Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more
21-Day Beijing, Xian, Dunhuang, Xining, Dulan, Chaka, Xiahe, Jiuzhaigou and Chengdu Tour

Classic China Culture Tour

21-Day Private China Tour: Beijing– Xi'an– Dunhuang–Xining–Dulan–Chaka–Xiahe–Jiuzhaigou–Chengdu

Immerse yourself in ancient history, explore stunning landscapes, and engage with diverse cultures. Wander through the iconic Forbidden City in Beijing, marvel at the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, and experience the mystical beauty of Dunhuang's desert landscapes. Travel to the high plateau of Xining, visit the serene Dulan County, and witness the mesmerizing Chaka Salt Lake. Explore Tibetan culture in Xiahe, be enchanted by Jiuzhaigou's pristine natural wonders, and savor spicy Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu.

The itinerary below is only one possibility. Tips to tailor-make your trip are offered as inspiration. Send us details of your preferences and our travel experts will customize this trip to suit your interests, tastes, and budget.

Tour 'Wow' Points

Find the Hidden Halls in the Forbidden City

the Forbidden City

Experience the Thrill of Riding a Camel Across the Singing Sand Mountains

Riding a Camel

Make a Mini warrior with a Local Artisan Family

Learn to make a clay warrior

Immerse Yourself in the Awe-inspiring Presence of the Leshan Giant Buddha

Leshan Giant Buddha

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

Itinerary Quick Look

Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.

DAY 1 Beijing Arrival

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

DAY 2 Beijing| The Mutianyu Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall: Uncover the beauty of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, rated as the top choice on TripAdvisor. This picturesque section boasts beautifully restored architecture and offers various child-friendly ways to explore. Located just 1.5 hours from downtown Beijing, we've made it convenient for you with a round-trip cable car ride instead of a 40-minute climb. Your guide will provide insights, and you'll have free time to wander between towers 14 to 23, known as the "golden route." Enjoy a scenic 2-hour hike before descending and returning to our vehicle by bus.

The Forbidden City: Dive into the heart of Beijing at the Forbidden City, once home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. This colossal complex showcases ancient imperial architecture, from grand squares, halls, and gates to intricate gardens and living quarters. Explore important permanent and temporary exhibitions, treasures of ancient China, during a 2-hour, 2-kilometer walk. The walks in the Forbidden City are of moderate difficulty, ensuring an enriching experience for all.

DAY 3 Beijing to Xi'an| The Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven: Step into the mystical Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has enchanted travelers for centuries. Marvel at the stunning architecture and immerse yourself in the ancient rituals that once took place here. Your knowledgeable guide will provide fascinating insights into the temple's history and significance, making this visit a cultural immersion.

Hutong Tour: Dive into the heart of Beijing's history as you wander through the charming Hutongs, narrow alleyways that offer a glimpse into traditional Chinese life. Hop on a rickshaw for an authentic ride through these ancient neighborhoods, meeting locals, and experiencing their way of life. Visit a traditional courtyard home and savor authentic Beijing cuisine, creating lasting memories of your journey.

DAY 4 Xi'an | The Terracotta Warriors and Horses

Terracotta Warriors and Horses: Witness history come to life as you explore the remarkable Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Discovered by accident in 1974, this awe-inspiring army of over 7,000 soldiers, archers, horses, and chariots has stood guard over Emperor Qin's tomb since 210 BC. Each figure is a unique masterpiece, and ongoing restoration and excavation efforts are protected within expansive hangars. Located just 1.5 hours from Xi'an, you'll also have the opportunity to visit an outstanding museum and watch an informative film about the vaults. Don't forget your camera (no flash), and make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes for this incredible journey through time.

Terracotta Figurine-Making: Get hands-on with history as you learn the art of crafting terracotta figurines. You'll have the chance to create your own piece, a perfect memento to take home from your adventure. The figurine-making factory is conveniently located in a shop, but there's no pressure to make a purchase if it doesn't pique your interest.

Ancient City Wall: Experience Xi'an's rich history firsthand by exploring the Ancient City Wall, one of the oldest and most well-preserved city defenses in existence. Dating back to the 13th century and constructed on the foundations of the original Tang Forbidden City, it encircles the city center. You can choose to leisurely walk or, for an additional fee, rent a bike (CNY40 per person) or an electric cart (CNY80 per person) for a 14km circuit. Along the way, enjoy sweeping views of the city on either side, offering a unique perspective on Xi'an's storied past.

DAY 5 Xi'an | The Hanyang Tomb

Hanyang Tomb (Tomb of Emperor Jingdi in Han Dynasty): Delve into history at the Hanyang Tomb, the final resting place of Emperor Jingdi from the Han Dynasty. This archaeological marvel, unveiled in 2001, is renowned for its diverse collection of tombs. The museum features an underground exhibition hall, allowing visitors to witness the results of archaeological excavations within the expansive mausoleum complex of Emperor Liu Qi (188 to 141 BC) of the Han Dynasty. Explore the tombs of the emperor, his wife, officials, dynastic clan members, and commoners. In addition to the underground exhibits, an above-ground museum building showcases fascinating artifacts. For those seeking a hands-on experience, arrangements can even be made to participate in archaeological digs.

Zhaoling Mausoleum: Journey to the Zhaoling Mausoleum, the tomb of Li Shimin, also known as Emperor Tai Zong. Li Shimin (599-649) was not only the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty but its true founder. Located approximately 60 kilometers from Xi'an and 22.5 kilometers northeast of Liquan County seat, this mausoleum stands as a testament to the dynasty's historical significance.

DAY 6Xi'an to Dunhuang | Shaanxi History Museum

Shaanxi History Museum: Delve into the heart of China's captivating history at the Shaanxi History Museum, a must-visit gem for any traveler. As the saying goes, "The history of Shaanxi is the history of China," and this museum truly encapsulates that sentiment. Housed within grand, Tang-style buildings, the museum boasts four expansive galleries that hold an awe-inspiring collection, all impeccably presented.

The best part? Most of the item labels are in English, making it accessible for English-speaking visitors. In cases where you seek more in-depth information, your knowledgeable guide will be by your side to provide assistance. Don't forget to put on your most comfortable walking shoes, as you're in for a captivating journey through time.

Tang West Market Museum: Embark on a voyage back in time to the very origins of the Silk Road at the Tang West Market Museum. This remarkable relic site serves as a living testament to the bustling trade and vibrant culture of a prosperous dynasty. Here, you'll witness the spirit of enterprise that once thrived along this historic trade route.Today you will embark on a fascinating shore excursion to visit the Three Gorges Dam Site. Please note that the golf car fee of CNY10 per person is not included in the tour. After the excursion, transfer to Yichang by bus.

DAY 7 Dunhuang | The Mogao Caves

Camel Ride in the Singing Sand Mountains: Embark on a thrilling camel ride through the mesmerizing Singing Sand Mountains. As you journey across the golden dunes under the vast blue sky, transport yourself to the ancient Silk Road era. Step down from your camel and listen for the mystical "singing" sands.

Crescent Spring Oasis: Located just 4 miles south of Dunhuang, Crescent Spring, or Yueya Quan, is an oasis amidst the desert. It's named for the crescent-shaped lake nestled between colossal sand dunes. Despite the arid surroundings, this enchanting pool remains an enduring oasis.

Mogao Caves: Explore the Mogao Caves with an expert guide, available in English, German, French, and Japanese. While approximately 30 caves are open to the public, your tour typically covers 10 selected ones that offer a comprehensive glimpse into this remarkable treasure trove of art and history.

DAY 8 Dunhuang| The Yumenguan Pass

Yumenguan Pass: Yumenguan Pass, once a key westward gateway during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), stands as a testament to a bygone era, albeit somewhat weathered by shifting sands. Even in its state of partial ruin, it echoes the grandeur that once defined it.

Great Wall of the Han Dynasty: Journey back in time as you encounter the remnants of the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty, constructed to protect against the nomadic Xiongnu. This historical marvel, dating from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., tells tales of ancient strategic defense.

Yadan National Geological Park: Discover the enigmatic "Evil City" within the Yadan National Geological Park, nestled south of Wubao town, 20 kilometers from Wubao, and 100 kilometers from Hami city. This unique site is renowned for its eerie night sounds and captivating rock formations, resembling animals and world-famous landmarks from around the globe.

DAY 9 Dunhuang to Xining | Yulin Grottoes

Yulin Grottoes: Nestled in the scenic embrace of Qilin Mountain, approximately 180 kilometers from the renowned Mogao Caves, you'll discover the captivating Yulin Grottoes. These caves, adorned with mesmerizing murals and sculptures, are named after the lush elms that grace the valley. As you wind your way along the valley road, you'll be transported to a bygone era, where you can envision the lives of poets and valiant soldiers who once roamed this picturesque landscape.

DAY 10 Xining to Dulan | The Dulan Tombs

Dulan Tombs: Nestled in the heart of China's rich historical tapestry, the Dulan Tombs beckon you to unearth the secrets of a bygone era. These ancient burial sites, shrouded in mystery, hold the key to understanding a civilization that thrived centuries ago.

As you explore the Dulan Tombs, you'll find yourself transported back in time, tracing the footsteps of those who once walked this hallowed ground. The intricately designed tomb structures offer a glimpse into the beliefs and customs of a people who left their mark on history.

DAY 11 Dulan to Chaka | The Chaka Lake

Chaka Lake: Welcome to Chaka Lake, where the sky meets the salt. Its name, "Chaka," means "salt lake" in Tibetan, and it lives up to the name. This pristine lake, set against a breathtaking backdrop of mountains and azure skies, reflects the heavens.

Chaka Lake isn't just picturesque; it's also a functioning salt mine, producing tons of edible salt each year. A mini train offers a convenient 30-minute ride around the lake, where you can even step onto the salted surface (consider foot gloves for comfort).

DAY 12 Chaka to Xining | The Qinghai Lake

Explore Qinghai Lake - A Natural Wonder: Qinghai Lake stands as an enchanting jewel of China, boasting the title of the country's largest inland and saline lake. Its serene azure skies, crystal-clear waters, fluffy white clouds, lush green grasslands, and vast expanses of vibrant yellow rape flowers annually beckon hordes of tourists. To reach the lakeside, you have the option of taking a scenic cable car ride from the Ticket Office of the Scenic Spot. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the beauty by cycling along the shores or embarking on a leisurely lakeside hike. If you're here in June or July, don't miss the Qinghai Lake International Road Cycling Race, where you might just catch a glimpse of the cyclists' lightning-fast skills.

Discover Ta'er Lamasery - A Sacred Sanctuary:The Ta'er Monastery, steeped in over 150 years of history, holds a revered place in China's cultural heritage. It stands as one of Qinghai Province's most cherished and state-level protected cultural relics. Within its hallowed halls, you'll find a treasure trove of cultural artifacts, including various Buddhist instruments, statues of Buddha in diverse postures, profound sutras, and inscriptions in languages such as Zang and Man, as well as Mongolian. This sprawling complex boasts 9,300 rooms and 52 halls, each designed with Tibetan architectural flair. The harmonious blend of palace buildings, Buddhist halls, living quarters, and courtyards creates an awe-inspiring ambiance. While visiting, take advantage of the convenient cable car service to enhance your exploration of this magnificent site.

DAY 13 Xining | The Tibetan Medical and Cultural Museum

Discover the Tibetan Medical and Cultural Museum - A Window into Tibetan Heritage: The Tibetan Medical and Cultural Museum invites you to explore the essence of Tibetan traditions with its captivating exhibits. Featuring over 2,000 Tibetan animal, botanical, and mineral specimens, 80 informative hanging charts, and 180 traditional Tibetan surgical instruments, it's a cultural journey like no other. Dive into the world of Tibetan medicine with a vast collection of over 1,000 Tibetan medical books.

A must-see highlight is the China Tibetan Cultural and Art Colored Drawing, a Guinness World Records holder. Stretching 618 meters long and 2.5 meters wide, this masterpiece was created by over 400 Tibetan, Mongolian, Han, and Tu artists using traditional techniques, including gold powder, jade, and coral paints.

DAY 14 Xining to Tongren | Longwu Monastery

Explore Longwu Monastery - A Spiritual Oasis: Longwu Monastery, situated in the heart of Amdo, stands as a prominent sanctuary with 800 devoted lamas. Belonging to the Gelukpa (Yellow Hat) sect, this monastery is renowned as a hub for Tibetan Thangka painting. Established in 1301, it proudly holds the title of being the largest Gelukpa temple across the Qingnan Area, sprawling across an expansive 100-hectare landscape. Discover the spiritual serenity and artistic richness that Longwu Monastery offers on your journey.

Experience Ganjia Grassland: Escape the city hustle and bustle as you venture 34 kilometers northwest of Xiahe County to the enchanting Ganjia Grassland. Here, you'll immerse yourself in the authentic and time-honored culture of semi-nomadic Tibetans. The expansive vistas of grazing yaks and sheep on the vast grasslands create a breathtaking panorama that offers a true departure from urban life. Ganjia Grassland is your gateway to a serene and immersive experience, where the tranquility of nature reigns supreme.

DAY 15 Tongren to Xiahe | Labrang Monastery

Discover Labrang Monastery - A Spiritual Marvel: Labrang Monastery, one of the six pivotal monasteries within the Gelukpa (Yellow Hat) Sect, stands as a testament to grandeur, deep history, and a multitude of devoted monks. This sacred site once held both political and religious significance for Tibetans, and today it proudly claims its status as the largest Tibetan Buddhist religious center outside Tibet Province in China. Moreover, it functions as an esteemed educational institution, housing one of the world's six great academies of Lamaism. While here, don't miss the world's longest prayer wheel corridor—an astonishing structure that takes a full two hours to complete a single rotation.

Experience Sangke Grassland - Nature's Majestic Tapestry: Situated just 10 kilometers from Xiahe City in Gansu Province, Sangke Grassland beckons with its breathtaking beauty. Nestled at an average elevation of 3,000 meters above sea level, this grassland is a cherished gem within the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Marvel at its expansive pastures and witness the splendor of spectacular Buddhist ceremonies. The Sangke flower, which lends its name to the grassland, stretches across the horizon like a vast, colorful carpet. As you take in the scenery, you'll encounter numerous sheep, horses, cattle, and tents scattered across this pristine landscape.

Embrace Tibetan Culture with a Home Visit: Venture just a short distance from Ganjia Grassland, approximately 6 kilometers away, to discover Bajiao Town. Encircled by ancient walls dating back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD), this town boasts a unique historical significance. "Bajiao," which translates to "eight corners," derives its name from the town's eight-walled design—a departure from the typical four-walled configuration seen in ancient Chinese cities. Today, Bajiao is inhabited by a community of semi-nomadic Tibetans who call it home during the winter months. Climb the long stairway to the town's summit and enjoy a panoramic view that offers a fascinating glimpse into this historic cross-shaped town.

DAY 16 Xiahe to Jiuzhaigou | Ruoergai Grassland

Ruoergai Grassland: Imagine stepping onto a boundless, emerald carpet that stretches as far as the eye can see under the clear blue sky. This is the enchanting Ruoergai Grassland, a hidden gem awaiting your exploration in China. As you journey along the well-paved highway, it feels like you're on a magical path leading to the very edge of the heavens.

Amidst this picturesque landscape, you'll encounter charming Tibetan villages and graceful yaks, breathing life and authenticity into the canvas of the grassland. Get ready to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Ruoergai, where nature's grandeur meets the rich culture of Tibet.

DAY 17 Jiuzhaigou | Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve

Explore the Enchanting Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve: Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve is a natural marvel that promises to captivate your senses. Located within its vast 72,000-hectare expanse are cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear blue lakes, lush green forests, diverse wildlife, and majestic snow-capped mountains. The elevation ranges dramatically from 2,000 to 4,500 meters (6,600 to 14,800 feet), ensuring a landscape of unparalleled beauty.

Discover Shuzheng Valley - The Heart of Jiuzhaigou: Shuzheng Valley is often regarded as the essence of Jiuzhaigou, serving as the gateway to its breathtaking beauty. Spanning 13.8 kilometers, Shuzheng Valley is home to over 40 enchanting lakes, making up 40% of Jiuzhaigou's total. These lakes, such as Reed Lake, Penjing Lake, Sparking Lake, Sleeping Dragon Lake, and Tiger Lake, glisten in the sunlight, creating dream-like reflections.

Explore Rize Valley - A Kaleidoscope of Colors: Rize Valley is hailed as the crown jewel of Jiuzhaigou's tour routes, boasting multi-hued lakes, towering waterfalls, hidden beaches, and untouched forests. The journey starts at the awe-inspiring Nuorilang Waterfall, leading you along an 18-kilometer trail through a mesmerizing landscape. Along the way, you'll encounter Mirror Lake, Pearl Lake, Peacock Lake, Five-Flower Lake, Panda Lake, Panda Waterfall, Bamboo Arrow Lake, and the Virgin Forest—each crafted with nature's magical touch.

Embrace the Beauty of Zechawa Valley: Zechawa Valley, spanning 18 kilometers from Nuorilang to Chang Lake, takes you on the highest-altitude route within Jiuzhaigou. Here, seasonal lakes and snow-capped peaks paint a picture of unparalleled elegance. Don't miss the exquisite Five-Color Pond, renowned for its vibrant and distinct hues.

DAY 18 Jiuzhaigou to Chengdu | Golden Dragon's Realm

Discover the Golden Dragon's Realm at Huanglong: Nestled on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Huanglong beckons from the Songpan County in Sichuan Province. Just 300 kilometers from Chengdu and sharing its splendor with Jiuzhaigou Valley, this area is an exquisite blend of natural wonders. Its name, "Huanglong" or "Golden Dragon" in Chinese, aptly describes its stunning appearance.

Explore Huanglong's 1,340 square kilometers, featuring colorful ponds, pristine beaches, snow-capped peaks, and ancient temples. The valley itself, at 7,000 meters long and 300 meters wide, boasts over 3,400 natural ponds, each a masterpiece with golden walls and crystal-clear waters. Don't miss the vibrant Huanglong Temple Fair held annually from July 12th to 15th.

DAY 19 Chengdu to Leshan | Leshan Giant Buddha

Explore the Magnificent Leshan Giant Buddha: The awe-inspiring Leshan Giant Buddha stands proudly to the east of Leshan City in Sichuan Province, nestled on the slopes of Lingyun Mountain, where the mighty Min River, Qingyi River, and Dadu River converge. This colossal statue is the world's largest stone-carved seated Buddha, a true marvel of ancient craftsmanship.

Cruise for a Breathtaking View of the Leshan Giant Buddha: For an unforgettable experience, embark on a relaxing cruise that offers a panoramic view of the majestic Leshan Giant Buddha. Sit back and soak in the scenery as you glide along the tranquil waters, gazing in wonder at this magnificent stone masterpiece.

DAY 20 Chengdu | Sichuan Provincial Museum

Discover Sichuan's Rich History at the Sichuan Provincial Museum: Explore the captivating history and culture of southwestern China at the Sichuan Provincial Museum, the largest museum in this region. With a vast collection spanning from ancient prehistory to modern times, this museum houses over 160,000 remarkable artifacts, with over 200 classified as national treasures. Marvel at exquisite jade, ceramics, bronze weapons, porcelain, seals, and stoneware. Don't miss the intriguing display of revolutionary relics from the Red Army. Among the museum's highlights is a 5,000-year-old Neolithic stone-carved face found in Wushan County. Admire Chinese frescos, mosaics from Han Dynasty tombs, and bronze swords from the Warring States Period.

Immerse Yourself in the Art of Shu Brocade and Embroidery at the Chengdu Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum: Step into the world of Shu brocade and embroidery at the Chengdu Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum, the exclusive place in China where you can witness the intricate hand-weaving processes and delve into the history and culture of Shu brocade and embroidery. With an expansive area of over 3,000 square meters, the museum showcases a stunning collection of over a thousand pieces of brocade and embroidery from various dynasties, along with various looms. Here, you can truly appreciate the timeless beauty of Shu brocade and embroidery.

Savor Local Flavors at Jinli Old Street (Includes a Snack Tasting Experience): Wander through the enchanting Jinli Old Street, an assemblage of traditional architectural wonders in western Sichuan. Stroll along narrow alleys, admire pavilions, courtyards, and picturesque stone bridges. When you reach the Snack Street, prepare your taste buds for an adventure. Indulge in authentic local snacks that are renowned throughout China. Try delights like bean jelly in chili sauce, sweet potato noodles, and Sichuan-style wontons. For the adventurous palate, don't miss the opportunity to savor rabbit head in chili sauce. It's a culinary journey you won't forget!

DAY 21 Chengdu Departure

Our guide will help you transfer from your hotel to Chengdu Airport for departure with independentcar/van and guide.

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Tour Price

FromUS6,300 p/p Based on a private tour for 2 people. Price varies depending on program, travel date, number of people and chosen hotel

Price includes:

  • Private air-conditioned business car with big windows and ample space
  • English speaking local guide
  • Activities, hotels, and meals listed in the itinerary
  • 24/7 helpline for while you are traveling

Tour code: cht-cx-54

Your 1:1 travel consultant will reply within 1 working day.

Number in your group

What's your hotel choice?

I prefer to be contacted via:

china highlights' wechat code
Quickly inquire about this tour via our WeChat: chinahighlightstour
Popular tours
Make the most of your time
Choose the best time to visit
Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

The China Highlights Experience

1-to-1 Expert Planning

1-to-1 Expert Planning

Your tour will be tailor-made by your personal travel advisor — a destination expert. Every reply will be within 24 hours.

Personal Journeys

Personal Journeys

Enjoy your personal local guide and ride. Explore destinations at your own pace. Have unparalleled flexibility, which is impossible on a group tour.

Authentic Experiences

Authentic Experiences

Discover the hidden gems. Experience local culture by practicing it. Try new and exciting activities, and unveil the stories behind the sights and people.

Well-Selected Local Guides

Well-Selected Local Guides

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and attentive — your personal local guides will share interesting stories, insider information, and even create unexpected highlights!

China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
China Highlights International Travel Service Co., LTD
Corporate Number: 914503003486045699
Featured on