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.
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 Beihai
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. Then examine
these ancient troops up-close from 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 figures. The statues
depict all walks of life—a contrast to the martial
figures of Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. Fly to Chongqing,
one of the most populous cities in the world. At the
Chongqing Zoo, enjoy exclusive behind-the-scenes
access to the panda house. View China’s most
famous animal up close, and learn about efforts to
InterContinental Hotel (B, L)
Travel through the Sichuan countryside to see
the Dazu Rock Carvings, which date back to the
ninth century and have been declared a UNESCO
World Heritage site. After lunch at a restaurant
that uses only locally sourced ingredients, visit
a nearby farm. Back in Chongqing this evening,
board our ship and set off down the Yangtze
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 new 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 enjoy an evening discovering
one of the city’s great restaurants on your own.
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.
Gather this evening for a festive farewell dinner.
Garden Hotel (B,L,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:
Sep 18 - Oct 01, 2014
Apr 15 - 28, 2015
Oct 07 - 20, 2015
ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $3,240 in 2014 and $3,395 in 2015.
International airfare to Beijing and from Shanghai and airfare within China are not included in the expedition cost. The group flights within China are $590 (subject to change).
National Geographic has reserved 12 cabins on the Yangzi Explorer on each of these departures.