The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare on a Cathay Pacific carrier to Kunming via Hong Kong, a local flight from Lijiang to Kunming on a China Southern carrier, six nights' accommodations, six breakfasts, four lunches, five dinners, transfers and all ground transportation by bus, guided sightseeing, the services of English-speaking tour guides, and hotel taxes, from $1,324 per person—plus fuel surcharges and government taxes and fees of $161.
When: Depart Wednesdays Aug. 19, Sept. 2, 16, Oct. 7, 14, 28, Nov. 11, 25, 2009; add $50 per person each way to fly Friday or Saturday.
Gateways: L.A., San Francisco; add $100 for New York City, $150 for Seattle, $350 for Houston, $400 for Chicago, $450 for Miami; other gateways are available. (If you depart from and return to San Francisco, you won't be able to make a same-day connection in Hong Kong for the return flight, so an overnight in Hong Kong is required, at your own expense.)
The fine print: Fuel surcharges ($75) and taxes and fees ($86) total an additional $161 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $160. A minimum of two passengers required; no maximum group size. At the time of booking, refer to tour code CECK. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Ritz Tours, 800/900-2446, ritztours.com.
Why it's a deal: We did a search on Kayak for round-trip fares between L.A. and Kunming with a local flight from Lijiang to Kunming. The lowest available rate was $1,204 with taxes for travel in late August (Air China). For an additional $281, the Ritz Tours package covers international airfare and a local flight between Lijiang and Kunming as well as six nights' accommodations, most meals, all ground transportation, sightseeing tours, the services of English-speaking guides, and all taxes and fees.
Tour highlights: Visit Western Hill and hike up to the Dragon Gate in Kunming. Take a tour of Dali in Yunnan Province, visiting Erhai Park and the Old Town. Stop by a Bai minority village before continuing to Lijiang, where you'll stroll ancient cobblestoned streets, take a chairlift up Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and visit White Water River and Black Dragon Pond. A 45-minute flight brings you back to Kunming, where you'll explore the limestone cliffs and peaks at the Stone Forest and enjoy a traditional Yunnan dinner at a local restaurant. You can find a detailed itinerary here.
Lodging: One night each at the Kunming Jin Jiang Hotel in the Panlong District and the Landscape Hotel in Dali. Three nights at the Grand Lijiang Hotel in Lijiang. One night back at the Jin Jiang Hotel in Kunming.
More: Need more time? Ritz Tours offers a variety of ways to customize this package. For example, add a two-night stay at the Jin Jiang Hotel in Kunming for $270 per person, or a three-night stay in Hong Kong at the InterContinental Hong Kong for an additional $420–$660 per person, depending on the type of room.
Before you go: For the latest travel information, visit the China National Tourist Office. U.S. citizens need a passport as well as a visa, which must be obtained prior to arrival in China. The fee is $130 per person. If you prefer, Ritz Tours can arrange your visa for $160 per person, which covers the visa cost and the fee for the service and is payable by check only. For up-to-date visa information, check the Chinese Embassy's Web site.