Sun, May 20: Overnight flight to Beijing, China.
Mon, May 21: Arrive Beijing, transfer to the Ritz-Carlton, a luxury oasis in the heart of Beijing.
Tue, May 22: Delve into the grandeur of imperial China on your first full day in Beijing. Tiananmen Square, the center of modern-day civic life in the city, is your gateway to the Forbidden City, the vast complex of palaces, gardens and offices that housed China’s emperors for 500 years. Here bureaucrats and concubines schemed for power and artisans created treasures of the Qing and Ming dynasties. Savor a treasure of a different kind over lunch—Peking Duck, served to emperors since the 13th century—and wonder at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO-designated site where the emperors performed the rituals that guaranteed the empire’s safety. An especially arranged surprise here allows you to experience a cherished local custom. (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch)
Wed, May 23: Start the day with smiles from the giant pandas at the zoo before exploring the labyrinthine alleyways of the residential neighborhoods—known as the hutongs—dating back 500 years. Explore the area near the Forbidden City, first via rickshaw and then by sitting down for lunch with a local family. Two towers mark the neighborhood; one, a 600-year-old bell tower, hosts a traditional tea ceremony that will remind you of tea’s central place in China’s culture. Cap off your day with another unforgettable highlight: the Great Wall, the legendary ramparts that protected 4,000 miles of China’s ancient borders—followed by a Welcome Dinner with complimentary wine at the base of the Great Wall itself! (B,L,D)
Thu, May 24: Today see the Summer Palace, where the emperors fled the summer heat to relax by the shores of Kunming Lake. The created Qing Dynasty garden embodies the highest achievement in Chinese landscape design. Stroll the inviting Long Corridor, admiring the bridges and temples that adorn the man-made lake, and drift over its peaceful waters in a boat that offers ravishing views. Empress Cixi’s (the Holy Mother) marble boat, “moored” on the lake, is the only sign the lake ever had a naval function, though legend says that Emperor Qianlong observed naval maneuvers on it. Later today, fly to the ancient capital of Xi’an, settle into the serene Shangri-La Xi’an hotel, and enjoy a traditional dumpling banquet. (B,D)
Fri, May 25: Visit the Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Twenty-two centuries ago, Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified a huge swath of the country (and gave it his name)—and he intended to keep what he conquered, even in the afterlife. He created an astonishing Terra-cotta Army to guard his tomb, which laid undisturbed until the 20th century. Only about 8,000 of the UNESCO-designated Terracotta Warriors and Horses have been excavated, and they still stand in battle formation to face his long-dead enemies at the museum dedicated to this amazing archaeological discovery. From the battlefields, seek peace and pleasure at the serene seven-story Big Wild Goose Pagoda, sacred to Buddhists since the seventh century; legend states if you throw a coin through the pagoda’s windows, it will bring you good luck—give it a try. A lovely traditional dinner and a cultural performance that re-creates the music, folk dances and gorgeous silk costumes of the Tang Dynasty provide the perfect ending to a day in China’s ancient capital. (B,L,D)
Sat, May 26: Stop at a jade factory in Xi’an to learn about why jade has been cherished in China for over 10,000 years for both its intrinsic beauty and its symbolic meaning. Watch artisans carving intricate designs and have an opportunity to shop. Afterward, fly to Chongqing, where you’ll board the Century Legend and settle into your Executive Suite. (B,D)
Sun, May 27: Sail through scenic Three Gorges along the Yangtze with its limestone cliffs sheathed in greenery looming above the water; mountains wreathed in mist tower in the distance; every view of the Three Gorges is a picture straight out of China’s iconic watercolor illustrations—breathtaking, ethereal and unforgettable. A stop at Shibao Pagoda, built into the side of a steep hill that is now an island as a result of rising waters from the Three Gorges Dam, offers you a colorful encounter with some unusual legends. Later, enjoy the Captain’s Reception with complimentary wine, giving you a chance to mingle with your fellow passengers. (B,L,D)
Mon, May 28: Get a close-up view of the breathtaking landscape as you float through one of the world’s most exquisite landscapes: The pristine turquoise waters of the Goddess Stream shimmer and bubble around your small boat and sheer cliffs rise high overhead. The day offers one of China’s most amazing contrasts, for your ship will leave these peaceful waters to navigate the enormous Three Gorges Dam locks. Bid adieu to the river with a Farewell Dinner. Note: Due to water conditions, we may substitute a Shennong Stream boat tour if the Goddess Stream is not available. (B,L,D)
Tue, May 29: Visit the site of the Three Gorges Dam site, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, designed to control flooding and provide electrical power for a huge part of the country. The controversial project has forever altered the landscape, but its scale is a tribute to the nation’s ambition. Disembark in Yichang to catch a flight to Shanghai. Your elegant room for the next two nights awaits you at the Fairmont Peace Hotel. (B,L)
Wed, May 30: Experience a full day in Shanghai. Start your day with a stroll along the Bund, Shanghai’s famed waterfront and admire the view of the Pudong district with its spectacular skyscrapers. Enjoy a traditional dim sum lunch and later, experience an incredible performance as the Shanghai acrobatic troupe performs their gravity defying routines! (B,L)
Thu, May 31: Fly home from Shanghai, arriving the same day. (B)
Century Legend River Cruise Ship
Five-star-rated luxury ship. Highlights: spacious Uniworld Signature Suites with private balconies and river views • bathrooms with tubs • individual controlled A/C • in-room mini bars • satellite TV • Complimentary WiFi in Executive Lounge • two restaurants • two bars • complimentary coffee, tea and snack in reception area 24 hours/day • complimentary cocktail reception before dinner • complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks served during dinners • movie theater • fitness center • spa with massage services • indoor pool • game room • reading room • cultural classes • boutique • elevator.
Five-star international hotel located in the commercial Chaoyang District. This world-class oasis provides the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of Beijing. Highlights: spacious guestrooms • luxurious marble bathrooms with separate bathtubs and rainshowers • in-room microwave and mini-refrigerator • complimentary high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi • complimentary coffee, tea and water • three restaurants • three bar/lounges • room service • fitness center • indoor pool • saunas • spa • boutique.
Shangri-La Xi’an, Xi’an
Luxury five-star accommodations located in the Gao Xin Hi financial and shopping district. Highlights: contemporary guestrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows • complimentary high-speed Internet and Wifi in public spaces • in-room mini-bar • three restaurants • bar/lounge • 24-hour room service • fitness center • indoor heated pool • sauna and steam room • spa • boutique • bicycle rental.
Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
A luxurious Art-Deco hotel with modern amenities situated at the famous Bund promenade. Highlights: luxurious guest rooms • WiFi available to purchase • in-room mini-bar • in-room coffee station • three restaurants • two bars/lounges • fitness center • indoor spa with pool