Ancient Towns: Datong, Wutaishan, Pingyao & Zhengzhou
Ancient towns and villages in China have preserved their historic architecture and village culture. Some of the well-known ancient towns include Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan, that have retained its cultural and heritage sites. Others include Hongcun and Xidi near the Huangshan Mountains and Yongding in Southeast China. And, there are the water towns outside Shanghai.
On this China cultural tour, visit the ancient city of Pingyao, an outstanding example of a Han Chinese city of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In Datong, visit Yungang Caves, with thousands of statues that date back to 5th-6th centuries. The Hengshan Mountains near Wutaishan is known for manmade landscapes. The ancient city of X’ian is of course, well-known for the Terra Cotta Army Warriors. East of Xi’an in Luoyang, see the Longmen Grottoes, one of the four largest grottoes in China. In Shanghai, we explore the ‘Longtangs’, narrow passage ways between old houses.
Ancient Towns Tour This comprehensive cultural tour is the ultimate luxury journey through mainland China.
Beijing, Datong, Wutaishan, Pingyao, Xi’an, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Shanghai
(14 Days. Travel Any Day)
Day 1 – Arrive China
Beijing Meet and greet on arrival at the Beijing International Airport and escorted to your hotel for 3 nights stay. The rest of your day will be scheduled depending on your arrival time and how tired you feel.
Peninsula Beijing Hotel (Nil)
Day 2 – Tour
Beijing We drive outside Beijing, to one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section. Built over 2,000 years ago, the Great Wall stretches 5,000 kilometres from Shanhaiguan Pass on the east coast to the Gobi Desert in the west. Take time to walk along the wall and capture the scenery on camera.
Then visit the Ming Tombs, also known as the “13 Tombs”, burial site of 13 of the 17 Ming Dynasty emperors. The best part of the Ming Tombs is the road there. Walk along the Sacred Path leading to the necropolis and Giant Tortoises, with bizarre, mythical stone monsters standing guard. Return to Beijing in the mid-afternoon.
Peninsula Beijing Hotel (B, L)
Day 3 – Tour
Beijing Take a tour of Tiananmen Square, a site of historic significance for the advent of communism in China. Aside from the tragic events here over the last 50 years, Tiananmen is truly a people's square, alive with local kite fliers and wide-eyed tourists. Then visit the impressive Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. See the great palace architecture and its treasures and your private guide will tell you the anecdotes about the imperial family and the court. Also visit the sacred and architecturally unique Temple of Heaven that has come to symbolise Beijing.
Peninsula Beijing Hotel (B)
Day 4 – Train to
Datong Visit the sacred and architecturally unique Temple of Heaven that has come to symbolise Beijing as well as locals practising Tai Chi and calligraphy. Later take the train to Datong.
Overnight on the train (B, L)
Soft berth, 4 guests share 1 compartment)
Day 5 – Explore
Datong An important World Heritage site, Yungang Caves, boasts as many as 45 caves with over 51,000 statues (5th-6th centuries). From the gigantic Buddha statues at the entrance to the pocket statues inside, they are all gorgeous. Later visit the Nine-Dragon Screen, before heading for Huayan Temple, one of the biggest temples in China of the Liao Dynasty.
Holiday Inn Datong City Centre (B, L)
Day 6 – Explore
Wutaishan The Hengshan Mountains are known for their natural views and manmade landscaping. The Hanging Temple in the Jinlong Valley, built in 491, has survived for more than 1,500 years and is known worldwide for its architectural wonders and religious heritage, which combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
Huahui Hotel (B, L)
Day 7 – Explore
Pingyao Morning visit to Mt Wutaishan, which is one of China's four sacred Buddhist Mountains. The highlights of Wutaishan are Pusa Ding, Xiantong Temple and Ten Thousand Buddha Pavilion. Afternoon drive to Pingyao. Check in the hotel. Evening free at leisure.
Jing’s Residence (B, L)
Day 8 – Explore
Pingyao Today is all about the ancient city of Pingyao. This world heritage site is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city. Founded in the 14th century, its urban fabric shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China over five centuries.
Jing’s Residence (B, L)
Day 9 – Train to
Xi’an With your private guide, tour the Wang Family Compound, China's most extravagant Qing Dynasty residence after the Forbidden City of Beijing. Absolutely colossal in size and shrewdly preserved during the Cultural Revolution, this once-private complex offers a great insight into how a successful merchant family lived during this period (built in 1762 - 1811). In the evening take the night train to Xi’an.
Overnight on the train (B, L)
Soft berth (4 pax share 1 compartment)
Day 10 – Explore
Xi’an The city of X’ian is known for the Terra Cotta Army Warriors, the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century. About 6,000 life size terracotta warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum.
After lunch, drive back to the city and visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Located in the Da Ci'en Temple, it is the best-preserved Buddhist temple complex of the Tang dynasty and the city’s most distinctive and outstanding landmark.
Sofitel Xi’an or Renmin Square Hotel (B, L)
Day 11 – Transfer
Luoyang Morning transfer to the railway station to take the train to Luoyang. The Longmen Grottoes, close to Luoyang are one of the four largest grottoes in China and the White Horse Temple is the cradle of Buddhism in China, also called the 'Home of Sakyamuni' or the 'Court for Ancestors'.
Mudu Lee Royal Hotel Luoyang (B, L)
Train: first class, soft seat.
Day 12 – Train to
Shanghai For those interested in martial arts will appreciate a visit to the Shaolin Temple. The origin of martial arts and kung fu is part of the mystique of Shaolin Temple and the Shaolin monks. This is probably the most famous temple in China because of its martial arts. A theatre here presents the famous Kungfu Show. Later take a train to Shanghai.
Overnight on the train (B, L)
Soft berth, 4 guests share 1 compartment.
Day 13 – Tour
Shanghai Shanghai has a bustling atmosphere and there is much to see and do here. Your private guide will be at hand to advice and modify the itinerary as per your liking. Try and visit the Mandarin Yu Garden, and the Longtangs. Shanghai writer Wang Anyi wrote in her epic novel Song of Everlasting Sorrow, that to understand Shanghai, you first have to understand the longtangs, they’re an integral part of the city. They are a representation of the real Shanghai. Each resident here has their own story to tell.
Pudong Shangri-la Hotel (B, L)
Day 14 – Depart
China Transfer to airport for your onward flight.
Make this your holiday
Getting There Beijing Capital International Airport, about 12 miles (19 kilometres) northeast of the city centre, is served by numerous international carriers from the UK. Taxis at the airport are plentiful; the ride into town costs about $20 and can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic. For the adventuresome there's also a train that whisks you in 23 minutes to a fairly central station in Beijing from which you can cab it to your hotel.
When to go The best time to visit China is during autumn (September to early November) when the skies are clear and the weather is at its comfortable best. The days are warm, sunny and dry with clear skies and pleasantly cool evenings. Local Beijingers describe this short season as tiāngāo qìshuǎng (literally ‘the sky is high and the air is fresh’).
The second-best time is spring, late March to mid-May, when winds blow away the pollution but also sometimes bring clouds of scouring sand for a day or two, turning the sky a livid yellow (great for pictures). From May onwards the mercury begins to surge well over 30°C until the rains arrive. The months of July and August are sultry and humid.