From the winding Great Wall to the dramatic landscapes of the Three Gorges, experience the timeless beauty of a changing China. Beginning in Beijing, venture to the ancient capital of Xi’an, cruise the Yangtze on the deluxe Yangzi Explorer, and discover cosmopolitan Shanghai. Immerse yourself in Chinese culture through discussions with local experts, and catch a glimpse of old China in traditional neighborhoods off the beaten track.
Fly to Beijing, cross the international date line, and arrive on Day 2.
The Peninsula Beijing
Spend the day exploring the imperial monuments
of the city. Begin at the Temple of Heaven, a
Ming dynasty temple complex where emperors
held their prayer ceremonies. Then stroll across
Tiananmen Square, the stage for many turning
points in modern Chinese history—from the start
of the Cultural Revolution to the demonstrations
of 1989. Continue to the Forbidden City, home
to the Ming and Qing emperors and some of
the finest imperial architecture in China. View a
collection of royal treasures and meander through
the Imperial Gardens. Gather for a welcome
dinner at an elegant restaurant overlooking
The Peninsula Beijing (B,L,D)
Visit an organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the hutong, Beijing's traditional neighborhoods. Then follow an expert into hidden alleyways to see courtyard-style homes and learn about the principles of feng shui. Explore the Lama Temple, one of the largest centers of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. Tonight, savor Peking duck at a popular restaurant.
The Peninsula Beijing (B,L,D)
Set off on an excursion to a section of the Great Wall not seen by many visitors. Here, the wall follows the hillcrest, providing excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Stroll along the top of the wall, or go on an invigorating hike along an unrestored section. After lunch, return to Beijing by way of the Olympic Park.
The Peninsula Beijing (B,L)
Fly to Xi'an, China's capital for more than a thousand years and once the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. After a lunch of local specialties, check into our hotel. This afternoon, experience Xi'an from a unique perspective: on a bike or golf cart ride atop the massive Ming dynasty city wall.
Hilton Xi'an (B,L)
Meet a leading archaeologist to learn about the excavation of one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century: the life-size terra-cotta army that stands guard at the tomb of China's First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Enjoy special access to the VIP platform at the site. Later, meander through Xi'an's lively Muslim quarter and enjoy an insider's perspective on a tour of the Great Mosque. Tonight, gather for a 16-course dumpling feast.
Hilton Xi'an (B,L,D)
Stop at the tomb of the Han emperor Jing Di to view thousands of funerary figurines. The statues depict all walks of life—a contrast to the martial figures of Qin Shi Huang's tomb. Fly to Chongqing, the most populous city in the world. At the Chongqing Zoo, observe pandas and learn about efforts to conserve them. This evening, board our ship and glide down the river toward the Three Gorges.
M.S. Yangzi Explorer (B,L,D)
Cruise past reconstructed villages and modern cities, witnessing life along the Yangtze—and the ways that the dam has changed it. Dock in the town of Fengdu and meet some of its residents. The next day, awaken early to witness our approach to the first of the spectacular Three Gorges. Board smaller boats to travel up a narrow tributary, passing terraced hillsides and traditional fishing boats. This evening, arrive at the Three Gorges Dam and enter its intricate lock system.
M.S. Yangzi Explorer (B,L,D daily)
Disembark in Yichang and meet an engineer from the Three Gorges Dam project for a talk on the construction of the world's largest hydroelectric dam. After lunch, fly to Shanghai. Check into our historic hotel and discover
one of the city’s great restaurants on your own tonight.
Garden Hotel (B,L)
Browse stunning collections of bronze, jade, and
ceramics at the Shanghai Museum. After lunch
overlooking the lively streets of Old Shanghai,
stroll along the winding paths of Yu Yuan, a 16th-century classical garden in the heart of the city. Enjoy an evening at leisure.
Garden Hotel (B,L)
This morning, visit Longhua Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple that houses the largest pagoda in Shanghai. The remainder of the day is unscheduled for you to explore Shanghai on your own. Gather this evening for a festive farewell dinner.
Garden Hotel (B,D)
Transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day.
Elvira Hammond, a professor of Chinese cultural history at New Mexico State University, has been working, traveling, and studying in China since 1983. She studied Chinese language and modern theater in Beijing, and worked for many years developing and leading academic and cultural programs for students of all ages visiting China. She loves introducing travelers to the sights, sounds, and especially the flavors of China.
Elvira will join the following departures:
Apr 10 - 23, 2014
Sep 18 - Oct 01, 2014
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $3,150 in 2013 and $3,240 in 2014. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from Los Angeles to Beijing and return from Shanghai is from $1,200, and flights within China are $550 in 2013 and $590 in 2014 (subject to change).
National Geographic has reserved 20 cabins on the Yangzi Explorer on each of these departures.