Middle Kingdom is a literary translation of “Zhong Guo”, the Chinese name for their modern country (e.i. Chinese name for “China”). It dates from c.1000 B.C., when it designated the capital of Zhou Dynasty and the area under direct rule of the King situated on the North China Plain.
The land area and political entity referred to as “Zhong Guo” changed many times in history, and “Zhong Guo” did not become the formal name for the country until 1911 when Republic of China was founded. However, the sentiment that China was in the center of the world politically, culturally as well as physically was profoundly rooted in the Chinese psyche through the millennia due to the dominance of Chinese civilization in East Asia and to the lack of knowledge of the civilizations in the West.
Even today, that sentiment is still very strong among most Chinese citizens. “Yet the sentiment that allows Chinese to believe they are the center of the world runs far deeper than what is customarily associated with the term ‘complex’ and certainly involves more than what is usually thought of as pride,” observed the late Prof. Lucian Pye of MIT.
21 Days – Download the 6 page pdf Middle Kingdom Tour
Included meals follow the day’s description and accommodation (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner).
Scroll down for the tour’s price and dates. For more information, please see What is Included in ACT’s tours.
Day 1 Depart North America
Fly to Beijing, China from your home city on a cross-Pacific flight.
Day 2 Arrive Beijing
Arrive at Beijing Capital Airport and you are met by Access China Tours service staff and transferred to your hotel in downtown. Meet your fellow travelers and tour manager at the Evening Reception, and receive updates on sightseeing and activity schedules.
Regent Hotel Beijing (Evening Reception)
Day 3 Beijing
After breakfast, our exploration in Beijing starts from Tiananmen Square – the world’s largest. Next, visit the Forbidden City, the magnificent imperial palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties built 600 years ago. After lunch at a local restaurant, explore by a pedicab ride some of Beijing’s old “Hutongs” – the traditional courtyard residences cut into blocks by narrow alleyways. Climb up the nearby Drum and Bell Towers for a great aerial view of the old traditional neighborhood, and also visit a private home of local a resident to hear their life stories. Return to the hotel for relaxation. Enjoy a welcome banquet featuring Peking Duck this evening.
Regent Hotel Beijing (B-L-D)
Day 4 Beijing
Visit the Temple of Heaven in the morning. The ornate structure was built of wood without using nails. Observe Beijing residents doing Taichi in the well-maintained park and examine the beautiful structure of the Hall of Prayer. Stop by the lively Liulichang Culture Street, a bustling market where traditional arts and crafts, antiques and other goods are sold. After lunch, take an excursion to the extraordinary Great Wall of China. Explore and hike on the scenic Mutianyu section, where the Wall winds across the wooded green mountains. For tonight’s dinner, you are treated to the famous Imperial Cuisine Dinner in an elite local restaurant.
Regent Hotel Beijing (B-L-D)
Day 5 Beijing – Xi’an
After breakfast, transfer to airport and fly to Xi’an, the ancient capital of Qin, Han, Tang, and many of the following dynasties. Met and transfer upon arrival.
After your own lunch and refreshing in hotel, go to visit the massive Ancient City Wall which was built during the Ming. Then, visit the Great Mosque and the Muslim Market in a old neighborhood dating back to the Silk Road era.
Tonight, enjoy a special Xi’an Cuisine Dinner in an elite local restaurant.
Shangri-La Hotel Xi’an (B-D)
Day 6 Xi’an
A morning excursion takes you to the magnificent 2,200-year-old Terracotta Warriors of China’s first Emperor – Qin Shihuang, one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. This archaeological excavation site is a stunning exhibit of over 7000 individually unique ancient terracotta life-size statues.
Upon returning to the city, visit the elegant Big Goose Pagoda which has survived over a millenia of war and earthquakes. Tour the fine Xi’an History Museum for its wonderful collection of ancient relics spanning almost 3,000 years.
In the evening, you will enjoy your own dinner in hotel. Then, escorted by guide to a theater to enjoy an elaborate Tang Style Evening Show.
Shangri-La Hotel Xi’an (B-L-D)
Day 7 Xi’an – Urumqi
Breakfast in hotel. Transfer to airport for an flight to Urumqi. On the way, visit the remarkable Yangling Archaeological Site Museum that displays priceless antiquities found in this Han imperial tomb.
Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and major Central Asian stop on the famed Silk Road. Urumqi is unique in that it is the most inland city on earth, no big city on the planet is farther from sea or ocean.
Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to the city and visit Xinjiang Museum, where several ancient mummies, some of which are of Caucasian origin, attract visitors from around the world. Later stop by the busy Erdaoqiao Uygur Market, an indoor bazaar reminiscent of Arabian nights.
Check in the hotel and enjoy a characteristic Uygur Cuisine Dinner with lively Central Asian music and dance in the evening.
Sheraton Urumqi Hotel (B-D)
Day 8 Urumqi – Turpan
Today, take a full-day excursion to Turpan, a Uygur city in a large oasis surrounded by desert and barren but stunning mountains. First visit the site of ancient Jiaohe City which dates back almost 2,000 years. The fortress city was built on a strategic high ground and the remains of some structures are still standing. It offers spectacular views of desert landscapes.
Turpan is another geographical superlative, the second lowest spot on earth at 505 feet below sea level (only the Dead Sea is lower). Upon arrival, visit the 200-year-old Emin Minaret, an Afghan style Islamic structure and the tallest building in town.
After lunch, continue sightseeing at the Gaochang Ruins, which reveals traces of a once prosperous kingdom during the heydays of Silk Road trade.
A visit to Grape Valley is a pleasant experience. Xinjiang is where grapes were first cultivated in China. You will have the opportunity to walk through the vineyards, stop by farmer’s homes, and go deep underground to see the Karez Wells – an ingenious underground irrigation system that has been efficiently keeping all the greenery alive in the scorching summer heat since ancient times.
Return to Urumqi by the evening.
Sheraton Urumqi Hotel (B-L)
After breakfast in hotel, take a half-day excursion to the beautiful Heavenly Lake set among towering alpine peaks of the Tianshan Mountains. The snow-capped Mt. Bogda (18,000 feet) is brilliantly reflected in the crystal clear water of the alpine lake.
You will also have the opportunity to visit the yurt homes of the local Kazakh herdsmen. Xinjiang is home to a dozen of China’s 55 ethnic minorities.
Transfer to Urumqi Airport in the afternoon for a flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province which is the second most populous province in China. Met upon arrival and transfer to hotel for check-in and your own relaxation in the evening.
Shangri-La Hotel Chengdu (B-L)
Day 10 Chengdu
Chengdu is home to Giant Panda Research and Breeding Center. Start out early for a special visit to the center on the out skirts of the city. Here you can observe pandas playing and feeding in the morning hours and for a fee, you will be able to hold a young panda for a picture taking session.
Next, travel to Guanghan county to visit the magnificent Sanxingdui Archaeological Museum & Site. The museum holds astonishing artifacts, discovered right on the site, which include dazzling bronze and gold items of the mysterious ancient Shu Culture.
Return to the city in the afternoon and visit Wenshuyuan Buddhist Temple, Kuanzhai Alley, a traditional neighborhood in the old city center, and a local tea house. Enjoy a very tasty Sichuan Cuisine Dinner followed by a fabulous ‘Face-Changing Show’.
Shangri-La Hotel Chengdu (B-L-D)
Day 11 Chengdu – Lhasa
After breakfast, transfer to airport and fly over spectacular jagged peaks to Lhasa – capital of Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region and the “holy city” for Tibetan Buddhism believers worldwide.
Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and balance of the day is free for adjusting to the high altitude. Dinner is in the hotel restaurant.
St. Regis Lhasa (B)
Day 12 Lhasa
Now here you are, on the roof of the world! Begin your Tibet exploration with a visit to the magnificent Jokhang Monastery, a 1,300-year-old golden-roofed shrine whose labyrinth of rooms contains a beautiful gold statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni. Coming out of the Jokhang, you are right in the center of fascinating Barkhor area, lined with the stalls of an outdoor market selling all kinds of Tibetan goods and crafts. Move on to visit Sera Monastery, where you may see young monks practicing debating skills in small groups. Visit a Tibetan family later in the day. Enjoy a Special Dinner in the evening.
St. Regis Lhasa (B-L-D)
Day 13 Lhasa
Your visit to the monumental Potala Palace is the highlight of your trip to Tibet. The great hilltop 13-story palace encloses private quarters as well as countless prayer halls, chapels and shrines where monks chant and devotees offer their ceremonial scarves or yak butter lamps. The Tibetan’s profound devotion to the Buddhist faith is well demonstrated in this sacred site. After lunch, visit Norbulingka, a resort-style park reserved for the Tibetan elite in the old days and now open to everyone. Also pay a visit to a village outside Lhasa City and meet local residents. The balance of the day and evening are free for your own relaxation, and dinner is on your own.
St. Regis Lhasa (B-L)
Day 14 Lhasa – Kunming
After breakfast in the hotel, transfer to the airport and fly to Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province. Kunming, adored by the Chinese as “the city of eternal spring”, enjoys year-round mild temperatures and comfortable weather due to its low latitude (25 degrees) and high altitude (1890 m/6,200 ft). The city also has its unique character thanks to the many ethnic minorities living in and around Kunming.
Visit the thousand-year-old Yuantong Temple, northern Yunnan’s major Buddhist site and an active place of pilgrimage. Then tour the Daguan Lou (Grand View Pavilion), which was built in 1690. The two front pillars contain a poetic couplet of some 180 characters, describing the beauty of Kunming on one side and the history of Yunnan on the other. Take a walk through the tree-lined city center and have dinner in a local restaurant.
Green Lake Hotel (B-D)
Day 15 Kunming – Stone Forest
Today’s sightseeing begins with a visit to the Golden Temple, a Daoist monastery that features a charming prayer hall constructed completely with bronze and copper. It’s a one-of-a-kind site to visit. Take an excursion to the Stone Forest, about 90 kilometers through rolling hills southeast of Kunming. This area offers visitors a unique natural landscape of stark limestone pillars twisted and sculpted by the elements. From a distance, these stone pillars look indeed like a dense forest. Paths and stairs wind along the corridors past rock pools to cliff balconies for intriguing vistas. Also explore the local markets and villages of ethnic Sani people. Enjoy a delicious Yunnan Cuisine Dinner at an elite local restaurant followed by an incredible ethnic stage show, Dynamic Yunnan.
Green Lake Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 16 Kunming – Guilin
This morning, go to the West Hills to get a bird’s eye view of the Dianchi Lake and the city. The vista across the azure lake is spectacular. After lunch, transfer to the airport and wing on to Guilin. Transfer and check in hotel upon arrival. Guilin is one of the most scenic cities in all of China. After some rest and a Local Cuisine Dinner, enjoy a Guilin Night Cruise through a chain of lakes with beautiful display of lights in the center of city.
Shangri-La Hotel Guilin (B-L)
Day 17 Guilin – Yangshuo
Today, we board a cruise boat for a relaxing four-hour Li River Cruise. The cruise will give you a chance to savor the unique and lovely views of the area’s extraordinary landscape of sheer limestone peaks, rice paddies, and tranquil waters that have inspired thousands of famous Chinese scroll paintings. Disembark the boat in Yangshuo, a charming and friendly small town with streets lined with small hotels, countless souvenir shops selling traditional ornaments, jewelry and paintings of peaks, and restaurants serving international foods. Explore the lively street market and also visit farmers’ village homes nestled in the panoramic landscape before a local cuisine dinner. This evening, enjoy a fantastic sound and light river show, Impressions Liusanjie, created by the film director Zhang Yimou. Return to Guilin by vehicle.
Shangri-La Hotel Guilin (B-L-D)
Day 18 Guilin – Shanghai
Bid farewell to charming Guilin and its glorious scenery and take a late morning flight to Shanghai and transfer to your luxury hotel upon arrival. Visit the exquisite traditional Yuyuan Garden and the European Art-Deco architecture of the Bund for an interesting experience of East meets West. Gaze across Huangpu River at the towering structures of ultra-modern Pudong special economic zone. Tonight’s dinner is to try the city’s signature dish Shanghai Steamed Dumplings in a local restaurant.
Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund (B-D)
Day 19 Shanghai
Today, visit the marvelous Shanghai Museum. Its galleries showcase world-class collections of ancient art and artifacts dating back millennia. The Bronze Gallery is the world’s finest, a must-see section. Wander around in the former French Concession, represented by the leafy Fuxing Park and the colonial architecture in the area. Stop for lunch at Xintiandi, a redeveloped, chic old neighborhood with trendy pubs, cafes, restaurants, and shops frequented by Shanghai’s new wealthy citizens. In the afternoon, visit Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center for an awe-inspiring perspective on the city’s future development. Shanghai’s modern architecture is amongst the world’s most bold and innovative due to the rapid economic development. Later in the day, stop by Ohel Moshe Synagogue building in the “old ghetto” district to reflect upon the scarcely reported history of Jewish people living in China. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund (B-L)
Day 20 Shanghai
Today is a free day for you to explore wonderful Shanghai on your own. An optional excursion to garden city Suzhou is available. This evening, enjoy a farewell Shanghai Cuisine Dinner in a nice restaurant followed by a stunning Acrobatic Performance.
Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund (B-D)
Day 21 Return Home
Transfer to the airport and board your homebound flight. Arrive in North America on the same day. (B)
21 Days (Tour Code – UMK)
This tour departs on Sundays and returns on Saturdays. There are four tour departures during 2014 in the months of April, May, August, and September.
Please view what is included in our tours, along with testimonials from previous ACT travel clients. Feel free to browse through our other luxury and adventure tours. If you don’t see exactly what you like, we are happy to arrange a private or custom tour for you.
To see pictures of China, please visit the photo gallery. Thank you.