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Day 1: Arrive in Beijing
Met on arrival at Beijing airport and transferred to your hotel. Tonight we have an orientation and welcome dinner.
Day 2: Forbidden City, Beijing Opera
We begin with a walk through Tiananmen Square en route to our morning visit to the Forbidden City, known as the Imperial Museum and a UNESCO site. In its 500-year history only 24 Emperors and their attendants could ever have known about its 800 buildings and 9000 chambers.
Day 3: The Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs
Today we visit the Great Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Every tower and turret stands just as it did when the Mongols overran the country 700 years ago. Our next visit is to the famed Ming Tombs where we walk along the sacred path to the vast imperial burial ground and see the 3rd Emperor's Tomb.
Day 4: Beijing, Fly to Xian
This morning we begin by visiting the Temple of Heaven (UNESCO) which the emperor visited twice a year to pray for good harvests. We also have some free time to interact with the locals and watch activities (badminton, tai chi, cards, knitting).
Day 5: Xian, Terra Cotta Warriors
A memorable day starts with a visit to the Terracotta Warriors (UNESCO). We discover the famous clay army of soldiers and part of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di, the first emperor of China.
Day 6: Xian, Fly to Chongqing
This morning we visit the great Mosque (built in the 8th century) and have time to wander the area around the Drum Tower.
Day 7: To Dazu, Buddhist Caves, Board Yangtze River Cruise
Drive to Dazu, one of China's most remarkable Buddhist sites featuring more than 60,000 statues dating from the Tang and Song Dynasties. En route we stop at a local farmer's home. In Dazu we visit the Buddhist caves in the northern hills of Beishan and Baodingshan (UNESCO), which display numerous sculptures. Set upon the beautiful terraced fields, they are perfect examples of a great artistic and religious period at its peak.
Day 8: Yangtze River Cruise
The Yangtze is the third largest river in the world. The lands along its banks are among the most populous and productive in China. Today we stop at Fengdu (or Shibaoshan), where the river banks' heights are fabled to be the abode of spirits and therefore named "The City of Ghosts" (or Shibao Fortress).
Day 9: Yangtze River Cruise, Shennong Stream
We cross Qutang Gorge, the first and narrowest of the Three Gorges which is lined with dramatic vertical cliffs on either side. We board a small boat to sail up the Daning River or Shennong Stream for a look at the vertical limestone cliffs and the "hanging coffins" of the ancient Tujia people.
Day 10: Yangtze River Cruise - Yichang Three Gorges Dam Tour, to Wuhan
After passing the longest and the last of the Three Gorges, the Xiling Gorge, we pass through the Gezhouba Dam and disembark from our river cruise in Yichang. A tour of the immense Three Gorges Dam is a fitting end to our Yangtze voyage. (Please note: due to the ongoing process of damming the Yangtze, the cruise itinerary is subject to change).
Day 11: Wuhan - Train to Shanghai
We begin with a visit to Guiyan Monastery, famous for its statues of 500 "arhats" (disciples of Lord Buddha). Nearby we stroll around the exquisite Bonsai garden and learn about Chinese Bonsai. We also visit the Hubei Provincial Museum with its collection of musical instruments and bronze and lacquer artifacts dating back to the era of the "Fighting Kingdoms".
Day 12: Shanghai
This morning we enjoy a city tour of cosmopolitan city of Shanghai including the famous Bund area, the Shanghai Museum and Yuyuan Garden, where we will explore the gardens, crossing many bridges to visit Hu Xin Ting teahouse, one of the finest of ancient Shanghai.
Day 13: Guilin
A mid morning flight will take us what is deemed the most beautiful place on earth by Chinese visitors for centuries, Guilin. This afternoon we take a chairlift to Yaoshan Hill to admire the beautiful view over the surrounding karst peaks. Our last stop is to an organic Tea Plantation.
Day 14: Guilin, Li River Cruise, Yangshuo
Today we take a cruise on the Li River through amazing landscapes of limestone peaks to the village of Yangshuo. Yangshuo has all the comely charms of Guilin but on a much smaller scale. This afternoon you are free to explore or take a walk up Moon Hill for breathtaking views of the area.
Day 15: Fly to Hong Kong
This morning we enjoy a bicycle ride through the countryside and enjoy a glimpse of rural life. (Other transportation is available for those not wishing to bicycle.) This afternoon we drive to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong. Upon arrival we will check in to our hotel before dinner.
Day 16: Hong Kong - Victoria Peak
We begin with a visit to the city's premier visitor attraction, Victoria Peak: situated high above Hong Kong Island on the "back of the dragon," the peak gives us magnificent harbor and city views.
Day 17: Depart Hong Kong
We bid farewell to the far east and transfer to the airport for our flight home.
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