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Travelling across China using a combination of overnight sleeper and ultra-modern high speed bullet trains, this fast-paced journey takes us from the imperial palaces of Beijing to the skyscrapers of Hong Kong. Trip highlights include Xian's Terracotta Army (and making your own army figure), giant pandas in Chengdu and the rural town of Yangshuo. We also walk through the vast Dragon's Backbone rice terraces, stay in traditional village houses, fly kites and meet the local Zhuang tribes, ending the trip in cosmopolitan Hong Kong.
Day 1: Join tour Beijing
Arrive in Beijing, China's political and cultural capital. The city has undergone breath-taking development over the past decade, yet still retains plenty of sites that showcase the nations ancient past.
Day 2: Free in Beijing to visit Tiananmen Square
Today offers a chance to explore something of a city that has been at the centre of China, politically and culturally, since the days of the great Kublai Khan. You could pay a visit to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, home to the Ming and the Manchu (Qing) emperors for over 500 years.
Day 3: Drive to the Great Wall at Mutianyu and fly kites by the wall or the Olympic stadium. Overnight train to Xian
This morning we drive by private bus to Mutianyu, some 90 kilometres to the north-east of the city, to pay a visit to China's famous Great Wall. One of the country's most iconic symbols, the Great Wall stretches from the China Sea to the Gobi desert, a journey of over 5,000 kilometres. The section we visit today is one of the best preserved parts of the wall, built over 400 years ago during the Ming dynasty.
Day 4: Free day to explore the Shaanxi National Museum or the Muslim Quarter
We arrive in Xian early this morning and walk the short distance to our hotel in time for breakfast. The rest of the day is then free to make the most of China's old imperial capital. You might like to pay a visit to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a 64 metre high structure that offers some superb views out across the city. Another possibility is a visit to the Shaanxi National Museum. Alternatively, the network of alleys that make up the city's Muslim Quarter provide an excellent destination for a day of exploring.
Day 5: Visit the Terracotta Warriors and Workshop and Calligraphy Class
Today we visit one of China's most famous sights, the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Travelling by private bus to the site on the outskirts of Xian, we spend three to four hours exploring the well preserved characters, visiting the three excavated pits that hold, literally, thousands of life-sized archers, soldiers and charioteers. Buried here to guard the tomb of China's first emperor, the Terracotta Army is considered to be one of the greatest archaeological finds of the last century.
Day 6: Morning bullet train to Chengdu. Visit the ancient city of Huanglongxi
We take the Xian to Chengdu bullet train to Chengdu, the capital of China's Sichuan Province. The line is one of China's newest state of the art high speed train routes, reducing the journey time from upto 18 hours to around 4 hours. The line opened on 6th December 2017 and has a top speed of 250km/h travelling 658 kilometres in total.
Day 7: Visit the Panda research centre. Bullet train to Guilin
Chengdu is home to the world famous Panda Breeding and Research Centre which lies just on the outskirts of the city. This morning we travel directly to the centre to see an animal that has become synonymous with China itself. Home to numerous free roaming Giant Pandas, the ultimate aim of the centre is to reintroduce these rare animals back into the wild in such numbers as to ensure their survival. To that end, the centre has enjoyed an extraordinary level of success with numerous new-born pandas over the past few years.
Day 8: Drive to Pingan Village; village walks
The village of Pingan sits perched on the central ridge of the Dragon's Backbone, a visually stunning series of rice terraces that runs along the meandering contours of surrounding hills. Upon arriving at the village, the pace of our trips slows as we take a walk around and meet some of the local Zhuang people and see the unique agricultural feat of engineering that has created this remarkable landscape. Today's walk follows the rice terraces and there are a lot of steps along the route, we can take our time to enjoy the views and with plenty of breaks to rest our legs during the three hour adventure.
Day 9: Full day in rural Pingan village including a walk to meet the local Zhuang people
The Zhuang migrated into this region of China over 5,000 years ago and today represent the largest of the country's minority groups. Skilled in weaving and embroidery, the Zhuang follow a fascinating tradition of beliefs that are deeply rooted in the power of nature. This morning we take a walk for around three hours to another Zhuang village at Longji following a flat path, the afternoon is left free to further explore the villages or relax at our guesthouse.
Day 10: Free morning. Afternoon drive to picturesque town of Yangshou on the banks of the Li River
Bidding farewell to our guesthouse hosts, we drive on to the small market town of Yangshou this morning. Nestling besides the banks of the Li River, Yangshou lies amongst what many consider to be some of the most scenic landscapes in China set amid towering pinnacles.
Day 11: Morning cooking lesson in Yangshou. Fly kites in a local park overlooking the Li River.
We visit a cooking school in the city where the whole family learn how to prepare a number of traditional Chinese dishes using local produce for our lunch today. The afternoon is free to relax and soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful riverside town.
Day 12: Optional cycle ride and raft along the Li River with lunch stop. Overnight sleeper train to Shenzen
The morning is left free to further explore Yangshou. For those that wish to, cycle to the docks and take a motorised bamboo raft trip, gently cruising downstream along the Li River. This is the best way to appreciate the beautiful Karst landscapes that Yangshou is so famous for. Returning to dry land, we are reunited with our bikes and cycle to Moon hill where we have lunch with fine views of the surrounding countryside, cycling back to our hotel early afternoon. For details of the cost of this optional activity please refer to the 'budgeting and packing' section of the trip notes. If you decide to try bamboo rafting, we recommend you can swim 25 metres unaided.
Day 13: Cross border into Hong Kong. Free time on arrival
On arrival in Shenzen this morning we need to cross the border into Hong Kong by way of the Lu Wu rail connection. This requires us carrying our own bags across the border, where our local Hong Kong guide will be waiting to take us to our hotel, travelling with the locals on the MTR metro system. The rest of the day is then free to relax and enjoy one of Asia's most vibrant cities.
Day 14: Free day in Hong Kong to explore this bustling waterfront city
You are free to take in Kowloon's bustling waterfront today, perhaps taking a trip on the famous Star Ferry to enjoy one of the world's most famous cityscapes from the water. Other options include a ride on Hong Kong's funicular railway to the top of Victoria Peak, where you can enjoy some panoramic views out across the city and the outlying islands. You could also visit the Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree, one of the city's most popular shrines, or take a stroll through the stalls and markets of Li Yuen Street in search of some last minute bargains.
Day 15: Tour ends Hong Kong
- Included meals: 12 Breakfasts and 1 lunch
- All transport & airport transfers
- Award-winning Explore leaders
- Local guides and drivers
Beijing - Walk along the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Explore Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
Xian - Meet the famous Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huangdi.
Villages and Rice Terraces - Homestay and hike amongst the rural village of the Zhuang.
Chengdu - Visit a world famous panda research centre
Hong Kong - Free time to explore one of Asia's most vibrant cities.
Please note, prices listed are guide prices only and are based on 2 people sharing and don't include any additional supplements. Holiday prices are fluid and dynamic and may be changed at a moment's notice, prior to booking, at which point they are confirmed. Please call the team free on 0800 707 6229 for more departure dates available and a quote.
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