On arrival, you will be welcomed by Vacations International representative at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to relax.
Today we explore the heart of Beijing - Tiananmen Square where Chairman Mao’s tomb and various monuments to the people are located. Dominating the city’s heart is the Forbidden City, a centre of power for five centuries and seat of the emperors. Entering through the Gate of Heavenly Peace (replete with Chairman Mao’s portrait), we enjoy a guided tour of the old city, within the imperial city. This evening, we enjoy an eye boggling Chinese acrobatic performance. Swinging ropes, juggling hoops, spinning plates and human pyramids are just a few tricks these show stoppers pull out followed by a Welcome Dinner of Peking Duck at a city restaurant.
Great Wall of China
Today we drive to Badaling, to walk a section of the Great Wall. The Wall is impressive to say the least. Following the ridge of barren hills through northern China it stretches as far as the eye can see. Later we visit a cloisonne workshop demonstrating the unique Chinese art of combining copper and enamel to make decorative pieces. This evening take an optional Beijing by Night city tour and see some of the capital's monuments illuminated against the night sky (payable locally).
This morning offers free time. If you are up for a little adventure, make your way to Wangfujing Dajie (shopping street, only a 10 minute journey. Through the winding alleys and adjacent back streets of Wangfujing you'll find numerous souvinier sellers, chinese herbalists and snack stalls, the later offering some fairly obsure local delicacies. BBQ Seahorse on a skewer anyone? Later we go and visit the Summer Palace, set on Kunming Lake and the cavernous Silk Alley market. En route to the train station we drive past the 2008 Olympic stadium commonly referred to as the ‘birdsnest’. (4 berth soft sleeper cabin)
Arrive Xi’an and transfer to hotel. Today we visit the Terracotta Warrior archaeological site and a workshop where we see the process used to create the terracotta figurines. In battle formation, the Terracotta Warriors are one of China’s most impressive sights. This evening we can attend a Tang Dynasty dinner and performance with Chang’an music and dance originally performed for the illustrious Tang emperors. Tonight, optional Tang Dynasty Bolt-on, with dinner and performance.
City Wall Bike Ride
Today we take a leisurely bike ride along the 9 mile medieval City Wall that encircles the old town. Our afternoon offers a guided tour of the the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and early dinner. Free evening to relax or independently explore.
Consider independently exploring the Muslim Quarter or see the Grand Mosque before your noon flight to Lhasa. Upon arrival to Tibet you will drive (aprox 1.5 hours) to the fabled city of Lhasa. Once you reach Lhasa the remainder of the day is free for you to relax and acclimatise at ‘the roof of the world’. Note: Travellers will fly without tour guide accompaniment to Tibet. Upon arrival to Tibet you will meet with our local guide who will conduct sightseeing arrangments throughout your stay.
The Potala Palace
We begin our exploration of this mystical city first heading to Lhasa’s most enduring image, the Potala Palace. The winter home of the Dalai Lamas and a masterpiece in design, 13 stories high, containing thousands of rooms, this is the heart of Tibet, its (exiled) government and people. The Dalai Lama’s Summer palace, Norbulingka, is our next place of pilgrimage. Less daunting and surrounded by gardens, this homely palace reflects the Dalai Lama’s more earthly pleasures and it was from here the present Lama fled in the 1950’s. However, it is the Jokhang Temple which will be the most enlightening stop of the day. The holiest shrine in Tibet, it houses a solid gold shrine of the enlightened Buddha and it is around which, in varying degrees of exertion, all Tibetans prostrate themselves at some point throughout their lifetime.
Our exploration of Lhasa continues today as we take the short journey to the 15th century Drepung Monastery. Formerly one of the central monasteries of Tibet it was torn asunder during the Cultural Revolution and continues to rebuild is walls and status today. Just north of Lhasa is the Sera Monastery, still a working retreat 600 years after its foundation as a main teaching monastery and one of the three great Gelukpa ‘Universities’ once housing more than 5500 monks. You will see young novices learning scriptures in the Debating Garden and being rewarded for a correct answer with a resounding hand-clap from their master. Returning to Lhasa we will experience the Barkhor markets which surround the Jokhang temple and sell all things Tibetan.
Pilgrims & Yamdrok Lake
An early morning start as we drive out toward the Himalayas. From Lhasa, itself at 3500m, we travel over the Kamba-La pass and reach 4794m above sea level. As we journey along the winding road, weaving our way through the rocky mountains and valleys, in the far distance on a very clear day it maybe possible to catch a glimpse of the High Himalayan Peaks of Everest and Lhotse. From the top of the pass we can look down on the deep azure waters of Yamdrok Lake, cradled by snow capped mountains before dropping down to the shores itself. One of Tibet’s 3 holy lakes, nomadic tents, pilgrims prostrating and children hunting with sling shots on the stony beaches make this something you are likely to have never experienced before. Rising back into these vivid and rugged mountains we head back to Lhasa, looking for hoards of Yak along the way.
Hotel check out and included onward transfer to airport.