This 13-day itinerary covers some of the major scenic attractions within China, including the West Lake, Yellow Mountain and the stunning Jiuzhaigou National Park. You'll not only see some of China's most-visited natural attractions, you'll visit places off the beaten path, such as the eco-touristic Zharu Valley on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Cap off your journey with an unforgettable visit with a Chinese icon – the giant panda – at the panda research base in the picturesque mountains of Bifengxia Panda Base.
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Your 13-day journey begins in Hangzhou, where you'll be met at the airport by your guide and transferred to your hotel. In Hangzhou, we recommend the Amanfayun Resort, which is surrounded by tea fields, natural forest, quaint villages and a pilgrimage circuit of five significant Buddhist temples. After checking in, you have free time to explore the lake at leisure before enjoying dinner in a local restaurant and retiring for the night.
Start the day early with a 3.5-hour drive to Huangshan – Yellow Mountain. Huangshan's mist-veiled peaks recall Chinese watercolor paintings, and its beauty and cultural significance make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. Enjoy a cable car ride to one of its many summits or take a brisk hike up one of its stairway through pine forests, spotting the unique rock formations of this UNESCO Heritage site. You'll stay in Huangshan tonight – we recommend the Beihai Hotel, located within the scenic area of the mountain at 5,350 feet elevation.
Wake up early this morning to watch the sunrise over the mountain from one of Huangshan's best view points. You'll spend the day exploring more of the locality's unique landscapes at Xihai Grand Canyon. Here, you'll encounter the famous Fairy Walking Bridge – a pedestrian bridge linking high up on the rock face, accessible via a staircase built onto the side of the mountain. There are many walking and hiking trails around the canyon, some more challenging than others – the tracks you explore are entirely up to you. In the evening return to your hotel in Huangshan.
Enjoy more of Huangshan today – you can rise early for another dawn hike or take a leisurely breakfast in preparation for a hike to one of the mountain's summits. Today's trail leads up the western staircase of Huangshan, a journey of up to four hours. You'll pass the second-highest peak – the Brightness Summit – and eventually reach the Jade Screen Pavilion for lunch. Before returning to the hotel, we'll visit the famous Yingke Song – the Welcoming Guests Pine. You can continue hiking this afternoon or return to your hotel.
Today you'll drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hungcun ancient village to view its traditional Anhui architecture. Positioned on the Nan Lake, this well-preserved old town exhibits carvings from the Ming and Qing dynasties. After lunch in a historic house in the village, you'll drive 4 hours back to Hangzhou where you have the afternoon to spend at your leisure.
Catch a morning flight to Chengdu, then enjoy the long (9 hours) scenic drive to Jiuzhaigou National Park on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. En route, you'll see some of China's most spectacular scenery as you pass through the Min Mountains. You'll stop along the way in a Qiang Tibetan village, before finally arriving at the national park gates, where you can check into your hotel, the Jiuzhaigou Grand Hotel.
After a good night's rest you'll explore the park today. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park has many striking natural features, the most remarkable of them its vividly hued lakes. Mirror Lake, Reed Lake and Five Flower Lake are just three must-see locations within the park. You can hike from site to site, but the park is vast and to cover more ground, you can join one of the buses that runs a circuit around all the major scenic points. Return to your hotel in the evening.
Today you'll head to Zharu Valley, a picturesque area within Jiuzhaigou that promotes sustainable travel. In this quieter, less visited part of the park, your guide will take you to various sites – you’ll encounter a handful of tiny Tibetan villages, prayer flag-covered temples and ancient ruins. You'll see local flora and fauna, come close to sacred Mount Zayizhaga and see ethnic villages with centuries of history. Camp in the valley tonight, enjoying an authentic spicy Sichuan meal prepared by your guide.
Explore more of Zharu Valley today – rise early for bird-watching or take a brisk morning hike through peaceful meadows. The valley attracts only a few hundred visitors a year, so you can enjoy it free of crowds. You'll leave the valley after lunch, heading back to Jiuzhaigou Grand Hotel with the afternoon free at your leisure.
You'll head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Huanglong National Park today, noted for the bright blue pools of Yellow Dragon Gully. The park, 3 hours' drive away, is also the habitat of giant pandas and Golden snub-nosed monkeys, and features diverse ecosystems with hot springs, pine forests and waterfalls. After lunch, enjoy a hike around the park before heading to a Qiang Tibetan village for the night.
Fly to Chengdu today, driving out of the city to the rural town of Ya'an, home to Bifengxia Panda Base. Here, you'll have time to explore the reserve, including the picturesque Bifeng Gorge, accessible via a 26-floor elevator. Wander the streets of Ya'an, a highlight of which is a traditional bridge in the center of town complete with ancient Chinese architecture. Check into a hotel in Ya'an for the night.
Today you'll enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience – meeting giant pandas at the Bifengxia Panda Base. This sanctuary researches not only giant pandas but red pandas, south China tigers, golden snub-nosed monkeys and now leopards. You'll have the chance to meet a panda up close and maybe even have a picture with one. After that, return to Chengdu to visit the Old Town of Shangli, a stop on the Silk Road. Check into a hotel in Chengdu for the final night of your tour. We recommend the Shangri-La Hotel, Chengdu or the new Ritz-Carlton.
Today you will be chauffeur-driven to the airport in time for your departing flight.
Opened in Spring 2010, the Amanfayun is the second Aman property to open in China and is situated in the outskirts of Hangzhou, surrounded by tea fields, natural forest, quaint villages and a pilgrimage circuit of five significant Buddhist temples. All accommodations and common areas have broadband Internet connectivity and are decorated with calligraphy and woven bamboo accents. There are four restaurants, which serve a variety of dishes, from homemade dumplings in the casual Steam House to refined Western cuisine in The Restaurant. Aman’s legendary spa service is also available here; the spa consists of eight treatment rooms, a reflexology room, a fitness center, a room dedicated to tai chi, yoga and meditation, and a finishing salon. Amanfayun is a mere 20-minute drive from the city center and 50 minutes from the Hangzhou airport (HGH).
In a quiet location that allows guests to wake up to an incredible view of mountains peaking through the skyline, the Huangshan Beihai Hotel is beautifully situated high on Huangshan Mountain, just a 20-minute hike from the renowned tourist hotspots, Mengbishenghua Peak and Qingliang Terrace. The hotel itself offers a variety of amenities, including a karaoke room, beauty salon, fitness facilities and 220 guestrooms, each equipped with sofas, plasma TVs and complimentary WiFi. A business center with several meeting rooms, as well as 24-hour front desk services, provide a convenient stay for people on more formal trips. Guests can arrange sightseeing trips at the front desk, such as a trip to the Tunxi Old Street in Huangshan Town, an hour and a half away by car, or further treks into the wild forests. An on-site restaurant and bar provides tasty meals throughout the day, contributing to a pleasant stay.
Within walking distance from the popular Jiuzhaigou National Park, Jiuzhaigou Grand Hotel offers a simple and comfortable stay for people travelling through this part of China. Nothing too over-the-top here-- staff are friendly, rooms are cozy with comfortable beds, and buffet breakfasts are included at very reasonable rates. It is one of three hotels in this area that have WiFi services available and credit card facilities at the reception desk, restaurant and on-site convenience shop. If language becomes a barrier, the staff are very quick to find someone who will be able to translate for your convenience. The decor and layout of the rooms are tasteful, with twin beds for double occupancy and clean bathrooms, which are supplied with shampoo, bath towels and soap. This is a simple, comfortable place for a good night’s sleep.
The Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu, situated in the center of the capital of Sichuan province, is a strong new contender in Southwest China’s luxury hotel market. The hotel is located in Tianfu Square, one of the city’s main commercial districts. The Ritz-Carlton has 353 well-appointed suites designed in the style of a traditional Chengdu courtyard home, some of which can still be found in the old parts of the city. The room interiors combine light woods and a palette of cool blue and golden colors intended to subtly reflect the city’s heritage in a modern context. The hotel’s facilities include an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, spa, ballrooms and meeting rooms. There are three restaurants to choose from, serving refined Cantonese cuisine and other international specialties, as well as a lobby lounge where guests can enjoy a sweet treat with their afternoon tea.
Situated in the center of Sichuan's capital city, the Shangri-La Chengdu offers spectacular views of the Jinjiang River and of Chengdu's bustling metropolis. Its spacious guest rooms are fitted with modern furnishings and designed to offer the best views. For authentic Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine, dine at Shang Palace, or choose Cafe Z to sample South American, Middle Eastern, and Asian fare. The health club is outfitted with indoor swimming pool, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and an extensive array of cardiovascular equipment. There is also a business center for Internet access. The Shangri-La Chengdu's spa, Chi, offers treatments based on ancient Chinese principles of restoring balance and harmony to the mind and body. The hotel is approximately 30 minutes from Shuangliu International Airport (CTU).