It is the oldest living civilisation in the world, which has survived uninterruptedly to the present day. The entire cultural heritage of the Chinese comes directly from their more than 4,500 years of history. The most populous country in the world and the third largest, it is a universe in itself, home to a fascinating mix of different dialects and a unique variety of landscapes and cultures. In this carefully planned and intense 16-day tour we will revisit most of the places we saw 5 years ago, which is the most fascinating and inspiring part of this immense country. Beijing, the political centre of China for more than ten centuries, and through which three thousand years of turbulent history have passed, turning the city into a conglomerate of styles and cultures, and where we can visit, among others, its Forbidden City, which was the residence of the Chinese emperors for almost 500 years; the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, two authentic prodigies of harmony; or the Great Wall, a gigantic 7,000 km long and 2,500 years old work of art. The Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, with its Buddhist cave temples carved into the banks of the Yi River; Xi’an, China’s oldest city, from which the Silk Road caravans departed, and which is world famous because the terracotta warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang were found nearby, guarding the entrance to his tomb so that no one would disturb his eternal sleep; the natural wonder that is Guilin, a place that has always inspired its poets, and whose location on a limestone relief more than 300 million years old has made it an enchanted city, which we will have the opportunity to see during the wonderful cruise on the Li River. The “Venice of the East”, as the city of Suzhou is known, where an amalgam of nature, architecture, art and painting are condensed in its beautiful gardens; the true paradise on earth that is Hangzhou, with its beautiful natural landscapes, and whose vision led Marco Polo to define it as “the most elegant and sumptuous city in the world”. And finally, the showcase of the China of the future, Shanghai, “the gateway to China”, a city with an incessant activity, which in recent years has experienced an important development and which has a great architectural and artistic attraction, as well as an exquisite gastronomy.

TRAVEL ITINERARY

Day 1 : MADRID – BEIJING

Arrive at Madrid airport three hours before departure. Boarding formalities and departure at 12.00 hrs. on AIR CHINA FLIGHT CA-908 to BEIJING. Overnight on board.

Day 2 : BEIJING (B-D)

Arrival at 04.45 a.m. in BEIJING, capital of the People’s Republic of China since the 13th century, and cultural, political and social centre of the country. A chaotic city full of contrasts, it has left behind a past of emperors of divine descent and luxurious fairytale palaces, to build modern skyscrapers that contrast with the small traditional houses. We will visit the Temple of Heaven, one of the largest religious centres in the country. It is an exceptional complex of buildings dedicated to worship, founded in the 15th century during the reign of the Ming dynasty, from where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties acted as spiritual intermediaries between the people and the gods. Then visit of the Temple of the Lamas (Yonghegong), the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside the historical territory of Tibet. It has five pavilions combining Han, Mongolian and Tibetan motifs and contains beautiful Buddhist relics and Tibetan artwork. In the evening we will watch an acrobatics show, which is one of China’s oldest art forms. Chinese acrobatics is characterised by its beauty, grace and skill, and its acrobats are world renowned. Overnight at hotel.

Day 3 – BEIJING (B-B-L)

We will start with a visit to the Great Wall of China, one of the greatest engineering works of antiquity. Qin Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor, took advantage of the existing fortifications to create this extraordinary defensive work, with which he also marked the conceptual limits of his empire, separating it from the “barbarians”. In total, almost a million men managed to build and consolidate the long wall. We will enter the Juyongguan section, which is located 50 km northwest of Beijing. We will then visit the highlights of the Summer Palace, a masterpiece of Chinese garden art. Some rulers built summer palaces outside the city, where the air was cooler in summer. The palace consists of splendid gardens, pavilions, temples, bridges and an extraordinary corridor, quite long, painted with frescoes illustrating the history of China. Afterwards, we will visit a handicraft workshop, where we will be shown the “Ancient Art of Cloissonne”, and see how metal objects are embellished with this ancient decoration technique. During the trip we will see from the bus some of the constructions of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, such as the Beijing National Stadium, known as the “bird’s nest” due to a mesh of steel columns covered by a transparent membrane that surrounds it. And the National Aquatic Centre, known as the “water cube”, whose nickname comes from its rectangular structure, covered by polyhedral plastic membranes, with a fluffy texture, which allow natural light to pass through. Finally, we will visit a Chinese Pharmacy, where they will explain some of the techniques and products they use to re-establish the balance in the vital functions of the human body. We will enjoy a typical “Lacquered Duck” dinner where we will be able to taste, among other things, this typical Peking dish formerly reserved only for the emperor. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 4 – BEIJING (B-L)

Arrive at Tiananmen Square, a huge expanse of concrete in the heart of modern Beijing. This megalomaniacal work of Mao is an assertion of absolute power. It became infamous in 1989, after a series of citizen protests resulted in the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators. It was here that Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. Next we head to the Imperial Palace (or Forbidden City), China’s most majestic architectural complex, whose floor plan is a representation of celestial space. If Peking was the centre of the world, the Emperor’s abode was the very navel of that centre, the point that united the earth with the sky, and around which the universe revolved. Built between 1404 and 1421, it was the seat of power and sacred precinct from which the successive 24 emperors (for almost 500 years) of the Ming and Quing dynasties ruled, until the abdication of the last emperor in 1911. We will take a rickshaw ride through the hutongs, the alleys of the old town where Beijing’s medieval past is evident in these charming passages built during the Yuang, Ming and Qing dynasties. We will visit one of these time-honoured houses, where the spirit of community and hospitality is still preserved. We will finish with a stroll along one of the few pedestrian streets in Beijing, to visit the famous Wangfujing Street Food Market (or “Skewer Street”), where dozens of stalls smoke endlessly as they cook their tasty and exotic skewers of various flavours: beef, prawns, starfish and seahorses, snakes, spiders and scorpions. Accommodation in hotel.

IMPORTANT NOTE: tonight we must prepare a small suitcase or backpack to spend the night in Luoyang, as large suitcases (one per person and maximum 20 kilos) will go directly by bus to Xi’an.

Day 5 : BEIJING – ZHENGZHOU – DENGFENG – LUOYANG (B-L)

In the morning transfer to the station for departure by high-speed train to Zhengzhou. Arrival and departure to Dengfeng, a sacred area for Taoism, and home to several religious buildings built over nine dynasties. We will visit the famous Shaolin Temple, also known as the “first temple of heaven”, cradle of Zen Buddhism and martial arts. Founded in 495 AD, the temple was built to house Buddhist Indians. We will also witness an exhibition of Kung Fu, where the monks of the temple will demonstrate their skills in this art. A few metres away is the Stupa Forest, consisting of 246 small brick stupas from the Tang, Ming and Qing dynasties, which stand like small pagodas. Overnight at hotel.

Day 6 : LUOYANG – XI’AN (B-L)

Founded in the 11th century BC as Changzhou, LUOYANG is one of the 13 ancient capitals of China. It is known as the “Peony City”, in fact, on the days of our stay there is the “Peony Festival”, so we will find more visitors than usual. In the morning we will visit the Luoyang History Museum, where we will be able to admire the rich history of the city reflected in the pieces contained in the museum. On the way out we will stroll through the old town, with its maze of narrow streets, where we will find old courtyard houses surviving among modern buildings. Then we visit the impressive Longmen Grottoes, spread over 1 kilometre along the shore of the Yi River, a complex of about 1,350 caves and 40 pagodas, with more than 100,000 Buddha statues, representing one of the highlights of Buddhism in China. At the indicated time transfer to the station to take the high speed train to XI’AN. We arrive in this mythical city of five million inhabitants, which was the capital of China during twelve dynasties for 4,000 years, and the starting point of the Silk Road. Hotel accommodation.

Day 7 – XI’AN (B-L)

We will visit the Great Mosque, one of the largest mosques in China. It was built in 742 during the Tang dynasty to cater for the growing number of Muslim believers in the city, taking its present form in 1374. Its architecture is similar to that of Buddhist temples: the gardens, with their rocks, pagodas and arches have an undeniable Chinese aesthetic. We will stroll through the Muslim Quarter, where the Hui community, descendants of immigrants of Muslim origin, has been concentrated for centuries, and where they profess Islam while maintaining the customs of this faith. The afternoon will be devoted to a visit to the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses of the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. In 1974 a peasant digging a well unearthed fragments of sculpted terracotta apparently belonging to human-sized statues. Subsequent excavations uncovered three pits and a gigantic army in combat formation: more than 7000 soldiers, archers and life-size terracotta horses. We will also have the opportunity to visit the handicraft workshop, where we will be shown the techniques used to make the terracotta soldiers, and we will be able to buy some souvenirs. End the day with a visit to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda (climb not included), one of the Tang relics of the city, which was built in 707 AD to store sutras (scriptures) brought from India. Overnight at hotel.

Day 8 – XI’AN – GUILIN (B-L)

In the morning, CITY WALK, where we will walk along a part of the Ancient Wall, which is almost completely preserved. Hongwu, the first Ming emperor ordered its construction in 1370, on the foundations of the Tang imperial palace. Later we will visit the Bell Tower, built in 1582 and restored in 1739, it is located in the geometrical centre of the city. To the west is the Drum Tower. In ancient China, particularly during the Yuan Dynasty, drums were used to sound emergency alarms. At the appointed time, transfer to Xi’an airport for flight CA-1225 (18.40-20.50) to Guilin. Arrival in GUILIN, a city located on the west bank of the Lijiang River, in an area surrounded by mountains covered with vegetation, which give this place a unique beauty. Overnight in hotel.

Day 9 : GUILIN – LONGSHENG – GUILIN (B-L)

Early in the morning we will drive to Longsheng Township, located 100 km from Guilin, among the high cliffs of the Rongshui River Valley. To the southeast stretches a mountain range called Longji Titian (“Dragon’s Backbone Terraces”). We will have the opportunity to admire these Longji Rice Terraces which date back more than 700 years. During the Yuan Dynasty, the people living in this area, mostly belonging to the Yao minority, shaped the mountains into terraces and developed a water irrigation system to grow rice. Overnight in hotel.

Day 10 : GUILIN – YANGSUO – GUILIN – HANGZHOU (B-L)

We will head to the port of Zhujiang, just outside Guilin, from where we will start our fascinating cruise along the Li River, crossing a landscape that looks like something out of a typical Chinese watercolour. It will be 54 kilometres downstream, which will take about 4 hours (depending on the flow of the river). The shallow water course winds through imposing, strangely shaped karst cliffs, at the base of which sit the villages and bamboo forests typical of rural southern China. Lunch on board. At the end of our cruise, in the afternoon, we will have free time to stroll around the town of Yangshuo, a town surrounded by this wonderful landscape that, despite receiving many tourists, still maintains the charm of traditional China. We will stroll through its small streets with its restored rural architecture buildings, nice restaurants, cafes, guesthouses and small shops where we can buy some souvenirs. At the appointed time, transfer to Guilin airport for flight CA-1798 (19.15-21.20) to Hangzhou. Situated on the banks of the Qiantang River, with its dreamy West Lake, surrounded by hills and covered with parks and gardens, HANGZHOU is considered one of the most beautiful cities in China. Overnight in hotel.

Day 11 | HANGZHOU (B-L)

We will start the day with a boat trip on the West Lake, undoubtedly one of the great Chinese scenic wonders: with the gentle mountains in the background, and the typical mist that inhabits these lands, it becomes an absolutely enchanting landscape. We then proceed to Hua Gang Park, famous for its flowers and ornamental fish. Splendidly decorated and full of beautiful corners, the park has a lake divided into three parts and four islands. We will also visit the Temple of the Hidden Soul (Lingying Si), a temple built in 326 AD, consisting of 18 pavilions and 75 temples, scattered along a hill. On the slopes of the mountain there are more than 400 Buddhist carvings that concentrate all the religious imagery from the 10th to the 14th centuries. Afterwards, we will arrive at the Six Harmonies Pagoda, founded in 960 AD, which was part of a monastery and served as a lighthouse for ships and as a lookout post to warn of the arrival of the “tidal wave”, a giant wave with catastrophic effect that would come up the river when the tides were at their fullest. We will arrive at Mei Jiawu village, where, in addition to enjoying the views of the tea plantations on the slopes of the mountains, we can learn about traditional tea making and enjoy a cup of the best green tea in China, known as Xi Hui Longjing or Dragon’s Well.

OPTIONAL: Show “IMPRESSION WESTLAKE”: This show created and directed by Zhang Yimou, the famous Chinese director and creator of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games, is performed every night at the West Lake, and represents a story based on a legend of the city. The play lasts about an hour and consists of five parts: meeting, falling in love, farewell, memories and impressions. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 12 : HANGZHOU – SUZHOU – SHANGHAI (B-L)

Departure to SUZHOU, a city founded in 618 A.D., whose convenient location on the trade routes made it an industrial and commercial metropolis of great importance. In the 14th century it was the country’s leading silk producer. Famous for its classical gardens, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, they are authentic masterpieces of landscaping, where their “meticulous design reflects the metaphysical transcendence that the beauty of nature has in Chinese culture”. We will visit the Master of Nets (Fisherman’s) Garden, which is the smallest of all the gardens in Suzhou, but at the same time the most charming: the quintessential Chinese garden, its archetype, with elegant buildings and a pond surrounded by paths, gazebos, pavilions and gazebos. Next we will visit Tiger Hill, where the Tilted Pagoda or Rock Pagoda, built in brick in the 10th century, is located. It has seven floors and a height of 47 metres. It is inclined more than two metres from the perpendicular line at its highest point. At the foot of the hill is the Shangtang Jie area, an ancient pedestrian street along which we will stroll, winding along the north bank of the Shantang River for 3.5 km. This street, almost 1,200 years old, has the honour of being considered the oldest remaining street in the city. Continue to Shanghai. Overnight in hotel.

Day 13 | SHANGHAI (B-L)

We are now in SHANGHAI, the last destination of our travels in China. With almost 25 million inhabitants, it is the most populated city in the country, and one of the most populated on the planet. Today it has become the showcase of China’s business world and is the country’s financial and commercial centre. But its buildings and neon lights have not been enough to remove the nostalgic air of colonial-era Shanghai. We will start with a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple, the city’s most iconic temple, which houses two Buddha statues: a 96 cm reclining Buddha and, on the first floor, the seated Great Jade Buddha, which is 1.90 m tall, weighs one tonne and was carved from a single piece of jade. We will stroll along the most emblematic area of the city, the Bund, the waterfront, which the British transformed into a majestic area with Shanghai’s most powerful banks and companies, a symbol of foreign rule over the city divided into concessions. Its 1,500 metres make up a harmonious ensemble of 52 neoclassical buildings, built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a legacy of one of the most cosmopolitan and brilliant eras of the city. From here, we will have an unbeatable view of the Pudong area, a district of large and brilliant skyscrapers, created with the aim of turning Shanghai into the image of the new “Chinese state capitalism”, and where the Jin Mao Tower and the television tower, Pearl of the Orient, a huge grey concrete spire, stand out. We continue our walk along Nanjing Road, the main commercial artery of the city, a real paradise for shoppers, culminating in the People’s Square, an immense esplanade, the cultural heart of Shanghai. We will arrive in the Old Quarter, a remnant of the ancient city doomed to disappear. We will stroll through its winding alleys of low houses, far from the frenetic pace of the rest of the city. Here you will find the Cheng Huang Miao, a temple built during the Ming dynasty. And we arrive at the heart of the neighbourhood, where we find the Yuyuan Garden; built in the 15th century in the classical style of the south of the country, it recreates the motifs of traditional paintings, has 30 pavilions, galleries, artificial mountains, rocks of all sizes, halls, a pond and a whimsical stream. The day ends with a visit to the Silk Museum, where we will learn how silk is made. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 14 | SHANGHAI (B-L)

Our first visit will be to the Shanghai Museum, considered the best museum in the country, exhibiting Chinese relics from the Neolithic to the Qing Dynasty, a period spanning more than 5 millennia. Inside, there are eleven galleries, with spectacular collections of porcelain, ceramics, bronzes, paintings and calligraphy. Next we will climb the Jin Mao Tower, a pagoda-shaped skyscraper with an undulating metal structure, built in 1999. It is 420 metres high and has 88 floors. We will then stroll through the Tian Zi Fang district, which has become a beautiful enclave known for its small craft shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. We will walk through its narrow and labyrinthine traditional streets where time seems to have stopped. To end the day, and almost our stay in this extraordinary city, we will enjoy a night cruise on the Huangpu River, a fascinating boat ride for approximately 50 minutes in a U-shaped route, which will reach the Yangpu suspension bridge. All this with neon lights illuminating the skyscrapers of Pudong as well as the colonial buildings of the Bund area.

Day 15 | SHANGHAI – BEIJING – MADRID (B-L).

Buffet breakfast at the hotel. Free time at leisure. At the indicated time, pick up and transfer to the airport. Customs formalities, check-in and boarding of AIR CHINA FLIGHT CA-1856, departure scheduled at 20.25 hrs. arrival in BEIJING at 23.20 hrs. Transfer and departure on FLIGHT CA-907 at 01.25 hrs.

Day 16 : Arrival in MADRID

Arrival at MADRID airport at 12.40 hrs. Baggage collection…

END OF OUR TRIP

B: breakfast – L: lunch – D: dinner

PRICE PER PERSON (HTL. 4 and )

Double room – 2.990,00€.

Single room supplement – 900,00€.