Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more

18-day Classic China Tour with Yunnan

China Essence and South Discovery

Catch the core of China's cultural heritage in the ancient capital cities, experience unique ethnic customs, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of south China. This tour could be the first choice for travelers who are keen on minority cultures and landscapes.

Our detailed itinerary below is just for inspiration — we are ready to tailor-make it according to your schedule and interests. Contact us and your dedicated travel advisor will personalize your journey.

Day 1-4Shanghai — the Bund, Shanghai Tower, and Yu Garden
 
Day 3-5Guilin — The terraced fields, and Li River cruise
 
Day 6Kunming — Yuantong Temple and the ancient Stone Forest
 
Day 7Dali — Xizhou and Erhai Lake
 
Day 8-9Lijiang — Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and a Naxi family visit
 
Day 10-11Shangri-La — Tiger Leaping Gorge and Songzanlin Lamasery
 
Day 12-13Chengdu — Pandas and cooking Sichuan cuisine
 
Day 14-15Xi'an — the Terracotta Army and Xi'an City Wall
 
Day 16-18Beijing — the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall
 

Suggested Route for A China Tour with Yunnan

CHT-WH-08 map

Tour 'Wow' Points

Feast Your Eyes on the Best Scenery of the Rice Terraces

The Longji Rice Terraces are known widely for their awe-inspiring views. Standing on top of such a huge man-made wonder is itself an extraordinary experience.

Longji Rice Terraces
Longji Rice Terraces

Enjoy a Cruise in the Painting Gallery of God

URelax on a top-class guided Li River cruise, enjoying spectacular landscapes. Find the exact scene depicted on a 20-yuan banknote.

Li River
Li River

Discover Rural China by Exploring the Less Touristy Villages

Experiencing the daily life of local farmers would let you see another side of China.

Fuli
countryside

Take a Cable Car Ride to the Snowcapped Peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at 4,500+ m (14,700+ ft)

The peak is perpetually snowcapped, creating a breathtaking panorama against the clear blue sky.

jade Dragon Snow Mountain
jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Experience the Mysterious Dongba Culture in an Ancient Naxi Village

Visit a local Naxi family, learn some Dongba characters and enjoy a piece of Naxi music.

Naxi

Seek Enlightenment from a Tibetan Buddhist in Songzanlin Lamasery

Get close to and interact with a lama. Talk with a lama in his study room about the lamaic lifestyle, religious beliefs, and discipline.

Tibetan Buddhist

See the 2,000-Year-Old Terracotta Army Come Alive in Your Mind's Eye

Your knowledgeable tour guide will help you to discover the ancient Chinese military of the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). Make tiny clay warriors in a cave dwelling

Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army

Discover Hidden Halls in the Forbidden City

Different from other group tours when you only visit six halls, with us you would see hidden halls for a deeper understanding of the history, learn more interesting stories about the emperors, and dodge the crowds.

Forbidden City
the Forbidden City

Explore a Less-Crowded Section of the Great Wall

With a round-trip ride by cable car, you would be escorted to the platforms that have a wide visual field whilst benefiting from fewer tourists and not much walking.

Great wall
Great wall

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

Suggested Itinerary

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

Day 1Shanghai Arrival

Your private guide would be waiting punctually for you in arrivals. A comfortable private car (non-smoking) and an experienced driver would transfer you directly to your hotel.

Day 2Shanghai | Shanghai Highlights
Breakfast & Lunch

Your adventure in China would begin with Yu Garden, providing classic examples of Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) architecture as well as a verdant garden in the old quarter of Shanghai.

Yuyuan Market is located adjacent to Yu Garden, offering a delightful blend of shopping, dining, and cultural exploration.

Shanghai World Financial Center, reaching a height of 492 meters (1,614 feet), is now a modern landmark of prosperous Shanghai and it's a perfect spot for a bird's-eye view over the city.

Your day 2 tour would finish on the Bund, the famous waterfront promenade.

Day 3Shanghai to Guilin | Minority Village and Longsheng Terraced Fields
Breakfast & Lunch

You would fly to Guilin in the morning.

Your personal guide and driver would escort you from Guilin Liangjiang International Airport straight to Longsheng. After a 2½-hour drive, you would reach Ping'an Zhuang Minority Village.

Longsheng's terraced fields span across rolling mountains, creating a breathtaking landscape. You could hike along the terraces, exploring the various viewpoints to enjoy the stunning vistas.

Before returning to Guilin, you would visit a local minority family and learn how to make bamboo-tube rice, cooking a rice meal the local way.

Day 4Guilin–Yangshuo | Li River Cruise
Breakfast & Lunch

You would enjoy a 4-star Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. It is considered to be one of the most scenic river cruises in the world, famous for its picturesque landscapes, majestic karst peaks, and serene countryside.

After disembarking from the ship, you would take a stroll along Yangshuo's vibrant West Street, where you would find a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural performances.

Day 5Yangshuo–Kunming | Explore the Countryside
Breakfast & Lunch

You would experience the local farmers' lifestyle by visiting an old couple in a traditional house and learning about their lifestyle and philosophy.

Next, you would drive past an old ferry on the Li River, where ancient-style buildings reflect the river's historical significance in water transportation.

Afterward, you would take a ferry to Fuli on the north bank of the Li River and use a local motorbike taxi, like the villagers, to reach the market.

Lastly, you would take a high-speed train to Kunming in the afternoon.

Day 6Kunming | Stone Forest and Yuantong Temple Tour
Breakfast& Lunch

After a 1½-hour drive, you would visit a fantastic natural phenomenon — the Stone Forest. The various limestone shapes were formed as a result of oceanic shell deposits, tectonic uplift, and weathering. The Stone Forest area is the home of the Sani people, and their folk customs and location make for a spectacular scene.

In the afternoon, you would be transferred back to Kunming and visit Yuantong Temple, the largest and oldest Buddhist temple in Kunming. There, you would learn about the differences between the halls of the three denominations of Buddhism.

Day 7Kunming to Dali | Xizhou and Erhai Lake
Breakfast & Lunch

You would take a 2-hour bullet train ride to Dali in the morning. Upon arrival, your Dali guide would be waiting to start a colorful day with you.

First, you would visit the houses of the Bai minority people in Xizhou Village. You would see typical Bai traditions and dresses. Some of the buildings are old and have typical ancient architecture — they are the real local houses.

Then, you would take a cruise on Erhai Lake to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the peaceful charm of this enchanting lake.

Day 8Dali to Lijiang | Black Dragon Pool and Lijiang Old Town
Breakfast & Lunch

Your personal guide and driver would transfer you directly from Dali to Lijiang.

Then, you would have lunch and start your tour of Lijiang. Lijiang Old Town is characterized by its intricate network of narrow cobblestone streets, traditional Naxi-style buildings, and flowing canals. You could climb up Lion Hill to have a bird's-eye view of the whole town.

Lastly, you would pay a visit to Black Dragon Pool Park, where the view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is one of the most famous postcard-perfect sceneries in southwest China.

Day 9Lijiang | Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Naxi Culture Tour
Breakfast & Lunch

Welcome to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the holy mountain of the Naxi people. You would use the cable car and find yourself in a real paradise as you overlook stunning and variant natural beauty, including spruces, meadows, pines, and clouds.

You would make your own Naxi pancake (Naxi baba) as the main dish for your lunch.

Next, you would visit a Naxi shaman (called a Dongba in the Naxi language) in Baisha Village. You would have the chance to understand more about the mysterious Naxi culture, its words, and its music.

Day 10Lijiang to Shangri-La | Tiger Leaping Gorge
Breakfast & Lunch

Your guide and driver would escort you from Lijiang to Shangri-La. Along the way, you would 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 over to the other side of the river, hence the name.

After lunch, you would continue with a 2-hour drive to Shangri-La. You're recommended to have a good rest in your hotel to adapt to the high altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500 ft).

Day 11Shangri-La | Songzanlin Lamasery and Pudacuo National Park
Breakfast & Lunch

In the morning, you would visit the largest Tibetan Buddhist lamasery in Yunnan Province — Songzanlin Lamasery — which was built in the style of the Potala Palace in Lhasa and represents Tibetan culture, housing Buddhist statues and many precious cultural treasures.

Afterward, your guide would take you to a lama dormitory. The lamas who live there would show their hospitality and be happy to talk with you about their lifestyle, religious beliefs, and discipline. If you are lucky, you might meet a living Buddha.

You would then visit the pristine natural reserve, Pudacuo National Park, in the afternoon.

Lastly, you would fly to Chengdu in the evening.

Day 12Chengdu | Sichuan Cuisine Cooking
Breakfast & Lunch & Dinner

In the morning, you would head to People's Park to get some fresh air and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of vibrant scenes: square dancing, a marriage market, ear massages, and mahjong, to name a few.

In the afternoon, you would step into an experienced chef's kitchen and cook real Sichuan cuisine together. Unearth the secrets of Sichuan cuisine as you cook three typical Sichuan dishes with the chef and invent your own recipe.

Day 13Chengdu to Xi'an | Pandas and Sichuan Opera
Breakfast & Lunch

Your first stop on day 13 would be the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, home to nearly 50 giant pandas and red pandas. It is best to go early in the morning to see the pandas feeding at around 9:30am when they are most active

After lunch, you would follow your guide and have the chance to step backstage at a Sichuan Opera. There, you would see how the actors and actresses apply their make-up and you could chat with them.

Lastly, you would take a high-speed train to Xi'an

Day 14The Terracotta Army and a Traditional Cave Dwelling
Breakfast & Lunch

In the morning, you would visit the Terracotta Army Museum to uncover the mystery of the life-sized underground army, which has remained untouched for 2,200 years. You would gain an insight into the military might, artistic achievements, and burial customs of ancient China.

You would then visit a local craftsman's cave dwelling and learn how to make a mini terracotta warrior.

You would visit the medieval Xi'an City Wall on your way back to the hotel, where you could immerse yourself in the captivating history and architectural legacy of Xi'an.

Day 15Xi'an to Beijing | Small Wild Goose Pagoda and Xi'an Museum
Breakfast & Lunch

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, also known as Jianfu Temple, is a captivating destination that combines history, religion, and cultural significance.

Xi'an Museum is near the pagoda. This museum collectively reflects the long history of Xi'an, integrating with Small Wild Goose Pagoda, the national key cultural relics protection unit, the ancient building groups of Jianfu Temple, and the modern cultural relics exhibition hall.

Then, you would take a high-speed train to Beijing after lunch.

Day 16Beijing | The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace
Breakfast & Lunch

You would first visit some iconic sights of the city: Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tian'anmen Square, at the heart of Beijing is the largest famous square in the world and has witnessed many major historical events.

Walking northward from the square, you would enter the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace where treasures are hidden and centuries of royal history took place.

The Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved royal park in China. It greatly influenced Chinese horticulture and landscaping, with its famous natural views and cultural interest.

Day 17Beijing | The Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven
Breakfast & Lunch

The less-crowded Mutianyu section of the Great Wall offers superb views as it snakes across the mountains. Cable cars are available to take you to a good section (avoiding climbing up steep steps), where you could walk along the wall and enjoy the view.

After lunch at a nearby restaurant, you would drive back to the city and visit the Temple of Heaven, where ancient emperors held grand ceremonies to pray for good harvests. You would see local people enjoying a leisurely time inside the park, singing, dancing, and playing chess or musical instruments.

Day 18Beijing Departure
Breakfast

Your tour guide, driver, and van would pick you up from your hotel for your airport transfer and flight. Your guide would accompany and assist you as far as the security check and would then wave goodbye.

Hotel Selection

—the Icing on the Cake

Boutique hotels are recommended to enrich your travel experience.

Hotel room in Beijing
Mountain retreat
Shangri-la hotel

Tour Price

FromUSD 4,360p/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-wh-08

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

Number in your group

What's your hotel choice?

I am also available on:

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.

Click to Sign up

Why China Highlights

Customize Your Tour

Customize Your Tour

  • Travel Advisors Rooted in China
  • Instant Response, No More Waits!
  • Direct Connections, Supreme Values
Maximize Your Flexibility

Maximize Your Flexibility

  • Your own personal guide and ride.
  • Explore at your own pace.
  • Unparalleled flexibility, impossible on a group tour.
Ensure Your Satisfaction

Ensure Your Satisfaction

  • The Top 20% nationwide guides at your service.
  • 20% more space on your group's transportation.
  • 24/7 emergency support.
Live Your China Story

Live Your China Story

  • Authentic local culture and lifestyles.
  • Understand the culture by living it.
  • Uncover fascinating histories and witness New China.
Rated 5 out of 5 | 98.8% Excellence
China Highlights International
Travel Service Co., LTD
Featured on
China Highlights was featured on these medias.

Address: Building 6, Chuangyi Business Park, 70 Qilidian Road, Guilin, Guangxi, 541004, China