London – Shanghai
Fly in the afternoon from London Heathrow to Shanghai, arriving early the following morning.
You’ll be welcomed at the airport and taken to your hotel in the Bund district; ideally placed for discovering the historic area, the Huangpu River, the former British Consulate Gardens and the Old City. Shanghai was once regarded as the Paris of the East, so expect to see Art Deco architecture and dazzling modern skyscrapers like the 468 metre high TV Tower rubbing shoulders with the quaint Tea House on a small bridge in the Yu Yuan Gardens. A stark contrast to Shanghai’s energetic shopping streets like the Nan Jing Road.
Stay: Two nights in a river view room at the Peninsula Hotel.
Zhujiajiao - Hangzhou
Today you will seemingly step inside an ancient Oriental painting as you tour the Zhujiajiao Water Village that was founded 1700 years ago and today spreads along the canals to the west of Shanghai. Your hotel in Hangzhou is similarly picturesque and gives you the chance to take a boat cruise on the West Lake before visiting Lingyin Temple, outside the Changmen Gate of Suzhou, and the Dragon’s Well Tea Plantation.
Stay: Two nights in a premier water view villa at the Banyan Tree.
From Hangzhou you’ll fly to Beijing to visit the fabled Temple of Heaven built in 1420, as well as Wang Fu Jin Street – famous for its shopping and exotic night produce market.
Your stay in Beijing continues with a tour of renowned Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City – residence of the Ming and Qing dynasties with 9,999 rooms. Your next experience is a Huttong tour by rickshaw that includes calling in at one of the local’s residences.
Highlight follows highlight in Beijing. Today you’ll visit the Great Wall – built in 1569 to protect China from barbarians – where you can ascend by cable car, and descend by slide. Your tour continues with a visit to the Summer Palace of Emperor Qianlong (it was a gift to his mother) and a boat ride across beautiful Kunming Lake.
Stay: Three nights in a premier room at the Waldorf Astoria Beijing.
Today a fast train will whisk you to Pingyao where you’ll be taken to your hotel in the midst of the quaint streets, curio shops and restaurants of the Old City. Built between 1045 BC and 256 BC the city has over 2700 years of history and has long been a centre of trade. As you explore you’ll find fine examples of Ming and Qing architectural influences in the houses and historic buildings stretching along the First Bank. Even more cultural relics and ancient sites await you at Mianshan Mountain, where you’ll gather fascinating insights into Cold Food, Buddhist, Taoist and military cultures.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Jing’s Residence.
Another fast train takes you to Xi’an where you’ll be staying in the heart of the Muslim Street quarter – in an iconic State Guesthouse that seamlessly combines French and Sino-Russian architecture, reflecting the grandeur of a city that was China’s capital for 13 dynasties.
Stay: One night in superior room at the Legend Sofitel.
Xi’an - Lijiang
An astonishing experience will be yours today as you meet an army of soldiers carved from terra cotta over 2200 years ago. The legendary Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses has over 1700 fully restored figures, each one different and each individually impressive. It is one of Xi’an’s most absorbing sights, but it is rivalled in historic significance by the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in the Monastery, built in 589 AD and one of China’s oldest structures. After visiting the Monastery and the preserved city walls you’ll fly off to Lijiang.
More antiquities await. You’ll browse around the Naxi’s old town and the Black Dragon Pool Pond Park, close to Elephant Mountain. The following day you’ll trek up Jade Snow Dragon Mountain, a series of 13 peaks wreathed in mists and snow, and visit White Jade Water Village.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe garden villa at Banyan Tree Lijiang.
Tiger Leaping Gorge - Zhongdian
Make sure your camera is fully charged, because today you’re heading for Shangri-La and on the way you’ll stop to photograph the mighty Yangtze – China’s longest river – before arriving at the devastatingly beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge. It’s one of the largest and deepest on the planet, but also quite narrow, giving you a dynamic photo opportunity. After Leaping Tiger you drive on to ‘Eden on Earth’ – Shangri-La. This 1300 year old town is laid out in the shape of an eight petal lotus flower, following Buddhist principles, and is surrounded by rich grasslands and snowy peaks. You’ll be staying in the Shangri-La Hills, giving you easy access to Pudacuo National Park – a World Heritage Site that includes Bita Lake Nature Reserve and Duhu Scenic Area. You’ll also visit Song Zan Lin Temple – a combination of Chinese architecture and Buddhist tradition.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at the Songstam Retreat.
Today you take a flight to Guilin, nestling on the west bank of the Li River and featuring a small forest of sweet Osmanthus trees. A day tour will take you to Longsheng where you’ll have grand views over the perfectly-named Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terrace, and be able to visit the Yao Tribe – one of the 55 minorities of China. The so-called Long-Haired Women of the minority live on top of the mountains.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe river view room at Shangri La Guilin.
From Guilin you’ll drive through stunning countryside to Yangshuo. You’ll take a leisurely cruise along the Li River, through time-carved valleys in the soaring Karsts Mountains, passing local people in their traditional fishing vessels. Back on dry land you’ll explore the mightily impressive Silver Cave featuring three sections, including a grand hall that stretches 10 kilometres into the Karst limestone.
Stay: One night in a mountain view suite at Banyan Tree Yangshuo.
Guilin – Hong Kong
After breakfast you have time to take a cable car to the Tang temple perched atop the Yao Mountain. Then it’s time to fly to Hong Kong – one of the Far East’s most exciting cities. Your hotel overlooks the famous Victoria Harbour and you’ll be ideally placed to discover the surrounding area, stroll through Victoria Park, take a cruise across the harbour, visit Lama Island then browse around the stalls selling cloth, souvenirs, jewellery and artefacts at Stanley Market.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at the Mandarin Oriental.
Hong Kong - London
There’s plenty of time to soak up the cultural history and the teeming shops of Hong Kong before taking your night flight back to London, arriving at Heathrow early the following morning.
The accuracy and efficiency of the whole trip was outstanding. My specific requests were closely observed.- AM, India, 2014