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China rail explorer

14 days

Beijing - Xi'an - Luoyang - Dengfeng - Taiyuan - Pingyao - Datong - Beijing

Pingyao old town Bullet trains

Guaranteed departure dates with minimum of 2 passengers

This tour itinerary makes the most of China's growing network of high-speed trains to explore some of the highlights of central China, including the well-preserved town of Pingyao and the UNESCO heritage sites of the Longmen Grottoes and the Yungang Caves, both masterpieces of Chinese art.

Day 1  Depart London Heathrow or regional airports.

Day 2  Arrive Beijing. Transfer to Holiday Inn Dongzhimen Hotel. Rest of the day free.

Day 3  Start the day with a visit to Tiananmen Square, followed by the Forbidden City - the complex of buildings in the heart of Beijing that was the centre of power for China's rulers for over 400 years. Explore both the grand halls and some of the smaller rooms and courtyards that housed the imperial family. Then visit the imposing Temple of Heaven where emperors prayed for good harvests. Also visit a shop selling freshwater pearls. (B, L)

Day 4  Full day excursion to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, about 1.5 hours drive north of Beijing. The wall here is not so busy at some other sections and is very scenic as its winds its way down the mountainside. Includes cable car up to the wall. Walk along part of the wall and explore the many fascinating aspects of this iconic symbol of China's past. En route to the wall pass the 2008 Olympic stadium, known as the 'Bird's Nest' and the 'Water Cube' - the national aquatic centre. Also visit a workshop carving items from jade, a stone of special significance to the Chinese. (B, L)

Day 5  Transfer to railway station for high-speed bullet train to Xi'an (about 5.5 hour journey). Met on arrival and transfer to 4-star Somerset Xindichang Xi'an Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 6  Full day excursion, travelling firstly to the Terracotta Army, created by China's first emperor over 2,000 years ago to guard his tomb for eternity. Return to Xi'an city to see the Grand Mosque and the atmospheric streets of the surrounding Muslim Quarter, originally settled by Arab and Persian traders over 1,000 years ago. Also visit a workshop creating replica warriors using traditional techniques. (B, L)

Day 7  Visit Xi'an's impressive medieval city wall, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, and the rich archaeological collections of the Shaanxi Historical Museum before transfer to railway station for high-speed 'bullet' train to Luoyang , capital for many earlier dynasties (about 2-hour journey). Transfer to 5-star Christian's Hotel or similar. (B, L)

Day 8  Excursion to the Longmen Grottoes, where numerous caves are filled with Buddhist statues and imagery - one of the masterpieces of Chinese art. Then visit the world famous Shaolin Temple, centre for martial arts. Overnight stay at 4-star International Hotel or similar in the nearby town of Dengfeng. (B, L)

Day 9  Transfer to Zhengzhou railway station for high-speed train to Taiyuan (about 3-hour journey). Visit the Jinci Temple in Taiyuan before travelling by road to the small town of Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage site. En route stop at the noted for its statuary, and Qiao family mansion, once the home of a wealthy merchant family and used in Zhang Yimou's film Raise the Red Lantern. On arrival at Pingyao stay at one of the guesthouses created from original houses inside the walls and furnished in antique style such as the Dejuyuan Inn or Changyifeng Inn. (B)

Day 10  Explore Pingyao, whose massive and complete town walls encompass a maze of narrow streets lined with Qing dynasty shops and houses. Visit China's first bank, and the Yamen, the office of the city magistrate. (B, L)

Day 11  Transfer to railway station for the train to Datong. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to 4-star Datong Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 12  Visit to the grandiose Yungang Caves just outside Datong, a series of Buddhist grottoes carved from a cliff around AD 400 and one of the treasures of Chinese art and sculpture, before travelling on to the dramatic Hanging Temple of Hengshan, perched halfway up on the side of a sheer cliff and one of the highlights of your trip. Return to Datong. (B, L)

Day 13  Transfer to railway station for high-speed bullet train to Beijing (about 6-hour journey). Met on arrival and transfer to hotel. (B)

Day 14  Transfer to airport for flight back to UK arriving later the same day (B)


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