BEIJING, CHINA "“ This summer, thousands of Americans are being introduced first-hand to China, while millions more watch on television as the no-longer-sleeping giant hosts the Olympic Games.
Long after the Olympian crowds have left for home, you can add your name to the guest list with an 11-day, 10-night train tour aboard the "Shangri-La Express." It takes you from Lhasa, Tibet to Beijing, China and is offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company, North America's foremost experts in travel to the world's least-traveled regions.
Your adventure begins with a four-night stay at the Brahmaputra Hotel in Lhasa, Tibet, one of the highest cities in the world and the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama. It is the holiest center of Tibet with more than a thousand years of cultural and spiritual history.
During your stay in Lhasa, you'll visit the 13th century Jokhang Temple, Tibet's holiest shrine, and Norbu Lingka, the Dalai Lama's summer palace, built in the 1740s as a retreat from which to escape the heat of the summer. There's also time to explore the Barkhor market, the oldest market in the capital and a well-trodden route for pilgrims. You'll enjoy a local lunch accompanied by folk music.
There is also a visit to the 17th century Potala Palace, former seat of the Tibetan Government and the Dalai Lama's winter residence before he fled to India in 1959. Containing thousands of rooms, it dominates the city skyline and is one of the architectural wonders of the world. At an altitude of around 11,975 feet, Lhasa is one of the world's highest cities.
Golmud is the starting point for the new "Roof of the World" line to Lhasa. You'll board the new high-altitude train and embark on a 14-hour daylight journey, cresting 16,640-foot Tangula Pass six hours after leaving Lhasa. More than three miles above sea level, this is the world's highest scenic railway pass.
At the ancient city of Xian, you'll visit the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, discovered by peasants barely 30 years ago. The 6,000 terracotta figures, arranged in row-after-row of warriors and horses, are one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.
Arriving at Luoyang, you'll travel out to the Longmen Caves, one of China's most important artistic sites and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This enchanting network of 1,350 caves contains more than 110,000 statues.
Then it is on to Beijing for a visit to the Temple of Heaven, grandest of the four great temples situated in Beijing, before having free time to explore this modern and confident capital city. Later in the day, you'll transfer to the centrally located five-star Peninsula Palace Hotel, or similar, for a two-night stay.
Your Beijing sightseeing program includes the magnificently restored Forbidden City, home to the Emperors and their numerous concubines. An afternoon tour is devoted to one of the most awe-inspiring sights in all of China, the Great Wall. You'll travel out to a section at Badaling and have the opportunity to walk along some of the restored walkways.
Rounding up your tour is a visit to Tiananmen Square, the largest open urban square in the world and site of several key events in China's history, most infamously the student protests of 1989. Your visit to China concludes with an opportunity to say your goodbyes at a special farewell dinner.
Cost is $5,995 per person (based on double occupancy). Included are accommodations aboard the "Shangri-La Express" and in hotels, all meals and drinks and the services of a tour-manager throughout. Also included are comprehensive off-train sightseeing and porterage services. Departure is October 8, 2008"”with two additional departures scheduled for 2009 (May 28 and September 10).
Reservations and additional information are available from the Great Canadian Travel Company, Ltd., 333 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 712, Chicago, Illinois 60601, 800-661-3830, www.greatcanadiantravel.com.