Special ValueThis tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.Overview
Immerse yourself in the cultural landscape of China and mystical Tibet. Begin with four days in the historic capital of Beijing where you’ll explore Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace, and travel to the Great Wall. In Xi’an, the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, view the extraordinary Terra-Cotta Warriors, walk along the ancient city walls, and visit the impressive history museum.
Travel to Tibet for an insider’s look at Tibet’s Buddhist culture during three days in Lhasa, set high on a Himalayan plateau. Explore the sacred Potala Palace and vast Sera Monastery, and visit with a Tibetan family in their home. Then take a leisurely three-night cruise on the Yangtze River, with its spectacular gorges and monumental new dam, an emblem of modern China. Conclude your tour in dynamic Shanghai, where you’ll view the renowned art collections of the Shanghai Museum, and stroll the winding pathways of Yu Yuan Gardens in old Shanghai.Check out our slide show for a photo journey of this tour!
View photos by clicking "Next Photo" at top of page!Itinerary
Days 1–2 — Depart the U.S. for Beijing on group flights
Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. After time to relax, embark on a brief walking tour. Dinner tonight is on your own.Days 3–5 — Beijing and the Great Wall
Begin your discovery of this 2,000-year-old city at Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of China. Explore the courtyards, halls, and passageways of the Forbidden City (a World Heritage site)
where emperors lived and ruled. Tonight, savor a traditional Peking duck dinner. In the morning stop at the splendid Temple of Heaven (a World Heritage site)
then set out for the enigmatic Great Wall (a World Heritage site)
. At Mutianyu, take a cable car up to the partially reconstructed ramparts and walk along this seemingly endless fortification. Your last day in Beijing features a rickshaw ride through Beijing’s hutongs
, or old neighborhoods, where you’ll visit the home of a local family for a rare glimpse of the traditional communal lifestyle that is quickly disappearing. Then enjoy the classical aesthetic of Chinese landscape design during a visit to the Summer Palace
, a former royal retreat and World Heritage site
. (3B,2L,2D)Days 6–8 — Xi’an
Fly to Xi’an, the capital city of some of the most significant dynasties in Chinese history and the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Xi’an regained world prominence in 1974, when the renowned Terra-cotta Warriors were accidentally discovered by local farmers. Arrive in time for a traditional dumpling lunch, then tour the impressive nine-mile city wall and moat, and visit the Great Mosque of Xi’an (a World Heritage site)
. Tonight, imagine the pageantry of the Tang dynasty during a special dinner show. During the next two days visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (ca. A.D. 652), a graceful Buddhist temple notable for its statues and stelae. Spend time viewing the extraordinary Terra-cotta Warriors, more than 7,000 life-sized soldiers created to guard China’s first emperor in the afterlife. Gaze upon these captivating individualized figures arrayed in military formation and learn the details of this exciting excavation. (3B,3L,3D)Days 9–11 — Lhasa
Early today fly to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital and only major city. Sitting on a plateau between two Himalayan ridges, the Chinese province of Tibet covers an area as large as Western Europe. On the way to your hotel, stop to visit with a Tibetan family in their home. Spend the remainder of the day acclimating to the high altitude, which is approximately 12,000 feet above sea level. The next day your tour begins in the heart of the old city at Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest temple. Built in 647, Jokhang is an intriguing complex that attracts pilgrims day and night. Surrounding Jokhang is Barkhor, a plaza lined with chanting monks, street performers, and vendors. Later tour the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas at Norbulinka. Open to foreigners only since 1984, Tibet is a profoundly spiritual place where Buddhism has infused all aspects of life for 13 centuries. The next morning see evidence of this at 17th-century Potala Palace (a World Heritage site)
, with 200,000 Buddha images and 1,000 rooms, some of which you’ll have the opportunity to explore. In the afternoon visit the vast Sera Monastery. (3B,3L,3D)Days 12–13 — Chongqing, Dazu, Board ship
Fly to Chongqing, a bustling port city on the Yangtze River. Upon arrival, visit the Stilwell Museum, which describes the history of World War II in this region and the influence of General Joseph Stilwell. Dinner tonight is at your hotel. Tour Chongqing's zoo with the beloved pandas. The next day’s excursion features the Dazu Rock Carvings
dating back more than a millennium and now a World Heritage site
. These cliffside carvings reflect Buddhist teachings, tenets of Confucianism, and local folklore. Tonight board your river ship and set sail downstream. (2B,2L,2D)Days 14–15 — The Yangtze
Prized for its haunting natural beauty, the 3,600-mile long Yangtze is one of the world’s longest and busiest rivers. This afternoon, visit either the “ghost city” of Fengdu or the Red Pagoda in Shibaozhai, built in 1816 and considered a gem of Chinese architecture. The next day pass through narrow Qutang Gorge then board a small sampan for a cruise through the stunning Small Three Gorges which invoke scenes from ancient Chinese scroll paintings. Back aboard your Victoria Cruises ship this afternoon enter tranquil Wu Gorge, considered the most beautiful of the Three Gorges. Lastly, cruise 42-mile Xiling Gorge. (2B,2L,2D)Day 16 — Three Gorges Dam and Shanghai
During your final morning on the Yangtze, tour the immense Three Gorges Dam Project, one of the largest feats of modern engineering in the world. Continue to Yichang, where you’ll disembark and fly to Shanghai, China’s dazzling commercial capital. (B,L)Days 17–18 — Shanghai
Begin your day with a walking tour of the Xin Tian Di shopping and entertainment district. Continue to peaceful Yu Yuan, a traditional Chinese garden and gathering place. Devote the afternoon to exploring the priceless collections of ancient Chinese bronzes, ceramics, and calligraphy at the acclaimed Shanghai Museum. Tonight, attend a lively Chinese acrobatics show. The next morning walk along the Bund, Shanghai’s broad and bustling riverfront boulevard, once the center of European influence in the Far East. During an afternoon at leisure, experience more of Shanghai’s vitality then toast your adventure at a farewell dinner. (2B,L,D)Day 19 — Return to U.S.
Depart Shanghai for your return flight to the U.S., with a same-day arrival. (B)