Best of China & Yangtze River Cruise

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

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our new Best of China tour package.


Itinerary at a Glance
Best of China & Yangtze Cruise
Day Destination
1 Depart USA
2 Shanghai
3 Shanghai
4 Shanghai & Yichang
5 Three Gorges Dam & Xiling Gorge
6 Shennong Stream, Wu Gorge & Qutang Gorge
7 Ghost City of Fengdu
8 Chongqing & Guilin
9 Guilin
10 Guilin & Xi'an
11 Xi'an
12 Xi'an, Beijing & Temple of Heaven
13 Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Summer Palace
14 Great Wall of China & Ming Tombs
15 Beijing/USA
Hong Kong Extension
15 Beijing/Hong Kong
16 Hong Kong
17 Hong Kong
18 Hong Kong/USA
Tibet Extension
15 Beijing/Lhasa
16 Lhasa
17 Lhasa
18 Lhasa & Tsedang
19 Tsedang & Beijing
20 Beijing/USA

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.


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My husband and I want to thank you for creating comprehensive, fun packed days of touring in China. We saw all the sights we had on our own lists and the city guides made sure that if possible, they worked in places the group requested. The daily planning, the food, hotels, the shows, and the ease of getting around made this package one of the exceptional values for a once in a lifetime vacation.

Susan Razenson, Nanuet, NY

Detailed Itinerary

Best of China tour itinerary Day 1: Depart USA. Your exotic journey begins as you check in for your wide-body jet flight for Shanghai.

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 via the Shanghai Maglev Train, considered the most technologically advanced train in the world. Enjoy your first lunch in China, and 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. Check in at your centrally located hotel, near Shanghai's famous Bund. Accommodations: Jin Jiang Hotel. Lunch provided.

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. Begin at 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, complete your tour of Shanghai with a visit to the Bund, also called Zhongshan Road, a famous waterfront that has been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years. Tonight, enjoy an exciting acrobatic show. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Jade Temple Day 4: Shanghai & Yichang. This morning, visit the water town of Zhujiajiao village, reminiscent of Venice, with its 36 delicate bridges in different shapes and sizes. Afterwards, transfer to the airport for the flight to Yichang, where you'll embark on your Yangtze River cruise on the MV President Prime, the new, deluxe star of China's fleet of river cruisers. Settle into your outside balcony cabin and enjoy dinner and entertainment on board. Accommodations: MV President Prime. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 5: 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, one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by mankind, 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.

Three Gorges Dam & Yangtze River The dam body was completed in 2006. Except for a ship lift, the originally planned components of the project were completed on October 30, 2008, 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 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 6: Shennong Stream, Wu Gorge & Qutang Gorge. After breakfast, 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.

Day 7: Ghost City of Fengdu. Today you'll visit the city of Fengdu, situated on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, which, throughout 2000 years of legend became known as a "ghost city" and is today popular among tourists who come to visit the temples and shrines dedicated to the gods of the underworld. 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. Interestingly, China's famous ghost town will become an island after the Three Gorges Dam project is finally completed. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Reed Flute Cave, Guilin Day 8: 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 a western-style dinner at your hotel. Accommodations: Lijiang Waterfall Hotel. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 9: 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 10: Guilin & Xi'an. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Xi'an. After lunch, set out to explore the Yangling tombs, a spectacular archeological find dating back 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty. The ancient city uncovered here included an area inhabited by officials and nobles, an area for regular citizens, a potters' workshop area, a mint and graves of children. Among the 10,000 unearthed objects were building materials such as arched tile and five-edged water pipes; daily necessities such as pottery basins and jars; and armor and weaponry made of brass or iron. A dozen wells with clay walls were found as well as the earliest Chinese bathing pool. Also on view is a display of colorful human clay figures, about one third the height of the Qin Terra cotta warriors. This evening, join your fellow travelers at a Tang Dynasty dinner show. Accommodations: Sheraton Xi'an. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Emperor Qin's terra cotta warriors, Xian Day 11: 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.

Friendly Planet passengers at the Tiananmen gate Day 12: Xi'an, Beijing & Tiananmen Square. Transfer to the airport to fly from Xi'an to Beijing, China's historic and cultural capital. Upon arrival, board your touring coach for an afternoon tour of Tian'anmen Square and take 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.

This evening, 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: Kempinski Hotel Beijing or similar. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing Day 13: Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City & Summer Palace. 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. 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.

Summer Palace After lunch at a nearby local restaurant, continue to the Summer Palace, literally translated as the Garden of Nurtured Harmony, which started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. Here artisans lovingly reproduced the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. Kunming Lake was created by extending an existing body of water to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou. The garden served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, and in December 1998 it became another World Heritage Site in Beijing, with UNESCO declaring it an "outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole." Tonight, enjoy Beijing's most famous (and delicious) culinary treat--Peking Duck. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Great Wall of China Day 14: Great Wall of China & Ming Tombs. Depart after breakfast on a full day included excursion to the only man-made structure visible from the moon, the Great Wall of China, which follows a ridge of barren hills stretching at least 3,750 miles (6,000 km). 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 at your Beijing hotel. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 15: 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. Breakfast provided.

Optional Extension to Hong Kong

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.

Junk in Victoria Harbour 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.

Day 15: 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: Eaton Hotel on departures prior to March 2012, Park Hotel Hong Kong on all others. Breakfast provided.

Day 16: 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 17: 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 18: 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 Los Angeles later today. Breakfast provided.

Tibet Optional Extension

Tibetan boy After 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.

Our Tibet, Rooftop of the World Extension includes three nights at the 4-star Sheraton Four Points Lhasa, comprehensive guided touring of Lhasa's major sites, most meals and an opportunity to explore the sacred places, many predating the start of the Common Era, the famous Bakhor market, where you can join Tibetans from all parts of the plateau and foreign visitors alike in shopping, strolling and enjoying this unique and special place up close and personal!

Day 15: Beijing/Lhasa. Transfer to the airport to board your flight to Lhasa, capital of Tibet. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel on the Lhasa River. 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: Sheraton Four Points. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Potala Palace Day 16: 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.

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. 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) completes your day of touring. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Jokhang  temple roof Day 17: 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 18: 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.

Day 19: 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. Beijing International Hotel. Tonight dinner is on your own at one of Beijing's many wonderful restaurants. Accommodations: Beijing International on departures prior to March 2012, Kempinski Hotel Beijing on all others. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 20: Beijing/USA. Say a reluctant goodbye to China as you transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA, arriving in Los Angeles later today.

Important Note: 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.

Cruise Ship

MV President Prime

See specifications, deck plans & photos of the ship.

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