Fly to Beijing, China’s imperial capital whose rich history dates back more than 3,000 years, then transfer to your hotel.* After check-in, you have free time to relax or explore.
This morning visit the enormous Tiananmen Square, which can accommodate over 1,000,000 people. Then, tour Beijing’s Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; made up of nearly 800 buildings, it is the world’s largest surviving palace complex. Walk its grounds among the opulent palaces, pavilions, courtyards and imperial gardens within the 26-foot-high walls.
After lunch in a local restaurant, see the Summer Palace, a 700-acre complex of elegant buildings and gardens (complete with man-made Kunming Lake) frequented by the Imperial Court when they wanted to escape the bustle of Beijing. Tonight, taste some local specialties at dinner, or attend an optional Peking opera, a form of traditional Chinese theater. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, travel to the Badaling Hills. There, you behold one of the most impressive and best-preserved sections of the Great Wall of China—a 4,000-mile-long series of sandstone and earthwork fortifications built and maintained between the 5th century B.C. and the 16th century A.D. that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore its winding pathways and marvel at the panoramic views from its ramparts.
After a lunch of local specialties, visit the Sacred Way, a tree-lined avenue guarded by massive sculptures of elephants, lions and camels leading to the Ming Dynasty tombs. This evening, dine at a local restaurant and relax at your hotel—or, enjoy an optional Peking duck dinner, the region’s famous dish. (B, L, D)
Day 4Beijing & Xian
Today tour Old Beijing’s hutongs (narrow alleys) via rickshaw.† Discover the sights and sounds of traditional Chinese life. After lunch, fly to Xian, key city of the Tang Dynasty. From 618 to 907 A.D., this dynasty presided over one of China’s most glorious cultural periods spreading its influence throughout Asia into Europe and Africa. This evening, you may choose to dine surrounded by the song and dance of this colorful era, or have dinner and relax at your hotel. (B, L, D)
†Rickshaw tour only available on Beijing to Shanghai itinerary direction.
Day 5Xian & Chongqing
After breakfast, tour the mausoleum where Emperor Qin Shi Huang was laid to rest over 2,000 years ago. See the thousands of life-sized terra cotta warriors, archers and infantrymen that were buried with him; each man and horse molded with its own distinctive features. Walkways provide a bird’s-eye view of the entire necropolis where the Terra Cotta Army was discovered in the 1970s. After lunch in Xian, fly to Chongqing, gateway to the Yangtze to board your ship. You are welcomed aboard with a Western meal, and set sail this evening. (B, L, D)
This morning, visit Shibaozhai Temple, a 12-story pavilion built in 1650 along the Yangtze. Tour the pavilion and temple before returning aboard for lunch. Enjoy Yangtze River scenery as you cruise this afternoon and through the night. (B, L, D)
Day 7Three Gorges & Lesser Three Gorges
For the next 150 miles, travel the most scenic stretch of the Yangtze as it forces its way through a spectacular series of limestone ridges known as the Three Gorges. During breakfast, cruise through Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest and most spectacular of the three large gorges. Then, board a smaller boat for an excursion through the Lesser Three Gorges. Sail through these remarkable canyons flanked by towering cliffs. Along the way, see fascinating sites including the hanging coffins of the Ba people and the ancient plank road carved into the cliffside. Return aboard for lunch, and spend the afternoon sailing through Wu (Witches) Gorge, renowned for its magnificent scenery. Dinner is served aboard. This evening, sail through the five-stage locks of the Three Gorges Dam. (B, L, D)
Day 8Three Gorges Dam & Three Gorges
This morning, disembark for a tour of the Three Gorges Dam where you learn about this immense engineering masterpiece and what it means for the Chinese people and the Yangtze. Lunch and dinner are served aboard while you cruise through Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Three Gorges. (B, L, D)
This morning, arrive in Jingzhou, where you visit an elementary school sponsored by Viking River Cruises. You are greeted and entertained by the children, then return to your ship for scenic cruising. (B, L, D)
Day 10Wuhan & Shanghai
After breakfast, disembark in Wuhan. Visit the Hubei Provincial Museum where you hear the music of ancient bronze bells. Then, fly to Shanghai, China’s largest city and one of the world’s most important ports. Here, you can see the modern metropolis of the financial district juxtaposed with the older sections of the city. Check in to your hotel. (B, L, D)
This morning, see Old Shanghai and travel along the elegant Bund, stopping to admire some of its historic buildings and city views. Then tour the Shanghai Museum, featuring displays of ceramics, bronzes, calligraphy and paintings. After lunch, we spend some time at the exquisite Yuyuan Garden, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe show from the best seats in the house. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Consider extending your China journey with 2 extra nights in Shanghai, to further explore this fascinating city, or you may instead choose an escorted land program that includes 1 night in Guilin and 3 nights in Hong Kong. (B)