Beneath the glittering skyscrapers and expanding skylines, the ancient heart of China endures, a living testament to a long and colorful history. Exploring alongside private guides, uncover the legacy of imperial China at palaces and tombs, fortified cities and revered temples. Wander through gardens and local markets, spend time with artisans and chefs, and get an intimate look at the vibrant culture of China, past and present.
Climb the watchtowers on a less-visited section of the Great Wall, and encounter the legendary terra-cotta warriors at Xi'an.
Work alongside local masters to learn traditional Chinese cooking, tai chi, and calligraphy.
Observe giant pandas and their cuddly young at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
Gain insider knowledge of Chinese history and culture on private tours of Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Beijing, China
Arrive in Beijing and transfer to your hotel, centrally located in the city’s historic quarter. Your culinary adventure begins tonight with a succulent Peking duck dinner.
The St. Regis Beijing (D)
Day 2 — Beijing
Explore the cultural heart of Beijing on a private tour of the old city. Start in Tiananmen Square, a longtime national gathering spot that has hosted some of the country’s most important political events, including the demonstrations of 1989. Trace Beijing’s royal past from the Ming through the Qing dynasty at the lavish Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage site that comprises more than 800 palaces, temples, government buildings, and homes. Lunch along the shores of Houhai lake before wandering the hidden alleyways, or hutongs, of the city’s old neighborhoods. Step into a typical hutong courtyard to visit with a family, and meet with a local artisan to try your hand at traditional kite-making. The St. Regis Beijing (B, L)
Day 3 — Beijing
Conquer the legendary Great Wall as you trek across the less-visited Mutianyu section outside of Beijing. Follow the fortification along the mountain ridge, taking in far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside from ancient watchtowers. Fly a kite over this iconic site before returning to the city. This evening head out to the Red Theater where you can enjoy a dance performance that combines age-old Kung Fu with modern acrobatics. The St. Regis Beijing (B, L)
Day 4 — Beijing/Xi’an
Visit the Temple of Heaven, a sacred complex once used by Ming dynasty emperors to perform prayer ceremonies. Today, Beijing residents flock here to play Chinese chess or badminton or practice exercise routines. Join in the activity during a private tai chi lesson on the temple grounds. This afternoon, fly to Xi’an, once the capital of China and eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Spend the rest of the day getting acquainted with this captivating city, making sure not to miss a stroll through the maze of markets in the vibrant Muslim Quarter. Sofitel Xi'an on Renmin Square (B, D)
Day 5 — Xi’an
Immerse yourself in the ancient heart of China on a private tour of Xi’an. Encounter the city’s magnificent terra-cotta warriors, an army of life-sized sculptures standing guard outside the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Wander the gardens of calligraphy-etched stone tablets that comprise the Forest of Steles and practice this ancient writing art in a private lesson with a calligraphy expert. This evening, prepare Chinese dumplings in the home of a local family, and enjoy the festive atmosphere at Daming Palace National Heritage Park. Sofitel Xi'an on Renmin Square (B, D)
Day 6 — Xi’an/Chengdu
Survey Xi’an from atop its ancient walls, walking or biking along the promenade of these massive Ming dynasty ramparts. Ride first-class on the high-speed train to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, arriving in time for a dinner of spice-infused regional specialties. The St. Regis Chengdu (B, D)
Day 7 — Chengdu
Spend your morning with the city’s most famous residents, the giant pandas—and their not-yet-giant babies—that roam the bamboo-covered grounds of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Then learn the age-old Chinese game of mahjong in lush Wangjianglou Park. The St. Regis Chengdu (B)
Day 8 — Chengdu/Shanghai
Depart for Shanghai, one of the most booming and bustling of all the Chinese cities. Transfer to your hotel in the downtown riverfront district, called the Bund. Walk the nearby stretch of boardwalk lined by impressive colonial-style architecture, and look out across the river to a futuristic neon skyline featuring the glowing ball of the Oriental Pearl, one of the tallest TV towers in the world. Soak up the energy of modern Shanghai in Xintiandi, a stylish district of walking streets lined with upscale boutiques, nightclubs, and restaurants. The Peninsula Shanghai (B)
Day 9 — Shanghai
Delve deeper into Shanghai on a private tour of this multi-faceted city. Peruse the exquisite collections of bronzes, jade, calligraphy, and other cultural treasures at the Shanghai Museum. In the heart of the old city, discover a calm oasis of carp-filled ponds and pavilions at the classical Yu Garden, and wander among antiques and curios at the Old Shanghai Bazaar. The Peninsula Shanghai (B, L)
Day 10 — Shanghai/Depart
This morning, experience the intimacy of Shanghai’s Tianzifang neighborhood on a private tour through its enchanting maze of art galleries and cafés. Then ride the exhilarating Maglev (magnetic levitation) train that can reach speeds up to 267 mph and will deliver you from downtown to the airport in about eight minutes. Connect with your flight home, arriving the same day.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request.
Internal flights between Beijing and Xian, Chengdu and Shanghai are an additional $650 (subject to change). International airfare from your home city to Beijing and home from Shanghai is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.