Expedition Details

 

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.

Trip Highlights

  • Meet a leading archaeologist and enjoy VIP access to Xi'an's astonishing terra-cotta warrior dig on a private tour.
  • Hike along an isolated section of the Great Wall, and examine the impressive ninth-century rock carvings of Dazu.
  • Witness the new landscapes created by the Three Gorges Dam and attend a talk by a head engineer from the project.
  • Explore Beijing’s ancient hutong neighborhoods with a preservation expert.

Itinerary - 14 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Beijing, China

Fly to Beijing, cross the international date line, and arrive on Day 2.

Day 3 — 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 Beihai Park.
The Peninsula Beijing (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Beijing

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)

Day 5 — Beijing

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)

Day 6 — Beijing/Xi’an

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)

Day 7 — Xi’an

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)

Day 8 — Xi’an/Chongqing

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 conserve them.
InterContinental Hotel (B, L)

Day 9 — Dazu

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)

Days 10 & 11 — Yangtze River

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)

Day 12 — Yichang/Shanghai

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)

Day 13 — Shanghai

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)

Day 14 — Shanghai/U.S.

Transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day.
(B)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Elvira Hammond

Elvira HammondElvira 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

SEE OTHER EXPERTS »

Dates

2014
  • Sep 18 - Oct 01, 2014 ALT
2015
  • Apr 15 - 28, 2015
  • May 27 - Jun 09, 2015
  • Oct 07 - 20, 2015
  • Oct 28 - Nov 10, 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.

Expedition Cost

2014

$7,695

2015

$7,995

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.