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Tibet and panda

16 days

Beijing - Xi'an - Lhasa - Chengdu - Shanghai

A trip that combines the highlights of Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and the Tibetan city of Lhasa with the loveable giant pandas at Chengdu.

Potala Palace, Lhasa Pandas at Chengdu

Day 1  Depart London Heathrow or regional airports.

Day 2  Arrive Beijing. Met on arrival and transfer to the Holiday Inn Express Dongzhimen, popular with westerners, or similar. 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  Visit to the beautiful gardens and pavilions of the Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing, where emperors relaxed away from the summer heat of the capital, before transfer to railway station for high-speed 'bullet train' to Xi'an, capital of China for many centuries. Transfer to the 4-star Somerset Xindicheng Xi'an Hotel or similar. (B, L)

Day 6  Full day excursion 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  In the morning 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 airport for flight to Lhasa, in Tibet. Transfer to 4-star Gang Gyan Hotel, or similar. (B, L)

Day 8  Visit to the famous Potala Palace, the centre of power of Tibet's former Dalai Lama rulers. Also visit the Jokhang Temple, Tibetan Buddhism's most sacred shrine, and the surrounding streets of Barkhor Square thronged with pilgrims and visitors. (B, L)

Day 9  Excursion to two of the greatest monasteries on the outskirts of Lhasa: Sera and Drepung. Then visit the Norbulinka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas. (B, L)

Day 10  Transfer to airport for flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Transfer to the 4-star Yinhe Dynasty Hotel or similar. (B, L)

Day 11  Day free to explore the city of Chengdu. Why not visit the People's Park or the old streets. Alternatively browse the upmarket shops of the bustling city centre. (B)

Day 12  Morning visit to the Panda Research Centre on the outskirts of Chengdu which houses many of these endearing animals. Then transfer to airport for flight to Shanghai. Met on arrival and transfer to 4- or 5-star hotel. (B)

Day 13  Full day city sightseeing tour of Shanghai, to include the Yu Garden - a traditional house and garden in old China town district; the famous Bund or waterfront with its European-style former banks and trading houses; and the Shanghai Museum with its rich collection of art and antiques. Then take a boat trip on the Huangpu River that flows through Shanghai, giving you the best view of the city's modern striking skyline. (B, L)

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


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