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Far from the madding crowd: rural highlights of Southern China

18 days from £7,675 per person

This itinerary features in our Top Ten Romantic Holidays.

China has four of the world's eight most populous cities and has become associated with hordes of workers pedalling to their jobs or squashing unpleasantly onto the subway. However, South China is a treasure trove of peaceful rural towns in jaw-dropping settings. From lush bamboo forests with giant pandas to traditional Tibetan mountain villages, this five province tour has something to suit all tastes.

Start your journey with a luxury stay in Shanghai to first observe and fully appreciate the size and throbbing activity of the world's largest city. Twenty-four million people jostle together in this melting pot that is a modern Chinese megacity. From here you'll be whisked away to Chengdu to see a very different kind of city. With a relaxed tea house culture and a cooler climate, Chengdu is the best place to see the poster child for world wildlife conservation: the giant panda. At the Panda Research Institute there is the opportunity to hold a baby panda. Chengdu is also the capital of China's most famous - and spiciest - regional cuisine; Sichuanese. Beware the Gōng bǎo jī dīng (kung-pao chicken)!

After two city stops it is finally time to unwind in the mountains of Yunnan Province. Lijiang is a listed UNESCO world heritage site and sits at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, an alpine range soaring to a dizzying height of 5,596 meters. Dubbed "The Venice of the Orient" for its many canals running through sedate alleyways, Lijiang Old Town is home to the Naxi ethnic minority who are descended from Tibetan nomadic tribes, practice animism and have a matriarchal society. The scenic drive following the Jinsha river up to Shangri-La is a highlight and allows for an unforgettable trekking stop en route in the vertiginous chasm that is Tiger Leaping Gorge. One can't help but absorb the tranquillity of Shangri-La; a traditionally Tibetan town on the edge of the world's highest plateau. The fascinating Buddhist temples, peerless panoramic views and idyllic trekking are quite a winning combination but there'll be time to acclimatise during a rest day as the altitude is over 3,000m. 

From rugged mountains to tamed ones, you'll next visit Longsheng in Guanxi Province and stay in a lodge overlooking the most impressive set of rice terraces that China has to offer: Lóngjí Tītián, or "Dragon's Backbone". An astonishing achievement of agricultural landscaping and an incredibly photogenic sight. In the town of Guilin you'll board a riverboat for a scenic cruise down the Li River. The landscape is a carpet of rich verdure and green agriculture punctured  by the jagged, towering limestone karst mountains. The boat will land you in Yangshuo from where you can explore the area on a gentle bicycle ride.

Last stop in Hong Kong is a return to a cosmopolitan jungle but done in style with a stay at The Upper House which is one of Ampersand's Top 10 Boutique Hotels. Enjoy the haute cuisine, colonial sights, shopping and nightlife of this culture capital before flying home desperate to return!

This is purely a suggested itinerary, so it can be booked as it is or used as a starting point for creating your own luxury tailor-made tour of China. If you'd like to see similar trips, take a look at our Family Holiday and Active Tour collections; as well as our favourite Mountains & Trekking and Culinary Tour itineraries.


Itinerary details

18 days from £7,675 per person

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Travelling is like flirting with life. It's like saying, 'I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.
Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Ampersand’s details preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet/direct booking age. Shalmali was a delight to work with – before and during our trip.
- Mr David Wallace, North India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka

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