Journey to the Heart of China

Medieval Villages, Hanging Temples & Buddhist Caves on the Silk Road
Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Journey to the Heart of China route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 26 days
Arrive: Beijing, China
Depart: Shanghai, China
Lodging: 24 nights hotel, 1 overnight train
Meals: All meals included except 2 lunches and 1 dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations, optional light hikes


  • Six spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in one adventure!
  • Explore the 5th century Yungang Caves, holding 51,000 exquisitely carved Buddhist statues, and see the spectacular murals in Mogao Grottoes at the edge of the Gobi
  • Xi’an’s stunning tomb of Terra Cotta Warriors
  • Join Buddhist Pilgims to walk the sacred Kora at Labrang Monastery on the Tibetan Plateau
  • Walk atop the mist-shrouded peaks of Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
  • Learn the traditional arts—and savor the fun!—of tea tasting, dumpling making, paper-cutting, woodblock-printing, and more

This was another spectacular adventure with Roger Williams. It more than met my expectations. What a wonderful opportunity to travel this part of the Silk Road and better understand the rise of Buddhism in China.Judith M.—Albuquerque, NM

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!

China is an ancient land laden with cultural treasures and natural riches, and you simply won’t find an exploration of the “Middle Kingdom” more fascinating than this WT expedition with Roger Williams. We’ll seek out the oldest alleyways of awe-inspiring Beijing, then venture into the heart of China to see the Buddhist cave art of the Yungang Grottoes and sacred Hengshan, a 5th century temple clinging impossibly to a cliff. In the ancient city of Pingyao, we walk atop city walls for bird’s eye views of Ming Dynasty merchants’ mansions, and head back in time to a castle where miles of tunnels lie hidden below ground. Along the Silk Road, we’ll marvel at Xi’an’s formidable Terracotta Warriors, and the remote cliff-set Majishan grottoes that house thousands of Buddhist sculptures. Onward we’ll venture to 18th-century Labrang Monastery, where we meet Tibetan Buddhist monks and learn the ancient art of woodblock printing, then travel to the edge of the Taklamakan desert for an exploration of the legendary Mogao cave complex and a sunset camel ride across the dunes. We’ll stroll the Bund in fashionable Shanghai, then explore the mist-shrouded peaks of evocative Yellow Mountain, the tranquil farm villages of Anhui, and China’s heavenly Yangtze River delta. Throughout our unforgettable journey, you’ll be immersed in the essence of this ancient land, with private tea tastings, local market excursions, dumpling-making lessons, visits with Tibetan families in their grassland yurts, and an itinerary that includes six spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Roger has spent decades exploring the hidden corners of Asia and is the perfect guide for our adventure. Join us to discover the remarkable story of this 5,000-year-old civilization.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Beijing / Datong

We gather in Beijing for a welcome dinner of roast duck, followed by a full day exploration of the city’s hutongs, markets, lakes, and a special tea ceremony. In Datong, once the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty, we’ll explore China’s best preserved 12th and 13th century temples, and 5th century Yungang Grottoes, holding 51,000 exquisitely carved Buddha statues.

Days 4-7
Hengshan / Yingxian / Pingyao

We’ll marvel at the architectural wonder of Hangshen, a labyrinthine monastery suspended dramatically 200 feet above a gorge and one of China’s hidden gems, then visit Yingxian, the tallest wooden pagoda in the world. On our walks along the cobbled lanes of the ancient city of Pingao, we take a step back in time to explore the courtyard mansions of the wealthy Ming Dynasty bankers that flourished here in the 12th and 13th centuries, and enjoy overnights in a restored courtyard mansion the heart of the old city.

Days 8-10
Xi’an / Terra Cotta Warriors / Han Yanglin

We fly to to Xi’an, cradle of Chinese history and starting point of the legendary Silk Road, where the astounding army of 8,000 Terra Cotta warriors and their steeds were buried in the 3rd century BCE. We’ll roam the Muslin quarter, try our hand at making dumplings, and the next day explore Han Yangling Tombs and Wild Goose Pagoda.

Days 11-13
Tianshui / Maijishan Grottoes / Lanzhou

Following the Silk Road, we’ll see Tang Dynasty royal treasures at Baoji’s Famen Temple, then enjoy a full day exploration (and special access!) to the sculpture-filled caves of breathtaking Maijishan Grottoes. In Lanzhou, our walk brings us along the Yellow River and to the top of White Pagoda Hill.

Days 14-16
Xiahe / Labrang Monastery

We boat up the Yellow River to the Binglingsi Caves, explore the mosques and markets of Linxia, then venture to the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and up to the bustling Tibetan town of Xia’he, where ethereal Lanbrang Monastery (9,850 feet) welcomes pilgrims with miles of prayer wheels. We’ll walk the kora and in the nearby Sangke Grassland, our visits with Tibetan families in their yurts are unforgettable.

Days 17-18
Dunhuang/ Mingsha Dunes / Mogao Grottoes

Arriving by overnight train, we explore the Silk Road city of Dunhuang, the Mingsha Dunes and the oasis of Crescent Lake, with a spectacular camel ride across the rolling sands. On our full day at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mogao Grottoes, we enjoy special access to the intruiguing caves whose treasures once included the Diamond Sutra, believed to be one of the oldest printed books in existence.

Days 19-20

The historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is the perfect base for our adventures in Shanghai, which include walks along the lovely Bund promendade, the car-free district of Xintiadi, and the art galleries of Tianzifang.

Days 21-23
Huangshan / Xidi / Hongcun & Chengkan

Our walk atop the craggy peaks of Huangshan reveals the ancient temples, floating clouds, and gnarled pines dotting China’s celebrated Yellow Mountains, which have captivated artists and poets for centuries. In the tranquil rural villages of Xidi and Hongcun, we see the incredibly well-preserved Anhui houses that have earned these villages a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Days 24-26
Hangzhou / Shanghai / Depart

The intricately painted roof ceilings of Lingyin Temple and the willow-lined shores and ancient bridges of West Lake are a highlight of our visit to Hangzhou, and our walks take you through nearby tea plantations (we’ll stop for a tasting!) and to the home of a local family for lunch. The bullet train whisks us back to Shanghai for our farewell dinner and next day departure.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated Level 3, Moderate. This is not designed as a hiking trip, but we’ll enjoy full days of exploring sites on foot, with a few optional exploration walks of several hours. We’ve selected a range of accommodations for this expedition, ranging from 5-star hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, to comfortable and ideally-located modern hotels in smaller cities like Dunhuang, to former merchant homes converted to boutique inns in Pingyao and Anhui, and even an overnight train. While this trip is not expected to be physically strenuous, there are six days with drives of 4-5 hours, and transportation conditions may be demanding. Overland travel is in minivans and small buses, depending upon the size of the group. In Xiahe and at the Labrang Monastery, we are at an altitude of 10,000 feet for a few days, with excursions that take us a bit higher. Individuals vary widely in their physical response to high altitude. It is not uncommon to experience mild headaches or sleeplessness for a day or two when you first arrive at high altitude. For your own enjoyment, we recommend that you make a special effort to be in good physical condition. We believe that the most important requirements are a spirit of adventure and the understanding that you are visiting a country where tourism infrastructure can vary greatly between regions.

Explanation of Trip Levels

Client Comments

This was another spectacular adventure with Roger Williams. It more than met my expectations. What a wonderful opportunity to travel this part of the Silk Road and better understand the rise of Buddhism in China. Judith M., Albuquerque, NM
The itinerary was first-rate—I enjoyed every place we visited! Catherine H., Cambridge, MA