Image: China's Great Wall
Adrian Bradshaw  /  EPA file
The 10-day Fragrant Fieldstour hits may of China's blockbuster attractions, including the Great Wall.
updated 6/11/2008 11:06:50 AM ET 2008-06-11T15:06:50

The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, 10 nights' accommodations, 27 meals, airport-hotel transfers, and sightseeing tours, from $1,439 per person—plus an estimated $395 in taxes.

When: Nov. 10, 17, Dec. 1, 29, 2008. Add $340 for June 23, Sept. 8, 15, 22, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27, Dec. 15, 22.

Gateways: L.A. Add $60 for New York City.

The fine print: Hotel taxes are included. Does not include airport taxes and fees of $395. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $475. U.S. citizens need a visa to travel to China. You can secure one for $130, if you apply in person at a local Chinese embassy or consulate; there is an additional $50 fee if you go through Champion Holidays instead. See our country-by-country visa advice here. If you customize the tour, perhaps by adding extra nights or changing the cities visited, there is a $200 per person surcharge. Hotels are subject to change. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: Champion Holidays, 800/868-7658, china-discovery.com.

Why it's a deal: You'll fly into Beijing and out of Shanghai. In a recent search, Kayak produced a $904 fare on Asiana Airlines for a multicity itinerary (L.A. to Beijing and Shanghai to L.A.) in early November. Essentially, for $930 more, Champion Holidays takes care of 10 nights' accommodations, guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, most meals, air and ground transfers within China, and all taxes and fees. Furthermore, the Asiana flight between L.A. and Beijing has a layover in Seoul; the Air China flight used in the Champion Holidays package is nonstop. 

Trip details: The Fragrant Fields tour hits may of China's blockbuster attractions, from Beijing (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City) to the ancient capitals of Nanjing (tombs of the first two Ming emperors) and Hangzhou (Pagoda of Six Harmonies).

After your overnight flight to Beijing on Air China, with meals and movies included, you'll head to the 360-room OrientalBay International Hotel. It's close to the Olympic Games Village and will be your base for three nights.

You'll spend two full days in the capital of China. As part of an included tour, you'll visit the Palace Museum, Tiananmen Square, and the emperor's Summer Palace, a wonderland of temples, lakes, and gardens. It was built in the 18th century by the royal family as an escape from the heat in the Forbidden City. You'll also see the Great Wall, and the Ming Tombs, the well-preserved cemetery of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. Your evenings will include an authentic Peking duck dinner and an acrobatic show.

While in Beijing, be sure to check out its largest and most peaceful temple, found in the northeast corner of Dongcheng. Though it's a monastery now—complete with chanting and incense in the five prayer halls—Lama Temple was once a residence of the royal family, which explains the ornate carvings and tapestries.

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Next, you'll catch a two-hour flight on Air China or China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai; from there you'll travel to Zhujiajiao, a nearby village that's more than 1,000 years old and has canals and distinctive old bridges. Continue your bus ride to the city of Suzhou, which is often referred to as the Venice of the East. The city attracts tourists for its beautiful pagodas, stone bridges, and meticulously designed gardens.

You'll spend three nights in Suzhou at the Holiday Inn Jasmine. The time will pass quickly! The itinerary calls for a cruise on the Grand Canal, which is more than 2,400 years old, and visits to a silk embroidery factory, the Lingering Garden, and the ancient Panmen Gate, the only existing water and land gate in China. After dinner you will take a night bus tour of the Master of Fishing Nets Garden. Slideshow: Beijing booms

You'll take an excursion to Hangzhou, where you'll tour the Pagoda of Six Harmonies, built in the year A.D. 970, and view goldfish at Flower Harbor at the West Lake. You'll spend another day here; West Lake has much to offer visitors in five distinct sections, including a tea museum, fountains, a silk museum, and lovely vistas (perfect for the scrapbook). A stop at a tea orchard is a chance to learn about Chinese tea culture.

You'll board a bus for a day trip to Nanjing, about 80 miles away. There you'll enjoy the tomb of the first Ming emperor, lunch, and a tour of the giant Zhonghua City Gate. Then, head to Confucious Temple and the Qinhuai River, where you'll enjoy an included dinner.

You'll round out your trip by heading by bus back to Shanghai (about 90 miles). In your last two days here, you'll visit the Shanghai Museum of Art & History, which displays calligraphy, jade, paintings, and more. You'll stay for two nights in the Sky Fortune Boutique Hotel.

Shanghai is constantly changing, always reinventing itself. The relentless pace of the place is addictive. The food is particularly fun to explore:

Try xiaolongbao, also called soup dumplings. The steamed delicacies—thin pastry skins filled with meat and scaldingly hot soup (be careful!)—can be found on many street corners.

Can't get enough? You can add on nights in Beijing or Shanghai for $125 per room per night (plus a $200 surcharge).

The cheapest package price is for November, which isn't a peak tourist season in China; the weather can drop below freezing, and it is a bit wet. Annually, China gets about 30 inches of rain.

For more tips on what to do, visit China's official tourism site and see the U.S. State Department's travel fact sheet for the country.

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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