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Panda and Yangtze cruise

16 days

Shanghai - Yichang - Yangtze River cruise - Chongqing - Chengdu - Xi'an - Beijing

Chengdu giant pandas Qutang Gorge - Three Gorges

A tour combining the highlights of any tour to China, with a chance to see the country's famous giant pandas in Chengdu and take a leisurely cruise on the Yangtze River through the imposing Three Gorges. Optional extension to Hong Kong.

A tour based on top city 4- and 5-star hotels and 5-star Yangtze cruise boat. All cabins on the boat have private balconies. Guaranteed departure dates with minimum of 2 passengers.

Price includes cost of single entry group visa (minimum 2 persons) - a saving of up to £320 for a family of four

Day 1  Depart London Heathrow or regional airports.

Day 2  Arrive Shanghai. Met on arrival by your driver and transfer to 4- or 5-star hotel.

Day 3  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 4  Excursion to the "water town" of Zhujiajiao, now on the outskirts of Shanghai. Here traditional wooden buildings line canals crossed by elegant stone bridges. Explore the old houses and gardens. Return to Shanghai and rest of the day free. (B, L)

Day 5  Transfer to airport for flight to the central city of Yichang. On arrival, transfer to join your 5-star deluxe Yangtze River cruise boat from American Victoria Cruises for departure later that evening (B, L)

Day 6 to 8  Yangtze River cruise upstream through the dramatic Three Gorges, including shore excursions to the Three Gorges dam, the wooden pagoda of Shibaozhai and trip in small boats through the smaller gorges of the Goddess Stream, one of the Yangtze's tributaries. (B, L, D)

Day 9  Arrive Chongqing in the morning. Transfer to railway station for high-speed train to Chengdu. transfer on arrival to 4-star Yinhe Dynasty Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 10  Day free to explore Chengdu yourself, perhaps visiting the People's Park, old streets or one of the many temples. Alternatively you can browse Chengdu's shops in the bustling city centre. (B)

Day 11  In the morning visit the Panda Reseach Centre on the outskirts of Chengdu which houses many giant pandas and which runs a famous breeding programme. After lunch transfer to railway station for high-speed train to Xi'an (about 4 hour journey). Met on arrival and transfer to 4-star Somerset Xindicheng Xi'an Hotel or Grand Dynasty Culture Hotel (B, L).

Day 12  Day excursion with your own English-speaking guide and driver to the life-size warriors of the world-famous Terracotta Army in the morning, created in the 3rd century BC to guard the tomb of China's first emperor. Also visit Xi'an's Grand Mosque and the streets of the Muslim Quarter. Lunch included. (B, L)

Day 13  Transfer to railway station for high-speed train to Beijing (about 5 hour journey). Met on arrival and transfer to the Holiday Inn Express Dongzhimen, popular with westerners, or similar. Rest of the day free.

Day 14  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 15  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 16  Transfer to airport for exit, arriving back in the UK later the same day.

EXTENSION TO HONG KONG - £375 per person

Day 16  Transfer by your driver to airport for flight to Hong Kong and shuttle bus transfer to Eaton Hotel (4 star) in Kowloon. (B)

Day 17  Big Bus deluxe 24-hour ticket: Access to the Big Bus double decker tour bus service, allowing you to hop on and hop off at will around Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and explore exciting Hong Kong for yourself. Includes the Victoria Peak tram and Star Ferry. (B)

Day 18  Shuttle bus transfer to airport for flight back to UK, arriving later the same day or early the following morning depending on airline schedules. (B)


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