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Highlights of China

13 days Not yet on sale
4.2 stars(15 reviews)

Take a whirlwind adventure through China’s ancient and modern wonders

Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2025 Tour code: CVS25

About the tour

Travel from bustling Beijing, home of the iconic Great Wall, to ancient Xi'an with its Terracotta Warriors, cruising the scenic Yangtze River on the way, on this adventure through China's ancient and modern wonders.


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What’s included


Day 1 - London and Beijing

Our holiday begins as we meet at London Heathrow and board our flight to Beijing.

Day 2 - Beijing

We arrive in Beijing and spend the day exploring on a guided tour. We visit Tiananmen Square, the location of the now infamous 1989 uprising and, at over 4 million square feet, the largest city square in the world. We continue to the Forbidden City - a palace and garden complex once inhabited by the Chinese royal family, and now preserved as a testament to China's long history. The incredible complex was built on a grand scale, with 980 buildings spread over 180 acres. The rest of the day is free, ahead of a delicious dinner of authentic Peking duck tonight.

Day 3 - The Great Wall of China

This morning begins with a rickshaw tour of Beijing's hutongs, or backstreets. Each narrow, maze-like street shows the real community between neighbours, as each home is connected with the other. Later, we enjoy a highlight of our holiday, with a visit to the iconic Great Wall of China. We visit the Mutianyu section of the wall, one of the best-preserved, oldest, and most visited parts. After time to explore this magnificent piece of ancient engineering, we return to Beijing, pausing en-route at the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube - examples of Beijing's modern architecture - for a photo opportunity.

Day 4 - Shanghai

Leaving the Chinese capital behind this afternoon, we board the high-speed train to Shanghai, one of China's most exciting and contemporary cities. The city is built either side of the wide, slow-flowing Huangpu River. The two sides of the river provide an 'old-meets-new' cultural division, with the Bund region reflecting the emergence of Shanghai in the 1920s and the Pudong region in the east representing the ultra-modern façade of the city. We sit down to dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

Day 5 - Shanghai

We continue our tour of Shanghai. We see Yu Garden, an oasis of peace amidst Shanghai's lively streets, situated in the older quarters of the city. The gardens feature ornate pavilions and tranquil pools filled with brightly coloured fish. We visit the Old City of Shanghai and the Yuyuan Bazaar, a busy shopping quarter adjacent to the city's oldest street, before continuing to the iconic Bund. This mile-long stretch of waterfront promenade showcases the city's famous blend of futuristic architecture and historic, colonial buildings. After lunch at a local restaurant, we stop by the former French Concession, a beautiful neighbourhood with a distinctive European character.

Day 6 - Cruising the Yangtze

We transfer to Maoping, enjoying a journey on China's excellent high-speed rail service from Shanghai to Yichang. This evening, we enjoy a highlight of our holiday as we board the Century Glory or Victory cruise ship for a journey through some of China's most dramatic and beautiful scenery. Our cruise takes us along the stunning Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia, with our comfortable floating hotel offering the perfect vantage point to admire the spectacular views.

Day 7 - Cruising the Yangtze

Our scenic Yangtze River cruise continues with a shore excursion to the Three Gorges Dam. This hydroelectric gravity dam is not only a fantastic renewable resource for the people of China, it's also the largest of its kind in the world and produces record-breaking amounts of electricity. Later, our ship passes through the striking Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Yangtze's three gorges and a place of incredible natural beauty.

Day 8 - Cruising the Yangtze

Our ship continues through the Wu Mountains today, passing the Qutang and Wu Gorges, two more of the famous Three Gorges, both renowned for their scenery. This is a truly spectacular stretch of the river, as we sail under peaks that rise dramatically from the waters, and that canyons stretch out into the horizon, perfectly framing the river with craggy cliff faces and verdant, tree covered slopes. We stop at a particularly beautiful spot, Shennv Stream, a serene area known by locals as 'beauty stream' due to its scenic surroundings. This afternoon, there's an optional excursion to the fascinating White Emperor City (payable locally).

Day 9 - Cruising the Yangtze

Enjoy a morning free to relax and soak up the scenery on board the ship. In the afternoon, we discover the 2000-year-old Fengdu Ghost City. This vast temple complex is dedicated to the afterlife and is found nestled high on the Ming Mountain. The unique architectural styles and sculptures here are fascinating to discover, including a giant face carved on a rock on the hill known as the 'Ghost King'. This evening, we celebrate the end of our cruise as we attend a Captain's farewell dinner.

Day 10 - Chengdu

Our cruise comes to an end today and we disembark in Chongqing, where we board the high-speed train to Chengdu. Chengdu is a fascinating city in China's Sichuan province and is known for its rich history, as well as for being home to many of China's magnificent pandas. On arrival, we take in the city's highlights on a guided tour. We see the Wenshu Monastery, a serene working Buddhist temple that's home to around 80 monks. We also visit lively Jinli Street, a traditional street filled with enticing market-style shops and eateries.

Day 11 - Pandas

Chengdu is known as the Giant Panda capital of the world, and we discover its famous native animals today with a visit to the Panda Research Base. Originally founded in 1987 to house six giant pandas that were rescued from the wild, more than 120 giant panda cubs have been born here over the years, and we enjoy the chance to see the wonderful creatures lounging around in their large enclosures. We continue with lunch at a local restaurant. Later, we transfer to Xi'an by rail, the ancient former capital of China, where we check into our hotel.

Day 12 - Xi'an

Today we head to the outskirts of Xi'an to see the incredible Terracotta Warriors. Built to depict the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, around 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses and 120 cavalry horses were buried with the emperor in 210-209 BC and only discovered in 1974 by local farmers. Later, we return to the city for a guided tour, taking in a wealth of ancient sites including the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Great Mosque. Tonight, we sample some local specialities at a dumpling banquet, the perfect way to end our explorations of this wonderful country.

Day 13 - London

Our holiday comes to an end today. Bidding farewell to Xi'an and China, we board our flight to London Heathrow, travelling via Beijing.

Additional information

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


The Presidential Hotel

The Presidential Hotel, Beijing

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Dorsett Grand Hotel, Chengdu

Dorsett Grand Hotel, Chengdu

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Ambassador Hotel, Shanghai

Ambassador Hotel, Shanghai

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Titan Jincheng Art Hotel

Titan Jincheng Art Hotel, Xian

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Chinese Railways

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Flight upgrades
UK rail connections
London hotels


4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 15 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star

Mr C Blunt

4 stars

Submitted 19 Nov 2019

Well organised, hotels good & tours good.

Collected by Rail Discoveries

Graham Clarkson

5 stars

Submitted 16 Nov 2019

Excellent tour, good local guides and a very helpful,patient and knowledgeable tout manager Jos Royle

Collected by Rail Discoveries

Mr P Benstead

4 stars

Submitted 16 Nov 2019

A great experience and very well organised. Only let down by an awful restaurant (night 1 in Chengdu) - dreadful fare and food poisoning, the Art Hotel in Xian (very rude staff & and a breakfast box that went straight in the bin) and the Xian tour guide (Helen). On the 5 a.m. coach to the airport she talked continually in a load voice when everybody wanted to doze. She insisted on pressing us with the 'party line' on human rights in western China - not requested or welcome especially at 5 a.m.

Collected by Rail Discoveries

Ms C Heinzerling

5 stars

Submitted 12 Oct 2019

Great experience for the price with so much included - use of local guides enhanced the experience - use of trains instead of planes for intercity travel made a big difference

Collected by Rail Discoveries

Mr R Pyner

5 stars

Submitted 17 Nov 2018

Great organisation and very knowledgeable local guides and tour manager

Collected by Rail Discoveries

Mrs S Johnson

4 stars

Submitted 11 Nov 2018

Great itinerary, really friendly group, excellent tour and local guides. Would happily recommend Rail Discoveries. Meals a bit of a let down, always the same evening meal and so much time wasted taking us to restaurants 40 mins from the hotel. Long days would have concluded better if we'd had a little time to relax and then dine in at the hotels. Also we'd have had more time to get to know one another.

Collected by Rail Discoveries

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