China and the Tibetan Plateau 2018: Itinerary
Go Learn

China poster

It's a testament to the greatness of Chinese history.
— Barack Obama during his trip to the Fobidden City

June 23—July 6, 2018


Sign up today!

Saturday, June 23: Departure from the United States

If this is not your first time flying to China, then you know you “lose” a day, crossing the dateline, only to gain it all back on the flight returning to the U.S.

Sunday, June 24: Arrive in Beijing

Tiananmen Sq.Beijing is 14 hours ahead of Salt Lake City (MT). In other words, 6 pm on Saturday in Salt Lake City is 8 am on Sunday morning in Beijing. If you can, we recommend catching an earlier flight so you can join Dr. Zhao on an optional evening walking tour in the neighborhood where we will be staying in Beijing. After arriving at the airport, you can take a taxi (about 120 yuan) to the hotel or take airport shuttle line 13 (25 yuan per person, direct service to the hotel).

Our trip leader will meet you at the hotel lobby at 6 pm to start the walking tour of the neighborhood: Wangfujing. Wangfujing is the most famous shopping street in Beijing and has been the commercial district of the city since the middle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). We will walk to one of the restaurants that serves authentic local foods mainly to local residents. After dinner, we will walk to the East Gate of the Forbidden City where you can see the night view of the palace and the moat.

Hotel: Regent Beijing (5-star)
Meals: D (optional, pay at the dinner)

Monday, June 25: Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Welcome Dinner

Summer PalaceWe will start our day by visiting Tian’anmen Square, the largest public square in the world. It is also where the annual National Day (October 1st) celebration takes place. We will then walk through Tian’anmen Gate and enter the Forbidden City (A World Heritage Site), which was the Chinese imperial palace between 1420 and 1912. It also houses the Palace Museum, which has over a million rare and valuable works of art in the permanent collection. We will leave the Forbidden City before noon and have our first group dinner at a restaurant serving Sichuan Style cuisine. After lunch, we will visit the Summer Palace, which is another World Heritage Site because it is “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.” Covering an area of 1.1 sq. mi, the Summer Palace is featured with hills, lakes, pavilions, halls, palaces, temples, bridges, and gardens of different styles. After this exciting excursion, we will have our welcome dinner at the most famous restaurant that serves the signature Beijing cuisine, the Peking duck.

Hotel: Regent Beijing (5-star)
Meals: B,L,D

Tuesday, June 26: Great Wall, Ming Tomb, Special Dinner

Great Wall of ChinaAfter breakfast, the bus will take us to the Great Wall (the 3rd World Heritage Site) that is located to the north of the city. Chinese emperors started to build magnificent walls since the second century BC to prevent invasions of the nomadic groups living at the north. These walls were later joined together and became the largest manmade structure on earth, which is 5,500 miles or 13,171 miles long based on different surveys. The majority of the existing wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). After we hike down the wall, we will stop at a local restaurant and try some local cuisine. In the afternoon, we will visit the one of the best preserved 13 Ming Tombs (the 4th World Heritage Site) also located at the outskirts of the city. We will be able see both the burial chamber and the artifacts displayed in the museum at the group level. On our way back to the city, we will make a short stop at the 2008 Olympic Complex, where you can see the Water Cube (the National Aquatic Center) and the Bird’s Nest (the National Stadium) from outside. Tonight, we will have the Imperial Cuisine inside a once imperial park. To reach the restaurant, hopefully the most memorable meal you will have in China, we will stroll along the lake inside Beihai Park to arrive at this highly decorated historic building and be welcomed by people dressed as imperial servants. The dinner will consists of over 20 courses, including the most popular and delicate dishes prepared for Chinese emperors.

Hotel: Regent Beijing (5-star)
Meals: B,L,D

Wednesday, June 27: Temple of Heaven, Departure for Lijiang

LijiangThe Temple of Heaven (the 5th World Heritage Site) is the largest and the most magnificent imperial temple complexes in Beijing where the emperors performed state rituals. As its name suggests, this was where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties held the annual ceremonies to heaven for good harvest. During our visit to this public park, you will also see thousands of local residents carrying out their daily morning exercise routines or spending time with their friends playing all kinds of games. After a long walk inside the park, we will have lunch at a restaurant serving dim sum, a signature Cantonese style cuisine. We will then departure for the airport to catch the 4 pm direct flight to Lijiang. It is a three and a half hour flight with dinner provided on board. We will arrive in Lijiang (the 6th World Heritage Site) late that night and check-in to one of the boutique hotels that was converted from historic courtyard houses.

* Lijiang is at an elevation that is close to 8,000 feet. We will provide individually used portable oxygen tank (the size of a large water bottle) for everyone. See “Activity Levels and Precautions” in the Details section.

Hotel: Lijiang (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Thursday, June 28: Baisha Village, Watch Impression Lijiang Show, Lijiang

VillageLijiang area is one of the main settlements for Naxi (also spelled as Nashi or Nakhi) people, who developed their own unique culture, including written language, music, religion, art and architecture. We will start our journey in rural Yunnan Province by visiting a small village called Baisha. We will first visit the Dabaoji Palace where 55 exquisite historic murals remain, which represent a fusion between the style of Tibetan Buddhist painting and the tradition of Naxi Culture. You will then be encouraged to wander through this small town on your own. Make sure to stop by the Baisha Naxi Embroidery Institute located on the right hand of the road, where traditional techniques are taught to young people and hand-made embroideries are sold. After a delicious market-square lunch, we will watch the Impression Lijiang Show at 1:30. This show was directed by ZHANG Yimou, the most famous director in China who directed the Olympic Opening and Closing ceremonies. It sets its stage in a natural setting that is over 10,000 feet above the sea level, uses the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as the backdrop, and includes 500 local people, coming from 10 different ethnic groups, as performers. After the show, we will go back to Lijiang and enjoy a relaxing dinner. Enjoy the historic town of Lijiang on your own before and after dinner!

Hotel: Lijiang (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Friday, June 29: Lijiang, Departure for Shangri-La, Tiger Leaping Gorge

ShangliraWe will start our day from a visit to the old market square, which used to be an important trading place along the Ancient Tea Horse Road that connected southern China and Bengal and Tibet. We will then visit the Mu Mansion, the palace for the local lord between 1382 and 1723. The existing structure was a reconstruction of the old palace after the 1996 earthquake. After lunch, we will departure for Shangri-La. It is a four-hour drive through some of the most scenic areas in the country. We will stop over the Tiger Leaping gorge on the way, one of the deepest (over 12,000 feet deep) and most spectacular river canyons in the world. As part of the primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River, the gorge is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site (the 7th one in this trip). We will arrive in Shangri-La in the early evening, dine in a local restaurant and check-in to another boutique hotel that has local Tibetan décor.

* Shangri-La’s elevation is at about 10,370 feet above the sea level. You should still be feeling OK if you are generally healthy and come from places like Salt Lake City. See “Activity Levels and Precautions” in the Details section.

Hotel: Shangri-La (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Saturday, June 30: Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery, Shangri-La Old Town, Tibetan Family Dinner

Shangli-raShangri-La, mainly populated by Tibetans, was originally named Zhongdian. It was changed to Shangri-La in 2001 after James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon, which depicted Shangri-La as a place that human beings, animals, and nature lived in harmony under the rule of a Tibetan. In the morning, we will visit the Genden Sumtsenling Monastery outside the historic town, which belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province. Originally built in 1679, it contained accommodation for 2,000 monks at its peak. The current structure was largely the result of the 1983 reconstruction and it houses 700 monks. After having lunch at a local restaurant, we will first explore selected sites, including a small temple and a museum, in the historic town of Shangri-La as a group, then you will have the time to continue your adventure on your own. In the evening, we will have dinner hosted by a Tibetan family inside their house. During the meal, they will also introduce us the Tibetan music and dance and welcome the participation of all guests.

* The Genden Sumtsenling Monastery is at an elevation of 11,090 feet. In addition, we will need to climb many runs of staircases to reach to the temple at the highest level. See “Activity Levels and Precautions” in the Details section.

Hotel: Shangri-La (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Sunday, July 1: Departure for Shaxi, Shibaoshan Grotto

ShaxiWe will depart for Shaxi in the morning, a historic market town dominated by Bai and Yi minority groups. The bus ride is about 4 hours, with stops to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. Before we arrive in Shaxi, we will visit the Shibaoshan Mountain. After a moderate hike through the dense forest, we will reach the Shibaoshan Grotto at the top of the mountain, which was created between the ninth and the twelfth century. From the top of the mountain, we can also have the beautiful view to the valley where Shaxi and many other small villages are located. Later this afternoon, we will check-in to our boutique courtyard hotels in Shaxi (due to the size of our group, we will probably take over two hotels) and have dinner at one of the local restaurants. Make sure you come out in the evening to enjoy the slow village life at night and see the starry sky from the rice field right around the corner.

Hotel: Shaxi (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Monday, July 2: Shaxi, Market Square, Xingiiao Temple

TempleShaxi started as a trading post for tea and horses during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) and reached its peak during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1912). Its population mainly consists of people of Bai and Yi minority groups. As probably the most intact horse caravan town on the Ancient Tea Horse Road, Shaxi was renovated through a collaboration between the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich and the local government. Many buildings, including the market square, the Xingjiao Temple, and the Theater were carefully preserved. We will visit the market square, the Xingjiao Temple together as a group in the morning. After lunch, you are free to explore this charming little town on your own and the nearby villages that are dotted in the middle of beautiful rice fields. In the evening, we will gather at a different local restaurant and try new delicious local dishes, including wild mushrooms freshly picked that morning.

Hotel: Shaxi (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Tuesday, July 3: Departure for Dali, Three Pagodas Temple, Dali Historic Town

DaliWe will depart for Dali in the morning, which will take about two hours. Before we reach Dali, we will visit the Three Pagodas Temple located outside the historic town. The three pagodas are dated from the ninth and tenth century when Dali was the capital for its own kingdom. Since then, they have been the iconic structure for the region and the city. The temple itself is a huge complex that includes many halls and pavilions. Although it will be quite a hike to reach the top floor of the last structure, the view from there is magnificent, where you can see the vast and beautiful Erhai Lake at the eastern end of the city. After lunch, we will be transported to the historic town of Dali. We will visit one of the historic gates together, from which you can have a view of this ancient gridded city. Then you will be on your own to explore the city, where there are lots of stores selling local crafts, traditional clothing, and other souvenirs. After dinner, the bus will take us to a nearby smaller town called Xizhou, where we will be staying at the Linden Center, the most renowned boutique hotel in the region or even in China, for two nights.

Hotel: Shaxi (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Wednesday, July 4: Xizhou Historic Town, Yan Family’s Mansion

Xizhou is a small town mainly occupied by the Bai minority, and their culture is manifested in all aspects of life. We will start our morning with an interactive dialog with the owner of the Linden Center, Mr. Brien Linden, who will tell us his experience in running a boutique hotel in Xizhou and his appreciation and understanding of the local culture. We will then walk to the market square and visit one of the best preserved houses in Xizhou, the Yan Family’s Mansion, which is a superior representation of the local vernacular architecture. After dine at a local restaurant and taste some of best local foods, you will be on your own to explore this little town. You can also spend some time at the Linden Center, which has a library focusing on Chinese culture and often offers various kinds of cultural activities to its guests.

Hotel: Xizhou, The Linden Center (boutique hotel)
Meals: B,L,D

Xizhou

Thursday, July 5: Departure for Beijing, Hutong Tour, Farewell Dinner at the Lake District

Lake DistrictAfter a slow morning, we will catch a direct flight to Beijing at 11:20. We will arrive the lake district (part of a World Heritage Site) of Beijing later that afternoon. We will tour the best preserved historic hutong (small alley) district on hired three-wheel bicycles, during which you will see how ordinary people in Beijing carry out their daily lives. After that, we will have our farewell dinner in a restaurant at the lake district, which is the largest body of water inside the historic center of Beijing. After the dinner, we will stroll along the lake to meet our bus, which will then take us to check-in to the same hotel we stayed at the beginning of the trip.

* We do not have the time to go to the hotel before the farewell dinner. Our luggage will be securely stored in our tour bus during our excursion this afternoon.

Hotel: Regent Beijing (5-star)
Meals: B,L,D

Friday, July 6: Departure from Beijing, Arrive Home

Sadly, today we depart. Due to possible individual departure times we will coordinate taxi and airport transport the evening prior. We will assist in that or in possible trip extensions for those who would like to stay longer and enjoy the many sites of Beijing still left to discover. A trip reunion in about a month from now seems far away, but allows time for processing this amazing journey, which in itself is part of this Go Learn journey as well!

Meals: B

June 23—July 6, 2018

Double Occupancy: $5300
Single Supplement: $700

Airfare is not included.

Reserve your spot!

Photos courtesy Ray In Manila, Colin Capelle, Robin Zebrowski, Keith Roper, Filipe Fortes, xiaowei Zhao, Caz and Craig Makepeace, utpala ॐ, Luca Casartelli, tjabeljan, Windy (Wei) Zhao