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China: Imperial Treasures and Natural Wonders
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16 days

from $11,718 AUD trip_detail hint icon

($7,995 USD)

Prices are per person, based on twin share occupancy. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange. The expedition price will be finalised at time of booking.

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Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include walking tours, visits to sites, safari drives, and easy hikes; and some days will have more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Spend a day interacting with giant pandas at a research center outside Chengdu, helping caretakers feed and care for the animals and learning about conservation efforts.
  • Meet National Geographic grantees across China and learn about the latest research efforts related to the environment and wildlife conservation.
  • Go behind the scenes at the Institute of Archaeology in Xi’an for an insider’s look at recent finds at the terra-cotta warrior site and other excavations.
  • Cruise two of China’s most legendary waterways, gliding through the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River and the karst landscapes of the Li River.
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP

A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed here are some of the experts that will be joining departures on this trip.

Itinerary

With the Great Wall’s 13,170 miles, Xi’an’s 8,000 terra-cotta warriors, the Forbidden City’s 800 palaces, China has a predisposition for grandeur. But the magic of the Middle Kingdom lies in personal encounters, whether it's a rickshaw ride through old Beijing or a tai chi lesson on a riverboat. Get an insider’s take on this country of contrasts, meeting conservationists and archaeologists, navigating karst caves and misty gorges, and exploring the legacy of ancient empires and the futuristic momentum of Shanghai.

Day 1: Beijing, China

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Arrive in Beijing and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the capital. Meet your fellow travelers at a welcome reception this evening.

Day 2: Great Wall/Beijing

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Start your day with a tai chi session led by a master practitioner. Then step back in time at the less visited Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, which retains the fortification’s original character. Later, meet with National Geographic grant recipient Zhang Boju from Friends of Nature, China's oldest environmental organization, to hear about his latest conservation efforts in the capital city. Tonight, feast on Peking duck with your fellow travelers.

Day 3: Beijing

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Stroll the vast and historic Tiananmen Square and then navigate the 900-some buildings and temples of the Forbidden City. Enjoy lunch before heading to a traditional hutong neighborhood for a rickshaw tour. Delve into imperial Beijing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by gardens.

Day 4: Beijing/Xi’an

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Fly from Beijing to Xi’an, once the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and the capital of China. On a special behind-the-scenes visit to the Institute of Archaeology—normally closed to the public—learn about latest excavations and see the artifacts up close. This evening, gather for dinner at a restaurant in the city’s colorful Muslim Quarter.

Day 5: Xi’an

After breakfast, view the legendary terra-cotta army, composed of thousands of soldiers, chariots, and horses that were buried around 210 B.C. at the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Later, walk or ride a bike atop the massive city wall. During free time, browse the maze of markets and sites in the Muslim Quarter.

Day 6: Yichang/Yangtze River

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Fly to Yichang, and board a luxurious riverboat for a four-night voyage on the Yangtze through the breathtaking Three Gorges region.

Days 7-9: Yangtze River

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On daily excursions, visit the world's largest engineering project at the Three Gorges Dam; venture into narrow tributaries by local sampan boat, taking in gorgeous scenery; in Fuling choose between the 816 Underground Project, the world's largest artificial military cave, or the Baiheliang Underwater Museum. Back on the ship, learn about traditional healing and local crafts, enjoy morning tai chi, and gaze at the dramatic gorges.

Day 10: CHONGQING/Chengdu

Disembark this morning and travel to Chengdu, stopping along the way to visit the Dazu Grottoes, a World Heritage site where centuries-old rock carvings depict Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist themes as well as scenes of ordinary life during the Tang Dynasty. Arrive in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. For dinner tonight, savor a hot pot, a Sichuan favorite.

Day 11: Chengdu

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Spend today at the Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base overseen by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. We’ll have the chance to prepare meals and feed the pandas, help clean the enclosures, and hear about conservation efforts. Return to Chengdu for dinner.

Day 12: CHENGDU/Guilin

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This morning, settle into your first-class seat on the high-speed train to Guilin, known for its surreal landscape of mist-shrouded karst mountains. Upon arrival, descend into the famed Reed Flute Cave, a subterranean spectacle of stalactites and stone pillars. Later, enjoy an optional walk to Elephant Trunk Hill for panoramic views of the surrounding karst peaks.

Day 13: Guilin and Yangshuo

Today, embark on a cruise down the Li River. Glide beneath limestone pinnacles and terraced rice fields that have inspired Chinese artists for generations, and stop to browse at a local market. Return to Guilin for an evening on your own.

Day 14: Guilin/Shanghai

This morning, fly to bustling Shanghai. Over lunch, meet with conservationist and wildlife photographer Jing Li, a National Geographic grantee working to conserve critically endangered birds in the greater Shanghai area. After lunch, zoom up to the observation deck of China’s tallest building, Shanghai Tower, for a superlative view of the skyline. Stroll neon-lit Nanjing Road and the historic Bund waterfront during the evening on your own.

Day 15: Shanghai

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Begin the day meandering among the pavilions, ponds, and zigzag bridges of Yu Garden, Shanghai’s celebrated classical Chinese garden, dating to 1559. Peruse an intriguing range of antiques and goods at the Old Bazaar. Tonight, toast your Chinese adventure at a local restaurant.

Day 16: Shanghai

Today, transfer to the airport for your return flight.

What to Expect

This expedition is rated as light\/moderate; travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Travelers should expect full days and expect to walk several miles over the course of a day. Much of the touring occurs outside, rain or shine, and has limited shade and benches. Excursions may include navigating uneven terrain, climbing stairs without handrails, and walking on paths with steep ascents\/descents. On Day 5, travelers have the option to bike atop the Xi’an city wall. Those who choose to volunteer at the Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base on Day 11 may be asked to sweep out panda enclosures, help prepare meals, and replenish bamboo leaves. Please note that there are some long travel days.

Accommodations
Throughout the trip, we stay in ideally located, high-end hotels with many amenities.

Expedition Team
A National Geographic expert and an expedition leader will accompany this trip, and local guides join us along the way.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The Yangzi Explorer, our home for the three-day Yangtze journey, is one of the few five-star ships on the Yangtze. The ship has a capacity of 124 passengers and features spacious cabins with private bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to private balconies. There are a limited number of suites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Amenities include a panoramic-view restaurant, a bar, a theater, two lounges, a library, a fitness center, a business center with Internet access, a clinic, a sundeck, a salon, and a spa.

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PRICES & DATES

  • date Oct 29-Nov 13, 2019
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date Mar 31-Apr 15, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date Apr 14-29, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date May 19-Jun 3, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date Sep 1-16, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date Sep 8-23, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date Oct 6-21, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

  • date Oct 27-Nov 11, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,718 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $15,235 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

Prices are per person based on double or single occupancy (unless otherwise noted) and do not include international airfare to/from your destination or internal flights during the expedition. Internal flights are $560 per person in 2019 and $650 per person in 2020. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange and subject to change. See the terms and conditions for this trip for more information.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation as indicated in the itinerary
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • All gratuities

What's Not Included

  • Airfare to and from destination, as well as internal airfare where applicable
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Alcoholic beverages
Ken Hammond
Educator
"

Historian Ken Hammond first traveled to China in 1982 to study the language and stayed for five years. A professor at New Mexico State University, he directs a Chinese-American university exchange program. He has produced a documentary on the revival of Confucian ritual and recorded the lecture series From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History for The Great Courses. Ken served as president of the Society for Ming Studies and as a visiting scholar at the History Institute of the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences.

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  • Oct 27-Nov 11, 2020
Bill Jones
Historian
"

A popular National Geographic Expert, Bill Jones has been traveling throughout Southeast Asia and the Himalayas since the 1980’s, pioneering train and air expeditions in the years when some of the countries were just beginning to develop their infrastructures. His knowledge of local history and firsthand experience of the contrasts between the tribulations of some countries and the prosperity of others gives him a unique understanding of the region. His studies of Buddhism give him a profound insight into the heartbeat of several of the cultures of Southeast Asia. Through his links with the World Monuments Fund, he has followed the restoration of a number of ancient sites in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. He has lead special interest groups from the California Academy of Sciences, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Royal Academy of London, and the World Presidents Organization. Bill’s commentaries during visits to monuments and his pre-dinner talks are entertaining and informative and have been greatly appreciated by National Geographic travelers.

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  • Mar 31-Apr 15, 2020
Elvira Masson
Historian
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Elvira Masson, a professor of East Asian cultural history at New Mexico State University, has been working, traveling, and studying in Asia since 1983. She studied Chinese language and modern theater in Beijing, and worked for many years developing and leading academic and cultural programs for students of all ages visiting China. She loves introducing travelers to the sights, sounds, and especially the flavors of China, Korea, and Vietnam.

"
  • Oct 6-21, 2020
Alexander Murphy
Geographer
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Alexander (Alec) Murphy is at the forefront of the movement to combat geographical illiteracy in the United States. A geography professor at the University of Oregon, Alec is Senior Vice-President of the American Geographical Society, a past president of the American Association of Geographers, and a frequent advisor on National Geographic education initiatives. Research, speaking invitations, and travel have taken him to more than 100 countries on six continents. Throughout his career, much of Alec’s work has focused on Europe; his book, The European Culture Area (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), is the most widely used classroom text on the geography of Europe in the United States. In the late 1990s he began extending his focus to the Middle East and North Africa, and by the early 2000s Alec found himself increasingly drawn to various parts of Asia. He is now a regular visitor to China, and he recently became the first foreigner to give a plenary lecture at the opening session of the Chinese Geographical Society’s annual meeting. Alec holds a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from Yale University, a law degree from the Columbia University School of Law, and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Chicago. Drawing on his expertise in political, cultural, and environmental geography, he will offer his insights into the human and physical forces shaping the places we visit.

"
  • Oct 29-Nov 13, 2019
William Saturno
Educator Archaeologist
"

William Saturno is an archaeologist and storyteller specializing in the myths and histories of early civilizations and the politics of empire. A National Geographic Explorer and a former NASA research scientist, he has conducted fieldwork around the globe, both on the ground and from space, to understand the ideological and environmental foundations of how the great Czars, Khans, Emperors, and Ajaws of the past ruled over their societies. As an avid student and scholar of the ancient world, Bill weaves together data from archaeology, anthropology, and history spanning from the jungles of Central America and Southeast Asia to the deserts and grasslands of Eurasia and from the shores of the ancient Mediterranean to those of Scandinavian fjords, narrating the tales of adventurers, artists, commoners, and kings alike to bring the past vividly to life. He has joined numerous National Geographic Expeditions over the years in diverse geographies, including Mexico, Guatemala, China, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, and beyond.

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  • Apr 14-29, 2020