Gateway to Tibet - 11 days

Day 1: Beijing

     Saturday. Huan ying, welcome to China and the start of your holiday! Airport arrival transfer and hotel check in. Overnight - Beijing

Day 2: Forbidden City

     Today we explore the heart of Beijing - Tiananmen Square where Chairman Mao¡¯s tomb and various monuments to the people are located. Dominating the city¡¯s heart is the Forbidden City, a centre of power for five centuries and seat of the emperors. Entering through the Gate of Heavenly Peace (replete with Chairman Mao¡¯s portrait), we enjoy a guided walk of this old city within a city. Tonight, we enjoy a Peking Duck at a city restaurant. Overnight - Beijing

Day 3: The Great Wall

     Don some comfortable shoes. Today we drive to Badaling, to walk a section of the Great Wall. The Wall is impressive to say the least. Following the ridge of barren hills through northern China it stretches as far as the eye can see. Later we visit a cloisonne workshop demonstrating the unique Chinese art of combining copper and enamel to make decorative pieces. Tonight, watch a death-defying acrobatic performance. Doing the ¡®splits¡¯ is an elementary skill, when compared to what these acrobats can do! Overnight - Beijing

Day 4: Summer Palace

     Beijing - Xi¡¯an. This morning offers free time. If you are up for a little adventure, make your way to Wangfujing Dajie (shopping street, only a 10 minute journey. Through the winding alleys and adjacent back streets of Wangfujing you'll find numerous souvinier sellers, chinese herbalists and snack stalls, the later offering some fairly obsure local delicacies. BBQ Seahorse on a skewer anyone? Later we re group and visit the Silk Alley markets and the Summer Palace, set on Kunming Lake. A drive past the 2008 Olympic stadium commonly referred to as the ¡®birdsnest¡¯ and aquatic centre. Overnight - Sleeper Train to Xi'an

Day 5: Terracotta Warriors

     Arrive Xi¡¯an and transfer to hotel. Today we visit the Terracotta Warrior archaeological site and a workshop where we see the process used to create the terracotta figurines. In battle formation, the Terracotta Warriors are one of China¡¯s most impressive sights. This evening we can attend a Tang Dynasty dinner and performance with Chang¡¯an music and dance originally performed for the illustrious Tang emperors. Tonight, optional Tang Dynasty Bolt-on, with dinner and performance. Overnight - Xi'an Day 6: The City Wall

     Bright and early this morning you can opt to join our Panda excursion to the Shaanxi Rare Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Centre, a 2 hour drive from Xi¡¯an. Alternatively enjoy a free morning. Encircling the old city is Xi¡¯an¡¯s medieval City Wall, 9 miles in length we¡¯ll enjoy a leisurely bike ride followed by a guided tour of the the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Overnight - Xi'an

Day 7: Tibet

     Xi¡¯an - Lhasa. Spend the morning at leisure before our midday flight to Lhasa. Upon arrival we will drive (aprox 1.5 hours) to the fabled city. Once we reach our destination the remainder of the day is free for you to relax and acclimatise at ¡®the roof of the world¡¯. Note: Travellers will fly without tour leader accompaniment to Tibet. Upon arrival to Tibet you will meet with our local guide who will conduct sightseeing arrangments throughout your stay. Overnight - Lhasa

Day 8: The Potala Palace

     We begin our exploration of this mystical city first heading to Lhasa¡¯s most enduring image, the Potala Palace. The winter home of the Dalai Lamas and a masterpiece in design, 13 stories high, containing thousands of rooms, this is the heart of Tibet, its (exiled) government and people. The Dalai Lama¡¯s Summer palace, Norbulingka, is our next place of pilgrimage. Less daunting and surrounded by gardens, this homely palace reflects the Dalai Lama¡¯s more earthly pleasures and it was from here the present Lama fled in the 1950¡¯s. However, it is the Jokhang Temple which will be the most enlightening stop of the day. The holiest shrine in Tibet, it houses a solid gold shrine of the enlightened Buddha and it is around which, in varying degrees of exertion, all Tibetans prostrate themselves at some point throughout their lifetime. Overnight - Lhasa

Day 9: Drepung Monastery

     Our exploration of Lhasa continues today as we take the short journey to the 15th century Drepung Monastery. Formerly one of the central monasteries of Tibet it was torn asunder during the Cultural Revolution and continues to rebuild is walls and status today. Just north of Lhasa is the Sera Monastery, still a working retreat 600 years after its foundation as a main teaching monastery and one of the three great Gelukpa ¡®Universities¡¯ once housing more than 5500 monks. You will see young novices learning scriptures in the Debating Garden and being rewarded for a correct answer with a resounding hand-clap from their master. Returning to Lhasa we will experience the Barkhor markets which surround the Jokhang temple and sell all things Tibetan. Overnight - Lhasa

Day 10: Yamdrok Lake

     An early morning start as we drive out toward the Himalayas. From Lhasa, itself at 3500m, we travel over the Kamba-La pass and reach 4794m above see level. As we journey along the winding road, weaving our way through the rocky mountains and valleys, in the far distance it is possible, (at certain times of the year) to catch a glimpse and the High Himalayan Peaks of Everest and Lhotse.

     From the top of the pass we can look down on the deep azure waters of Yamdrok Lake, cradled by snow capped mountains before dropping down to the shores itself. One of Tibet¡¯s 3 holy lakes, nomadic tents, pilgrims prostrating and children hunting with sling shots on the stony beaches make this something you are likely to have never experienced before. Rising back into these vivid and rugged mountains we head back to Lhasa, looking for hoards of Yak along the way. Overnight - Lhasa

Day 11: Lhasa

     Monday. Hotel check out and included onward transfer to airport.

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