Essential China

8nights Escorted Small Group Tour

This small group tour is the perfect introduction for first-time visitors to China. Discover the futuristic city of Shanghai, where towering skyscrapers blend effortlessly with a historic waterfront, and see the ancient Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, a city famous for its delicious Chinese dumplings. Continue to Beijing to see ancient palaces and the world-famous Great Wall.

• Shanghai: 2 nights
• Xi’an: 2 nights
• Beijing: 2 nights
• Mutianyu/ The Great Wall: 1 night

8nights Escorted Small Group Tour
 
 
ITINERARY

Stay longer

Chengdu 2 nights
Head to Chengdu for a once in a lifetime Panda volunteering experience.

Day 1: Beijing to Chengdu
Transfer to the airport for your morning flight to Chengdu. Upon arrival, you will be met by your guide before transferring to your hotel for check-in. This afternoon you will have a half day city tour taking you to Wenshu Monastery which is the best preserved Buddhist temple in the city, after which you will visit historical and atmospheric Jinli Street. In the evening dinner will be at a local restaurant. Approx. journey time: 3 hours. Stay: Tibet Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 2: Chengdu
This morning will be one of your highlights in China as you visit the Panda Volunteering Centre at Dujiangyan outside of Chengdu. This experience includes you assisting with the cleaning of the panda pens and preparing food and feeding the pandas. You will have lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Chengdu where you will spend the afternoon exploring the People’s Park and have a tea tasting. Stay: Tibet Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Chengdu
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Meals: Breakfast

Tibet 4 nights
Explore mystical Tibet on this four night extension.

Day 1: Beijing to Lhasa
Transfer to the airport for your early morning flight to Lhasa. On arrival, a local guide will transfer you to the hotel. This evening enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Approx. journey time: 4½ hours. Stay: Four Points by Sheraton (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 2: Lhasa
Today you will visit Sera Monastery at the foot of Tatipu Hill. This is one of the three famous monasteries in the city and is dedicated to the Yellow Hat Sect, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name of the monastery means “wild rose” in the Tibetan language because the hill behind it was covered with wild roses at the time the monastery was built. After lunch, you will visit a local family to learn about their way of life before continuing to Norbulingha Palace for your final visit of the day. Stay: Four Points by Sheraton (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Lhasa
In the morning you will travel to Polata Palace, the highest ancient palace in the world. The original palace was built in the 7th century but the present building was built and expanded in the 17th century. You will also visit Jokhang Monastery which is part of the Palace complex. In the afternoon you will continue to the historic district of Lhasa to visit Bakhor Street. You will also have the chance to see the Dropenling Handicraft Centre which strives to keep local crafts alive and provide locals with a source of income. As a treat, you will try Butter Tea in a tea house. Stay: Four Points by Sheraton (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Lhasa to Beijing
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the airport for your return flight to Beijing. The rest of the day is free for you to explore Beijing at your own pace. Approx. journey time: 4 hours. Stay: Park Plaza Wangfujing (or similar). Meals: Breakfast

Day 5: Beijing
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Meals: Breakfast

Yunnan 5 nights
Explore the beautiful and historical Yunnan Province.

Day 1: Beijing to Lijiang
This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Lijiang in the heart of Yunnan province. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide who will accompany you to your hotel for check-in. Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Lijiang (or similar) Meals: Breakfast

Day 2: Lijiang
Today’s full day excursion will start by driving out of Lijiang to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which is home to the southernmost glacier in the northern hemisphere. The drive an viewing points allow for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and rivers. After lunch at a local restaurant you will continue to Baisha Village at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain where you will experience the Naxi people’s peaceful daily life. Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Lijiang (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

Day 3 Lijiang to Shangri La
As you travel towards Shangri La today, you will stop for a visit at Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world. From the top of the gorges you can look down the steep mountain sides to the rushing Golden Sands River with its 18 frothing rapids. Stay: Shangri La E-Outfitting Boutique Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 4: Shangri La
The town of Shangri La served as the inspiration for the now world famous luxury hotel chain. It is found in a stunning setting in Yunnan surrounded by mountains and lakes. Your first visit of the day will be to Songzanlin Monastery known as “Little Polata” as its design is based on the iconic Polata Monastery in Tibet. This is the largest Tibetan Monastery in Yunnan and offers impressive views. This afternoon you will have a tour of Shangri La Old Town where you can see the well preserved historic buildings and streets where local shop owners ply their trade and make traditional artisanal goods. Dinner this evening will be at Yak Hot Pot, a popular restaurant serving food from the region with a Tibetan influence. Stay: Shangri La E-Outfitting Boutique Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Dinner.

Day 5: Shangri La to Beijing
In the morning after breakfast, you will transfer back to Lijiang for your flight to Beijing. Upon arrival the rest of the day will be at leisure. Stay: Park Plaza Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast

Day 6: Beijing to UK
At the designated time, transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK. Meals: Breakfast

Day 1: UK to Shanghai Depart from the UK on your overnight flight to Shanghai.

Day 2: Shanghai Transfer to your hotel where a guaranteed early check-in means you’ll be able to head to your room as soon as you arrive. Freshen up and spend the rest of the day relaxing or sightseeing at your own pace. This evening, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the rest of your group and tour leader at a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Stay: Central Hotel Shanghai (or similar).
Meals: Dinner

Day 3: Shanghai This morning, head out into the city for a guided tour. You’ll start in the Old Town, which sits inside the ancient city walls, before continuing to the beautiful 16th-Century Yu Garden and the leafy tree-lined streets of the French Concession – an area of Shanghai once administered by the French government. This afternoon take a stroll along the Bund, the famous waterfront on the west bank of the Huangpu River, before embarking on a private cruise along the river.
Stay: Central Hotel Shanghai (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Shanghai to Xi’an After a relaxed breakfast, spend the morning at leisure before transferring to the airport for your flight to China’s ancient capital city of Xi’an. Spend some time exploring the busy Muslim Quarter; this historic neighbourhood is a foodie heaven that’s famed for its market stalls, buzzing local atmosphere, and unusual culinary treasures like deep fried octopus and flatbread in mutton soup. Enjoy dinner this evening at a local restaurant. Approx. journey time: 3 hours.
Stay: Grand Mercure Xi’an on Renmin Square (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Xi’an An entire day of sightseeing awaits, starting with an early morning visit to the world-famous Terracotta Warriors (approx. 1½ hours from the city). You’ll arrive just as the doors open to avoid the crowds that head here later in the day. In the mid-1970s a clay warrior was found buried under farmland on the outskirts of Xi’an and through further excavations thousands more warriors were discovered, all lined up in a battle formation. You can see these incredible pottery figures at the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses in a handful of excavated pits. If an archaeologist is in residence during your visit, a meet and greet session will give you the chance to chat about their current work. This afternoon, visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda – a landmark temple set in beautiful gardens – and join a cooking class where you’ll learn how to make traditional Chinese dumplings. This evening, you’ll have the opportunity to catch a Tang Dynasty Show; a dramatic performance of Changan music and dance which originated in China’s Tang Dynasty.
Stay: Grand Mercure Xi’an on Renmin Square (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Xi’an to Beijing Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the station for your high-speed rail journey to Beijing. Travelling in first class, this is a great opportunity for you to relax and catch your breath while enjoying the beautiful Chinese countryside passing by. On arrival in Beijing, transfer to the hotel where you’ll be able to refresh before you head out for a classic Peking duck dinner. Approx. journey time: 6 hours.
Stay: Park Plaza Wangfujing (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Beijing Your tour of the capital starts with an early morning visit to Tian’anmen Square, followed by a leisurely stroll around the Forbidden City. After lunch at a local restaurant, the tour will continue at the classical Summer Palace, which is home to a huge number of lakes, gardens and palaces. A boat ride on one of the lakes is included here (subject to weather conditions). The rest of the day is free for you to spend at leisure.
Stay: Park Plaza Wangfujing (or similar).
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Beijing to Mutianyu Begin your final day with an early morning visit to the beautiful Temple of Heaven; arriving just as the gates open means that you’ll avoid the large crowds that head here later in the day. While an early start, it’s a relaxing morning, finishing with the chance for you to join a guided t’ai chi lesson. After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll continue to the iconic Great Wall of China (approx. 1¾ hours from Beijing). Visiting in the afternoon means that you’ll arrive at the wall after the busy morning crowds have left. Take the cable car up onto the Mutianyu section, a quieter and lesser-visited area that’s noted for its meandering chain of Ming Dynasty guard towers. This evening you’ll stay at the stylish Brickyard Retreat in Mutianyu Village; a boutique converted tile factory where each room overlooks fantastic views of the Great Wall. Tonight you’ll enjoy a farewell dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Stay: Brickyard Retreat (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9: Mutianyu After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
Meals: B


Stay longer

Chengdu 2 nights
Head to Chengdu for a once in a lifetime Panda volunteering experience.

Day 1: Beijing to Chengdu
Transfer to the airport for your morning flight to Chengdu. Upon arrival, you will be met by your guide before transferring to your hotel for check-in. This afternoon you will have a half day city tour taking you to Wenshu Monastery which is the best preserved Buddhist temple in the city, after which you will visit historical and atmospheric Jinli Street. In the evening dinner will be at a local restaurant. Approx. journey time: 3 hours. Stay: Tibet Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 2: Chengdu
This morning will be one of your highlights in China as you visit the Panda Volunteering Centre at Dujiangyan outside of Chengdu. This experience includes you assisting with the cleaning of the panda pens and preparing food and feeding the pandas. You will have lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Chengdu where you will spend the afternoon exploring the People’s Park and have a tea tasting. Stay: Tibet Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Chengdu
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Meals: Breakfast

Tibet 4 nights
Explore mystical Tibet on this four night extension.

Day 1: Beijing to Lhasa
Transfer to the airport for your early morning flight to Lhasa. On arrival, a local guide will transfer you to the hotel. This evening enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Approx. journey time: 4½ hours. Stay: Four Points by Sheraton (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 2: Lhasa
Today you will visit Sera Monastery at the foot of Tatipu Hill. This is one of the three famous monasteries in the city and is dedicated to the Yellow Hat Sect, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name of the monastery means “wild rose” in the Tibetan language because the hill behind it was covered with wild roses at the time the monastery was built. After lunch, you will visit a local family to learn about their way of life before continuing to Norbulingha Palace for your final visit of the day. Stay: Four Points by Sheraton (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Lhasa
In the morning you will travel to Polata Palace, the highest ancient palace in the world. The original palace was built in the 7th century but the present building was built and expanded in the 17th century. You will also visit Jokhang Monastery which is part of the Palace complex. In the afternoon you will continue to the historic district of Lhasa to visit Bakhor Street. You will also have the chance to see the Dropenling Handicraft Centre which strives to keep local crafts alive and provide locals with a source of income. As a treat, you will try Butter Tea in a tea house. Stay: Four Points by Sheraton (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Lhasa to Beijing
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before transferring to the airport for your return flight to Beijing. The rest of the day is free for you to explore Beijing at your own pace. Approx. journey time: 4 hours. Stay: Park Plaza Wangfujing (or similar). Meals: Breakfast

Day 5: Beijing
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Meals: Breakfast

Yunnan 5 nights
Explore the beautiful and historical Yunnan Province.

Day 1: Beijing to Lijiang
This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Lijiang in the heart of Yunnan province. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide who will accompany you to your hotel for check-in. Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Lijiang (or similar) Meals: Breakfast

Day 2: Lijiang
Today’s full day excursion will start by driving out of Lijiang to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which is home to the southernmost glacier in the northern hemisphere. The drive an viewing points allow for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and rivers. After lunch at a local restaurant you will continue to Baisha Village at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain where you will experience the Naxi people’s peaceful daily life. Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Lijiang (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

Day 3 Lijiang to Shangri La
As you travel towards Shangri La today, you will stop for a visit at Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world. From the top of the gorges you can look down the steep mountain sides to the rushing Golden Sands River with its 18 frothing rapids. Stay: Shangri La E-Outfitting Boutique Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 4: Shangri La
The town of Shangri La served as the inspiration for the now world famous luxury hotel chain. It is found in a stunning setting in Yunnan surrounded by mountains and lakes. Your first visit of the day will be to Songzanlin Monastery known as “Little Polata” as its design is based on the iconic Polata Monastery in Tibet. This is the largest Tibetan Monastery in Yunnan and offers impressive views. This afternoon you will have a tour of Shangri La Old Town where you can see the well preserved historic buildings and streets where local shop owners ply their trade and make traditional artisanal goods. Dinner this evening will be at Yak Hot Pot, a popular restaurant serving food from the region with a Tibetan influence. Stay: Shangri La E-Outfitting Boutique Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast, Dinner.

Day 5: Shangri La to Beijing
In the morning after breakfast, you will transfer back to Lijiang for your flight to Beijing. Upon arrival the rest of the day will be at leisure. Stay: Park Plaza Hotel (or similar) Meals: Breakfast

Day 6: Beijing to UK
At the designated time, transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK. Meals: Breakfast

ABOUT THIS TOUR

Is this for you?

Perfect for first-timers wanting an introduction to China, and the ideal length if you’re keen to explore more of Asia afterwards.

Is this for you?

Perfect for first-timers wanting an introduction to China, and the ideal length if you’re keen to explore more of Asia afterwards.

Good to know

• For guests over 16 (unless travelling on a private journey, where the minimum age is 10)
• Average group size of 10 guests
• A maximum of 16 guests
• Journey times do not take into account stops or traffic conditions
• We recommend travelling with no more than one suitcase and one day bag.

What to expect

• Special diets, including vegetarianism and gluten free, are not widely understood and cannot be adequately provided for in China
• With many stairs and steep slopes at monuments and the Great Wall, the tour is not suitable for those with walking difficulties
• There are early mornings and late evenings throughout to help maximise your sightseeing opportunities and experiences
• Expect crowds at the main sights
• Baggage allowance on domestic flights is limited to 20kg; excess luggage fees will apply locally.

Accommodation on tour

We have selected quality city hotels that are well located for local and independent sightseeing. You’ll spend your final night at the Brickyard Retreat; a converted tile factory where all rooms look out to views of the Great Wall. At this stylish hotel, service is friendly with a large proportion of the staff local to the area, and the dining experiences use lots of fresh produce sourced locally or straight from the hotel’s kitchen garden.

Solo travellers

Sole-use room from £3208

DATES AND INCLUSIONS

Tour dates

2021 Sep 18, Oct 16; Nov 06
2022 Mar 26; Apr 16; Sep 17; Oct 15; Nov 05

Included in price

• Quality accommodation
• Insightful local tour leaders
• Hand-picked itineraries
• Flexible arrival times
• Small groups
• Porterage and guide tips
• Meals where most convenient (B= Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice from £3705 per person.

Kuoni highlights

Kuoni highlights

This is a great introduction to China, packed full of experiences like the private cruise along the Huangpu River and a meet and greet session with an archaeologist at the Terracotta Warriors. Foodies will experience some delicious local dishes, from a Peking duck dinner to mastering the art behind a traditional Chinese dumpling. You’ll also spend the night in a converted tile factory that overlooks the iconic Great Wall of China.