The Best of China

12 Days Beijing  – Xi'an  – Guilin/Yangshuo/Longji  – Shanghai Luxury Private Tour

If you are looking for classic destinations and would like to experience the best of China while enjoying a measure of luxury, then this tour is for you. Expert guides deepen your understanding of historical sites at the Forbidden City and the Bund; you meet Terracotta Warriors both at distance and just one meter away; and enjoy Guilin's dramatic, pinnacle-dotted landscapes.

This tailor-made luxury journey not only includes featured accommodation and fine dining, but also offers many insiders’ insights and thoughtful service. Choosing which operator you travel with makes a big difference.

You deserve a pleasant vacation, to have a sweet time with family or friends. Take the hassle out of your trip. We’ll set you up with the following unique experiences in China.

Map of Beijing-Xian-Guilin-Shanghai
  • Why Luxury
  • Suggested Itinerary
Exclusive Experiences
  • Skip the lines and, via your guide’s ipad, meet emperors and concubines at the Forbidden City

Avoid crowds in the Forbidden City

  • Enjoy special access to a place where you can stand just a meter away from a few real Terracotta Warriors, without glass in between

Exclusive experience

  • Relax on a luxury boat on the Li River and be enchanted by rejuvenating treatments at the Banyan Tree Spa

The Banyan Tree spa

  • Avoid crowds and enter historic colonial buildings on the Bund, with the guidance of an expert

Old buildings on the Bund

Featured Hotels

Hotel éclat Beijing (deluxe room)

  • Listed among the small luxury hotels of the world (slh.com)
  • Traveler’s choice 2016 winner on tripadvisor
  • Philosophy: art of luxury = luxury of art
  • Offers free afternoon tea, free mini bar and welcome drink

Hotel éclat Beijing

Wyndham Grand Xian South (executive room)

  • Ranked the no. 1 hotel in Xi’an on tripadvisor in 2016
  • The newest luxury hotel in Shaanxi’s capital
  • Thoughtful and private butler service
  • Offers check-in and -out service on an executive floor, free internet access, afternoon happy hour, free fruit and drinks

Wyndham Grand Xian South

Shangri-La Hotel Guilin (Horizon River View room)

  • Ranked the no. 2 hotel in Guilin on tripadvisor in 2016
  • Located amidst mountain & river vistas, full of enchantment
  • Fascinating and distinct Chinese-style architecture
  • Offers deluxe lounge benefits: quick check-in and -out, all-day refreshments, afternoon tea, fruit everyday

Shangri-La Hotel Guilin

Banyan Tree Yangshuo (Pagoda Lake suite)

  • A picture-perfect backdrop of true natural beauty
  • Liberate your senses in countryside fresh air
  • Certificate of excellence winner in 2016
  • Offers free one-hour bamboo rafting from the hotel deck, outdoor sun-down ritual (weather-permitting) and free mini bar

Banyan Tree Yangshuo

Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai (Club River View room)

  • Ranked the no. 1 hotel in Shanghai on tripadvisor in 2016
  • Perfect combination of style, comfort and world-class service
  • Surrounded by the gleaming skyscrapers of the modern city
  • Offers club lounge benefits: personalized butler service, all-day refreshments, afternoon tea, evening cocktails

Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai

Fine Dining

Dadong Roast Duck (Beijing)

  • A high-end establishment emphasizing healthy and scientific eating
  • Features duck with “crispy skin, less fat, less oil and less sugar”
  • The boss, Dadong, is the only chef we know of in China with an MBA

Dadong Roasted duck

Baijiadayuan Restaurant (Beijing)

  • Located in an imperial garden of the Qing Dynasty, over 300 years old
  • Exquisite dishes and tableware give the full flavor of imperial cuisine
  • World celebrities’ choice in Beijing

Baijiadayuan Restaurant

Defachang Dumpling Restaurant (Xi’an)

  • Founded in1936, this has a high reputation at home and abroad
  • Dumplings with hundreds of shapes, different stuffing and diverse flavors
  • Feast to eyes and ears, with dumplings’ diverse appearance and related stories

Defachang Dumpling Restaurant

Restaurant at Longji Near Guilin

  • Majestic mountains and unique rice terraces as background
  • Organic and fresh food from nearby villages
  • Great support to the income of local minority people

Restaurant at Longji

Lost Heaven Restaurant (Shanghai)

  • Recognized as a “landmark restaurant”, offering more than just food
  • Yunnan folk cuisine inspired by artistic and cultural traditions of minority people
  • Persists in creating, renovating, and reviving precious cultural heritage

Lost Heaven Restaurant

Guides and Drivers

Professional Guides

  • Carefully-selected guides equipped to serve your needs
  • Nice personalities and good communication ability 
  • Rich in experience, having served with China Highlights for at least three years 

Professional guide Jessica

Reliable Drivers

  • Always on time, friendly and ready to help
  • Dependable driving skills, to ensure you are in safe hands
  • Limited use of the horn

Reliable driver

Well-Selected Transportation
  • Buick GL8 in each city

GL8

  • Free Wi-Fi in vans

Free Wi-Fi in vans

  • Business cabin on high-speed train

Business cabin on high-speed train

  • Flights with Air China

Air China Flights

Highlights
  • Skip long queue and guide’s ipad helps you discovering the Forbidden City in a different way
  • Admire a less-crowded part of the Great Wall and have lunch at a mountain top restaurant with the view of World Wonder
  • Meet the Terracotta Warriors both in distance and stand just one meter away
  • Experience minority people’s life at the incredible Longji Terraced Fields
  • Enchanted by rejuvenating treatments at Banyan Tree Spa after several days travelling
  • Avoid crowds and enter the colonial historical buildings with an expert at the Bund
Suggested Itinerary
Day 1 Arrive in Beijing

Hotel: Hotel éclat Beijing(deluxe room) (Travelers’ choice 2016 winner on tripadvisor)

After your flight lands in Beijing, you will be met by an English-speaking guide and transferred by private van to your luxury downtown art-deco hotel. Your guide and driver will help you with luggage and hotel check-in, and ensure your arrival in Beijing is worry-free.

Free Time for Exploration

The rest of the day is free for you to be on your own. You may need some time to relax and recover from the long-distance flight and possibly from jet-lag. If you feel like going for a walk and checking out places nearby, feel free to ask your guide for recommendations for good dining or good places to see.

Day 2 Discover Imperial History and Taste Dadong Roast Duck

Hotel: Hotel éclat Beijing(deluxe room)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch & dinner

After a sound sleep, start finding a morning rhythm at the Temple of Heaven, the place where emperors went to worship heaven and to pray for good harvests. Nowadays the Temple has become the choice place for local people to do their morning exercises to musical accompaniment. A visit there helps one gain a feeling for the pace of life of Beijing’s citizens.

From the Temple, move on to the heart of Beijing Tian’anmen Square. Tian’anmen has great cultural significance, having been the site of several key events in Chinese history. Next, visit the mysterious Forbidden City, the world’s largest imperial palace. It’s said to have 9,999½ forbidden imperial chambers, and was home to 24 emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties (from 1420 to 1911 AD). Skip the long queues at the entrance. Your guide will lead you to the most popular and the less-crowded parts of the palace, explaining the history with the help of an ipad, which stores photos and portraits of emperors and concubines. Visit their houses, examine their appearance and listen to their stories. Everything becomes vivid. It feels as though the palace is inhabited once again.

Enjoy a welcome dinner at Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant, a high-end establishment emphasizing healthy and scientific eating, and featuring duck which has “crispy skin, less fat, less oil and less sugar”.

The Forbidden City The Forbidden City
Day 3 Visit the Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall

Hotel: Hotel éclat Beijing(deluxe room)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch

The whole day is reserved for you to explore this world wonder at your own pace, without any hurry. A guide and driver will meet you at the hotel lobby. This less-crowded Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is about a 2.5 hours' drive from downtown Beijing.

A cable-car takes you to a good starting point (avoiding a steep climb), from where you can walk along the wall and through watch towers, enjoying superb views as the wall snakes across hills and mountains. You can either return by cable car, or walk down, or walk along the wall for about an hour and then descend by chairlift or toboggan.

Have lunch at a mountain-top restaurant with a view of the Great Wall in the distance.

The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall
Day 4 Visit the Summer Palace and hutongs in Beijing – Flight to Xi'an

Hotel: Wyndham Grand Xian South (executive room) (Ranked the no. 1 hotel in Xi’an on tripadvisor in 2016)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch

Enjoy visiting the classic highlights of Beijing – the Summer Palace and the hutongs (i.e. alleys formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences).

First have a pleasant stroll around the luxury gardens of the former royal family. Different kinds of pavilions and long corridors give you the full flavor of China. Later, hop on a rickshaw and ride through a maze of hutongs to discover old Beijing neighborhoods. Visit a hutong family and explore a hidden courtyard house. Meet local residents and have a nice chat with them.

Baijiadayuan Restaurant, located in an imperial garden from the Qing Dynasty over 300 years old, serves exquisite imperial dishes. Enjoy the food and the garden without tourists.

In the afternoon, get on board the high-speed train to Xi’an. The journey takes about six hours. You’ll have the best business-cabin seats, with nice views outside, giving you a fresh experience of China’s recent high-tech revolution. Your Xi’an guide will be waiting for you at arrivals, and transfer you to your hotel for check-in.

The Summer Palace and Hutongs The Summer Palace and Hutongs
Day 5 Meet the Terracotta Warriors, Just One Meter Away

Hotel: Wyndham Grand Xian South (executive room)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch

This day reserves enough time for you to discover the soul of Xi’an: the Terracotta Warriors and horses. In the morning, uncover the mystery of the underground army which originated thousands of years ago, at the Terracotta Warriors Museum and site. People are surprised by the magnificent man-made life-sized statues. Stand there and engage in silent conversation with these soldiers. After the visit, we will have lunch at a local restaurant.

Though you inspect the museum contents at a respectful distance, we are also able to lead you to a place where you can stand just a meter away from a few real Terracotta Warriors, without glass or crowds. Let’s go there and discover some archeological marvels.

The Terracotta Warriors The Terracotta Warriors
Day 6 See Other Highlights of Xi'an and Fly to Guilin

Hotel: Shangri La Hotel Guilin (Horizon River View room) (Ranked the no. 2 hotel in Guilin on tripadvisor in 2016)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch

Wake up to a good breakfast at the hotel; then visit the elegant Big Goose Pagoda, which has survived more than a millennia of war and earthquakes. Proceed tothe ancient City Wall that has been guarding the inner city for 600 years. Walking along the wall provides a good view of the city. You can alternatively rent a bike to cycle around.

Take some time to walk around the Muslim Quarter,which exists as a result of former Silk Road cultural exchange. Wander through the alleyways to explore and taste local Muslim cuisine, like Pita Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup, or Jiasan Steamed Soup Dumplings.

Transfer to the airport for your late afternoon flight to Guilin. Check-in at the Shangri-La Hotel near the Li River.

Good to Know

China Highlights gives a helping hand to local charities and has built a good relationship with the Xi’an Hui Ling Service Station for Intellectual Disabilities, an NGO near the Muslim Quarter. If you would like to know more about NGOs in China, we are happy to arrange a visit there, to see the NGO’s handicraft workshop and have some interaction with the people there.

The Big Goose Pagoda The Big Goose Pagoda
Day 7 View the Longji Terraced Fields and Discover Minority Culture

Hotel: Shangri La Hotel Guilin (Horizon River View room)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch

Wake up to birds singing in the morning, with your guide and driver ready to escort you to the Longji Terraced Fields. Built into the hillsides, the terraces are especially beautiful when the sun reflects on the water of the paddy fields, or when the harvest is ripe and the fields glow with yellow ears. Longji (‘the Dragon's Back’) is always a feast for the eyes.

The Yao minority have lived in wooden houses near the fields for generations. Yao women have long black hair, but they never use shampoo; they have their own mysterious method for keeping their hair clean and shining, which works even for women who are over 50.

It takes about 2½ hours to drive from Guilin to Ping’an Village in Longji. After the day tour, you will return to your hotel in Guilin.

Longji Terraced Fields Longji Terraced Fields
Day 8Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo and Relax at the Banyan Tree Spa

Hotel: Banyan Tree Yangshuo (Pagoda Lake suite) (Certificate of excellence winner in 2016)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch

Board a luxury boat and enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the Li River as you cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, in about four hours. Get your camera ready and record the unforgettable scenery and moments. You’ll reach Yangshuo wharf near the bustling West Street at about 13:30.

It takes about half-an-hour to drive to your Banyan Tree hotel near Fuli Ancient Town. Peaceful and picturesque countryside views jump into view. Relax and be enchanted by rejuvenating treatments at Banyan Tree Spa. Allow energy to flow through your whole body.

Good to Know

Impression Liu Sanjie is a quality outdoor performance highly recommended for your evening. Put together by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, the show is set on the Li River, with karst peaks as a backdrop, and features magnificent folk music and dance. It might not be performed if weather conditions are not amenable; ask your guide to check availability on the day.

The Li River Cruise The Li River Cruise
Day 9Take Time Out in Yangshuo and Fly to Shanghai

Hotel: Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai(Club River View room) (Ranked the no. 1 hotel in Shanghai on tripadvisor in 2016)

Meal provided: breakfast

This morning is reserved for you as free time. Have a lie-in, then enjoy the soft caress of water in the hotel swimming pool, or reserve a free one-hour bamboo rafting expedition at the hotel front desk. If you prefer more active things, biking, cooking and rock climbing are also available.

In the afternoon, your guide and driver will escort you to Guilin airport for your flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival, meet your Shanghai guide at the arrivals hall, and transfer to your nice hotel, with a river view.

Day 10 Explore the Metropolis of East and West, Enjoy a Farewell Dinner at Lost Heaven

Hotel: Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai(Club River View room)

Meals provided: breakfast & lunch & dinner

China’s most prosperous city oozes vibes of both tradition and modernity. Travel with our expert guide to the Bund in a unique way: not only walk the standard tour route but also avoid the crowds and enter the historic colonial buildings. Take a break with a cup of coffee from inside an old building with its special architecture. Your guide’s descriptions will transport you back to the past.  

Later observe the typical Shanghainese life at Shikumen and visit South China’s classical landscape garden at Yuyuan Garden. Savor the flavor of modern, traditional and historic Shanghai.

We prepare a farewell dinner for you at the stylish Lost Heaven Yunnan Cuisine Restaurant, surrounded by the gleaming skyscrapers of the modern city. It is a perfect combination of style, comfort and world-class service.

Good to Know

There are many evening shows in Shanghai. The most highly recommended ones involve acrobatics, some of the best in China. Ask your tour guide to help you obtain tickets. This is optional.

The Colonial Historical Building and Yuyuan Garden The Colonial Historical Building and Yuyuan Garden
Day 11 Hang Out in Shanghai

Hotel: Mandarin Oriental Pudong Shanghai(Club River View room)

Meal provided: breakfast

Enjoy a full free day in Shanghai. You can choose either to relax at your comfortable hotel or to go out for souvenir shopping. If you would like to see more on this day, please feel free to ask your travel advisor to customize a day tour to a water town, or a visit to Suzhou or Hangzhou.

Day 12 Leave from Shanghai

Meal provided: breakfast

You’ve experienced the best of China in 12 days. As your trip comes to end, your tour guide, driver and car will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to Shanghai Pudong International Airport for your flight home. Your guide will assist you with flight check-in and luggage, and see you off at the security check-point.

Day 12 Leave from Shanghai

Meal provided: breakfast

You’ve experienced the best of China in 12 days. As your trip comes to end, your tour guide, driver and car will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to Shanghai Pudong International Airport for your flight home. Your guide will assist you with flight check-in and luggage, and see you off at the security check-point.

What's Included
  • Entrance to attractions listed in the itinerary
  • Meals mentioned in the itinerary
  • Private transfers between the airport or railway station, hotels, and attractions
  • Private local English-speaking tour guide and driver service (excluding tips at your own discretion)
  • Hotel accommodation with breakfast and service fee
  • Specified flights, trains, and cruise
Trip Notes

Extension based on the tour

Extend the tour:

  • Yangtze River Cruise: add 4–5 days (Chongqing to Yichang or vice versa)
  • Chengdu: add 2–3 days — visit a Panda Research Center, the Giant Buddha, and Mt. Emei
  • Suzhou and Hangzhou: add 2–4 days — visit scenic gardens, West Lake, and water towns
  • Hong Kong: add 2–3 days — visit Victoria Peak, Disneyland, and day-tour Macau

Shorten the tour:

If you have only one week, and it is your first time to China, we suggest leaving Shanghai or Guilin for another time. Shanghai is suited to lovers of modernity, and is easily connected with your international flight; while Guilin is a good choice for scenery lovers, and Guangzhou or Hong Kong offer international flights, just one hour's flight away.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong are China's major entry cities.

Optional Activities

It must be clearly understood that enjoying these extras would be at your own discretion. They are not included in the itinerary or tour price, so you would need to pay separately. The ticket price depends on seating. Ask your guide to book tickets if you want to see any of the following.

  • Beijing — Legend of Kungfu Show
  • Xi’an — Tang Dynasty Cultural Show
  • Xi'an — Tang Dynasty Cultural Show plus Dumpling Banquet
  • Yangshuo — Impression Third Sister Liu Night Show on the Li River (outdoor)
  • Shanghai — Chinese Acrobats Show

Upgrading This Luxury Tour

This private luxury tour can be tailor-made according your needs. If you would like to upgrade it, there are several options: airport VIP lounge service in each city, business seats on airplanes, Audi 6A private transport in each city, upgrade your hotel rooms to suites…

Useful Information for Traveling in China

What’s the difference between 3, 4, and 5 -star hotels?
We usually arrange centrally-located and Western-standard hotels. Five-star hotels are usually palatial with huge lobbies and comfortable rooms, their standards not quite matching the best of Paris or New York, but very close. Four-star hotels have quality facilities, but are not as luxurious as five-star hotels. Three-star hotels meet the needs of most Westerners, but breakfasts have less choice.

We also recommend some courtyard hotels or Chinese-style hotels with local features and architecture. These hotels have a good ranking, or positive feedback from our customers, and TripAdvisor.

Usually hotels in big cities, small cities, and rural areas are a bit different, even if they have the same star level. We try to use the best available hotel in each place.

What are train conditions like in China?
A soft sleeper is recommended for overnight and long-distance travel. Each soft sleeper compartment is enclosed, and contains four bunks, two on each side. The bunks are wider and more comfortable than hard sleepers, with decent bedding. Soft sleeper compartments may vary between trains. You may have both over-head storage and under-bed storage, or just under-bed storage.

For short distance train travel, G and D high-speed trains are recommended. G trains are the fastest trains in China, with a speed of 250 km/h to 400 km/h, and their prices are highest.

Currency Exchange

As currency exchange rates in China fluctuate, we suggest you refer to the following website for daily exchange rates: www.xe.com. In 2015 the yuan (NCY or RMB) has been around 6.2 USD (6.1–6.3 USD), and the HKD (Hong Kong Dollar) has been more stable around 7.75 USD (7.74–7.77 USD). There are many ATM machines that accept both Visa and Master card, but these are limited to cities. We also recommend the use of cash and travelers checks in USD currency. Major credit cards are accepted in most shops, but they may charge a 2–4% transaction fee.

Tipping

It is customary to tip service providers in the travel industry in Asia, depending on the service. Tipping is expected — though not compulsory — and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Recommendations for tipping drivers (3 USD per person per day as a guideline) and local guides (8 USD per person per day as a guideline) would depend on the quality and length of the service.

Food

Eating is an important part of your China experience. Generally breakfasts are included in the itinerary and offered by hotels. China Highlights recommends local Chinese restaurants that are popular with local people for lunch. You can order dishes with the help of your guide. We usually leave dinner for your own choice — Western food can be found in most large cities.

If you are vegetarian or you are looking for e.g. halal food, please feel free to inform your travel advisor, who can arrange a restaurant to fit your needs.

Vehicles

We use comfortable sedans or vans with air-conditioning. The comfort and safety of our customers is of utmost importance, so we ensure that all of the vehicles we use are well maintained and always very clean. Our drivers take pride in their vehicles.

Responsible Tourism:

Environment

We encourage our staff to reduce the use of paper, and fax machines and copying machines. Instead of using printed paper, we send documents by Wechat or QQ. We send orders and bills to local suppliers by our online system, which saves lots of paper.

CH usually uses cars or vans with low exhaust emissions. Our light vehicles damage the village roads less. We understand that it is hard work for villagers to build/maintain their roads.

We do not recommend customers use disposable chopsticks and disposable bathroom supplies.

Community

We make use of local suppliers and services. These include locally owned and family run accommodation, local drivers, locally produced and prepared food. This ensures that the local economy is supported. We also only employ local guides. We do visit local community projects and remote schools where our contributions are greatly appreciated.

Our guides teach customers some short phrases in the local language, translate, and suggest customers show their photos to local people, particularly if they take photos together. They also remind customers not to step into rice fields to protect crops, especially when they are taking photos.

We have had an excellent long-term relationship with our guides and suppliers and this helps to stabilize their income generation and so helps to create a more sustainable future.