World Heritage & Southern China Discovery
15-Day Shanghai, Kunming, Shangri-la, Lijiang, Chengdu, Xi'an and Beijing Tour
Step back in time with a visit to world heritage sites in the ancient capital cities, Beijing and Xi'an. See the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors come alive. The cultural and natural heritages of the Yunnan Protected Areas and Mount Emei will round off your Southern China discovery.
- Admire the mixed charm of ancient gardens and modern skyscrapers in Shanghai
- Seek enlightenment from a Tibetan Buddhist in Shangri-la
- Visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the largest Giant Buddha and Mount Emei
- Relax with a walk on Mount Emei, one of China's most famous Buddhist mountains
- See how the thousand-year old Terracotta Warriors come alive
- Explore a less-crowded part of the Great Wall
About China Highlights
Since 1959 we've guided everyone ranging from US presidents, Australian Geographic and retired backpackers. Our goal is to create unique trips that take you off-the-beaten path, helping you discover China in a more authentic way. Our motto: "Discovery Your Way!"
Lijiang Trip July 2021
Kudos to Alisa Liu from the agency who I must say was on hand almost 24/7 for requests and queries. Even though our trip was marred with the onset of the Typhoon In Fa with various flight and train cancellations but Alisa was quick to arrange for alternative solutions under the circumstances and made the most effort to make our journey as comfortable as possible whilst we made our way back to Shanghai. As for the itinerary, Alisa understands her clientele’s different needs very well and for the most part my expectations were met. I love private tours with a very relaxed itinerary and comfortable accommodation and some of us prefer more exclusive accommodation vs a packed itinerary trying to go to a hundred location type of tour. more
Your private guide will be waiting punctually in arrivals. A comfortable private car (non-smoking) and experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel.
Radisson Blu Hotel Shanghai New World (5-star)
The Bund Hotel Shanghai (4-star)
Your adventure in China begins with Yuyuan Garden, providing classic examples of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) architecture as well as a verdant garden in the old quarter of Shanghai.
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall gives fascinating insights into Shanghai's future. The 2nd floor has a giant model of the city, and other floors have great displays to help you understand the development of this city. Enjoy local cuisine for lunch in a cozy restaurant.
Shanghai World Financial Center, reaching a height of 492 meters (1,615 feet), is now a modern landmark of prosperous Shanghai and it's a perfect spot for a bird's-eye view over the city.
After the tour, you will be escorted back to your hotel for a good rest.
Have a relaxing stroll in the former French concession to absorb the classic flavor and visit important historical buildings, such as Fuxing Park, Moller Villa, Lilac Garden, Notre Dame Cathedral, the former residences of Sun Yat-sen and Zhou Enlai, and countless French colonial style buildings. Most buildings are over 100 years old.
After lunch, you will be transferred to your flight across China to Kunming. Upon arrival, your Kunming guide will be waiting to escort you back to your hotel.
Green Lake Hotel (5-star)
Kunming New Era Hotel (4-star)
After a 1½-hour drive, visit a fantastic natural phenomenon located 90 kilometers southeast of Kunming — the Stone Forest. The various limestone shapes were formed as a result of millions of years' movement of the earth. The Stone Forest area is the home of the Sani people, and their folk customs and location make for a spectacular scene. Their colorful embroidery and minority dances combined with the natural scenery will surely leave you with a lasting impression. Enjoy a local lunch in a quaint courtyard, with the Stone Forest Park in the background.
In the afternoon, transfer back to Kunming and visit Yuantong Temple, the largest and most ancient Buddhist temple in Kunming, to learn about differences between the halls of the three denominations of Buddhism.
Tip for the Stone Forest:
For Chinese tourists, the Stone Forest Park is a must-see attraction; and the countless tourist groups there during the peak season rank among foreign travelers' pet peeves. The park is very large, however, and your guide will help you find quieter, more remote areas to avoid the crowds, especially in the winter months.
In the morning, your guide and driver in Kunming will transfer you to catch a flight to Shangri-la. Your guide in Shangri-la will be waiting to start a colorful day with you.
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty and holy religious atmosphere of the unspoiled Shangri-la. Visit Songzanlin Lamasery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery in Yunnan Province, built in the style of Potala Palace in Lhasa and representing Tibetan culture, housing Buddhist statues and many precious cultural treasures. Visit a Tibetan family to enjoy an authentic local meal for lunch.
Pudacuo National Park retains a well-preserved ecosystem in virgin forests. The park's must-see scenery includes Lake Bita and Lake Shudu. 'Bita' means 'a place with a dense oak forest' in Tibetan and 'Bitahai' means 'a quiet lake'. Lake Bitahai is surrounded by mountains covered with ancient pines, oaks, and rhododendrons, and appears like an emerald in the heart of the mountains. Lake Shudu is surrounded by a forest of fir, spruce, and silver birch, and is home to lots of wild animals, such as squirrels, golden cats, and pheasants. Stay overnight in Shangri-la.
Songtsam Shangri-la Hotel (5-star)
Shangri-la Old Town Hotel (4-star)
Your guide and driver will escort you from Shangri-la to Lijiang. Along the way, visit one of the world's deepest and most marvelous gorges — Tiger Leaping Gorge. The dashing water from the magnificent Jinsha River flows into the narrow valley with a stone in the center. There is an ancient saying that the gorge is so narrow that a tiger was able to leap from one side across to the other side of the river, hence the name. After lunch, continue the 2-hour drive to Lijiang.
Best Time for Tiger Leaping Gorge:
Tiger Leaping Gorge's rainy season comes from June to August. This is when the view is most magnificent, but the stone steps could be slippery. May and early June, when the hills are adorned with plants and flowers, are the best times to go there.
Grand Hyatt Lijiang (5-star)
Lijiang Wangfu Hotel (4-star)
Welcome to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the holy mountain of the Naxi people. Use the cable car and find yourself in a real paradise as you overlook stunning and diverse natural beauty, including spruces, meadows, pines, and clouds.
On your way back to Lijiang, enjoy lunch and see the mysterious Baisha Murals at Baisha Village. Painted over 1,000 years ago, the murals display the life stories of China's main religions, including Confucianism, Taoism, and Tibetan Buddhism. Drop by Dr Ho's local herb clinic to see how the old doctor and his apprentices diagnose and treat patients using traditional Chinese medicine. Catch a late afternoon flight to Chengdu and stay there overnight.
Sofitel Chengdu Taihe (5-star)
Tibet Hotel Chengdu (4-star)
In the morning you will first visit the Panda Breeding and Research Center, about 10 kilometers (six miles) north of central Chengdu. You will visit the nursery to see the highly successful breeding program, stroll among bamboo groves and shady walkways, and view the pandas at rest or play. It is best to go early to see the pandas feeding at around 9.30 am, the time of day when they are most active. Lunch is at a Chinese restaurant where you can familiarize yourself with Sichuan-style dishes.
After lunch you will go to the Chengdu People's Park for a deep breath of fresh air. Verdant trees and various flowers enhance the beauty of the traditional pavilions and buildings. You can join local people to experience the bustle and chatter of a local teahouse in this area.
Kuan-Zhai Lane (or Wide and Narrow Alley) is the day's last destination; an ancient street with hundreds of years' history, combined with modern elements. There you can imagine the old Chengdu by walking past the Qing Dynasty (1636–1912) style buildings.
Tip for Meeting Baby Pandas:
March to May is the "falling in love period" for pandas. If you visit the Panda Breeding and Research Center between late August and December, you will have a greater chance of seeing tiny newborns in the Sunshine Nursery House.
You will be driven to Leshan City this morning, taking about two hours. After a short break and lunch, you will begin your journey to the Giant Buddha, which takes about 10 minutes.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992, The Giant Buddha (cut in the Tang Dynasty, taking 90 years to complete) in Leshan is located to the east of Leshan City, and is on Lingyun Mountain where the Min River, Qingyi River, and Dadu River meet. The sitting Buddha statue is 71 meters tall and is the largest sculpture on a cliff face in the world. Besides climbing around for a Lilliputian view of the Giant Buddha, you will also go on a cruise to take a look at the sculpture from the water.
After the tour, you will be escorted to a hotel near Mount Emei, which is about 31 kilometers (19 miles) from Leshan City.
Hongzhushan Hotel in Emeishan City (4-star)
You will spend a full day visiting Mount Emei, which is another UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China. You will take a relaxing walk on the mountain to breathe in the fresh air and absorb the atmosphere of Chinese culture. Visit the Monastery of Ten Thousand Years, the largest and oldest monastery on Mount Emei. Enjoy a local lunch. Round-trip cable car is included to save time and energy. After the tour, your guide and driver will escort you back to your hotel in Chengdu.
Sofitel Chengdu Taihe (5-star)
Tibet Hotel Chengdu (4-star)
After breakfast at the hotel, fly to Xi'an and travel back in time into ancient China. Shaanxi History Museum will be the perfect starting point for understanding Chinese history. The history of Shaanxi is said to be the history of China, and this museum is quite simply one of the nation's best. Four major galleries in large, Tang-style buildings house a vast and impressive collection, beautifully displayed.
Have lunch and visit the Ancient City Wall, built in the 13th century on the foundations of the original Tang Forbidden City. You can walk around the wall or pay more to rent a bike (CNY40 per person), take a rickshaw (CNY45 per person for 45 minutes) or ride an electric cart around the full 14 km circuit (CNY80 per person), with great views of the city on either side.
Wyndham Grand Xian South (5-star)
Grand Noble Hotel (4-star)
As one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, the Terracotta Warriors earn the respect of people from all over the world. Visitors are surprised by the magnificent man-made work. Stand there and have a silent conversation with these soldiers.
In the afternoon, we get close to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, built in AD 652. Chinese-style architecture combined with historic Buddhist statues, murals and scriptures is topped off by the best panoramic view of Xi'an.
After the tour, fly to Beijing. Your Beijing guide will help transfer you to your hotel.
Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall (5-star)
Sunworld Hotel Beijing (4-star)
The less crowded Mutianyu section of the Great Wall offers superb views as it snakes across the mountains. After driving for about 2½ hours from Beijing city center, you will take a shuttle bus to the foot of the mountains. Cable cars are available to take you to a good section (avoiding climbing on steep steps), where you can walk along the wall and enjoy the view. You can descend by cable car, or walk along the wall for about an hour to descend by chairlift.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, drive back to the city and visit the Temple of Heaven, where ancient emperors held grand ceremonies to pray for good harvests. You will see local people enjoying leisure time inside the park, singing, dancing, and playing chess or musical instruments.
You will visit iconic sights of the city: Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tian'anmen Square at the heart of Beijing is the largest city square in the world and witness to many major historical events. Walking northward from the square you will enter the Forbidden City, including the imperial palace where treasures are hidden and history has taken place.
Have lunch at a popular local restaurant, where your guide will help you order dishes to ensure an authentic Chinese flavor. In the afternoon, hop on a rickshaw and explore the charming hutongs (lanes), traditional Beijing residential areas.
Your private car, driver and guide will be ready and waiting at your hotel lobby to get you to the airport on time. Sit back and relax as they help you check-in and escort you to the correct security gate. We take the stress and hassle out of your travel.
1. Tailoring your tour
This tour is very flexible. You can alter the itinerary, extend or shorten it to suit your budget, interests and schedule. Feel free to tell us your requirements, and we'll be happy to help you arrange accordingly.
2. About Accommodation in the Mount Emei
Due to limited hotel options and humid weather around Mount Emei, the standards and services of the hotels are quite basic, but China Highlights has carefully selected the best available hotel based on criteria like hotel environment, location, service, and previous customer feedback. Your guide will accompany you to check into your room. If you are dissatisfied with the room and other rooms are available, your guide will be happy to assist you with a room-change.