- Spend a day interacting with giant pandas at a research center outside Chengdu, helping caretakers feed and care for the animals and learning about conservation efforts.
- Meet National Geographic grantees across China and learn about the latest research efforts related to the environment and wildlife conservation.
- Go behind the scenes at the Institute of Archaeology in Xi’an for an insider’s look at recent finds at the terra-cotta warrior site and other excavations.
- Cruise two of China’s most legendary waterways, gliding through the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River and the karst landscapes of the Li River.
With the Great Wall’s 13,170 miles, Xi’an’s 8,000 terra-cotta warriors, the Forbidden City’s 800 palaces, China has a predisposition for grandeur. But the magic of the Middle Kingdom lies in personal encounters, whether it's a rickshaw ride through old Beijing or a tai chi lesson on a riverboat. Get an insider’s take on this country of contrasts, meeting conservationists and archaeologists, navigating karst caves and misty gorges, and exploring the legacy of ancient empires and the futuristic momentum of Shanghai.
Arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the capital. Meet your fellow travelers at a welcome reception this evening.
Start your day with a tai chi session led by a master practitioner. Then step back in time at the less visited Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, which retains the fortification’s original character. Later, meet with National Geographic grant recipient Zhang Boju from Friends of Nature, China's oldest environmental organization, to hear about his latest conservation efforts in the capital city. Tonight, feast on Peking duck with your fellow travelers.
Stroll the vast and historic Tiananmen Square and then navigate the 900-some buildings and temples of the Forbidden City. Enjoy lunch before heading to a traditional hutong neighborhood for a rickshaw tour. Delve into imperial Beijing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by gardens.
Fly from Beijing to Xi’an, once the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and the capital of China. On a special behind-the-scenes visit to the Institute of Archaeology—normally closed to the public—learn about latest excavations and see the artifacts up close. This evening, gather for dinner at a restaurant in the city’s colorful Muslim Quarter.
After breakfast, view the legendary terra-cotta army, composed of thousands of soldiers, chariots, and horses that were buried around 210 B.C. at the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Later, walk or ride a bike atop the massive city wall. During free time, browse the maze of markets and sites in the Muslim Quarter.
Fly to Yichang, and board a luxurious riverboat for a four-night voyage on the Yangtze through the breathtaking Three Gorges region.
On daily excursions, visit the world's largest engineering project at the Three Gorges Dam; venture into narrow tributaries by local sampan boat, taking in gorgeous scenery; in Fuling choose between the 816 Underground Project, the world's largest artificial military cave, or the Baiheliang Underwater Museum. Back on the ship, learn about traditional healing and local crafts, enjoy morning tai chi, and gaze at the dramatic gorges.
Disembark this morning and travel to Chengdu, stopping along the way to visit the Dazu Grottoes, a World Heritage site where centuries-old rock carvings depict Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist themes as well as scenes of ordinary life during the Tang Dynasty. Arrive in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.
Spend today at the Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base overseen by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. We’ll have the chance to prepare meals and feed the pandas, help clean the enclosures, and hear about conservation efforts. Return to Chengdu for dinner.
This morning, settle into your first-class seat on the high-speed train to Guilin, known for its surreal landscape of mist-shrouded karst mountains. Upon arrival, enjoy an optional walk to Elephant Trunk Hill for panoramic views of the surrounding karst peaks.
Today, embark on a cruise down the Li River. Glide beneath limestone pinnacles and terraced rice fields that have inspired Chinese artists for generations, and stop to browse at a local market. Return to Guilin for an evening on your own.
This morning, fly to bustling Shanghai. Over lunch, meet with conservationist and wildlife photographer Jing Li, a National Geographic grantee working to conserve critically endangered birds in the greater Shanghai area. After lunch, zoom up to the observation deck of China’s tallest building, Shanghai Tower, for a superlative view of the skyline. Stroll neon-lit Nanjing Road and the historic Bund waterfront during the evening on your own.
Begin the day meandering among the pavilions, ponds, and zigzag bridges of Yu Garden, Shanghai’s celebrated classical Chinese garden, dating to 1559. Peruse an intriguing range of antiques and goods at the Old Bazaar. Tonight, toast your Chinese adventure at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, transfer to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and catch your flight home.