China Family: Beijing, the Great Wall & Southern Provinces

China Family: Beijing, the Great Wall & Southern ProvincesChina Family: Beijing, the Great Wall & Southern Provinces

China Family

Beijing, the Great Wall & Southern Provinces

overview

NEW! From the heart of the Forbidden City to remote Sichuan villages, explore raucous bustle, ancient history, and spare beauty of China on this private, guided adventure. Our active, all-ages itinerary offers something for everyone: a sumptuous Peking duck dinner, morning tai chi in the gardens of a Taoist temple, hands-on yo-yo lessons, a bamboo raft trip down the Li River, and much more. Walk a remote stretch of the Great Wall with a local expert on the region’s history and culture. Hone both your intellectual and physical skills with private calligraphy and kung fu lessons. Witness giant pandas at play at a research center in Chengdu. Savor the spectacle of a traditional Sichuan opera, where layers of makeup are blown off the faces of each performer with a fan to reveal new faces underneath.

2015 Downloadable Itinerary

 



Activity Level
Easy to Moderate;
2-8 miles daily
Meet
Beijing, China
Depart
Guilin, China
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
Family Adventure 
10 days, 9 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • On this tour there will be one Country Walkers tour leader with you 24/7, and local guides in Beijing, Xi’an, and Guilin/Yangshuo
  • All meals included except one dinner; local wine or beer included with dinner
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Beijing
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2
Beijing
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3
Beijing
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4
Chengdu
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5
Guilin
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6
Guilin
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7
Yangshuo
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8
Yangshuo
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9
Yangshuo
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10
Yangshuo
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Day 1

Beijing

Arrival to Beijing

Meeting your guide and driver at the Beijing Airport, you are immediately transferred to your secluded hotel in the heart of Beijing’s Old City. China’s capital since the 13th century, Beijing has remained the country’s political, intellectual, and artistic center—over a long history of dynasties, warlords, rebellions, and world wars. The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace are just some of the centuries-old historical sites, surrounded by Beijing’s traditional hutong neighborhoods of narrow lanes and courtyard homes. Bold skyscrapers and wide avenues also form part of this urban scene, including Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, and China’s National Stadium constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics—better known as the “Bird’s Nest.” For your first evening’s dinner in Beijing, the city’s signature dish of Peking duck is on the menu.

Bamboo Garden Hotel

Beijing, China

This courtyard-style historical hotel with peaceful gardens, bamboo groves, and fountains is unique in the Old City of Beijing for combining traditional Chinese décor with Western comfort. The rooms are newly renovated, with Ming and Qing dynasty furniture and all modern amenities; also with a fine-dining restaurant and teahouse.

Day 2

Beijing

Walking tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City; explore hutong neighborhood on foot or with a pedicab option, 2 to 3 miles, easy

You begin your tour of Beijing in Tiananmen Square, breathtakingly vast, with Mao’s portrait overlooking one of the world’s largest public spaces, site of many events in Chinese history—both ancient and recent. On the northern side of the square are the giant gates of the Forbidden City, home to emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasty for over 500 years. You walk through the more than 800 buildings, 9,000 chambers, and innumerable courtyards of the Palace Museum, which once were home to only the elite officials and close associates of the imperial family and now comprise the best-preserved palace complex in China. Following lunch, you explore the other side of Old Beijing—where the bustling life of the city went on in the traditional neighborhoods and narrow alleyways known as hutongs in and around Houhai Lake. Walking through the hutongs, you pass retirees playing chess or mahjong, ball dancing, stretching, or practicing tai chi. You encounter shopkeepers selling such traditional snacks as jian bing (pancakes) or baozi (steamed buns) and hear calls announcing the arrival of the knife sharpener or cardboard collector. The route also takes you through an open-air market brimming with local fruits and vegetables.

Bamboo Garden Hotel

Beijing, China

This courtyard-style historical hotel with peaceful gardens, bamboo groves, and fountains is unique in the Old City of Beijing for combining traditional Chinese décor with Western comfort. The rooms are newly renovated, with Ming and Qing dynasty furniture and all modern amenities; also with a fine-dining restaurant and teahouse.

Day 3

Beijing

Morning in the Temple of Heaven (optional tai chi or kung fu lessons); walk along Mutianyu Great Wall, 3 miles, easy to moderate (with options to ascend via cable car and descend via toboggan)

This morning, a short drive within Beijing brings you to the Temple of Heaven—the vast complex of Chinese architectural masterpieces where Chinese emperors conducted rituals offering sacrifices to heaven and praying for good harvests. Even larger than the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven grounds were designed and laid out in strict accordance with ancient cosmology and numerology. Now open to the public, the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven serve as a lively gathering spot for local Beijingers to practice taiji (tai chi), play games, sing, and dance. You may want to join an early-morning taiji lesson with a taiji master, who introduces you to this subtle martial art embodying the Taoist philosophy of yinyang (yin and yang).

Later in the morning, your destination is one of the world’s greatest manmade structures—the Great Wall of China. A drive of just under two hours brings you to the Mutianyu section of the wall, with its 22 towers and striking views of the stone structure snaking over precipitous mountain ridges on the horizon. Built over the course of two millennia, and stretching more than 1,000 miles from the Pacific to China’s far western desert, the wall was a defense against nomadic invaders from the north. You stop first for lunch in a village just under the wall at a restaurant in a renovated schoolhouse, a sustainable local tourism project serving fresh produce from nearby farms in tempting Chinese and Western dishes. You walk along a fairly unvisited section of the wall, set above sloping hillsides where farmers cultivate apricots and chestnuts. At one point, you may use a small cable car to ascend or descend, and if you would like an adrenaline rush, you may opt for a bobsled-style toboggan descent. You return to Beijing later this evening.

Bamboo Garden Hotel

Beijing, China

This courtyard-style historical hotel with peaceful gardens, bamboo groves, and fountains is unique in the Old City of Beijing for combining traditional Chinese décor with Western comfort. The rooms are newly renovated, with Ming and Qing dynasty furniture and all modern amenities; also with a fine-dining restaurant and teahouse.

Day 4

Chengdu

Morning flight to Chengdu; Wenshu Monastery, Wuhou Temple, and walk along Jinli Street; walking tour of Kuan and Zhai Xiang neighborhoods, 2 miles, easy; evening, Sichuan Opera face-changing performance

You depart Beijing this morning for the Sichuan region in China’s southwest, and the city of Chengdu, about a three-hour flight. With its unique culture, Sichuan is often associated with its spicy food and its “national treasure”—the giant panda—whose habitat is found amidst the province’s mountain forests and aquamarine lakes. The modern capital of Chengdu is a growing city that still maintains its past traditions; the influence of Buddhism is especially prevalent here in what is considered the gateway city to Tibet. You learn about Buddhism in China at Chengdu’s best-preserved monastery—the Wenshu Monastery, dating back to the 7th-century Tang Dynasty. You stroll through the complex of sculpted temples, ponds, and gardens and view the sacred relics of its collection, such as a jade Buddha carried from Tibet. You join local worshippers, other travelers, or Buddhist monks and nuns for an authentic lunch at the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant. Continuing your walk, you get a glimpse of a traditional Chengdu neighborhood at Kuan Zhan Ziang Zi—where among pedestrian streets, old stone buildings still house bustling shops and teahouses. You also walk by the even-more-ancient Wuhou Temple, dating to the 1st century AD. Later this evening, you experience the region’s own performance art: Sichuan Opera, which differs from operas of other regions with its “face changing” technique, along with elaborate acrobatics and lively characters. The performance is held in a traditional courtyard, and you can sip tea and munch on snacks as you watch—don’t be surprised by the shouts of encouragement, pleasure, and even disapproval from members of the audience!

Ascott Raffles Hotel

Chengdu, China

In the heart of Chengdu, a luxurious suite-style hotel offers plush and spacious rooms with a wide range of facilities, such as an on-site restaurant and bars, fully equipped gym, indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room, lounge, and pool table. Connected to the hotel within walking distance are a shopping mall, restaurants, and movie theaters.

Day 5

Guilin

Morning visit to Chengdu Panda Research Center; Huanglongxi walk, 2 to 3 miles, easy to moderate; optional afternoon activities, Shuxiufang Embroidery Workshop or Wangjianglou Park; evening flight to Guilin

On Futou Hill on the outskirts of the city is the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center—which is devoted to giant panda research, breeding, captive conservation, and education. You arrive this morning to visit the grounds where giant pandas thrive alongside other endangered species, such as red pandas, black-necked cranes, and more than 300 varieties of bamboo. Morning is the best time to see the pandas at their most active, eating the 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo they must take in daily to make up for a lack of digestive enzymes. With luck, you can see the unbelievably adorable cubs and learn about conservation efforts to safeguard their future. Your lunch is much tastier than theirs—Sichuan hot pot! This afternoon, about a one-hour drive takes you to you explore Huanglongxi—a bustling yet ancient town, with preserved temples and Qing-dynasty-style architecture. Named for the Huanglong River that runs through it, the town boasts beautifully preserved wooden buildings along narrow cobblestone streets, scenery that attracts filmmakers and visitors alike. Later this evening, you transfer to the airport for a 90-minute flight taking you southeast, to the city of Guilin in the Guangxi region.

Sheraton Guilin Hotel

Guilin, China

A five-star international hotel in the city center is located near the park and overlooking the Li River. With spacious modern rooms, amenities also include an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, fitness center and sauna, and restaurants serving Chinese and international cuisine.

Day 6

Guilin

Terraces of Longsheng walk and visit to Zhuang village, 5 miles, easy to moderate

You awaken this morning in Guangxi, one of China’s autonomous regions, which is wedged between central China, Yunnan, and the Gulf of Tonkin. Its stunning landscapes of meandering rivers and conical limestone mountains are matched by an incredible diversity in the cultures and ethnic groups that make up its population. A spectacular walk takes you along the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces—a group of large-scale rice-cultivating terraces built into the hillside dating back more than 650 years. Just as they were in the past, these extensive terraces continue to be carved out of the slopes using simple traditional methods, and this incredible pre-industrial engineering feat has survived as a popular motif in Chinese painting. The terraces seem to coil from the valley along the hillsides, changing colors throughout the seasons, from vibrant green with rice shoots in spring, to yellow in autumn, and white with frost in winter. Nearly 75 percent of Guangxi’s inhabitants are non-Han Chinese, and Longsheng is home to a vibrant mixture of Dong, Huang, Yao, and Miao people. At the heart of the Longsheng rice terraces in the village of Ping An, you have the opportunity to experience Guangxi’s rich minority cultures. This area is mostly populated by the Zhuang minority (the largest ethnic minority in China, with a population approaching 16 million). With a history dating back over two millennia, the Zhuang are famed for their frescoes painted throughout Guangxi Province and their brocaded fabrics with myriad patterns used for quilt covers, tablecloths, aprons, and handbags.

Sheraton Guilin Hotel

Guilin, China

A five-star international hotel in the city center is located near the park and overlooking the Li River. With spacious modern rooms, amenities also include an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, fitness center and sauna, and restaurants serving Chinese and international cuisine.

Day 7

Yangshuo

Morning Li River cruise; Fuli to Yangshuo, 8 miles, easy to moderate

You begin the day with a two-hour cruise down the Li River—considered China’s most beautiful waterway. You float past startling oblong mountains that jut out amidst the terraced rice fields and picturesque villages that have been immortalized in Chinese poetry and painting for centuries. You may catch glimpses of everyday riverside life of fishing, washing clothes, or even bathing water buffalo. The boat docks in the village of Xingping, a small town on the Li River appreciated for its setting amidst the karst pinnacles—in fact, the setting is so famous that you are advised to take a look at the bucolic scene depicted on your 20 renmibi currency note! After lunch here, you continue to Fuli, a small historical town with a proud craft tradition of painted fans and umbrellas. You begin an afternoon walk here along Fuli’s ancient narrow, stone streets, passing the local market and fan workshops, and soon out into the countryside, surrounded by brimming rice paddies and lush, steep hills. You arrive on foot at your home for the next three nights, an elegant yet cozy inn set amidst the exotic landscape.

Moondance Hotel

Yangshuo, China

An intimate boutique hotel, Moondance is just outside a village, set among paths and rice paddies on the Yulong River with lovely views of the surrounding lush hillsides and rivers. Individually decorated guest rooms incorporate wood floors and carved accents with warm lighting, and modern amenities. Public spaces that invite relaxation include a tranquil outdoor café terrace, swimming pool, and restaurant serving Western and Chinese dishes.

Day 8

Yangshuo

Morning bicycle ride in Yangshuo, 16 miles, easy (or walking options); bamboo rafting on Yulong River; Dutou Village walk option, 3 to 4 miles, easy; afternoon, private calligraphy and painting class; evening, Impression Liusanjie Show

This morning, you hop on a bicycle for an easygoing ride on an old country road through the verdant and serene surroundings to Aishan Village and the famous Moon Hill—as its name suggests, a hill with an enormous round hole—which beckons in the distance. Once there, you may choose to walk up the steep path to the summit, including 819 steps, generally about a 30-minute walk. From the top, you are treated to a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding hills and a close look at the “Moon,” which used to be the underground river canal. You may also choose to arrive at Moon Hill on foot. Afterward, you make your way to the Yulong River, a tributary of the Li, for a ride on a traditional bamboo raft, a quieter way to float through the tranquil river valley flanked by steep-sided limestone peaks and rice paddies. Another small ferry crosses the river to Dutou Village, where an easy two-hour walk follows the riverbank, connecting three small hamlets. Immersed in the captivating scenery, you learn how it has inspired local artists for centuries. This afternoon, it’s your turn to try your hand at two ancient Chinese arts, as a local master introduces you to the basics of landscape painting and calligraphy.

Later tonight, you enjoy a more modern spectacle, inspired by the ancient folktales and customs of the Guangxi minorities. “Impression Liusanjie” is a sensational evening show performed by more than 600 local singers and dancers against the backdrop of 12 mountain peaks and the Li River in the world’s largest natural theater. A major social project for the development of Yangshuo County, Impression Liusanjie was created by celebrated Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (who also orchestrated the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony).

Moondance Hotel

Yangshuo, China

An intimate boutique hotel, Moondance is just outside a village, set among paths and rice paddies on the Yulong River with lovely views of the surrounding lush hillsides and rivers. Individually decorated guest rooms incorporate wood floors and carved accents with warm lighting, and modern amenities. Public spaces that invite relaxation include a tranquil outdoor café terrace, swimming pool, and restaurant serving Western and Chinese dishes.

Day 9

Yangshuo

Fengweilou village to Dashizhai village, 3 to 4 miles, easy to moderate; optional walking extension to Baisha village, 6 miles, easy to moderate; afternoon of individual exploration or relaxation; optional evening cormorant fishing performance

Your last full day in Yangshuo begins with a countryside walk between the small villages of Fengweilou and Dashizhai. With your newly awakened artist’s eye, you may want to capture the timeless scenery in photos influenced by your Chinese art class. You may choose to continue walking another hour on to Baisha village before returning to your comfortable hotel where you can enjoy the swimming pool or simply relax on the balcony with a book or soak in the scenery. There is also ample time to enjoy a stroll through the town of Yangshuo’s West Street. With its many brightly colored stalls and laid-back cafés, it’s a fun place to do some casual souvenir shopping or relax with a coffee or an ice cream.

In the early evening, you have the opportunity to view a demonstration of cormorant fishing from a fishermen’s boat. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method that is still a livelihood for some residents here, and while controversial, it has been practiced since around 960 AD and reflects the reality of the relationship between man and nature in Guangxi province. Fishermen train young cormorants (water birds native to central and southern China) to dive underwater for fish and then return to the bamboo rafts with full beaks. A band is fastened around the cormorant’s slender neck so that the larger fish can’t be swallowed; the birds can still swallow smaller fish. Please note: the demonstration is an optional activity and happens at dusk, the best time for fishing; however, it is fairly dark and, while many foreign tourists participate, the locally crafted boats may not adhere to Western safety standards.

Moondance Hotel

Yangshuo, China

An intimate boutique hotel, Moondance is just outside a village, set among paths and rice paddies on the Yulong River with lovely views of the surrounding lush hillsides and rivers. Individually decorated guest rooms incorporate wood floors and carved accents with warm lighting, and modern amenities. Public spaces that invite relaxation include a tranquil outdoor café terrace, swimming pool, and restaurant serving Western and Chinese dishes.

Day 10

Yangshuo

Departure from Guilin

A leisurely morning allows ample time for breakfast and packing before your transfer from Yangshuo to the city of Guilin, where you continue your onward travels.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a Country Walkers adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call Country Walkers at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Tiger Li

A native of Sichuan Province in Central China, Tiger studied English while at university. Li has hiked and guided extensively in the Himalayas, as well as in the Guilin region. He has also walked a large portion of the Great Wall and is one of the best-known Chinese national guides in the Beijing region. On tour, Li looks forward to sharing his love of hiking, China, and travel with guests.

Chris Che

Chris is a native of Heilongjiang, and earned a degree in Tourism Management at Beijing’s Foreign Language University. He began his career as a guide in 2001, and one of his favorite places in China is Yangshuo, for its unique natural beauty and traditional culture. He has an easy-going, affable nature and a ready sense of humor. In his free time, Chris enjoys playing ping pong, snow boarding, hiking, and reading.

Jessica Zhu

Jessica was born and raised in Xi’an. She graduated from Xi’an Translators Training College with a degree in English and is a mine of information about the traditional stories of culture and myth regarding her hometown. When not leading groups, she is an avid photographer and cook. She enjoys welcoming CW guests to Xi’an and sharing her passion for the “eternal city.”

Peter Mo

Peter Mo is a native of Yangshuo and grew up hiking through the many karst peaks surrounding his hometown. Passionate about the outdoors and sharing the ethereal beauty of the countryside, he began leading trekking tours in 2010. Peter has hiked all over Guangxi province and has been to Longsheng over a hundred times, guiding both large and small groups of travelers. Whether you are interested in hearing folk songs or trying some local cuisine, Peter is the ideal guide to tailor your adventure.

Jerry Dong

Born and raised in the stunning Yunnan Province, Jerry Dong moved away from his quiet hometown to attend university in Beijing. Graduating from the prestigious Foreign Studies University with a degree in English and Tourism Management, he immediately began work as a guide. Jerry's guiding style makes him an ideal host for Beijing taking you through a city of 17 million people in a seamless and relaxed manner. While Jerry misses Yunnan's cuisine and impressive mountains, he feels at home in Beijing's urban jungle and has fallen in love with the old alleyways of China's most fascinating city.

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