Price is based on double or twin hotel room occupancy and includes accommodation, transfers, car/driver, English-speaking guide, activities and entrance fees, breakfasts and some casual lunches while touring. Flights and optional special activities will be quoted separately. Most personal expenses, including dinners, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and gratuities can be paid on the spot while traveling. Prices may vary depending on season, choice of accommodation and other factors.
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.
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 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.