Experience the highlights of China and Japan by train, meeting locals every step of the way. Starting in Tokyo, you’ll have time to wander amongst the neon signs and ancient temples before hopping on the bullet train to Kyoto. In Kyoto, you’ll spend a few days exploring the Buddhist temples and the Golden Pavilion before flying over to Beijing, where the Forbidden City and Great Wall of China await.
From Beijing, you’ll take the train south to Shanghai, where spicy noodle shops and nostalgic print houses sit side by side. You’ll finish your trip amidst the bright lights of Hong Kong, where sparkling skyscrapers give way to an island of green peaks and golden sands. If you love cities and you’re eager to explore Asia, this multi-centre holiday is perfect for you.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements, so please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Itinerary in brief:
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
On arrival into Tokyo, you’ll be met by our representative who will accompany you on the train or shuttle bus to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure, so you can relax at the hotel before heading out to explore.
Today, you’ll have a private guide to show you the highlights of Tokyo. You’ll stroll through private gardens and visit a traditional teahouse on the lake known as ‘Nakajima No Chaya’. While you’re there, be sure to try some ‘matcha’, Japanese green tea.
Next, you’ll take a boat cruise along the Sumida River before heading to Asakusa, the oldest Geisha district in Tokyo. Here, you’ll wander through atmospheric streets lined with craft shops and souvenir stalls, spotting Geishas in traditional dress as you walk. At the end of the tour, you’ll visit Tokyo’s most famous shrine, Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji.
Today, you’ll visit the historic town of Kamakura with your private guide. During the tour, you’ll visit Engaku-ji Temple, the second of the five magnificent Zen temples and home to a Japanese teahouse. You’ll stop to try amazake (sweet sake) and some Japanese sweets, before heading for Kotoku-in Temple. You'll also visit Daibutsu, the second biggest bronze Buddha in Japan.
Next, you’ll stop at Hase-dera Temple, famously home to hundreds of stone statues and finish your tour at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of the Samurais. After a day packed with history and culture, you’ll be escorted back to Tokyo by your guide.
Today, you’ll leave Tokyo behind, board the bullet train or shinkansen to Kyoto. The shinkansen one of Japan’s famously reliable and punctual high-speed trains, reaching 330 kilometres per hour. When you arrive, you’ll check into your hotel in Kyoto for three nights.
In the afternoon, you’ll take a cooking class to really remember. You’ll meet your guide for a tour through Nishiki Market, learning about Japanese cuisine and picking up the ingredients for your cooking class. Before you get to the kitchen, you’ll visit a former sake brewery and sample the local sake (rice wine).
Your cooking class will take place in a machiya, a wooden house typical of Kyoto. During the lesson, you’ll learn how to make rolled sushi, miso soup and a traditional salad before sitting down and eating your creations with your teacher. Delicious!
This morning, a private guide will collect you from your hotel for a tour through Kyoto on the local bus. Your first stop will be Nijo Castle, home to some stunning gardens and Momoyama architecture, with ‘chirping nightingale floors’ and decorated sliding doors.
During the tour, you’ll also visit Japan’s most famous rock garden at Ryoan-ji Temple, as well as the ‘pure water temple’ or Kyomizu-dera, with fantastic views over Kyoto from its high veranda.
Today is free, so you can continue to explore Kyoto at your own pace. However, if you want to explore further, then we recommend a day trip to Nara, a small town just outside of Kyoto. For 74 years in the 8th century, Nara was the capital of Japan, so it’s home to shrines and temples with historical value. Nara Park is the focal point of the town, with dozens of friendly tame deer grazing the grassland. It’s also home to the Todaiji Temple, a vast wooden building that houses Japan’s largest Buddha, known as Kasuga Taisha.
In the afternoon, you can head back to Kyoto and visit beautiful Fushimi Inari Taisha, where thousands of vermillion torii gates follow trails through the forests of Mount Inari. It’s a beautiful and unique hike up the mountain, with photo opportunities at every turn. If you reach the top in the late afternoon, you’ll be able to watch the sunset over Kyoto and its surrounding hillsides.
Today is yours to spend at leisure until your shared shuttle transfer to Kansai International Airport for your flight to China. When you arrive in Beijing, you’ll be met by your guide and taken to your hotel, where you’ll check in for three nights.
Today you’ll visit the Great Wall of China, one of the most famous landmarks in the world, with your very own private guide. Stretching over 6,000 km, you’ll visit a small but impressive section of the wall, either walking or taking the cable car up to the top. If there’s enough time, you’ll have a picnic on the wall, enjoying the rugged scenery of the ivy-covered stone surrounding you.
Back in Beijing, you’ll head for the Summer Palace. Once a simple imperial garden, it was transformed into one of the capital’s major sites during the 18th century. During this time, the court decided to relocate each summer, escaping the heat of the Forbidden City. You’ll walk amongst the lakes and pagodas, enjoying the serene gardens and spectacular views.
After breakfast, you’ll head out on a tour of the Temple of Heaven, with clean, simple architecture and symbolism that reflects ancient Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. Next, you’ll explore the Forbidden City, built in 1420 and, as legend has it, home to 9,999 different rooms.
After exploring the compound, you’ll climb the artificial coal hill behind the Forbidden City for a spectacular view over the whole of Beijing – it’s a magnificent sight. In the evening you can enjoy the city at your own pace. We recommend ordering the famous Beijing duck at a local restaurant.
This morning, you’ll be transferred to the station to catch the train to Shanghai. After 5 hours, you’ll arrive in sleek Shanghai, where your local guide will welcome you and take you to check in at your hotel.
Together, you’ll take an evening stroll along the Bund, the city’s famous walkway from the 1930s, before exploring the signs and sounds of Nanjing Road.
Next, you’ll explore the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel that will take you over to the Pudong district, full of skyscrapers and new businesses. You’ll end your walk in the Lujiazui, where you can see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai Tower, offering panoramic views of the city from the 118th floor.
Today your guide will take you on a city tour, starting in the Shanghai Museum. The ancient Chinese bronze collection has no equivalent in the world, and the Qing dynasty jade is stunning. Next, you’ll explore the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre before walking through the Old Town, where the locals chat in the narrow side streets. You’ll take a tea break at the Huxinting Teahouse before meeting a gardener, who will teach you about the art of Bonsai plants in the famous Yu Garden.
This morning, your guide will take you to Fuxing Park, where you can watch dozens of local people practising their ritual of morning exercise. Next, you’ll explore the French Concession, where colonial buildings have recently been transformed into classy restaurants and boutiques.
Afterwards, you’ll head to Tianzfang, where you can get lost in a maze of alleyway full of small galleries and bars. In the evening, you’ll be driven to the train station, where you’ll board the overnight train in a hard sleeper cabin to Hong Kong. The journey lasts 19 hours.
This morning, you’ll wake up in Hong Kong, a frenetic mixture of bright lights and blue harbours. Once you’ve checked into your hotel and freshened up, you’ll set off to explore with your guide. First, you’ll visit the Avenue of Stars in Kowloon, Hong Kong’s answer to LA’s ‘Walk of Fame’.
Next, you’ll take the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island and ride the tram to Victoria Peak for stunning views over the harbour. As an extra treat, why not have afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel, a classic Hong Kong pastime?
Today is free for you to explore Hong Kong at your own pace. Why not head to Stanley, on the other side of the island, where you can enjoy the open space of the harbour and the beach? It’s easy to get to Stanley by bus from Central, and it’s a great chance to discover the quiet, more natural side of Hong Kong.
Back in the city, grab some cash and head to Temple Street Market in Kowloon. It’s a treasure trove of authentic (and not-so-authentic) souvenirs.
This morning, you can relax before your guide arrives to take you to the airport for your flight home.
Cherry blossom season lasts from March to early April in Honshu, so you’ll need to book well in advance if you’re planning to travel over this period. Autumn (November) is also a hectic time, thanks to the gorgeous autumn foliage. June and July is rainy season across most of Japan, so it can be very humid, while autumn (September to mid-December) is normally cool and clear. Bear in mind that prices will be high, and availability is limited around Golden Week (early May), as well as O-Bon (mid-August) and the New Year period.
China is a vast country with all kinds of weather systems. Beijing experiences long hot summers from June to September and cold winters that can dip below -20c. Shanghai has similar seasons, with a hot, rainy summer and an overcast winter, while typhoon season in Hong Kong lasts from May to November. The best time to visit China is during spring or autumn when weather is generally warm and pleasant.
This Japan holiday is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.