Classic China and Tibet
Featuring a Yangtze River Cruise
Take in the highlights of Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai, including the Forbidden City, the Terra-Cotta Warriors, and Yu Yuan Gardens, and venture to Lhasa, set high on a Himalayan plateau for an insider's look at Tibet's Buddhist culture.
WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY
Best quality and attention to detail at a great price!”
I met so many interesting people on this tour. We bonded exceptionally well with each other and with the study leader and tour director. I will certainly use Smithsonian in the future.”
Mary Jeanne C.
This trip was so much better than our expectations (and they were high). My husband hesitates traveling abroad, but we both were totally captivated. Every night on tour, we celebrated the day!”
If you want to learn about the history, culture, and art of China and Tibet, I highly recommend this tour!”
Amazing journey! The quality of our expert and guide were unparalleled in our experience!”
This was our first organized tour, and we were a bit wary of how it would work. Our wariness was unwarranted. As the tour went on, we were happier and happier with our decision. We now fear that no future tour will measure up to this one.”
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- Haydn Seek
This 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.
Immerse yourself in the cultural landscapes of China and Tibet! Our comprehensive journey features highlights of Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, plus a Yangtze River cruise. You’ll also travel to the Himalayas for an insider’s look at Tibet’s Buddhist culture. Shanghai Post-Program option available.
- Beijing: Explore legendary sites such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall—all World Heritage sites. You’ll also see the treasures of the National Museum of China and take a rickshaw ride through Beijing’s hutongs, or old neighborhoods.
- Xi’an: View the extraordinary Terra-Cotta Warriors and walk along the ancient city walls. Plus, visit the impressive history museum and the Great Mosque, reflecting the eastern terminus of the Silk Road.
- Tibet: See evidence of traditional Buddhism at the 17th-century Potala Palace (a World Heritage site), the vast Sera Monastery, and during a specially arranged meeting with a Tibetan family in their home. Plus, explore Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest temple, and Norbulingka.
- Chongqing: Visit the local zoo, home to beloved pandas, and see the ancient Dazu Rock Carvings, a World Heritage site located nearby.
- Yangtze River Cruise: Take a leisurely three-night cruise of this legendary river, prized for its haunting natural beauty. Enjoy panoramic views of spectacular gorges and settings that evoke scenes from ancient Chinese scroll paintings. Plus, tour the immense Three Gorges Dam Project, one of the largest feats of modern engineering worldwide.
- Shanghai: Discover the treasures of dynamic Shanghai during visits to the Shanghai Museum, with its renowned art collections, and the peaceful gardens of Yu Yuan.
Days 1 & 2 — Depart the U.S. for Beijing, China
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 take a rickshaw ride through Beijing’s hutongs, or old neighborhoods, 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 tour the splendid Temple of Heaven (a World Heritage site) where emperors lived and ruled, followed by a visit to the National Museum of China, the country’s grand repository of its cultural artifacts and history. (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, enjoy a special dumpling dinner. During the next two days visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda (ca. A.D. 652), a graceful Buddhist temple notable for its statues and stelae, and the Shanxi Provincial History Museum. 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,2D)
Days 9–11 — Lhasa, Tibet
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 and Dazu, China
Fly to Chongqing, a bustling port city on the Yangtze River. Upon arrival, tour Chongqing’s zoo with its beloved pandas. Dinner tonight is at your hotel. 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,1L,1D)
Day 19 — Depart for the U.S.
Depart Shanghai for your return flight to the U.S., with a same-day arrival. (B)