Imperial China, Mysterious Tibet & the Yangtze River - 2021

Beijing • Xi’an • Chengdu • Lhasa, Tibet • 3-Night Yangtze River expedition cruise to Shi Bao Zhai and Three Gorges • Shanghai
  • $357
  • 19
  • 33
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Moderate Deluxe
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How does one capture the essence of a land as vast and varied as China? With Vantage, of course. Visiting iconic attractions like the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and giant pandas are a given when you join us on this adventure — but thanks to carefully curated experiences by our team in China, you’ll also discover some astounding facets of the world’s oldest living civilization.

33 included features and Cultural Discoveries are woven into this small-group adventure, including visits to a remarkable five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As you tour Beijing, Xi’an, and Chengdu, feast on distinctive local cuisine like Peking Duck, jiaozi dumplings, and classic Kung Pao chicken — and visit the homes of locals to chat over tea. Then, find yourself at a literal high point when you visit Tibet: you’ll spend days at the “rooftop of the world,” exploring the colossal Potala Palace — once the seat of the Dalai Lama — and watching ancient traditions come to life at a traditional Tibetan dance performance, among other enlightening experiences.

Your adventure also includes a 3-night cruise on the Yangtze River, transporting you from the whispers of riverside villages to the roar of the Three Gorges Dam, where you’ll learn about the phenomenal engineering behind this structure. Then, see how Shanghai’s past as a treaty port has helped it become a cosmopolitan powerhouse. Throughout your journey, more cultural encounters are yours to enjoy with optional tours such as a Beijing hutong exploration and a cooking class in Chengdu.

Before your adventure through China, you can maximize your airfare with an extension to discover another East Asian capital: Tokyo. And if you’re a solo traveler, you’ll enjoy unparalleled value and save thousands with zero and reduced Single Supplements. Set out with us, in true Vantage style, to experience the extraordinary ways and wonders of China.

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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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.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • 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 Beijing’s elegant UNESCO-listed Temple of Heaven, where a picturesque park envelops a 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 this UNESCO World Heritage Site as a magnificent museum of culture.

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

DAY 5:

Join an optional hutong tour and venture to the ancient capital, Xi’an

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: $59 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 family. 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 its residents.

DAY 6:

See the famous Terracotta 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 Terracotta 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 and Kuanzhai Alley, a series of parallel alleyways of different sizes dating back to the Qing Dynasty. 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
  • Tour of Kuanzhai Alley
Cultural Discoveries:
  • Sample tea at a local teahouse
  • Sichuan dim sum lunch
  • Sichuan opera performance

Included meals:

Breakfast, lunch & dinner

DAY 9:

Visit a local kindergarten and enjoy time at leisure, or an optional Chengdu cooking class

The morning, we enjoy a heartwarming highlight: visiting a local kindergarten to meet the students. You may then enjoy the afternoon at your leisure or join our optional Chengdu cooking class, where you’ll learn how to cook traditional Sichuan-style dishes — many known for possessing boldly pungent and spicy flavors! Dinner tonight will be at a local restaurant.

Included Feature:

  • Visit a local kindergarten

Included meals:

Breakfast & dinner
Optional Tour: Chengdu Cooking Class

Chengdu Cooking Class

  • Approximate Cost: $65 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 3.5 hours
  • Location: Chengdu, China
  • When: 11:00 am – 2:30 pm class with lunch
Sichuan cuisine’s signature piquant and spicy flavors are the claim to fame behind popular dishes like kung pao chicken and mapo tofu. Here in Chengdu — named as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy — you’ll discover how the naturally abundant produce of the Sichuan Basin have contributed to the region’s mouthwatering culinary heritage. Then, take home the secrets to cooking traditional Sichuan-style dishes with a hands-on class guided by local chefs.

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, we stop by Sera Monastery to watch the famed "debating monks." After lunch at a local restaurant, we have the rest of the day at leisure, with dinner on your own.

Included Feature:

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

Included meals:

Breakfast  & lunch

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. This evening, we enjoy a Tibetan dinner and traditional dance performance at a local restaurant, 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
  • Tibetan dinner and traditional dance performance

Included meals:

Breakfast, lunch & dinner

DAY 13:

Day at leisure, or an optional tour to Yamdrok Lake

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. Dinner is included tonight.

Included meals:

Breakfast & dinner
Optional Tour: Yamdrok Lake and Picnic lunch

Yamdrok Lake and Picnic lunch

  • Approximate Cost: $99 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 5 hours
  • Location: Yamdrok Lake, Tibet
  • When: Morning tour with lunch
Yamdrok Lake (also known as Yamdrok Yumtso or Yamzho Yumco) is a freshwater lake in Tibet, considered sacred as one of the four "Great Wrathful Lakes". The lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. Like mountains, lakes are considered sacred by the Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. Yamdrok Lake is thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to local villagers makes pilgrimages here. On this tour, you’ll witness the lake’s surreal blue color with your own eyes and perhaps capture its beauty in photographs. You’ll also enjoy a picnic lunch along the shores of this sacred lake.

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 at a local restaurant. 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 — perhaps you’ll join in on some early Tai Chi while taking in the scenery. We disembark at the small village of Shibaozhai to marvel at its mountain-hugging pagoda, a 12-storied wooden pavilion housing a Buddhist temple at its very top. Back on the ship, listen to an enlightening lecture on traditional Chinese medicine.

Included Feature:

  • Visit Shibaozhai Pagoda
Cultural Discoveries:
  • Morning Tai Chi
  • 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 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. While you’ve seen its five-stage locks up close, today you’ll ascend via a series of escalators to Tanziling Ridge, where a bird’s-eye view of the entire dam site and its surroundings awaits. 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

Enjoy a complete view of Shanghai today on a full-day tour, where we walk along the city’s famous Bund, a riverfront promenade overseen by grand colonial-era buildings. Then, follow 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 embark on a cruise along the Huangpu River to admire Shanghai’s neon-lit skyline by night, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

Included Features:

  • Full-day tour of Shanghai
  • Nighttime scenic cruise on the Huangpu River

Included meals:

Breakfast, lunch & dinner

DAY 19:

A day at leisure in Shanghai, or optional “Shanghai Past & Today” tour

Today is yours to explore Shanghai as you wish. You may return to the Bund to immerse yourself in its irreverent energy, or perhaps head to People’s Square and learn about ancient Chinese art at the Shanghai Museum. Alternatively, join an optional “Shanghai Past & Today” tour for a glimpse of just how much the city has evolved. After zooming along on a roundtrip ride on the Shanghai Maglev — currently the fastest commercial train in the world with a maximum operating speed of 267 mph — you’ll explore a confluence of cultures at the city’s former French Concession and enjoy a Dim Sum lunch. This evening, we gather for a final time at a local restaurant for a festive Farewell Dinner.

Included meals:

Breakfast & dinner
Optional Tour: Shanghai Past & Today

Shanghai Past & Today

  • Approximate Cost: $89 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 4 hours
  • Location: Shanghai, China
  • When: Morning tour with lunch
Shanghai’s evolution from a mere riverside county to global commercial hub is a storied one. As one of the first treaty ports that opened to foreign trade under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the “Pearl of the Orient” quickly became known as China’s most cosmopolitan city, even after numerous wars and the Cultural Revolution. On this tour, you’ll fast-forward on the Shanghai Maglev — currently the fastest commercial train in the world with a maximum operating speed of 267 mph. Then, rewind to Shanghai’s olden days as you admire the tree-lined streets and colonial architecture of the city’s former French Concession. Your tour concludes with a hearty dim sum lunch at a local restaurant.

DAY 20:

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 - 2021

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