China Delight

Beijing, Shanghai, & Hangzhou plus Chengdu & Panda Research Center optional extension

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our new China Delight itinerary.


Itinerary at a Glance
China Delight
Day Destination
1 Depart USA
2 Beijing
3 Great Wall of China & Beijing
4 Forbidden City & Beijing
5 Beijing
6 Beijing & Shanghai
7 Shanghai
8 Hangzhou & Shanghai
9 Shanghai
10 Shanghai/USA
Chengdu Extension
10 Shanghai & Chengdu
11 Chengdu Panda Research Center
12 Chengdu/USA

China is one of the world's oldest nations, with recorded history dating back 5,000 years. At the same time, it's a modern dynamo, a fast-rising star on the world stage. It boasts the world's fastest high speed train, which is outpaced only by its amazing economy.

Join our China Delight tour and experience China's most iconic cities, Beijing and Shanghai, and their fascinating sites. You'll visit the amazing Great Wall of China, imposing Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Summer Palace as well as the Bund and other sites of Shanghai. Then, you'll go "off the beaten track" with a visit to gorgeous Hangzhou, often called the "Venice of China" because of its lovely canals and romantic West Lake, where, like Marco Polo, you'll have a chance to see, touch and even buy some gorgeous silk. You'll also enjoy sublime Longling tea and lunch with a local tea farmer family and get to know something of the "real" China during your stay.

Detailed Itinerary

China Delight tour itinerary Day 1: Depart USA. Your exotic journey begins as you board your Air China flight to Beijing.

Day 2: Beijing. Arrive today in Beijing, China's historical and cultural capital. Transfer from the airport to your centrally located hotel for check-in. Enjoy your first night in China at leisure. Accommodations: Beijing International Hotel.

Great Wall of China Day 3: Great Wall of China. Depart after breakfast on a full day included excursion to the only man-made structure visible from the moon, the Great Wall of China. En route, enjoy a visit to a jade factory with a presentation and some time for shopping.. The Great Wall follows a ridge of barren hills and stretches at least 3,750 miles (6,000 km). 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.

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 is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals.

Optional Excursion: Tonight, enjoy an optional Peking Duck dinner followed by the Legend of Kung Fu show, a special Shaolin Kung Fu stage performance that blends music, martial arts, and a moving story ($53 per person). Breakfast & lunch provided.

Friendly Planet passengers at the Tiananmen gate Day 4: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Summer Palace. After breakfast, board your touring coach for a morning tour of Tian'anmen Square. En route, visit a local pearl store with some time for shopping. Tiananmen 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. Continue 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."

Gaobeidian Village Optional Excursion: This evening, take advantage of a very special and unique optional tour to Gaobeidian Village, a picturesque community where you will visit a local market, the People's Commune Museum, and a street filled with fascinating antique furniture stores. Later, visit a typical Chinese school or kindergarten to see for yourself how children are taught in China. The highlight of this very special tour is an opportunity to join a village family in preparing and sharing a traditional Chinese dinner ($45 per person). Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 5: Beijing. Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore on your own. Your hotel is centrally located in the heart of Beijing, close to major attractions, restaurants and shopping.

Optional Excursion: You can also choose an optional full day tour to the Hutongs of Beijing followed by the Temple of Heaven, with lunch included. For those who want to explore the way the Chinese live and have lived for centuries, a jaunt down the intricate maze of Beijing's Hutongs is essential. These ancient, labyrinthine alleys or lanes are still an important feature in the urban landscape of Beijing, where houses along Hutongs still occupy one third of the total area, providing housing for half the population and providing yet another example of Beijing as an ancient yet modern city.

Temple of Heaven The Temple of Heaven, the most holy of Beijing's Imperial temples, is the place where Chinese Emperors came to worship heaven and to pray for a good harvest, since a bad harvest could be interpreted as the Emperor's fall from heavenly favor and threaten the stability of his reign. The 6-meter-high walls, surrounding the temple, take a square shape to the south and a semi-circular one to the north. The main buildings in the temple are circularly shaped. This pattern represents an ancient belief that heaven was round while earth square, and this pattern is quite architecturally unique. The whole complex, gorgeously painted and set off by thousands of pine and cypress trees, expressing a harmonious atmosphere as if heaven and earth are integrated into one. You will also pay a visit to the famous DIY shopping place of the Pearl Market ($65 per person). Breakfast provided.

Shanghai skyline at night Day 6: Shanghai. After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Shanghai, China's most modern city, often called "Paris of the East." Explore the historic Bund area, which runs along the Huangpu River north of the old, walled city of Shanghai. Bund refers to the embankments along the Shanghai riverfront, where the British initially made their settlements and later became a major financial hub of East Asia. As time permits, visit a local silk store for some souvenir shopping. Later on, transfer to your centrally located hotel for check-in and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure for independent exploration.

Optional Excursion: This evening, enjoy an optional Huangpu River Cruise ($35 per person). Accommodations: Broadway Mansions Hotel Shanghai. Breakfast provided.

Yu Yuan Garden Day 7: Shanghai. Enjoy a full day at leisure in Shanghai to explore on your own.

Optional Excursion: Enjoy an optional tour to Suzhou which includes lunch. Suzhou is China's well-known "city of gardens" where the art of gardening has evolved over more than 1,500 years. There were once over 200 gardens in the city, and an impressive 69 of them are still well-preserved today. You'll visit the Master of Nets Garden (1140 AD), which has been duplicated at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Lion Forest Garden (1342 AD), named by Buddhist monks for its jagged rock formations resembling dancing lions. Next, visit a local market and then enjoy a boat ride through Suzhou's lovely canals. Continue to the National Embroidery Institute, established in 1957 to preserve and further the study of silk embroidery, an important activity in Suzhou for more than 1,000 years ($85 per person). Breakfast provided.

Hangzhou Day 8: Hangzhou & Shanghai. This morning after breakfast, transfer to Hangzhou by bullet train or bus. Hangzhou is famous for its natural beauty and is commonly referred to as the "Venice of China". Here you will visit the Six Harmony Pagoda which sits adjacent to a park with replicas of the world's most famous pagodas. Continue along the Qiantang River to West Lake, Hangzhou most famous scenic sight. Explore ancient Hefang Street then stop to marvel at a lavish mansion built in 1872 by billionaire Hu Xueyan, the founder of the Chinese Herbal Medicine Company and richest man in China during his time. Continue your journey through Hangzhou and visit a Chinese tea plantation. Here you will enjoy a special lunch at a local tea farmer's house. This afternoon return to Shanghai. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Shanghai museum of ancient art Day 9: Shanghai. Spend a final day at leisure in Shanghai.

Optional Excursion: You can choose a full day optional tour including lunch to some of the city's most fascinating places. Begin at one of Shanghai's oldest attractions, the Yu Garden. Continue 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.

See the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, a unique architectural addition to the Shanghai cityscape and one of the largest radio and TV towers in the world. Conclude your tour exploring the unique shops and boutiques of Xintiandi Street in the former French Concession area ($60 per person).

Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai This evening, take advantage an optional dinner followed by an exciting acrobatics show ($38 per person). Breakfast provided.

Day 10: Shanghai/USA. After a morning at leisure, bid farewell to China this afternoon as you transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA via Beijing. Breakfast provided.

Optional Extension to Chengdu

Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare to visit Chengdu, and participate in a full day Giant Panda Volunteering Experience. You'll return to the U.S. 2 days after the return dates shown for the main tour.

Wenshu Monastery, Chengdu Day 10: Shanghai & Chengdu. Bid farewell to Shanghai as you transfer to the airport your flight to Chengdu. Explore the ancient streets of the city and learn about the rich agricultural and economic history of the Chengdu area, considered China's "Land of Milk & Honey". After an introduction to Chengdu and China's Sichuan Province, transfer to your centrally located hotel. Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure.

Optional Excursion: This evening, enjoy a very special and unique optional tour of Sichuanese folklore performances including a traditional Sichuan dinner. The performance showcases the magic of “Bian Lian", the traditional art of face-changing masks. Sit in amazement as the performers’ colorful masks transform within the blink of an eye ($80 per person). Accommodations: Sofitel Wanda Hotel. Breakfast provided.

Day 11: Giant Panda Research Center. After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Center for an unforgettable volunteering experience. The research center is China's leading organization in the conservation of endangered species.

Two pandas at the Giant Panda Research Center Here you will spend a full day helping protect China's most recognized animal, the Panda Bear. The program begins with a short training and orientation where you will learn more about the giant pandas and biodiversity conservation. Next, you will work together with the center's dedicated staff taking care of the Pandas they have in captivity. Feed, bathe and care for the Pandas to help repopulate this majestic animal in the wild. After lunch, take a tour of the Panda Reserve and visit the Panda Museum. Your day will conclude with a certification acknowledging your efforts in the conservation of the Giant Panda.

Optional Excursion: Take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity and participate in optional the Baby-Panda Holding Experience ($190 per person). Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 12: Chengdu/USA. Enjoy your final morning in Chengdu at leisure.

Optional Excursion: Participate in an optional half day tour, including lunch, to the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 256 BC, Dujiangyan has protected the Sichuan province from flooding for centuries. In fact, the irrigation system is still in use today and provides water to over 2,000 square miles (5,200 sq. km) of the region's farmlands ($90 per person).

If the Dujiangyan Irrigation System optional excursion is not available, an optional morning tour to the Chengdu Jinshan Museum will be offered instead. The museum contains a large collection of relics from the Shu Kingdom, including gold plates, jade jewelry, stoneware and ivory. Built over the archeological site where these artifacts were first uncovered in 2001, visitors can observe the ongoing excavation in progress. ($60 per person).

Later today, bid farewell to China as you transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA. Your exciting journey comes to an end as you arrive in Los Angeles later today. Breakfast provided.

Optional Excursions in China

To take full advantage of your visit to China, we offer a special discount package of optional excursions to other "must-see" sites. These are not "seat in coach" tours that pick up passengers in various hotels—all our optional excursions are operated for Friendly Planet groups only.

Optional Excursions Package Includes:

  • Hutongs of Beijing & Temple of Heaven full day tour with lunch (Day 5)
  • Suzhou full day tour with lunch (Day 7)

Package Price: $115/per person if booked and prepaid before final payment.

If you prefer not to book in advance, the individual optional excursions will be available from your guide once you arrive in China, at prices posted in our itinerary ($150/person for both). Other optional excursions, mentioned above in our itinerary, will also be available to you in China. Payment for optionals purchased in China must be made in cash (U.S. or equivalent in Chinese currency).

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