updated 4/28/2008 2:50:28 PM ET 2008-04-28T18:50:28

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various through October 2008

The deal
The upcoming Summer Olympic Games in China’s Beijing may be shrouded in controversy — some nations are threatening to boycott the event due to China’s human rights violations in Tibet — but the preparations are going as planned. This historic metropolis is hard at work gearing up for this important affair slated to kick off on August 8 (through August 24). Visiting during the Olympics will undoubtedly break the bank, so we suggest you go right before or immediately after the big event. It’ll be an ideal time to visit this bustling Chinese city; walk on the legendary Great Wall; and possibly squeeze in a foray to some of China’s other highlights. We found a foursome of packages valid for summer and fall travel, all including sojourns in Beijing — and some further afield — that start at only $672 land-only, or $1,219 with international airfare.

Six-day Beijing package from $1,219
Want to explore Beijing as it’s gearing up for the Olympics or right after the closing ceremony? Virgin Vacations offers a fantastic six-day package that starts at only $1,219 for post-Olympic departures between September 1 and October 26. This price covers roundtrip airfare from a variety of West Coast cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle or Portland); lodging for five nights; and daily breakfast. Hotel accommodation provided is at a three-star property, such as the modern Beijing Hongrun Hotel near Tiananmen Square. Want to see Beijing as it prepares for the big event? Departures through July 25 cost just $200 more, at $1,419.

Four-day stay in Beijing from $672
We also spotted a stellar land-only deal to Beijing on Pacific Delight Tours, featuring low prices and lots of inclusions. Just $672 gets you four days in this exciting Chinese metropolis, with three nights’ lodging at a luxury hotel; daily breakfast and two lunches; two full-day sightseeing tours that will take in the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, and the Ming Tombs; and roundtrip airport transfers. This price is valid for stays between June 1 and July 28, at top-rated Peninsula Beijing, of which Frommer’s writes, “no hotel can claim to be the absolute best, but if a choice had to be made, it would be the Peninsula”.

See Beijing and Shanghai from $1,509
Since you’re traveling pretty far, how about seeing two Chinese urban giants in one fell swoop? Virgin Vacations offers a seven-day package to historic Beijing and modern Shanghai priced at just $1,509 for fall departures between September 1 and October 26. This cost covers roundtrip airfare from the West Coast (your choice of four departure cities) to Beijing and back from Shanghai; the domestic flight between the two cities; six-night accommodation at midrange properties (three nights in each destination); and daily breakfast. If you want to depart sooner, the same package costs $1,709 for trips through July 20.

Slideshow: Magnificent Seven

Explore China for 14 days from $3,589
For an epic journey, we suggest the China Explorer escorted tour on offer by Virgin Vacations for $3,589. Good for travel in early fall, this 13-night escapade shows you a variety of destinations in China. Those include post-Olympic Beijing; the ancient capital of Xian; the buzzing metropolis of Shanghai; the picturesque town of Guilin; Guangzhou, the capital of China’s south; and the iconic city of Hong Kong. Included is roundtrip air from the West Coast (depart from L.A., San Francisco, Seattle or Portland); lodging for two or three nights in each of the above cities; a variety of sightseeing tours with entrance fees; all in-country transfers (by plane, bus and hydrofoil); and 22 meals.

The dollars
See details above. Note that all the prices are based on double occupancy. We chose these particular deals on these specific dates not only because the costs represent great-value but also because they offer a unique view of Beijing (and the rest of China) right before or immediately after the Olympic Games. Summer and early fall is also an excellent time to travel around China, weather-wise. You may save a little more by traveling later in the year but we recommend catching the pre- or post-Olympic buzz. 

The catch
You’ll need to apply for a visa to enter China.

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