Best China Tour with Yangtze River Cruise

11 Days Beijing-Xi’an-Chongqing-Yangtze River Cruise-Yichang-Shanghai

If you ask me which city in China is the best choice for the travelers to start their first time China tour, my answer will always be Beijing. The China tour from Beijing has also become the most popular China tour in the past several years. Then take a look at this 11 days best China tour from Beijing with the Yangtze River Cruise. Starting from Beijing, we will take you to Xi’an, Chongqing, and Shanghai. Between Chongqing and Shanghai, it will be the Yangtze River Cruise tour. With various natural landscapes combining with different cultural sightseeing spots, I am sure this well-selected China tour from Beijing will impress you. Come and visit China through the eye of China Tour Star. Your China tour from Beijing will be nicer!

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Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Beijing
You will arrive in Beijing and your guide will take you to the hotel for a good rest

Welcome to Beijing! Beijing, also known as Peking, is a city of more than 3,000 years and functions as the national capital for over 800 years. With a profound cultural atmosphere, Beijing boasts a large number of attractions and relics that make it a city with the most abundant cultural heritages in the world. Therefore, it serves as a good window for you to know and understand China’s culture. It is so happy that our tour begins here.

When you arrive in Beijing, our guide will pick you up at the airport arrival hall and transfer you to the downtown hotel. Having the check-in procedures done, you will enjoy the rest of the day by yourself.

Day 2 Beijing
Tian’anmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace

Our second-day trip starts with Tian’anmen Square after breakfast! Tian’anmen means Gate of Heavenly Peace and this square is known as the world’s largest city square, with an area of 440,000 square meters that equals three times of Time Square and even the size of the country of the Vatican. It has always been used to commemorate national-level events, including the founding ceremony of PRC and mass military parade. 

Walking through Tian’anmen Square, we will get to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City (closed every Monday) is the imperial palace for 24 emperors of China. With over 70 palaces and more than 9,000 rooms, the Forbidden City has been hailed as one of the five palaces in the world. Another four palaces are the Versailles Palace, the Buckingham Palace, the Kremlin Palace, and the White House. Like other imperial palaces around the world, the Forbidden City is dignified and solemn. A stone lion, however, demonstrates an exception. The stone lion was carved in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), which is in a peculiar but lovely shape that one hand scratches its head while the other clutches its crotch, getting a little bit “hip-hop” style. Legend says that Yi Wei, the eldest son of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty, is the reincarnation of that lion. Why? Because it is said that Yi Wei died of injuries caused by Emperor Daoguang’s angrily but unintentionally kicking to his crotch. After Yi Wei died, he turned to be a stone lion in the forbidden to remind his father not to be bad-tempered. The Forbidden City houses a sea of cultural relics and many intriguing stories like this. Come and visit it. I am sure your guide will tell you more. 

Our lunch ends the morning trip. After the meal, we will go to the Summer Palace.

The Summer Palace is regarded as the finest imperial garden in China, which started its life as Qingyi Garden (Clear Ripples Garden) in 1715. Thanks to the ingenious designers and craftsmen, each of the buildings in the garden represent the beauty of Chinese architecture. The Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake consist of the main parts of the Summer Palace. The must-see Long Corridor that separates the hill from the lake marks the high level of craftsmen at the time. Stretching 728 meters long, it is the longest wooden-made corridor in the world. There are 14,000 paintings on the Long Corridor. Each colored painting tells a story, with the topic of stories sourcing from life, mythology, and folktales, etc. Therefore, standing on the Long Corridor, you can not only enjoy the beautiful scenery in the Summer Palace but also feel the Chinese culture from the paintings. If you are interested in the paintings, you can ask your guide to explain them to you. 

Having finished the trip, we will transfer you back to your hotel.

Tian'anmen Square
Forbidden City
Day 3 Beijing
Temple of Heaven, Old Beijing Hutong, Mutianyu Great Wall,

Travel time flies to the third day! Our trip continues to another two famous attractions after breakfast. The first is the Temple of Heaven. Built in 1420, the Temple of Heaven was designed for emperors to worship heaven and pray for a good harvest. With an area of over 2,700,000 square meters, the Temple of Heaven is the world’s largest rituals complex. Imperial Vault of Heaven is one of the important buildings in the Temple of Heaven. Among the steps leading to the Imperial Vault of Heaven, there is a stone slab called the Three-tone Stone. You can hear three echoes when you stand on this step and clap your hands. Similarly, when the emperor spoke here, he could hear the echo three times. This is considered to be the emperor communicating with God of heaven. And it fits into the traditional Chinese philosophical idea of “nature and humans respond to each other”. Now as a public park, the Temple of Heaven has a new scene that a lot of people, almost the elder people, play Tai Chi and square dancing here every day, and you can join these locals and appreciate their energy. It must have great fun!

Then we will go to visit Old Beijing Hutong. The Old Beijing Hutong is a distinctive type of narrow street or alley. Hutong has a history of more than 700 years and firstly appeared during the Yuan Dynasty. You are recommended to take a rickshaw, a kind of main transportation in the 19th century, to visit the Hutong. The main buildings along Hutongs are Siheyuan which is also called quadrangle courtyard. Our guide will bring you to a family living in Hutong to check what Siheyuan looks like, to see how local people live, and to learn their family stories. If lucky enough, we may come across the descendants of the imperial chef or palace guard, which means you may hear the first-hand previous imperial anecdotes.

Our lunch is after we finish the visit to Hutong. Your guide will take you to a local restaurant and taste the authentic Beijing cuisine. Having finished the delicious meal, this afternoon’s trip starts with the Mutianyu Great Wall. The Mutianyu Great Wall is a section of the Great Wall, located about 70 kilometers northeast of downtown Beijing. It was firstly built in 1404 for defending the capital and the imperial tombs which are not too far from it. 

An old saying in China goes “one who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a hero”. The Mutianyu Great Wall has been praised as “the most beautiful section of the Great Wall” for its high vegetation coverage, so you can be a hero while enjoying the most fascinating landscape that others cannot see in other sections. It is available for visitors in several ways to climb up and down the Mutianyu Great Wall: with an enclosed cable car, a chairlift, and a toboggan. The way of going up and down with the cable car is recommended for those senior travelers and kids. The chairlift is open-air so those relatively nimble travelers and people who do not have fear of height are more suitable for it. And the most exciting way to visit the Great Wall is going up with the chairlift and going down with the toboggan. You can choose the transportation you like when you visit here. 

That is the end of the third-day tour in Beijing, and the guide will also transfer you back to the hotel.

Option: If you want to hang out on your own after your dinner. Sanlitun Bar Street is an ideal choice to enjoy the nightlife. As its name shows, the street is lined with various bars, and each of them has its characteristics and distinctiveness. Next to a high-end Shopping mall of international brands and restaurants, the street represents the most popular place among the young people in Beijing. 

Temple of Heaven
Mutianyu Great Wall
Day 4 BeijingXi’an
Beijing to Xi'an by train

Today is a good-bye day to Beijing and we will leave for Xi’an, the home of the Terra-cotta Army with a history spanning over 2,000 years. After breakfast, we will send you to take the estimated train G571 09:22/15:07. We will prepare a lunch box for you. So, today’s lunch will be on the train. 

After your tour guide in Xi’an meets you at the train station in the afternoon, we will travel to Xi’an City Wall. Xi’an City Wall was firstly built in 1307. It is also the best-preserved ancient city wall in China. The Wall has a rectangular shape and is 13.7 kilometers in length. A popular activity is to cycle on the magnificent City Wall. Visitors can rent a bicycle, or a tandem one, to ride over the flat City Wall and appreciate the city scenery. Moreover, different performances would be held on the City Wall lasting about one and half hours. If you happened to meet it, it will make you feel more old-timey and more like stepping into the past.

You must feel tired after the trip on the wall, and we will send you to the hotel for a good rest!

Xi'an City Wall
Xi'an City Wall
Day 5 Xi’an
Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Muslim Quarter

Today’s trip after breakfast starts with the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum! 

The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum is approximately 42 kilometers northeast of downtown Xi’an, taking almost 50 minutes to drive. The terracotta warriors and horses can date back to the third century BCE and were a collection of sculptures as funerary objects buried with Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China. 

The discovery of the terracotta army was in 1974 when a farmer was digging a well for water and found some terracotta pieces. He gave these pieces to the local museum. The director of the museum began to repair these pieces and he successfully restored three warrior figurines. That attracted a report by a journalist. So, it also quickly got the great attention of the government. Finally, the Eighth Wonder of the World was discovered, shocking the whole world and getting credited as the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. These terracotta warriors used to be painted with different colors by craftsmen, but faded to the color of terracotta, just like we see today, due to air oxidation when they were unearthed. The terracotta army is an attraction not to be missed by any visitor to China.

That is our morning trip. The lunch has been prepared for you. After that, we will travel to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the Muslim Quarter in the afternoon.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda has spanned thousands of years and was firstly built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and its construction was supervised by Mater Xuanzang, an eminent Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator, to store Buddhist scriptures and Buddha statues that were brought to China from India by Xuanzang. The pagoda currently stands at 7-story high in a square shape. The name of the pagoda originates from a Buddhist allusion. It is said that the initial Buddhism was divided into two schools, one of which allowed its followers to eat meat. One day, the monks who can eat meat do not have any food to eat. Upon looking at a flock of geese flying by, the monks prayed to Bodhisattva to give them some meat. At that very moment, the leading goose broke its wings and fell off. Monks got astonished and believed that was a sign given by Bodhisattva ordering them to be more devout and stop killing lives. Therefore, they built a pagoda in the place where the goose fell and did not eat meat anymore. This pagoda is named Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

The pagoda is so important for Xi’an that it is designed as a part of the emblem of the city. You can’t miss it! What’s more, there is a musical waterscape fountain show at times at the northern square of the pagoda and it is Asia’s largest fountain performance. 

Our next destination goes to the Muslim Quarter. With a length of about 500 meters from south to north, the historic street is the hub of the Muslim community. More importantly, the street is a gourmet paradise that embraces a variety of local snacks. The popular authentic Islamic specialties include but are not limited to Rougamo (a kind of Chinese hamburger), Yangrou Paomo (Pita Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup), as well as Guantangbao (a steamed bun stuffed with juicy beef or mutton). Other foods like different kinds of noodles are also favored. Generally speaking, Rougamo is regarded as the top popular food among numerous snacks. It holds a generous serving of tender shredded meat with walloping flavor and a thin layer of hot peppers, and you can choose add-ons such as a fried egg or anything you want that is provided by the chef.

After your trip, you will be sent back to the hotel.

Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Day 6 Xi’anChongqing
Take a train to Chongqing, Ciqikou Ancient Town, Yangtze River Cruise Ship

Today we will go to Chongqing, taking the estimated train D1971 09:05/13:42 after breakfast. And lunch is also provided for you.

After arriving at the destination, our guide will lead you to visit Ciqikou Ancient Town. The town has a history of thousands of years and got prominence for its function as a ferry terminal during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. And now it is also favored by local citizens to enjoy their leisure time. Lots of old and native buildings, local cultures, and customs have been well preserved in the Ciqikou Ancient Town, such as Pingshu (a time-honored oral performing art) and teahouse culture, etc. Then we will go to Chaotianmen Dock to take the Yangtze River Cruise to relish a four-day trip on the gorgeous landscape along the Yangtze River, which is honored as “one of the 10 most beautiful sites” in China.

Yangtze River Cruise Ship, which is equipped with reading rooms, spa rooms, bars, cinemas, children’s playgrounds as well as the driving simulation area, is designed to keep passengers entertained all the way. Even a swimming pool is offered on some ships. Another service includes vegetarian meals and various kinds of activities like Tai Chi exercise and Chinese painting lectures, etc.

The ship would be set at around 22:00. Your guide will arrange everything necessary for you and you just need to embrace your next four leisure days.

Ciqikou Ancient Town
Yangtze River Cruise Ship
Day 7 Yangtze River Cruise
Shibaozhai Pagoda, Fengdu “Ghost City”

You will have a free morning on the seventh day. You can sleep in and then have a buffet breakfast. If you want to wake up your body, you can join the Tai Chi morning exercise. Or you can choose to have a cup of coffee while reading onboard with the cozy breeze. 

The shore excursion will be the visit of Shibaozhai Pagoda for a few hours. Shibaozhai Pagoda is built against a rocky and extremely steep hill and it boasts a 12-story-high pagoda in red. Shibaozhai Pagoda is renowned for its peculiar architectural design and is credited as one of the eight most peculiar structures in the world. 

Another interesting but extra-fee-needed attraction is Fengdu “Ghost City”. It is a large complex of buildings dedicated to showing the netherworld based on Chinese mythologies to people. The reason why people built a ghost city here is that Chinese legend says Fengdu City is where the devil lives. Here you will see what will the souls experience after people died. So, it is a perfect option for you to visit someplace mysterious and breathtaking. 

Today’s lunch will be a buffet on the cruise ship. Moreover, a welcome reception is also waiting for you at night.

Note: Shore excursions may vary due to the different cruises you choose. 

Shibaozhai Pagoda
Fengdu "Ghost City"
Day 8 Yangtze River Cruise
Three Gorges, Goddess Stream, White Emperor City

The eighth day also has a freestyle morning: eating breakfast, playing Tai Chi, or doing anything you want.

Today’s shore excursion will continue to explore the Three Gorges, three adjacent gorges spanning 311 kilometers including Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and Xiling Gorge. In the Wu Gorge, we will board a smaller ship to visit the Goddess Stream. It is also known locally as the most picturesque tributary. The surrounding towing cliffs, turquoise water, and misty mountain tops around the narrow gorge ever serve as a view-feast to all the tourists. 

An additional shore excursion goes to White Emperor City in Qutang Gorge. It has been said that a well in the city was once surrounded with the white mist looking like a dragon - the symbol of emperor in ancient China. Accordingly, the founder of the city, Gongsun Shu declared himself “the White Emperor” and named the city the White Emperor City.

That eighth day is also a party day on the cruise ship. You will get a farewell dinner party at night which offers a feast and grand variety shows for you.

Goddess Stream
White Emperor City
Day 9 Yangtze River CruiseShanghai
Three Gorges Dam, and take a train to Shanghai

The same with the previous morning, a buffet breakfast is available.

After breakfast, you will visit the world’s largest hydroelectric project, Three Gorges Dam Site. The huge scale of the Three Gorges Dam Site may be very difficult to get your head around. But the Three Gorges Dam Museum near the dam would give you lots of hints about the facts and history of such an imposing engineering project. In addition to this, you can climb up to the sightseeing platform and enjoy the spectacular view of the Yangtze River. 

Having finished the tour, you will take a shuttle bus to the Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal. Your guide will escort you to Yichang Railway Station and you will take the estimated train D354 14:46/22:21 to Shanghai.

Once you arrive in Shanghai, you will be picked up by your Shanghai guide at the railway station and sent to the hotel.

Three Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam
Day 10 Shanghai
Yu Garden, Shanghai Old Street, Shanghai Tower, Nanjing Road, The Bund

Breakfast is offered in the hotel. The morning trip in Shanghai goes to Yu Garden and Shanghai Old Street.

Yu Garden (closed every Monday) is a classical Chinese-style garden known for its traditional architecture, representing a highly popular tourist destination. Built in 1559 by an officer named Pan Yunduan, Yu Garden means “garden of happiness” in Chinese. It was built for Pan’s parents to spend their twilight years. However, his parents died before the garden was completed. After many years, this garden was opened to the public as a sightseeing spot and it attracted lots of tourists all over the world. On November 6, 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife met French President Macron and his wife in Yu Garden. Macron and his wife were full of praise for the scenery of Yu Garden. 

The next site is Shanghai Old Street. The street is characterized by shopping and entertainment, which miniatures the old Shanghai downtown. Various shops are crammed in the hustle and bustle street, including the century-old restaurants and teahouses, antique shops, as well as specialty stores for Chinese tea and snacks, etc.

After the tour, we will have lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, our schedule starts with Shanghai Tower. Known as the world’s second-tallest skyscraper, the Shanghai Tower is in spiraling form reaching 632 meters. It houses the world’s highest viewing platform greeting visitors with 360-degree panoramas of the historic Bund district and the snaking Huangpu River, etc. You can get to the 119th floor to the platform by the world’s fastest elevator, which rockets up and down at an astonishing 18 meters per second. 

Then we will go to Nanjing Road. It presents the earliest commercial streets in Shanghai, serving as a paradise for shoppers and foodies, which gathers numerous famed food and goods. Sightseeing trams in the shape of the old trolley cars shuttle back and forth in the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street, giving you a feeling in old Shanghai. 

The Bund is also on our list. It usually refers to the buildings and wharves along the western bank of the Huangpu River. The buildings feature different architectural styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Classicism, and the Renaissance, symbolizing one of the landmarks of Shanghai. Shanghai Pudong Development Bank has been still recognized as the most beautiful building on the Bund. Built in 1923, the bank adopted a neo-classicist design. It is called “the most luxurious building from the Suez Canal to the Bering Strait” and now represents the second-largest bank in the world.

That is the end of our trip today. Our guide will send you back to the hotel.

Shanghai Old Street
Nanjing Road
Day 11 Shanghai
You will be transferred to Shanghai airport, and fly back to your sweet home

How time flies! We start in Beijing and end in Shanghai. In just 11 days, we have enjoyed lots of magnificent scenery together, and we look forward to our next meeting! And don’t worry, we will send you to the airport according to your flight schedule!


Author: Siqi Chen

Proofreader: Betsy He

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