- Examine China’s fascinating history and economic future with experts from National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal, as well as local scholars, economists, and entrepreneurs.
- Tap into the infectious energy of Hong Kong, and visit a tech company and a vast electronics market in nearby Shenzhen, known as China’s Silicon Valley.
- Discover five UNESCO World Heritage sites, from the monumental Great Wall to the legendary terra-cotta army of Xi’an.
- Settle into an eco-friendly tree house at Twinkle Valley, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World nestled in the lush hills of Sichuan province.
Delve into the past, present, and future of China and explore its evolution into an economic powerhouse on this illuminating journey with National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal. Discover the legacy of an ancient civilization at lavish palaces, fortified cities, and revered temples in Beijing and Xi’an; and experience the country’s dynamic modern culture in the metropolises of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Meet local experts along the way, gaining a deeper understanding of China’s rapid economic development and how this complex country continues to reinvent itself.
This trip is offered in partnership with The Wall Street Journal.
Arrive in Hong Kong and transfer to our elegant downtown hotel. Spend the remainder of the day at leisure, venturing to the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, or enjoying views of the glittering Victoria Harbour from the hotel lounge.
Set out on a full-day exploration of Hong Kong, one of the world’s most important financial hubs. Stroll Dried Seafood Street, brimming with traditional cooking and medicinal ingredients, from black moss to dried snakeskins. Ride a vintage tram up to Victoria Peak—the highest point on Hong Kong Island—for breathtaking views of the city’s skyscraper-studded skyline. Tour the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, then board a traditional sampan boat to navigate the colorful Aberdeen fishing village, home to boat-dwelling families. Later, enjoy a lecture on international trade development in Honk Kong by economist Stephen Wong at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Gather for a welcome reception at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, followed by a delicious dinner at the city’s famed Tung Po restaurant.
Spend the day in Shenzhen, one of China’s Special Economic Zones, where free market policies were adopted in 1980 to attract entrepreneurs, innovators, and engineers. Since then, Shenzhen has grown from a small fishing village to a thriving industrial metropolis, where some 90% of the world’s electronics are produced. Visit a local technology company and learn how Shenzhen became known as the Silicon Valley of hardware. At the massive Huaqiangbei market—the largest electronics market in China—browse a mind-boggling array of devices, from imitation iPhones to hoverboards. Return to Hong Kong for an evening at leisure.
Fly to Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province. Stroll the landscaped gardens of People’s Park, and perhaps join in a game of cards or badminton with the locals. Then venture into Kuanzhai Xiangzi, a network of ancient alleys lined with eclectic restaurants, shops, and teahouses. Tonight we’ll enjoy a spicy Sichuan hot pot dinner, accompanied by a performance of bian lian—the fascinating Chinese art of “face-changing”—where the performer switches from one painted mask to another in a series of swift, seamless gestures.
Begin the day with a visit to Sichuan University and enjoy a talk by a professor on the economy of western China. Drive north to Dujiangyan and settle into Twinkle Valley, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World nestled in a bamboo and cedar forest on the shores of Lake Lotus. Settle into your private tree house, then set out on a tour of Dujiangyan’s engineering marvel: the world’s oldest surviving non-dam irrigation system, originally constructed in the third century B.C. Explore the World Heritage site’s canals and suspension bridges, and learn how this ancient system continues to play a critical role in flood control and provide water to cities across Sichuan.
Today, we encounter China’s beloved national animal at the Woolong Panda Reserve (Shenshuping Panda Base). Located in a sprawling, mountainous nature reserve, Woolong is the largest breeding center for giant pandas in the world. Observe these iconic creatures with their cuddly young, and meet with a wildlife expert to learn about the center’s conservation efforts. We’ll also have a chance to feed the pandas their favorite snacks. This afternoon, step back in time in Jiezi Ancient Town to discover the settlement’s millennia-old streets, studded with charming temples and pagodas.
Return to Chengdu this morning and visit the headquarters of a local technology company. Then ride the high-speed train to Xi’an, one of China’s four ancient capitals and the start of the fabled Silk Road. Visit the city’s remarkably preserved Ming-era walls, dating to the 14th century, and walk along the monumental ramparts running some eight miles around the city’s perimeter. Settle into our elegant hotel located within the city walls, and enjoy a lively discussion on Chinese politics with a local scholar over dinner.
Pay a visit to the legendary terra-cotta army, standing guard outside the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Marvel at the unique artistic detail of the life-size sculptures—soldiers, chariots, horses, and more—buried alongside the emperor around 210 B.C. to protect him in the afterlife. Join the curator of the Shaanxi History Museum for an exclusive tour of its Tang Dynasty murals, and learn about the delicate and painstaking work of restoring these ancient treasures. This evening, embark on a culinary exploration of Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter, known for its mouthwatering street food concoctions.
Fly to Beijing and check in to our hotel. Then visit a local university to hear a talk about China’s controversial “social credit” system—a government-run system that aims to digitally monitor and rank Chinese citizens based on their social and financial activities. Spend the evening at leisure, taking in views of the vast, twinkling metropolis from the hotel’s rooftop terrace, or enjoying a relaxing dip in the indoor pool.
Spend the day exploring Beijing, the political heart of modern China. Begin at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall, a four-story urban planning museum featuring a scale model of the entire city. Then walk to Tiananmen Square, where some of the country’s most important political events—including the student-led protests of 1989—have taken place. Venture to the Forbidden City, the former imperial residence of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Enjoy an exclusive tour of Chonghua Gong, or the Palace of Many Splendors—a state ceremony room. Attend a talk on China’s Cultural Revolution with a local scholar, then stroll the elegant Summer Palace, an imperial retreat used by China’s emperors.
Visit the Temple of Heaven, a sacred complex once used by Ming emperors for prayer ceremonies and now a recreational area where locals practice tai chi and play chess. Later, we make our way to the legendary Great Wall. Built between the 3rd and 17th centuries, this outstanding fortification was constructed by successive Chinese dynasties as a defense against invaders. Trek across the less visited Mutianyu section, taking in far-reaching views of the lush, tranquil countryside. This evening, toast our adventure at a farewell dinner featuring Beijing’s famed Peking duck.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.