13-Day China Essence and Panda Tour

Land of Pandas

13-Day Private Tour: Beijing – Xi'an – Chengdu –Yangtze Cruise – Shanghai

This 13-day suggested itinerary covers different elements of China: the historical heritage sites, natural scenery, unique culture, and adorable giant pandas. It makes an ideal tour for first-time visitors who are panda fans or those traveling with children.

The itinerary below is only one possibility. Tips to tailor-make your trip are offered as inspiration. Send us details of your preferences and our travel experts will customize this trip to suit your interests, tastes, and budget.(cht-pd-01)

Tour 'Wow' Points

Find the Hidden Halls in the Forbidden City

Visit 12 selected places in the complex to discover the deep secrets of the imperial families, while typical group tours only visit six spots briefly.

The fantastic hall of the Forbidden City
The hidden hall in the forbidden city

Explore a Top-Ranked Section of the Great Wall

Walk leisurely through the watchtowers, enjoying a superb view of the Mutianyu Great wall snaking across the mountains.

Mutianyu Great Wall
walking on the Great Wall

Make a Mini warrior with a Local Artisan Family

Visit a local artisan and learn to make a warrior from the same local clay as the Terracotta Army in his/her authentic cave dwelling, which is a disappearing opportunity.

The Terra-Cotta Amy
Learn to make a clay warrior

Feed a Giant Panda in Person

Visit Chengdu, the only place in the world where you can prepare the food and feed a giant panda as a panda keeper.

Feed the panda
Making cakes for pandas

Witness the Famous Three Gorges of China

Tour the once-treacherous-and-taxing-but-now-tamed-and-tranquil middle reaches of the Yangtze River and enjoy the magnificent landscapes along it in a relaxing way.

Yangtze River gorge
Shennv stream

Have a Time Travel on the Bund of Shangha

Experience the charm of old Shanghai during an in-depth Bund visit and Feel the speed of China's development.

People and Skyscrapers in Shanghai
The Bund at night

Why Choose Us

Your Wellbeing is Our Priority

Your Wellbeing is Our Priority.

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  • Vaccinated guides
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Your Trip is Perfectly Planned.

  • No crowds
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Your Booking is Risk-Free.

  • No cancellation fee
  • Free changes

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About China Highlights

travelers' choice 2021

Since 1998 we've guided everyone ranging from US presidents, Australian Geographic and retired backpackers. Our goal is to create unique trips that take you off-the-beaten path, helping you discover China in a more authentic way. Our motto: "Discovery Your Way!"

Itinerary Quick Look

Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.

DAY 1 Beijing Arrival

Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrival hall. A comfortable private car with an experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you to check-in.

DAY 2 Beijing | The Forbidden City and Alleyways

Wander through Tian'anmen Square, the largest city square in the world, and arrive at the Forbidden City, the largest imperial palace in the world. With the help of your private guide, have a little adventure in the previous home to emperors: find some interesting places you would never find by yourself and hide away from the noise of the tour groups.

Have the Beijing-Life discovery walk in the afternoon. You will skip the touristy hutong and explore a neighborhood to discover the ordinary people's lives from their religious beliefs, daily food, hobbies, housing issues and situation in retirement.

DAY 3 Beijing | The Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall

Freshen up in the morning and start your day at the Temple of Heaven, which was the place where emperors prayed for a good harvest. Interact with the locals and join them to experience their healthy lifestyle.

Then continue to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, which is the section ranked top on TripAdvisor among all the Great Wall sections for its picturesque scenery and beautifully restored architecture.

DAY 4 Beijing to Xian | The Summer Palace and a Flight to Xi'an

Walk around the tranquil Summer Palace at a leisurely pace and enjoy the 300-year-old royal garden. Take a pleasant boat ride on the lake and have a stroll in the long corridors to view the exquisite paintings on the ceilings.

Enjoy some Beijing roast duck for lunch. Watch the exquisite cutting skills of the chef, taste crispy duck skin, and learn how to eat it in the correct way.

In the afternoon, you will be driven to the airport for your flight to Xi'an. Your Xi'an guide will be waiting for you and will transfer you to your hotel.

DAY 5 Xian | The Terracotta Army

Everything in Xi'an is about history. The Terracotta Army, with each figure being unique, has guarded Emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb since 210 BC. Have a silent conversation with the warriors and listen to their stories spanning over 2,000 years.

Then discover a local craftsman's cave dwelling and learn how to make clay warriors with your own hands.

After lunch, return to the city area and visit the 600-year-old ancient city wall.

DAY 6 Xian to Chengdu | Xi'an City Highlights

Discover more ancient history at Shaanxi History Museum and Big Wild Goose Pagoda, then head to the Muslim Quarter and wander through the alleys to taste the local Muslim cuisine. After lunch, hop onto a high-speed train for a 4-hour journey to Chengdu and experience the technological development of China.

DAY 7 Chengdu | One-Day Panda Keeper Program

Chengdu is the only place in the world where you can get close to giant pandas. Rather than just taking a glance at them in a zoo, you will get very close to these cuddly creatures and learn more about them during the Panda Keeper Program in Dujiangyan Panda Base.

Under the guidance of an English-speaking member of staff, you will clean the panda enclosures, feed a panda by hand, watch panda movies, and make cakes for them. Have a simple Chinese lunch with the staff in their canteen. This highest-rated experience will provide you with the memory of a lifetime.

DAY 8 Chengdu to Chongqing| Chengdu Dine and Wine Experience

Start your day at Jinli Old Street where you can taste authentic local snacks. Try some famous foods, such as bean jelly in chili sauce, sweet potato noodles, and Sichuan-style wontons. If you are brave enough, try a rabbit's head in chili sauce.

When you've finished eating, visit the Rice Wine Museum, a restoration of an ancient Chinese brewery cellar. Guided by a bilingual expert, you will have the opportunity to find out how the ancient brewery works, before enjoying two complimentary glasses of rice wine.

Take the bullet train to Chongqing after the tour and then check-in for a Yangtze River cruise that departs at 9 pm.

DAY 9 Yangtze Cruise | Ghost City and Gorges Gateway

Enjoy tai chi morning exercise if you would like to (available every day).

Take a shore excursion to Fengdu Ghost City in the morning. There are many buildings built according to traditional Chinese geomancy and statues and artwork reflecting Chinese people's imaginations of the netherworld.

Enjoy the cultural activities on the ship in the afternoon and a night show — War Fires of the Three Kingdoms (optional) after dinner.

DAY 10 Yangtze Cruise | Gorgeous Gorges Large and Small

If you are interested in Chinese calligraphy and history, the optional excursion to White Emperor City is a nice choice. See 10-yuan banknote scenery, calligraphy inscriptions dating back centuries, and a famous fortress.

Cruise through the spectacular Qutang Gorge and the magnificent Wu Gorge at noon.

Enjoy a shore excursion to Shennv Stream in the afternoon, where you will take a boat to discover this tributary of the Yangtze River, with its clear water that runs southwards through deep and narrow gorges.

Enjoy the Crew Cabaret and Talent Show after dinner on the ship.

DAY 11 Yichang Arrival | Yichang to Shanghai by Bullet Train

Disembark in the morning, and then join the shore excursion to the Three Gorges Dam. Getting access to the platform right by the dam, you will enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Yangtze River and the supper project of China.

You will be transferred to the tourist center in Yichang city after the tour. Your private guide and driver will wait for you there and will transfer you to the railway station on time for your bullet train journey to Shanghai.

Note: The shore excursions in the itinerary are arranged by Century Cruises. They could vary depending on the cruise you choose.

DAY 12 Shanghai | Highlights with Bund Discovery

Do more than just take one or two selfies on the Bund. Travel back in time to the golden age of the Bund in the 1920s during our In-Depth Bund Culture Discovery Tour. Go into some of the old Bund buildings and listen to their stories.

Enjoy lunch and ascend the tallest building in China — Shanghai Tower. From this building, which is the highest outside of Dubai, you will not only enjoy a panoramic view of Shanghai but will also see the future of China.

After traveling around China for 11 days, you might want to do something that's relaxing or "icing on the cake" at the end of your tour. You will have some free time in the afternoon. Your guide will be happy to arrange activities according to your wishes no matter whether you want to relax, experience Shanghai fashion, appreciate art, explore folk customs, shop, or any of many other options.

DAY 13 Shanghai Departure

Your private car, driver, and guide will transport you to the airport and take you all the way to the security gate for your convenience. Relax all the way to the airplane with us.

Hotel Selection

—the Icing on the Cake

Boutique hotels are recommended to enrich your travel experience.

Hotel room in Beijing
The lodge of the hotel in Xian

the hotel in Chengdu
FromCNY21,540 / USD3,350p/p Based on a private tour for 2 people. Price varies depending on program, travel date, number of people and chosen hotel

Price includes:

  • Private air-conditioned business car with big windows and ample space
  • English speaking local guide
  • Activities, hotels, and meals listed in the itinerary
  • 24/7 helpline for while you are traveling
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