Day 1 – USA to Beijing
Today you will begin your Swain Destinations customized itinerary. Please note, international air has not been included in this package price.
Day 2 – Welcome to Beijing, China
Upon arrival, you will clear customs and immigration before being transferred by private vehicle to your hotel.
Emperors and entrepreneurs have both called China’s flashy capital, Beijing, home. Although joint venture capitalists have replaced royalty and uniformed school children throng to shopping malls instead of the Chairman Mao Mausoleum, Beijing is still China’s cultural tour de force, boasting more than 50 museums and cultural centers. Evidence of Beijing’s grandiose past is scattered throughout the city and includes the sprawling Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the incredible Great Wall of China.Starting Accommodation:
Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing
Day 3 – Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Court Cuisine
This morning depart your hotel for magnificent Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, where Mao's picture hangs over the rostrum at the entrance of the Imperial Forbidden City. Walk in the steps of ancient emperors as you tour the powerful Forbidden City, hidden from public view for over 500 years. This is where Chinese emperors resided and ruled the country for 700 years until the year of 1911. The Imperial Palace provides outstanding examples of the greatest palatial architectural ensembles in China. They illustrate the grandeur of the imperial institution from the Qing Dynasty to the earlier Ming and Yuan dynasties, as well as Manchu traditions, and present evidence on the evolution of this architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Continue to the masterpiece Temple of Heaven, an embodiment of grace and harmony. This is where Ming and Qing emperors prayed for good harvest and it is the largest temple complex remaining in China today. The pomp and grandeur of imperial China lives on in this historic landmark so integral to the nation's soul.
Lunch is at Beijing Fang Shan Restaurant. Set in Bei Hai Park a former imperial garden, Beijing Fang Shan Restaurant offers exquisite food from former Chinese dynasties. Waitresses in period garb lead you to the main dining room, which is splendid, with high painted ceilings and traditional Chinese art.Starting Accommodation:
Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing (B, L)
Day 4 – Great Wall at Mutianyu and Summer Palace
A walk along the Great Wall of China ranks high on the wish list of many travelers and today's excursion will confirm it is one of the world's greatest travel experiences. Travel 43 miles by private vehicle northeast of Beijing to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, known for its beautiful surroundings of dense woods and rich pastures changing colors with each season of the year. It winds its way over a thousand meters to the crest of a mountain before turning sharply and dipping downhill, forming a triangle known as 'Ox-Horn Wall'. Linger at the towers and broad promenades; contemplate on the spectacular scenery and the lives lost in building this monumental construction that never truly fulfilled its purpose. There is ample time to stroll along its ancient stone promenade and photograph the wall as it winds across impossibly steep mountain areas. A cable car is available to help visitors and is included in today's tour.
Stop for lunch at Xiaolongpu Restaurant nearby, where their specialties include Sturgeon from neighboring Dongting Lake.
Continue on to the Summer Palace, formerly an imperial garden and palace for the Qing emperors. First built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886 - is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.
Stroll along the famous 700 meter Long Corridor, with its beautiful Painted Gallery (each archway depicts a different scene), and enjoy some peaceful time on Kunming Lake by boat, soaking in the majesty of China's imperial past.Starting Accommodation:
Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing (B, L)
Day 5 – Beijing to Xi’anHutong Tour
Hutongs are narrow lanes winding between traditional quadrangle dwellings in old Beijing. They are found around the area of the Forbidden City, and many date to the Yuan (1206-1341), Ming (1368-1628) and Qing (1644-1908) dynasties. The traditional quadrangle is a courtyard enclosed on four sides by one-story residences. The hutongs are actually passageways formed by the many closely arranged quadrangles.
This morning you will be driven to the nearby hutongs and will start from the north entrance to Beihia Park traveling by rickshaw to the picturesque Shishahai lake area. You will then visit Gu Lou, the drum Tower, where you will enjoy a bird's eye view of the old city. Then proceed to the neighborhood in the rear of the Shishahai Lake area and walk down the hutongs to drop in one or two courtyard-style homes. Lastly you will visit the mansion and garden of Prince Gong of Qing Dynasty, prior to returning to your hotel.
After the tour, you will be transfered from your hotel to Beijing airport by private vehicle for your onward flight. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel.
In 1974 a farmer from the dusty town of Lintong was digging a well when he unearthed a chamber that housed one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. Today the ancient army of more than 7,000 life-sized terracotta soldiers that guard the entombed Emperor Qin Shihuang is considered the “eighth wonder of the world”.Starting Accommodation:
Grand Mercure on Renmin Square (B)
Day 6 – Xi'an TouringTerracotta Warriors and Provincial Museum
Transfer by private vehicle to the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, home of the world renowned Terracotta Army, an archaeological site of unimaginable size and importance. No doubt thousands of statues still remain to be unearthed at this archaeological site, which was not discovered until 1974. Qin (d. 210 B.C.), the first unifier of China, is buried, surrounded by the famous terracotta warriors, at the center of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the capital, Xianyan. The small figures are all different; with their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and also of great historical interest.
The statues remain where they were uncovered, protected by a large hangar-like hall. Individual soldiers can be studied more closely in a museum exhibit in an adjacent building.
Following a Chinese lunch onsite, continue with a visit to the Shaanxi History Museum for a cultural and historical overview of the province, beginning with the great Emperor Qing. You'll re-live the rise of the city's greatness as guardian of the wealth that came from the Silk Road. After a comprehensive historical overview at the museum, you will travel to the walled city itself and walk atop the 600-year-old fortification.Tang Dynasty Show with Dumpling Dinner
As you travel around China, you'll soon discover that each region has its own unique cuisine. Your evening experience in Xian begins with a feast of local dumplings, nearly 20 varieties that are steamed and stuffed with a delicious assortment of vegetables, meats and seafood.
But the banquet is only the prelude to another feast for the senses. You'll experience the local color and pageantry of the Tang Dynasty Show. The performance showcases the music, dance and colorful costumes that have graced the region for centuries. The dinner and entertainment lasts for two and half hours and will fill a memorable evening in the walled city.Starting Accommodation:
Grand Mercure on Renmin Square (B, L, D)
Day 7 – Xi'an to Shanghai
Transfer from your hotel to the Xian airport by private vehicle. Upon arrival in Shanghai you will be me in the Arrivals Hall and taken to your hotel.
Just mentioning the name Shanghai conjures images of romance, mystery and adventure. But you need only stand in the city's historic Bund and look across the Huangpu River to see the high-tech Oriental Pearl TV Tower looming over the ambitious Pudong Development Area like a space rocket. Alongside the glittering, 88-story Jinmao Building and the futuristic, cubic Shanghai Stock Exchange, the 1,377 ft. tower is a symbol of this modern city and its mission-to embrace the challenges of the new millennium and become one of the world's great commercial centers. If Shanghai succeeds, it will be a return to glory days of old.
Shanghai's quaint European architecture, flashy nightlife venues and sophisticated elegance often surprise visitors from overseas. The city offers a fascinating glimpse into China's potential. Save some energy to experience some of its fantastic nightlife-from an exquisite dinner at M on the Bund, to clubbing throughout the French concession's cornucopia of nighttime extremes-the place pulsates with an energy all its own. A nighttime stroll on the Bund is a must-do.Evening Shanghai Acrobatics Show
This evening you will attend an astounding performance by the Shanghai Acrobatics School & Troupe. They have won hundreds of gold medals in different international acrobatics competitions, and are beloved by their countrymen for the incredible feats of skill and grace. If you have never experienced a world-class acrobatics show, this is a must-see event. Starting Accommodation:
Sofitel Shanghai Hyland (B)
Day 8 – Bund, Jade Buddha and Yu Garden tour
Which ever nickname you prefer, 'Paris of the Orient' or 'Pearl of China', Shanghai captures the essence of new China, as well as its centuries of history and culture. Your tour begins with classic sights from the Ming and Qing dynasties, when you visit the enchanting Yuyuan Garden and Shanghai Old Street. The tour then stops at the Bund on Shanghai's waterfront, a showcase of pre-1949 architecture. Here you'll tour the Museum of Ancient Chinese Art and its collection of more than 120,000 precious and rare works.
After lunch at Xi Garden, a great garden-side location in the French Concession, drive along the Concession District, which is characterized by beautiful, tree-lined streets and weathered European architecture. You have the option to visit the Arts and Crafts Shop and bargain for all kinds of traditional Chinese arts and crafts. Next you'll visit the Jade Buddha Temple with its priceless collection of jade statues from Burma. Finally, you'll be able to stretch your legs in Shanghai's hottest new entertainment district, Xin Tian Di. The brick buildings on these two-square blocks have been preserved and transformed into trendy clubs, restaurants and boutiques. You will have time on your own here, or can be transferred back to your hotel.Starting Accommodation:
Sofitel Shanghai Hyland (B, L)
Day 9 – Suzhou Excursion
Transfer from your hotel to Shanghai Railway Station and take a short train ride to Suzhou, one of the oldest towns in the Yangtze basin, founded in about 600 BC. With its interconnected waterways and beautiful environment, the city is often referred as 'The Venice of the East'. Suzhou was one of the few cities in China to escape the ravages of the Cultural Revolution and its famous gardens survived almost intact. It is the gardens here, which are the most famous attraction in the city. The gardens embody the harmonious principles of Chinese garden construction which dictate that gardens should attempt to create a microcosm of the universe in a confined space.
Upon arrival in Suzhou, the first stop is Master of the Nets Garden, one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty Gardens in all of China. Then it's on to Silk Embroidery Research Institute, famous for its traditional techniques of double-sided and double-faced embroidery. The Institute is world renowned for its stunning animals, birds, butterflies and flower embroidery. Following a local Chinese lunch, continue to the Humble Administrators Garden, a small garden that is particularly pleasant on a misty day. Suzhou's narrow streets and lanes can be very intimate and relaxing. No visit to Suzhou would be complete without a visit to the Ancient City Wall and Grand Canal, where you will have the option to take a cruise.
Return to Shanghai Railway Station again by train and transfer back to your hotel by private vehicle.Starting Accommodation:
Sofitel Shanghai Hyland (B, L)
Day 10 – Shanghai to USA
Transfer from your hotel to the Shanghai airport for your return flight to the USA. (B)