China is a country with an ancient history, extremely varied topography and a culture that shifts with the geography and the local people. It’s famous in the West for cultural exports from Lao-tzu to Gong Li, dim sum to feng shui (and of course material exports such as TVs and Nikes). Intriguing as it is, China is not always the easiest place to visit. With over a billion people, it’s the most populous country in the world and can be gritty, chaotic and crowded. But patience rewards visitors with a wealth of sights, flavors and experiences—from ancient temples to modern art galleries, street stalls to gourmet restaurants, and fast-paced cities to slow-moving rivers. Beijing has imperial architecture, upscale shopping districts and atmospheric hutongs—narrow lanes passing through the city’s traditional residential districts. Xian still resonates from its former roles as a Silk Route terminus and imperial capital. Shanghai buzzes with commerce and contemporary culture, while the nearby towns of Suzhou and Hangzhou offer a picturesque glimpse at canal and lakefront lifestyles. Around Guilin, Yangshuo and the Li River, steep limestone karsts jut up from rice paddies and rural villages. Yunnan is a showcase of minority cultures, mountains and lakes. These are just some of the riches that make this large country so complex and enticing.
Hong Kong literally means “Fragrant Harbor” in Chinese. The smells—steam pouring from food stalls and incense wafting through temples—are powerful. But it’s the sights that truly astound. This is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, with skyscrapers bunched against the waterfront and lush green hills as backdrops. With nearly 7 million people living on an area roughly half the size of Rhode Island, Hong Kong is also one of the world’s most densely populated cities. The vast majority are ethnic Chinese—mostly Cantonese—but there’s a sizable population of expats and holdouts from the British colonial days, and the atmosphere is definitively cosmopolitan. Just a few of Hong Kong’s many delights are: eating dim sum in a raucous dining room, sipping tea in a wood-paneled clubhouse, shopping for Chinese antiques on Hollywood Road, visiting peaceful countryside temples, whisking by hydrofoil to the former Portuguese island colony of Macau and bobbing around outlaying islands on a traditional Chinese junk.
Artisans of Leisure luxury tours in China and Hong Kong are private and customized, including the very best local guides and carefully chosen luxury hotels. Our China tours are in-depth, luxurious cultural experiences that emphasize Chinese art, architecture, cuisine, traditional Chinese gardens and the local traditions in each region.
Tours of Beijing
Beijing is a fascinating city — it's easy to spend days, even weeks, exploring its beautiful ancient temples and palaces, traditional courtyard architecture on the hutongs (narrow residential backstreets), lively street markets, and emerging districts that are home to upscale galleries, shops and restaurants. Attractions include Tiananmen Square (the Gate of Heavenly Peace), the Forbidden City, lively Wangfujing food street, the Summer Palace and its beautiful lake and gardens, the ruins of the Old Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Lama Temple, outdoor antique markets, vegetarian restaurants at Buddhist temples, Liu Li Chang antique district, and excursions to the Great Wall at Simatai and Mutianyu. Perhaps shop for pearls in noted shops, or for modern art in the warehouses of 798 Space and other new art districts. Upon request, we also arrange for travelers to observe a class at the Beijing Opera School, learn about the Chinese tea ceremony, take a tai chi class or have a consultation with a respected Chinese acupuncturist or Chinese masseuse. Cooking classes, tours of Beijing food markets, and meetings with experts in Chinese history, Chinese cuisine, Chinese opera, Chinese medicine, Chinese theater, Chinese textiles, traditional Chinese music, furniture, and Chinese antiques can also be arranged.
Recommended luxury hotels in Beijing include The Peninsula Beijing, the Aman Resort at Summer Palace, Raffles Beijing and Opposite House. We also recommend an overnight stay at Commune by the Great Wall.
Tours of Guilin
Guilin, on the Li River, is another highlight of China and one of the country’s most scenic regions. Visit the Reed Flute Cave, the lively river market and the shopping square filled with cafes, trendy restaurants, musicians and small fashion shops. Cruise the Li River and take in the beautiful scenery that has inspired Chinese painters and poets for centuries. The cruise snakes through dramatic mountains, past fishing villages and farmers working rice paddies. Explore Yangshuo and the lush green rice fields and villages that surround it, or spend a day exploring the terraced rice fields in Longsheng.
Recommended luxury hotels in Guilin include the Sheraton Guilin and the nearby (in Yangshuo) Hotel of Modern Art Relais and Chateaux.
Tours of Yunnan
Yunnan is one of our most popular and most highly recommended regions for luxury travelers visiting China. Experience Shangri-La for yourself. Here you will find beautiful mountain landscapes, Tibetan communities, ethnic minority villages, markets and traditions, and outstanding cuisine influenced by Southeast Asia. Tour Kunming and its colorful and extremely lively Bird & Flower Market, Muslim Street, and the Provincial Museum which showcases textiles, handicrafts and artifacts belonging to the 25 different ethnic groups in the region. In Dali, overlooking Erhai Lake, explore narrow backstreets, the Three Pagodas and the Old Town. Our private guides also take you to nearby small towns to visit morning hill tribe markets. Lijiang, an enchanting town near the borders of Burma, India and Tibet, is home to the Naxi people. Spend a few days exploring Lijiang’s cobblestone streets, narrow canals, red houses, Naxi architecture, and the many restaurants and antique shops. Listen to a live performance of Naxi music by the legendary Naxi Orchestra. Nearby, visit villages famous for ancient Buddhist frescoes, a Tibetan lamasery and mountain scenery.
Recommended luxury hotels in Yunnan include the Banyan Tree Lijiang and Banyan Tree in Zhongdian.
Tours of Shanghai
Shanghai is a seductive mix of tradition and modernity. Walk along the Bund, Shanghai 's old commercial heart and hectic harbor. There’s still a collection of grand Neoclassical European-style buildings which once housed foreign enterprises and today have some of Shanghai’s best restaurants. The Bund is a very popular place for a stroll or for morning Tai Chi exercises. Tourists come from all over China to admire the waterfront and take pictures of the modern architecture across the river in Pudong. Visit the nearby historic garden Yu Yuan—the Garden of Leisurely Repose—and browse the many specialty shops, restaurants and antique stores surrounding it. Also visit Shanghai’s oldest teahouse. Visit the excellent Shanghai Museum, home to Shang bronze sculpture, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese furniture, Chinese seals, Chinese landscape painting, Chinese jade and other ancient Chinese masterpieces. Visit the People's Square and the former French Concession, a chic enclave known for pleasant tree-lined boulevards, Art Deco architecture, and fashionable boutiques. Shop or dine in pedestrian Xintiandi, or view modern art at galleries in Suzhou Creek. Jewish travelers may wish for their tour to include Shanghai's Jewish Museum or a Friday night dinner at the Shanghai Jewish Center. While in Shanghai, we assist travelers to hunt for antiques, shop for the latest fashion and accessories at upscale boutiques, and dine at Shanghai's most acclaimed restaurants. Cooking classes can also be arranged, as can private tai chi lessons, acupuncture lessons, and tours of local schools.
Recommended luxury hotels in Shanghai include the upcoming Peninsula Shanghai, Park Hyatt Shanghai, and the Four Seasons Shanghaii.
Tours of Hangzhou & Suzhou
Take excursions to Hangzhou, the most picturesque of the ancient imperial capitals, where touring includes the Feilaifeng Caves, containing hundreds of Buddhist sculptures carved into limestone rocks, terraced tea plantations where Longjing tea is grown; the Tea Museum that traces the history of tea; and walks around beautiful West Lake. Suzhou, a small town known for gardens, canals, silk and traditional architecture, developed over a 1,500-year period. The basic elements of the gardens follow Taoist teachings. We also arrange tours in other nearby "water towns" including Xitang, Zhujiajiao, Wuzhen, Zhouzhuang, Luzhi and Tongli.
Recommended luxury hotels in Hangzhou include the Fuchun Resort and the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou.
Tours of Xian
Xian is the gateway to the Silk Road, a city that served as the imperial capital for eleven dynasties. Highlights include the famous Terracotta Warriors, over eight thousand underground clay warriors buried to "defend" the Emperor in the afterlife; the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum which contains endless treasures of Chinese civilization; the Muslim Quarter with narrow alleys lined with stalls selling souvenirs, mutton skewers, nuts and sweets; the great City Walls; the Big Goose Pagoda and the Small Goose Pagoda; and Xian's famous dumpling restaurants. Other attractions include the Forest of Stelae and its ancient, inscribed stone tablets, and Bampo Village, an excavated Neolithic village.
Our preferred luxury hotel in Xian is the Sofitel on Remnin Square Xian.
Tours of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the world's great cities. Our private tours include comprehensive touring on Hong Kong and Kowloon islands. Browse through narrow lanes lined with old-fashioned lampposts, small boutiques and cozy bars and restaurants. Enjoy exclusive private shopping with some of Hong Kong’s most sought after jewelry designers and antique experts. Visit local designers’ homes for scheduled showcases of exquisite pearls, jade and exotic stones and gems. Enjoy breathtaking coastal drives along the southern side of Hong Kong Island, passing private homes, quaint beach towns and tony golf and country clubs. Spend a day at the horse races in Happy Valley or Sha Tin. Visit expert tailors for custom-made suits and shirts. Hong Kong’s business elite are loyal clients. Experience the vibrant colors and aromas of the Flower Market, then continue to the chirping sounds of pagodas filled with ornate wooden birdcages along Bird Street. Find warehouse collections of antiques and Indian rugs and Persian rugs on Ap Lei Chau, an island off Aberdeen, frequented by locals searching for home furnishing treasures. Architecture buffs might wish to see Singapore International School (designed by I.M. Pei) and Canadian International School—a huge cabin-like structure, with a strong cedar smell and amazing floor to ceiling views of the ocean. Ride the tram up Victoria Peak, take a sampan ride in Aberdeen harbor, and browse the shops, cafes and antique stores along Hollywood Road. Tour local schools and private homes. Charter a boat around the islands, or go hiking in the hills. Take a tour with an architecture expert and learn about Hong Kong's amazing skyline. Enjoy leisurely, beachside gourmet meals. Learn about traditional Chinese medicine at the traditional products, herb and food shops of Sheung Wan. See Man Mo Temple. Haggle at the Stanley Market. Visit Hong Kong's many museums or enjoy afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Our tours also include reservations at the city’s most renowned restaurants, from traditional tea, colonial beachside restaurants, dim sum tea shops, and sophisticated private clubs like the China Club Hong Kong.
Some of our tours also spend a day in Macau, a former Portuguese enclave with European colonial architecture, candy-colored Baroque churches, ancient Chinese temples and colorful street markets. Select tours feature excursions to Hong Kong’s outlying islands, such as Lantau Island, Lamma Island, and Cheung Chau Island to take in diverse attractions, including hiking or visiting the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. Another option is to visit World War II-era military outposts in the New Territories, or take the family to Hong Kong's Disneyland or the excellent Ocean Park.
In Hong Kong, our preferred luxury hotels include the Peninsula Hong Kong on Kowloon and the original Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons hotels on Hong Kong Island.
Tours of Dunhuang
Artisans of Leisure is happy to customize private tours along the Silk Road. Our tours include two of the most accessible and historically interesting sites on the Silk Road: Xian and Dunhuang. The oasis town of Dunhuang lies at the edge of the Gobi Desert. It was an important Silk Road trade center with an influx of religious, cultural and artistic ideas and innovations over the centuries. Our tours explore the Mogao caves, 492 caves filled with precious Buddhist frescoes and sculptures. The caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and showcase some of the best-preserved Buddhist cave temple art in the world. Nearby, visit the Mingsha Shan (Singing Sand Dunes), some of the most spectacular dunes in China, the Jade Gate Pass and fascinating remnants of a very early section of the Great Wall.
Tours of Taipei
We also arrange luxury, private tours in Taiwan, including excursions from China to Taipei. Highlights of Taiwan tours include the unsurpassed Chinese art collection at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, a stay at the exclusive Lalu Hotel in Sun Moon Lake, and Taroko Gorge.
Upon request, we also extend our private China tours with stays at beach resorts on tropical Hainan Island, including the Banyan Tree Resort, Ritz Carlton, and Mandarin Oriental.
Artisans of Leisure is a luxury travel specialist offering deluxe, private tours in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.