Essence of China

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13 Days
Spring, Fall

Get to the heart of China with this unique highlights edit for first-time visitors. From the poetic karst peaks of Guilin to the glass and steel towers of cosmopolitan Shanghai, you’ll marvel at the many faces of contemporary China on this multisensory adventure.

About this Journey

Discover the true essence of China on this classic, relaxing journey specially designed for your first visit to this magnificent country. Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai represent the known China, from imperial palaces to towering skyscrapers, but the area surrounding the famed city of Guilin in southern China offers an intimate look into the less-developed parts of China. The stunning natural landscapes, rice terraces and ethnic minority villages of Guilin and the nearby town of Yangshuo have inspired generations of Chinese poets and painters. Experience the illustrious history and inspiring landscapes of China on this journey to China’s classic destinations.

What we love
  • Getting a breathtaking view of the life-size Terracotta Warriors
  • Exploring Shanghai's elegant, tree-lined French Concession
  • Discovering ethnic minority villages while hiking through the winding Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces
Where you're going

Day 1 - 2Beijing

Begin your Beijing adventure in style as WildChina arranges private access to the concept store and gallery of Ma Ke’s fashion house, Wuyong. • Gaze across Tiananmen Square • Enter the Forbidden City, where emperors ruled for five hundred years • Hike up jingshan and take in a commanding view over the Forbidden City • Uncover a treasure trove of Qing Dynasty curios in the Temple Hotel • Get lost in Beijing’s hutongs • Wander through the popular imperial neighborhoods around Houhai Lake and try some of Beijing’s unusual local snacks • Savor a Peking duck dinner in one of Beijing’s oldest kaoya restaurants.

Day 3 - 4Beijing

Hike along the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and gaze in awe at Ming-era watchtowers and fortresses snaking across verdant hills • Pop a bottle of champagne on top of a watchtower • Delve into the heart of Beijing’s contemporary art scene at the 798 or Caochangdi Art District. • Start the day practicing taiji (tai chi) with a master in the Temple of Heaven. • Pick up unique souvenirs on Luilichang market street, known for its traditional Chinese stone dwellings housing, traditional craftwork, artistry, and antiques.

Day 5 - 6Xi'an

Gaze into the heart of Xi’an as you set out along the city’s ancient city wall • View the proudly unflinching Terracotta Warriors • Learn about Xi’an’s 1,300 year old Muslim community by visiting the Great Mosque • Experience Xi’an with more than just your eyes by sampling some of Xi’an’s famous dumplings • Admire the countless terracotta figurines and burial objects of the Hanyang Tombs, the resting spot of a Han Dynasty emperor, from atop a glass walkway.

Day 7 Guilin & Longsheng

Spend the day hiking at your own pace through minority villages along the verdant, softly undulating Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces • Spend the evening in Guilin at your leisure.

Day 8Yangshuo

Walk through the ancient streets of Daxu, a town with a history dating back 2,000 years • Stop by a local’s home and learn the art of making soymilk with nothing more than a stone wheel • Continue along country roads to the Li River, considered by many to be the most beautiful river in China • Embark on a bamboo raft cruise along the river • Enjoy the spectacle of Impression Liusanjie, choreographed by the mastermind behind the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, in a natural amphitheater.

Day 9Yangshuo

Bike or hike through Yangshuo’s enchanting scenery, with karst mountains and mist swirling around you • Option 1: Hike or bike along old country roads to the bucolic villages of Aishan & Moon Hill • Option 2: learn how to cook like a local in a cooking lesson • Option 3: partake in an ink painting lesson • Option 4: learn the intricacies of Chinese characters in a calligraphy lesson • Option 5: learn the art of taichi from a taichi master.

Day 10 - 11Shanghai

Experience a snapshot of local life by walking around Fuxing Park, a meeting spot for fitness dancers and taichi enthusiasts • Travel back to Shanghai’s stylish 1930s as you stroll through the tree-lined avenues of the French Concession • Explore modern art studios in the trendy, bohemian area of Tianzifang • Visit the Shanghai Museum, a veritable treasure trove of Chinese artifacts • Enjoy VIP seating at an ERA Acrobatics Performance that fuses Chinese acrobatics with modern technology.

Day 12 - 13(Optional Extension)

Option 1: Explore the old watertown of Tongli, known as the ‘Venice of the East’ for the canals that wind their way between the town’s Ming and Qing era buildings • Option 2: visit the tea plantations, gardens, and temples of elegant Hangzhou • Option 3: spend the day in the verdant and calming classical gardens of Suzhou

Recommended Hotels

The Peninsula Beijing

Luxury Boutique

The only all-suite hotel in the capital, The Peninsula Beijing sits a short stroll from Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the bustling Wangfujing shopping street.


Sofitel Legend People's Grand Hotel Xi'an

5 star

The Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel Xi’an is a modern escape inside the city walls, boasting luxurious art deco flair and landscaped gardens.


Local Boutique Hotel Longsheng

Situated amidst Longsheng’s undulating rice terraces, this local boutique hotel was built in the traditional Chinese way, using only pegs and grooves.

Yangshuo Sugar House

5 star

Housed in a former sugar mill, the Yangshuo Sugar House exudes luxury and has breathtaking views of karst mountains and winding rivers.


The Peninsula Shanghai

5 star

The Peninsula has a strong art deco influence reminiscent of 1930s Shanghai with luxurious rooms, restaurants and a rooftop bar overlooking the Bund.


Recommended seasons



What’s Included

  • All overland transfers with private chauffeur and in-transport refreshments
  • All admission fees and activity expenses, as noted in the itinerary
  • Meals as noted in the itinerary with complimentary drinking water
  • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
  • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide
  • Private chauffeur service to and from airport at start and end of your trip

What’s Excluded

  • International and domestic flights, domestic trains, plus relevant taxes
  • Chinese tourist visa, which is required for most foreign passport holders
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Meals, apart from those included in the itinerary, and alcohol
  • Expenses of a personal nature
  • Excursions and activities not included in the itinerary
  • Discretionary gratuities for guides and drivers
Why WildChina

We’re on the ground with you

Our team of advisors will design every detail of the trip with you through close consultation, then orchestrate your entire journey while on the ground. We’re in the same time zone as you, so we can fulfill requests and handle issues without a hitch. With over 40 staff in Beijing and an expansive network of operational partners across the country, we have the manpower to ensure your journey is safe, reliable and comfortable from beginning to end.

Your trip, your way

Flexibility is our highest-ranking compliment. We pull off journeys for pioneers with a 6-hour layover to Hollywood’s elite, and everywhere in between. Our team regularly pulls off unprecedented logistical feats; nearly any time frame or budget is within our realm. No matter how you wish to experience China, we are here to bring that dream to life.

We embody passion

WildChina guides are carefully handpicked for their knowledge and charisma, then meticulously trained to maintain our exceptional service standards. They are expert storytellers and passionate natives of the regions where they guide, having the perfect combination of local insights and service know-how to bring you seamless once-in-a- lifetime moments all across China.

The little things, the big picture

Supporting inspired local economies allows you to experience the soul of the destination, while also protecting and cultivating China’s artisanal culture. From watching artisans hand make shoes in Yunnan, to picking organic vegetables for dinner on a local farm in Fujian, our tours are designed to showcase and protect China’s heritage, both natural and human.