A Close Encounter with Pandas

12 Days Beijing – Xi’an – Chengdu – Chongqing – Yichang – Shanghai Private Tour

When you mention traveling to China, what pops into your mind? The history, heritage sites, landscape, culture, and giant pandas? This 12-day private tour includes all of these elements.

Enjoy all the classic wonders in Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai; relax on board the Yangtze River cruise; treat yourself to the highlight of the tour — the one-day Panda Keeper Program at Dujiangyan Panda Base in Chengdu. Have a close encounter with the rare species rather than just taking a glance in a zoo. If you are a Kung Fu Panda fans, we are able to arrange a half-day tour to Mount Qingcheng, Po’s hometown to discover the essence of Taoism.

Visit China for the experience of a lifetime. You can visit the same destinations in three different traveling styles. Which one fits your needs?

Map of Beijing-Xian-Chengdu-Yangtze-Shanghai
  • Comfort Trip
  • Discovery Trip
  • Essential Trip
Highlights for Comfort Trip
  • One-day Panda Keeper Program at Dujiangyan Panda Base in Chengdu — the sweet memory of a lifetime
  • Relax on the luxury Yangtze River cruise and see different scenery every day
  • Be amazed at a less-crowded part of the Great Wall by combining effort-saving cable car rides with moderate hiking
  • Listen to stories about the Forbidden City and the Chinese royal family
  • Discover the charm of the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, a World Heritage Site
  • Explore the modern and traditional Shanghai lifestyle
Suggested Itinerary for Comfort Trip
Day 1 China’s First Impression: Beijing

Hotel: Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall (Superior Room) (TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2015)

Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrivals hall. A comfortable private car (non-smoking) with an experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you to check-in.

Day 2Beijing: The Three Great Sights of Beijing

Hotel: Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Experiences on the day include the classic, epic sites of Beijing. The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors and to the imperial palace where treasures are housed and history has occurred; the grand Tian’anmen Square is the largest city square in the world and has been witness to many major historical events; and, after spending half a day walking around those two sites, you will get on a rickshaw to the hutongs to discover the traditional local lifestyle.

The Forbidden City The Forbidden City
Day 3 Beijing: The Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven

Hotel: Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Freshen up in the morning and start the day at the Temple of Heaven, which was the place for where the emperor prayed for good weather and a good harvest. Interact with the locals and join in with different morning exercise groups to experience their healthy lifestyle.

Then continue to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, a less-crowded section of the Great Wall good for leisurely walks, passing through watchtowers and presenting a superb view as the wall snakes across hills and mountains. The autumn colors are especially good for photography, as is the winter snow.

The Mutianyu Great Wall The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall
Day 4 Traditional Architecture and Contemporary Art, and Flight to Xi'an

Hotel: Wyndham Grand Xi’an South (Superior Room) (TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2015)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Compare traditional and contemporary art by visiting the Summer Palace and the 798 Art District in one day.

Walk around the tranquil Summer Palace at a leisurely pace, and enjoy the royal garden that was designed almost 300 years ago. Take a pleasant boat ride on the lake and have a stroll in the long corridors to view the exquisite paintings on the ceilings. Immerse yourself in traditional Chinese architecture.

As a new landmark of urban culture, the 798 Art District presents contemporary art trends in China. Linger around exhibition halls displaying different styles or have a cup of coffee at the shop with its artistic ambience.

In the evening, you will be driven to the airport and fly to Xi'an.

Good to Know:
There is a postal system called the ‘798 Art and Travel Post’, which displays a panda logo. It operates on a concept completely opposite to that of express post. Customers can send postcards there that will be delivered at some specified time in the future. Send a card to yourself now and get it in 10 years’ time.

The Summer Palace The Summer Palace
Day 5 Xi'an: Terracotta Warriors and Horses, and Flight to Chengdu

Hotel: Chengdu Minyoun Royal Hotel (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

This day includes all the highlights of Xi’an. The Terracotta Warriors and Horses, with each figure being unique, have guarded Emperor Qin's tomb since 210 BC. Have a silent conversation with these figures that are 2,200 years old. The arranged lunch will let you experience traditional Hunan and Sichuan cuisine.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a simple, elegant brick pagoda built in the 7th century, stands in the grounds of the attractive Da Ci'en Temple.

If you are interested in Chinese history and would like to explore more historic sites, you are suggested to spend one more day in Xi'an to discover the Ancient City Wall, Shaanxi History Museum, and the Muslim Quarter.

In the evening, you will be taken to the airport by your guide for the flight to Chengdu.

Terracotta Warriors The Terracotta Warriors
Day 6 Chengdu Highlight: One-Day Panda Keeper Program

Hotel: Chengdu Minyoun Royal Hotel (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Dujiangyan Panda Base is now the only base in China to offer the Panda Keeper Program and the opportunity to cuddle a panda for photos (though this comes at an extra charge). It takes about1½ hours by car to get there from the hotel. This unique one-day tour will invest your time in having a close encounter with the lovely giant pandas.

Under the guidance of English-speaking staff, you will clean the panda enclosures, feed the pandas from a very short distance, watch panda movies, and make cakes for the treasured creatures. Have a Chinese lunch with staff in their canteen.

This one-day close encounter with pandas makes for the memory of a lifetime. 

Good to Know:
China Highlights will help you obtain the health certificate that the base requires and, after the volunteer program, you will receive a certificate from the CCRCGP (China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Pandas). To guarantee the safety of volunteers, pandas are kept in their ‘superior room’ with air-conditioning rather than in the wild. Enjoy the close and personal panda touch.

If you are a Kung Fu Panda fan, Mount Qingcheng, about 40 minutes’ drive from Dujiangyan CCRCGP, is recommended as an optional add-on. Mount Qingcheng, an important Taoist holy site, was chosen as the setting for Kung Fu Panda 3. See the inspirational backdrop of this top panda movie, and discover the essence of Taoism. Usually volunteer programs finish at about 3:00 pm (and can become repetitive in the afternoon). So for this panda-related option, it is suggested you finish your volunteer work early, at lunch, and visit Mount Qingcheng in the afternoon. This involves a lot of walking, so please prepare well for the visit.

Panda Keeper Program Panda Keeper Program
Day 7 Half-Day Tour in Chengdu and HSR to Chongqing

On Board: Century Legend (Deluxe Cabin)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Chengdu is a paradise of pandas; you will find lots of things related to the panda-theme. During the day, you will continue to enjoy the cute panda world.

Panda Post in Chengdu is the only postal service in the world with the giant panda as its theme. You can buy many things featuring the giant panda, from stamps, postcards, albums, and envelopes to toys and souvenirs and can post the lovely postcards to anywhere in the world.

Created by the internationally renowned artist Lawrence Argent, a gigantic panda sculpture weighs 13 tons and is 15 meters tall. Climbing on the wall of the Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS) on Chunxi Road, this massive panda has become a trendy landmark of Chengdu. 

In the afternoon, your guide and driver will transfer you to the railway station to catch the HSR (high-speed rail) to Chongqing. Your guide in Chongqing will meet you at the exit and take you to the cruise dock, helping you to check-in at the luxury New Century Legend Ship that departs at 9:00pm.

Panda post office
Day 8Yangtze River Cruise: Shibaozhai

On Board: Century Legend (Deluxe Cabin)
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Enjoy the scenery of riverbanks passing by during the leisurely morning. In the afternoon, a short visit to Shibaozhai — a magnificent red pavilion providing a walkway to the top of a solitary hill — allows for spectacular views of the area. An optional tour to Fengdu Ghost City awaits those who are interested in mystical matters.

A welcome banquet and party ends the day, while you glide along the glistening river.

The Shibaozhai The Shibaozhai
Day 9Yangtze River: Gorges and Shennong Stream

On Board: Century Legend (Deluxe Cabin)
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Qutang and Wu Gorge, two of the magnificent three gorges, , are passed through this morning, so be ready with a camera. The wonder of engineering, the vast ship locks, and the majesty of nature present themselves to you as you sit back and relax.

The afternoon is dedicated to visiting Shennong Stream, which has rushing waterfalls and an ancient plank path leading to suspended coffins in a cliff. You also have the option of visiting White Emperor City.

In the evening, the ship’s crew will present a performance for your entertainment.

wu gorge The Wu Gorge of Yangtze River
Day 10 The Three Gorges Dam and Flight to Shanghai

Hotel: Radisson Blu Hotel Shanghai New World (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

The Three Gorges Dam is the highlight of the day, and a visit to the top of the dam gives you some great photo opportunities. Seeing is believing, and you will learn more about the world’s biggest hydroelectric project. After arriving in Yichang, you will be taken to the airport for a transfer flight to Shanghai. Your guide in Shanghai will escort you back to your hotel for a good rest.

Good to Know:
In winter, usually from December to March, the water level of the Yangtze River is quite low, so the sailing schedule is unstable. In these months you are recommended to change the Yangtze River cruise to a trip to Guilin and Yangshuo, which are famous for their unique scenery, and have lots of interesting activities to keep your children entertained.

The Three Gorges Dam The Three Gorges Dam
Day 11 Shanghai Highlights

Hotel: Radisson Blu Hotel Shanghai New World (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

The Shanghai World Financial Center observation deck, which use to be the tallest in the world at 474m above ground level, starts your day with the best views of the city.

The Jade Buddha Temple and Yuyuan Garden provide a taste of traditional Chinese garden architecture, while Yuyuan Market is a 'heaven' for tasting Shanghai’s snacks.

The Bund The Bund
Day 12 Shanghai Departure

Your private car, driver, and guide will transport you to the airport and take you all the way to the security gate for your convenience. Relax all the way to the airplane with us.

  • Just let us know your travel style!
  • Guide vs. Free-time ratio / Hotel Style & Interests / Dates / People
  • We will then adapt this tour and create a unique quote based on your individual needs.
Highlights for Discovery Trip
  • Fall in love with cute pandas and experience the one-day Panda Keeper Program at Dujiangyan, Chengdu
  • Discover the Great Wall with a professional hiking guide who spends 200 days on the Wall per year
  • Be amazed by the exquisite architecture at the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven
  • Gaze at the 2,200-year-old Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an
  • Admire the majestic three gorges and the world’s largest power station
  • Savor the flavor of the oriental and occidental in Shanghai
Suggested Itinerary for Discovery Trip

The ‘discovery style’ of this tour includes all the highlights from the 'comfort style' tour, along with more energetic activities, such as hiking the Great Wall from Jinshanling West to Simatai, and a half-day biking trip through the old part of Shanghai. To discover dynamic China from a different angle, this 12-day tour gives you the opportunity to try something special.  

Day 1 Beijing Arrival

Hotel: Beijing Sihe Courtyard Hotel (Deluxe Room)

After the long journey by airplane, you will arrive in Beijing to see the smiling face of your guide, who will meet you in the arrival hall. When you are ready, you will be transferred to your hotel.

Day 2 Hiking on the Great Wall

Hotel: Beijing Sihe Courtyard Hotel (Deluxe Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

As a World Heritage Site, the Great Wall is a must-see attraction. A one-day hike from the Simatai West section to the Jinshanling section offers breathtaking views of the great fortification. It is said to be the most beautiful and photogenic part of the Great Wall. Your professional hiking guide, who spends about 200 days a year on the Wall, will share local knowledge with you and tell you some stories. A three-hour hiking trip is suitable for most of our customers.

You will have a Chinese lunch at a local farmer’s restaurant to experience the authentic lifestyle of the people there.

Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall The Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall
Day 3 Experience the Imperial Life and the Ordinary Life

Hotel: Beijing Sihe Courtyard Hotel (Deluxe Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

You will start the day’s trip from the world’s biggest square — Tian’anmen — that has witnessed lots of historical events. Then move on to discover the Forbidden City, which plays an important role in China, as the Louvre Museum does in France. The 600-year-old building complex, said to have 9,999½ forbidden imperial chambers, was once home to 24 emperors. Learn China’s history and come close to imperial life.

lunch is a mixture of East and West: French cuisine in traditional Chinese surroundings.

About four kilometers from the Forbidden City, ordinary people’s daily lives take place in the hutongs. The hutongs are a maze of historic alleyways with old single story traditional courtyard houses, and are only to be seen in Beijing. Get on a rickshaw to explore the hidden treasures behind these lanes and courtyards. Visiting a local family and having a nice chat with the host will impress you.  

the forbidden city The Forbidden City
Day 4 Famous Beijing Attractions and Night Train to Xi'an

Hotel: Overnight Train (Soft Sleeper) Beijing to Xi’an
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

A trip to Beijing is not complete without visiting the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. Get up early in the morning and join in with the locals as they do their exercises, or watch people practice martial arts and play traditional instruments at the Temple of Heaven. Hundreds of years ago, it was a holy place for the emperors to worship heaven; now it has become a leisure place for the local people. It is an impressive display of architecture and intricate carvings.

The Forbidden City was a solemn place, while the Summer Palace was a place for the emperors to relax in summer. At the Palace, feast your eyes on the long-corridor pavilions, with their exquisite ceiling-paintings and different shapes.

Catch a night train to Xi’an and experience a soft sleeper. It is recommended that you take some snacks and bottled water. Boiled water is offered on the train for making tea or coffee.

The Temple of Heaven The Temple of Heaven
Day 5 Xi'an — The Terracotta Warriors and Flight to Chengdu

Hotel: Tianfu Sunshine Hotel Chengdu (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Arrive in Xi’an at approximately 8:30am. Your guide and driver will meet you at the railway station and transfer you to your hotel to have breakfast and freshen up. Then move on to see the highlights of Xi’an. Head to the Terracotta Warriors and see the figures that are 2,200 years old. This World Wonder was discovered in 1974 by two farmers. 

Drive back to Xi’an City and visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a major Buddhist site. The simple, elegant brick pagoda stands in the grounds of the attractive Da Ci'en Temple. The pagoda was built in the 7th century to house the Buddhist materials that Xuanzang (Tripitaka) brought back from his epic journey to India.

Take a flight to Chengdu in the late afternoon or evening. Prepare to discover the hometown of the giant pandas.

The Terracotta Army The Terracotta Army
Day 6 One-Day Panda Keeper Program at Dujiangyan

Hotel: Tianfu Sunshine Hotel Chengdu (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

This is the highlight of the tour — a close encounter with pandas. Dujiangyan Panda Base is now the only base in China to offer the Panda Keeper Program and the opportunity to cuddle a panda for photos (at an extra price). It takes about1½ hours to get there by car from the hotel. This unique one-day tour will invest your time in having a close encounter with the lovely giant pandas.

Under the guidance of English-speaking staff, you will clean the panda enclosures, feed the pandas from a very short distance, watch panda movies, and make cakes for the treasured creatures. Share a Chinese lunch with staff in their canteen.

This one-day close encounter with pandas makes for the memory of a lifetime. 

Good to Know:
China Highlights will help you get the health certificate that the base requires and, after the volunteer program, you will receive a certificate from the CCRCGP (China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Pandas). To guarantee the safety of volunteers, pandas are kept in their ‘superior room’ with air-conditioning rather than in the wild. Enjoy the close and personal panda touch.

big goose pagoda Making Panda Food
Day 7 More Panda Elements in Chengdu and the HSR to Chongqing

On Board: President 8 (Deluxe Cabin with Balcony)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Chengdu is a paradise of pandas; you will find lots of things related to the panda-theme. During the day, you will continue to enjoy the cute panda world.

Panda Post in Chengdu is the only postal service in the world with the giant panda as its theme, You can buy many things featuring the giant panda, from stamps, postcards, albums, and envelopes to toys and souvenirs and you can post the lovely postcards to anywhere in the world.

Created by the internationally renowned artist Lawrence Argent, a gigantic panda sculpture weighs 13 tons and is 15 meters tall. Climbing on the wall of the Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS) on Chunxi Road, this massive panda has become a trendy landmark of Chengdu. 

In the afternoon, your guide and driver will transfer you to the railway station to catch the HSR (high-speed rail) to Chongqing. Your guide in Chongqing will meet you at the exit and take you to the cruise dock, helping you to check-in at the President 8 ship that departs at 9pm.

panda climbing The Gigantic Panda Sculpture
Day 8 Yangtze River Cruise: Shibaozhai

On Board: President 8 (Deluxe Cabin with Balcony)
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

President 8 is a new cruise ship on the Yangtze River, which had its maiden voyage in April 2013. It is a large cruise ship with a length of 146.8 meters. During the day, you will have a land excursion to Shibaozhai — a magnificent red pavilion providing a walkway to the top of a solitary hill — that has spectacular views of the surrounding area. An optional tour to Fengdu Ghost City awaits those who are interested in mystical matters.

A welcome banquet and party ends the day, while you glide along the glistening river.

Qutang Gorge Qutang Gorge
Day 9 Yangtze River Cruise: Gorges and Shennong Stream

On Board: President 8 (Deluxe Cabin with Balcony)
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Wake up in the morning and stretch your body on the spacious deck. The ship will pass the Qutang and Wu gorges and arrive at Shennong Stream in the afternoon. Go on an excursion to the valley by taking a trip in a small boat, and enjoy the scenery and the folk songs of the boatman. An excursion to the White Emperor City is optional.

The Shennong StreamThe Shennong Stream
Day 10 The Three Gorges Dam and Flight to Shanghai

Hotel: The Bund Hotel Shanghai
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

The Three Gorges Dam is the highlight of the day, and a visit to the top of the dam gives you some great photo opportunities. Seeing is believing, and you will learn more about the world’s biggest hydroelectric project. After arriving in Yichang, you will be taken to the airport for a transfer flight to Shanghai. Your guide in Shanghai will escort you back to your hotel for a good rest.

Good to Know:
From December to March, the water level of the Yangtze River is quite low, so the sailing schedule is unstable. In these months, you are recommended to change the Yangtze River cruise to a trip to Guilin and Yangshuo, which are famous for their unique scenery, with lots of interesting activities to keep your children entertained.

The Three Gorges Dam The Three Gorges Dam
Day 11 Half-Day Biking in the Old Part of Shanghai

Hotel: The Bund Hotel Shanghai
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Shanghai is an international city with convenient facilities. You will have free time to visit the scenic spots on your own, and you will see a different side to Shanghai on a guided bike tour.

Your guide will collect you from your hotel by taxi for the cycling tour. It will take you tothe old alleyways in Shanghai to gaze at the traditional lifestyle of the modern city. You will pass Shanghai Old Streetlocated in the Yuyuan Commercial Area. After renovation, the street has been restored to its original state. Lattice windows, long door planks, and pivoted doors display late Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) architectural features to tourists.

Shanghai Shanghai Street
Day 12 Shanghai Departure

Meal provided: breakfast

This is the last day of the tour. Have a pleasant buffet breakfast and recall sweet memories from the tour. Your guide and driver will take you to the airport on time. We'll welcome you back to discover more of China at any time.

  • Just let us know your travel style!
  • Guide vs. Free-time ratio / Hotel Style and Interests / Dates / People
  • We will then adapt this tour and create a unique quote based on your individual needs.
Free Quote
Highlights for Essential Trip
  • Treat yourself to the one-day Panda Keeper Program in Dujiangyan, Chengdu
  • Explore the World Heritage Sites at the Forbidden City and the Great Wall at Mutianyu in one day
  • Enjoy a day tour of Xi'an's iconic Terracotta Warriors and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  • Relax on the Yangtze River cruise and join in with the excursions
  • Have a worry-free pick-up service in each city, and free time for you to explore by yourself
Suggested Itinerary for Essential Trip

The ‘Essential Style’ tour gives more free time to customers who prefer an independent tour and enjoy seeking out their own adventures. You will not miss any of the highlights in any of the cities, and will have the necessary transportation and accommodation. The ‘no shopping’ policy of China Highlights ensures you will have more time to spend at the attractions.

Day 1 Beijing Arrival

Hotel: Beijing Traditional View Hotel (Standard Room)

When your flight arrives at Beijing airport, your driver and guide will be waiting to greet you at the arrival hall. They will help you with your luggage and transfer you to your hotel by private car. After check-in, your guide will help to ensure everything is in order with your hotel room.

The rest of the day is all yours to relax and explore. Feel free to ask for insider ideas and recommendations from your travel advisor or the hotel staff.

Day 2 One-Day Highlights of Beijing

Hotel: Beijing Traditional View Hotel (Standard Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

This is a small-group tour with a maximum of six people and you will see all of the highlights in one day. Your guide will contact you one day before departure and pick you up from the hotel lobby. Tickets have already been booked online so there is no need to waste time queueing in line and waste time. After skipping the queue at the amazing Forbidden City (Imperial Palace Museum), you will walk across Tian’anmen Square with your guide in the morning.

In the afternoon, your guide and driver will escort you to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, where you will avoid the morning crowds of tourists and enjoy two hours of hiking on the Great Wall with a round-trip cable car. Then you will be driven back to your hotel.

The Mutianyu Great Wall The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall
Day 3 A Full Free Day to Explore in Beijing

Hotel: Overnight Train (Soft Sleeper) Beijing to Xi’an 
Meal provided: breakfast

This day is for you to explore more historical sites or places of leisure in Beijing. Beijing’s public transportation system is very well developed, so you can take the subway or a taxi to reach the attractions.

If you like history, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Lama Temple are recommended; if you prefer somewhere to relax, then Sanlitun, Houhai, and Nanluoguxiang are the best places.

Take the night train to Xi’an and experience a soft sleeper in China.

The Temple of Heaven The Temple of Heaven for your free time choice
Day 4 See the Iconic Terracotta Warriors

Hotel: Grand New World Hotel Xi’an (Standard Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Arrive in Xi’an at about 8:30am. Your guide and driver will collect you at the railway station and take you to your hotel for breakfast.

After approximately 50 minutes’ drive, your guide will help you to unveil the mysterious World Wonder of the Terracotta Warriors. Have a silent conversation with these 2,200-year-old figures.

Drive back to the downtown area to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. If you have free time at night, the Muslim Quarter is recommended for savoring some local snacks.

The Terracotta Army The Terracotta Army
Day 5 Free Day in Xi’an (Fly to Chengdu)

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Chengdu Wuhou (Standard Room)
Meal provided: breakfast

As the cradle of ancient Chinese culture, Xi’an has accumulated lots of historical sites and antiques. This free day is for you to visit the Shaanxi Museum, cycle on the ancient city wall, and learn Chinese literature and calligraphy at the Forest of Stele Museum.

Take a flight to Chengdu in the late afternoon or at night. After 50 minutes, the airplane will land in the hometown of pandas.

Day 6 Close Encounter with Pandas: One-Day Panda Keeper Program

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Chengdu Wuhou (Standard Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

On this day you will have the highlight of the tour — a close encounter with pandas. Dujiangyan Panda Base is now the only base in China to offer the Panda Keeper Program and the opportunity to cuddle a panda for photos. It takes about1½ hours to get there by car from the hotel. This unique one-day tour will invest your time in having a close experience with the lovely giant pandas.

Under the guidance of the English-speaking staff, you will clean the panda enclosures, feed the pandas from a very short distance, watch panda movies, and make cakes for the treasured creatures. Share a Chinese lunch with staff in their canteen.

This one-day close encounter with pandas makes for the memory of a lifetime. 

Good to Know:
China Highlights will help you obtain the health certificate that the base requires and, after the volunteer program, you will receive a certificate from the CCRCGP (China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Pandas). To guarantee the safety of volunteers, pandas are kept in their ‘superior room’ with air-conditioning rather than in the wild. Enjoy the close and personal panda touch.

Panda Keeper Program Panda Keeper Program
Day 7 Half-Day Tour in Chengdu and the HSR to Chongqing

Accommodation: President 6 (Deluxe Cabin)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Chengdu is famous for its spicy cuisine as well as for the pandas. You will find lots of things related to the panda theme. During the day, you will continue to enjoy the cute panda world.

Panda Post in Chengdu is the only postal service in the world with the giant panda as its theme. You can buy many things featuring the giant panda, from stamps, postcards, albums, and envelopes to toys and souvenirs and you can post the lovely postcards to anywhere in the world.

Created by the internationally renowned artist Lawrence Argent, a gigantic panda sculpture weighs 13 tons and is 15 meters tall. Climbing on the wall of the Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS) on Chunxi Road, this massive panda has become a trendy landmark of Chengdu. 

In the afternoon, your guide and driver will transfer you to the railway station to catch the HSR (high-speed rail) to Chongqing. Your guide in Chongqing will meet you at the exit and take you to the cruise dock, helping you to check-in at the President 6 ship that departs at 9pm.

Chaotianmen The Chaotianmen Pier
Day 8 Yangtze River Cruise: Shibaozhai

Accommodation: President 6 (Deluxe Cabin)
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The President 6 admirably incorporates a deluxe, classical European style with modern comforts. It once had the highest passenger capacity of all cruise ships on the Yangtze River, accommodating 374 passengers in 187 cabins.

During the day, you will have a land excursion to Shibaozhai — a magnificent red pavilion providing a walkway to the top of a solitary hill — that provides spectacular views of the surrounding area. An optional tour to Fengdu Ghost City awaits those who are interested in mystical matters.

A welcome banquet and party ends the day, while you glide along the glistening river.

Day 9 Yangtze River Cruise: Gorges and Shennong Stream

Accommodation: President 6 (Deluxe Cabin)
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The ship passes Qutang Gorge and Wu Gorge, which are said to be the best of the three gorges, especially in autumn when the trees have red leaves. Have an excursion to Shennong Valley by taking a trip in a small boat, and enjoy the scenery and folk songs of the boatman. An excursion to the White Emperor City is an optional tour.

Yangtze cruise Yangtze Cruise
Day 10 Three Gorges Dam and Flight to Shanghai

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Shanghai Zhabei (Superior Room)
Meals provided: breakfast and lunch

Costing 500 billion yuan (about 80 billion USD), the Three Gorges Dam is the world’s biggest hydraulic power project. Take a bird’s-eye view of the dam and take some time for photos.

You will then be taken to the airport for a transfer flight to Shanghai. Your guide in Shanghai will escort you back to your hotel for a good rest.

Good to Know:

From December to March, the water level of the Yangtze River is quite low, so the sailing schedule is unstable. In these months, you are recommended to change the Yangtze River cruise to a trip to Guilin and Yangshuo, which are famous for their unique scenery.

The Three Gorges Dam The Three Gorges Dam
Day 11 Shanghai Free Day

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Shanghai Zhabei (Superior Room)
Meal provided: breakfast

The convenient and efficient public transport in Shanghai will get you to attractions that you don’t want to miss, such as the Bund, the Jade Buddha Temple, and Yuyuan Garden. You can have a bird’s-eye view of the city at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and, if you like history, you can visit the Shanghai History Museum on the lower floors of the tower.

The Bund The Bund
Day 12 Shanghai Departure

Meal provided: breakfast

We hope you have enjoyed the 12-day tour and have sweet memories of the pandas. Say goodbye to Shanghai and catch your international flight home.

  • Just let us know your travel style!
  • Guide vs. Free-time ratio / Hotel Style and Interests / Dates / People
  • We will then adapt this tour and create a unique quote based on your individual needs.
Free Quote
What's Included
  • Entrance to attractions listed in the itinerary
  • Meals mentioned in the itinerary
  • Private transfers between the airport or railway station, attractions, ports, and hotels
  • Private local English-speaking tour guide and driver service (excluding tips which may be given at your own discretion)
  • Hotel accommodation with breakfast and service fee
  • Specified flights, trains, and cruise
Trip Notes

Extensions based on the tour

Extend the tour:

  • Guilin and Yangshuo: add 3–4 days to enjoy the Li River cruise, karst landforms, and countryside scenery
  • Suzhou and Hangzhou: add 2–3 days to visit scenic gardens, West Lake, and the water towns
  • Hong Kong: add 2–3 days to visit Victoria Peak, Disneyland, and a day tour at Macau

Optional Activities

Extras such as those below are not included in the itinerary or tour price, so you will need to pay separately. Ticket prices often depend on the seating arrangements. 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, with or without the Dumpling Banquet
  • Chengdu — Sichuan Opera including face-changing, taking photos with a panda at Dujiangyan Panda Base
  • Yangtze Cruise — Excursion to Fengdu Ghost City and White Emperor City
  • Shanghai — Chinese Acrobats Show

About the Panda Keeper Program

As the first tour company in China to operate the program, China Highlights has developed stable relationships with the Dujiangyan Panda Base. Sometimes the program is subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control. Usually we are able to get first-hand information that is very helpful for your tour arrangement. Your early booking (at least two weeks before departure) helps us to guarantee the availability of the program. Sometimes the activities listed in the description will be adjusted according to the health conditions of the pandas. Your kind understanding and cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Cuddle a Panda and Take Photos

A donation program that allows you to take pictures with a panda next to you for about a minute is not included in the Panda Keeper Program. It is only available in the Dujiangyan Panda Base and the donation expected is around 1,800 yuan per person (as of July 2015). Only 30 tourists are allowed to take close-up photos with the pandas each day.

Please take enough CNY cash with you, as payment by a non-Chinese credit card is not accepted there.

Trivia About Pandas

  • A panda defecates 40 times a day.
  • Pandas walk slowly but they can climb trees that are over 20 meters high. Their running speed is faster than Liu Xiang, the Chinese 110-meter hurdler.
  • The biting force of pandas is next only to that of the polar bear.
  • It costs as much as 100,000 yuan (US$16,260) per month to raise one panda.

Useful Information for Traveling in China

International Flight Recommendation

Hainan Airlines, one of China Highlights strategic cooperators, offers the best-value international flights packages to our customers. Please inquire and get best price.

Why choose Hainan Airlines:

  • Authorized Reputation: Only carrier in China to be awarded the SKYTRAX Five-Star Airline for 6th consecutive year
  • Excellent Reviews: Rated 8/10 on Skytrax. (Air China: 5/10, American Airlines: 3/10, Air Canada: 5/10)
  • Environment Friendly: First China civil airline to receive 3rd-party certification from the Management System for Energy. Reduced 790,000 tons carbon dioxide emission in 2015, equivalent to the amount absorbed by 20 square kilometers of forest a year.

Flight Schedule for Reference (Visit here for more details about international flight booking):

Area Departure City ⇆ Arrival City Days Tour Suggestion
North America Boston (BOS)⇆Beijing (PEK) 1234567 Perfect to fit the schedule of
Top 10 Tours
(Arriving in Beijing, Departing from Shanghai)
Boston (BOS)⇆Shanghai (PVG) 246
Seattle (SEA) ⇆Beijing (PEK) 12467
Seattle (SEA)⇆Shanghai (PVG) 357
Toronto (YYZ)⇆ Beijing (PEK) 124567 Start and end the tour in Beijing?
No problem. We can arrange flight or high-speed rail to connect Shanghai and Beijing
Chicago (CHI)⇆ Beijing (PEK) 2467
Europe Berlin (BER) ⇆ Beijing (PEK) 1357
Manchester (Man) ⇆ Beijing (PEK) 1356
Tel Aviv (TLV)⇆ Beijing (PEK) 247
Asia-Pacific Sydney (SYD)⇆Xian (XIY) 36 Xian and Changsha (close to Zhangjiajie), new rising portal cities of China.
Sydney (SYD)⇆ Changsha (CSX) 15

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 equivalent star levels. 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 speeds 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 2016 the yuan (NCY or RMB) has been around 6.5 USD (6.4–6.6 USD), and the HKD (Hong Kong Dollar) has been more stable around 7.76 USD (7.74–7.81 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 up to you — 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.

Vehicle

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 clean. Our drivers take pride in their vehicles.