Palaces, Pagodas, Cultural Performances and Foodie Treats Aplenty: A China Family Adventure
This 22-day China family adventure sees you and the children explore China's greatest cities, enjoy wildlife adventures and find out all about this fascinating country. Along the way, learn tai chi, make your own miniature terracotta warriors, spot yaks while hiking and learn the art of creating delicious Chinese dumplings.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Learn the basics of tai chi in a Beijing park
- See the extraordinary terracotta army in Xi'an, and make your own miniature versions
- Learn the art of making delicious Chinese dumplings
- Walk part of the Great Wall of China
- Watch kung fu and acrobatics shows
- Walk in beautiful landscapes
- Haggle for local produce in markets
- Meet members of China's many ethnic minorities and learn about their traditional ways of life
- Enjoy supper and traditional music with a Tibetan family
- Explore buzzing Shanghai
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When To Travel
All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you
Day 1: Depart for China
Your China family adventure begins this evening with an overnight flight from London. As part of our exclusive additional services, you will be fast-tracked through check-in and security and have lounge access, even if you're travelling economy. The children (if aged between three and ten) will also be given exclusive Sharky & George fun packs containing games and quizzes about China which should keep them busy on the ten-hour flight.
Day 2: Arrive in Beijing
Your flight lands in Beijing in morning, and you will be met in the arrivals hall for your transfer into Beijing and to your family-friendly hotel.
After the chance to freshen up you can enjoy a first lunch in China, and then we recommend you go for a leg-stretching wander around the neighbourhood in Beijing to get your bearings and allow the children a first feel of this fascinating country. Enjoy an early night before the trip begins in earnest tomorrow.
Day 3: The Best of Beijing
Today you will be met by your guide at the hotel and taken on a fun and family-friendly tour of some of the absolute highlights of the Chinese capital.
Start at the enormous Tiananmen Square where you will visit the
mausoleum of Chairman Mao before heading into the Forbidden City
where you and the children will learn all about the extraordinarily
lavish lifestyle of the Chinese emperors who called this palace
home for some 600 years. Then your guide will show the way up
Jingshan Hill, which rises up behind the Forbidden City (and which
was built using the soil from the excavated moat) for fabulous
views back down over the palace and city beyond.
Next stop is a touch of time travel as your guide shows you around some of the few remaining hutongs or single-storey city blocks that are a labyrinth of alleyways and courtyards and which represent what much of the city once looked like. You will have the chance to enjoy some delicious local street food and watch craftsmen at work in a manner much the same for the last few centuries. A highlight for the children will be meeting a local man who breeds fighting crickets.
This afternoon you will return to your hotel tired and exhilarated after the first full day of your China family adventure.
Day 4: Visit the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu
This morning you and the family will be picked up from your hotel for an hour-and-a-half transfer to Mutianyu, one of the best preserved and most accessible sections of the iconic Great Wall of China, arguably the most ambitious building project ever undertaken.
Learn about the creation of this 5,000-mile long defensive wall built to deter Mongol invaders from the north. After accessing the wall via a gondola, we'll arrange for an easy two-hour wander along the ramparts, and the children will love learning about life for the imperial troops who manned the wall. Even better, you return from your visit to the wall by toboggan ride!
Back in Beijing this afternoon, there's still time for you to visit a local kung fu performance. Based on the ancient martial art form, the show is a contemporary take, following the life of a young monk and weaving in spectacular acrobatics and a dance and light show.
Day 5: Free to Explore Beijing
Today is yours to explore more of Beijing, and our clued-up local Concierge will be on hand to suggest and arrange any activities.
This evening, enjoy one last dinner in the Chinese capital before an early night in preparation for the next stage of your China family adventure.
Day 6: Temple of Heaven & on to Xi’an
This morning we have arranged for a family visit to the ornate Temple of Heaven - where Chinese rulers came to pray for good harvests - and its surrounding park. There is no better people watching opportunity than sitting in a Chinese park and watching the locals practicing tai chi and throwing frisbees. The good news is that you will also have the chance to try tai chi for yourselves. Then, at the Temple of Heaven, the children will love visiting the Echo Wall (or Whispering Wall) where they can practice whispering and being heard far away along the circular wall which perfectly conveys their voices.
The next stop is Beijing central train station for the high-speed train to Xi'an, the one-time capital. On arrival into Xi'an, you will be met and transferred to your family-friendly city centre hotel.
Day 7: The Terracotta Army and Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter
Today on your China family adventure you will visit another of the country's most iconic sites - the Terracotta Army. Just outside Xi'an, this huge number of individually designed soldiers was built to protect the first Chinese emperor on his journey into the afterlife (in 210 BC). The warriors lay undiscovered until a group of local farmers inadvertently discovered them while digging a well.
You and the children will be able to get up close to some of the
figures, lined out as if on parade, and learn all about their
creation and rediscovery with your expert guide. After a visit to
the real thing, we've got a treat in store as the children can
learn how to make their own miniature versions of the terracotta
warriors, and can then take home their efforts as the perfect
This afternoon you will return to Xi'an and visit the buzzing Muslim Quarter, which has been home to Muslims who made their way along the Silk Road to Xi'an over the centuries. Your guide will show you around the area, and to the Great Mosque.
This evening there's room for one last fun family experience. Xi'an claims to be the birthplace of that most Chinese of delicacies - the dumpling - and tonight you and the children will learn how to make these delicious dough parcels before sampling the fruits of your labours.
Day 8: Xi’an to Lijiang
After last night's dumpling-fest this morning's activity should be welcome - a bicycle around Xi'an's city walls, probably the best preserved in China. The complete ten-mile circuit of the walls takes around an hour, using the mode of transport once used by millions of Chinese every day.
Next it's time for a transfer to Xi'an Airport for the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Lijiang in Yunnan Province. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your family-friendly hotel in Lijiang in time for supper and bed.
Day 9: Exploring Lijiang Old Town
Lijiang is one of the prettiest places in China. Despite a growing number of visitors - especially domestic tourists - the town retains its charm, and with the help of our guide you and the family can disappear down side streets to escape the crowds. When you do, you can really appreciate the charming cobbled alleyways and small canals flowing through neighbourhoods inhabited by the Naxi ethnic minority people descended from nomadic Tibetan tribes (Yunnan borders Tibet to the north-west).
You can then get even further off the beaten track with a visit
to the surrounding Wenhai Valley, home to beautiful unspoilt
landscapes of meadowland and fifteen different species of
rhododendron. 20% of China's bird species call this habitat home,
and you and the children can go for a lovely stroll along ancient
trails, keeping an eye out for hairy yaks as you go.
Next you will visit an isolated village in the Jade Snow Mountains and sit with the local shaman. He will explain what life is like for the Yi ethnic minority as their individua culture gradually disappears with every passing generation. The shaman - or bimo - holds a revered place within the Yi community, and the children will hopefully appreciate this tales of the olden days. Then visit another village - Baisha - this time inhabited by a Naxi community, where you can wander around what feels like a 19th century timewarp with cows being herded along the alleyways. In Baisha the family will be guests of honour at a traditional dinner party hosted by a lovely local family. It's a memorable evening, with delicious food (the children can see how to cook Naxi specialities) and local music and dancing.
Day 10: Lijiang, Shaxi and Shibaoshan
This morning you will return to a huge outdoor arena in Lijiang to witness the brilliant Impression Lijiang - a local show involving a cast of 500 locals with horses, and which portrays scenes from Naxi myth, and all put together by the director of the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Next, head to the lovely market town of Shaxi, half way between Lijiang and Dali. The town retains much of the charm it has a trading post for travellers en route from Tibet or Myanmar, and the children will enjoy exploring the town's lively markets. You will also visit a famed local cheesemaker who will show you the method for creating delicious Shaxi cheese, famous throughout the region. Watch as the cheesemaker separates the curd and whey after steaming milk on the stove. Then eat the end produce before the chance to work off any excess with a walk along the so-called Tea & Horse Caravan Trail that lead from Tibet to Yunnan, and which is dotted with caves home to large rock carvings of Buddha.
Day 11: Lijiang at your Leisure
Today you can relax at your hotel, go for more walks in the surrounding countryside or pop back into Lijiang to do some shopping. Our local Concierge is on hand to recommend additional activities or make any restaurant reservations.
Day 12: To Tacheng
This morning you will set off from Lijiang to the idyllic town of Tacheng. En route you will visit Shigu Old Town, again stop along the Tea & Horse Caravan Trail and another bustling market town where the children can haggle with local stall owners for delicious local honey. Legend has it that the large stone drum that gave the town its name 'Shigu' is meant to crack at the outbreak of any war. This afternoon you will arrive in Tacheng and check in to your hotel.
Day 13: Tacheng National Park, Dharma Cave and Hada Village
Today sees a change of tack, from visiting towns and people watching to a visit to a local national park - the Tacheng National Park - to spot Yunnan's animal inhabitants instead. You and the children will be on the lookout for adorable snub-nosed monkeys in the company of a local conservationist.
Today sees a change of tack, from visiting towns and people
watching to a visit to a local national park - the Tacheng National
Park - to spot Yunnan's animal inhabitants instead. You and the
children will be on the lookout for adorable snub-nosed monkeys in
the company of a local conservationist.
Then it's on to the Dharma Cave in the Xianghi Mountains to see the temple built in the 12th century to celebrate the life and travels of Bodhidharma, an Indian philosopher and missionary credited with being among the first to bring Buddhism to China. The views from the cave temple out over the Jinsha River are spectacular.
Then for another angle on Yunnan and more chance for the children to learn about Chinese history and lifestyle. visit Hada Village in the rural Weixi countryside. You will meet a local family and learn about the simple subsistence way of life these farmers live. Learn the techniques for making soymilk and tofu, much as has been done for centuries.
After a long day of learning and exploring, take the brood back to your Tacheng hotel for a well-earned rest.
Day 14: To Shangri-La
20th century author James Hilton wrote of a mythical town and valley in his book Lost Horizon. That place was Shangri-La, inspired by the mountain retreat of Zhongdian, your next stop on this China family adventure. The Chinese authorities have now renamed the place Shangri-La, and it's a beautiful next stop on the trip, giving a glimpse of life on the Tibetan plateau. The town is also surrounded by beautiful forests and meadows to explore.
Your guide will also take you to Napahai Lake, a beautiful body
of water with a mountainous backdrop. The children can spot yaks
and other wildlife.
Next, you will visit Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan and one that closely resembles the Dalai Lama's palace in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. You and the children will learn about Tibetan Buddhism and see some of the 700 resident monks going about their day and meditating.
Day 15: Village Life and Scenic Walks in Shangri-La
You will have another day in the fascinating Shangri-La region, and the first stop of the day is Nixi Village on the Yangtze River, where the family can browse the handicrafts markets and watch local craftspeople in action creating the earthenware for which the town has become famous.
Then it's on the Pudacuo National Park, the very first to be designated in China. The children will enjoy a gentle two-hour hike past lakes, mountains and grasslands.
Final stop for the day will be dinner with a Tibetan family so
you can sample their cuisine (with the emphasis on yak: yak butter,
yak milk, stewed yak) and learn more about Tibetan culture, which
involves plenty of song and dance for the children to enjoy.
Day 16: To Huangshan in Anhui Province
Time for a total change of scene today as you leave Yunnan Province for Anhui Province in eastern China.
You'll have the morning to relax in Shangri-La before a transfer to the airport for the five-and-a-half-hour flight to Huangshan where you will be met for the transfer to your hotel for the next three nights.
Day 17: Hiking the Huangshan Mountains
Your family have learnt a lot on this China family adventure, and now the children can learn about Chinese art on a visit to somewhere that has inspired local and international artists for centuries: the Huangshan Mountains. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of beautiful peaks - often peeking through low-lying cloud - and covered in gnarly pine trees. Your guide will take you up the Yuping Cableway up the mountain, followed by a one-hour hike.
Day 18: Cultural Visits in Huangshan
Yesterday was all about Huangshan's natural beauty, but today is a chance for the family to meet the locals and learn about their way of life.
The first stop will be Lingshan Village, where the locals have
perfected a form of bamboo weaving that are best used in the
creation of charcoal filled pots topped with bamboo weave used for
keeping hands warm in winter.
Then it's on to Bishan Village for a bike trip. The village is home to members of the Hui ethnic minority, who are Muslims, and who have created a charming local architectural vernacular. Explore the village and surroundings on two wheels, stopping to watch local artisans creating tofu.
Finally, visit Hongcun Village and Mukeng. Hongcun was used as a key location during the filming of the gorgeous film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and subsequently a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its old-world charm. The area can get busy, though, so we'd also recommend a hike to nearby Mukeng Village, sitting surrounded by a thick bamboo forest.
Day 19: Huangshan to Shanghai
Today you will swapping beautiful rural Anhui for the bright lights of Shanghai, one of the buzziest cities in China, if not the world.
But first, there's one final chance to learn about the local
skills of Anhui province's artisans. This morning head to Tunxi,
near Huangshan, to learn about one of the region's most famous
products - ink. At a fun workshop the children will learn how to
create ink from wood and sap and learning about the ink's use in
After an early lunch it's time for a transfer to the station in Huangshan for the three-and-a-half-hour train to Shanghai. On arrival in the late afternoon you will be met and transferred to your city centre hotel for the last leg of your China family adventure.
Day 20: Sightseeing in Shanghai
Today you have the chance to explore this most exciting of cities, starting with a morning visit to Faxing Park. It's another window onto everyday life in China, and it's in the big cities that citizens appreciate the calming influence of parks more than anywhere. Fuxing Park is home to the usual tai chi proponents as well as ballroom dancing pensioners and even saxophonists.
From all things Chinese to somewhere with a more Gallic atmosphere - the French Concession. Shanghai was once home to designated zones where large numbers of businesses and traders from Western powers such as Great Britain, the US and France traded with the locals, and the latter's lovely tree-lined boulevards make for a fun place to wander around
Then it's on to Tianzifang Arts Area, a labyrinth of alleyways filled with bohemian and boutique shops and coffee houses to explore.
This evening you will enjoy another classic experience on your China family adventure: a Chinese acrobatic circus show. The ERA acrobatic performance will wow the children as they marvel the acrobats' feats of strength and agility, and we'll arrange the best seats in the house so you can get an amazing view of the action.
Day 21: Shanghai Disney Resort
After so much traditional Chinese entertainment for the children, it might seem incongruous to finish with a Disney experience, but the children won't be thinking like that! It's also not to say that the experience here is entirely without cultural resonance. Shanghai Disney Resort's Enchanted Storybook Castle moves away from the typical Disney fairy-tale castle look with a distinctly Chinese feel, down to its jade columns and Chinese zodiac inspired gargoyles.
This evening, enjoy a final family-friendly supper in Shanghai and celebrate the end of your China family adventure.
Day 22: Fly Home
You will be collected after breakfast and transferred to the airport for your 13-hour return flight to the UK. Make sure the children have their Sharky & George packs and iPads to hand. The flight lands back in London in the afternoon.
Holly and Frances are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.