkways to colourful, painted ceilings.
    • The Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace are other fine examples of extraordinary workmanship. You will visit one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section, used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.
    • Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience.
    • Your 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 will have the chance to enjoy a performance of the unique Beijing Opera (optional).
    Dong Fang Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 23 - Beijing

    • The tour will come to an end today 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.
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • An experienced, English-speaking local Peregrine leader and specialist local guides at some sites
    • Arrival transfer
    • Authentic Accommodation includes: 12 nights comfortable hotel, 3 nights cruise boat, 6 nights local guesthouse, 1 night sleeper train
    • Overnight train from Yichang to Xian in a ‘soft-class’, four-berth compartment
    • Fast Train from Chengdu to Yichang and from Xi'an to Beijing
    • Domestic flights from Lijiang to Kunming, Kunming to Shanghai, Shanghai to Chengdu
    • Gratuities included for the essential services only that you will receive as part of your tour package. Please see our Tipping section of these trip notes for more information.
    • Meals: 21 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners
    • Sightseeing (including entrance fees where applicable): the water town of Zhouzhuang; Terracotta Warriors; Shanghai Acrobats; Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square & Summer Palace
    • Trekking in Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shaxi with overnight stays in local villages and towns
    • Three-night Yangtze River cruise sailing through the Three Gorges. Accommodation in a twin-share cabin with private facilities on a tourist-class riverboat, with all meals provided
    • Visit to Chengdu’s Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
    • Walk on a remote section of the Great Wall
    • Chinese visa support

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Departure transfer
    • Visas
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Laundry - may be available at locations where we stay two or more nights
    • Optional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips - this is something to consider, and it might be worthwhile speaking to your group about making a group contribution at the end of the trip

    Safety Information

    China is a safe country to travel in and very few travellers will experience any safety concerns. Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur. Foreigners can be targeted for passports, laptops, mobile phones, purses and handbags. Major tourist sites and areas frequented by foreigners attract thieves and pickpockets. Take extra care at major tourist sites, street markets, Beijing International Airport, major international events and conferences and popular bar areas after dark.

    There are occasional incidents with taxi and pedicab drivers who insist the passenger misunderstood the fare. Avoid travelling in unmarked or unmetered ‘taxis’ and insist on paying only the meter fare. Ask the driver for a receipt (fapiao), on which the taxi number should be printed. You can take this to the police to lodge a complaint.

    Counterfeit bank notes (especially RMB100) are increasingly common. They are generally crumpled to avoid detection. Unscrupulous traders may try to switch your genuine bank notes for counterfeits. Check carefully before accepting notes. It is quite normal to do so.

    Beware of scams particularly in popular tourist areas. A regular example is the ‘tea tasting’ scam. Scams usually involve a foreign national being invited to visit a bar, shop or cafe – for example to practice English or meet a girl - but results in demands for an exorbitant fee, often payable by credit card. This can result in threats of violence or credit card fraud.

    Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as at home. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits.

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    China Panorama

    Jenny - Australia, 4 May, 2013
    4
    Overall Rating

    All transfers, bookings and hotel arrangements ran smoothly. Saved me a lot of hassle.

    China Panorama

    Shirley - Australia, 1 Sep, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating

    The tour was so interesting and varied in its experiences. We loved seeing the minority ethnic groups and the many highlights including trekking in Tiger Leaping Gorge,the Yangteze cruise, Three Gorges dam,Chengdu and the giant pandas, Xian including riding bikes on the city wall and the Acrobatics. we loved beijing seeing the great wall and the old parts of the city, the Houtongs, delicious food.

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PCCP
Group size 1 - 16
Start City: Kunming
End City: Beijing
Style: Small Group

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