Days
15
Price from
€2,920EUR

Visit Shanghai, Chengdu, Beijing and the Yangtze River on this comprehensive China adventure

This trip weaves together China’s most famous icons. Shanghai’s bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace provide a glimpse into modern China and the dazzling global future. Zhouzhuang, the Venice of the East, is all canals, alleys and bridge arcs, where Marco Polo once wandered and wondered at the empire’s dynastic might. In Chengdu we observe the unique giant pandas in their struggle for survival. We relax on a Yangzi River cruise through the beautiful mountains above the Three Gorges dam, passing by picturesque rural villages still reliant on China’s most vibrant waterway. In Xian, the famous Terracotta Warriors fascinate for their evocative detail, while a walk of the wider city finds us deep in the rarely seen exotica of the Muslim Quarter. The narrow streets, colourful markets and quiet mosques are surviving remnants of Silk Road caravan days. A sleeper train away, we walk an original section of the great wall and revel in the big show of Beijing. A city within a city of incredible scale and detail awaits, as well as serenely set palaces of sublime beauty and construction, and the full panoply of China’s people.


Start
Shanghai, China
Finish
Beijing, China
Country
China
Style
Peregrine
Code
PCYB
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
31 reviews
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Discover Shanghai's bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace, which provides a glimpse into modern China

  • Stoll the canals, alleys, and bridges of Zhouzhuang, the Venice of the East, much like Marco Polo did almost 800 years ago

  • Learn about the endangered (and adorable) giant pandas’ struggle for survival, and get up close to these unique creatures in Chengdu

  • Step back in time with a boat trip through the painterly scenery of the Yangzi River, which meanders through the dramatic Three Gorges

  • Like everything it does, China’s ancient history is on an epic scale – get a sense of it when you come face-to-face with thousands of Terracotta Warriors

  • The quintessential image of China is the imposing Great Wall – walk through history on an original section

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip includes two overnight trains in soft sleeper class. 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. It's the main form of transport for locals, so take the chance to interact.

  • This trip allows you to experience travel in a variety of different ways, using local transport including fast trains, overnight trains, a boat and plane, as a well as private buses. The trip covers a fair amount of ground, so be prepared for some long journeys.

  • We suggest packing relatively lightly for this trip, as you’ll need to be able to comfortably carry your luggage for the duration of the trip. This includes to and from accommodation, and on and off flights, trains and buses.

  • Accommodation on this trip is on a twin-share basis, unless booking a Single Supplement.

Itinerary

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. Shanghai’s bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace provide a glimpse into the dazzling global future of China. On arrival in the city you’ll be transferred to your hotel, located near the famous Bund (waterfront area), where dozens of imposing European colonial buildings, remnants of the concession era, line the promenade. Your China adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm this evening – please have your important documents and details on hand for this meeting. Your evening is free for your first exploration of the city – perhaps get a taste of Shanghai’s eclectic food scene, which draws influences from far beyond China’s walls.
Accommodation
  • Shanghai Kingtown Hotel Plaza or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, you will explore Shanghai first with your leader together by going on a walk on the Bund and then have some time free for self exploration. The Bund, the water front promenade of the Huangpu River is where you can get a taste of 1920s Shanghai. Art-deco buildings, formerly belonging to Western banks, line what was once the most important financial street in Asia. You can wander down the wide boulevard, with old Shanghai on one side and the future of the city on the other – exemplified by a few iconic skyscrapers that constantly change the skyline: the soaring Oriental Pearl Tower, Jinmao Tower, Global Finance Center and Shanghai Tower.

Your leader will also take you on to the Yuyuan Bazaar at the end of your walk. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Shanghai old town here or maybe visit Yuyuan Garden at the center of the Bazaar (at your own expense) - a fascinating highlight of the city and worth exploring for its Chinese landscaped gardens and wonderful food stalls. Or If you wanted you could take a ferry across the river and climb to the top of one of the skyscrapers, stepping out on to the observation deck for sweeping city views. Back on the western bank, Nanjing Road runs perpendicular to the Bund and is a wide pedestrian street filled with every manner of shop.

Another option is to drop by the impressive Shanghai Museum (free entry), which houses one of the best collections of Chinese bronze and artwork; you could easily spend the whole day here discovering the various exhibitions. This evening you’ll witness the impressive feats of the famous Shanghai acrobats.
Accommodation
  • Shanghai Kingtown Hotel Plaza or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shanghai - Acrobat Show
  • Shanghai - Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Shanghai - Shanghai Museum - Free
  • Shanghai - Yuyuan Gardens - CNY40
  • Shanghai - Urban Planning Exhibition Centre - CNY30
  • Shanghai - Maglev high speed train (round trip) - CNY100
  • Shanghai - Propaganda Museum - CNY20
  • Shanghai - Oriental Pearl Tower Viewing Deck - CNY150
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning you’ll board a private coach to drive to Zhouzhuang (approximately 2 hours). You’ll spend the day exploring Zhouzhuang, an ancient, well-preserved Chinese water town. Surrounded by lakes and rivers, with canals running through the centre and bridges crossing them, the town has unsurprisingly gained the nickname ‘the Venice of the East’. Here you can wander across the famous bridges and roam the streets, just like Marco Polo did nine centuries ago. Explore the various Ming and Qing dynasty residences dotted around the town, and find some peace (as the town can be popular with tourists) in the 900-year-old Taoist Chengxu Temple. For lunch you might try the pork shoulder for which the town is known, and then maybe take a boat trip. When you return to the city, perhaps end your last Shanghai evening with an optional beer or cocktail in one of the highest bars in the world.
Accommodation
  • Shanghai Kingtown Hotel Plaza or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Zhouzhuang - Day Trip
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a flight from Shanghai to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province (approximately 3 hours). Sichuan 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 cuisine within China. In such a food-loving country, this is no mean feat. The city sits in the fertile Red Basin and has a long history of trade built on cottage industry, with handicrafts having a major influence on the development of Chengdu. Overlooked by a large statue of Chairman Mao, Tianfu Square in the middle of the city has a fountain that bursts with an elaborate water show throughout the day, and there are a number of interesting temples nearby. The tranquil Renmin Park (People's Park) is a relaxing spot to spend a few hours, with interesting tea-houses and areas full of locals exercising, singing, playing Mahjong or relaxing in their bamboo chairs drinking tea. Perhaps investigate the street food of Jinli Ancient Street this evening.
Accommodation
  • Chengdu Garden City Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chengdu - Tea Tasting
Optional Activities
  • Chengdu - Sichuan Opera - CNY180
  • Chengdu - Wenshu Monastery - CNY5
  • Chengdu - People's Park & Tianfu Square - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, where you're able to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endearing endangered species. There are only around 1,000 pandas left in the world and 80% of them are found in the mountains in Sichuan. The facility was set up 30 years ago to help conserve this animal, and there are more than 80 giant and red pandas living at the base. The pandas have over 600 acres of parkland to live in, and you can get up close and learn more about these majestic creatures. 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). You’ll then return to Chengdu for some free time this evening – maybe try the local teahouses or sample spicy Sichuan hotpot.
Accommodation
  • Chengdu Garden City Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chengdu - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you’ll travel to Chongqing by train (approximately 2 hours), where you will board a boat for a trip on one the world’s greatest rivers. For the next three days and nights you’ll cruise down the 6,300 kilometres Yangzi (also known locally as the Chang Jiang), 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 Yangzi has also inspired numerous poets, writers and travellers over the centuries. You will travel along one of the most picturesque sections, through the renowned Three Gorges. The dramatic 'Sanxia', as they are known in Chinese, stretch for 200 kilometres and vary from 100 metres to 300 metres in width.

Accommodation
  • Yangzi River Boat (3 nights)
Included Activities
  • Activity
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Xi'an - Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
  • Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY25
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (3)
  • Lunch (2)
  • Dinner (2)
Special Information
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 meals throughout the cruise. However, before you board, you may wish to purchase some snacks to take with you. Please note that all rooms on the Yangzi 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 boat.

The Yangzi 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 Yangzi and we've found that q
Your Yangzi boat trip will end in the small city (by Chinese standards) of Yichang. Here you’ll enjoy a tour of the incredible feat of engineering of the Three Gorges Dam. The world’s largest hydroelectric project, the dam generates power and prevents the major flooding that had long threatened the people of the area (though the impact on displaced people and archaeological sites should not be ignored). Afterwards you’ll have some free time in Yichang, perhaps to try some of the delicious street-side snacks, before you board an overnight train to Xi’an (approximately 12 hours).

Notes: 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. You'll travel on a soft sleeper class train for this trip. These are four berth compartments with a lockable door. Note that compartments are not segregated by gender, so you could be sharing with members of the opposite sex. Wherever possible, we will group our travellers together, but this will depend on group size and ticket availability. Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. Some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Safe, hot drinking water is always available. It is a good idea to bring 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). Basic bathroom facilities with toilets and washbasins are situated at the end of each carriage. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's best to bring an emergency supply. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Food is available on the train, but it's a good idea to stock up on snacks for the trip.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Arrive in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China. Once the imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites and is a great place to explore. Today is free for you to uncover what was once the start of the ancient trading route of the Silk Road. The history means Xi’an has a mixture of cultures, especially found in its food options, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great little dumplings in Chinese restaurants. You can easily spend the day 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. You might learn about Chinese dynasties in the Shaanxi history museum, climb up the Little Wild Goose Pagoda or walk along the top of the city walls – the most complete in China, running over 13 kilometres around the city. For dinner, perhaps try one of the city’s signature dishes, Yang Rou Pao Mo – bread and mutton soup.
Accommodation
  • Union Alliance Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Please note that you may not be able to check in immediately into the hotel on arrival as the check in time is normally at 2pm. In this case we will leave our luggage at the hotel, and discover the charm of the city with your tour leader on a walking tour to the Muslim quarter, returning to the hotel after lunch. 
Today you’ll journey out in to the countryside surrounding Xi’an and visit what is undoubtedly one of the man-made wonders of the world – the Terracotta Warriors. You’ll learn all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for 2,000 years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots (once all individually painted) were commissioned by the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi as part of his mausoleum after he ascended to the throne in 264 BC. Archaeologists have located around 600 different pits, but most have still not undergone the painstaking process of excavation. Three main pits are open for you to view, where over 6,000 warriors (and only 1000 excavated) – each individually sculpted from clay, each having a different costume, height, and even facial expressions – stand in battle formation. The scale is incredibly impressive, even more so when you consider the as yet uncovered pits – Qin Shi Huang’s tomb itself is rumoured to contain a model of China (complete with 100 rivers of flowing mercury) and the sky above, replicas of palaces and scenic towers, the most wonderful and rare objects in the world at the time, and booby-traps set up to stop any break-ins. To maintain the secrets of the mausoleum most of the hundreds of thousands of workers who built the tomb were sealed inside upon completion.

For lunch we’ll visit a local family restaurant, the owner of which has experienced firsthand of the changes brought about by the excavation of Terracotta Warriors. Listen to their stories, while trying the simple yet delicious home cooked food and learn about the fast development of China through their life changes.

After lunch, we’ll continue our day to visit Hangyangling Mausoleum. Built between 153 to 126 BC, Hangyangling Mausoleum serves as another manifestation of the rich history of ancient China. The terracotta figures excavated vividly showed the livelihood of the life in China more than 2000 years ago and include sheep, pigs, dogs and horses as well as human figures. You can even get a close up look at the details of these figures as you walk over the pits on glass floors.

Return to Xi'an for the night.
Accommodation
  • Union Alliance Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors & Guide
  • Xi'an - Hanyangling Mausoleum
  • Xi'an - Lunch with local family
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven Park
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Great Wall Mutianyu
  • Beijing - Summer Palace
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
You will depart Xi'an on a fast train to Beijing today. The high-speed G train takes approximately 6 hours to travel the 1,200 km to Beijing. Use the time to brush up on all the things to see and do in the Chinese capital. After you arrive the rest of the day is free, so spend some free time exploring this imperial giant. Perhaps explore the hutongs (historic narrow streets and alleys that formed the grid of ancient Beijing city) and get a close up look of the locals still living in there, try a donkey burger or egg pancakes, or maybe catch a performance by the renowned Beijing Acrobats.
Accommodation
  • Dongfang Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Make your way to the centre of the city – Tian'anmen Square. Perhaps most famous outside of the country for the 1989 massacre (and the iconic picture of a single man standing up to a tank), this square – supposedly the largest down town square in the world – is the symbolic centre of Chinese power. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum, and with elaborate flag raising and lowering ceremonies at dawn and dusk, it's a place of pilgrimage for the Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation. From here you will enter 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. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City thankfully looks much like it always has. As you explore the great halls and courtyards you’ll be able appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties. You will also visit the Temple of Heaven, a fine example of extraordinary workmanship, surrounded by a park full of locals singing, dancing, and practising tai chi.
Accommodation
  • Dongfang Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
No trip to China would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall. Today you’ll visit one of the best-preserved areas, the Mutianyu section (approximately 2 hours). It used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs, and features guard towers dating back to the Ming dynasty. You’ll often feel like you have the whole wall to yourself as you take your time strolling along the wall, which snakes through the hills and seemingly endlessly into the distance. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience. This afternoon you’ll visit the Summer Palace back on the way back to Beijing. This is one of the best imperial gardens in China, a summer retreat for the Qing Dynasty. The palace was built on a hill made from the earth excavated by hand to create the surrounding lake, and features stunning artwork of imperial life on The Long Corridor. This evening, perhaps head out for a final farewell meal with your group – maybe splurge on famous Peking duck.

Notes: On the Great Wall you'll walk over some steep, remote terrain. Some parts of the wall are unrestored, so you'll beware of your footing. A great idea is to bring a picnic lunch with you from Beijing to enjoy during one of the rest breaks.
Accommodation
  • Dongfang Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The tour will come to an end today after breakfast. There's still lots to see and do in Beijing, so perhaps consider staying a few days longer.
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
  • Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven - CNY40
  • Beijing - Beijing Foodie Walk Urban Adventure - CNY360
  • Beijing - Kungfu Show - CNY180
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Private bus, Cruise boat, Overnight soft sleeper train, High speed train, Plane, Cable car, Taxi

Accommodation

Hotel (10 nights), Cruise boat (3 nights), Soft Sleeper Train (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Shanghai - Acrobat Show
  • Shanghai - Walking Tour
  • Zhouzhuang - Day Trip
  • Chengdu - Tea Tasting
  • Chengdu - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
  • Activity
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter Walking Tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors & Guide
  • Xi'an - Hanyangling Mausoleum
  • Xi'an - Lunch with local family
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven Park
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Great Wall Mutianyu
  • Beijing - Summer Palace

Reviews

Our Yangzi & Beyond trips score an average of 4.87 out of 5 based on 31 reviews in the last year.

Yangzi & Beyond, October 2016

Ken & Judy Clendinning

Yangzi & Beyond, September 2016

Megan Thorp

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A complimentary arrival transfer is included.
2. 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.
3. A single supplement is available to book on this trip however is unavailable on overnight trains and the Yangzi boat cruise
4. The boat trip through the Three Gorges offers some incredible sightseeing and is a genuine way to experience the Yangzi River. Many travellers consider it a highlight of their adventure. Please note that all rooms on the 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 tour group.
5. 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.
6. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.