Chengdu, Yunnan & Shanghai: Highlands and Hill Tribes in Southern China

Embark upon a 14-night cultural adventure to the enchanting Yunnan Province and get way off the beaten track in southern China. Being such a vast and diverse country, it can sometimes be hard to know where to begin. Rest assured though, with our inside knowledge and expert guides, you will see the very best China has to offer and experience a journey you won’t forget.  Starting in bustling Beijing steeped in ancient culture, you’ll journey to the Panda capital of the world, Chengdu, before finding your Zen in the ancient highland cities of Lijiang and Shangri-La. Here you’ll hole up in some of our favourite hideaways and trek deep into mystic highlands to discover ancient hill tribes, before ending your trip in style in Shanghai. Get set to embark on one enlightening adventure.

Explore ancient Beijing

Your adventure kicks off in Beijing where post-touchdown, it’s just a short journey to the cosmopolitan Opposite House hotel, where you can spend the day waving off the jetlag in preparation for exploring China’s ancient capital. Start off your day by embracing ancient Chinese culture and exploring the enchanting Forbidden City and its labyrinthine ‘hutong’ neighbourhoods. Then, after all that walking, why not rest your legs with lunch overlooking the peaceful Houhai Lake? For an immersive way to see local life, we’ll also arrange a unique experience by way of a private Taiji lesson with a Taiji master in the stunning setting of Jingshan Park. Of course, no trip to China would be complete without visiting the awe-inspiring Great Wall and with Beijing’s close proximity we have organised for you to appreciate the panoramic views and beat those crowds with a visit to the remote Mutianyu section before all the tourists get there. Here you can enjoy the incredible site and its history with just your expert guide at hand.

Make this itinerary yours

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Home of the Panda

Just a short flight from Beijing and you will arrive in the capital of Sichuan Province (or Heavenly State as it’s known); Chengdu. Check in to the sophisticated Temple House and rest up before an evening spent regaled with the delights of traditional folklore at the 200-year old Sichuanese Opera. Tomorrow, it’s time to meet China’s universally adored national mascot as you spend your morning cradling baby pandas at the Chengdu Giant panda research base. Be warned, you’ll not want to say goodbye to these gentle giants. By night, sample another icon of Chengdu; its cuisine. Whether over a meal of fiery Sichuan cuisine or sampling an authentic street-food snack – it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Scenic Heights in Yunnan

From Chengdu, it’s then a short flight up to Lijiang – or the ‘Venice of the East’ as it’s also known. The Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and right from your first glimpse, it will be easy to see why. Spend your day taking in the Naxi architecture and stunning scenery by navigating the peaceful streets and beautiful arched bridges of the Old Town. Or, venture further afield with a visit to the nearby Xuehua Yi village, where you can enjoy a traditional Bimo lunch and blessing, before lacing on those hiking boots for a scenic hike in the Wenhai Valley. Relax in a classic Naxi family courtyard over dinner before retiring to the luxury of your hotel at Amanfayun for an authentic age-old spa treatment.

A scenic two-hour drive will tomorrow take you to Qiaotou where the adventure truly begins as you hike across one of the deepest canyons in the world; Tiger Leaping Gorge. Ascend the famed ’28 bends’, a steep path of twists and turns which, although somewhat tiring, promises to reward you with a well-worth-it view from the top. From there, it’s onto Shangri-La City where, as you wander through the incense-filled rooms of Songzanlin Monastery and hike through the pristine grasslands of Napahai valley, the sense of peace and serenity will overcome you entirely.

Shanghai in style

Your all-encompassing Chinese adventure comes to an end in the effortlessly sophisticated Shanghai with a stay at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria. Why not toast to your trip and experience a slice of 1920’s Shanghai glamour with a drink at the award-winning Long Bar? Shanghai truly has something for everyone, whether you’d rather enjoy lunch in one of the numerous chic cafés of Xintiandi or indulge in an afternoon of art and culture at the Shanghai Museum.  A can’t-miss, spend a day walking down the elegant tree-lined French concession and soak up all that old-world residential charm before ending your trip on a literal high at the ERA Acrobatics show, watching in wonder at this fusion of traditional Chinese art with modern technology. Enjoy one final meal at one of our favourite local Shanghai eateries to reminisce about your incredible adventure before flying home the next day.