This fascinating 12-day itinerary is the ultimate introduction to modern and ancient Chinese civilization. Kicking off in Beijing, you'll experience the best sites of the country's exhilarating capital before making your way to Hong Kong by way of a plane, bullet train, and luxury cruise with key stops along the way. Led by English-speaking private guides, this a great balance of history, breathtaking landscapes, and insight into Chinese culture.


  • Visit the Summer Palace and the world's best preserved imperial garden
  • See the Forbidden City and walk along a popular section of the Great Wall
  • Get up close to the magnificent terracotta warriors in Xi'an
  • Take a three-night luxury cruise on Asia's longest river
  • Finish the trip exploring Hong Kong on your own (and with a guide)

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites Beijing
Day 3 Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights Beijing
Day 4 Temple of Heaven - Train to Xi'an Xi'an
Day 5 Xi'an City Tour with Terra Cotta Warriors Xi'an
Day 6 Fly to Chongqing - Yangtze River Cruise (Day 1) Yangtze River Cruise - Day 1
Day 7 Yangtze River Cruise (Day 2) Yangtze River Cruise - Day 2
Day 8 Yangtze River Cruise (Day 3) Yangtze River Cruise - Day 3
Day 9 Yangtze River Cruise (Day 4) - Fly to Hong Kong Hong Kong
Day 10 Hong Kong Free Day Hong Kong
Day 11 Hong Kong City Tour Hong Kong
Day 12 Depart Hong Kong  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Beijing

Beijing's Financial District
Beijing's Financial District

Welcome to Beijing! Upon arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport, a private driver will pick you up from the airport and transfer you to your hotel.  

Time and energy permitting, you can take a guided evening visit to Wangfujing Street, a vibrant shopping area and home to one of Beijing's famous night markets for a wide variety of shops, eateries, and boutiques, some of which are of world-famous brands. Despite its modernity and buzz—it is said that 600,000 people pass through here every day—there is also a slew of traditional stores which have been here for hundreds of years.

Day 2: Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites

Summer Palace
Summer Palace

Today, after breakfast at your hotel, you'll take a guided tour of some of Beijing's most famous historical sites. Your first stop is the Summer Palace with lakes, gardens, and palaces dating back to the Qing Dynasty. This was the royal family’s formal residence during the hot summer months, and you'll quickly see why they chose this beautiful area outside of Beijing to escape the heat.

From here, you'll visit the impressive Tiananmen Square where most of China's national ceremonies are held. From the square, you can walk to the splendid Forbidden City. This UNESCO-listed site is not only China's largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings but also the largest palace complex in the world. Prepare to be wowed by the sheer number of buildings with red walls and golden roofs.

Next, you'll embark on a famous Rickshaw Hutong Tour & Family Visit. Hutongs are traditional alleyways that comprise Beijing’s old city planning. During the rickshaw ride, you'll experience a wonderful glimpse into yesterday’s world and the old way of life of traditional Beijing culture. Compared to more modern areas of the city, you can see the dramatic changes that Beijing has undergone in the last century.

Following the tour, you'll be returned to your hotel where you'll have the rest of the evening to enjoy on your own.

Day 3: Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights

The Great Wall
The Great Wall

Today is an especially exciting day for those who have dreamed of walking along the Great Wall of China! At the designated time, you'll be picked up from your hotel to drive 1.5 hours to the Mutianyu Great Wall. This is a section of the wall that's located in the Huairou District within the city limits of Beijing. Stretching over 5,500 miles long, the wall dates back to the 5th century when construction first started. These fortifications were built to protect the Chinese empire from invaders, and it remains an unmissable part of the overall China experience.

When you arrive at Mutianyu, you can ride the cable car up and then walk back down along the wall for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

From here, you'll drive to Beijing's Olympic Park to see a number of modern masterpieces built for the 2008 Summer Olympics, including the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.

Day 4: Temple of Heaven - Train to Xi'an

Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven

This morning, you'll start the day by visiting Beijing's Temple of Heaven, where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped the Gods of Heaven. From here, you'll head to the Pearl Market where you’ll find a wide huge variety of Chinese souvenirs for purchase. 

At the designated time, you'll check out of your hotel and transfer to train station for the bullet train ride to Xi'an. This clean, comfortable, and efficient form of transportation will get you to your next stop in approximately five hours running at a speed of 155 miles (250 km) per hour.  

Upon arrival in Xi'an, your guide and private driver will pick you up at the station and transfer you to your hotel.

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Day 5: Xi'an City Tour with Terra Cotta Warriors

Famous Terracotta Army
Famous Terracotta Army

Today, you will be driven to the outskirts of Xi'an to marvel at the Qin Terra Cotta Warriors. This collection contains thousands of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE whose sole purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. Notice how the sculptures have unique facial expressions and are positioned according to rank. Though the warriors and their weapons are mostly gray tones, look for patches of paint that hint at once brightly colored clothes. On this morning excursion, you'll also see skilled artisans at work at a terracotta factory. 

From here, you will return to the city and visit the modern Xi'an Historical Museum, called the pearl of ancient dynasties and house of Chinese treasures. While here, you can take a free calligraphy class and also pay a short visit to Small Wild Goose Pagoda, one of two important Buddhist sites dating back to the Tang Dynasty, 1300 years ago.  

To finish the day, you'll see the fountain show at Big Goose Pagoda Square (this is the big sister to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda you'll see earlier today). The square holds the largest fountain in Asia, and the nightly show combines music, water, and lighting for a spectacular event.

Day 6: Fly to Chongqing - Yangtze River Cruise (Day 1)

South Gate Old City Wall
South Gate Old City Wall

This morning, you will pay a visit to Xi'an's South Gate Old City Wall, one of China’s best-preserved city walls and one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Punctuated with a large archery tower, the south gate stands at 39 feet (12 m) and is a popular spot to start exploring the 9-mile (14 km) wall. If time allows, there are bicycle rentals and golf carts available to rent.  

Following this activity, you'll be transferred to the Xi'an airport for your flight to Chongqing. Upon arrival, you'll meet with your guide and driver who will transfer you to the Yangtze River Cruise Ship. En route to the pier, you will have a view of the Chongqing Hongya Cave located on the bank of Yangtze River. Once you board your luxury ship, you'll meet your friendly crew who will provide a tour of the amenities. Then it's time to set sail, have dinner, and settle into your accommodations for the next three nights.

Day 7: Yangtze River Cruise (Day 2)

Scenery on the Yangtze River
Scenery on the Yangtze River

Today is a full day on the river cruise! After enjoying the buffet breakfast, you'll have optional shore excursions to choose from such as the Fengdu Ghost City Tour, a large complex of shrines, temples, and monasteries dedicated to the afterlife located on the Ming mountain.

Another option is to take the Shibao Village Tour. The enormous wooden tower of Shibao Village is built against the Yuyin Mountain of the northern side of Yangtze and rises 12 stories high.

At the end of your offshore excursion, you will return to the boat for dinner on board.

Day 8: Yangtze River Cruise (Day 3)

En route to the Three Gorges Dam
En route to the Three Gorges Dam

Wake up again today surrounded by peaceful surroundings as you sail through another section of the Yangtze River. After breakfast on board, you can choose between more day excursions including a visit to the White Emperor City. This site has a series of outstanding cultural and historical relics shown to all visitors and is the best place to admire the view of Kui Gate of Qutang Gorge. You'll also pass through the Wu Gorge and visit Shennv Stream.

At the end of the day, your crew will put on a farewell party since you'll be departing the cruise the following day.

Day 9: Yangtze River Cruise (Day 4) - Fly to Hong Kong

Finish the cruise today
Finish the cruise today

Today, you'll experience one of the largest dams in the world—The Three Gorges—a hydroelectric dam that spans across the Yangtze River near the of Sandouping. This incredible marvel has been the world's largest power station in terms of installed capacity since 2012.

Arriving at the Yichang pier, your guide and driver will pick you up and transfer you to Wuhan Airport for your flight to Hong Kong.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, another guide and driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel for dinner. If you're feeling energized, head to one of the city's famous viewing points for drinks and dinner and relish the city's iconic pinch-me-now skyline surrounded by water and mountains.

Day 10: Hong Kong Free Day

Shopping district in Hong Kong
Shopping district in Hong Kong

Today, you will have a free day to spend exploring Hong Kong any way you wish. Perhaps you want to explore the city's enchanting neighborhoods and islands by way of ferry or double-decker bus. 

A good place to start is by taking an early morning stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade for a great view of Victoria Harbour and it's busy waterway.

No visit to Hong Kong would be complete without at least one 5-minute ride across the harbor aboard one of the famous Star Ferries, which have been sailing the waters between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since 1898. This is a great activity for photos on board, but if you choose to get off and explore Kowloon, consider heading to Hong Kong's most famous spot for afternoon tea—the ornate lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, built in 1928. Sit back and enjoy a string quartet as you dine on scones, finger sandwiches, pastries, and fine teas, served every afternoon.

In the evening, head to Hong Kong's festive Temple Street Night Market selling everything from Chinese food to souvenirs to clothing and accessories. 

Day 11: Hong Kong City Tour

Peak Tram
Peak Tram

After breakfast at your hotel this morning, you'll embark on a full-day guided bus tour of the city. 

The fun excursion starts with a classic ride on the Peak Tram to visit Victoria Peak for extraordinary views over the city. There will plenty of time for photos from this vantage point. From here, you'll visit Aberdeen Fishing Village (also known as Old Hong Kong) situated on the south side of the island along a naturally protected harbor. Famous for its colorful floating seafood restaurant, you can choose to ride a sampan, one of the small local boats operated mostly by elderly locals. 

Finish the trip with some shopping! Hong Kong is known as a shopper's paradise, and you'll have access to award-winning TSL (Tse Sui Luen) jewelry, accredited by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. You'll also visit the famous Stanley Market. Located in a quaint village on Hong Kong Island’s south coast, this market is a huge hit with locals, expats, and tourists for its enormous selection of brand-name clothing items, accessories, home furnishings, souvenirs, ornaments, and knick-knacks sold at reasonable prices, not to mention a dizzying array of great eateries to grab a bite. 

In the late afternoon, you'll return to your hotel and will have the rest of the evening to explore more of the city at your own pace.

Day 12: Depart Hong Kong

Goodbye, Hong Kong!
Goodbye, Hong Kong!

It's time to say goodbye to Hong Kong! At the designated time, you'll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to Hong Kong International Airport for your departure flight home. Safe travels!


Map of Beijing to Hong Kong Grand Tour - 12 Days
Map of Beijing to Hong Kong Grand Tour - 12 Days
Written by Alice Fu, updated Feb 18, 2021