Day 1-2 - Welcome to Beijing - The private tour departs on a direct overnight flight from London, or via an alternative route at one of the major regional airports in the UK if you prefer. Arrive in Beijing in the morning and be welcomed upon arrival for transfer to your hotel. You will receive a walking orientation tour around your hotel with our guide, familiarising you with the surroundings and answering any questions you may have. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax, or you may prefer to add an afternoon tour.
Day 3 - Special tour: Beijing's Past & Present - Our special tour gives you an in-depth view of the the city's history, culture and modern life. We start amid the Communist-style buildings of Tiananmen Square and walk into the mythical Forbidden City, home to 24 Chinese Emperors. Here you can learn about China's dynastic past, before climbing Coal Hill for an overview of the central Beijing landscape. After lunch in a traditional hutong, enter the Confucius and Buddhist temples to understand China's two most important belief systems and their role in daily life. (B,L)
Day 4 - Temple of Heaven Park & Hutongs - We start at the Temple of Heaven, considered by UNESCO "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design", to learn about Chinese philosophical beliefs, cosmogony, art, dynastic politics and sacrificial rituals. We visit early to gain wonderful insights into local life, as large groups of elderly Beijingers gather to take communal exercises, sing, socialise and play musical instruments. We take lunch at a family hutong home and then survey the traditional streets from the back of a rickshaw and on foot. Enjoy some cultural activities like calligraphy or paper cutting or perhaps attempt to cook the Chinese way by making some local dumplings. (B,L)
Day 5 - Hike the Great Wall - We drive two hours north of Beijing to access the iconic Great Wall of China to hike a wild section away from the crowds. Here we can truly appreciate its full majesty and savour stunning views of the surrounding mountains, taking the cable cars down from the restored part at Mutianyu, allowing you a look at the Wall in its original state. (B,L)
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Day 6 - Bullet Train to Xi'an - Today you will be transported to Beijing West station for your high speed Bullet Train to the ancient city of Xi'an, a journey of around four and a half hours. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel, with time at leisure in the afternoon. Once the starting point of the legendary Silk Road and a capital for eleven dynasties, Xi'an has retained a great deal of its mystique and boasts an impressive array of sights, which we will explore over the next two days. (B)
Day 7 - See the 8,000 strong Terracotta Army - We begin today with a visit to the famous Terracotta Army, just outside Xi'an. 8,000 individually sculptured clay warriors, horses and archers proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder in three large excavated pits, protecting the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang. At first it is the sheer number that overwhelms, but on closer inspection you begin to notice the extraordinary level of detail that went in to them, with each figure seemingly sporting a different expression and hairstyle. It's not hard to imagine this as a real army in waiting, awakening at the slightest hint of danger. Afterwards we can visit the home of the farmer who accidentally discovered the Terracotta Army.
In the afternoon we return to the city and explore the Muslim Quarter. We will visit a traditional courtyard mansion, owned by a former official during the Ming Dynasty. Dating back 400 years, the property shows the wonderful architectural style of the time and offers cultural activities and demonstrations including shadow puppetry and paper cutting. Following this there will be time to explore the temple and the lively food market. (B,L)
Day 8 - Xi'an at leisure or optional tours - Today you will have time at leisure to explore Xi'an and pursue your own interests. (B) Alternatively, you may wish to undertake additional tours, including:
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Day 9 - Welcome to Tibet & Summer Palace - This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Lhasa in Tibet. Here you will be met on arrival by your local guide and driver who will welcome you to the city and get you settled in to your hotel. You will now be at high altitude so it is best to take it easy and drink plenty of water to help your body acclimatise. As a gentle introduction to Lhasa, we will visit the Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai Lama, set within relaxing landscaped parkland on the outskirts of Lhasa. Following lunch at a local restaurant you will have the afternoon free to relax and wander around the charming old town. (B,L)
Day 10 - Potala Palace, Pilgrims & Jokhang Temple - We start the following day with a tour of the Potala Palace, the defining symbol of Lhasa and Tibet. The winter home to ten Dalai Lama's, the huge 17th century structure is one of the most poignant on the planet, telling the story of life here before the Dali Lama was forced to flee to India. The roof terraces house the former residences of the Dalai Lama and afford sweeping views of the city.
We then drive into the very heart of the old town, stopping to take lunch. The colourful Jokhang Temple is the most sacred place in Tibet, a destination for pilgrims from across the Buddhist world. It is encircled by the lively Barkor Street, around which pilgrims walk in a clockwise directions, spinning prayer wheels as they go or prostrating themselves fully along the ground. Watching their incredible devotion is a privileged experience for any visitor. We tour the Jokhang Temple and enjoy the sweeping views from the rooftop. (B,L)
Day 11 - Sacred Lake & Monks Debate - This morning we drive out of Lhasa and through the mountains to the sacred Yamdrok Lake. Upon arrival there will be plenty of time to enjoy the sumptuous views from the lookout point and see the yaks up close on the shore. We then return to Lhasa and visit Sera Monastery, arriving in time to watch the monks in their fascinating...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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