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18-Day Hong Kong, Guilin, Chengdu, Lhasa, Shangri-la, Lijiang, Dali and Kunming Tour

Classic China Natural Beauty Tour

18-Day Private China Tour: Hong Kong–Guilin– Chengdu–Lhasa -Shangrila–Lijiang–Dali–Kunming

Start your adventure in the vibrant city of Hong Kong, then marvel at the surreal beauty of Guilin. Encounter adorable pandas in Chengdu, immerse yourself in the mystique of Lhasa, and experience the mythical charm of Shangri-La. Explore the ancient towns of Lijiang and Dali, and discover the cultural richness of Kunming. This comprehensive itinerary offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, providing an unforgettable exploration of China's most enchanting destinations.

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

Explore the Awe-inspiring Li River in Guilin

Guilin landscape

Experience Taking Care of a Cute Panda

make panda cakes

Witness the Famous Potala Palace

Potala Palace

Embark on a Scenic Cruise on the Tranquil Erhai Lake

Erhai Lake

Experience the Charm of a Minority village in Yunnan

Naxi Minority village

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Itinerary Quick Look

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

DAY 1 Hong Kong Arrival

Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrival hall in Hong Kong. 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 Hong Kong to Guilin | Elephant Trunk Hill

Reed Flute Cave: A mere 5 kilometers northwest of Guilin city, the Reed Flute Cave derives its name from the lush reeds that grace its entrance, traditionally used for crafting flutes and pipes. As the largest and most awe-inspiring cave in Guilin, it spans an impressive 240 meters, offering an enchanting underground realm of natural wonders. During your 40-minute journey, traverse approximately 550 meters through a captivating landscape adorned with mesmerizing stalactites, stalagmites, stone pillars, stone curtains, and even whimsical stone formations resembling birds, plants, and animals in an array of captivating shapes and hues. While the cave's enchanting dimly lit ambiance adds to its mystique, your guide will illuminate your path with an electric torch, ensuring you don't miss any of its mesmerizing beauty.

Elephant Trunk Hill: Nestled at the confluence of the Li River and Peach Blossom River, the Elephant Trunk Hill stands tall as the iconic symbol of Guilin, reaching an impressive height of 55 meters. Aptly named for its resemblance to an elephant gracefully sipping water from the Li River with its extended trunk, this distinctive hill beckons exploration. Within its rugged contours, you'll discover a labyrinth of caves and crown it all with a charming small pagoda. This natural wonder promises both scenic beauty and historical intrigue.

DAY 3 Guilin to Longsheng | Longji Rice Terraces

Discover the awe-inspiring Longji Rice Terraces, often referred to as 'Dragon's Backbone,' owing to their appearance as dragon-like ribbons on steep mountainsides. Crafted by local minority communities 600 years ago, these terraces stretch over 66 square kilometers.

Our journey takes us to Ping'an Zhuang Village, home to over 50 families and 200 residents. The village's rice fields span elevations from 300 to 1,100 meters above sea level. Be prepared for a moderately challenging hike, with cars parking outside the village and an hour-long ascent up a series of steps to the summit, offering panoramic views of the breathtaking rice terraces.

For those preferring a leisurely option, sedan chairs are available for hire from the parking area to the mountaintop (approximately CNY 350 per person for a round trip). Alternatively, if you have mobility concerns, we can arrange a car to transport you directly to the mountaintop (please request this in advance, noting that it may not be available during Chinese national holidays).

Don't miss the chance to learn the art of crafting Bamboo Stuffed Rice, a local culinary delicacy with a delightful bamboo essence. Engage with a local family and gain hands-on experience in making this delectable dish.

DAY 4 Guilin to Yangshuo | Li River Cruise

Li River Cruise: Guilin to Yangshuo (4-Star Boat). Embark on a memorable four-hour Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. Enjoy picturesque views around every river bend, from majestic limestone peaks to serene bamboo groves and rural landscapes. Witness farmers at work, water buffaloes, and traditional fishermen. Our choice is a newly operated 4-star boat for up to 80 passengers, featuring a buffet or semi-buffet lunch.

Discover the stunning countryside of Yangshuo, famous for its enchanting karst peaks, lush rice fields, and tranquil rural life. Admire the breathtaking natural beauty, including clear waters and vibrant bamboo forests, while also delving into local village life. Your guide will accompany you for a 1.5-hour journey covering 10-12 kilometers by bike. Alternatively, you can opt for an electromobile or private car at no extra cost.

Impression Liu Sanjie Show: Experience the spectacular Impression Liu Sanjie show, directed by renowned filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Set along a 2-kilometer stretch of the Li River, this performance brings to life the legendary folk heroine Liu Sanjie. Enjoy a captivating tale of love, intrigue, and tragedy, complemented by music, lights, dance, and the river's natural beauty. Showtimes may vary by season, typically at 19:45-20:55 or 21:20-22:30.

DAY 5 Guilin to Chengdu | Daxu Ancient Town

Discover the Charm of Daxu Ancient Town: Situated approximately 18 kilometers southeast of Guilin along the Li River's banks, Daxu Ancient Town boasts well-preserved historic buildings, weathered bluestone pathways, and a rich traditional culture. It was a bustling hub for water transportation between Guangdong (Canton) and Guangxi, once counted among Guangxi's four renowned ancient towns. Enjoy a two-hour exploration of this picturesque old town.

DAY 6 Chengdu| The Panda Breeding and Research Center

Panda Breeding and Research Center - Panda Paradise: Located just 6 miles north of Chengdu City, the Panda Breeding and Research Center is a sanctuary for giant pandas, red pandas, and other endangered species. Explore the nursery, where a highly successful breeding program is underway, amidst the tranquil bamboo groves and shaded walkways. Witness these charismatic creatures at rest and play, and don't miss the informative Panda Museum. Note: To avoid the crowds during the peak months of July and August when domestic students are on summer break, consider an early start at 7:00 am.

Jinli Old Street - A Glimpse of Ancient Splendor: Step into history at Jinli Old Street, once the vibrant heart of ancient kingdoms. Lovingly restored in traditional Sichuan style, this picturesque street exudes charm and vitality. Stroll through its bustling lanes, where you can sample local arts and crafts, traditional Chinese goods, delectable food, and even enjoy a unique local-style Starbucks.

Local Tea House in People's Park - Savor Tranquility: Escape the city's hustle and bustle within the serene confines of People's Park. Here, amidst bonsai gardens, tranquil lakes, rockeries, and historical monuments, you'll discover the cherished tradition of Chengdu: the local tea house. Join the locals in sipping tea, a pastime that retirees often indulge in, spending hours chatting and enjoying each other's company for a nominal fee. You can also treat yourself to a local massage, rounding out your immersion in Chengdu's leisurely pace of life.

DAY 7 Chengdu to Lhasa| Leshan Giant Buddha

Cruise to Overlook the Leshan Giant Buddha - Majestic Riverside Views: Embark on a captivating cruise to witness the grandeur of the Leshan Giant Buddha. This monumental statue, perched on Lingyun Mountain where the Min River, Qingyi River, and Dadu River converge, is the largest stone-carved sitting Buddhist statue globally. From the comfort of your cruise, enjoy panoramic views of this awe-inspiring marvel.

Leshan Giant Buddha - Icon of Serenity: Nestled to the east of Leshan City in Sichuan Province, the Leshan Giant Buddha reigns as the world's largest stone-carved sitting Buddhist statue. Located on Lingyun Mountain, where three rivers unite, it exudes an air of serenity and spiritual significance. Witness this unparalleled masterpiece up close and immerse yourself in its profound aura.

DAY 8 Lhasa | Sera Monastery

Uncover the spiritual heart of Lhasa with a visit to the Sera Monastery. Nestled in the northern suburbs, this ancient complex comprises the Great Assembly Hall and three colleges. Founded in 1419, the monastery is shrouded in wild roses, earning its name "Sera." Here, you can witness the famous daily debates among monks, a crucial part of their learning process. Don't miss the captivating debates, held every day (except Sundays) at 15:00, where monks engage in spirited discussions on Buddhist doctrines. While you can observe the debates, please remember to maintain a respectful silence, and note that cameras are not allowed in the debate field, though you can use your cell phone for photos.

Next, visit Norbulingka, translating to "Jeweled Garden." Initially constructed as a summer retreat for the Dalai Lama, it later served as the seat of government administration. Founded by the 7th Dalai Lama, this splendid palace boasts both administrative and religious significance.

Complete your spiritual journey with a visit to the Drepung Monastery, nestled to the west of Lhasa beneath the majestic Mt. Gambo Utse. Its stunning white buildings contrast against the black mountains, creating a breathtaking sight. Dating back to 1416, this is one of the largest monasteries in the Gelu Sect, housing the living quarters of the Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of the Potala Palace. Be sure to catch the vibrant Shonton Festival held in early August, a bustling celebration that immerses you in the festival's fervent atmosphere. Explore the rich heritage and traditions of these sacred sites in the heart of Lhasa.

DAY 9 Lhasa to Shangri-La | The Potala Palace

Potala Palace: A Historical Marvel. Discover history at the Potala Palace, once the Dalai Lama's winter retreat. Explore its winding corridors, adorned with statues, tombs, murals, and antiques. The Red Palace houses the mausoleums of past Dalai Lamas, gleaming with gold, diamonds, and pearls. Climbing stairs is a must, but the journey is unforgettable.

Old Barkhor Street Walking Tour: Lhasa's Living Heritage. Immerse in Lhasa's living heritage on a walking tour. Begin at the Jokhang Temple, a golden-roofed gem. Follow pilgrim paths, explore local markets, and visit Thangka workshops. The Ani Tsangkhung Nunnery offers serenity and insight, while the Dropenling Handicraft Development Center reveals Tibetan craftsmanship. This tour unveils Lhasa's cultural tapestry.

DAY 10Shangri-La | Songzanlin Lamasery

Zhongdian Old Town: Embark on a journey through time as you step into the captivating Zhongdian Old Town, nestled to the south of Zhongdian. Here, Tibetan-style old houses whisper tales of centuries past. While ongoing renovations aim to capture the charm of Lijiang's ancient town, Zhongdian Old Town retains its unique character, with a maze of quaint streets waiting to be discovered.

Songzanlin Lamasery: Prepare to be spellbound by the grandeur of the largest Tibetan Buddhist lamasery in Yunnan Province. Encompassing a sprawling 33.3-hectare expanse, Songzanlin Lamasery stands as a magnificent tribute to Tibetan culture. Modeled after Lhasa's iconic Potala Palace, it houses an impressive array of Buddhist statues and priceless cultural treasures, inviting you to delve into the heart of Tibetan spirituality.

Guishan Park: Ascend to the very heart of the Old Town, where Guishan Park awaits with open arms. Here, you'll encounter the grandeur of the region's spiritual devotion. A colossal prayer wheel, standing at over 80 feet tall, adorns the park, illuminating the night sky like a radiant jewel. This is also your gateway to panoramic views of the city below. Embrace the opportunity to turn this monumental prayer wheel with the company of about ten friends, savoring a tradition that unfolds exclusively in a clockwise direction. Witness the spiritual devotion that envelopes Shangri-La as both locals and tourists alike come together to set this colossal wheel into motion.

DAY 11 Shangri-La to Lijiang | The Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town: A Living Tapestry of History: Perched at an altitude exceeding 2400 meters above sea level, Lijiang Ancient Town is a veritable treasure trove of captivating vistas, steeped in centuries of history and a vibrant cultural legacy. Its pristine preservation makes it a rare gem within China, a minority ancient city that remains remarkably intact. During the afternoon and evening, the town comes alive, bathed in the warm glow of bustling activity, where the interplay of lights and lively crowds creates an irresistible energy. For a more serene experience, we recommend an early morning visit when the streets are peacefully quiet, allowing you to savor the town's essence with fewer fellow travelers.

DAY 12 Lijiang | Jade Dragon Mountain

Exploring Baisha's Rich Cultural Tapestry: Unveil the captivating Baisha Murals in Baisha Village, where brushstrokes painted over a millennium ago seamlessly blend the cultural tapestries of the Han, Tibetan, and Naxi peoples. These ancient artworks narrate the life stories of Tibetan Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, offering a captivating window into the region's spiritual heritage.

Stroll through the tranquil lanes of Baisha Village, immersing yourself in the rhythms of local life and culture. Here, time seems to slow, allowing you to appreciate the everyday experiences of the village's inhabitants, adding depth to your journey.

Baisha Naxi Embroidery Institute beckons with its mission to safeguard, preserve, and celebrate the rich tradition of Naxi hand-made embroidery. Nestled within the charming Baisha Village, this institute showcases the craft in a picturesque Naxi courtyard setting. Spanning 800 square meters, it is home to skilled embroidery masters and enthusiastic students. Should time permit, you can even try your hand at this intricate art form or acquire exquisite hand-made embroideries as keepsakes.

The Majestic Jade Dragon Mountain via the Ganhaizi Large Cable Car: Elevate your adventure aboard China's highest tourist cable car as it ascends towards Shanzidou (Shanzi Peak), the crowning glory of the Jade Dragon Mountain. With a cable length of 2,914 meters, it scales an impressive altitude of 4,506 meters and boasts a dramatic ascent of 1,150 meters. As you ascend into the ethereal realm of the clouds, the worldly bustle fades away, leaving you in a veritable paradise. From here, explore Ganhanzi, Baishuihe (White Water River), and Glacier Park, discovering the pristine wonders of this breathtaking landscape.

DAY 13 Lijiang | Tiger Leaping Gorge

A Journey Through Nature's Wonders: Tiger Leaping Gorge: Prepare for an awe-inspiring adventure in one of the world's deepest and most breathtaking gorges. Nestled in Hutiaoxia Town, a mere 105 kilometers from Zhongdian/Shangri-La County, Tiger Leaping Gorge boasts its most enchanting allure during the spring season. This is when the melting snow descends from the towering peaks, transforming the river into a torrent of majestic turbulence. Your senses will be electrified by the sheer magnificence of this natural wonder.

First Bend of the Yangtze River: Venture to the heart of a landscape defined by rivers and mountains, where an altitude of 1,850 meters above sea level only adds to the dramatic beauty. The First Bend of the Yangtze River graces us with its picturesque vistas and historic significance. This site once served as a vital ferry point, bridging the divide between inland China and the ancient tea and horse trade routes of Tibet. Immerse yourself in the legacy of this vital crossing, where nature's grandeur and history's footsteps converge.

Baishuitai - The White Water Terrace: In the Naxi culture, Baishuitai translates to 'growing flower,' and this enchanting locale lives up to its name in every way. It's not just a place of scenic beauty; it's also one of the cradles of the Dongba Naxi culture, celebrated worldwide. Spanning an area of approximately 3 square kilometers, this natural terrace is a sight to behold. Verdant flora harmonizes with crystal-clear springs, creating a mesmerizing contrast that unfolds before your eyes. As you explore the intricate cliff-side pools, you'll witness nature's artistic prowess on full display.

DAY 14Lijiang to Dali | The Ancient City of Dali

Explore the Timeless Charm of the Ancient City of Dali: A mere 13 kilometers from Xiaguan in Dali city, nestled at the base of Cangshan Mountain, lies the enchanting Ancient City of Dali. This historical gem, dating back to the 15th year of the Ming Dynasty's Hongwu era (1382 AD), proudly claims its spot among China's Famous Historic and Cultural Cities. Wander its quaint streets and discover a place where clear springs flow and the Bai people lead a simple and authentic way of life. Admire the vibrant gardens, traditional homes adorned with intricate details, and immerse yourself in the rich local culture of this remarkable city.

Zhoucheng's Exquisite Batik Crafts: Venture to Zhoucheng, a charming town inhabited by the Bai minority, renowned for its masterful batik crafts. Here, you'll witness the traditional art of creating these intricate masterpieces by the skilled Bai artisans, leaving an indelible mark on your memory. Delve into the meticulous techniques and methods employed by the Bai people as they craft these exceptional pieces. You'll also have the opportunity to visit tie-dye workshops open to the public, gaining firsthand insight into this captivating process. Feel free to select some beautifully crafted items as souvenirs, though be prepared, as these workshops can get quite bustling at times.

DAY 15Dali | The Three Pagodas

Exploring Bai Culture in Xizhou: Discover the captivating Houses of Bai people nestled in Xizhou, just 16 kilometers from the Ancient City of Dali. Xizhou, a renowned historic town, stands as a testament to both Bai heritage and a flourishing center of Bai commerce. It played a pivotal role in the rise of Bai people's national capitalism and remains an ancestral homeland for Yunnan's overseas Chinese. Immerse yourself in the rich Bai traditions and attire that paint a vivid picture of their way of life. While some buildings boast a classic, time-honored architectural style, each house's outer walls are adorned with exquisite paintings, creating an enchanting atmosphere of artistry.

Xizhou's Lively Local Market: Every morning, the bustling local market in Xizhou comes alive with the daily rhythms of the Bai people's lives. Here, villagers gather to trade a cornucopia of goods, from fresh fish and vibrant vegetables to poultry and dairy products. Bai women, adorned in their traditional attire, navigate the market as they proudly sell their agricultural treasures. It's a vibrant tableau that offers a genuine glimpse into the Bai people's daily existence.

Er'hai West Shore Horse Carriage Ride: Embark on a leisurely and fascinating journey along the western shores of Er'hai Lake aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Departing from Xizhou, this scenic tour unfolds over approximately one hour, allowing you to soak in the serene beauty of the surroundings. Each carriage comfortably accommodates up to four passengers, making it an ideal option for small groups.

The Iconic Three Pagodas: The Three Pagodas, positioned majestically between the Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, stand as Dali's iconic landmarks. These towering structures, arranged in a triangular formation, boast a history spanning over 1,000 years. Within their hallowed confines, invaluable Buddhist scripts and scriptures are preserved, adding a spiritual dimension to their historical significance.

DAY 16 Dali to Kunming | Ancient Stone Forest

Explore the Mystical Ancient Stone Forest (Naigu Shilin): Venture 13 kilometers to the north of Shilin, also known as the Mozhai Stone Forest, and you'll discover the enigmatic Ancient Stone Forest, locally referred to as 'Naigu,' signifying ancient and black in the Yi language. This natural wonder spans over 5,000 mu (approximately 330 hectares) and boasts a newly unveiled 6-kilometer travel route. Contrasting with Shilin's renowned stone forests, Naigu Shilin possesses a unique charm, offering distinctive features and styles that promise an unforgettable experience.

Visit the Revered Yuantong Temple: Delve into history at the Yuantong Temple, a place of worship with a remarkable heritage spanning over 1,200 years. Nestled in Kunming, it proudly holds the distinction of being the city's largest temple. In 1956, a grand ceremony marked the arrival and consecration of the Buddha's tooth within its sacred confines. Recognized as one of China's key Buddhist temples by the State Council, Yuantong Temple stands as a testament to spiritual devotion and architectural grandeur.

DAY 17 Kunming | Dragon Gate on Xishan

Discover the Enchanting Dragon Gate on Xishan: Located a mere 37 kilometers west of downtown Kunming, the Dragon Gate on Xishan is a captivating treasure nestled close to the pristine Dianchi Lake. This remarkable ensemble of grottoes, sculptures, corridors, and pavilions is a testament to human dedication. Carved painstakingly into the cliff between 1781 and 1835 by a Taoist monk and his devoted team, the Dragon Gate offers a mystical journey into Taoism's heart.

Ascend Gracefully with the Xishan Longmen Chairlift: Enjoy a serene ascent with the Xishan Chairlift, whisking you effortlessly between Xvguang Pavilion and Yingxi Pavilion. This convenient mode of transport enables you to reach the Dragon Gate with ease, allowing you to savor the Taoism Grottoes before descending the hill without exertion.

Immerse Yourself in Yunnan's Rich Minority Village Culture: Nestled near the tranquil Dianchi Lake and sprawling across 133.3 hectares, the Yunnan Minority Village offers a captivating window into the rich customs and cultures of China's ethnic minorities. Here, amidst breathtaking natural beauty and a favorable climate, you'll encounter a profound sense of minority heritage. It's the perfect destination to explore and gain insights into diverse traditions.

Marvel at Dian Lake's Splendor: Dian Lake, also known as Kunming Lake, is the largest lake in Yunnan Province and the eighth largest in China. Revered as "the sparkling pearl embedded in the highland," it served as the inspiration for the renowned Kunming Lake in Beijing's Summer Palace. A visit to Dian Lake promises breathtaking vistas and a serene escape into nature.

Effortless Tram Ride to Dragon Gate on Xishan: For a more leisurely journey, hop on the tourist tram at Xvguang Pavilion. It'll transport you to General Liang's Summer Palace, where your ascent to the Dragon Gate begins. This convenient tram ride shaves off 20 minutes of walking, ensuring you maximize your exploration time.

DAY 18 Kunming Departure

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

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Tour Price

FromUS4,500 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-81

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