Day 2 Beijing (B, L, D)
We drive outside Beijing to visit the Great Wall. Guarding Beijing's northwest, this part of the wall forms the major internal line of defense erected by the Ming Dynasty against Mongol invaders; hence its name, Longquanyu, or inner line wall. Here, the Great Wall snakes across mountaintops. Stubborn flowers, bushes and even small trees push up through fallen stones and crumbling mortar, as nature slowly reclaims the Wall. Upon our arrival, we enjoy a lovely picnic lunch at a tranquil farmhouse.
Our walk starts in a village at the foot of the Wall called Xiangtun (Fragrant Village). A local villager guides us on a short walk to the edge of a chestnut grove, sharing stories about village life in Xiangtun along the way. We then hike uphill through terraced chestnut groves to a wild section of the Wall - a site not frequented by tourists and that starkly reveals the isolation and loneliness of a border territory. Explore two or three of the watchtowers before hiking downhill to Longquanyu Village. We then make our way back to Xiangtun and head back to the city (2 hours drive).
The rest of the day we drive to go for a hike along the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Take in views of the Wall snaking over the precipitous mountain ridges on the horizon. Overnight at the same hotel
Day 3 Beijing - Xi'an (B, L, D)
Take morning flight to Xi'an from Beijing. Upon your arrival, Huangshan CITS guide will meet you at the airport. After lunch in a local restaurant, we drive to the famed Terracotta Warriors, created to guard the tomb of the first emperor to unite China, Qin Shihuang, the Terracotta Warriors are regarded as one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries in the 20th century. Later, we make our way to the Xi'an city center to check into the hotel and freshen up.
This evening, we pass by Xi'an's Great Mosque and walk around the Muslim quarter, where the way of life is derived as much from the ancient cultures of Central Asia as from China. For over 1,300 years, since the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618 - 907), Muslims have been an integral part of daily life in Xi'an, the beginning of the Silk Road. Overnight at Gloria Hotel or same level (4 star)
Day 4 Xi'an - Chengdu (B, L, D)
We start our day with a 1 hour bicycle ride along Xi'an's Ancient City Wall, the most complete city wall in all of China. The original foundation was based on the ruins of the Imperial City Wall of Chang'an City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), known today as Xi'an. Though the wall has been entirely renovated, it still resonates with history as we pass by its broad ramparts.
We walk down the wall for 10 minutes to the Forest of Steles, located just under one of the wall's gates. The Forest of Steles is comprised of a series of gardens which contain China's largest, richest and earliest collections of Chinese ancient stone tablets used by famous calligraphers before the invention of paper. We begin our visit with a private calligraphy lesson in studios in the bustling painting and seal market just outside of the Forest. Our calligraphy master then leads us to the Stele Forest, explaining the history and stories of these time-enduring tablets.
After early lunch, we take an afternoon flight to Chengdu. Then we drive directly to Ya'an city, the nearby city known as the birthplace of tea civilization and the cradle of tea culture. We have a walk around the older part of the city and stay in Hongzhu Hotel located in the outskirts of Ya'an. Overnight at Hongzhu Hotel (local best)
Day 5 Bifengxia Panda Base - Chengdu - Guilin (B, L, D)
In the morning, we depart for Bifengxia Panda Base, where we will visit the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP).
Established in 2003, the Bifengxia Panda Base is a preserve and research center, engaging in reproduction efforts and scientific research of these magnificent animals, as well as aiding in the rescue of rare and elusive wild pandas. The Base is also actively involved in outreach and education. This compound is divided into five major functional areas for feeding, breeding, scientific research, panda habitat, and administrative offices. The area's beautiful surroundings, favorable climate and luxuriantly green forest make this place an ideal spot for sightseeing, and support of the Base plays an incredibly important role for the preservation of the giant panda. Today, the Base breeds nearly thirty giant pandas, and is the largest captive giant panda institution in the world. Nowadays, it is no longer possible to view pandas in the wild, but here we can get a close up look at pandas living close to nature.
Our visit to Bifengxia may also afford us the opportunity to enter a spacious outdoor enclosure with the pandas and interact with them. This optional activity is dependent upon the ages and conditions of the pandas at the time of our visit, but those who are lucky enough to have the chance to play with these rough-and-tumble creatures often describe this as one of the most memorable wildlife encounters of their lives. (Please note that the cost of this activity is not included in your trip price and must be paid on-site in the form of a donation to the Base.)
In the late afternoon, we drive back to Chengdu. En route, we pass through scenic countryside, and we stop in the old town of Shangli where we can have lunch and stretch our legs with a stroll through town. Shangli was once an important post on the Silk Road of the south and the ancient Tea-Horse Trail.
This evening we catch a flight to Guilin. Overnight at Bravo Hotel (4 star) or same level
Day 6 Guilin (B, L, D)
In the morning, we take a leisurely boat ride on the Lijiang River to Xingping, an ancient town near Yangshuo. As we sit on the deck of the boat, it will seem as if we are viewing one scroll painting after another. This is territory that has inspired Chinese artists of all sorts for thousands of years. Along the way, we may even see local villagers prowling the river in their traditional boats and employing cormorants for an unusual way of fishing. Upon arrival in Xingping, we disembark the cruise boat, and visit the old houses and a rice noodle factory. After lunch, we drive along the old Chinese "Pony Express Road" to another town of Fuli with a history of 1000 years. Fuli is a small town of 4,000 people. One out of every four residents in Fuli lives on making painted fans and umbrellas. We walk along the ancient narrow stone streets and visit the local market. We drive to Yangshuo late in the afternoon.
In the evening, we watch a private Cormorant Fishing performance at a local's boat, which gives us a special experience on how the local people earning a life by this traditional skill. Overnight at Dragon River Retreat (local boutique hotel)
Day 7 Yangshuo - Longsheng (B, L, D)
We could enjoy the scenes of picturesque hamlets tucked among subtropical plants and rice paddies as we bike in the Aishan Village. And take Bamboo rafting on Yulong River.
After lunch, we drive to the magnificent terraced rice fields of Longsheng, which is carved into the hillside over hundreds of years by the local Yao people. The rice fields, when filled with water, resemble dragon's scales, hence the mountain's name - Dragon's Back. Overnight at Ping'an guesthouse or same level (local boutique hotel)
Day 8 Longsheng - Jinjiang - Guilin (B, L, D)
Today, we hike through Longji terrace to Jinjiang Zhuang village and enjoy the nice terrace field along the way. Meet and interact with friendly Zhuang and Yao minority natives, as we hike a trail that traverses terraced slopes and bamboo forests and connects several Zhuang and Yao minority villages (2 hr hiking). Our lunch will be in a local restaurant on the way.
We take a late evening flight to Hangzhou. Overnight at Lake View Hotel (4 star) or same level
Day 9 Hangzhou - Huangshan (B, L, D)
This morning we drive for 3 hours to get to Huangshan City. After Lunch, we'll be driving for another 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage Site of Mount Huangshan, one of China's most famously scenic mountain landscapes. With its imposing peaks, mysterious clouds, and ancient wind-sculpted pines, Huangshan has inspired painters and poets for centuries. The famed Chinese poet Li Po gave the range its name, Yellow Mountain, in 747 AD. The range has more than 70 peaks, most over 3,000 feet. We'll take the cable car up mountain from the Eastern Route, and then spend the whole day exploring the breathtaking scenery. Overnight at Beihai Hotel (4 star)
Day 10 Huangshan - Hongcun - Shanghai (B, L, D)
Huangshan is famed for its sunrise. Weather permitting, we should gaze upon a breathtaking sight this morning as the golden light of the sun pierces the mists. The mountain peaks rise above the clouds, and the light of sunrise illuminates a frothy, ever-changing sea of white clouds below. We can watch this spectacle from a viewing terrace a short distance from our hotel. Afterwards, we get down the mountain by cable car, which is followed by a visit to the UNESCO heritage village of Hongcun. The 800-year-old Hongcun has beautiful surroundings and old houses of Ming and Qing dynasties. Inside each house, people can see exotic and delicate wood carvings, brick carvings and stone carvings.
After dinner in Huangshan City, we will catch evening flight to Shanghai. Overnight at Ruijin Hotel (4 star)
Day 11 Shanghai depart home (B)
Today, you will depart home from Shanghai.