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Imperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze River - 2020

Beijing • Xi’an • Chengdu • Lhasa, Tibet • 3-Night Yangtze River expedition cruise to Shi Bao Zhai and Three Gorges • Shanghai
  • $288
  • 18
  • 30
19 DAYS FROM $5,748
Moderate Deluxe
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The “trip of a lifetime.” That’s what many travelers have called our Vantage-exclusive Imperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze River itinerary, and the reasons for this accolade are myriad. For one, it’s the iconic sights you’ll experience: The capital of Beijing, the legendary Great Wall, and Xian — home of the famed Terra Cotta Army, to name just a few.  Yet this adventure goes far beyond the expected and into the spectacular, offering you the best value in deluxe travel, guaranteed.

While visiting a remarkable five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and embarking on 30 included features and Cultural Discoveries, you’ll be dazzled by stunning landscapes, ancient cities still pulsing with energy, walk a “wild” section of the Great Wall. You’ll even get up close and personal with one of the world’s most beloved animals: the giant panda. Plus, your adventure is your leisurely 3-night cruise along the fabled Yangtze, which allows you to not only visit quaint riverside villages, but to discover the magnificent Three Gorges as well as its eponymous dam. One of the truly thrilling parts of your China trip will be your visit to Tibet, the “rooftop of the world.” In this unique corner of the world, you’ll visit massive, cloud-kissed Potala Palace — once the seat of the Dalai Lama — and Jokhang Temple.

Your adventure has been designed by insiders: our own team in China, who have curated a collection of experiences beyond compare, including opportunities to connect with locals over tea in a Lhasa home, while meeting a Yangtze village family, and more.  Plus, your expert Adventure Leader will ensure you have a seamless and illuminating journey – our travelers regularly laud these experts as an indispensable part of an unforgettable experience. 

You can enhance your journey by adding an optional extension to Tokyo, one of Asia’s most captivating cities, and by adding special optional tours such as a Tibetan Dinner and Dance show, and an enlightening tour of a Beijing hutong. Traveling solo? This China and Tibet tour offers the best solo value in deluxe travel — with free and reduced Single Supplements, you can save thousands. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience one of the world’s most enduring and enchanting cultures on Imperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze River.

What memories will you bring home on this adventure? Check out our photography page for inspiration, tips and tricks, and more. Explore now!

Beijing to Shanghai

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Tokyo, Japan

FROM: $2399 PER PERSON | 4 DAYS | $600 PER DAY
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DAY 1:

Depart home for Beijing, China

This evening, you’ll fly overnight to Beijing.

Please note: Arrive to your destination or home rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.

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

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.

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

Included Feature:

  • Tour a wild section of the Great Wall
Cultural Discovery:
  • Welcome Dinner featuring traditional Peking Duck

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4:

Discover the Temple of Heaven and Tian’anmen 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. 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 squares 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.  Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.

Included Features:

  • Visit the Temple of Heaven
  • Tour the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square
Cultural Discovery:
  • Join local seniors in morning activities at the Temple of Heaven park

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 trishaw tour of the city’s hutong, the Old Quarter of ancient narrow lanes. Enjoy tea and lunch in the home of a local family. Or, 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:

Optional Tour: Hutong Tour with Lunch

Hutong Tour with Lunch

  • Approximate Cost: $55 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 Army. 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. Midday, 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 Feature:

  • Visit the Terracotta Army museum complex
Cultural Discovery:
  • Cooking demonstration and lunch of jiaozi dumplings

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. 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 transfer to the train station for your trip to Chengdu. Upon arrival, the evening is free to explore on your own.

Included Feature:

  • Xi’an city tour
Cultural Discovery:
  • Learn Chinese calligraphy with locals

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 8:

Meet some pandas at a Chengdu sanctuary and enjoy a Sichuan opera performance

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!

Our leisurely walk leads us to a charming teahouse, where we stop to sample some of China’s ubiquitous beverage. After dinner at a local 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, hearkens back to 1700s-era China, and was born here in Chengdu.

Included Features:

  • Meet giant pandas at a panda sanctuary
  • Visit People’s Park in Chengdu
Cultural Discoveries:
  • Sichuan dim sum lunch
  • Sample tea at a local teahouse
  • Sichuan Opera performance

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 9:

Visit a local kindergarten and enjoy some time at leisure

This morning, we enjoy a heartwarming highlight: visiting a local kindergarten to meet the students. Later, you can join our optional “Chengdu Past & Today” tour, featuring the Jinsha Archaeological Site Museum, the historical district of Size Alley, and lunch. Dinner will be at a local restaurant.

Included Feature:

  • Visit a local kindergarten

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: 8:30 am – 2:30 pm 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 the Jinsha 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. After dinner at the hotel, we learn about this fascinating region during a lecture on “Tibetan Culture and Religions.”

Cultural Discovery:

  • 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. Later, stop by Sera Monastery to watch the famed "debating monks."

After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll circle back to Barkhor Street to peruse local handmade crafts at the Rhythm of Tibet Art Gallery. Opened in 1992, this gallery and store showcases spiritual items found in Tibetan everyday life, such as Thangkas (Buddhist paintings), agate dzi beads, and handwoven Tibetan rugs. You’ll then have the rest of the afternoon to explore the city before dinner at a local restaurant.

Included Feature:

  • Tour of Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street
Cultural Discovery:
  • Watch the “debating monks” of Sera Monastery

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 12:

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

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 1959 — when the current Dalai Lama 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. 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 houses 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 passed down over thousands of years, like the crane and deer dances.

Included Feature:

  • Visit Potala Palace
  • Visit Norbulingka Park, the Dalai Lama’s summer palace
Cultural Discoveries:
  • Visit a local Tibetan family for tea

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch
Optional Tour: Tibetan Dinner & Show

Tibetan Dinner & Show

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

Day at leisure

Enjoy a day at leisure in Lhasa, giving you the chance to explore more of the capital of the Tibet region. Or join our optional tour to Yamdrok Lake, a sacred (and visually stunning) body of water that is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Yamdrok Lake Tour

Yamdrok Lake Tour

  • Approximate Cost: $99 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 6 hours
  • Location: Yamdrok Lake, Tibet
  • When: Morning tour
Yamdrok Lake (also known as Yamdrok Yumtso or Yamzho Yumco) is a freshwater lake in Tibet, it is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 mi) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. Like mountains, lakes are considered sacred by Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. Yamdrok Lake is one of four particularly holy lakes, thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to local villagers makes pilgrimages there. It is considered sacred as one of the four "Great Wrathful Lakes", The mountains around the lake are beautiful and the colors of sacred Yamdrok Lake are of an extremely beautiful blue color, It is going to be a great opportunity to show your photography skills, you will also has a chance to try a picnic lunch at this scared place.

DAY 14:

Panoramic tour of Chongqing and board the Century Legend

After breakfast, we’ll leave Lhasa for our next destination: Chongqing. Get to know yet another city in China during your panoramic city tour of Chongqing, which includes seeing Jiefangbei Square, the Ghost City of Fengdu, and more. Lunch will be on your own today, and dinner will be on board the ship. This evening, board your ship, the Century Legend, to begin the cruise portion of your journey. 

Included Feature:
  • Panoramic tour of Chongqing

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 15:

Enjoy the scenery and discover the charming village of Shibaozhai

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

Included Feature:

  • Visit Shibaozhai Pagoda
Cultural Discoveries:
  • Morning Tai Chi class
  • Lecture on traditional Chinese medicine

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 16:

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.

Cruising through the Three Gorges (Wu, Qutang, and Xiling) — each flanked by towering cliffs and soaring mountains — we’ll hear 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 and learn more about this remarkable engineering feat, with an elucidating lecture on the dam and the Yangtze River itself.

Included Feature:

  • Shore excursion to Goddess Stream
Cultural Discovery:
  • Lecture on the Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 17:

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

After breakfast aboard, we disembark the Century Legend for an excursion to the fascinating Three Gorges Dam, one of the largest projects of its kind. After, 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 Features:

  • Shore excursion to Three Gorges Dam
  • Panoramic tour of Yichang

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 18:

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 a local restaurant for a festive Farewell Dinner.

Included Feature:

  • Full-day tour of Shanghai

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 19:

Transfer to the Shanghai airport for your flight home

Following breakfast at our hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Please note: Arrive to your destination or home rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.

Included Meals:


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 - 2020

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