Best of China & Yangtze Cruise

Shanghai, Three Gorges, Guilin, Xi'an & Beijing plus Hong Kong or Tibet optional extensions

Book now online
16 days from $3899 $3499
per person, double occupancy, including airfare*
Book by Dec. 8, 2015 to save up to $400!


Style Small Group Tour
24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
Departures Scheduled Dates: Select a departure from March – September 2016
Price Includes
  • Round trip flights from Los Angeles via Air China including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees
  • All intra-China flights, transfers and ground transportation
  • Deluxe and superior first class hotels
  • 4 nights deluxe Yangtze River cruise with outside balcony cabins and FREE upgrade to Executive deck aboard MS Victoria Anna. Executive cabin amenities including: Use of Executive lounge with hot, cold & soft drinks and complimentary Wi-Fi; Happy Hour cocktails before dinner, house wine and beer at dinner, dining selection of two restaurants and more
  • 34 lavish meals, including 14 buffet breakfasts, 12 lunches & 8 dinners. Special meals include Dumpling lunch in Xi’an and Mongolian Hotpot lunch in Beijing, Tang Dynasty Dinner in Xi’an and Peking Duck Dinner in Beijing.
  • Shadow-boxing class in Beijing
  • Private shore excursions during Yangtze River cruise
  • Tips on board the cruise to all staff (excluding river guide and cruise director)
  • Professional English-speaking tour director and local guides
  • Advanced audio headset guided tour system
Departs Los Angeles (LAX), New York Kennedy (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Washington Dulles (IAD), Houston (IAH); other gateways on request (flight schedule)
Highlights Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Zhongshan Park, Deluxe Yangtze River Cruise, Three Gorges Dam, Shibaozhai Pagoda, Reed Flute Cave, Chinese Calligraphy Lesson, Terra Cotta Army, Kung Fu Show, Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square
Themes History & Culture,  Premium,  River Cruises
What to Expect Small groups guaranteed not to exceed 24 passengers. This moderately-paced, escorted tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness. The Yangtze cruise portion of the tour may have up to 268 cruise passengers.
As Seen in
Chicago TribuneTravel World News

Best of China tour itinerary Come with us to ancient China, one of the oldest nations in the world, whose recorded history dates back 5,000 years. This has always been one of the most attractive and exotic travel destinations in the world, and with our tours to China, now is the time for you to experience all it has to offer. Throughout its history, China has been a leader in technology and scientific discovery (it's the birthplace of moveable type, astronomy and spaghetti). Today, it is the third-largest nation in the world in size, bordered by 14 other countries and encompassing virtually every type of terrain imaginable, and the first in population, with 1.3 billion people.

For travelers interested in visiting an important culture truly different from their own, China is an experience of a lifetime, and our "Best of China" tour has been designed to assure that you see, and experience, the very best this magnificent nation has to offer. But don't let our exceptionally low pricing fool you. There are no compromises on quality and content. If you've wanted to experience the best of China, from its most dynamic, modern cities to its timeless villages and breathtaking natural wonders, this is one trip you won't want to miss.

Dates, Prices & Options

Departure Dates & Prices

Early Booking Discount: Book by 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 8 to save up to $400 per person!
Departures & Prices
per person, double occupancy*
Depart Return Price Book by
Dec 8
Mon Mar 21 2016 Tue Apr 5 2016 $3899 $3499 Available
Mon Apr 18 2016 Tue May 3 2016 $4099 $3699 Available
Mon May 16 2016 Tue May 31 2016 $4399 $3999 Available
Mon Jun 6 2016 Tue Jun 21 2016 $4599 $4199 Available
Mon Jul 11 2016 Tue Jul 26 2016 $4599 $4199 Closed
Mon Aug 8 2016 Tue Aug 23 2016 $4299 $3899 Available
Mon Sep 5 2016 Tue Sep 20 2016 $4199 $3799 Available
Mon Sep 19 2016 Tue Oct 4 2016 $4199 $3799 Closed

Want to stay longer? We may be able to arrange for you to stay later than the scheduled dates, including extra hotel nights and separate airport transfers. Contact us about prices and availability.

Options, Extensions & Fees

Best of China
Rooming selection
Double occupancy included
Single room supplement
Mar 21, Jun 6, Jul 11 +$999
Aug 8 +$1049
Apr 18, Sep 19 +$1099
May 16, Sep 5 +$1149
Hong Kong Extension1
Hong Kong Extension
Jun 6, Jul 11, Sep 19 +$999
Mar 21 +$1199
Apr 18, May 16, Aug 8, Sep 5 unavailable
Rooming selection
Double occupancy included
Single room supplement +$399

1. The Hong Kong extension requires that your flights be confirmed separately by the airlines. Please note that it typically takes 3 to 5 business days to confirm your extension flights with the airline, and that we will notify you immediately upon confirmation of the flights. This extension also requires a minimum of 2 passengers to operate.

Tibet Extension1
Tibet Extension
Apr 18, May 16 +$1599
Aug 8, Sep 5 +$1699
Mar 21, Jun 6, Jul 11, Sep 19 unavailable
Rooming selection
Double occupancy included
Single room supplement
Aug 8, Sep 5 +$599
All other departures +$499

1. The Tibet extension requires that your flights be confirmed separately by the airlines. Please note that it typically takes 3 to 5 business days to confirm your extension flights with the airline, and that we will notify you immediately upon confirmation of the flights. This extension also requires a minimum of 6 passengers to operate.

China Visa Fee1
China Visa Fee for CA, AZ, NM & HI (paid separately) +$180
China Visa Fee for residents of all other states (paid separately) +$195

1. All visitors to China must obtain a visa. Comprehensive visa instructions will be included in confirmation packets to all passengers.

Reservations for triples are possible for this tour. On the cruise portion, passengers will stay in 1 double and 1 single cabin. Please contact our reservations team for pricing and availability.

Flights & Departure Cities

Departure Airports
Los Angeles (LAX) included
Houston (IAH) +$50
San Francisco (SFO) +$75
New York Kennedy (JFK) +$150
Washington Dulles (IAD)
Jun 6, Jul 11 +$250
All other departures +$200

This package includes round-trip flights from the cities listed above, subject to availability. Please review the flight schedule, especially if you're booking connecting flights.

Coming from somewhere else? Ask us about availability and prices for flights from other cities.

Check approximate costs to depart from other U.S. cities.

Washington Dulles (IAD): Due to Air China's schedule, passengers with the Hong Kong or Tibet extension must overnight in Beijing en route when returning to IAD. An extra night with complimentary shuttle service at the Hilton Beijing Airport Hotel is included in the add-on cost.

Transfers: Transfers for this package are provided on a group basis only. For passengers deviating in any way from the group program, transfers are not provided. Individual, private transfers can be arranged at a supplement in price. Taxis and other forms of transportation are also available and may cost less than private transfers. If you wish to arrange private transfers, please request this service at the time of reservation.

How to Make a Reservation

To make a reservation, simply select an available departure date and reserve online using our secure booking system. Or call us one of our travel specialists at 800-555-5765, Mon–Fri 9:30–6:00 Eastern time. But first, check out our Things to Know section.

We only require a per-person deposit payment, which you can pay with your credit card or PayPal account. This deposit will be applied towards the cost of your package, and is generally non-refundable (details). The balance is due 75 days prior to departure (or within 72 hours, if you're booking less than 75 days prior to departure), and can be paid by credit card, PayPal, check or money order.

Standard Deposit $600


Day 1: Depart USA. Your exotic journey begins as you check in for your wide-body jet flight for Shanghai via Beijing.

Day 2: Shanghai. Arrive in China's largest city, Shanghai, a bustling port and commercial center. In recent years, Shanghai has gone through a major revitalization and is now considered one of Asia's most vibrant and exciting cities. After passport control and customs, meet your guide and transfer to the city center. Check in at your centrally located hotel, near Shanghai's famous Bund. Accommodations: Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden.

Shanghai museum of ancient art Day 3: Shanghai. After breakfast depart on a full day tour including lunch to some of Shanghai's most fascinating places. Start at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and later visit the Shanghai Museum of ancient Chinese art, which possesses a collection of 120,000 precious works. Its rich and high-quality collection of ancient Chinese bronze, ceramics, painting and calligraphy is known throughout the world.

After some time for silk shopping, visit the Bund, also called Zhongshan Road, a famous waterfront that has been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years. You'll also visit the Xintiandi area, famous for its pedestrian shopping streets and trendy restaurants. Tonight, enjoy an exciting acrobatic show. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 4: Shanghai. Enjoy a day of leisure in Shanghai for personal explorations. Or choose an exciting optional excursion to Suzhou. Breakfast provided.

Suzhou Gardens Optional Excursion: Full day Suzhou tour with lunch, $95 (purchased locally). Travel by motor coach to Suzhou, China's well-known "city of gardens”. On this full day excursion including lunch, you will visit the Master of Nets Garden, explore a local market, take a ride by rickshaw for a tour of water town, visit a silk factory and embark on a boat ride through Suzhou's lovely canals. Return by motor coach to Shanghai later this evening.

Jade Temple Day 5: Shanghai & Yichang. This morning, visit the Yu Garden, a classical Chinese garden with over 30 pavilions linked by a maze of corridors and bridges over ponds located in the center of the Old Town. See Zhongshan Park, named in honor of Dr Sun Yat-sen. The picturesque and peaceful public park is a relaxing retreat for many residents of Shanghai. It is the perfect place to see people practicing tai chi and the visit is a great opportunity to interact with the locals. After lunch, transfer to the airport for our flight to Yichang. Upon arrival, transfer from the airport to the city and enjoy an international buffet dinner at a local hotel before embarking on your Yangtze River cruise ship. The Victoria Anna, the Yangtze's largest deluxe river cruiser. Settle into your executive-level superior cabin with outside balcony and enjoy the upgraded executive-level services and amenities that are included. Accommodations: Victoria Anna. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Three Gorges Dam & Yangtze River Day 6: The Three Gorges Dam & Xiling Gorge. Before setting sail for the Xiling Gorge, the first of the three famous gorges you'll visit during your cruise, you first have an opportunity to learn about the huge dam project built on the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by mankind, and has been a dream for generations. The Chinese Government finally gave its approval to launch the project in 1992, some seventy years after Sun Yat-sen first proposed the idea, and was completed in 2006, and became fully operational in 2011. The dam produces electricity, increases the river's shipping capacity, and reduces the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space. Currently the dam has generated enough electricity to cover more than one third of its cost. Return to your river cruiser and begin your sail through ship locks and the Xiling Gorge, longest and historically the most turbulent of the Yangtze gorges. Before the passage was made safe in the 1950s, the whole surface of the water was a swirling mass of whirlpools sucking the froth they created into their centers.' Xiling comprises seven small gorges and two of the fiercest rapids in the stretch of the Yangtze between Chongqing and Yichang. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Yangtze River Day 7: Daning River “Small Gorges,” Wu Gorge & Qutang Gorge. After breakfast, take an excursion to through the Daning River Small Gorges, which are narrower than the Three Gorges, but very impressive. (Depending on weather conditions, Shennon Stream may be substituted: visit Shennong Stream, a tributary of the Yangtze River. With crystal clear water, this stream flows swiftly from north to south through deep gorges. A sampan tour takes you on an exciting, high speed adventure along this newly opened unspoiled river.) Return to your river cruiser and continue sailing to Wu Gorge, the most beautiful section of the Yangtze River, flanked by high peaks that are often capped by fog or clouds. The steep slopes of the gorge are green with trees and bushes but navigators from times past knew that the lovely scenery hid dangers, including whirlpools, quicksand and rapidly varying currents. Continue sailing to Qutang Gorge, known for its sheer and spectacular precipices and uniquely beautiful natural formations from every direction. Two mountains, the Red Passage Mountain to the north and the White Salt Mountain to the south, form the Kui Gate, a giant passage through which the tumultuous Yangtze bursts in an exciting rush of rolling and roaring water. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Shibaozhai Pagoda Day 8: Shibaozhai. Today you'll visit Shibaozhai, with its impressive 9-story wooden pagoda, appropriately named “The Pearl of the Yangtze”. Shibaozhai is a steep rocky hill which resembles a colossal jade seal on the horizon. Legends attribute the creation of the hill to goddess Nuwo and her efforts to redecorate the sky. The temple at the top of the hill was built during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and no nails were used during its construction. The red pagoda with a yellow entrance gate decorated with lions and dragons, hugs one side of the rock. As the base of the pagoda would have been beneath the water level of Three Gorges Dam, significant efforts were made to protect the area from rising water and preserve the historic site. (Depending on weather conditions, Fengdu may be substituted: Fengdu, known as a "ghost city", is popular today among tourists who come to visit the temples and shrines dedicated to the gods of the underworld. Known for its statues of ghosts and devils on Mingshan Hill, Fengdu was first described as a 'City of Ghosts' in two ancient, classic Chinese works-"Monkey King" and "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio". In keeping with the town's theme, landmarks bear thematic names such as Last Glance at Home Tower, Nothing-to-be-Done Bridge, and Ghost Torturing Pass.) Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Reed Flute Cave, Guilin Day 9: Chongqing & Guilin. You arrive at Chongqing this morning and disembark the cruise ship and transfer to Chongqing Airport for the flight to Guilin. Upon arrival, board your touring coach and visit the Reed Flute Cave, whose name comes from the verdant reeds growing outside that are used to make flutes. The cave itself contains spectacular and dramatic stalactites, stone pillars and rock formations illuminated for additional drama by colored lighting. Visit the sea-water pearl factory. Tonight you'll enjoy dinner at your hotel. Accommodations: Lijiang Waterfall Hotel. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 10: Guilin. Set alongside the Li River, Guilin boasts dramatic limestone mountains and formations that have caused many Chinese to call its landscapes the "finest under heaven." Take a cruise on the Li River and enjoy lunch on board the boat. Spend the afternoon in the lovely town of Yangshuo, perhaps strolling or shopping for souvenirs along Xian Qian Street, where pedestrians have the right of way and cars are prohibited. Return to Guilin by motor coach late this afternoon. Breakfast & lunch provided.

FP travelers posing  with the Terracota Warriors Day 11: Guilin & Xi'an. This morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Xi'an. After lunch, visit the city wall gate of Xi'an. Explore these massive fortifications, which represent some of the oldest and best preserved city walls in all of China. Next, participate in a special lecture on Chinese arts and culture at the Tang Dynasty Art Museum. An expert will introduce you to the art of calligraphy and painting and demonstrate how to write Chinese characters on special rice paper. Each participant will practice the Chinese calligraphy with a brush and paper, and take home their artwork as a special souvenir. This evening, join your fellow travelers at a Tang Dynasty dinner show. Accommodations: Sofitel Xi'an on Renmin Square. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Emperor Qin's terra cotta warriors, Xi'an Day 12: Xi'an. After breakfast, board your touring coach and drive to the site of the famous Terra Cotta Army, among the most important archeological discoveries of modern times. Except for its old City Wall, some 8 mi/12 km around, Xi'an looks like any other large industrial city. However, it holds an important archeological treasure, the Qin Army Vault Museum, home to the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers unearthed 25 mi/40 km east of town. More than 8,000 life-size ceramic soldiers, chariots and horses have been uncovered-only a fraction of the total buried there to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor. Each soldier is based on an actual person of the time, and all segments of Chinese society are represented.

After a delicious dumpling lunch, visit some of Xi'an's other important sites including the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. En route, there will be a demonstration of Chinese ceramics and ancient furniture as well as time to shop. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Beijing skyline Day 13: Xi'an & Beijing. This morning, tour of the Han Dynasty Yang Tomb, the final resting place of Emperor Liu Qi and his empress. Then transfer to the airport to fly from Xi'an to Beijing, China's historic and cultural capital. Upon arrival, explore the narrow streets and alleyways of one of Beijing's Hutong neighborhoods on a rickshaw ride. Next, enjoy a special Mongolian style Hotpot lunch at a local restaurant. The Hotpot tradition was adopted into the local cuisine during the Mongolian conquest in the 13th century and represents a significant cultural appropriation. The guide will dine with the group and explain the elements of this unique meal. Afterwards, continue to your hotel for check-in. Later tonight, enjoy Beijing's most famous (and delicious) culinary treat—Peking Duck. Then join your fellow travelers for the Legend of Kung Fu show, a special Shaolin Kung Fu stage performance that blends music, martial arts, and a moving story. Accommodations: Regent Beijing. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing Day 14: Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square. Begin your touring day with a visit of the Temple of Heaven, a World Heritage Site. In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as the "Son of Heaven", who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, and each winter solstice the Emperor and all his retinue would move through the city to encamp within the complex, wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat while personally praying to Heaven for good harvests. The symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries. Next, enjoy a special lecture, class, and demonstration of Chinese shadow-boxing in the park by a professional, English-speaking, licensed tai chi master.

Friendly Planet passengers at the Tiananmen gate On to the Forbidden City, located at the exact center of the ancient city of Beijing, where it served as the imperial palace during the mid-Ming and Qing Dynasties. Known as the Palace Museum today, its extensive grounds cover 720,000 square meters, 800 buildings and more than 8,000 rooms. The Forbidden City is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world and was declared a World Heritage site in 1987.

Continue to Tian'anmen Square for a complimentary group photo. The square was originally built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty. At 440,000 square meters, Tiananmen Square is the largest open square in the world. It was here that the People's Republic of China was proclaimed by Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949. Enjoy a special visit to the Torengtang Pharmacy near Tian'anmen Square and learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it still plays a major role in the lives of locals and visitors alike. After lunch at a nearby local restaurant, return to your hotel for the balance of the afternoon at leisure. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Great Wall of China Day 15: Great Wall of China & Ming Tombs. Depart after breakfast on a full day included excursion to the Great Wall of China, which follows a ridge of barren hills stretching at least 13,000 miles. En route, enjoy a visit to a jade factory with a special presentation and time for shopping. Construction of the Great Wall, which spanned more than two thousand years, began between the 7th and 6th century BC and continued through the Ming Dynasty. The wall was originally built of stone, wood, grass and earth, but during the Ming Dynasty, bricks were produced in kilns set up along the wall. The bricks were transported by men carrying them on their backs or by donkeys, mules and even goats, which had bricks tied to their heads before being driven up a mountain. Enjoy an opportunity to mount the ramparts of this ancient wonder.

Ming Tombs Conclude your visit at the Sacred Way, an ancient road linking the Ming Tombs, the burial site of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. A massive stone archway, built in 1540 at the southern end of the Sacred Way, is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals. Tonight you are our guests for a sumptuous farewell dinner. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 16: Beijing/USA. Transfer to the airport to board your returning flight to the USA. Your exciting journey comes to an end as you arrive in the USA later today. Or take advantage of your included airfare, and continue to Hong Kong on the optional extension. Breakfast provided.

Hong Kong Optional Extension

Hong Kong skyline Prepare to be dazzled by a breathtaking symphony of lights in cosmopolitan Hong Kong. City-lovers worldwide rank Hong Kong among their must-see destinations, and for good reason. A former British colony perched on the edge of mainland China, Hong Kong is a fascinating city of contrasts—a place where East meets West; where the modern blends with the traditional; where shiny skyscrapers stand next to narrow alleys crammed with traditional vendors' stalls; where new technology flourishes alongside ancient Chinese customs. With its glorious harbor, excellent shopping, renowned restaurants, and some of the best nighttime skylines in the world, Hong Kong has it all.

Victoria Peak tram, Hong Kong Day 16: Beijing & Hong Kong. Bid farewell to Beijing as you transfer to the airport your flight to cosmopolitan Hong Kong. You'll be transferred to your luxurious hotel located in the bustling heart of Kowloon, near the scenic harbor and the "Golden Mile," Hong Kong's famous shopping district. Accommodations: The Mira Hotel Hong Kong. Breakfast provided.

Day 17: Hong Kong. Your morning tour of Hong Kong Island features a ride to the top of Victoria Peak for a magnificent city and harbor view. Descend and continue to Repulse Bay and Aberdeen fishing village, a community of some 600 colorful floating homes. Conclude your tour with some time for shopping. The afternoon is yours at leisure for independent sightseeing in the city. Tonight, we recommend an optional dinner cruise aboard the Hong Kong Bauhinia, where you'll enjoy a fabulous buffet dinner, live music, and stunning nighttime views of the glistening harbor. Breakfast provided.

Senado Square, Macau Day 18: Hong Kong. Enjoy a full day at leisure to take in the sights and sounds of Hong Kong on your own or shop to your heart's content.

Or, take advantage of a unique optional excursion to the former Portuguese colony of Macau, situated on a corner of the Pearl River Delta. Although it was officially returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, Macau maintains a distinctly Mediterranean flavor. You'll see in the European-style architecture, pastel-colored buildings, open air plazas, and abundance of Portuguese wine. Breakfast provided.

Day 19: Hong Kong/USA. Your final day in Hong Kong is at leisure for shopping, strolling or taking photos. Later, transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the U.S. via Beijing. Your memorable journey to China comes to an end as you arrive in the USA later today.

Washington Dulles (IAD): Due to Air China's schedule, passengers returning to IAD must overnight in Beijing on Day 19 with their return flight on Day 20. Overnight at the Hilton Beijing Airport Hotel is included.

Tibet Optional Extension

Tibetan boyAfter your tour in China, why not take advantage of a unique opportunity to visit mysterious and exotic Tibet, located at the very rooftop of the world. For centuries, Tibet was an almost mythical land hidden behind the Himalayas, closed to outsiders and visited by only the hardiest explorers. Today, travelers can easily reach Lhasa, Tibet's capital and gateway to Tibet and experience a culture far different from our own. Here you will find kind, friendly, welcoming people, breathtaking vistas and deeply spiritual ritual that is completely interwoven with the fabric of everyday life. It's an experience not to be missed.

Lhasa ,Tibet Day 16: Beijing/Lhasa. Transfer to the airport to board your flight to Lhasa, capital of Tibet. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure to acclimatize yourself to the extreme altitude of Lhasa. Join your group members for a welcome dinner this evening. Accommodations: Shangri-La Lhasa. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 17: Lhasa. This morning, after a good night's rest, begin your exploration of Lhasa at the Potala Palace, winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century and probably the most revered and best known building in the land. Built at an altitude of more than 11,000 ft on the side of Marpo Ri, the Red Mountain in the center of Lhasa Valley, Potala Palace has vast, inward-sloping walls broken only in the upper parts by straight rows of many windows and flat roofs at various levels giving it a fortress-like appearance.

Potala Palace The palace complex, which includes the White Palace which was built for secular use and contains the living quarters of the Dalai Lama, offices, the seminary and the printing house. A central, yellow-painted courtyard known as a Deyangshar separates the living quarters of the Lama and his monks with the Red Palace, the other side of the sacred Potala, which is completely devoted to religious study and prayer. The Red Palace consists of a complicated layout of many different halls, chapels and libraries on many different levels with a complex array of smaller galleries and winding passages and other buildings, is built on Red Mountain in the center of Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of over 11,000 feet.

Later, visit the Mentsekhang, the largest traditional hospital in Tibet and a major center of research, treatment, training and production of Tibetan medicine. You'll also visit a Tibetan Nun Monastery. Complete your touring with a visit to a carpet factory, where you can see how the magnificent and colorful Tibetan carpets are created (and where you can purchase and arrange shipping if you wish). Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Jokhang  temple roof Day 18: Lhasa. After breakfast, visit the Jokhang Temple Monastery, founded in the 7th century. This exceptional Buddhist religious complex is the most celebrated temple in Tibet, attracting adherents of all the Buddhist sects as well as followers of Bon-Po, Tibet's indigenous religion. Proceed to the Norbulingka, the largest and grandest garden of the Tibet Plateau and the Dalai Lama's former summer palace. Constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art and its magnificent gardens are today a park open for the public to visit and enjoy.

Continue to Bakhor Street, the oldest street in Lhasa and a wonderful, colorful shopping area whose narrow streets are lined with shops, kiosks and vendor's Thangkas, prayer wheels, butter lamps, prayer flags, Tibetan joss sticks and other typical Tibetan goods. This is the best place to sharpen your bargaining skills, and even without the benefit of knowing the language, your pocket calculator is all the equipment you'll need to buy souvenirs at bargain prices. This evening, join your fellow travelers for dinner of mixed Tibetan and Chinese dishes. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Young monk Day 19: Lhasa & Tsedang. This morning you'll depart Lhasa for Tsedang, Tibet's third largest city. En route and set amid open farmland, stands Tibet's very first monastery, Samye, which is over 1200 years old. The monastery combines the styles of China, Tibet and India, and the layout was designed to represent the ideal universe described in Buddhist scriptures. Samye Monastery contains within and upon its walls many historic, religious, architectural and artistic examples from every period of Tibetan history. Its frescoes are well-known in the world for their wide variety of subjects, rich content and exquisite artistic detail. Continue by touring coach to Tsedang and check into your hotel. Accommodations: Tsedang Hotel. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Yak Day 20: Tsedang & Beijing. This morning, visit Yumbu Lhakang, the first palace and one of the earliest building projects in all of Tibet. Towering above the summit of Mt. Tashitseri on the East bank of Yarlung River, legend has it that Yumbu Lhakang was established by "Bon" (Tibet's earliest religious sect) believers for the first Tibetan King, Nyetri Tsampo, during the 2nd century B.C.

Our next stop is Traduk Monastery, another of the earliest Buddhist temples in Tibetan history. Built in 641 A.D., it is said that King Songtsan Gampo established the temple so that his kingdom might prosper. Later, Traduk Monastery became a royal winter palace filled with ancient relics and treasures. After lunch, drive to Lhasa Airport to board your flight to Beijing. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Tonight dinner is on your own at one of Beijing's many wonderful restaurants. Accommodations: Regent Beijing. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 21: Beijing/USA. Say a reluctant goodbye to China as you transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA, arriving in the USA later today.

Washington Dulles (IAD): Due to Air China's schedule, passengers returning to IAD must overnight in Beijing on Day 21 with their return flight on Day 22. Overnight at the Hilton Beijing Airport Hotel is included.

The Tibet Extension requires a minimum of 6 passengers in order to operate at published prices. The high altitudes reached on this trip (Tibet is about 12,000 feet above sea level) and the amount of walking involved, often on uneven terrain, requires that you be in good physical condition to fully enjoy the trip. We strongly suggest that you consult a physician regarding any concerns prior to making a reservation.


Video: Friendly Planet's Best of China & Yangtze Cruise Video: Friendly Planet's Hong Kong Extension Video: Friendly Planet's Tibet Extension


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[Our tour guide] Ms. Zhu made it the best! She was the door to China. She put her group of tourists first and did what she could for us to see the best of China! Kudos to your prices and your quality! You are the best! Other online agencies will have a very very hard time selling me a trip without us (17 friends who travel together) checking with you first!

Marta Velazquez Loescher & Nancy Velazquez, West Chester, PA

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