Day 1 Arrive Beijing
Arrive at Beijing's airport where you are greeted by your guide, and drive about an hour to your hotel. After a short rest, enjoy a walking tour of Tian'anmen Square and the buildings in the area including National Museum of China, Tian'anmen Tower, Great Hall of the People, Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, and the Monument to the People's Heroes.
Day 2 Forbidden City & Beijing Hutongs
Start out early this morning the day starts with an hour long Taichi lesson in the hotel courtyard. After breakfast head out to the magnificent Forbidden City. The Forbidden City bears the legacy of housing the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties starting in 1420. After exploring this unique site, we drive to Hutong area to find a hidden Yunnan Restaurant near the Bell Tower.
In the afternoon, take a walk to the Hutong area. We may start the walking from Houhai area, then walk east to Nan Luoguxiang, and end up in Lama temple area.
Enjoy dinner this evening at Dadong Roasted Duck restaurant for the chance to try the renowned culinary delight, Peking duck.
Day 3 Great Wall Hiking
Early this morning drive 2 hours to the Jinshanling Great Wall to start the hike towards the Simatai section. Jinshanling is one of the more remote and best preserved original portions of the Great Wall and still retains many original features. This remote and relatively-isolated section of the Great Wall has not been repaired since 1570 and is a great place to explore the wall on foot. Enjoy a picnic lunch during the 4-hour hike taking in the views and admiring the impressive accomplishment.
End the hike at Dongkou (or Wuyanlou Tower), where you hike back to the road and meet your vehicle to drive back to Beijing. Enjoy your free time to explore around Beijing and have your own dinner.
Hiking: 4-6 miles / 8-10 km / 4-5 hours, moderate to difficult with some steep up/down stairs on the wall
Day 4 Bullet Train to Xi'an | Ancient City Wall
Early this morning head to the Beijing Western Railway station and board the bullet train to Xi'an in a first class seat. Meet your Xi'an guide at the train station and head out to explore this historic city.
Xian was the capital of China for 13 dynasties in ancient times, like Western Zhou (11th century to 771 BC) and Tang (618-907).
This afternoon, take a short part of walk on the 8.5 miles along the Xi'an ancient city wall, stopping for views to either side, one that boasts impressive views of the old city contained within its walls, and to the other side the modern city that lies without it.
Xi'an is known for it's dumplings. Tonight you will enjoy a Dumpling Dinner at one of Xi'an's most famous restuarants.
Day 5 Terracotta Warriors and Tang Dynasty
After breakfast this morning, drive 1.5 hours to the Terracotta Warriors, which are arguably the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century. First discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well, the discovery eventually attracted archaeologists which led to the largest pottery figurine find in China's history. Drive back to the city for an introduction to the Tang Dynasty, or the 'golden era' of China. Visit the Tang Dynasty Art Museum where you receive a brief introductory lesson in calligraphy. Try your hand at this visual art as you practice writing Chinese characters with a brush and ink. Next explore Giant Wild Goose Pagoda this afternoon. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the Buddhist pagoda is about 1,300 years old and offers an amazing view of Xi'an. Arrange lunch and dinner on your own today.
Day 6 Giant Buddha of Leshan
Fly early this morning to Chengdu , the capital of Sichuan Province and the homeland of pandas. Drive two hours north to the Giant Buddha, located at the confluence of the Minjiang, Qingyl, and Dadu Rivers. Built in the year 713, the Giant Buddha is the largest sitting Buddha in the world at a height of 71 meters (or 233 ft). Take a closer look at the Buddha, or take a short walk on the steep trail to the river to admire the view. Return to to your hotel in Chengdu where the rest of your evening is free to do as you wish.
Day 7 Dujiangyan Irrigation system | Qingcheng Mountain
This morning, drive to Dujiangyan city, home to the UNESCO engineering feat of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System which dates back to 256 BC. Designed to bring water to the once dry Chengdu Plain, this massive man-made marvel has irrigated this Sichuan region into one of the most fertile and productive regions in China to this day. Wander the walkways around the structure and learn about its construction at Erwangmiao Temple. Hike up to Qingcheng Mountain, a sacred mountain for Taoism, a popular religion in China. In late afternoon, drive back to Chengdu and enjoy Sichuan Local Opera, or the face-changing show. Enjoy dinner tonight on your own. Sichuan Hot Pot or a bamboo dinner are local favorites.
Day 8 Panda Center, Broad and Narrow Alleys | Fly to Guilin
Leave early this morning for a day of volunteering at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center which houses more than 20 panda bears in various enclosures. Arriving early allows you to witness them when they are most active, during the morning feeding.The Center has been created and imitates the pandas' natural habitat. Baby pandas are typically best seen between May-November. Drive back to Chengdu to explore the Broad and Narrow Alleys. These are fashioned after ancient architecture and contain an endless variety of street food and shops.
In late afternoon, catch your flight on to Guilin. Upon arrival Guilin, you are greeted and drive to your hotel.
Day 9 Longsheng Rice Paddies
This morning drive two hours towards Longsheng Rice Terraces. Upon arrival to the scenic area, store your larger luggage and board a 45 minute shuttle towards Ping'An village. The village has been traditionally inhabited by the Zhuang ethnic group and is surrounded by rice terraces. Hike a half hour uphill to Li'an Lodge where you will be staying.
The minority group of Zhuang people living here are the second largest of 56 recognized ethnic groups in China. The Yao people, known for their heavy earrings and long hair, also work the rice paddies here. These rice terraces, built over 650 years ago, cover an area of over 16,000 acres and span an altitude between 980 ft and 3600 ft. Every year in May or early June they flood the rice paddies and transfer young plants into them to re-plant for the harvest in fall.
In the afternoon, take a 2-3 hours hike to Longji Village which is a lesser-touristed destination. Get the chance to see the local way of life before checking into the hotel for the evening.
Day 10 Li River Hike | Yangshuo
This morning, drive to Yangdi Village to start a gentle hike through the countryside. Follow a more isolated stretch of the picturesque Li River. Take bamboo rafts or local ferries a few times to cross the river, and cross through local villages along the way. After about 4-5 hours of easy hiking, arrive to the trail's end in Xingping, an old town with a history of over 800 years. From here drive an hour to the new hotel near the Moon Hill in Yangshuo.
Hiking: 7-9 miles / 12-15 km / 4-6 hours. Flat hiking, with easy bamboo rafting ride.
Day 11 Silver Cave | Liusanjie Impressions Show
Today spend 2-3 hours biking in the countryside of Yangshuo on a paved path that running alongside the river. This afternoon, your guide takes you to Silver Cave, one of the largest in China. Walk through the cave and admire the various large formations of stalactites and stalagmites. After an early dinner, attend the Impression of Liusanjie Show, a laser show at night overlooking the water. The popular show was created by Mr. Zhang Yimou, the director of the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies in 2008.
Day 12 Fly Home
This morning is free before you are taken to the airport in Guilin for your flight home.