Imperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze River - 2018

Beijing • Xi’an • Chengdu • Lhasa, Tibet • 3-Night Yangtze River Cruise • Shanghai
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Suzhou & Shanghai, China

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Few travelers have experienced the wonders of China’s western region, from Chengdu, home of the majestic giant panda, to the mysterious mountain kingdom of Tibet, the “Roof of the World.” This Vantage-exclusive adventure is your opportunity to witness up close the undiscovered side of this dynamic country—filled with sprawling landscapes, ancient cities, and quaint villages—as only a small group allows. We’ll enjoy an in-depth look at the lifestyle of Tibetans during a temple visit and tea-time with a local family … see the fantastic Potala Palace, symbolic home of the Dalai Lama … and delight in the giant pandas at a reserve in Chengdu. We also tour more familiar destinations, leisurely and by foot, such as a wild, less-visited section of the iconic Great Wall, Tian’anmen Square in Beijing and the striking Terra Cotta Army in Xi’an.

You'll visit five UNESCO World Heritage Sites while truly connecting with China’s real treasures: its welcoming people. They invite us to dance in a Chengdu park and to visit with them in their homes and schools. At the center of this exciting adventure is a three-night Yangtze River cruise through the breathtaking Three Gorges. Our ship is all-suite (with private balcony), and you’ll find the deluxe hotels throughout this trip, from Beijing to Shanghai, to offer the ultimate in comfort and amenities.

Beijing to Shanghai

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Tokyo, Japan

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DAY 1:

Depart home for Beijing, China

This evening, you’ll fly overnight to Beijing.

DAY 2:

Arrive in Beijing, China’s legendary capital

Arrive today and transfer to your deluxe hotel in Beijing. You’ll have time to explore and unwind, and lunch and dinner are on your own.

DAY 3:

Experience the less-visited “wild” section of the Great Wall of China

Unforgettable Moment: Today, we set out for a full-day tour of a wild section of the Great Wall, a seldom-visited stretch of this iconic landmark. Once at the wall, we lace up for an invigorating walk along the ancient fortification, a rare chance to experience a quieter corner up close. We also enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Cultural Discovery:

This evening, we gather for a delicious Welcome Dinner, featuring a meal once reserved for the emperor, traditional Peking duck.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 4:

Discover the Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square

This morning, we travel to the Temple of Heaven, a picturesque park enveloping the beautiful circular temple built in the Ming and Qing dynasties for ceremonies to pray for a good harvest.

Cultural Discovery: While here, we join a group of energetic seniors who come here each day to participate in various activities.

After lunch, we head to one of the largest public square in the world, Tian’anmen Square. We’ll walk around this massive space, then explore the Forbidden City, the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Breathtaking in scale, its 980 buildings comprise 9,000 rooms that were once off-limits to the public. Today, we can experience it as a magnificent museum of culture. Tonight is at leisure with dinner at a local restaurant.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 5:

Venture to Xi’an, an ancient cultural hub of China

Experience a more personal side of Beijing on this morning’s optional tour by trishaw of the city’s ancient hutong, the Old Quarter of narrow lanes. Enjoy tea and lunch in the home of a local family. Or, you may enjoy your last morning in Beijing at leisure and seek out lunch on your own.

After lunch, we fly to Xi’an, once China’s capital. Upon arrival, your evening is at leisure and dinner is on your own.

Included Meals:

1 Breakfast
Optional Tour: Hutong Tour with Lunch

Hutong Tour with Lunch

  • Approximate Cost: $49 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3.5 hours
  • Location: Beijing, China
  • When: half-day tour, including home-hosted lunch

Established hundreds of years ago, hutongs — or narrow lanes — were common in ancient Beijing. Several thousand lanes, alleys and quadrangles formed residential areas for ordinary people living in the capital city, and many of them are still well-preserved today. This tour will take you by trishaw through Beijing's old hutong district to a Chinese home for tea and conversation with a local famiy. The highlight of the tour will be a home-hosted lunch in another local home. This is truly a rare opportunity to see Beijing through the eyes of the local people.

DAY 6:

See the famous Terra Cotta Warriors and learn about jiaozi

Today we gain insight into Xi’an’s remarkable past as a powerful capital of China. Our morning drive takes us to the life-size statues of the 2,200-year-old Terra Cotta Warriors. Each of these fantastic figures was carved with its own features, then entombed with Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210 BC. The imperial militia consists of 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses. Cultural Discovery: Mid-day, we pause for lunch and see how a savory dish of jiaozi is prepared — artfully sculpted Chinese dumplings. After a rewarding day, enjoy dinner back at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

Visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and travel to Chengdu

This morning, we tour Xi’an’s nearly intact city walls and visit the exquisite Small Wild Goose Pagoda. Cultural Discovery: Afterwards, we stop in one of the city’s local galleries to learn how to write Chinese calligraphy with locals. If you’d like, you can continue your active morning on rented bicycles, cycling along the ancient walls. After lunch, we board our train to Chengdu. Upon arrival, the evening is free to explore on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 8:

Meet pandas at a Chengdu sanctuary, visit a local teahouse, and a Sichuan opera performance

Unforgettable Moment: Today, head to the outskirts of Chengdu to meet China's famous Giant Pandas at one of the world’s top panda sanctuaries. The work of this passionate organization has helped bring the beloved bear back from the brink of extinction. Back in the city, we enjoy a lunch of Sichuan dim sum — one of Chengdu’s specialties — at a local restaurant. This afternoon, we’ll enjoy the city’s green outdoor spaces during a walk along the trails of the People’s Park. We may cross paths with some locals enjoying a traditional dance in the fresh air; feel free to join them!

Cultural Discovery: Our leisurely walk leads us to a charming teahouse, we stop to sample some of China’s ubiquitous beverage. Then, we’ll watch as a local artisan demonstrates the art of Sichuan embroidery, a long-held tradition. This evening after dinner at a Chengdu restaurant, we head out on the town for a special performance of the Sichuan Opera. This colorful spectacle, typified by acrobatics and plot-twisting face changes, stems from 1700s-era China; the art form has its home here in Chengdu.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 9:

Enjoy a day at leisure, capped with a visit to a local school

The morning is at leisure to explore Chengdu — and seek out lunch — on your own. Or, join our optional “Chengdu Past & Today” tour, featuring the Jinsha Archaeological Site Museum, the historical district of Size Alley and lunch. In the afternoon, we enjoy a heartwarming highlight: visiting a local kindergarten to meet the students. Tonight, we'll savor dinner at a local restaurant. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Chengdu Past & Today

Chengdu Past & Today

  • Approximate Cost: $55 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 6 hours
  • Location: Chengdu, China
  • When: 8:30am – 2:30pm Morning tour with lunch

Found near Chengdu in 2001, the Jinsha archaeological site is the most significant archaeological discovery in China since the Terra Cotta Army. Dating back some 3,000 years and covering five square kilometers, it’s believed to be the capital of the Shu Kingdom — an ancient civilization along the banks of Modi River. You’ll visit the Jinshu Site Museum, displaying thousands of early gold, bronze, jade, and stone artifacts unearthed there. You’ll also visit the city’s historical and cultural district to see the wide alley (leisurely life), narrow alley (slow life), and Jing (well) alley (modern life). This is a popular area for locals and visitors alike — with teahouses, restaurants, shops, and boutique hotels, as well as restored ancient buildings, mansions, and courtyards. Lunch is included.

DAY 10:

Fly to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet

After a leisurely morning, we fly to Lhasa — Tibetan for "the Buddha Land." Upon arrival in the Tibetan Highlands, enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, getting acquainted with this city surrounded by towering mountains. You may find that an afternoon’s rest will help you adjust to the city’s high altitude. Cultural Discovery: After dinner at the hotel, we learn about this fascinating region during a lecture on “Tibetan Culture and Religions.”

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 11:

Experience Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple and visit with the famed “debating monks”

Today, we take in the exotic wonders of Lhasa, steeped in old-world tradition and Buddhism. We begin with a guided walking tour of Jokhang Temple, the city’s most sacred temple and a revered site that draws pilgrims from all over the world. After, we step outside onto Barkhor Street. This bustling thoroughfare surrounding the temple is both a showcase of Tibetan arts and crafts and a sacred way followed by pilgrims upon arrival at Jokhang. Cultural Discovery: Later, we have a unique and memorable experience: visiting a monastery to watch the famed "debating monks." After lunch at a local restaurant, we have the afternoon to explore the city before dinner at a local restaurant.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 12:

Marvel at the Potala Palace and Norbulingka Park, both once homes of the Dalai Lama

Unforgettable Moment: Delve further into Lhasa’s culture and history during an excursion to the Potala Palace. This massive structure, the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th century, when he fled to India in self-exile, is a veritable maze of 1,000 rooms and 10,000 shrines. Today, much of it is a fascinating museum. Cultural Discovery: Later, we visit a local family for tea, a rare opportunity to learn firsthand about life in this Himalayan community.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we pay a visit to Norbulingka Park. This sprawling site of the Dalai Lama’s traditional summer palace spreads out over 89 acres and is home to the largest landscaped gardens in Tibet. Spend the evening at leisure with dinner on your own. Or enjoy an optional Tibetan dinner and traditional dance performance, witnessing traditions that have been passed down over thousands of years such as the crane dance and deer dance.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch
Optional Tour: Tibetan Dinner & Dance Show

Tibetan Dinner & Dance Show

  • Approximate Cost: $55 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3.5 hours
  • Location: Tibet
  • When: 6:00 – 9:30pm Evening tour

As a cultural group, Tibetans enjoy both singing and dancing. In fact, they will sing anytime, for any event — and often dance at festivals, weddings, social gatherings, and even during their leisure time. Folk religion and sorcerers in Tibet have been incorporating popular native dances into their culture for thousands of years, passing down such folk dances as the Wild Bull Dance, Yak Dance, Deer Dance, Crane Dance, Peacock Dance, Sorcerers’ Dance, and Drum Dance from generation to generation. This tour includes a Tibetan dinner at local restaurant, followed by a lively dance show.

DAY 13:

Fly to Chongqing and embark the Century Legend for a Yangtze Cruise

This morning, we fly to Chongqing, gateway to the Yangtze River. Upon arrival, we'll embark on a panoramic city tour with time for lunch on your own. Then, we head to our pier to embark the Deluxe Century Legend to begin your Yangtze River cruise.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 14:

Enjoy the scenery and discover the charming village of Shi Bao Zhai

Enjoy a day of sailing on the scenic Yangtze River today. Cultural Discoveries: We disembark at the small village of Shi Bao Zhai to visit the Wooden Pavilion building. Back on the ship, listen to an enlightening lecture on traditional Chinese medicine.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 15:

Experience the Goddess Stream and the stunning Three Gorges Dam

Today, we join a shore excursion to the Goddess Stream. Our private motorboat takes our small group into the narrow canyon-like river. We return to our ship after this invigorating experience and set off on our cruise through the magnificent Three Gorges – Wu, Qutang and Xiling – each flanked by towering cliffs and soaring mountains. Throughout our journey, we learn their tales and legends that have been passed down through the ages. This evening, we pass through the five-stage locks of the remarkable Three Gorges Dam. In order to learn more about this remarkable engineering feat, we'll listen to an elucidating lecture on the dam and the Yangtze River itself. 

Please Note: The ship locks may be closed due to official examination. If that occurs, the ship will not sail through the ship locks, but the next day’s Three Gorges Dam tour will operate as usual.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 16:

Disembark the Century Legend, transfer to Yichang, and fly to Shanghai

After breakfast aboard, we'll transfer by motorcoach to Yichang, where you'll enjoy lunch at a local hotel restaurant. This afternoon, take a panoramic tour of this riverside city before we head to the airport for your flight to Shanghai. Tonight, enjoy the evening at leisure and dinner on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 17:

Get to know Shanghai on a full-day tour and savor a Farewell Dinner

We enjoy a complete view of Shanghai today on a full-day tour. We walk along the city’s famous Bund, a riverfront promenade overseen by grand colonial-era buildings. Then, we walk the pathways of the 400-year-old imperial Yu Yuan Garden and the ancient lanes of the city's Old Town. Along the way, we’ll pause at a local restaurant for lunch. This evening, we gather for a final time at the hotel for a festive Farewell Dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 18:

Transfer to the Shanghai airport for your flight home

Following breakfast at our hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, stay in Shanghai longer for our two-night extension here.

Included Meals:


Post-Trip Extension

Suzhou & Shanghai, China


Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

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Imperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze River - 2018

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VantageUniworldViking River CruisesVantage Advantage
JourneyImperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze RiverChina, Tibet & the YangtzeRoof of the World
Cruise-Only Prices* $0$6,749$4,339Save up to $4,300 per couple over our competitors!
Trip Length0 days14 days17 daysBest Pacing - more time in destinations!
Per Diem $0 per day$482$255Save up to $424 per couple, per day–that's a total savings of over $7,200 for 17 days.
Included Tours and Special Features17 sightseeing tours, plus Cultural Connections! Tour of the Great Wall and Forbidden City; visit Xi'an & Terra Cotta Warriers; Tea with local family; lunch at farmers home, full day cruising Guilins Li River, Chinese watercolor painting lesson and local school visit in Guilin, visit Chongquing Zoo and pandas, and more!Visit Great Wall, Terra Cotta Warriers, Hong Kong City Tour; Jokhang Temple, Tibet Museum, Potala Palace.Culture Curriculum: tea with a Tibetan family; lectures on the Yangtze River, tai chi every morning aboard; concert of the Hubei Bells; learn a few Chinese wordsExperience the BEST of China, Tibet & the Yangtze River with the MOST Cultural Connections and special features!
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Accommodations16 nights, including 13 nights in First-Class, Superior First-Class, and Moderate Deluxe hotels, and 3 nights cruising aboard the new, 5-Star Century Legend. Ship features indoor swimming pool & more! Deluxe cabins are 301 square feet with private balcony.Brand-new, 5-Star Century Legend or Century Paragon, Signature suites are 301 square feet with private balcony. Ship has indoor lap pool.5-Star Viking Emerald, built in 2011. Verandah staterooms are 250 square feet.Pay less and stay on the 5-Star Century Legend, the newest ship cruising the Yangtze.
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