Classic China and Panda Tour
18-Day Private China Tour: Chengdu– Beijing– Xi'an–Guilin–Yunnan–Shanghai
Experience the charm of Chengdu's giant pandas, marvel at the ancient wonders of Beijing's Great Wall and Forbidden City, and explore the awe-inspiring Terracotta Warriors in Xian. Traverse the picturesque landscapes of Guilin and cruise along the Li River, before wandering through the mystical old town of Lijiang and basking in the tranquility of Shangri-la. Finally, delve into the vibrant metropolis of Shanghai, where modern skyscrapers coexist with historical landmarks.
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
Immerse Yourself in the Awe-inspiring Presence of the Leshan Giant Buddha
Find the Hidden Halls in the Forbidden City
Explore a Top-Ranked Section of the Great Wall
Make a Mini warrior with a Local Artisan Family
Explore the Awe-inspiring Li River in Guilin
Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family's best-rated service across trusted platforms.
First Trip to China
Ethan has been my tour guide for my four day trip to Beijing. He has been knowledgeable, polite, and most helpful. I was uncomfortable coming to China for the first time without speaking any Chinese at all. Ethan gave the tours, arranged for shows and literally took me to my seats. He also accompanied me to the train station to help figure my was around and help me find the correct train and car. I would definitely use China Highlights again in the future.more
Jan 2024, Megan Sandbothe
Beijing trip with Birthday surprise
Had a great time in Beijing with Bruce. On arrival he surprised me with a cake for my 30th Birthday which was a special touch. We toured the Great wall, Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven as well as a few other items. Bruce was really knowledgeable (especially about the symbolism in the Temple of Heaven). He also coordinated gaining entry quickly and moving between locations efficiently. Highly recommend.more
Jan 2024, Sherpa325441
Making Family Memories in China
Our Beijing guide Mark was fantastic! He is so knowledgeable about the history of each place we visited and he was very helpful in getting us to hotels, train stations, restaurants, excursions, etc. He took away all of the travel-related stress that can come with a big trip and we are so thankful to him and China Highlights! My parents are hard to please and they also have been very happy with the hotels and unique activities.more
Jan 2024, rosequarose
Beijing dicembre 2023
Siamo stati 3 giorni a Beijing e grazie a Franco siamo riusciti a vedere e apprezzare questa magnifica città. Lui è sempre stato disponibilissimo, pronto ad aiutarci per ogni nostra necessità. Essendo difficile trovare persone che parlano Inglese ci ha spiegato anche come farci intendere senza problemi. Sempre molto premuroso, attento e preparato. Ci ha spiegato perfettamente tutte le peculiarità della città e ci ha fatto assaggiare ogni giorno piatti nuovi per apprezzare la cucina cinese.more
Jan 2024, Michele Azzoni
Terry the best!
I had an awesome time in Beijing, Terry is the best not only guided us, it felt like I was being invited for a trip for an old family member, he was so caring for our needs as a big family group, learned our habits, likes and dislikes on the first day and accommodated us. I strongly recommend taking the tour with him, you will not regret itmore
Jan 2024, HugoA@732hugoa
Greatest Asian Experience
China Highlights organized the trip of a life time for my family with teens, from Japan, through Thailand to China. They were flexible and accommodating of our preferences, fast to react when there was a glitch, passionate and knowledgeable of everything we were seeing.All local guides, from Lena in Tokyo, Denis in Kyoto, Tom in Bangkok, Kai in Phuket, Martin in Hong Kong, William in Guilin, Linda in Zhangjiajie, to Jessie in Beijing, did their best to make sure everything went smoothly and to adjust to my teens' additional requests.more
Jan 2024, Gadjanov Dian
Viagem dos sonhos com nosso guia Terry
Servi?o impecável! Me baseei nas avalia??es e n?o me arrependi. Transporte pontual e responsável. Todo o processo de compra muito bem conduzido. Muito bem planejado. Perfeito do início ao fim. Por fim, o mais importante: o nosso guia Terry. Absolutamente perfeito. O tempo todo preocupado com o nosso bem estar. Cuidou de tudo, se preocupou com tudo. Talvez o guia mais atencioso q já vimos em nossas viagens, principalmente cuidando da crian?a pequena que nos acompanhava. ele nos proporcionou uma experiência inesquecível. Quem for comprar, n?o hesite, pois foi um sonho de viagem, gra?as a eles.more
Jan 2024, Mr s@k89Rsmrs
Best of the Best
We visited Beijing with guide Mark, Xi’an with Jenny, Guilin with Frank, and Shanghai with guide Kris. Each guide was so unique but they all had in common a passion for their city and a true kindness. They were early for all of the airport and train station pickups and helped us so much checking into hotels and flights. We tried so many different foods special to each region and appreciated the great recommendations from the guides. The activities we did were a combination of “must-see” sites like the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, Teracotta soldiers, and participating in local arts like shadow puppetry, fan making, and seeing cultural shows.more
Jan 2024, Rose A
Ski trip to Thaiwoo Ski resort & Beijing Tour
Our Beijing Tour guide Terry, who is very experience and able to explain the history of China. We went to forbidden city, Tiananmen and hutong walking area and took us to a very delicious dumpling restaurant. His English is perfect and very kind to kids also.The trip went smoothly and everything was very well organized, good communications. kids had a lot of fun. Highly recommended for China Highlight when travel to China , Terry - Beijing Tour & Ryo at Thaiwoo ski resortmore
Jan 2024, Explorer00356257314
Bejing for 3 days
We spent 3 days in Beijing and our guide, Ethan, was immediately courteous, punctual and full of advice on Chinese customs and habits. When it came to telling us the history of places and monuments, he always gave complete and exhaustive explanations.more
Jan 2024, Matteo Giudici Turati
3 GG a Pechino
Abbiamo visitato con lui e il driver (ottimo anche lui), la città proibita,il tempio del paradiso, piazza tiennamen e la grande muraglia......stra consiglio Ethan come guida.more
Jan 2024, Matgiu
Great experience in cold Beijing
Bruce was excellent in taking us around Beijing. He was very knowledgeable with the history and the details of each attraction. He knew all the ins and outs and didn’t have to queue where everyone had to. He was also patient with us being a bit older and less than fit especially going up the Great Wall. I would highly recommend Bruce to anyone who wants to do a private tour.more
Dec 2023, sgwelly
Ethan was amazing! He showed us all the detailed attraction and gave us all the useful information and also suggest us places to go. He was really supportive and make our trip unforgettable!more
Dec 2023, Alessandra
First private tour with China Highlights.
The tour guides were all knowledgeable and efficient in taking guiding us through many remarkable historical or natural sites.more
Dec 2023, Catherine W
Terry is the best Tour Guide
Our tour guide Terry was absolutely fantastic. His attitude was amazing, he was very patient with us and the best thing he gave us was his wealth of knowledge when it came Chinese History. This knowledge is exactly why we wanted to visit China and through his words we found it very easy to immerse ourselves in the beautiful architecture and scenery we found ourselves in.more
Dec 2023, sajjads@680sajjads
Best tour experience!
We booked a tour with Terry for the forbidden city, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China. Terry went above and beyond in providing us with an amazing experience. He spoke fluent English and educated us on the history of the places we visited and answered every question we could think of. He was extremely helpful and friendly and made an amazing trip even more enjoyable.more
Dec 2023, 598ishamams
4 days in Beijing
Jack was welcoming and warm when we arrived at Beijing airport tired late at night. He was diligent and hardworking taking us around the many historical landmarks in Beijing. Whilst it is cold in winter (and we caught the first snow!), it was very enjoyable visiting Mutianyu because there were no crowds.more
Dec 2023, Catherine Wong
Great places, great food
We visited the Great Wall, The Southern Gong Lane, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. Amazing places. Our guide, Jeffrey was excellent. The driver was also helpful. The selected halal restaurants are so good with lots of delicious meals to choose.more
Dec 2023, Farid S
Had an awesome trip with Helen as our tour guide in Beijing and Tianjin. She is such a warm personality and highly motivated guide (recommendable!). Also appreciate the little Christmas gift that she gave to us.more
Dec 2023, Ang
5-star experience in Beijing
Kitty spoke good English and was very knowledgeable. She provided great insights on the places we visited and went the extra mile to help us with our requests on shopping, massages and even to arrange a last minute acrobat show.Both Kitty and Mr Ho were very accommodating to the changes we made in our itinerary during the trip, and Kitty was very caring - she gave me a scarf as I had forgotten to bring mine, and even bought me medication when I was feeling under the weather.more
Dec 2023, sharon
Itinerary Quick Look
Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.
Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrival hall in Chengdu. A comfortable private car with an experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you to check-in.
Wenshu Monastery: Discover the vibrant serenity of this large Zen Buddhist temple complex. Marvel at the intricately decorated halls that host a captivating array of artworks, statues, and curiosities. Indulge in the palate-pleasing vegetarian dishes at the in-house restaurant, renowned throughout the region. Also, don't miss the teahouses, a lively venue perfect to watch and absorb the bustling congregation of worshippers.
Panda Breeding and Research Center: Located a brief 6-mile journey north of Chengdu City, this is a sanctuary to the adorable giant pandas, the playful red (or lesser) pandas, and other endangered species in need of protection. Walkthrough the serene bamboo groves and shady paths to reach the nursery, where you can witness the fruits of a remarkably successful breeding program. Find the pandas at rest or engaged in playful antics. Don't skip the Panda Museum, an enlightening source of information about these beloved creatures.
Chengdu Kuan-zhai Lane: Translating to 'Wide and Narrow Alley' in English, Kuan-zhai Lane is a preserved part of old Chengdu that has undergone restoration and renovation. It offers a unique opportunity to admire the traditional lifestyle and architectural aesthetics of Chengdu. In a delightful blend of the old and new, you'll find a variety of Western food and drink offerings, takeaway options, coffee shops, and pockets of local art.
40-Minute Cruise for an Overview of Leshan Giant Buddha: Set sail on a memorable journey toward the Leshan Giant Buddha, an awe-inspiring monument located just east of Leshan City, Sichuan Province. Nestled on Lingyun Mountain, at the confluence of the Min, Qingyi, and Dadu Rivers, it holds the prestigious title of being the largest stone-carved seated Buddhist statue in the world. From the comfort of your cruise, enjoy a unique perspective of this magnificent cultural treasure.
Visit to Leshan Giant Buddha: Following your cruise, take time to explore the Leshan Giant Buddha up close. Located to the east of Leshan City, on Lingyun Mountain, this man-made marvel is situated where the Min, Qingyi, and Dadu Rivers converge. This colossal statue, intricately carved entirely from stone into a seated position, remains unrivaled as the largest of its kind in the world.
Cable Car Ride to the Gold Summit: Embark on a thrilling cable car ride that propels you towards the Golden Summit Temple, majestic at an elevation of 10,000 feet. The typical journey to the top (and back) along a path measuring just over three miles would require a full day's walk. The climb offers an extraordinary experience of transitioning through all four seasons. Once at the summit, you'll be rewarded with the sight of the stunning gold, silver, and copper temples, and an impressive large statue.
Baoguo Monastery: Delve into history at the Baoguo Monastery, a sacred sanctuary originally established in the 16th century, expanded in the 17th, and recently restored. Off to the left of the entrance, a beautiful rockery is home to an impressive collection of potted miniature trees and uncommon plants.
Huazangsi Temple: Ascend to the Huazangsi Temple, a quintessential Buddhist establishment nestled in the Golden Summit, the zenith of Mt. Emei. Standing tall at an altitude of 3,077 meters, it elegantly encapsulates the spirit of Mount Emei. Alongside the resplendent Golden Palace (Jindian), this place forms the revered Golden Summit. Notice the multitude of padlocks inscribed with couples' names on the paths, symbols of eternal love.
Emei Mountain: Situated in south-central Sichuan Province, within Emei Mountain City's southwest rim, this breathtaking mountain range is a mere 120 kilometers north of Chengdu, the provincial capital, and 38 kilometers from the historically significant city, Leshan. Originating from the northern Kunlun Mountain range, E'mei Mountain is part of the Qin Mountain Range and Min Mountain. Starting from Gonglai Mountain Range, it winds its way up to E'mei and erupts into the sky as the towering peaks of Golden Summit, Thousand Buddha Peak, and Ten Thousand Buddha Peak.
Simatai Great Wall Night Tour: Experience the unique allure of the Simatai section of the Great Wall, the only segment illuminated and opened after sundown for visitors. An enchanting vista awaits you, particularly when admiring the radiant lake nestled beneath the Wall. The night tour permits access only to Towers 5 and 6 due to their relatively flat terrain. To further enhance your nocturnal adventure, cable cars are at your disposal. Opening hours shift with the seasons; in summer and autumn, tours run from 6 pm to 10 pm, while in winter and spring, the hours adjust to 5:30 pm to 9 pm.
Gubei Water Town: Located to the north of Beijing's Miyun County, the charming Gubei Water Town presides over a serene Lake Reservoir and sprawls at the foot of the Simatai Great Wall — the most perilous and awe-inspiring stretch of the entire Wall. It's a magical fusion of mountains, water, and centuries-old villages. Most structures echo the bygone era, meticulously reconstructed to retain the traditional courtyard style.
The Great Wall at Jinshanling: Constructed between 1368 and 1389 during the Ming Dynasty, the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall stretches impressively for 140 kilometers. A scenic drive from Beijing takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach this historically significant destination. Famed as the most photogenic and breathtaking portion of the Great Wall, it provides numerous visually striking panoramas for enthusiastic photographers. Trekking this segment of the Wall is graded moderate, enticing hikers with a dash of adventure. However, if a leisurely exploration suits your preference, a sightseeing cable car is readily available to offer scenic views from a comfortable vantage point.
The Forbidden City: Nestled in the heart of Beijing is the Forbidden City, the awe-inspiring residence to 24 emperors during both the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. Known as the best-preserved and largest ancient imperial architectural complex globally, its grandeur is reflected in a striking juxtaposition of vast squares, towering halls, and gates next to intricate gardens, courtyards, and living quarters. The carefully curated permanent and temporary exhibitions display precious treasures from ancient China. Expect a moderate-grade walk covering about 2 kilometers over 2 hours in this monumental city within a city.
Temple of Heaven: Established in 1420 during the Ming dynasty, the Temple of Heaven is a collection of striking Taoist structures. Ming and Qing dynasty emperors frequented this sacred site to participate in annual ceremonies imploring the heavens for bountiful harvests. The temple's park brims with vibrant local life, especially in the mornings when the elderly gather to partake in communal activities such as singing, exercise, and tai chi. Located in the southern part of central Beijing, the park spans 273 hectares. Enjoy an easy-rated walk that covers around 1.5 kilometers over 1-1.5 hours in this lush oasis.
Tiananmen Square: The grand Tian'anmen Square, situated in central Beijing, stands as the world's largest city square and a proud symbol of China's national identity. The square gets its name from the Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its north, acting as the gateway to the Forbidden City. A site of numerous significant events in China's history, the square is surrounded by a host of imposing edifices including the Heavenly Gate, museums, government buildings, and Chairman Mao's Mausoleum.
Summer Palace with Boat Ride and The Garden of Virtue and Harmony: Located just 15 kilometers from Beijing, the Summer Palace is China's largest and best-preserved royal park. Experience these beautiful gardens with a two-hour walk, witnessing the natural beauty and cultural heritage that earned this spot the moniker 'The Museum of Royal Gardens'. Note: Some areas may require additional fees for entry.
Exterior Visit to Beijing Olympic Stadiums (Bird's Nest and Water Cube): Explore the spacious Beijing Olympic Park, home to the iconic Bird's Nest (National Stadium) and Water Cube (National Aquatics Center). However, the tour doesn't include access inside these structures.
Ancient City Wall: Embrace the history of one of the oldest and most intact city defenses in existence. Originally a foundation for the Tang Forbidden City in the 13th century, it now encircles the city center. Opt to walk, rent a bike (extra CNY40 per person) or an electric cart (extra CNY80 per person) for a 14km tour, offering splendid city views on either side.
Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors (includes the Terracotta Army and crafting clay warriors at a local cave dwelling): Witness the main attraction in Xi'an, the mesmerizing Terracotta Warriors, a spectacular archaeological discovery. Our unique experience takes you beyond the location itself to a lesser-known Terracotta Museum that unveils deeper stories behind their creation. Discover the mysteries behind their lightning-fast production in 220-209 BC, and the techniques used to prevent cracking. An additional marvel lies in the ancient chemical process used to produce the unique purple color found on some warriors. After this, visit a local cave dwelling, where a craftsman demonstrates the tradition of creating warriors. You'll even get a chance to craft a miniature warrior yourself. Lastly, understand the unprecedented scale of Emperor Qin's mausoleum and his profound impact on China and the world.
Great Mosque: Nestled in Xian's lively Muslim quarter near the city center, the Great Mosque is one of China's most extensive Islamic mosques. It uniquely blends Chinese architecture with Islamic customs, aligned from east to west, facing Mecca. Witness beautifully adorned pavilions, halls, and gateways in this active worship site for the Hui descendants of Silk Road traders and explorers.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda: As a significant Buddhist landmark, this elegant 7th-century brick Pagoda resides within the picturesque Da Ci'en Temple grounds. It was built to house the Buddhist materials that Xuanzang (Tripitaka) returned with following his monumental journey to India. The surrounding Temple complex boasts numerous grand halls replete with striking Buddhist statues and murals.
Muslim Quarter: Just 100 meters west of the Bell tower in downtown Xi'an, you'll find the bustling Muslim quarter. Its 500-meter-long avenue, paved with bluestones, teems with unique stalls, souvenir shops, cafes, and bars — mostly Muslim-run. A favorite among overseas tourists for shopping and local immersion.
Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo: Embark on an awe-inspiring cruise down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. This journey of approximately 4 hours offers a visual feast of dramatic limestone peaks, elegant bamboo groves, local farmers tending to rice fields, and sturdy water buffaloes at work. You might spot fishermen on their slender bamboo rafts and, if you're lucky, sight the famous fishing cormorants. Departures vary based on river levels throughout the year. Our selected choice is a well-equipped 4-star boat, currently the best in its class, hosting around 80 passengers and providing a quality buffet or semi-buffet lunch service.
Be a Chinese Villager: Discover rural China by immersing yourself in the daily routines of a local farmer. Your real China experience begins in the fields surrounding Yangshuo's villages. Engage with locals tending their fields alongside their water buffaloes and seize the opportunity to assist them in their tasks. Bid farewell to the villagers and continue on past picturesque rice paddies with an impressive backdrop of distant mountains. Ride a local ferry to Fuli, located on the Li River's east bank. Just like local villagers, continue your journey via a local motorbike taxi to the vibrant Fuli marketplace.
Reed Flute Cave: Set off at the enchanting Reed Flute Cave, 5 kilometers northwest of Guilin. Known for its reeds suitable for making flutes, this 240-meter long cave is a visual treat filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and mesmerizing stone formations. Be mindful of the steps and subdued lighting! Your guide will help navigate the path with an electric torch.
Daxu Ancient Town: Located 18 kilometers southeast of Guilin, Daxu Ancient Town is a historical tribute to South China's thriving market town during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Stroll through narrow lanes, explore traditional Chinese clinics, admire old residential houses with wooden carvings, and encounter elderly craftsmen at work. For the adventurous, there's an opportunity to experience traditional Chinese therapies like cupping!
Ancient Stone Forest (Naigu Shilin): Embark on a journey to the timeless beauty of the Naigu Shilin, situated 13 kilometers north of Shilin. Also known as Mozhai Stone Forest, 'Naigu' translates to ancient and black in the local Yi language. This sprawling area stretches across over 5,000 mu, boasting a newly established 6-kilometer travel route. Offering distinct features and styles, it provides a unique contrast to the stone forests of Shilin.
Yuantong Temple: Take a step back in time with a visit to the Yuantong Temple. With a rich history spanning over 1,200 years, it holds the title as the largest temple in Kunming. Notably, in 1956, the grand ceremony of greeting and consecrating the Buddha's tooth took place here. Today, it stands as a prestigious landmark included in the list of key Buddhist temples in China as recognized by the State Council. Experience the tranquility and spirituality this revered space has to offer!
Songzanlin Lamasery: Engage in Tibetan Buddhist culture at Songzanlin Lamasery, Yunnan Province's largest temple. Use this chance to converse with some of the 400 resident lamas and get insights into their unique lifestyle. You might even cross paths with a living Buddha.
Songzanlin Lamasery: Exploration Explore the grandeur of Songzanlin, a captivating architectural marvel echoing the style of Lhasa's Potala Palace. It is home to myriad Buddhist statues and precious cultural relics.
Pudacuo National Park: Venture into Pudacuo National Park, a well-preserved ecosystem near Shangri-La. Your visit won't be complete without seeing Lake Shudu, a vast freshwater lake surrounded by vibrant forests and diverse wildlife.
Bi'Ta Lake: Conclude your tour at Bi'Ta Lake, renowned as a "pearl in the plateau" for its year-round crystal-clear waters, located 25 km east of Zhongdian.
Tiger Leaping Gorge: Prepare to be captivated by the Tiger Leaping Gorge, recognized as one of the deepest and most spectacular gorges on the planet. Nestled in Hutiaoxia Town, just 105 kilometers from Zhongdian/Shangri-La County, the Gorge offers stunning vistas that distinguish it from all else. Springtime, in particular, is a must-visit period. Witness the majesty of melting snow cascading down from the mountains, leading to the river reaching its ultimate turbulence. This unmissable spectacle amplifies the beauty, making your trip an unforgettable one.
Spruce Meadow on Jade Snow Mountain: Located halfway up Shanzidou, enclosed within a spruce jungle, sits the serene Spruce Meadow. At an altitude of 3,240 meters, each spring and summer, this meadow transforms into a vibrant carpet of greenery. Immerse yourself in the local folklore and enjoy photogenic landscapes and local ethnic dancing performances in this tranquil spot.
Baisha Murals at Baisha Village: Delve into the rich heritage of Baisha Village, renowned for its thousand-year-old murals. These artistic works beautifully blend Han, Tibetan, and Naxi cultures, portraying the narratives of Tibetan Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the village, absorbing local life and culture..
Naxi Shaman Family Visit: Get a fascinating glimpse into the Naxi culture with a visit to a Dongba, a wise man or shaman of the Naxi nationality. Learn about the unique Dongba script, Naxi music, and their perspectives on nature and human relationship. Book a visit to savor the Naxi's fervor for their culture, homeland, and lifestyle..
The Black Dragon Pool: Wrap up your journey at the bewitching Black Dragon Pool park, named after its enchanting pool. Known for its exquisite beauty, the pool is ranked among the most prestigious pools in China. Absorb the tranquil beauty of this natural wonder as a perfect end to your immersive journey..
The Bund: Experience the allure of The Bund, a historic embankment along the Huangpu River. Marvel at the well-preserved European-style buildings that line its promenade, offering a glimpse into Shanghai's trading past. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere that now defines The Bund, with its modern developments, chic restaurants, upscale shops, and lively bars. Be sure to visit in the afternoon or evening to witness the enchanting lights that illuminate the area.
Yuyuan Garden: Immerse yourself in the beauty of Yuyuan Garden, a Ming Dynasty private garden. Explore its classic Chinese architecture, rockeries, pavilions, ponds, and corridors. Don't forget to explore the bustling marketplace surrounding the garden.
- 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-47