"Wild China in Panda Valley" - China

The Best of China in 4 Dreamy Provinces!

Oct 22 – 30, 2017

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Crave adventure? Love pandas? Want unique cultural immersion? Need scenic nature? Seek luxury accommodations? Then this special AFS journey is for you! Come follow the origin of the legendary silk road deep into regions Americans have yet to discover. This is the photographers’ dream with natural wonders and a ton of fun activities along the way. We base ourselves in the Qing Cheng Mountains of Sichuan province, a natural habitat for Pandas. In the bamboo forests of Panda Valley, watch in awe how pandas live and breed freely (as well as cute moon bears, golden monkeys and exquisite birds). Visit the new Giant Panda Research Base which focuses on the rescue, rehab and release of ill or injured pandas. It’s also a breeding center as giant pandas are now endangered species. You’ll love the babies and have the opportunity to hug a panda or even volunteer for a day! In Beijing, ride a rickshaw through the hutongs and spend a day at the exciting part of the Great Wall where we ride cable cars up and toboggan sled down! Fly to Chengdu and Hangzhou, once the playground of Emperors and favorite city of Marco Polo. Hangzhou is all the buzz now as Asia’s most beautiful city! We cruise the Grand Canal, visit UNESCO West Lake, visit tea plantations, stroll through gardens of lotus flowers and see a famous theater performance of music and light under the stars.


You’ve heard of Six Senses Resorts & Spas, right? You’ll get to revel in the award-winning 5-star Six Senses of Qing Cheng with its distinct villas and renowned spa. Aside from pandas, it offers exceptional activities for you here. This area is the birthplace of Taoism and Tai Chi. You can visit a Taoist fortune teller at Happiness Pavilion, hike up Black Mountain to lunch with Chinese family, do ‘moving meditation’ with a Zen Master in a Buddhist Temple, visit ancient villages of minority people along the Tibetan Plateau, take a cooking class in an organic garden and so much more.

At the end we tour Sparkling Shanghai! It’s our 9th trip to China, each one different. This one in the mystical mountains focuses on nature, the people and pandas along with luxury accommodation. I call this “Heaven in the Clouds”. Come unlock the ancient mysteries deep inside the exotic part of China. Here’s an epic vacation far from the ordinary for your bragging rights!

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Our Glorious Itinerary

Oct 22 – Depart LAX

You can arrange your own international air and buy your internal flights from AFS or book AFS Group Air with all legs from LAX. Details later.

Check in Air China counter by 8:30am on Oct 22.

(Cross the international dates line)











Oct 23 – Arrive Beijing

We land at 11 AM and are met and transferred to the 4-star Grand Mercure Beijing Hotel. Fabulous location in the heart of the city next to Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Perks include heated pool, fitness center, free WIFI, restaurants and bars. Many AFSers have been to Beijing. If you’re a first timer, you may want to go 2 days early to explore!

Welcome to the capital city of China, most populous country on earth. Beijing is the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It’s filled with ancient treasures and modern entertainment delights with new venues opening all the time. Explore Imperial and architectural wonders.

If you feel up to it today, we offer an optional Historic Hutong Tour that our past groups loved. On guided ‘rickshaws’, you’ll be peddled around charming streets and ancient alleys to transport you into the traditional way of life here. Visit a local home for herbal tea and a market. See Drum Bell Tower, Prince Gongs Mansion (royal residence Qing Dynasty), pavilions and Chinese gardens. It’s total cultural enrichment.

Later, revel in the nightlife. Beijing never sleeps and it’s now a Food Haven.

Overnight: Grand Mercure Beijing     B, L

Oct 24 – Full Day Unique Great Wall Tour and Olympic Sites

After breakfast buffet, we head an hour to the stunning and less touristy section of The Great Wall called Mutianyu. There’s a long history here. This section was constructed in years 550-557, then built up until the 17th century. The Wall is a must for visitors and we make it fun.

Ride a cable car up. Walk along ancient watchtowers for incredible photos of the horizon. It snakes across the tops of impossible steep mountain ridges. Sense the history of 300,000 men who worked 10 years to complete this structure that can be seen from outer space. Hike or stroll at your leisure pace. Ride the cable car down, hike trails down or opt to descend the mountain on the new thrilling toboggan sled!

Delight in a delicious home-cooked Chinese lunch at a local restaurant. Later, with time permitting, we visit the architectural marvels of the famous ‘Bird’s Nest’ and ‘Water Cube’, national stadium and aquatic center to learn about the glorious role of the 2008 Olympics here. A day you’ll treasure forever!

Evening free to play. (Ladies head to the 6-story Silk Market building for endless gifts - from silk scarves to fine jewelry. Buy all your Christmas gifts at ridiculous wholesale prices).

Overnight: Grand Mercure Beijing     B, L

Oct 25 – Flight from Beijing to Chengdu on Air China

Chengdu is my fav city in China. Enjoy a short city tour of this metropolis of 11 million in Sichuan province this is famous for its fiery food and cool Tea Houses. Continue on for an hour to 6 Senses Resort Qing Cheng Mountain where we check in for 3 glorious nights.
The resort was created to compliment the UNESCO World Heritage Site of nearby Dujiang Yan. It’s been brilliantly designed with regional architecture and landscaping to blend in with the surroundings of mystical mountains with wild pandas. Six Senses offers extraordinary activities with expert guides that can be booked according to your tastes. Pandas are just the beginning:

  • Experience exclusive Tai Chi lessons in an ancient Puzhoa Buddhist Temple. Here’s the birthplace of Tai Chi from Qing Dynasty. With unique Feng Shui style, it’s a magical place.
  • Organic Garden with a chef, you can pick strawberries, cherries and kiwi. Afterward enjoy a cooking class to prepare your own gourmet lunch. There’s also great wine tasting experiences. Chefs can teach you cooking Sichuan, Tai, Chinese or western dishes.
  • Marco Polo Walk – World’s oldest and longest working irrigation system is nearby. Enjoy a half day trip in the same footsteps of Marco Polo on the Silk Road to beautiful Qingxi Garden. Then head over dikes and bridges high up to Erwang Temple for breathtaking views. Descend through ancient villages back to stroll the resort gardens.
  • Ancient Tai An – Enjoy an adventure on easy hiking trails through Black Mountain to learn of unique flora and fauna. Keep your eye out for wildlife and pandas. Visit Peach Garden and the White Cloud Temple. It’s a hikers’ paradise. Visit the 2,000-year-old Taoping Fortress. Travel back in time to villages of ancient stone houses where daily customs remain centuries old.
  • Another half-day walk takes you to the home of Toasim where we visit Happiness Pavillion, Tianshi Cave, Jianfu Palace and more. Qing Cheng mountain presents total solitude, serenity and incredible vistas for stunning photography. A visit to Jiezi town is a must as its famous for its Food Street.

Overnight: Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain Resort    B

Oct 26 – Meet the Pandas

Just 30 minutes from our resort is Panda Valley.

Today we visit the Dujianguan Panda Base from Six Senses QingCheng Mountain Resort Three areas are dedicated to semi-wild reintroduction, full reintroduction and breeding. (Currently 20 Giant Pandas but wild pandas and babies being added.)

We go on a guided tour with an experienced team member to learn about conservation efforts and education on all things pandas and you can select to hold a pandas for a once in a lifetime photo-ops.  Pretty pricey at $350, but worth it.

Holding pandas must be purchased by Final Payment. A completed medical form is also required (see Trip Tips). Additional Panda interaction programs are available in the Six Senses activities menu in the Trip Tips)

Overnight: Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain Resort    B, L

Oct 27 – Free Day

Leisure day to play, relax or explore. Resort staff will help you decide on best activity on many choices. Don’t forget to enjoy the unique treatments in the exquisite resorts 6 Senses Spa.

Trip Tips contain the 'menu' of what the resort offers for your leisure day. Spa treatment, hikes, educational programs and if you are an Uber-Panda fan there are additional Panda experiences at different refuges in the area - Panda Ark & Panda Valley Adventure - all Panda activities must be booked & paid for by Final Payment.

Overnight: Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain Resort    B

Oct 28 – Fly from Chengdu to Hangzhou

After breakfast, transfer to airport for 3-hour flight from Chengdu to Hangzhou arriving late morning. Check into our beautiful midtown Shangri-La Hotel. This gem has health club, indoor pool, restaurants, bike paths on 40 acres, Spa and just 5 minutes to downtown.

Hangzhou (on my bucket list) is a city of 9 million in Zhejiang province with a historic center. Once a capital of ancient China, Marco Polo described it as “the most luxurious noble city in the world”. Lonely Planet says it’s China’s most popular holiday spot. With dreamy panorama’s, it looks like a watercolor. It’s also the capital of Silk and Tea production.

Renowned West Lake Tour – This afternoon we visit the World Heritage Site of West Lake used for imperial retreats and celebrated by artists since the 9th century. It is sprinkled with stunning islands, gardens, arched bridges, fountains, temples and pagodas. Enjoy a wooden boat cruise to view sites like Flower Pond, Gushar Island, Twin Peaks piercing clouds and more.

Later we visit famous Flying Peak Mountain and must-see Lingyin Temple (Temple of Soul) built in 326 A.D. It’s the most visited Buddhist temple in China with the largest statue of Buddha. If time allows, we’ll visit Wensli Silk Museum which showcases the finest silk items. (On your free time, you can shop 7-story Silk City for amazing bargains on scarves and clothes).

Dinner tonight is served at a lakeside restaurant for great photos. West Lake was selected in Top 12 Superb Sunsets of the World by CNN.

Overnight: Midtown Shangri-La Hangzhou    B, D

Oct 29 – Full Day Guided Tour: Grand Canal, Ancient Street, Theater

We begin with a cruise on the Grand Canal, a UNESCO site, built in 486 BC for the Emperor. It’s the worlds’ oldest and longest man-made canal on earth at 1,115 miles long with a history spanning 2,500 years. Imagine, it begins in Beijing and links 5 great rivers from Yangtze to Yellas Rivers. Many consider it the worlds’ greatest engineering accomplishment. The Hangzhou section has the most beautiful scenery lined by old temples, rice fields and tea plantations.

Afterwards we visit Long Jing Tea Plantation where they produce China’s best Dragon Well Green tea. Walk the tea farm and village. Here we lunch at a local restaurant.

On to visit Qinghefang Ancient Street which flourished in ancient times as a commerce center and now well preserved in the historic center. It looks like you stepped into the 12th Century Song Dynasty with such authenticity. It’s a great place to buy unique handicrafts. A million visitors come each year and it’s bustling with artists demonstrating their crafts.

Impression West Lake Theatre Tonight enjoy an evening spectacle never to be forgotten. Created by Zhang Yimou who directed the Opening Ceremony for the Beijing Olympics This large-scale performance of music, light and dance is entirely staged on the beautiful lake with a backdrop of mountains on the horizon. There are rising platforms on the lake, hundreds of actors and world-class musicians. See them dance above the waters like fairies as they depict China’s most romantic love story.

Overnight: Midtown Shangri-La Hangzhou    B, L

Oct 30 – Hangzhou – Shanghai

After a breakfast, we head out by coach to spectacular Shanghai! (2-3 hours depending on traffic) I love this mega-city. We embark on a city tour around the famous Bund and visit the stunning Yu Yuan Garden in the center of Old Shanghai.  Yu Yuan was built in the Ming Dynasty 400 years ago. The exquisite layout of scenery and architecture looks like a traditional Chinese garden. Then see the fabulous waterside walkway of the Bund paved in colorful tiles and flowers with a backdrop of the tallest skyscrapers and stunning high-rises.

From here we depart to Shanghai airport for our 4:45 pm flight home.

Group Air flight arrives LAX same day, evening of Oct 30.

Activity Level:

2. I have no trouble walking and if necessary, can walk for 3+ miles. Uneven surfaces are not a problem. I do not need a cane or walking device.


A $400 deposit will secure your space. Limited to 36 participants.

Land Price $1998 + air

Included - all services above in first class hotels, guided tours with entrance fees, meals as stated, A/C private coach, AFS trip leader. 

Not included – gratuities & optional

We’re finding best price on China Air:


Price: $895 + 189 taxes                                        

  •   CA888      SU  22OCT  LAX-PEK    1130 1510+1  (Next day)                  
  •   CA4102     WE 25OCT  PEK-CTU   1100 1350                      
  •   CA1742     SA 28OCT  CTU-HGH   1150 1435                              
  •   CA1884      MO 30OCT  PVG-PEK   1615 1840               
  •   CA983      MO  30OCT  PEK-LAX     2100 1800                    

PEK = Beijing, CTU - Chengdu, HGH - Hangzhou , PVG - Shanghai via PEK to LAX







This 'option' is a required additional charge for this trip.

It is protocol to tip your drivers, porters and local guides - we have the absolute best. $13 pp per day should suffice as minimum and will be added to your final bill. We will give this to your GTL to disperse accordingly
Group Air
All flights (International and Internal) LOS ANGELES- CANTON- BEIJING – CHENGDU – HANGZHOU- CANTON-LOS ANGELES $998 + $174 taxes
Internal Air ONLY
You will arrange own international flight. Only the two internal flights on Air China $599 (includes taxes): BEIJING - CHENGDU 1 CA 4102 Y 25OCT PEK CTU 1100A 150P WE 320 Y16 CHENGDU- HANGZHOU 2 CA 1742 Y 28OCT CTU HGH 1150A 235P SA 321 Y16
Oct 26 - Panda Volunteer Program
Schedule: 08:30~09:00 Arrive the Dujiangyan 09:00~10:00 Clean up the bamboos, pick up droppings, wash the enclosures 10:00~11:00 Visit the Base 11:00~11:30 Feed pandas 11:30~12:00 Lunch 12:00~13:00 Free time 13:00~14:00 Watch a cinema about pandas 14:00~14:30 Clean up the enclosures and feed pandas 14:30~1500 Make panda cakes
Oct 26 - Holding Panda for Pictures
Opportunity to hold a Panda for photo opportunities.
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Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS. Group air - Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and are ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until we either group air is set or we advise - dates can change! Itineraries are prepared often a year in advance. Though not likely, AFS and our suppliers reserve the right to change or modify such to meet local conditions. Although rare, hotels can change – all hotel rooms are run of the house. Our prices are based on current taxation structures. In case any revision in taxes, sudden fluctuation in currency levels, change in Visa fees or increase in fuel charges, we will amend our prices and inform you accordingly. Land price is based on minimum number of trip participants.