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Welcome to China's sprawling, high flying and innovative capital city, Beijing. With one foot in the future and the other in the past, Beijing is nothing if not unique. An impressive six UNESCO World Heritage sites and a splurge of temples make the city a historian's dream, whilst modern masterpieces like the CCTV Building and the Galaxy Soho ensure Beijing is a city taking its place as one of the front runners in contemporary design. Arriving today, you'll transfer to your hotel and meet up with your Travel Director before getting to know the rest of your group over a welcome dinner this evening.
Today's sightseeing tour will see you dive straight into the magic of Beijing, kicked off in the world's largest public square, Tiananmen Square. Claiming an incredible 440,000 square metres of space and flanked by Soviet style buildings, the square was the brainchild of Chairman Mao and flexes some serious Communist design ideals. Next up, you'll head over to the UNESCO listed Forbidden City, the largest palace complex in the world featuring courtyards, palaces, pavilions and gardens all ringed by 3.5km of scarlet coloured citadel walls. Take your time exploring this impeccably preserved complex, imagining what life would have been like for the 24 emperors who ruled here during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This afternoon enjoy some free time at leisure and perhaps explore the enchanting hútòngs or alleyways that crisscross the city. This evening you could opt to join us for the spectacular 'Legend of Kung Fu' show. Mixing traditional martial arts with modern theatre, watch as Kung Fu artists from all over China display an art form that is utterly synonymous with Chinese culture.
Widely considered a Top 10 life experience, today's the day you'll be able to tick off 'visiting the Great Wall of China' on your lifetime to-do list. China's greatest feat of engineering and one of the most famous sights in the world, the wall stretches some 21,000 km from East to West China, snaking its way like a dragon through deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus. Walking along this impressive piece of history, be sure to take in the views of the wall snaking off into the distance and appreciate the sheer will and determination of the millions who helped to create this incredible fortification, the greatest relic of the Ming Dynasty. Lunch today will be in a local restaurant, then this afternoon, and after some much needed downtime, why not see out your time in Beijing with an optional dinner, a sumptuous banquet of local specialities including Beijing Kao Ya or better known as Peking Duck to the rest of the world.
Waking up to a final free morning in Beijing, make the most of your final hours here by choosing to join our optional trip to the UNESCO listed Temple of Heaven. A vast religious complex in the old outer city and one of the country's most important Imperial temples, this place is widely considered one of the greatest achievements of traditional Chinese architecture, with a layout that displays the belief that the earth is square, and heaven round. This afternoon catch a flight to the historical city of Xi'an. Once home to emperors, warriors and the Chinese elite, Xi'an is the kind of place that keeps historians up at night, imagining what could have been. It's one of the few cities in China that's still managed to hold on to its imposing 12 metre high city walls, and is of course best known as the home of the magnificent Terracotta Army. This evening and with time to yourself, perhaps head out to explore the busy lanes of the Muslim Quarter.
We hope you're prepared as today's visit to the Terracotta Army may just knock you over backwards. One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of recent times, it's incredible to think that this life size army of thousands of warriors, each with a face different to the next, was discovered completely be accident by some fortunate peasants drilling a well. Standing in battle formation and positioned according to rank, the warriors have silently guarded over the body of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, for an astounding 2000 years. You'll learn about the discovery and history of the army from your local travel guide, and take your time exploring here before heading on for a local style lunch. This evening and no doubt hungering for more Chinese history, perhaps opt to join your fellow travellers at our Tang Dynasty dinner and show. Tuck in to a delicious dumpling banquet, then enjoy the vibrant costumes, colourful dances and traditional music of this eight part show that brings to life the culture and lifestyle of the great Tang Dynasty.
Heading for the airport this morning, you'll catch a flight bound for the booming city of Chongqing. As one of the most densely populated cities on earth it's little surprise that Chongqing throbs with life and energy, but the many, many people who live here are welcoming and friendly, and the vision of the city spilling over onto both banks of the Yangtze River is a real sight to behold. Speaking of the Yangtze, catch your first glimpse of the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world as you arrive here, then after dinner get even better acquainted as you board your river cruise ship, your home for the next three nights.
Slowly journeying down the sublimely scenic Yangtze River, otherwise known as the 'Chang Jiang' or 'long river', be sure to make the most of your surroundings. Sit back and relax on deck, cold drink in hand, and simply enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your first port of call today will be Shibaozhai, or 'Precious Stone Fortress', an incredible 12 storey, 56 metre high wooden pagoda built on the top of a cliff and an impressive relic of the Xianfeng Emperor. Reaching the temple via a red pavilion masterfully built into the rock face, take your time exploring before cruising on to the shrines, temples and monasteries of Fengdu's 'Ghost City', a two-thousand-year-old complex located on the Ming Mountain that is dedicated to all things afterlife. Explore the vividly depicted images that reflect the notion of good and evil, then retire back to the ship to continue your Yangtze cruise.
The scenery gets even more beautiful today as you cruise through the Three Gorges region. Hold your breath as you squeeze through the steep precipices of the Qutang Gorge, the river swirling and frothing beneath you, then breathe a sigh of wonder as you enter the Wu Gorge, where the famous forest covered peaks of the Wushan Mountains are guaranteed to take your breath away. No doubt keen to get a closer look, it's here you'll board a small motor boat that will take you to Goddess Stream, a place that absolutely lives up to its otherworldly name. Utterly gorgeous, the steep cliffs and deep valleys of this region create a sense of real serenity, and you'll get to soak it all up before hopping back on board to visit the final gorge, Xiling, another beautiful area of tumbling rapids, karst caves and soaring cliff edges.
Make an early start this morning and ascend to the top deck of the Yangtze cruise ship to enjoy the views of the vast Three Gorges Dam - the largest dam in the world and a serious labour of love with a production timeline that spanned decades. After disembarkation at Maoping Port there is another great photo opportunity to get shots of the Dam before transferring to Yichang Airport to catch your flight to the stunning city of Shanghai.
Diving into all that Shanghai has to offer, this morning's sightseeing tour will start off at The Bund, the city's famous waterfront hub. Once a place of fast paced trading akin to New York's Wall Street, today The Bund is the place to be in Shanghai. All the top restaurants, hotels and shops can be found on this exclusive patch of real estate, where art deco and neoclassical buildings rub shoulders with monolithic skyscrapers. Continuing on to a silk museum where vibrant colours are the aim of the game, you'll then stop off at Shanghai's premium shopping destination, Nanjing Road. Stretching out over three miles and housing over 600 businesses, it won't be hard to see why shopping is serious business in Shanghai. Go wild in the stores selling high end couture and vintage finds alike, then this evening perhaps opt to join your fellow travellers on our visit to a daring acrobatics show.
With a full day to explore your way, be sure to make the most of it! If it's culture you're after, you're in the right place; Shanghai has one of the most revered cultural scenes of any city in the world with a wealth of museums and galleries showcasing contemporary and historical treasures alike. You may choose to take our optional trip to the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao with its 36 bridges built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Or if you prefer to discover the city on your own, you could head to the Old Town for a glimpse of Shanghai of old or visit Yùyuán Garden, a true delight with its shady alcoves and fish filled pools. Eating is a hugely important social activity in China and undoubtedly one of the best ways to experience the culture, so be sure to sample all the wonderful delights that cross your path on your adventures.
Say goodbye to Shanghai's buzzing city streets, engineering wonders, and tasty local delicacies this morning as you catch a flight to the laid-back city of Kunming. After touching down, we'll head to a local restaurant for a tasty lunch to fuel up for today's adventures. Over 12 centuries of culture, architecture and stories await as we journey to our home for tonight, the ancient town of Jianshui and history buffs will be delighted by this afternoon's agenda. We'll get right to it with a guided walking tour to soak up the sights like the Chaoyang Tower, the final one of four towers still standing, built during the Ming Dynasty as an eastern gate to the ancient town. Don't forget to listen for the resounding boom of the tower's bell which can be heard by every resident at sunset. You'll also learn about the history of its ancient wells, which locals prefer to get their daily water from instead of the tap. Already wrapped up in Jianshui's charms, check in to your hotel and rest up for tomorrow's explorations as the natural wonders of China just keep on coming.
Waking up to another day of adventure on your China value tour, we'll kickstart the day with a slice of culture at the Confucian Temple. It's over 700 years old and the third-largest of its kind in China and you're sure to be blown away by the temple's incredible detail. The jewel in its crown is Dacheng Hall, where 22 intricate doors are engraved with nearly one hundred birds and animals and are considered to be one of the most exquisite works of the early Ming dynasty. Don't miss the chance to snap a photo of the huge cypress tree too! Next up, we'll make our way to the Double Dragon Bridge for yet another dose of history. Located at the confluence of two rivers, this ancient 17-arch bridge is the largest in Yunnan province with views of green fields, blue mountains and clear waters that are sure to give you a sense of calm. Keep that zen feeling with you during a visit to the Zhang Family Garden, a rare chance to see a traditional walled Yunnan village and the building's meticulously decorated doors. This afternoon, spend the rest of your day exploring your way. Wander the streets with your camera, stop to refuel over a cup of chá (tea), and don't miss your chance to see locals in action at a traditional pottery and tofu workshop. Garden lovers will be sure to visit the Zhu Family Garden, with 42 stunning courtyards over 20,000 square metres.
Nature lovers are in for a treat today as you journey back to Kunming, stopping along the way for lunch and a stroll through the magical Stone Forest. You'll marvel at this incredibly rare geological phenomenon, where 80 hectares of karst limestone pillars resemble a forest when viewed from far away. Standing tall for 270 million years, it's been known as the 'First Wonder of the World' since the Ming Dynasty and is still home to the Sani tribe, part of the diverse Yi minority renowned for their embroidery and traditional dancing. You'll love the experience of making your way through the stone labyrinths, letting the energy of local folklore, traditions and nature work its way under your skin. As we make our way to Kunming, no doubt memories of this mystical place will stay in your mind for years to come.
Prepare for yet another mind-blowing day on your China vacation package, this time with a full day exploring Kunming. Your spine will tingle at our first stop as you stare down the steep cliff of the Dragon Gate Temple, the Taoist wonder carved into the city's Western Hills and home to the best scenery in the region. You'll be scratching your head in amazement as you see how stonemasons managed to craft the intricate grottoes, tunnels and pathways. Next, you'll switch up your perspective at the Hua Ting Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Yunnan Province that has been rebuilt several times. Breathe in the sweet scent of camellia, magnolia and osmanthus blooms as you explore the ancient buildings and sacred grounds. This afternoon head back to your hotel for some well-deserved rest before spending the evening your way. We can't think of a better way to celebrate the last night of your trip than with a traditional feast and a colourful show where Yunnan's 25 ethnic groups perform an expertly choreographed display by one of the most famous national dancers of China.
Your incredible odyssey through China will come to an end today, but your memories of beautiful landscapes, exquisite architecture, ancient kingdoms and tasty local delicacies will last a lifetime. Say goodbye to your fellow travellers before transferring on to Kunming Airport to catch your onward flight to your next destination.
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