Highlights of China & the Yangtze
Your first full day in Beijing takes you to Tiananmen Square, which is both a center of modern civic life in Beijing and the gateway to the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is surrounded by monuments to Chairman Mao and the Communist revolution that transformed China following WWII. You’ll stroll through the square and enter the Forbidden City, the 180-acre precinct of China’s historic emperors. Begun in the 15th century, the complex grew to encompass palaces and gardens, quarters for the imperial family, and offices for bureaucrats. This vast compound houses many treasures of the Qing and Ming dynasties.
Your next stop takes you to the traditional residential neighborhoods of Beijing, the hutongs, which you’ll tour in the most traditional way—via rickshaw. You’ll also be invited in to have lunch with a local family. In the evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner of succulent Peking duck, a signature dish of the city, with wine. (BB, L, WD)
Walk along a section of the legendary Great Wall, a UNESCO-designated site that has been one of the manmade wonders of the world since it was originally built in the sixth century to keep out invaders from the north. Back in Beijing, spend the evening enjoying a spectacular show that combines kung fu prowess with acrobatics and dance; it’s the best performance in town. (BB, L, D)
Start the day touring the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO-designated site completed in the 15th century. A masterpiece of architectural and landscape design, it influenced architecture throughout China for centuries. Next, you’ll visit the giant pandas at the Beijing Zoo.
After lunch, you’ll fly to the ancient city of Xi’an, where you’ll settle into the Hilton Xi’an hotel and savor an extraordinary dumpling banquet in the city widely considered the home of the dumpling. (BB, L, D)
Twenty-four centuries ago, China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was entombed with a vast army of soldiers and horses made of clay. The large tomb complex lay undisturbed until the 20th century, when it became one of the most astonishing archaeological finds ever recorded. Only about 8,000 of the life-size Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses have been excavated; no one knows for sure how many more figures remain concealed. You’ll visit the museum where some of these figures are exhibited and learn how they were created. Then you’ll see the massive defensive wall built around Xi’an by the first Ming emperor in the 15th century. Enjoy lunch with a noodle-making presentation. In the evening, indulge in a lovely traditional dinner—complete with choujiu, a milky rice wine served warm—and a cultural performance that re-creates the music, folk dance, and traditional costumes of the Tang Dynasty. (BB, L, D)
Visit the seven-story Big Wild Goose Pagoda, sacred to Buddhists since the seventh century; tradition says that throwing coins from the pagoda’s windows brings good luck. You’ll then fly to Chongqing, where you’ll board your luxurious ship. (BB, L, D)
Though the Yangtze is almost 3,500 miles long, the 75 miles known as the Three Gorges is famous for its matchless scenery. Every view is a picture straight out of China’s iconic watercolor illustrations. The ship will stop at Shibao Pagoda, a colorful temple built into the side of a steep hill that is now an island as a result of rising waters from the Three Gorges Dam. Enjoy a Captain’s Welcome Reception with complimentary wine in the evening. (BB, L, WR, D)
You’ll get a close-up view of the breathtaking landscape as you board a small boat and cruise along Shennong Stream, a tributary to the Yangtze. Karst caves pock the high cliffs surrounding you, and monkeys play on the shore beside the sparkling waters. Later in the day, your ship will navigate the enormous Three Gorges Dam locks. In the evening, a Captain’s Farewell Dinner with complimentary wine will be served. (BB, L, FD)
Before you disembark in Yichang, you’ll visit the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam, which is designed to control flooding on the Yangtze and provide electrical power to a vast swathe of the country. Its scale is a tribute to national ambition, but its location has caused controversy. Then you’ll catch a flight to Shanghai, where you’ll settle into your deluxe room at the Pudong Shangri-La and relax over a buffet dinner at your hotel. (BB, L, D)
Stroll along the Bund, Shanghai’s famed waterfront promenade, and admire the view of the Pudong district with its spectacular skyscrapers. After savoring a tasty and traditional dim sum lunch at your hotel, you’ll have time to browse through the district’s shops. In the evening, be dazzled by the world-renowned Shanghai Acrobats. (BB, L)