From the winding Great Wall to the beautiful mountain landscapes of Yunnan, experience the timeless beauty of a changing China. Begin amid the imperial sites of Beijing, and catch a glimpse of old China in traditional neighborhoods off the beaten track. In the ancient capital of Xi’an, face an army of clay warriors. Then head to the Yunnan countryside to take part in the age-old rituals of rural life. Cap off the trip in cosmopolitan Shanghai. Along the way, get an insider's view of Chinese culture through discussions with artists, craftspeople, and local experts.
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. Access the Chonghua Palace by special permission, 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 Regent Beijing (B,L,D)
Peruse the contemporary art galleries of the 798 Art District and visit the studio of a prominent photographer. Wander through the hidden alleyways of Beijing’s traditional hutong neighborhoods to see courtyard-style homes and learn about the principles of feng shui, then delve into hutong history at the Shijia Hutong Museum. Tonight, savor Peking duck at a popular restaurant.
The Regent 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 Regent 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. 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. Enjoy behind-the-scenes access to the restoration area of the museum. 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 at a restaurant overlooking People’s Square.
Hilton Xi'an (B,L,D)
Fly south to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, and continue on to Dali, nestled between the foothills of the Cangshan mountain range and the shores of Erhai Lake. Settle into our authentic courtyard estate, a fine example of regional architecture that has been stunningly restored by local artisans.
The Linden Centre (B,L,D)
Spend two days exploring this spectacular area through a variety of activities. Learn new techniques in a Chinese cooking class or go cormorant fishing on the lake. Take guided walks through nearby picturesque villages or set out on a daylong hike in the mountains. Pay a visit to local school or try your hand at martial arts or Chinese painting.
The Linden Centre (B,L,D daily)
Enjoy a relaxing morning in town, then fly to Shanghai after lunch. Check into our historic hotel and start exploring this dazzling city.
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:
Oct 07 - 20, 2015
May 07 - 19, 2016
Oct 08 - 20, 2016
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.
The itinerary shown describes the 2016 departures, which are 13 days long and include two full days of interactive, immersive experiences at the Linden Centre in Dali. The 2015 departures are 14 days long and follow a different itinerary, including a three-night cruise on the Yangtze River.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $3,395 in 2015 and $2,295 in 2016.
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 for the 2015 itinerary and $1,200 for the 2016 itinerary (subject to change).
National Geographic has reserved 12 cabins on the Yangzi Explorer on all 2015 departures.