Fly to Beijing, China's historic capital. Depending on your time of arrival, the rest of the day is yours to start soaking up the local culture.
Begin today in Beijing's symbolic heart with a stroll across Tiananmen Square into the sprawling magnificence of the Forbidden City where you will find a complex full of imperial treasures. Visit Yandaixiejie, where you will have some free time to wander the hutongs. These narrow alleys offer an authentic glimpse of the old Beijing before the emergence of high-rise buildings and modern commerce. Enjoy lunch in the hutongs and then spend the evening at leisure exploring the vibrant Houhai district.
This morning, visit Huanghuacheng, a particularly scenic section of the Great Wall reached by boat that boasts spectacular views from the top. Spend the afternoon at leisure exploring colourful Wangfujing street which is one of the largest and best-known shopping streets in Beijing. This evening, enjoy an
optional Peking duck dinner.
Explore the beautifully designed grounds of the Summer Palace including the Long Corridor and the Marble Boat. Spend time strolling along the lake and admire the Chinese architecture, followed by a walk up Longevity Hill to enjoy the panoramic views. Also make a stop at the Olympic Park for a photo opportunity.
Begin today soaking up the harmonious ambience of the Temple of Heaven, an
orderly oasis in a bustling urban landscape. Here, mingle with the locals and watch or participate as they begin their day practising tai chi, dancing or playing cards. Later, fly to the former capital city, ancient Xian.
Housed in three immense hangars, the ranks of the Terracotta Army stand sentinel in their subterranean necropolis, constructed to protect China's first emperor. Gaze over the ranks of warriors and horses, while you are introduced to these life-like soldiers' fascinating story. Take a walking tour of the Muslim Quarter and maybe sample some of the freshly cooked snacks. Enjoy the evening at leisure with a cold beer in Defu Lane or take an optional tour of Xian by night.
Today is a day at leisure to explore Xian. There is the option to enjoy a gentle cycle ride that will take you the nine miles around Xian's beautifully preserved city wall for a fantastic overview of the city. This evening, enjoy an optional Tang Dynasty show.
Take the bullet train to Chengdu and walk around People's Park, a hive of activity. See beautiful golden koi, locals dancing and practising tai chi, visit a local teahouse, and most interesting of all spend time in Matchmaker's Corner, where parents search for suitors for their children. This evening, enjoy an optional Sichuan hot pot dinner and a 'Changing Faces' show.
Today is a day at leisure to relax in Chengdu or take the option of visiting the old town of Pingle. Dating back to the Han Dynasty, Pingle was a stopping point on the Tea Horse Road. Take time to walk through its maze of tea-house-lined
streets before seeing the bamboo forest from above on the Jinji Rope Bridge.
Spend the morning visiting the famous pandas at Chengdu's Panda Conservation Centre. Here you can observe these gorgeous creatures lounging, playing and chomping through piles of bamboo in surroundings that mirror their natural habitat. Drive to Chongqing and board your Yangtze cruise vessel, home for the next three nights.
As you cruise downstream, nature takes over, revealing some of the world's most dramatic scenery including the Three Gorges themselves. A voyage along China's riverine treasure is a chance to relax and enjoy a slower pace, whilst absorbing one breathtaking panorama after another. Over the next two days, take a side trip to the attractive Shennong or Goddess Stream and enjoy various shore excursions.
Disembark your cruise vessel and visit the Three Gorges Dam. A man-made marvel, the project showcases a massive feat of engineering. Next, travel to Yichang and then fly to the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai, also known as the 'Paris of the East'.
Wake up to the buzz of Shanghai and take a breakfast walking tour between shimmering skyscrapers and traditional streets. Walk through the city's most fascinating districts, marvelling at monuments and rickety old buildings before enjoying breakfast as the locals do '“ sample pancakes, fried bread sticks and tofu. Visit the classical Yu Garden, the old town and a silk factory. Later, take an evening stroll along the Bund and cruise down the Huangpu River, as you are serenaded by the neon lights of Pudong.
Enjoy a day at leisure in Shanghai and explore this action-packed city. Alternatively, take an optional tour to Zhujiajiao, one of Shanghai's sleepy water towns built on an old canal system once used to transport goods all over imperial China. The town's narrow alleyways exude old-world charm, whilst the waterways are lined with ancient buildings and crossed by stone bridges. Tonight, enjoy the ERA show and a farewell dinner of authentic Shanghainese cuisine.
Fly to New Zealand, arriving home the same or following day.