This comprehensive China trip offers something for everyone. Experience China's most famous attractions, from trekking the Great Wall to witnessing the Terracotta Warriors to enjoying a boat trip to Zhuajiajiao Water Town to admiring cute pandas at Chengdu Panda Base. Your trip starts in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and continues on to Xi'an, the ancient Tang Dynasty capital, and Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, concluding in the modern metropolis of Shanghai.

Highlights

  • Hikes along the Great Wall near Beijing
  • See the 2,200-year-old Terracotta Army in Xi'an
  • See pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
  • Sample traditional Chinese cuisine
  • Learn to draw Chinese characters during a private calligraphy lesson

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites Beijing
Day 3 Great Wall Hiking - Mutianyu Beijing
Day 4 Beijing - Xi'an by Train Xi'an
Day 5 Xi'an Terracotta Warriors Tour Xi'an
Day 6 Xian - Chengdu by Bullet Train Chengdu
Day 7 Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Base and Leshan Giant Buddha Chengdu
Day 8 Chengdu - Shanghai by Plane Shanghai
Day 9 Shanghai City Tour Shanghai
Day 10 Zhujiajiao Water Town Boat Tour Shanghai
Day 11 Farewell from Shanghai  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Beijing

Beijing's Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms
Beijing's Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms

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

Time and energy permitting, you can take a guided evening visit to Wangfujing Street, a vibrant shopping area with a variety of shops, eateries, and boutiques that is also home to one of Beijing's famous night markets. Despite the multitude of modern shops and luxury brands, there are also a slew of traditional shops, which have been here for hundreds of years.

Overnight: Beijing

Day 2: Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites

Visit iconic sights like Tian'anmen Square
Visit iconic sights like Tian'anmen Square

Visit the impressive Tiananmen Square where most of China's national ceremonies are held. From the iconic square, you can walk to the splendid Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is a walled city filled with national treasures. 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.

See how locals live via a rickshaw hutong (alleyway) tour and local family visit. Hutongs, comprised of siheyuans (courtyard homes), once made up the majority of Beijing’s old city planning. The rickshaw ride takes you on an immersive tour to get a wonderful glimpse into traditional Beijing culture while also witnessing the dramatic changes the city has undergone in the last century.

Following the tour, return to your hotel, The evening is free for you to enjoy as you wish. We recommend dinner and a show; options include Peking opera, the breathtaking acrobats, or a kung fu show.

Overnight: Beijing

Day 3: Great Wall Hiking - Mutianyu

The hilly Mutianyu section dates to the Ming Dynasty
The hilly Mutianyu section dates to the Ming Dynasty

Today is an especially exciting day for those who have dreamed of experiencing the Great Wall of China, which stretches over 3,852 miles (6,200 km) through deserts, plains, hills, and oceans. Drive one-and-a-half hours to the Mutianyu Great Wall, a restored section of the wall that boasts majestic views of the Chinese countryside. Located in Huairou District within the city limits of Beijing, Mutianyu served as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. There are 22 watchtowers on this 7,381-foot (2,250 meter) section. When you arrive at Mutianyu, you can ride the cable car or take a chair lift up and then walk back down along the wall or take an adrenaline-fueled toboggan ride down from the wall for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Great Wall remains an unmissable part of the overall China experience. 

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

Driving time: 90 minutes
Driving distance: 36 miles (58 km)
Overnight: Beijing

Day 4: Beijing - Xi'an by Train

The Temple of Heaven was built in the 15th century
The Temple of Heaven was built in the 15th century

Visit the Temple of Heaven, where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped. Spend two to three hours exploring the ancient buildings here. As you wander around the temple, it's not uncommon to see local residents doing taichi outside the temple.

Transfer to the train station to catch a high-speed train to Xi'an. More than RMB220 billion was spent to build China's high-speed rail system—the largest in the world—that crisscrosses four provinces. 

Once in Xian, you will transfer to your hotel and then visit Muslim Street in the Muslim Quarter of the city. Located next to the Drum Tower, Muslim Street has a vibrant local market that offers a wide selection of Chinese and Muslim food, goods, and gifts.

Travel time: 5 hours
Travel distance: 661 miles (1,065 km)
Overnight: Xi'an

Day 5: Xi'an Terracotta Warriors Tour

The 2,000-year-old Terracotta Warriors are a sight to behold.
The 2,000-year-old Terracotta Warriors are a sight to behold.

One of modern history’s most magnificent archaeological sites, the Terracotta Warriors is an army of at least 7,000 soldiers, each with unique facial expressions and poised for battle, The army, part of a massive mausoleum to Qin Shi Huang, China's first emperor, is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210-209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife

After a visit to the Terracotta army northeast of Xi'an, you will visit the Xian Historical Museum to see Little Goose Pogoda and take a calligraphy class.

The day culminates with a dumpling banquet dinner (Xi'an is famous for and the Tang Dynasty Show, a song-and- dance performance which reflects the rich cultural history and prosperity of the Tang Dynasty. 

Driving time: 45 minutes
Driving distance: 25 miles (40 km)
Overnight: Xi'an

Day 6: Xian - Chengdu by Bullet Train

walk or bike along the 8.7-mile (14 km) Xi'an city wall Old City Wall
Walk or bike along the 8.7-mile (14 km) Xi'an city wall Old City Wall

Visit the South Gate of Xi'an's Old City Wall, one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Walk or bike on the wall, the most complete city wall that has survived in China, while taking in panoramic views of the entire city.

Next, transfer to the train station and take the bullet train to Chengdu (around 4hrs). Make sure to look out the train windows to admire the spectacular Qinling Mountains, China’s natural boundary between the country’s north and south.

After arriving in Chengdu,  you will visit Jinli Ancient Street, a pedestrian street flanked by lanterns that harkens back to days gone by.

Travel time: 4 hours
Travel distance: 462 miles (743 km)
Overnight: Chengdu

Day 7: Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Base and Leshan Giant Buddha

Giant pandas are only found in central China
Giant pandas are only found in central China

Get up close to pandas at Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Base. Spend two to three hours exploring the complex, which replicates the natural habitat of China's giant pandas.

After lunch, drive to Mt. Leshan to see and climb the 233-foot (71-meter) Leshan Giant Buddha, a statue of Maitreya in sitting posture that has been carved into a cliff. Facing the river, the Buddha has symmetrical posture and beautiful, solemn stillness. 

Driving time: 2 hours
Driving distance: 115 miles (186 km)
Overnight: Chengdu

Day 8: Chengdu - Shanghai by Plane

Stroll through the ancient Yuyuan Garden
Stroll through the ancient Yuyuan Garden

After enjoying a free morning in Chengdu,  you will drive to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport for a flight to Shanghai.

Once you arrive in Shanghai, you will visit the Yuyuan Garden. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the site was owned by a government officer named Pan Yunduan who built the garden for his parents. Today, this tranquil, picturesque garden with charming pavilions and peaceful ponds attracts visitors and locals alike who come for the manicured gardens, handcrafts and souvenirs, and restaurants serving traditional items like Shanghai-style fried noodles, xiaolongbao (steamed soup dumplings), and shengjian bao (steamed buns). 

Before checking into the hotel, stroll the Yuyuan Bazaar for souvenirs and take photos at the Old City God Temple.

Flight time: 2 hours and 40 minutes
Flight distance: 1,056 miles (1,700 km)
Overnight: Shanghai

Day 9: Shanghai City Tour

Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that is a mix of old and new
Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that is a mix of old and new

After breakfast, you will embark on a full-day excursion with a local guide starting with the Shanghai Museum, which specializes in ancient artworks of China, The museum's highlights include bronze ware, china, calligraphy, and paintings. Renovated in 1996, the museum is considered one of China's first world-class modern museums. 

Next, you will visit the most famous Buddhist temple in Shanghai, Jade Buddha Temple. Built between 1911 and 1918, the temple is home to 70 monks. Its exterior is a sight to behold and, inside, the centerpiece is a six-and-a-half-foot high (2-meter high) white jade sitting Buddha encrusted with jewels. 

Afterward, take a walking tour of iconic Bund, a waterfront walkway populated with colonial buildings in central Shanghai, and Nanjing Road, the city's main shopping street and one of the world's busiest shopping areas. 

End the day with an elevator ride to the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower for an amazing bird's eye view over Shanghai.

Overnight: Shanghai

Day 10: Zhujiajiao Water Town Boat Tour

Zhujiajiao is a 1,700-year-old water town
Zhujiajiao is a 1,700-year-old water town

Today's itinerary includes a day-trip to the city's outskirts to Zhujiajiao, an ancient water town in Qingpu District. Take an educational and scenic boat tour to admire the dozens of ancient bridges and buildings that dot the riverbank.

On the way back to Shanghai's city center, you will visit the leafy boulevards of the French Concession and Tianzifang area, a historical quarter that has evolved into a modern leisure area with interesting coffee shops, chic boutiques, and trendy bars and cafes.

Driving time: 1.5 hours
Driving distance: 28.5 miles (46 km)
Overnight: Shanghai

Day 11: Farewell from Shanghai

Located on China's coast, Shanghai is the country's largest city
Located on China's coast, Shanghai is the country's largest city

On the morning of your departure, you will be picked up from your hotel in Shanghai and transferred to the airport for your departure home or to your next destination. 

Map

Map of Discover China's Highlights: Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Shanghai - 11 Days
Map of Discover China's Highlights: Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Shanghai - 11 Days