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.
For centuries, Beijing has played a major role in China's imperial rule. It was Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, who reunified the Chinese territories and transferred the capital to Beijing during the 13th century. Beijing was not only a lasting imperial city, but also a thriving trading city that served as the easternmost terminus of the caravan routes of the Silk Road.
Today, Beijing remains as it was centuries ago – a great center of power and commerce. It is a bustling metropolis of soaring high-rises, gaudy billboards, teeming highways and a growing international stature. Although a number of Beijing's historical sites are slowly being preserved, many of the city's ancient neighborhoods have been razed in recent years to make way for glitzy commercial skyscrapers and apartment blocks. Nevertheless, Kublai Khan's imperial spirit remains in the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and the Summer Palace.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 (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 (L)
Day 5 – Beijing to Xi’an
Transfer 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
Day 6 – Terracotta 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 centre 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.Starting Accommodation:
Grand Mercure on Renmin Square (B)
Day 7 – Xi’an to Guilin
Transfer from your hotel to Xi’an airport by private vehicle for your onward flight. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel.
Guilin is the home base for cruises on the picturesque Li River, offers spectacular scenery and is just a short flight from Hong Kong.
The river cruise, the main attraction, is a true pleasure. Moving among fishermen's bamboo rafts, the flat-bottomed boats ply a misty, shallow river, which is flanked on both shores by mountains and limestone outcroppings. Most cruises last about four hours, with lunch included.
The beautiful limestone crags seen along the river can also be found within Guilin, at Seven Star Park. At Fubo Hill you'll find the Thousand Buddha cliff (with only 400 statues), the Returned Pearl Cave and a 2.5-ton cast-iron bell. In the spring, there's a beautiful aroma in the parks from the red, white and yellow cassia blossoms.Starting Accommodation:
Day 8 – Longsheng Terrace Fields
Travel by private vehicle 55 miles northwest of Guilin (or two to three hours) to the mountainous border between Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guizhou. This remote hilly area is dominated by minority groups, chiefly the Dong, Miao, and Yao, who pursue terrace farming, hunting and logging.
Passing through quaint Ya and Zhuang villages, the highpoint of today is seeing Longji Titian (Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces), a beautiful fully sculpted landscape of terraces rice fields 17 miles (or 40 minutes) outside of Longsheng. May and August through to October are the best times to visit. May is planting season which offers the most spectacular vistas when the rice fields are submerged in water following the completion of the rainy season. September and October is just before the fall harvest when they fields are covered in waves of golden yellow.
A local Chinese lunch will be included today and you will return to your Guilin hotel late this afternoon.Starting Accommodation:
Day 9 – Li River Cruise
The Li River twists and turns between lush, green rock formations known in geographic terms as karsts. The mountainous terrain is covered with lush bamboo and luxuriant forests, and the river itself is a highway of small boats from the villages that dot the shores.
You'll be cruising upriver for the next four hours, sitting in cushioned comfort in the main cabin or enjoying the open-air viewing platform. Bring lots of film because this is a photographer's dream, and you'll want to capture the dramatic landscapes that Chinese artists have been painting for centuries. Lunch will be served onboard, with local favorites and fresh catches from the Li River.
Your destination is the village of Yangshuo, where you'll disembark and stroll amid the colorful, bustling marketplace of local street vendors. After you stretch your legs and see the sights, your guide will check you into a local hotel while your luggage is transferred from Guilin.Starting Accommodation:
Yangshou Green Lotus Hotel (B)
Day 10 – Yangshuo Bicycle Tour to Moon Hill
Yangshuo is a fantastic place to be active. The surrounding villages offer endless opportunities to get off the beaten track. The local people are very friendly. Some of your best days in Yangshuo are when you are off the beaten track and away from the major sights as you will discover rural China at its best.
Today take a guided bicycle tour of Yangshuo's Moon Hill area. One of Yangshuo's most visited sight, this karst peak obtains its name from a large round hole in the middle of the mountain.
Moon hill may be climbed to the top for views of the surrounding area. You can walk up to the whole section or you can continue right to the top for great views of the local area. Fly Guilin to Hong Kong
Transfer from your hotel to the airport by private vehicle for your onward flight. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel.
Hong Kong is a place of contrasts: geographically, socially and economically. Although many Asian cities claim to be where East meets West, the former British Crown Colony-whose largely Chinese population was ruled by Europeans for 156 years-is probably the closest the world comes to the genuine article.
Perched precariously on the edge of mainland China, Hong Kong has been battered by geopolitical forces for centuries. Thanks to its strategic deepwater harbor and proximity to Asia's most populous nation, the city profited as the capitalist gateway for the communist giant to the north. What was once a fishing village became one of the world's busiest international ports and business centers.
Scratch the cosmopolitan, high-tech surface, however, and you'll discover vestiges of ancient China lying just below the city's modern urban facade and, in some cases, right alongside it. Residents invariably live in two worlds: Skyscrapers and enormous shopping malls sit next to narrow alleys crowded with traditional vendors' stalls. Businesspeople use cell phones to consult fortune-tellers before making important decisions. Taoist priests exorcise evil spirits from buildings, even from the city's racecourses. In sleepy walled villages, farmers tend their crops in the same way they have for generations.Starting Accommodation:
Day 11 – Hong Kong Island Orientation
Pick up from hotel to traverse the World-renowned Victoria Harbour via the Cross-Harbor Tunnel. We then drive through Wanchai and take the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak, which operates on a double reversible funicular system with a maximum speed of 6 meters per second. Victoria Peak offers a breath-taking 360-degree view of the bustling harbour, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as far as the eye can see. From Victoria Peak, the tour continues to Aberdeen village via the scenic resort areas of Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. At Aberdeen board a sampan to see the fishing junks and the Jumbo floating restaurant moored there. The tour will continue to Stanley Markets where you will have free time to stroll around historic fishing lanes jam-packed with vendors selling Chinese artwork, silk collectibles and curios. Return to Hong Kong or Kowloon.Starting Accommodation:
Day 12 – At leisure, Hong Kong
This dazzling city is crowned by the imposing Victoria Peak, which soars above Hong Kong’s hustle and bustle, providing stunning views of the shopper’s seventh-heaven, Kowloon Peninsula, across the bustling harbor. Head to the floating village of Aberdeen and dine on dim sum while your restaurant sways on a gentle swell. Overload your senses with a trip to Central Market where everything from fruit to flip-flops spill out onto the streets. Explore the surrounding area on your own or on one of our additional day excursions
Day 13 – Hong Kong to USA
Transfer from your hotel to the Hong Kong airport for your departure flight to the USA. (B)