Giant Panda, Chengdu Sanctuary

Essential China - Premium

11 days
Activity level:
Leisurely / Moderate
Activity Rating - Leisurely/Moderate
Trip code: 
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
Group size:

Discover the iconic sites of ancient and modern China in comfort

Visit China's iconic sites in style on this premium tour with upgraded accommodation, upgraded transport, and the chance to sample Michelin class culinary delights. Beijing's history stretches back three millennia and the scale of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City never fail to amaze. Leaving the grandeur behind, explore the old town's narrow 'hutongs', and have a class in the traditional Chinese craft of papercutting in one of the homes. Head out of the city and step foot on one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall; here you'll begin to comprehend the magnitude of this construction as it snakes across the mountains to the horizon and beyond. Juxtaposed to this is Xi'an's vibrant Muslim Quarter, where we catch a shadow puppetry show at Gao's Family Mansion. Xi'an is most famed for the nearby Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin, where excavations have revealed thousands of hand-crafted life-size and lifelike army figures. A China holiday would not be complete without a trip to Chengdu to see the endangered Giant pandas - these black and white furry animals are a national emblem and a rare sight. End in cosmopolitan Shanghai, with its unmistakable skyline illuminated at night.


  • Beijing's Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Jingshan Park 
  • Giant pandas at Chengdu's Breeding & Research Centre
  • One of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu
  • The famous Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin, near Xi'an
  • Shanghai's Bund waterfront area and French Concession

Key information

  • 11 days land only/12 flight inclusive

  • Travel by bullet train, domestic flight, metro/public bus and private coach
  • 10 nights upgraded hotels (minimum 4-star)
  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 2 dinners in 'Michelin' class restaurants included
  • Optional single supplement, available on request
  • Group normally 5 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Countries visited: China

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 2 dinners in Michelin class restaurants
  • All accommodation (upgraded throughout)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival and departure transfers

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request) 
  • Vaccinations
  • Chinese Visa - GBP201 with Travcour or GBP151 plus GBP18 special delivery direct with embassy
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus, we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


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  • Day 1

    Arrive Beijing; welcome dinner in Michelin class restaurant

    The group flights are scheduled to arrive into Beijing this afternoon. Free transfers are included for any flight as long as you have provided Exodus with your arrival details in advance (please specify if you arrive into PEK airport of the new airport, PKX – Daxing). You will be met upon arrival and transferred to our hotel. There will be a welcome briefing at approximately 6 pm where you will meet your tour leader and the rest of the group (please see the noticeboard in the hotel reception for further details). After the briefing, we’ll head to one of Beijing’s top restaurants to sample the Michelin Star cuisine. 

    China World Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Sightseeing including the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park and a walking tour of the hutongs including a traditional paper cutting class

    We’ll head straight to Tiananmen Square by private transport this morning (<30 mins), one of the largest squares in the world, able to hold over a million people. The square is named after the 'Tiananmen' meaning 'Gate of Heavenly Peace' located at its north, which leads to the Forbidden City.  Continuing on foot, we spend a few hours exploring the innumerable courtyards and temples the Forbidden City. Exiting via the north gate of the complex, we walk directly to Jingshan Park and climb up to the top of the hill for a different vantage point.

    After lunch, we go on a walking tour of some of Beijing’s traditional 'hutongs' (narrow alleys of the old town) where we'll visit a local's house and try to master the art of paper-cutting, a traditional Chinese craft. Afterwards, we’ll meander our way through the hutongs and back to the hotel.

    China World Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Visit the Great Wall of China; return to Beijing

    We leave the capital and head into the countryside to visit one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall, at Mutianyu (approx. 2 hours’ drive). It is an impressive sight, snaking across mountains and valleys into the distance. We take the shuttle bus to the ticket office and from there it’s about a 40-minute uphill walk to the top of the Great Wall (anyone not wanting to walk can pay to take the cable car, which takes about 8 minutes). We spend the next couple of hours or so walking along the top of the wall. There are some steep steps to navigate and anyone who suffers from vertigo may find it difficult. This section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. The wall here stands up to 8.5 metres high and 5 metres wide, and there are 22 watchtowers along its 2,250m stretch.

    We’ll leave the wall behind and drive a short way to our lunch stop in a local village and then drive directly back to our hotel in Beijing.

    China World Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Bullet train to Xi’an; walking tour of the Muslim Quarter with a shadow puppetry show at Gao’s family mansion

    Transfer to Beijing West Station (approx. 40 minutes) and catch a bullet train to Xi’an, arriving in the mid-afternoon. We transfer to the hotel, check-in and freshen up before starting our walking tour of the vibrant Muslim Quarter where we’ll pass aromatic spice markets, the Bell and Drum Plaza and visit Gao’s family mansion where we hope to catch a shadow puppetry show (depending on the show time). Xi'an is one of China's former capitals and one of the few cities in China to have retained its city walls, probably because they are so massive that no revolutionary was willing to tackle the huge task of removing them.

    Xi’an Park Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Excursion to the Terracotta Warriors

    Today we visit the famous Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin (the transfer is approx. 2 hours each way). Originally four armies were planned, at each point of the compass, life-size and lifelike. Three have been found and it is assumed the Emperor's successors decided enough was enough before the fourth was begun. The first pit excavated had an estimated 6,000 figures in its one army. The third pit has been opened to the public, which contains the 'command post' for the entire operation. This is one of China's great tourist attractions, and some people may find the sheer numbers of visitors overpowering. After our visit, we will take our lunch at a local farmer's restaurant nearby before driving back to Xi’an.

    Xi’an Park Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 6

    Free day in Xi’an; optional cycling along the old city walls or Mount Huashan day trip

    There are no planned activities today but your leader will provide information on what is available to do and help you to arrange it. Perhaps you might like to walk along or hire bikes and cycle along the city walls to appreciate the sheer scale of these constructions. For a full day excursion (a long and tiring day but worthwhile for the scenery), you might like to visit Mount Huashan for some walks with magnificent views (please note that we strongly advise against the plank trail due to safety concerns and anyone wanting to do this will be asked to sign a form releasing them from the tour as Exodus accepts no responsibility for this activity).

    Xi’an Park Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Bullet train to Chengdu; afternoon walking tour around the People’s Park – try Chinese water calligraphy (weather permitting)

    Take a short transfer to the train station and board a late morning bullet train to Chengdu (approx. 4 hours), the capital of Sichuan province, arriving in the early afternoon. This region is recognised throughout China as being 'the spicy province', and major flavour combinations include garlic, star anise, chilli peppers, and the ever-present Sichuanese peppercorn (hua jiao). We recommend having a ‘hotpot’ dinner during your stay here (spicy or mild broths are available).

    In the late afternoon we set off on foot for a walking tour, passing through the city centre square (Tianfu Square) and visiting the People’s Park where weather permitting, we can see and have a go at Chinese water calligraphy.

    Sofitel Chengdu Taihe or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Centre

    We leave early today to spend the morning visiting the Giant Panda Breeding & Research Base located 10km out of the city. These furry animals once roamed over large expanses of Asia but the last survey estimated the world’s population of wild Giant Pandas at only 1,864. Giant Pandas eat for up to fourteen hours a day and so hopefully we will witness these highly endangered animals feeding, as this is when they're most active. Otherwise, we will have the opportunity to watch the Pandas indulge in their next favourite past time - sleeping! Afterwards, we drive back to Chengdu and the afternoon is free to explore at your own pace.

    Sofitel Chengdu Taihe or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Fly to Shanghai; afternoon visit to the Shanghai Museum

    A pre-dawn start is required today in order to catch an early flight to Shanghai (we’ll take a simple box breakfast with us from the hotel). The flight duration is approx. 2.5 hours: we should land by late morning and arrive at our hotel by lunchtime. With a population of around twelve million, Shanghai is a cosmopolitan coastal hub with a futuristic skyline.

    This afternoon we take the public bus (metro) to visit the Shanghai Museum, which has 11 galleries housing some of China's most beautiful and best-preserved cultural relics - some over 5,000 years old!

    Shanghai Bund Riverside or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Explore the Bund waterfront area and the French Concession; farewell Michelin class dinner

    After breakfast we’ll set off to discover some of the highlights of Shanghai on foot, starting with the famous Bund waterfront area to see the iconic buildings, before moving on to explore Nanjing Road (Shanghai's equivalent to London’s 'Oxford Street') and the French Concession with its tree-lined avenues, cafes and Tudor mansions. The afternoon is at your leisure. Tonight more culinary delights await as we'll have a farewell group dinner in another of China's Michelin class restaurants. 

    Shanghai Bund Riverside or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 11

    End Shanghai

    The trip ends in Shanghai after breakfast.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info



Nearly all nationalities require a visa to enter China, which must be obtained prior to departure. The Chinese authorities now require a letter from Exodus, confirming all your accommodation details. Along with this, you need to supply a copy of your flight details, which are on your invoice if you have booked directly through Exodus. For further information see here. It is also essential that we have a clear copy of the details page of your passport. This is required to book certain ground services in China and we cannot confirm your details with our local partners until it has been received. This must be emailed as an electronic scan to [email protected] a minimum of 8 weeks prior to your trip.

IMPORTANT: Please note that all visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 will need to visit one of the Chinese Visa Application Service Centres in person (appointment required) where biometric data will be taken as part of the visa application process.



There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

If your trip visits Hong Kong, dengue fever is a known risk - this is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten: apply insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 2 dinners in Michelin class restaurants included.

One of the major draws of China is its exciting and varied cuisine. On this trip, you will be able to try many different dishes that will be carefully selected with your leader's help and based on the group's dietary requirements and preferences. Meals generally consist of shared dishes, which is the best way to experience as many different ingredients as possible and try things you might not usually choose. Examples of popular dishes include Ma Po Tofu, a delicious tofu dish made with beef, chillies and onion, Gong Bao chicken, a very popular dish with chilli and peanuts, the iconic Peking Duck, served with hoisin sauce and pancakes, and dumplings in many shapes and sizes. Chengdu in Sichuan province is known for its spicy hotpots but you can request mild options too. There are many different dishes to try and your leader will always try and accommodate tastes, but if you do tire of Chinese food there are always opportunities to eat Western-style dishes in the cities you visit. For vegetarians or those with dietary requirements, many of the traditional dishes can be amended to omit the meat products.


Beijing & Xi'an: The north of China has warm (25ºC+), quite humid summers, and cold dry winters. If you travel between June and August, it will be hot more or less everywhere, except in the mountains (around the Great Wall). Some rain must be expected, possibly heavy. If you travel in September/October, you will probably get less rain and the temperatures will be fairly warm (around 20ºC) everywhere. November is starting to get cooler (3-13ºC) and can therefore sometimes feel chilly. The Great Wall region will be colder than the cities due to the mountainous terrain.

Shanghai: The south of China is subtropical with hot (30ºC), wet summers (May to September), and warm, relatively dry (November to March) winters, though rain is possible at almost any time of year.

The winter months in China are cold (+3ºC), so if travelling in November/March be prepared for temperatures to drop to below freezing at night in the North, but with almost guaranteed dry sightseeing. The weather is milder in the south.

Is this trip for you?

This is an ideal introduction to China for anyone visiting for the first time who wants to experience the best of the country's many iconic sites: Beijing and the Great Wall, Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors, Chengdu and the Giant Panda's, and the bright lights of Shanghai. Premium departures include a minimum of 4-star hotels throughout, upgraded transport (a high-speed bullet train instead of an overnight train to Xi'an, and private transport instead of local buses/metro in Beijing), and additional meal inclusions (two dinners in Michelin class restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai).

This holiday is graded Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate). Despite the grading, this is still an adventure holiday and you should come armed for an experience: China can be hard work and the summer heat and the bustle of some of the cities can be a little overwhelming. That said, there are places where you can find peace and quiet and we try to fit these into the itinerary at regular intervals. You should have a reasonable level of fitness and be prepared to be on your feet sightseeing for a few hours at a time. For the Great Wall visit, the walk up and down from the wall is quite steep but for anyone not wanting to do this, there is the option to pay to take a cable car. 

Some of the activities are weather dependent (such as water calligraphy in Chengdu's People Park) or are subject to local schedules. 

Although the distances in China are massive, this tour has been carefully designed to keep travelling time to a minimum by utilising two bullet trains and a domestic flight. With two-night stays in every location and a free day in Xi'an, the pace should not be too tiring but there will be some early starts and long days. On days 8 and 9 in particular, early starts are required to view the pandas and to catch our morning flight to Shanghai. 

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Premium Hotels

10 nights hotels (minimum 4-star)

In all the cities, we stay in good, tourist class hotels with twin rooms and private facilities. All of the hotels are locally rated as at least 4-star and some are 5-star and are located as near to local attractions as possible. 

The hotels usually used are named in the detailed itinerary, however, these may be subject to change by departure date, depending on availability. Chinese government officials occasionally take over hotels at short notice and so there can sometimes be last minute hotel changes which are beyond Exodus' control - in this event, we will book an alternative of the same local rating but we cannot guarantee that the facilities will be the same. 

Single supplements are subject to availability and should be requested at the time of booking. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Have you been on this adventure? Tell others what it’s like by writing a review.

Dates & Prices

Please provide as much information as possible below so we can best help with your holiday requirements.

Fields with * are mandatory.

Please call one of our experts to discuss your private group requirements on 0203 993 4668, or fill out the form below and we will give you a call back.

Please provide as much information as possible below so we can best help with your holiday requirements.

Fields with * are mandatory.

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros  Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros  Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros  Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

Private Adventures 

Not found the date you’re looking for? We can organise this itinerary as a Private Adventure – just click on the tab above the list of dates and prices, let us know your preferred dates of travel and how many people are travelling, and we’ll do the rest!

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