Day 4 Beijing - Lhasa
In the morning, you fly to Lhasa, the spiritual heart of Tibet. En route, you enjoy a fantastic view of the snowcapped mountain ranges as you fly over the Tibetan Plateau - the earth's highest ecosystem and one of its last remaining great wildernesses, also the source of Asia's greatest rivers. Half way to Lhasa you pass the great White citadel of Minya Konka at 24,783 feet, and fly over the Hengduan Range and the deep, gloomy valleys of three Asia's greatest rivers: the Mekong, the Salween, and the Yangtze. As you near the Plateau you'll likely to catch sight of another impressive peak, 25,439-foot Namcha Barwa, the easternmost rampart of the Himalaya.
Upon arrival at Gongkar Airport, two hours outside of Lhasa, you will meet your Tibetan guide and driver, and together you take a scenic drive to the holy city. Stop en route to visit Tibetan villages and schools; and make photos of the Tibetan houses, yaks, Buddhist carvings, and the remarkable landscape of streams and snowcapped mountains. Lhasa means "country of the gods" and it rose to prominence as an important administrative center in the 7th century AD, when Songtsen Gampo, a local ruler in the Yarlung Valley, continued the task initiated by his father of unifying Tibet. Songtsen Gampo moved his capital to Lhasa and build a palace on the site now occupied by the Potala. At this time the temples of Ramoche and Jokhang were established to Buddha images brought as the dowries of Songtsen Gampo's Chinese and Nepali wives. Your hotel in Lhasa is perfectly situated near the center of town. You enjoy a quiet, leisurely afternoon and evening acclimating to Lhasa's high altitude (11,796 feet).
Lhasa Jardin Secret Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6 Holy Lake
In the morning, you take 2 Â½ hour scenic drive to the Yamdrok Yumtso (tso means lake) to enjoy the natural beauty of this mystical land. You follow the Kyichu, or the Lhasa River to Tsangpo River, the highest major river in the world. After crossing the Tsangpo, you begin a hairpin ascent to reach Khampa La (La means pass) at 15,700 feet. From the pass you make a one-thousand-foot descent and arrive at tranquil Yamdrok Yumtso. You stop here to enjoy a picnic... rarely included in conventional itineraries, This scenic excursion gives you a nice break from peering at Buddhist deities.
Later, you return to Lhasa, en route you make multiple photo stops. Your tour in the afternoon begins in the heart of the old city at Jokhang Temple, Tibet's holiest temple, which was often referred to by early Western visitors as Lhasa's cathedral. Built in 647 AD, the Jokhang Temple attracts pilgrims throughout the day and night. They will often be seen in full prostration on the flagstones leading up to the temple or in prayer. The pioneering Tibetologist Guissepe Tucci wrote: "An endless, three-story high flight of chapels surrounds the statue, decorated with the smiling and sneering Buddhist pantheon. Blissful and terrific gods fill the shade of the cells and peer unexpectedly out of their mystery."
Surrounding Jokhang is the Barkhor, the Pilgrim's Circuit, Lhasa's old market. This area is full of activity with monks chanting, vendors selling their wares, yak butter wafting in the air and hundreds of people moving in a clockwise direction. Much has been changed in Tibet in the past few hundred years, but the Barkhor still has the air of a medieval bazaar. In today's Barkhor you can bargain good-naturedly for dorjes, phurbas, thangkas, and other religious implements. You'll get to know the proud, red-tasseled Khampas from eastern Tibet, the monks, mendicants, pilgrims who circumambulate the Jokhang, and enjoy bantering with the astute and engaging merchants of this bit of old Tibet.
Day 7 Lhasa - Chengdu
In the morning, you are free to explore this mystic city on your own. In the afternoon you fly to Chengdu. Chengdu is the capital city of China's most populous Sichuan (Literally, Four Rivers) Province and home to China's most notable Sichuan cuisine. With 2,500 years history, Chengdu has managed to preserve some of its older characteristics and traditions, and today you still find famous teahouses, numerous markets and some of China's the most interesting and spicy food.
Chengdu has long been famous for its steamy teahouses, where locals recline on bamboo armchairs, play mahjong and meet with friends. For a relaxing afternoon with our exclusive Culture InSites™ Program, you sample a Sichuan style afternoon tea with locals in one of the many traditional bamboo teahouses scattered in parks across the city. You can while away an afternoon sipping tea and watching the locals read newspapers, play Sichuan opera, debate, play chess, cards, and mahjong. You may even be invited to give it a try yourself. Chengdu is commonly regarded as the most laid back city in China and today's visit gives you the answer why. This unique experience concludes at the Park of Riverview Pavilion set along the river. Check out the ancient Chongli Pavilion dedicated to the 9th century poetess Xue Tao with its striking ornaments, green glazed tiles and red lacquered columns, surrounded by over one hundred varieties of bamboo. A leisure walk in the serene bamboo forest is an experience not to be missed.
No visit is complete without a meal in a local Sichuan restaurant. The cuisine is spicy, and peppercorns and chilies abound, but often in a surprisingly subtle way. Whether it's hotpot, meat or a vegetable dish, your mouth will water and your taste buds tingle with delight. After dinner, you will be offered an opportunity to attend an optional performance of "Changing faces" at the 200-year-old Sichuan opera. Full of local color and flavor, Sichuan Opera, is a combination of music, comedy, puppets and acrobatic performances, including Changing Face, Spitting Fire and Bowl-lamp Rolling. The opera is performed in old halls or courtyard buildings and is a feast for the eyes.
Chengdu Tibet Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8 Leshan - Lijiang
In the morning, you enjoy a rare opportunity to visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Center to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endangered species. The center is the largest giant panda reserve in the world. Whenever China dispatches its animal ambassadors to zoos around the world, they have usually started their life in Chengdu. Eighty percent of the world's 1,000 remaining giant panda reside in Sichuan Province. It's no surprise the Chengdu center is heavily involved in their preservation and research. Today you will see a dozen of pandas wandering through a sizable domain of bamboo groves and forest. There is also a panda museum that has detailed exhibitions on panda evolution, habits, habitats and conservation efforts. You are also allowed to make intimate contact with baby pandas and hug them for a photo. Giant Panda is officially considered "National Treasure" by Chinese government and is often used to cultivate relationships with other countries with "Panda Diplomacy". This massive ecological and zoological park offers a wonderful chance to get face-to-face with China's gentle giants. There are other rare species at the base, including the little-known red panda.
A Chinese saying goes "Buddha is a mountain, mountain is a Buddha". Leshan is the home of Dafo-the Grand Buddha, who recently celebrated his 1,200th birthday. Today, you take a scenic drive to visit the Grand Buddha in Le Shan, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The enormous 230-feet Buddha is carved into the red sandstone face of Lingyun Hill overlooking the treacherous confluence of three rivers in southwest Sichuan. A monk, Haitong, decided to safeguard passing boats by creating a protective icon in the cliffs. Building began in 713 AD and was completed 90 years later. This is the tallest stone Buddha statue in the world. You board a boat and head out into the Mingjiang River to get an overall view of the statue from afar, and then visit the beautiful forested park. There are numerous carvings and temples to explore before climbing down the path from the serene head to the enormous toes.
In the evening, you return to Chengdu and board a flight to China's southwest wonderland, Yunnan Province. Yunnan, (means ""South of the Clouds"") situated high up on the Yungui Plateau, is overlooked to the north by the roof of the world - Tibet. The jungles of Myanmar encroach from the west, while the flavors of Laos and Vietnam spill over from the south. The province's sheltered relief endows it with clement weather in both winter and summer; Yunnan is a world of a magnificent patch work of minority cultures stitched into a lush and dreamy landscape. The southwest's secret lies with its unique combination of geography and ethnic culture, and Lijiang is known in China as the "Shangri-la".
Day 9 Lijiang
Lijiang, often related to China's Shangri-la, served, for centuries, as the capital of the mountain kingdom of the Naxi, an indigenous people whose origin is a mystery, whose language and way of life are unique, whose rulers are women rather than men. Untouched by any civilizations, Lijiang was the equivalent on Earth of the Western Paradise evoked in Buddhist scriptures.
In the morning you visit the remarkable Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. At 18,000 ft, this mighty mountain rises raggedly above Lijiang, encrusted with snow and set against a sharp, blue sky. You travel by cable car to the Yak Meadow, which commands a magnificent view of the glacier. Back to the foothill of the mountain, you visit the Yufeng Monastery, dedicated to Tibetan Buddhism. Later, tour the Baisha Naxi village for a visit to its religious frescoes.
After lunch, you tour the Old Town of Lijiang - a maze of traditional Naxi architecture, in a valley sheltered by rugged ridges, right at foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain whose peaks tower over 18,000 ft. The Old Town is shophouses, market squares, cobbled lanes, canals and arched bridges. Stroll through the Old Market Square and then visit the Black Dragon Pool with the superb vistas of the nearby Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Later tour the Dongba Museum that holds a remarkable collection of Naxi relics and cultural display. After dinner, you enjoy the timeless Naxi music at a traditional Naxi Folk Music Orchestra Performance. Naxi people developed unique written records and pictographs to pass their culture from generation to generation, tonight you discover the essence of this ancient culture.
The Old Town is a marvel at night, when the Chinese roofs in the new Lijiang city are festooned with lights and sparkle against the evening sky; the old quarter is a dreamscape of dark cobbled streets, gushing canals and paths trailing away from the main street. Wooden doors are thrown open to reveal the cozy interior of Naxi homes. All these remind you of the surreal Shangri-la when you are lost among the cobblestone streets and alleys of the small old town, with its icy, fast-flowing stream and charming arched bridges...
Tour Fare: Fares are in U.S. funds, per person, based on double occupancy.
Additional Costs: China visa processing fee, add-on airfare from your home city to Air China gateway (SFO or JFK) where applicable, optional travel insurance is additional to the tour fare. The gratuities of $8 per traveler per travel day to cover your tour guides, drivers, and porters are recommended and are at your discretion.
Special Promotion (Discount): From time to time, we run special promotion (as specified in the above "Discount" column). Depending on the tour and the time you book, additional savings may be available if your deposit payment is received before the booking deadline. Due to the popularity of this tour and the limited inventory of group seats, the tour fare and promotion discount are subject to change and will be assessed and adjusted at the middle and the end of each month.
Cash Discount Rate: A $200 per person deposit is required to secure a reservation and is payable by credit card or personal check. To take advantage of the cash discount rate, you must pay the balance due by personal check or money order. The balance payment is due 50 days prior to the departure date. The cash discount is not affected by how you pay the initial deposit.
Unless otherwise stated you will be billed for the "Cash Discount Rate" as specified in your tour invoice. The credit card payment adds $200 on top of "Cash Discount Rate" per person. Please contact us at least one week prior to the balance payment due date if you would like to make the balance payment by a credit card, by doing so you are NOT eligible for the cash discount rate.
Flight Routing: Air inclusive packages start in San Francisco (flight duration 12 hours) or New York JFK (flight duration 13 ½ hours) to Beijing, which is Air China's hub. On the return day, you will be flying from Shanghai via Beijing to San Francisco or New York JFK. The Shanghai-Beijing flight is 2 hours 20 minutes and is part of the through fare for air inclusive packages. You can check your baggage through to SFO or JFK from Shanghai.
"Land Only" Packages: "Land Only" packages do not include international flights to and from China, and do not include airport to hotel transfers, which are straightforward and cost about $15 per ride by metered taxicab. More information about transfer by taxi and private transfer options are available upon request.
"Land Only" tour packages include all domestic transportation and transfers within China, but does not include the
to Beijing flight at the conclusion of the tour. Our "Land Only" packages start in Beijing on Day 2 and conclude in Shanghai on Day 17. If you would like to arrange your transpacific flights to China on your own, you should arrive in Beijing (PEK) on Day 2 of the tour with hotel accommodation included (the local tour starts in the morning on Day 3) and fly back home from Shanghai (PVG) on Day 17. The listed "LAND ONLY" rate includes all China internal taxes and fees.
Single Room Supplement: $750
Children Discount: Children of 11 years and under may have
off adult rate depending on the tour and departure date. Children under 2 years are considered infants, and may travel in a parent's lap. Airlines do not usually offer a seat for infants and further discounts may apply. Please contact us for details for children under 12. Children 12 years and older are considered adults for fare purposes and the adult rate applies.
Business Class Upgrade for transpacific flights from SFO with Air China is: additional $2500 for departures (January 1 - March 31, 2012). The promotional fare is subject to availability. Please contact us for upgrade from JFK and SFO for departures after April 1, 2012.