This packed itinerary checks of China's top cultural and natural highlights. Visit Beijing to see the Forbidden City, historical Tiananmen Square, and the nearby Great Wall of China. Take the bullet train to Xi'an to see the Qin Terracotta Warriors, then head to Guilin for nature and local culture. End your trip in the metropolitan Shanghai and explore its busy Nanjing Road and The Bund waterfront, as well as peaceful Yuyuan gardens and artsy Tianzifang neighborhood.

Highlights

  • Visit the 7th-century Great Wall of China, one of the 7 Wonders of the World
  • See the 7,000+ figures of the Qin Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an
  • Explore the eclectic and leisurely Zhujiajiao Water Town in Shanghai
  • Discover China's natural wonders, like the Reed Flute Cave and Terrace Fields

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites Beijing
Day 3 Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights Beijing
Day 4 Beijing-Xian by Bullet Train Xi'an
Day 5 Xian Full Day Tour Xi'an
Day 6 Xian/Guilin Guilin
Day 7 Longsheng Full Day Tour Guilin
Day 8 Guilin/Shanghai Shanghai
Day 9 Shanghai City Tour Shanghai
Day 10 Zhujiajiao Water Town Shanghai
Day 11 Departure from Shanghai  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Beijing

Forbidden City in Beijing
Forbidden City in Beijing

Welcome to Beijing! A tour representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel. Settle in, then in the evening visit Wangfujing Street for dinner and drinks. 

Day 2: Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites

Tourists in Tiananmen Square
Tourists in Tiananmen Square

Your first stop today is the Summer Palace, a relaxing garden oasis used by the Royal Family to escape the summer heat. From here continue to historic Tiananmen Square, site of the famous 1989 protest and the central location for most current-day national ceremonies. From the square, you can walk to the adjacent Forbidden City for a full-day tour. 

The largest imperial palace is most notable for its high red walls and the vast complex of golden-roofed buildings. For a fully immersive experience, join a famous Rickshaw Hutong Tour & Local Family Visit to see the hutongs—traditional alleyways—that characterize Beijing's old city. The rickshaw ride is a unique opportunity to see an old way of life and experience traditional Beijing culture, as well as to see the dramatic changes to the city's architecture through the centuries.

Day 3: Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
The Mu tian yu section of the Great Wall

Today you will visit one of China's most famous sites—the Great Wall. The Mu tian yu section of the wall is easily accessible from the Beijing city center and is popular with tourists. Built in the 7th century and repaired many times to protect the Chinese empire from invaders, the wall is an iconic part of China's history. Take the cable car up to the wall and then walk down as you enjoy views of the surrounding hills. 

In the afternoon drive to the Olympic Park to see more recent architecture—the Bird Nest and Water Cube, stunning modern masterpieces used for the 2008 Olympic Games. End your night with the Kung Fu Show at the Red Theater

Day 4: Beijing-Xian by Bullet Train

Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Start your day with a visit to the Temple of Heaven, used for centuries by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to worship the Gods of Heaven. From here continue to the Silk Market, where visitors can find nearly anything they want to purchase. Enjoy browsing for trinkets and souvenirs in the busy marketplace before transferring to the train station to catch a bullet train to Xi'an

Upon arrival in Xi'an, your driver will meet you and continue the tour to the Muslim Quarter, where a vibrant local market offers a wide selection of Chinese and Muslim food, goods, and gifts. 

Day 5: Xi'an Full Day Tour

Terra-cotta Warriors
Terra-cotta Warriors

Today you will visit the legendary Qin Terracotta Warriors, an army of more than 7,000 figures which guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The incredible testament to Chinese military power was buried along with the emperor in 210-209 BCE and discovered by local farmers in 1974. 

Afterward, drive back to the city and visit the Shanxi Historical Museum to see local and national treasures and history. From here continue to the South Gate Old City Wall to see the most complete city wall system left in China. Learn about the history and battles fought along the wall, which was used in one of the largest ancient military defense systems in the world. End your evening with a Tang Dynasty Show and accompanying dumpling banquet. 

Day 6: Xian/Guilin

Reed Flute Cave in Guilin
Reed Flute Cave in Guilin

Transfer to Guilin in the morning with a short local flight. You will be picked up by your driver, then head to the Reed Flute Cave. This water-eroded cave is a spectacular world of stalactites, stone pillars, and unique rock formations.

Continue to Elephant Trunk Hill, a nose-shaped rock which extends into the river, giving the appearance of an elephant drinking. In the evening, stay in the hotel and relax, or head out for another adventure—a night cruise on the Four Lakes. 

Day 7: LongSheng Full Day Tour

Longji Terrace Field
Longji Terrace Field

Drive to Longsheng today to visit the spectacular Terrace Fields, which are famous to this region. Stop and visit the Yao and Zhuang Minorities Village to learn about the local culture and catch a Long Hair Show. 

Drive back to Guilin and head out for a walk in the Ronghu Area. Stop by the Pearl Factory for a quick tour before returning to the hotel. 

Day 8: Guilin/Shanghai

City Temple of Shanghai in the Old Town
City Temple of Shanghai in the Old Town

Head to the Guilin airport for another local flight, this time to Shanghai, where you will be met by a driver and guide. Head to the hotel to settle in and rest, then in the afternoon head out for some sightseeing and shopping. Start with a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple to see two matching Buddhas made of sparkling and crystal-clear white jade, then continue to the French Concession and Xintiandi Shopping Mall to browse for local souvenirs and gifts. Grab dinner and drinks at a downtown restaurant and enjoy the nightlight in Shanghai. 

Day 9: Shanghai City Tour

Old street near the Yuyuan Garden in the center of Shanghai
Old street near the Yuyuan Garden in the center of Shanghai

Today you will visit the Yu Garden and explore its nearby markets and Shanghai's old town. Enjoy wandering in the peaceful Yuyuan Garden and explore the pavilions, halls, ponds, and cloisters which make up this serene garden. Afterward, visit the Shanghai Museum to see ancient Chinese art, especially bronzeware, chinaware, calligraphies, and paintings. 

Later take a walk on Nanjing Road and The Bund to enjoy modern day life in Shanghai. End your day with an elevator ride up to the TV Tower for a panoramic view of the metropolitan city. 

Day 10: Zhujiajiao Water Town

Traditional tourist boats on canals in Zhujiajiao
Traditional tourist boats on canals in Zhujiajiao

Today explore one of Shanghai's most interesting city areas—the historical "water town" of Zhujiajiao, a historic neighborhood that has evolved into a modern leisure area with eclectic coffee shops and cafes. After spending the morning exploring drive to the Tianzifang neighborhood in Shanghai, a historic area with an artsy vibe, and spend the afternoon walking around and enjoying art galleries and small shops. 

Return to the hotel, stopping by the silk factory to learn about silk production on the way back. In the evening enjoy an acrobatics show, one of Shanghai's most popular forms of entertainment. 

Day 11: Departure from Shanghai

Bund Waterfront in downtown Shanghai
Bund Waterfront in downtown Shanghai

Spend some free time in the morning finishing up last-minute shopping or sightseeing before transferring to the airport for your departing flight home. Safe travels! 

Map

Map of China's Highlights - 11 Days
Map of China's Highlights - 11 Days
Alice
Written by Alice Fu, updated Feb 6, 2019