Experience the best of China and Tibet, during this exceptional 15-day journey, featuring a three-night cruise along the fabled Yangtze River and Five-Star accommodations in Beijing, Xi’an, Lhasa and Shanghai. Visit the Three Gorges Dam, Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Xi’an’s Terra Cotta Warriors and Lhasa’s magnificent Potala Palace.
Day 1 and Day 2
Depart the U.S. and cross the International Date Line.
Arrive in Beijing, the former imperial city of the Mongol, Ming and Manchu emperors and one of China’s oldest citadels. Rich in historical sites and cultural relics, this dynamic city of more than 12 million people is the cultural and spiritual heart of the country and the ideal place from which to begin tracing back the fascinating narrative of ancient China. Check into the Five-Star HILTON WANGFUJING, ideally located near the Forbidden City.
Visit the magnificent Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage site and symbol of imperial grandeur since 500 B.C. Constructed over the course of 2000 years, this imposing fortification once spanned more than 13,000 miles. Walk along this historic border and marvel at sweeping views of China’s northern plains and valleys.
Join your traveling companions for the Welcome Reception and Peking duck dinner in the hotel this evening. (B,L,R,D)
Walk through historic Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square and site of the memorial of modern China’s founder, Mao Zedong. Then, pass through the imposing Meridian Gate into the mystical UNESCO World Heritage-designated Forbidden City, residence of Ming and Qing dynasty emperors for almost 500 years. Inside, ascend the stone steps of the magnificent Hall of Supreme Harmony to explore the ceremonial halls, royal apartments, gardens and temples of the Imperial Palace.
The beautifully landscaped Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design, was the retreat of 19th-century Empress Dowager Cixi. Walk through Cixi’s private apartments, filled with jewel-encrusted furniture, and see her ornate Marble Boat. Then, enjoy a small boat cruise across Kunming Lake’s tranquil waters, which, along with Longevity Hill, form the key aesthetic features of the Summer Palace gardens. (B)
Tour another extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage site, the Temple of Heaven, a magnificent complex of religious buildings symbolizing the relationship between heaven and Earth.
Then, fly to Xi’an, formerly ancient Chang’an, China’s thriving capital of emperors, courtesans, monks, merchants and soldiers for 11 dynasties. It was a place where many of the world’s great religions coexisted and the fabled launching point of the Silk Road, where camel caravans introduced Chinese influence to the world and distributed goods from the Eurasian continent. Tour the exquisite Yangling Imperial Tomb, where thousands of captivating figurines excavated from the 2100-year-old tomb of Emperor Liu Qi capture the essence of daily life during the Han dynasty, a high point in Chinese history, when culture and the arts flourished as never before.
Check into the Five-Star HILTON HOTEL, located within the ancient city walls. (B)
Visit the amazing UNESCO World Heritage site of the famous life-size Terra Cotta Warriors, no two alike. In 1974, farmers digging a well unearthed this incredible archaeological discovery—one of the most extraordinary finds of the 20th century—an army of thousands of terra cotta warriors and horses maintaining a silent vigil over the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 B.C.). This visionary monarch, the first ruler of a unified China, introduced a standardized writing system, reformed the legal code and commenced the building of the Great Wall of China, the greatest public works project of its era. The emperor, as large a figure in death as he was in life, lies buried in a mausoleum that took 36 years to construct and required the efforts of 700,000 laborers. The tomb itself remains unexcavated, guarded by row upon row of charioteers, infantry, cavalry and horses. Each warrior has a distinctive, lifelike facial expression and bears trappings denoting his rank within the imperial army—general, senior officer, junior officer or common soldier.
This afternoon, enter the inner walls of Xi’an, where watchmen once signaled dawn and dusk with a bell and a drum from the distinctive, triple-eaved Bell and Drum Towers. Walk along Xi’an’s fortified medieval city walls, the best-preserved in China, and explore the lively streets of the Huimin quarter, infused with a rich heritage influenced by merchants who traveled the Silk Road 1300 years ago.
Dumplings, called jiaozi in China, are said to have been introduced to Chinese cuisine 1800 years ago. Enjoy a traditional dumpling dinner in one of Xi’an’s most famous restaurants. (B,D)
Fly to Lhasa, one of the world’s highest cities at an elevation of 11,800 feet. Lhasa has been a center of Tibetan Buddhism since the religion was introduced here in the seventh century. Today in this captivating city, one can see devout pilgrims, prostrating monks, colorful neighborhood quarters and medieval monasteries. Check into the Five-Star SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, and this afternoon and evening are at leisure as you acclimate to the Himlayan altitude. (B)
Atop rocky Red Mountain, the magnificent 1000-room, 384-foot-tall Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site and once the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas, towers above the city. Walk up the central stone staircase to this 13-story masterpiece of Tibetan architecture and see the ornately carved and painted ceremonial hall of the White Palace, where Tibet’s rulers ascended to the throne. Further up the mountain, visit the stunning chapels in the Red Palace, where opulent, jewel-laden monuments honor previous Dalai Lamas.
Just outside the city, the 15th-century Sera Monastery, one of the great educational centers of Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat—the most widespread order of Tibetan Buddhism—once housed more than 5000 monks. Observe the animated style of debate they practice each afternoon in the courtyard of Sera’s largest school, a fascinating Tibetan tradition. (B,L)
The UNESCO World Heritage-designated 18th-century Norbulingka Palace was built by the seventh Dalai Lama on a site of medicinal springs; the lush grounds of this “Jeweled Park” today constitute the largest garden in Tibet.
The elaborate Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most sacred building in Tibet, was constructed in A.D. 647 in the heart of the city’s Old Town by Emperor Songtsen Gampo to honor his two Buddhist wives. Outside the temple complex, stroll along the winding lanes around bustling Barkhor Square, where Tibetan monks chant mantras and spin prayer wheels, fragrant incense wafts through the air and the brilliant colors of silk robes and turquoise jewelry line the alleys. Lhasa’s only female Buddhist monastery, the Canggu Nunnery, is an oasis amid the activity of Barkhor; here, the residents welcome visitors to wander the brightly hued courtyards and listen to their rhythmic recitations.
Traditional Tibetan music accompanies your dinner in the hotel. (B,L,D)
Fly to Chongqing, a picturesque mountain city located at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers and known for its traditional teahouse culture and spicy Szechuan cuisine. Visit Chongqing’s zoo, one of the largest of its kind in China, to see playful giant pandas—recently removed from the endangered species list after decades of conservation efforts—in specially designed garden habitats that emulate their natural environment.
This afternoon, embark the M.V. VICTORIA JENNA. (B,L,D)
Cruising the Yangtze River/Shibaozhai
This compelling three-day cruise stops in fascinating, historic ports and showcases the grandeur of one of China’s greatest natural wonders, the Three Gorges. First, visit Shibaozhai, which translates literally to “Stone Treasure Fortress,” a rocky promontory on the north bank of the river. Built into its side is the Pearl of Yangtze, a graceful, 12-tiered red wooden pagoda rising 184 feet to the top of a towering cliff.
Attend the Welcome Reception on board this evening. (B,L,R,D)
Three Gorges/Cruising the Goddess Stream and Three Lesser Gorges/Cruising the Three Gorges Dam Locks
Pass through Kui Gate, the soaring twin peaks that mark the gateway to Qutang, the most dramatic of the Three Gorges. Admire the quiet beauty and sheer white-stone cliffs of stunning Wu Gorge, where the legendary Twelve Peaks look down from misty Wu Mountain. Embark a private small boat to float gently down the picturesque Goddess Stream. Lastly, cruise through spectacular Xiling, the longest gorge, en route to the Three Gorges Dam locks. (B,L,D)
Sandouping and the Three Gorges Dam/Yichang/Shanghai
Visit the massive Three Gorges Dam, the largest water conservancy project ever undertaken by man. Considered a key to China’s modernization, it is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, 1.3 miles wide and 606 feet high.
Disembark the ship in Yichang and fly to the fascinating metropolis of Shanghai. Check into the historic, Five-Star FAIRMONT PEACE HOTEL, and enjoy an evening at leisure. (B,L)
Shanghai was the first of China’s cities to be influenced by the West in the 19th century. Today, its outstanding architectural landmarks along the famous Bund waterfront include the neoclassical Customs House and the China Merchants Bank building. Across the fabled Huangpu River, see the bold high-rises and broad avenues of Pudong, Shanghai’s pulsing financial center. Tour the renowned Shanghai Museum, which houses an important collection of ancient coins, including rare pieces from the central Asian kingdoms along the Silk Road.
The rooftop of the Five-Star FAIRMONT PEACE HOTEL provides the perfect setting for tonight’s Farewell Reception, with breathtaking views of the city skyline along the Huangpu. (B,R)
Return to the U.S. (B)