China Highlights 15-Day Tour (CIT002)
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Day 1: U.S.A. – Beijing
Today you will board a plane bound for China, where you will witness the vicissitudes of China’s five thousand-year history. Your tour will begin with the dynamic capital city of Beijing, a city that encompasses the vast range of China’s cultural styles.
|Summer Palace, Beijing
(photo by Jim G.)
Day 2: Arrival in Beijing
Today, after arriving in Beijing, you will be greeted at the airport by CIT’s professional bilingual tour guide and escorted to the hotel where you will be staying overnight.
Beijing Accommodations: Grand Gongda Jianguo Hotel 工大建国 (5-Star) or equivalent
Day 3: Beijing
After breakfast, you will visit Tiananmen Square. Originally the front entrance of the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Tiananmen (“the Gate of Heavenly Peace”) was built in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Yongle. When it was renovated during the Qing Dynasty, its name was changed to Tiananmen to suggest the idea that the emperor’s mandate to pacify and rule the nation came from heaven. You will make a special trip to see the National Centre for the Performing Arts, whose exterior looks like an enormous eggshell, earning it the nickname “The Egg.” Next, you will tour the Forbidden City, which served as the royal palace for 24 consecutive emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. There you can explore art exhibits from every dynasty, exhibitions of Qing Dynasty cultural relics, the Three Great Halls, the Imperial Garden, the Palace of Heavenly Purity, and other attractions. In the afternoon an expert guide will take you on a pedicab tour of Beijing’s hutong, or “narrow alleyways,” where you can take pictures that will make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time, and afterward you will stroll along the shore of Shicha Hai, a picturesque man-made lake. After dinner you will enjoy a theatrical kung fu show.
Day 3 Attractions:
|Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace
(photo by Craig Maccubbin)
- Tiananmen Square (天安门广场, Tiānānmén Guǎngchǎng)
- National Centre for the Performing Arts (国家大剧院, Guójiā Dàjùyuàn)
- Forbidden City (故宫, Gù Gōng, or 紫禁城, Zǐjìn Chéng)
- Three Great Halls (三大殿, Sān Dàdiàn)
- Imperial Garden (御花园, Yùhuā Yuán)
- Palace of Heavenly Purity (乾清宫, Qiánqīng Gōng)
- Beijing’s hutong, (胡同, hútòng)
- Shicha Hai (什刹海, Shíchà Hǎi)
- Special Arrangements: theatrical kung fu show (功夫秀, gōngfū xiù)
Day 4: Beijing
After breakfast, you will visit the Great Wall of China, one of the Eight Wonders of the Ancient World. Located in a strategically important area that military commanders throughout history have sought to control, the Badaling stretch of the Great Wall is the best-preserved, most representative, and most finely constructed section from the Ming Dynasty. After visiting the Great Wall, you will tour the Summer Palace used by the imperial family during the Qing Dynasty. Originally called “Clear Ripple Garden,” the Summer Palace was burned down in 1860 by the allied forces of England and France. Beginning in 1888, the Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt it with a huge sum of money embezzled from the navy. After its reconstruction was completed ten years later, it was given its current name. Next, you will tour the largest extant temple complex in China, the Temple of Heaven, where the emperor held sacrificial rites. The famous Echo Wall and Three-Tone Stone are located here. Afterward, you will visit the famous sites of many 2008 Beijing Olympics events: the National Aquatics Center, or “Water Cube,” and the National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest.”
Day 4 Attractions:
|Bird’s Nest, Beijing
(photo by Martin Dougiamas)
- Great Wall of China at Badaling (八达岭长城, Bādálǐng Chángchéng)
- Summer Palace (颐和园, Yíhé Yuán)
- Temple of Heaven (天坛, Tiāntán)
- Echo Wall (回音壁, Huíyīn Bì)
- Three-Tone Stone (三音石, Sānyīn Shí)
- National Aquatics Center (国家游泳中心, Guójiā Yóuyǒng Zhōngxīn), or Water Cube (水立方, Shuǐ Lìfāng)
- National Stadium (国家体育馆, Guójiā Tǐyùguǎn), or Bird’s Nest (鸟巢, Niǎo Cháo)
- Special Arrangements: gondola (cable car) transport up and down the Great Wall; Peking duck (烤鸭, kǎoyā) at Quanjude (全聚德, Quánjùdé), a famous restaurant
Day 5: Beijing – Xi’an
After breakfast, you will fly to the ancient city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. Formerly called Chang’an (“Eternal Peace”), it is considered one of the great cities of the ancient world along with Athens, Cairo, and Rome. Over the course of Chinese history, Xi’an was the capital of eleven dynasties. Because Xi’an was the eastern endpoint of the legendary Silk Road, it features numerous cultural relics and historical sites. First, you will tour Big Goose Pagoda, which was built to preserve the valuable scriptures that the famous monk Master Xuán Zàng brought back from India. Since ancient times, distinguished and cultured men have been inspired by the view from the tower to write timeless works. Afterward, you will tour Xi’an’s enormous City Walls, which have a history of more than 600 years. For dinner, we have arranged a meal of authentic Shaanxi-style food for you. Xi’an’s delicious cuisine is a highlight of any visit to Xi’an and has earned it a reputation as a “gourmet food capital.”
Xi’an Accommodations: Titan Times Hotel 西安天朗时代大酒店 (5-Star) or equivalent
Day 5 Attractions:
|City Walls, Xi’an
(photo by CIT)
- Big Goose Pagoda (大雁塔, Dàyàn Tǎ)
- Xi’an’s City Walls (城墙, Chéngqiáng)
- Special Arrangements: authentic Shaanxi-style dinner
Day 6: Xi’an
If you haven’t seen the First Emperor’s terracotta army, known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, you haven’t really been to Xi’an. The pit where the terracotta army is still in the process of being excavated is an ancillary section of the tomb of the infamous First Emperor, Qín Shǐhuáng. Your next stop is Huaqing Hot Springs, which since ancient times has been famed for the high quality of both its hot springs and its beautiful scenery, but even more for its description in the famous poem “Song of Eternal Sorrow” by Bái Jūyì: “Allowed to bathe at Huaqing on a cold spring day, she washed her creamy skin with the warm, silky water; languid and tired, she was helped out of the water by a maid, and the Emperor’s love for her was renewed.” Because of this poem, the story of the tragic love affair that occurred here between Yáng Guìfēi and Emperor Xuánzōng of the Tang Dynasty has been passed down through the ages. After dinner, you will have a chance to admire modern musicians and dancers as they present an opulently staged show, re-created from historical materials, in imitation of Tang Dynasty performances.
Day 6 Attractions:
|Main excavation pit, terracotta army, Xi’an
(photo by CIT)
- the First Emperor’s terracotta army (兵马俑, Bīngmǎyǒng)
- Huaqing Hot Springs (华清池, Huáqīng Chí)
- Special Arrangements: authentic Defachang dumplings (德发长饺子, Défācháng jiǎozi), Tang Dynasty-style performance (仿唐乐歌舞, Fǎng Táng yuègēwǔ)
Day 7: Xi’an – Guilin
Today you will say goodbye to Xi’an and travel to a city with “mountain and water” scenery that ranks among the finest in the world: Guilin, whose verdant hills, picturesque rivers, and unusual landscapes make it deserving of its fame. Reed Flute Cave, the first stop on your Guilin itinerary, boasts some of Guilin’s most iconic scenery and enjoys a reputation as “nature’s architectural wonder”; it contains rock formations of every shape and color, including stone pillars, stone curtains, stone flowers, and all kinds of strange things. Seen under bright lights of every color, they dazzle the eyes like a dream or a hallucination. Another famous sight, Elephant Trunk Hill, looks like an enormous elephant with its trunk dangling in the water as if it were about to drink from the river. For dinner we will arrange for you to enjoy a meal of Guilin-style rice-flour noodles, which are even more famous than Guilin’s scenery. So long they seem to never end, rice-flour noodles of the finest quality are soft and silky as well as tasty; with some peanuts or pickled cabbage on top, they’re even more delicious, and they will give you a tremendous appetite.
Guilin Accommodations: Guilin Bravo Hotel 桂林宾馆 (4-Star) or equivalent
Day 7 Attractions:
(photo by Luciano)
- Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩, Lúdí Yán)
- Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山, Xiàngbí Shān)
- Special Arrangements: authentic Guilin-style rice-flour noodles (米粉, mǐfěn)
Day 8: Guilin – Yangshuo
Thanks to the beauty of the Li River, Yangshuo’s scenery may be even better than Guilin’s. The most picturesque part of the Li River is universally acknowledged to be the stretch located between Guilin and Yangshuo. Today at dawn, in the clear and crisp morning air, you will board a ship to tour the river, which will make you feel as if you’re in nature’s art gallery, with one beautiful painting after another slowly unfolding before your eyes. At noon you will enjoy a meal as you continue to admire the scenery, basking in the boundless pleasure of the journey. After arriving in Yangshuo, you can have a little something to drink and do some people watching: in the afternoon, we have arranged a bamboo raft trip along Yangshuo’s tranquil Yulong River. In the evening you can also enjoy Yangshuo’s lively night market. Chinese and Western cafes and restaurants line the street like trees in a forest, and the souvenirs every-where are a feast for the eyes.
Yangshuo Accommodations: Yangshuo New Century Hotel 阳朔新世纪 (4-Star) or equivalent
Day 8 Attractions:
|Tea rafts, Yangshuo
(photo by Hector Garcia)
- boat tour of the Li River (漓江, Lí Jiāng)
- bamboo raft trip on the Yulong River (遇龙河, Yùlóng Hé)
- Yangshuo night market (夜市, yèshì)
- Special Arrangements: “beer fish” (啤酒鱼, píjiǔ yú, a famous local Yangshuo dish), a special bamboo raft route arranged just for you
Day 9: Yangshuo – Guilin – Shanghai
After breakfast, you will depart Yangshuo and return to Guilin Airport, from which you will fly to Shanghai, the largest city in China. After your arrival, you will tour the architectural complex of the Bund, which lies along the Huangpu River in the downtown area. The Bank of China tower, Peace Hotel, Customs House tower, and other famous buildings built by Western nations during the colonial era are all located along the Bund, where the historical elegance of the “Wall Street of the Far East” has reappeared. On the opposite shore of the Huangpu River in Pudong stands a cluster of modern skyscrapers that represent China’s new era of prosperity, conveying a sense of vigor, majesty, and luxury. After your stroll along the Bund, you will spend an hour enjoying Shanghai’s bright and colorful night scenery as you cruise along the Huangpu River in a tourist boat. Later, you will walk among a sea of people on Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s famed shopping district.
Shanghai Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Shanghai Fudan 上海复旦皇冠假日酒店 (5-Star) or equivalent
Day 9 Attractions:
|Crowds on Nanjing Road
(photo by Jakob Montrasio)
- The Bund (外滩, Wàitān)
- view of Pudong (浦東, Pǔdōng)
- Huangpu River (黃浦江, Huángpǔ Jiāng)
- Nanjing Road (南京路, Nánjīng Lù)
- Special Arrangements: Mongolian barbecue (蒙古烧烤, Ménggǔ shāokǎo) for dinner, Huangpu River boat tour
Day 10: Shanghai
After breakfast, you will head to Old Town (also known as Old Street) to tour Yuyuan Gardens and the Temple of the Town Gods Shopping Center. Here you will find goods of every description, including artworks, jewelry, clothes, snacks, souvenirs, toys, and special folk handicrafts. After lunch you will visit the Shanghai Museum, whose artworks and artifacts are appreciated both within China and internationally. In the evening you will enjoy a mesmerizing performance by a Shanghai-based troupe of acrobats.
Day 10 Attractions:
(photo by Brandon Fick)
- Old Town (老城市, Lǎo Chéngshì)
- Yuyuan Gardens (豫园, Yùyuán)
- Temple of the Town Gods Shopping Center (城隍庙商圈, Chénghuáng Miào Shāngquān)
- Shanghai Museum (上海博物馆, Shànghǎi Bówùguǎn)
- Special Arrangements: a taste of authentic Shanghainese food, Shanghai acrobats (杂技, zájì)
Day 11: Shanghai – Zhouzhuang – Suzhou
Today, after breakfast, you will visit Zhouzhuang, a famous “water village” built around a series of canals, with buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Like flipping through a series of well-preserved old photos, walking through Zhouzhuang will give you an intense feeling of nostalgia. You will also tour the village via a traditional gondola-like boat and savor the poetic atmosphere of life along the canals. Afterward, you will proceed to Suzhou to visit another place rich with poetic atmosphere: Cold Mountain Temple (also called Hanshan Temple). Then you will tour the Humble Administrator’s Garden, one of the most famous of Suzhou’s traditional gardens and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally, as evening approaches, you will have some time to relax at Shantang Street, an old-style street lined with traditional houses and featuring a picturesque canal. There you can enjoy a boat ride on the canal and take in a distant view of Tiger Hill, with its famous leaning tower.
Suzhou Accommodations: Holiday Inn Youlian Suzhou 苏州友联假日 (4-Star) or equivalent
Day 11 Attractions:
(photo by Chen Zhao)
- Zhouzhuang (周庄, Zhōuzhuāng)
- Cold Mountain Temple / Hanshan Temple (寒山寺, Hánshān Sì)
- Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政园, Zhuōzhèng Yuán)
- Shantang Street (山塘街, Shāntáng Jiē)
- view of Tiger Hill (虎丘山, Hǔqiū Shān)
- view of Tiger Hill Leaning Tower/Cloud Rock Pagoda (虎丘斜塔, Hǔqiū Xiétǎ / 云岩塔, Yúnyán Tǎ)
- Special Arrangements: gondola ride on the canals of Zhouzhuang, riverboat ride on Shantang Street canal
Day 12: Suzhou – Wuxi – Hangzhou
After breakfast, you will proceed to the prosperous city of Wuxi. There you will tour Xihui Park, the location of the Hui Mountain Spring, traditionally considered the “second best spring in the world.” Xihui Park offers a distinctive synthesis of serene mountain forest scenes, cultural relics and attractions, and leisure activities in one expansive park. At the summit of Xihui Park’s West Hill stands the iconic Dragon Light Pagoda, a seven-story tower that affords a magnificent view of the park, the city, and nearby Lake Tai. For lunch you will have authentic Wuxi spareribs. Afterward you will visit Three Kingdoms City, a re-creation of a Three Kingdoms-era town featuring architecture, costumes, and performances from the 3rd century A.D. Then you will take a boat tour of Lake Tai, which is the most iconic symbol of Wuxi and is also famous for its pearls. Finally, you will head to Hangzhou, where you will enjoy a dinner featuring Hangzhou-style “red clay pot” cuisine.
Hangzhou Accommodations: Best Western Premier Hangzhou 瑞丰格林 (4-Star) or equivalent
Day 12 Attractions:
|Xihui Park, Wuxi
(photo by 龙)
- Xihui Park (锡惠公园, Xīhuì Gōngyuán)
- Hui Mountain Spring (惠山泉, Huìshān Quán)
- Dragon Light Pagoda (龙光宝塔, Lóngguāng Bǎotǎ)
- Three Kingdoms City (三国城, Sānguó Chéng)
- Lake Tai (太湖, Tài Hú), including a boat tour
- Special Arrangements: Wuxi-style spare ribs, Lake Tai boat trip, Hangzhou “red clay pot” cuisine
Day 13: Hangzhou
In the morning you will tour Lingyin Temple, which according to legend was originally built by a Buddhist monk from India. The legend also says that Feilai Peak (“Peak Flying from Afar”), just across from the temple, was transported through the air to the site directly from India. Next you will visit the opulent Residence of Hu Xueyan. Built with an enormous sum of money by a 19th-century pharmaceutical magnate, it has been called “China’s Number One Mansion.” The iconic West Lake is Hangzhou’s most famous attraction. We have made special arrangements for you to take a relaxing boat tour to enjoy the scenery of West Lake, which is bounded on one side by a modern downtown area and on the other sides by the natural beauty of Hangzhou’s hills. This scenery is one of the main reasons for the Chinese expression “Up above, there’s Heaven; down here, there’s Suzhou and Hangzhou.” We have also set aside plenty of time for you to walk along the shore of West Lake and take in its many famous sights, such as Red Carp Pond and Liulang Wenying Park.
Day 13 Attractions:
(photo by R. Guy)
- Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺, Língyǐn Sì)
- Feilai Peak (飞来峰, Fēilái Fēng)
- Residence of Hu Xueyan (胡雪岩, Hú Xuěyán Gùjū)
- West Lake (西湖, Xī Hú), including a boat tour
- Red Carp Pond (花港观鱼, Huāgǎng Guānyú)
- Liulang Wenying Park (柳浪闻莺, Liǔlàng Wényīng)
- Special Arrangements: We have arranged for you to stay two nights in Hangzhou to ensure that you have plenty of time to see its most iconic scenery and experience what this cultured city has to offer.
Day 14: Hangzhou – Shanghai
Today marks the end of our itinerary, as you head back to Shanghai on our tour bus after a full night’s sleep. After lunch you will have a free afternoon and evening to indulge in shopping or any other activities. Each member of the group can decide where to eat dinner, and you will have plenty of leisure time to spend the last night of the trip doing whatever you’d like. If you’re not sure where you’d like to go or what you’d like to eat, your tour guide will be happy to make some recommendations.
Shanghai Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel Shanghai Fudan 上海复旦皇冠假日酒店 (5-Star) or equivalent
Note: In order to allow tour participants the freedom to choose where to eat in this culinary capital, dinner is not included on today’s itinerary.
|Hot pot: One good way to spend
your free time in Shanghai
(photo by Christopher)
Day 15: Departure from China via Shanghai
Today you will say farewell to Shanghai and return home. First, you will take an exhilarating ride on the Shanghai Maglev Train, the world’s only commercial high-speed maglev (magnetic levitation) train. The western end of the line leaves from Longyang Road Station on Shanghai’s No. 2 subway line, and its eastern end is at Pudong International Airport; its total length is 30 kilometers. With a maximum speed of 431 kilometers per hour, the train takes only 7 minutes and 20 seconds to transport you the entire length of the track to the airport, where you will take a flight back to the United States.
Special Arrangements: Maglev Train (磁浮列车, Cífú Lièchē)
* “Total price” includes air ticket, fuel surcharge, taxes and fees, land transportation, meals (with some exceptions on international arrival and departure days and as noted on the itinerary), hotels, tour guides, complimentary accident insurance, and all of the attractions listed on the itinerary (including the “special arrangements”) but does NOT include the additional charge for single occupancy; the base price per traveler assumes that hotel rooms are shared by two people.
Please read this section of our Booking page for more information about charges for children, airfare, our cancellation policy, and cancellation insurance.