China has always held a certain allure here at Black Tomato. A place where modernity fuses with tradition, the heart of the Far East has both entranced and mystified travellers for years. But with its vast size and geography it can be daunting when thinking about planning a visit, fortunately, our travel experts have scoured every mile, from the sprawling Great Wall to the thick bamboo forests, so you can discover the highlights in one trip. We’ve put together the perfect luxury adventure, guaranteed to get you right under China’s skin, and sprinkled it with a host of luxurious hotels, exclusive insights and authentic experiences – such as kung fu lessons with Shaolin Monks and visiting the Great Wall from a remote and private section. This immersive 10-night adventure takes in some of China’s most important cities, where you’ll discover rich culture, delicious cuisine and centuries old history as you stroll through Beijing’s Hutong neighbourhoods and Shanghai’s deserted Jewish Quarter, before learning the ancient art of Shaolin kung fu in Luoyang and standing unflinchingly before the fearsome terracotta warriors of Xi’an. This is China as you’ve never seen it before.Read more
Emperors and Empresses
Your trip begins in the heart of Imperial China: Beijing. On arrival at Beijing airport, you will be met by your private guide and transferred to the luxurious Aman Summer Palace hotel. As the name suggests, this hotel’s location is about as exclusive as it gets, being just a few steps from the East Gate of the vast Summer Palace grounds. It’s a real slice of the Royal life here with hotel pavilions having previously been used by guests awaiting an audience with the Empress, so settle in and spend a relaxed afternoon strolling amongst the pagodas of the Summer Palace before drifting carefree across Kunming Lake in regal splendour.
Tomorrow, the cultural discoveries begin. Start your day gazing across the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square, taking a moment to absorb the full weight of its cultural and historical significance, before passing through the eponymous gate, translating as the ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’, into the Forbidden City. As you stroll through the former imperial palace, explore a rich history of ruling Emperors, fan-fluttering concubines and scheming eunuchs which reaches back over 500 years. A showcase of traditional Chinese palatial architecture, you will no doubt be snapping away but don’t fill up your camera too quickly as your best shot awaits you atop Coal Hill. From this viewpoint in Jingshan Park, you’ll be treated to unbeatable panoramic views of the Forbidden City. That’s one for your Instagram.
A stroll through Beijing
From the Imperial City to local hutong and the mighty Wall, you’re never short of a stroll in Beijing. Though, one of our favourites has to be walking through the labyrinthine hutong that make up Beijing’s traditional neighbourhoods, where you can get an authentic glimpse of everyday local life. Nestled deep within this maze of narrow streets, lies the eccentric hutong of Nanluongxiang where you’ll stop for a coffee and explore a range of shops ranging from the chic to the kitsch.
But if you’re looking for a more traditional walk? Well, it has to be the Great Wall. Stretching over 20,000km in length and with sections that have crumbled away and disappeared, we’re not expecting you to walk the whole length. Instead, your private guide will whisk you away to the quieter Mutianyu section where you can enjoy the Wall in all its glory, away from the crowds, before an exhilarating toboggan ride back down. Refuel with a delicious lunch at the authentic Schoolhouse restaurant before a final stroll down the Sacred Way as you explore the imperial mausoleums of the Ming dynasty.
Taiji Tranquility and Kung Fu Fighting
Before leaving Beijing, you’ll find your zen with a private taiji lesson with a taiji master at the Temple of Heaven. Full of flowing movements to soothe the soul, it’s the perfect antidote to the chaos of everyday modern life. From Beijing, you’ll then board a bullet train and head south to the ancient capital of Luoyang. Here, you’ll pay a visit to the legendary Shaolin kung fu school and channel your inner Jackie Chan as you take a lesson with some local student monks. You’ll then continue onto the Shaolin temple, where this oldest and most famous style of Chinese martial arts was born, and learn all about its fascinating history.
Luoyang is also famous for its awe-inspiring Longmen Grottoes, where buddhas hewn in the stone tower above you as some of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art – so we’ll be sure to leave time for you to pay a visit here too. If you’re wanting to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds (our speciality), then Luoyang is the place to do it.
History in Xi’an
From Luoyang, it’s then just a short hop on the bullet train to Xi’an where you’ll spend the next few nights at the Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel, a modern hotel within the ancient city walls and just a stone’s throw away from many historical sights. The most famous of these sights, however? It’s got to be the Terracotta Warriors Army. Standing to attention for all eternity, we’ll get you an up-close General’s view of these fearsome warriors on a special lower deck viewing platform.
From walking one ancient wall, you’ll now cycle another as you get under the skin of Xi’an with a bike ride along the Ancient City Wall that encircles the historical city centre. Pedalling along, high up on the ramparts, it’s a whole other way to see this fascinating city. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, allow yourself to be drawn in the by the savoury aromas that waft down the street from countless food stalls in the Muslim Quarter. Some of our favourites and must-try dishes include the halal skewers, roast mutton and persimmon cake. Who said it was all Peking Duck in China?
Your final stop on this Chinese cultural whirlwind is the bright lights of Shanghai. From an elegant base at The Peninsula hotel, you’ll live and breathe 1920’s Shanghai in this art deco inspired hotel on the historic Bund on the banks of the Huangpu River. In a relaxed day in the Paris of the East, you’ll discover world-class cuisine, opulence that knows no bounds and a mesmerising skyline. Spend the early evening watching the reflections of the jewel-encrusted Shanghai cityscape as they dance across the river, before enjoying sky-high drinks at Sir Elly’s Terrace and tucking into traditional Cantonese cuisine at Yi Long Court.
Tomorrow, you’ll enjoy a peaceful stroll through the elegant tree-lined avenues of the French Concession, awash in old world charm, before continuing onto the eerie Jewish Quarter and uncovering the veiled stories of what was once a burgeoning business and political haven but is now a windswept ghost town. Later, you’ll stop for lunch in chic Xintiandi and discover streets of traditional shikumen houses. Tomorrow, on your final day in China, you’ll swap the towering neon lights of Shanghai for the idyllic water town of Zhujiajiao before wandering through the maze of pavilions and arched bridges that make up the Yu Garden, Shanghai’s beautiful classical garden.
We meant it when we said that this trip would get you under China’s skin. But even so, it’s one of those rare countries that keep you coming back for more, whether that be for cuddles with giant pandas, hiking in the Himalayas – or simply more dim sum (who could blame you?). Whatever it is, we’re pretty sure we just found your new favourite destination.