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Overview

Stunning scenery abounds on this journey through China’s National Parks. Gaze upon the world’s largest concentration of limestone karsts and admire vivid lakes of every conceivable hue. Come face-to-face with endangered pandas and walk through jungles teeming with exotic wildlife. This is the ultimate China adventure for nature lovers. 

Trip Highlights

Chinese National Parks

Take an alternative Chinese holiday

Explore the main sites of Beijing and Shanghai and lesser-known National Parks for a unique, well-rounded adventure in China.

See breath-taking waterways

Admire more than 700 rainbow-coloured ponds in Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou’s intensely beautiful lakes.

Be inspired by Zhangjiajie National Park

Explore Zhangjiajie’s impressive concentration of karst rock formations and exotic flora and fauna, the inspiration behind the movie ‘Avatar’. 

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Chengdu

Chengdu Airport – Chengdu city (approx. 20 km): 30 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

This Chinese National Parks tour will start with a visit to Chengdu. Upon arrival to Chengdu, a guide and driver will be waiting to provide a city transfer.

Welcome to Chengdu! The capital of Sichuan province and ancient capital of the powerful Shu Kingdom, Chengdu has had the same name for over two millennia, which is proof of not only its longevity, but also of the major role that it has always played in the region.

Begin the Chengdu experience by diving right into the culinary heart of the region! Start off the trip with a delicious mapo doufu, a traditional Sichuanese dish comprising of fresh tofu, minced beef and soy served in a sauce of garlic, peppered oil and Sichuan peppercorns.

Overnight in Chengdu

2

Chengdu / Jiuzhaigou

Estimate distance and journey time: Huanglong airport – hotel in Jiuzhaigou (approx. 90km): 90 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longerNote: it depends on your hotel location, Intercontinental is for example located 66km from the airport, Holiday Inn is located 80km away, Zhuoma guesthouse, Qianhe and Sheraton are all located between 86 and 89km away

Begin the day with a stroll through People’s Park, a perfect example of a traditional Chinese park, where locals practice everything from Tai-Chi, Kung-fu and sword dance to meditation, dance and gymnastics… all activities they consider essential to their well-being.

Continue towards the Wenshu Temple, the best preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu. Enjoy a cup of tea in the House of Tea next door.

Follow up with a visit to the Panda Breeding Center (about 20km from city center), housing around 100 pandas, making it the largest center for Pandas in captivity in the world. The panda is an endangered species that the Chinese Government and specialist NGOs have been consciously protecting since the 1980s. Their efforts have been rewarded and the latest population counts have shown an increase of nearly 50% in the number of pandas in the world.

After the Panda visits, a transfer will be provided to Chengdu airport for the departing flight to Jiuzhaigou.

Please noted: There will be a flights from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou around 17:00 every Wednesdays & Fridays & Sundays; every Mondays & Saturdays & Thursdays around 21:00.

Noted: Happy to announce that Jiuzhaigou National Park is now open again after being seriously damaged in the earthquake of 2017. At present, 85% of the Jiuzhaigou National Park has been reopened for trail service, including Zharu Temple, Shuzhenggou (except Spark Sea), Rizegou (Nuolanglang to Wuhuahai section), and Chagougou.

Arrival at Huanglong airport; a guide and driver will be waiting for a transfer to the hotel.

Overnight in Jiuzhaigou

3

Jiuzhaigou (altitude: 2000m)

Hotel in Jiuzhaigou – Jiuzhaigou park entrance (approx. 3km): 5 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longerNote: it depends on your hotel location, Intercontinental is for example located 22km from the entrance, Holiday Inn is located 7.5km away, Zhuoma guesthouse, Qianhe and Sheraton are all located between 2 and 4km away

The entirety of Day 3 will be set aside for a visit to the first of the Chinese National Parks: Jiuzhaigou National Park, or the “the valley of nine villages.”

Part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Project, Jiuzhaigou is known for its tree-filled lakes, whose colours seemingly appear to change colour from turquoise and navy blue to emerald green. While the temperatures are more clement between April and October, the autumn spectacle of golden and red leaves on the trees is exceptional. The winter that follows appears like a fairy tale as pine cones turn to crystal and the snow takes on the intense blue of the lakes.

Note: The site is an example of China’s eco-tourism. Park authorities have undertaken the important project of raising awareness of this with a network of “eco-busses” freely whisking guests around the park (a great alternative to walking.)

The main places of interest in the park are arranged in the shape of a Y. Each leg of the Y represents a valley, and our departure point will be from the most southern point. The trip will ride up to the center of the Y (on foot or by bus) where the Shuzheng Lakes, Tiger Lake and Rhinoceros Lake, as well as several small waterfalls await.

From the center, we will head to the southern leg (this time we will go by bus) where the Five Color Pond and the Long Lake with its backdrop of snow-topped mountains are located. The final part runs to the north-eastern leg of the Y, where the Nuorilang waterfalls, Pearl Shoal and Five Flower Lake are all located, which many consider to be the most beautiful part of the park.

Return to the hotel.

Optional:

- Relieve the day’s fatigue with a foot massage, based on the techniques of reflexology.

- Dinner will be held in Alabuzi Restaurant, in a beautiful Tibetan setting offering food typical to the local area.

Overnight in Jiuzhaigou.

4

Jiuzhaigou - Huanglong (altitude 3200 - 3700m) - Beijing

Hotel in Jiuzhaigou – Huanglong park entrance (approx. 130km): 3h Huanglong park entrance – Huanglong airport (60km): approx 1h30 Beijing airport – Beijing city (approx. 30km): 40 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longerNote: it depends on your hotel location, Intercontinental is for example located 110km from the Huanglong park entrance, Holiday Inn is located 122km away, Zhuoma guesthouse, Qianhe and Sheraton are all located around 130km away

Start Day 4 with a journey to another of the iconic Chinese National Parks: Huanglong National Park. The trip will pass through various typical Tibetan villages and, providing the weather is good, there will be some magnificent views of the surrounding landscape.

The main area of the park is an ascent through a pine forest, passing incredibly beautiful turquoise, yellow and emerald green limestone ponds (there are nearly 700 in the park in total). There are several viewing platforms located along the route of the walk, all made of wooden logs. It should take around two hours to reach the summit, and the same again to come back down.

The hard work will be rewarded upon arrival to the surreal, fantastical setting of the Yellow Dragon Temple where the Five Color Lake sits under the gaze of Mt. Xuebaoding (5800m).

Optional: A cable car ride followed by a 30 minute walk over flat terrain provides access to the summit without expending too much effort. It is recommend to at least come back down the walking route so as to appreciate the natural beauty up-close.

Return transfer to Huanglong airport for the flight to Beijing. Upon arrival, a guide and driver will provide a welcome and transport to the hotel.

Please noted: There will be a direct flights from Jiuzhaigou to Beijing around 10:50 every Wednesdays & Fridays; every Mondays & Wednesdays & Fridays & Saturdays & Sundays there are around 19:00 connecting flights.

Overnight in Beijing

5

Beijing

Begin the day quite early for a trip out to the Temple of Heaven. Upon arrival, take note of the various activities the Chinese take part in during the morning: Tai Qi, Kung Fu, sabre practice, meditation, tango, and gymnastics… among many others! Some prefer to start their day with a more aesthetically pleasing exercise, such as water calligraphy. Giant brushes dipped in water draw characters on the park’s flagstones, slowly evaporating with time.

After exploring the morning rituals, continue onwards to visit the Temple itself. Known for its simplicity in design, it also stands rich in Buddhist and Taoist symbolism.

After the morning explorations, continue with a visit to the Forbidden City.

Completed in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle, the City served as the Imperial administrative center up until the fall of the Empire in 1911.

Note: Forbidden City access is limited to 80,000 visitors/day. Passport copies must be provided at least 11 days advance for personal registration (preferably 2 weeks in order to assure a successful booking); it will not be possible to modify its date later on.

Visitors are required to bring their passport for security check upon their visit to the monument.

As there is much to explore in the Forbidden City, visitors are recommended to take their time wandering the iconic site. After the interior visits, head for the artificial coal hill just behind the Forbidden City for spectacular views of the entire site and views of the layout of the whole of Beijing. Transfer back to your hotel.

Afterwards, finish the day with a refreshing change of decor and ambiance in the Wangfujing neighborhood, the most commercial area of the capital. Witness the true modernisation of China, and the fierce consumerism that takes charge throughout this region.

Overnight in Beijing

6

Beijing

Beijing city– Summer Palace (approx. 22 km): 40 min Summer Palace - Mutianyu Great Wall (approx. 75 km): 1h45 Mutianyu Great Wall (approx. 75km) – Beijing city: approx 2 hours *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin the morning with a visit to the Summer Palace. An otherwise simple Imperial garden, the site was completely renovated by Emperor Qianlong during the 18th century to become one the most important sites of the capital. In its heyday,  members of the Imperial Court would flock here to avoid the heat of the Forbidden City. Harmonious in nature, a variety of traditional Chinese temples, pavilions, lakes, and gardens comprise the Palace.

After exploring the Summer Palace, head to another icon of the city (and country): the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall! The Great Wall is one of the most famous symbols of China and should not be missed. The history of the wall reaches back 2,000 years, though the greater restoration of it (and the Wall that we know today) dates to the Ming Dynasty.

Option: Have lunch at Schoolhouse (located a few minutes away by car from Mutianyu), a former primary school turned restaurant, glass-blowing workshop, and lodge. Schoolhouse has strong environmental and social ethics, meaning it principally employs local people, restores abandoned buildings, and grows its own produce for its simple and fresh food.

Overnight in Beijing

7

Beijing - Zhangjiajie

Beijing city– Art district (approx. 17 km): 25 min Art district – Beijing airport (approx. 17 km): 25 min Zhangjiajie airport – Zhangjiajie city (approx. 8km): 10 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin the morning with a walk through Beijing’s famed hutongs (narrow alleys and streets exclusive to Beijing) near Houhai Lake. Follow up with a visit to the Gulou, or the Drum Tower, where the city once marked the hours of the day with the striking of drums. The tower faces the Zhonglou, the Bell Tower, and gives visitors a glimpse of ancient Beijing.

Moving along, there will be a meeting with a bicycle repairman, whose job personifies the urbanization of the city. Learn all about this classic trade and how the repairman combats the ever-impending boom of the auto trade.

Later in the day, sit in on a local mahjong party, a social get-together that usually is based around Chinese Chess (or card games.) For those who are uncertain about the rules of the game, the guide will happily explain.

Continue onwards to the heart of the capital’s art scene: the 798 art district. 798 is made up of a number of abandoned factories, which were renovated in the 90s by Chinese artists in a style similar to that seen in Berlin. ‘Dashanzi’ as it is known, is becoming ever more popular. Endless hours can be spent wandering through the narrow alleyways, browsing the shops, or stopping to relax and enjoy a coffee in any one of the cafés or bars.

After exploring the arts district, transport will be provided for the flight to Zhangjiajie Airport. A guide and driver will be waiting upon arrival at the airport to provide transport to the hotel. 

Overnight in Zhangjiajie city

8

Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie city (Wulingyuan District) – Zhangjiajie national park (approx. 25km): 35 min Zhangjiajie city – Zhangjiajie national park (approx. 35km): 1 hour *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Today begins with an morning departure for the main entrance of Zhangjiajie National Park.

To explore the beautiful Zhangjiajie National Forest Park by ascending the Yuanjiajie (Yuanjia Boundary) through the Bailong Panoramic Elevator - a glass elevator built into the side of the mountain, which offers stunning views over the entirety of  Zhangjiajie National Park. On the summit, take a peaceful walk to discover the Pillar of the Southern Sky. It was used to inspiration for the famous “Hallelujah Mountains” in Blockbuster's movie Avatar. Proceed to the Platform of Forgetfulness to enjoy the nearby peak views and then walk across the No. 1 Bridge under Heaven.

Later, take a bus and go on sightseeing to The Son of Heaven Mountain (Tianzishan). Ascend the mountain by cable-car and at the top, enjoy views of the Yubifeng (Imperial Brush Peak) and Western Sea, two of the most stunning mountain formations, and followed by a visit to the Tianzige.

After that, take the cable car down the mountain and then a bus transfer to the Ten-mile Gallery. Continue the day with a stroll along the Golden Whip Stream, giving another angle to enjoy the amazing karst peaks.

The karst peaks from this angle appear to shoot up into the sky like giant natural skyscrapers. Adored by the Chinese, the peaks have been given a number of different poetic names, including the tallest which stands at 400 meters and is known as the Magical Eagle Protecting the Whip.

With clear water, pure air, and very well maintained grounds, the visit is a real treat for those who have been stuck in China’s megacities. The wildlife in the park is extremely varied; some may even be lucky enough to spot a panther, bear, or a pangolin! There’s also a good chance of bumping into groups of monkeys; despite what other tourists may be doing, it is advised to leave the animals well alone!

Optional: If the Golden Whip Stream is not a top preference, there is the Baofeng Lake can be an alternative choice of visit.

Overnight in Zhangjiajie city

9

Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie city – Grand Canyon (approx. 67 km): 1.5 hours Zhangjiajie city (Wulinyuan District) – Zhangjiajie national park (approx. 25km): 35 min Zhangjiajie city – Zhangjiajie national park (approx. 35km): 1 hour *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Located in Cili county of Zhangjiajie city in the middle of Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon is much favored by explorers and lovers of great outdoor from home and abroad, by featuring typical Zhangjiajie landform, breathtaking cliffs, lush forests, ancient caves, colorful ponds, and a river running through the canyon. About 3 hours’ walk will be taken to visit the canyon, so comfortable shoes are always recommended. Staring at the top of the canyon and move downhill, attractions will come into view successively, such as, A Strip of Sky, Sky Ladder Plank Road, Southern Red Flag Canal, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, Barrel Cliff, Flying Fox Rushing Downhill, Pearl Wall & Waterfall of Butterfly Spring, Swallow Cliff, etc.

The transparent Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge is the highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge in the world. Being measured at 430 metres in total length and 6 metres in breadth, it is suspended 300 meters over the ground said to have inspired the landscapes of the film Avatar, spanning the canyon between two mountain cliffs. Offering a connection for the cliffs by accommodating 8,000 visitors a day, this bridge has also been given a great wish to span the people who are walking through.

Next will be a visit to the Yellowstone Village (which reaches 1048 metres in height); from here, discover the first treasure of Zhangjiajie and one of the most famous peaks in the region: The Five Fingers Peak.

Upon arrival, don’t be put off the by the crowds; it’s still possible to find areas of the park which are hidden away from the masses. With visitors passing quickly between destinations, there will be ample time to peacefully admire the largest concentration of karst rock formations in the world.

Keen gardeners will be in their element here as well, with thousands of different species of flora found, including the extremely rare lobster flower, which changes colour several times a day.

Overnight in Zhangjiajie city

10

Zhangjiajie – Tianmenshan– Shanghai

Zhangjiajie city – Cable car to Tianmenshan national park (approx. 2km): 5 min Zhangjiajie city (Wulingyuan District) – Cable car to Tianmenshan national park (approx. 38km): 1 hour Cable car to Tianmenshan national park – Zhangjiajie airport (approx 7km): 10 min Zhangjiajie city (Wulingyuan District) – Zhangjiajie airport (approx. 35km): 52 min Shanghai Pudong airport - Shanghai city (approx. 45km): 1h OR Shanghai Hongqiao airport - Shanghai city (approx. 15km): 30 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Rise early in the morning for a trip to another major attraction in the region: Heavenly Door Mountain or Tianmenshan, which we will ascend by way of cable-car. The mountain is still a part of the Wulingyuan national park but it is of a different type to the scenery we have already seen. Unlike the other mountains, Tianmenshan is not really a peak, but rather a whole collection of karst formations that altogether are much more imposing. The journey up to the top lasts around 20 minutes and the views from the cable-car are spectacular.

Afterwards, take a stroll through Ghost Valley along the well signposted path, which includes a section of around 60 meters that has been turned into a glass bottomed walkway! The walk is at the top of an 800 meter sheer drop off the edge of a cliff, “special shoes” will be distributed to visitors, especially those who come wearing inappropriate footwear.

An endless number of red ribbons will adorn branches of nearby trees, on which visitors write famous proverbs and good luck declarations. The belief is that because they are so high up and close to the sky, their messages to the gods will have a better chance of getting there.

Next will be a visit to the Tianmen Cave and Tianmenshan Temple, which has been a center for Buddhists in western Hunan since the Ming Dynasty.

Transfer will be provided back to Zhangjiajie airport for the flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival to Shanghai, a guide and transfer will be provided to the hotel in the city.

Overnight in Shanghai

11

Shanghai

Begin the day with a meeting at People’s Square. From here there will be guided visits to three unique museums of Shanghai.

Begin with a visit to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. The ultimate place to get a grip on Shanghai's layout, a floor-wide model of the city exhibits the regions of the city. Additionally, there is a stunning panoramic cinema which shows a short video explaining how the city developed into the metropolis it is today. On the 4th floor are more interactive displays, including a simulator of a boat being docked at Yangshan deep water port. 

Please note: Urban Planning Exhibition Hall Shanghai will close on 01 Dec 2019, for maintenance. Opening date to be notified.

Continue on towards one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the country (and in all of Asia): The Shanghai Museum. Its collection of bronze statues on the first floor is unrivalled, and is complemented by a number of jade pieces of artwork, as well as Qing Dynasty furniture, Buddhist sculptures, and other pieces of Chinese artwork.

After these visits, there will be a final stop at Shanghai's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)... the perfect place for art lovers!

After the museum visits, head onwards to Nanjing Road; an iconic corner of the city with its colorful signs and crowds of locals and tourists. For those who feel the urge, feel free to explore the neighboring streets animated by restaurants, food stalls, and a plethora of unique, local attractions.

The tour will end on the Bund, the city’s famous walkway next to some of Puxi’s historical buildings. The site dates back to the 1930s, reflecting Shanghai’s rich culture and European influence. Across the river, the Bund faces Pudong. A place that once stood as marshland, Pudong today is the face of the modern business district with skyscrapers popping up like mushrooms. 

Overnight in Shanghai

12

Shanghai

Start the morning with a visit to the French Concession and  Fuxing Park, where the Chinese start each day with ritual exercise. Particularly of note are the tango dancers, whose music fills every corner of the park.

After exploring the park, walk around the surrounding roads, admiring the old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and different boutiques.

Continue on to Xintiandi, an entirely renovated area that is considered one of the liveliest parts of the city. End the walk at Tianzifang, a maze of animated alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries.

Wrap up the visit with an exploration of the Old Town. Despite being mostly rebuilt, the quarter still houses some of its former lilongs (which are like the hutongs found in Beijing), alive with the chatter of the Shanghainese and decorated with people’s washing strung out across the streets to dry. The Old Town also home to the famous Yu Yuan Gardens, a superb example of the art of Chinese garden landscaping, particularly common in this region.

Optional: For those interested in the art, there will be an optional meet and greet with a Chinese gardener. Learn all about the art of gardenscaping, particularly crafting penjing, or bonsai trees.

For those looking for a more adventurous end to the day, head to the nearby bazaar, the perfect place to find and haggle over that perfect Shanghai souvenir. The more exhausted visitors can take a final break inside one of Shanghai’s most famous tea houses, the Huxinting Teahouse, located in the center of a lake just in front of the Garden.

Overnight in Shanghai

13

Leaving Shanghai

Shanghai city – Shanghai Pudong airport (approx. 45km): 1h OR Shanghai city – Shanghai Hongqiao airport (approx. 15km): 30 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Wrap up the Chinese National Parks tour with breakfast at the hotel, followed by transport to the airport for the departing flight.

Important Information

Our services include:

  • Accommodation in selected hotel
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner).
  • English speaking guide (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits

Our services do not include:

  • Other meals than mentioned
  • Other services than mentioned
  • International and Domestic Flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance

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