Experience the highlights of ancient China, from the jaw-dropping Tiger Leaping Gorge to the majestic Terracotta Warriors. Spend time with a local family in Xizhou and learn about their traditional way of life.Try your hand at cheese-making and share a local lunch.. Hike through the most stunning parts of Tiger Leaping Gorge, listening to the Jinsha River roaring through the cloud-capped mountains.. Wander through a Tibetan village in the dreamy Shangrila pasture lands. Learn about Tibetan culture over a steaming cup of yak butter tea.
Journey into a land rich in stunning natural scenery, diverse cultures, ancient history and jaw-dropping modern development. Start in Kunming and venture deep into Yunnan province, meet the local Bai and Tibetan peoples in the ancient towns of Dali and Shangrila, hike Tiger Leaping Gorge and join the pilgrims at Sumtseling Monastery. Head to Shanghai for a wander along the Bund and wonder at the amazing historical collections in Shanghai Museum. Learn about kung fu and Buddhism at Shaolin Temple and stand face-to-face with Terracotta Warriors. Spend a night in a courtyard house at the foot of the Great Wall and learn the intricate art of paper cutting.
Breakfast Included: 17 Lunches Included: 4 Dinner Included: 2
Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ for its year-round temperate climate, Kunming is an increasingly modern city, but it still holds pockets of old-world charm in a relaxed atmosphere. You’ll need to attend a welcome meeting at 6 pm at the hotel. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you do arrive early enough to explore, maybe delve into local culture at the ancient temples and intriguing museums dotted around the area – the Buddhist Yuantong Temple dates back 1,200 years and you will uniquely enter the complex from above and descend into the elegant garden and halls.
Depart Kunming by private bus and prepare for the adventure ahead as you travel through the countryside to Dali. Kunming to Dali is 340 kilometres and the drive will take about 5 hours. You’ll travel through the foothills of the Himalayas, driving through the mountains (some tunnels are kilometres long!) that it used to take weeks to pass. Stretch your legs on an orientation walk with your leader, then explore in the afternoon as you’d like. Dali is a favourite among travellers in China, a place where you can soak up the fresh mountain air and observe relics from the past. The town is overflowing with places to eat and drink, so you will not have trouble finding a good meal this evening. The Ancient Town, a beautifully preserved and rebuilt part of the city with lantern-lit cafes, cobblestone streets and ancient stone houses is a great place to start.
Today you’ll travel 1 hour to the nearby town of Xizhou, an authentic town of the Bai – a group renowned throughout the country for their craftsmanship. Be guided around this photogenic town filled with Bai architecture, characterised by ornate gateways with elegant detailing. The town was long ago a stop on the tea horse trail, home to wealthy merchants, officials and scholars, and during World War II, many of China’s universities decamped to this remote part of Yunnan to continue their studies. Wander around this unique town and don’t forget to try the local treat 'xi zhou ba ba' – a warm baked cake filled with savoury or sweet filling. For lunch you'll enjoy a unique experience when you visit a local family. You'll try cheese making with them and have a meal together. Return to Dali for the night.
Travel to Shaxi from Dali today (approximately 4 hours). Unlike many other ancient towns in Yunnan, Shaxi has been restored rather than rebuilt, and decades of laying off the main highways mean it hasn’t seen the rapid development places like Lijiang and Dali have. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities living traditional lives in farmhouses lining the country roads. You’ll see cobblestone streets, original walled town gates and a market square that prove that Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail. After you've settled in, take a leisurely walk around the town.
Today you’ll join a local guide to visit Shibaoshan and Shizong Temple, perhaps taking a picnic lunch with you to make the most of the beautiful danxia landscape along the way. The beautiful multi-coloured rocks are formed by millions of years of sandstone and mineral deposits, creating a rainbow effect that must be seen to be believed. The hike takes around 1.5 hours, reaches around 2,400 metres above sea level and is accessible to all travellers with a reasonable level of fitness. For those travellers who wish to sit out this activity there is the option to stay in Shaxi for the day instead. In the evening, take the opportunity to mix with the locals on the town square, where it's not rare to see impromptu dancing, singing and games happen (feel free to join in or just observe).
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Travel to Tiger Leaping Gorge by private bus (approx. 2 hrs). Part of the Yangzi River (known here as the Jinsha River) thunders through Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is in turn framed by 5,000-metre-high mountains. A memorable walk in the gorge is a wonderful way to take in its awesome beauty and today you’ll do just that. It’s a predominantly downhill five-kilometre hike that takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete at a relaxed pace, giving you ample time to soak up the sights of one of Asia’s most dramatic and photogenic hiking trails. About 15 kilometres in length, the gorge is named after a legendary tiger that leapt across the gorge to escape the clutches of a hunter. No mean feat considering the canyon’s narrowest point is still a staggering 25 metres wide!
Today you’ll travel to a place so beautiful it was officially renamed Shangrila, a reference to the mythic utopia from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. Before you set off, visit the legendary “stepping stone” the tiger used to escape across the Jinsha river, located at the narrowest point of the gorge. Make the 3-hour drive to Shangrila and feel the modern world fade away as you head higher into the mountains. This charming Tibetan town lies on an altitude around 3,200 metres, so take it easy upon arrival and give yourself some time to acclimatise. Later take a stroll on winding streets past prayer halls and pagodas in Dukezong Ancient Town. A fire tore through the area in 2014, destroying most of the town, but painstaking restoration work continues and the town remains charming. It’s also home to a towering, gilded prayer wheel – the largest in the world.
Learn more about Tibetan Buddhism with a visit the Sumtseling Monastery. Located just outside the city and modelled after the Potala Palace, Sumtseling is the predominant monastery in the region and a popular destination for pilgrims. Constructed in 1681 and subsequently destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the complex was rebuilt in 1981 and the red and gold buildings now house hundreds of monks. Later travel south to Xiao Zhongdian, a village-dotted plain split by a flowing river. Here you will be invited into the home of a local Tibetan to see how they live and have a chat over a cup of yak butter tea. If time permits (and you have the energy), you may be able to visit idyllic Potatso National Park in the afternoon. If the altitude is taking its toll, why not spend the evening relaxing in Shangri-la.
Return to Kunming on a roughly 80-minute flight and transfer to your hotel. If you have enough time, Green Lake Park is a lovely place to while away an hour or two. In the evening, perhaps join your group for a final dinner and toast to new friends and ancient sights.
Board flight from Kunming to Shanghai and get transferred to your hotel in Shanghai. There will be a group meeting at 6 pm. Please note that you will be unaccompanied on this flight and your tour leader and group composition may change too.
Shanghai by morning is bustling with street vendors and workers making their morning commute, and today you’ll weave among them in an early walking tour of the city. Begin with the pride of Shanghai – the Bund. On one side of this waterfront strip you’ll see gothic, baroque and neoclassical architecture dating as far back as 1897. These historic buildings sit in wonderful contrast to the uber modern high rises and sleek office buildings that lie across the water. Then, zig zag through the back lanes off of East Nanjing Road, the oldest (and busiest!) shopping street in Shanghai. Finally, examine the myriad bronze and ceramic pieces in the Shanghai Museum. The afternoon and evening are free for you to do as you please. Those feeling a little overwhelmed by the chaos may wish to visit the classical garden of Yuyuan - on of the must-see sights of Shanghai.
Shanghai - Luoyang
A traditional Shanghai breakfast is salty, savoury and rich. As you have a free morning in in the city, why not ask your leader for the best place to get a bowl of congee (savoury rice porridge) or jian bing (egg crepe)? At midday, board a high-speed train bound for Luoyang. Once the capital of Imperial China, Luoyang boasts plenty of historic sights. It’s also the gateway to Shaolin Monastery. The journey will take about 6 hours, so it’s a good idea to have a book or podcast on hand to keep you occupied as the scenery rushes past you outside the window.