Learn all about China’s past, present and future through its amazing architecture as you travel from Guangzhou to Beijing via some of the most spectacular sites in China.


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China is an architectural wonderland which has recently become a veritable playground for designers who have sculpted the landscape to be a modern marvel intertwined with historical relics.

This tour will take you to see all the aspects of China’s evolution from the ancient eras to the modern, from centuries’ old architecture to the innovative, new-age buildings like the Bird’s Nest Stadium and Canton Tower that are setting new design standards for the world.

Along this exploration of the marvels of construction you will trace the evolution of China and discover why and how the country has developed to what you now see before you. You’ll appreciate structures built from necessity, such as The Great Wall of China, built to keep invading forces away, as well as the diaolou of Kamping and the tolou of Yongding, two very different styles of community residence built for defensive purposes.

You will also have the chance to study Chinese society along your journey, staying overnight in a tolou as well as taking the overnight sleeper train experience. You will see how locals utilize the ’green lungs’ of China’s big cities, and how small towns interact. You’ll meet market vendors and street sellers and take time to chat with experts in the fields of fengshui and penjing who will explain their art forms.

As well as man-made marvels you will also see some of China’s most amazing natural sites, such as the Yellow Mountains in Huangshan, the West Lake in Hangzhou, the quaint beauty of Gulangyu Island, as well as the scenic towns of Hongcun and Xidi.


Each of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and our destination based teams will start planning a unique and personalized trip.

The Backyard Travel Team,


Discover the marvels of architecture from the past, present and future of China with hand-picked local tour guides who are experts on their regions
Visit the diaolou of Kamping and the tolou of Yongding, two very different styles of community residence built for defensive purposes, and spend the night in a tolou
See the architectural masterpieces of China, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites The Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Summer Palace amongst others up close
Get a glimpse of Chinese society through traveling on the fascinating overnight sleeper trains

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

  • Start
  • Day 1: Guangzhou

    Nihao and welcome to Guangzhou! We’ll make your first moments as blissful as possible as you adapt to the exotic sights, sounds and smells of China and on your arrival your guide will meet you and escort you into Guangzhou, your first stop on your tailor-made tour of China.

    En route into the city you will visit the Canton Tower (formerly known as the Guangzhou TV Astronomical and Sightseeing Tower) to begin your examination of China’s unique architecture from a futuristic angle. The tower, including the antenna, stands at 600-meters tall and for two years was listed as the tallest tower in the world before the completion of the CN Tower in Canada. The Canton Tower contains a museum, gardens, a shopping centre and a rooftop observatory which is currently the highest and largest observation deck in the world.

    Foreign nations have been trading in Guangzhou since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). During that period the city was the principal southern port of the country and thus an important region for the silk export industry. Persian and Arab merchants were especially numerous in the region and even established their own mosques. Portuguese merchants arrived in the region in the 16th century and the Dutch, British, French and North Americans followed in the 17th and 18th centuries, further expanding the port’s importance.

    The tea and silk trades were most common commodities in the area; however it was the introduction of opium by the British that sparked major tension between China and the West. In was these ‘Opium Wars’ which led to the island of Hong Kong being ceded to the British, and various concessions to be granted to Western powers in various Chinese cities.

    Next you will be guided to a pleasant park on Shamian Island, a sandbank island and an ancient Anglo-French concession that sits on the banks of the Pearl River. This park on Shamian Island (which translates as ‘sandy surface’) is a place that locals come to meet and indulge in their daily exercise routines, such as Qigong, and Tai Chi, under the shelter of the centuries-old banyan trees.

    After observing the unique exercises you will then exit the park and embark on a bike ride to discover the well-preserved colonial architecture that typifies this quarter, most notably the Roman Catholic Our Lady of Lourdes Church, which was built by the French in 1892. The tranquil neighborhood is a striking contrast from its days as a concession, and still contains reminders of the period, especially in the colonial architecture that remains.

    Once you cross the large avenue that separates the sandbank island from the rest of the city, you will enter the ancient quarter that was once home to the legendary Qingping Market, where rodents, owls, dogs, and cats were once for sale, but which was shut in part due to the SARS epidemic. Although the market is now closed, you can still find an abundance of small market stalls selling a variety of traditional medicines such as ginseng root and rare mushrooms in a labyrinth of small alleyways which emit a pleasing culmination of aromas set to the tune of clinking mah-jong tiles.

    You’ll continue to a lesser-visited part of the city, where you’ll feel the energy of enthusiastic clothes vendors who passionately draw attention to their products, calling out to customers and clapping their hands. The street theatre continues to Longjin covered market, a fresh meat and fish market which is surrounded by fruit stalls.

    Your guided bike ride will then lead you to the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family (also known as the Chen Clan Academy). The temple was built at the beginning of the 19th century by the inhabitants of 72 villages in the region, united by a clan system representative of the region as a whole. The temple compound hosts a vast collection of Southern Chinese architecture, complete with ornate sculptures and paintings.

    This temple visit will provide you with an opportunity to learn about ancestor worship, a fundamental practice in Chinese culture even in the modern day. Close to the values of Confucianism, this practice consists of maintaining a link with the afterlife by making offerings of food, burning paper money and incense, and ‘sweeping the tombs’ on Tomb Sweeping Day (Qingmingjie).

    Once your guided bike tour has finished, you will have the remainder of the day to spend at your own leisure.

    Optional: You may take the opportunity to try some local dim sum at a recommended restaurant. Dim sum is a style of Cantonese cuisine comprising small steamed savoury or sweet dishes and is eaten in a similar fashion to Spanish tapas.

  • Day 2: Guangzhou - Kaiping - Guangzhou

    Following breakfast on day two, you will be driven to Kaiping (a journey which takes approximately two hours, depending on traffic).

    Due to demographic reasons and a series of historical events (including the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion) a huge number of Chinese left this region during the 19th century. Those left behind faced troubled times and incidents of theft and murder rose sharply. As a means of self-defense, local inhabitants developed a new style of residence known as diaolou - fortified multi-story towers to better ensure their safety. Many diaolou still stand more than 100 years later and many are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.Only a small minority of those that left ever returned to their homeland and those who did were often highly influenced by their experiences of the West. It is possible to see this influence in the construction of some diaolou which feature Western architecture, including the Mogul Empire design passed on from the British Empire in Southern India.

    Your first stop will be in Chikan, where homes constructed by returning Chinese merchants are easily distinguishable with grand pillars and decadent balconies from which locals now use to stand and stare curiously at tourists. Along the banks of the river you will find many excellent examples of traditional Cantonese homes and the area is often used as a backdrop for films set in the colonial period.

    When you arrive in Chikan, you will collect your bike in the town center and set off to ride through the beautiful countryside, passing through rice fields, bamboo forests and banana plantations. Along the ride you are likely to see locals busying themselves with daily chores and giant water buffalo lazily grazing on grass.

    You will also get the chance to meet a local duck farmer who will chat with you about his profession and the impact of the local economy on his work. Ducks are bred in massive numbers in this area to meet the growing demand from restaurants who serve the speciality dish ‘Cantonese-style roast duck’.

    Next you will have the chance to visit the village of Zili, where you can find the greatest number of diaolou in the region. Many of the diaolou here were built with Western inspiration by the Fang clan after some of the family had spent time in Chicago and Malaysia. Following your visit to Zili village you will make a stop at the Li Garden, which is made up of a number of Italian-style villas.

    Your guided bike tour will then stop off at the cluster of diaolou at Majianglong. As you follow the path which winds through bamboo groves, you will discover a number of watchtowers from which you can admire the views of the surrounding countryside.

    Along your ride you are likely to see a number of diaolou which are in a severe state of disrepair and in need of restoration. The presence of tourists in the region has awoken the local authorities to the importance of preserving these architectural gems and as a result many have been renovated or are scheduled to be restored.

    Lastly you will visit Ruishi Lou, situated in the village of Jinjiang, commonly considered the most beautiful diaolou in the region and is most notable for its byzantine architecture.

    After you have returned your bikes to Chikan you will then be chauffeured back to Guangzhou where you will spend the night.

  • Day 3: Guangzhou - Xiamen - Gulangyu

    After breakfast you will depart your hotel and be chauffeured to the airport for you onward flight. On arrival at Xiamen airport you will be met by your local expert guide who will take you to the pier to cross a narrow stretch of water to Gulangyu Island, a small but charming island which hosts some decadent colonial architecture. Gulangyu literally translates as ‘drum islet’, a name that was coined by the first pioneers to inhabit the island who were unsettled by, what they thought, were eerie drum beats in the distance. It turned out that the ghostly drumming was caused by the tide as it surged through a hollow rock on the southwest corner of the island.

    Xiamen was once a major trade port for the south of the country and because of this, the island of Gulangyu also attracted a swathe of sea-faring foreigners, such as the Portuguese, British, French and Dutch, who all saw the commercial potential of the isle. Despite their attempts to colonize the quiet islet, it wasn’t until after the Opium Wars in the 19th century that Xiamen was developed further to cater for international trade, and Gulangyu became the base for European and Japanese merchants. This combination has given the island a delightful architectural fusion still evident today.

    Indeed, touches of distant lands can be felt all around the 1.78-square-meter island. A charming maze of narrow roads, shaded alleys dotted with banyan trees, and around 1,000 baroque villas and cluster of traditional Chinese houses create a unique blend of cultural treats to explore and discover.

    As well as its picturesque charms, the quaint island offers an atmosphere that will make you think you’ve journeyed a world away from the hectic Chinese mainland and is also a popular escape for local tourists. There are plenty of ‘lesser-known’ hideaways though, which our native guides with their insider knowledge will help you discover.

    After settling into your hotel, you’ll take a walk on the island to see some of the many former foreign consulates, churches and Art Deco style buildings. You’ll also have the chance to admire the view from Sunlight Rock, commonly known as ‘Dragon Head Hill’, which dominates the entire island, and rests high above the peaceful isle providing a wonderful venue for photographers to snap away.

    An islet of many monikers, in China Gulangyu is also known as ‘Piano Island’ due to the interest of the locals in this instrument, which was taught in the schools established by the Europeans. The island is the birthplace of many talented musicians, such as the highly acclaimed conductor Chen Zuohuang and Yin Chengzong, who the New York Times dubbed ‘one of China’s most accomplished pianists’.

    Your day will continue with a visit to the delightful Shuzhuang Garden. Once the private residence of a wealthy Taiwanese businessman, in these meticulously manicured gardens you can find several iconic Chinese style pavilions, and see the art of pengjing which literally means ‘countryside in a flowerpot’ (better known as bonsai), in all its glory.

    In the evening you will have the chance to sample the local seafood specialty and taste the famous ‘Xiamen Pie’ - your in-the-know guide will escort you to a perfect place to enjoy this regional specialty.

    You are then free to spend your evening as you please, even relaxing on the beach, or perhaps take a moonlit stroll about the quiet island and enjoy the serenity of this island sanctuary.

  • Day 4: Gulangyu - Xiamen - Yongding

    The next morning you will return to Xiamen by boat and then be chauffeured four hours to Yongding, a region scattered with spectacular Hakka fortresses, known locally as tulou.

    Hakka literally means ‘guest families’ and refers to a branch of Han people who originate from the central plains of China, whose numbers today stand at more than 80 million people. The emigration of the Hakka people from the center of China to the southern provinces started in earnest due to the pressure exerted from the north by the Manchu during the Ming Dynasty. Fleeing the center of China, the integration of the Hakka into the lands where they took refuge proved difficult and quickly descended into battles with local communities, who viewed the appearance of these ‘guests’ with great suspicion.

    The architectural style of the tulou is the materialization of these historical conflicts. Made principally of clay and round or square in shape, the tulou are vast, impressive fortresses that sometimes housed many hundreds of people. Isolated, virtually self-contained microcosms of the outside world, tulou often feature a temple for ancestor worship and a school in the center. Its wells, kitchens, and supply areas make the Hakka fortresses almost autonomous entities and remain some of the most interesting architectural and sociological sites of China.

    The tulou, some of which are listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, can be found all over the Fujian and Guangdong provinces, but it’s close to the town of Yongding that most can be found. The structure of the fortresses and the building materials used allow a pleasant room temperature to be maintained whatever the season. There are still thousands of fortresses in existence and a large number of them are still inhabited.

    You will start your discovery of the fascinating structures with a trip to the Hongkeng fortresses, where you will discover the following tolou: Zhencheng Lou, the construction of which dates back to the start of the 20th century, and Kuiju Lou, which is a square style tulou, letting you appreciate the two principal architectural forms of these rare constructions. You will also have the chance to see Rusheng Lou, a smaller tolou which provides a fascinating opportunity to closely observe the Hakka community.

    Your visit will end with what is considered as the ‘King of Tulou’, Chengqi Lou in Gaobei Village. This tulou is notable for its size, with 400 rooms and a history dating back to the start of the 18th century.

    This unique visit will include a traditional family dinner and night in a tulou to further understand and appreciate this unique lifestyle. Accommodation and facilities in the tulou are basic but clean - please consult us if you would like to discuss upgrading to a hotel option outside the tolou*.*Please note: you overnight location will be determined by your accommodation preference, and is also dependent upon which tulou is available.

  • Day 5: Xiamen - Hangzhou

    Depending where you choose to spend the previous night, after breakfast you will undertake the four-hour return journey to Xiamen and visit the Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster, nicknamed ‘si cai yi tang’ (which translates as ‘four dishes with a soup’). The cluster comprises five fortresses, three of which are round and one oval which surround a central square tulou. The cluster is famous for the incredible views it provides of the hills close to Ruiyun Lou and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    After visiting the Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster you’ll then be transferred to the airport in Xiamen in time for your 90-minute flight to Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang where you will be met on arrival by your local guide and transferred to your hotel.

  • Day 6: Hangzhou - Xidi

    Marco Polo described Hangzhou as a "Heaven on Earth", at least in part due to the West Lake, a recent addition to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list. Each season here offers something different, yet spectacular in its own way: in winter, the snow rests upon the water and transforms the lake into a piece of art with frozen plants.

    In spring, the peach and plum trees are in full bloom bringing bursts of color back to the park, and in summer countless water-lilies create a perfumed blanket on the lake’s surface. The locals like to say that the moon is bigger and more beautiful in autumn, and this can best be seen from the ‘three pools mirroring the moon’ on Xiaoling Island.

    You’ll be given the chance to take a scenic bike ride around the lake as you explore one of the most picture-perfect symbols of traditional China. The curved bridges lead to small islands in the heart of the lake, and there you can discover, amongst other things, the charmingly romantic Quyuan gardens.

    Your discovery of the area will then take you to visit the hills surrounding the lake to the tea-leaf fields that blanket the region. As you continue west you will find the Lingyin Temple, one of the best-known Buddhist temples in China.

    The Lingyin Temple was founded in the 4th century by an Indian monk named Huili, whose ashes remain at the temple to this day, in one of the temple’s small pagodas. The temple also contains a 20-meter-high Buddha statue, one of the tallest in the country. You will then take a five-hour chauffeured transfer to Wannan in Anhui Province, located at the foot of the Yellow Mountains.

    Wannan is a region of fascination due in part to the local architecture that has sprung up as a result of the influx of tourists to the region. Anhui developed an effective commercial network in part due to its proximity to the Xinnan River and its fertile land. The river allowed an easy export route to transport tea, bamboo, salt, and wood easily to the east coast and allowed some local merchants to amass sizeable fortunes during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

    Three main characteristics of the local architecture still remain: the exterior walls which have been chalked white, the black tile roofs with superbly sculpted gables, the tianjing (which literally means ‘mirrors to heaven’) - indoor courtyards lit by skylights, and finally the paifang, commemorative arches dedicated to the most successful candidates from the Imperial exams.

  • Day 7: Xidi - Hungshan

    Your exploration of the region will begin with a bike ride through some of the most beautiful and picturesque villages in China, including Xidi and Hongcun which are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

    Over the course of the day area you will learn about fengshui (which when translated literally means ‘wind’ and ‘water’), also known as ‘geomancy’. Your first stop will take you to Xidi, which is known for its three-level paifang (archway) at the entrance to the village which pays tribute to a member of the village clan who became a scholar. Xidi is also notable for having the largest number of merchants’ houses, whose sculpted wooden paneling is particularly attractive. These houses have been immortalized by the tireless work of students of fine art and photography enthusiasts.

    Next you will move on to Hongcun, which is one of the best original examples of the application of fengshui in China.

    The village layout has been deliberately shaped to reproduce of the silhouette of a buffalo. Its intestines are symbolized by the village’s complex network of canals, and its stomach by the central valley into which they all flow, and two large trees just outside the village represent the horns of the buffalo.

    Hongcun was used as one of the locations during the filming of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ in 2000 by Ang Lee, as was the demure village of Chengshitang which you will visit next. Originally constructed by a salt merchant, the region is a perfect representation of the prosperity and refinement of Chengshitang.

    From there you will travel to Tachuan, a seemingly timeless village located at the entrance of a valley that in autumn is masked in red and yellow tones, which enhances the resplendent chalked white houses and makes for an exquisite photograph. Less visited than other villages nearby, the best way to pass the time in Tachuan is by losing yourself in the labyrinth of grey-marble alleyways or by taking yourself out into the surrounding countryside so that you can fully appreciate the history and symbolism of this extraordinary region.

    You will then continue your journey to Huangshan (Yellow Mountains), ascending by cable-car. Here you will not only dine, but also spend the night. The nights here are fresh and the weather unpredictable, and as such waterproofs, walking shoes and warm clothes are a necessity.

  • Day 8: Hungshan - Tunxi - Shanghai

    Huangshan has been a source of inspiration for many Chinese artists throughout the centuries and takes its name from an ancient tradition whereby each mountain was named after its most famous visitor. In the case of Huangshan, this was the Yellow Emperor (or in Chinese Huangdi), one of the founding fathers of Chinese civilization who lived in the 3rd century BC. According to legend he was the inventor of fengshui.

    Like many other emperors, Huangdi was a total recluse and spent his life trying to reach immortality by creating potent elixirs made up of local herbal ingredients.

    Weather permitting; you will be taken to the summit of the mountain and watch the sunrise over Beihai (which translates to ‘the North Sea’) where a forest of jagged peaks (with thought-provoking names such as ‘Beginning-to-believe Peak’ or ‘Lion Peak’) is relentlessly covered by a sea of clouds that give the impression of a constantly changing landscape.

    Here Mother Nature is the artist, so sit back and admire her work as a new day is born. Your walk to the top will be similar to that of a monk as you go on a pilgrimage following endless stairs that wind their way up the mountain face. If you’re feeling up to it you can continue on to the western stairs where you will be able to enjoy a descent by cable car.

    Once at the foot of the mountain will then be escorted to the Tunxi train station where you will catch the sleeper train to Shanghai.

  • Day 9: Shanghai

    Welcome to Shanghai! Shanghai is an important city in Chinese history, from being the first area to be colonized by Western powers in the 18th century, to then becoming the first seat of the Communist Party. Nowadays, Shanghai is the economic powerhouse of China. While some associate Shanghai with cool bars, skyscrapers and an exhilarating nightlife still hugely influenced by the West, others would see it as the result of a fascinating case of cultural fusion.

    Your initiation to Shanghai will begin after breakfast at People’s Square where you will visit three museums of very different styles. We will start off with the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, and more precisely the model layout of Shanghai which covers a large part of the 3rd floor.

    This model city will really let you get your head around the layout of Shanghai, and comprehend its truly astronomical size. A stunning panoramic cinema which shows a short video explaining how the city developed into the metropolis it is today will also help you understand Shanghai’s recent development.

    From here you will head to one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the country: The Shanghai Museum. The collection of bronze statues on the first floor is unrivalled, and is complemented by a number of jade pieces of artwork, as well as Qing Dynasty furniture, Buddhist sculptures and other pieces of Chinese artwork.

    For those interested in art, the day will end with a visit to either the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) or the Shanghai Art Museum, which is famous for the beautiful building in which it is housed.

    Alternatively, you can visit the People’s Park - an enjoyable place to relax at the heart of the People’s Square. The park has a small lake, a number of food stands and countless places to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. The area is surrounded by a number of cafés and restaurants. Another way to spend the evening is to stroll back up Nanjing Road to the Bund, where you can take in the Shanghai skyline at night.

  • After breakfast on day ten, you will head to the French Concession, a symbol of a time when Western powers were accorded many privileges. You will start your trip with a stroll through Fuxing Park where you will have one last chance to watch Chinese locals practicing their ritual of early morning exercise.

    During colonial times this area was a center of vice and a no-go area for the police during the ‘roaring 30s’. A far cry from what you can see today as stroll around the surrounding roads and admire the local colonial homes that have been transformed into restaurants, bars and boutiques - a reflection of the changing face of Shanghai inspired by increasing commercialism in modern China.

    You will then continue to Xintiandi, a renovated area considered one of the liveliest parts of the city. Your guide will ensure your walk ends at Tianzifang, a maze of animated alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries similar to those found in Xintiandi but much more authentic.

    To round off your day you will visit the famous Yu Garden and enjoy taking tea in the Huxinting Teahouse. You will even get the chance to meet a Chinese gardener who will talk to you about his art, in particular penjing (which translates as ‘the countryside in a flowerpot’) also better known as bonsai. Traditionally, Chinese gardens are a miniature reproduction of nature; the presence of rocks represents mountains, ponds symbolize lakes and running water imitates rivers.

  • Day 11: Shanghai - Taiyuan - Pingyao

    On day 11 you will travel to the airport to catch a flight to Taiyuan. On arrival, you will be met by your guide who will take you to Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi to visit Jinci, a building constructed in honor of Prince Shuyu who founded the Jin state (772-403 BC).

    The temple is aligned with the values of Confucianism and ‘filial piety’, and is much older than any form of religion in China. Practicing Confucianists maintain links with the dead by offering food, burning paper money and incense and ‘sweep the tombs’ on Qingminjie (Tomb-Sweeping Day).

    The Hall of the Holy Mother is a perfect example of a Confucianism temple and is boasts superb wooden dragon sculptures that surround the temple, often only found in imperial places of worship. Be sure to ask your guide to tell you hear story of ‘why the emperor never joked’.

    You will then travel to Pingyao, regarded as the perfect example of a preserved medieval city in China, lined with paved alleyways and traditional courtyard-style homes lit with red lanterns, all surrounded by reinforced city walls. You will have the chance to explore the town walls by bike, avoiding the tourists that gather to clutter the walkways.

    The once-impenetrable wall is 6km long, 10m high and has 72 watchtowers dotted along it, each of which has a piece of artwork by Sun Wu, a high-ranking military general and tactician and the author of ‘The Art of War’, recognized as one of the most defining works on military strategy.

    You will spend the evening in a traditional home built either during the Ming or Qing dynasty, which have been transformed into a quaint boutique hotel. Here you’ll be given the option of sleeping on a traditional kang, a bed made of bricks heated by a small fire set underneath.

  • Day 12: Pingyao

    After breakfast you will be given the chance to explore some of the local merchant’s houses and cave dwellings. Many merchants became rich during Ming and Qing dynasties and built huge palatial homes like the Wang Family Residence - an imposing labyrinth of courtyards, small gardens, temples and narrow stairways, which you will be given plenty of time to explore.

    On the way back to Pingyao you will stop in Zhangbicun, a small village famous for its underground castle. An incredible network of defensive tunnels was constructed here during the Sui Dynasty (681-618) to prepare for attacks from Tang invaders. The tunnels are 30m underground and stretch out 1,500m, so be sure to stick with your guide!The temple is very similar to the Qiao family residence which served as the backdrop to Zhang Yimou’s masterpiece ‘Raise the Red Lantern’, but is much less visited, giving you a more relaxing way to see such a fascinating site.

    You will also be able to discover some of the cave dwellings built into the loess rock that the region is famous for. Loess is a type of sedimentary rock that was formed as a result of an accumulation of silt. These cave dwellings are primarily found in the three provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan, which are often considered as the cradle of Chinese civilization.

    Even though the conditions in these cave homes are very basic, with no running water and mains electricity supply, they have their advantages. The temperature inside the caves remains at a constant all year round, protecting the inhabitants from the bitter cold winds in winter, and keeping them cool and fresh in the hot summer months.

    Your day will end with a visit to Shuanglin Buddhist Temple (Temple of Double Forest), founded during Northern Wei Dynasty known for well preserved, finely sculptured statues that have retained their original colors.

    On return to Pingyao, your evening will be free to spend as you wish, wandering the narrow streets of this charming ancient city and explore some of the small boutiques and local restaurants dotted around.

  • Day 13: Pingyao - Taiyuan - Beijing

    If you’d like to see Pingyao at its most peaceful, we recommend taking an early morning stroll today, to experience the early morning atmosphere of this charming city before the streets fill up.

    The tour will then take you to visit Rishengchang, which started as a small dye store in the 17th century and grew to become China’s first bank, which helped Pingyao’s establishment as China’s first financial center. Next you will go to visit the local yamen, which during Imperial times was an administration center, courthouse and even a prison.

    You will then embark upon the journey back to Tayuan to catch the train to Beijing, arriving around 9 pm. Upon arrival, your local guide will meet you at the station and escort you to your next hotel.

  • Day 14: Beijing

    The morning will begin with a trip to visit the awe-inspiring Forbidden City, one of the most majestic sites in the world.

    Formerly a home of emperors, the Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace in the days of the Ming Dynasty and was lovingly restored in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. You’ll have the chance to take in the serene surrounding courtyards and stately rooms of this vast and elegant 720,000-square-meter complex which was completed in 1420 during the reign of Emperor Yongle. The Forbidden City served as the Imperial administrative center until the fall of the Empire in 1911 and according to legend is made up of 9,999 rooms.

    Our guide will take you to climb the hill behind the historic city to get spectacular views of the site and the layout of Beijing, helping you gain a greater understanding of the chaotic city.

    Your exploration will continue with a walking tour of Beijing’s hutongs (alleyways) close to Houhai Lake. You will then have the chance to meet a local bicycle repair man - a real character who has his finger on the pulse of Beijing and can offer you an insight into the importance and prominence, as well as the resurgence in popularity, of cycling in the busy city.

    From there, you’ll be guided to the Drum Tower, where in ancient times the passing hours were signaled by the banging of drums before winding down the day at your leisure, perhaps relaxing on the terrace of one of the numerous cafés, bars or restaurants around Houhai Lake.

    After absorbing and processing an eventful first day in Beijing, you’ll then be chauffeured back to your carefully hand-picked hotel.

  • When one thinks of Chinese architecture, the sites that probably come to mind are The Forbidden City and The Great Wall of China. Modern China however has much more to offer and has undergone an accelerated modernization in the last few decades. The intense transformation has affected the urban landscape, particularly in Beijing which was lagging behind Shanghai and Hong Kong. Beijing has subsequently become a paradise for architects who have risen to the challenge of rebuilding a city fit for the 21st century.

    Your day will start with an excursion to the Bird’s Nest stadium, a modern-day icon of China by Ai Weiwei where the 2008 Beijing Olympics began and ended and is considered to be one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world.

    The nearby National Aquatics Centre, commonly known as the ‘Water Cube’ also played host to many major Olympic events and although it may not match the beauty of the Bird’s Nest, it is revered by architecture buffs as a technical and ecological feat. The structure resembles a giant mattress made of 3,000 ‘air bubbles’, and it is made of a transparent plastic which allows natural light to pass through it, reducing the amount of energy consumed by one third, and even heats the pool.

    Your next stop may lead you to assume giant birds actually live in Beijing. The Phoenix International Media Center, home to the Phoenix TV network, is an immense steel and glass construction similar in shape to the Bird’s Nest stadium.

    You will discover another bizarre building which hosts the rival network CCTV, a building which Bejingers have nicknamed ‘Big Pants’ due to its unique asymmetric upside-down ‘u-shape’ design.

  • Day 16: Beijing

    On day 16 you will visit the most iconic structure in China, if not the world. The Great Wall of China is prominent in the minds of most when thinking of this vast nation. Backyard Travel will take you to the Mutianyu section of the wall in the early morning light which provides a great opportunity for photos especially as the early morning is quiet with fewer crowds. Sections of the Wall date back to the Qin Dynasty over 2,000 years ago, and were originally built as defensive positions to protect the Chinese from invading barbarian hordes.

    Those who fear that climbing the wall may be beyond them can take a cable car and save their legs for the walk down. Adventurous children can also toboggan ride to the bottom! There will also be a chance to sit down, relax and have a picnic on the 6,000km Great Wall, as you observe and soak in the spectacular views of the rugged lands it was built to protect.

    On the way back to Beijing, our guide will take you to the Summer Palace, a harmonious representation of Chinese culture and architecture. Once a simple imperial garden, the site was redesigned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century and because of its beauty, the garden has become one of the capital’s major attractions, and was often used in the summer months by the Imperial Court as an escape from the stifling heat of the Forbidden City. Its 2.9km is three-quarters water with striking natural landscapes and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

    After visiting the Summer Palace, your guide will escort you back to central Beijing.

  • Your final day will be spent at your leisure before you’re chauffeured back to Beijing airport for your onward flight home or to your next destination.

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Tour Details

All of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room in luxury accommodation. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

 Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles
Service of English speaking guides in every location
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

 Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.
We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.
With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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Talk to us about Your Holiday

Our advantage lies in having local expertise to create unique, bespoke tours. Whether you’re looking to cruise down Asia’s tranquil rivers, bike the peaceful rural roads, or eat at bustling night markets, Backyard Travel’s in-country Travel Specialists can plan your ideal trip. Send us a message about your ideas, and we'll send you our best suggestions.




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Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.