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China's Middle Kingdom: Yosemite's Sister Parks

Hangzhou, China

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Book this tour through our partner: MT Sobek

China's vast, unique landscape holds two national parks that are sister parks to Yosemite — an international collaboration with parks and protected areas that face similar challenges. Join expert MT Sobek guides and park rangers on this 12-day adventure through these magical destinations. Ascend sacred Huangshan, traverse its summit, witness a spectacular sunrise (or two), and visit historic villages. Across the country in Jiuzhaigou National Park, explore colored lakes, picturesque travertine landscapes, and Tibetan villages, and access Zharu Valley — seen by only a few lucky visitors per year. All this natural beauty plus time to meet giant pandas in Chengdu!


Arrive in Hangzhou

Welcome to China! Upon arrival in Hangzhou, meet an MT Sobek representative at the airport and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to adjust to the new time zone. Depending on your arrival time, you might opt to walk along famous West Lake, a centuries-old attraction and favorite imperial retreat. The lake and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden but on a grand scale. In the evening, meet the group and trip leader for an orientation and welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Journey to Mount Huangshan

Rise early to drive to Mount Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). UNESCO listed in 1990, Huangshan, with its 72 peaks, is China's most famous mountain for scenic beauty. Meet the official Yosemite liaison, then ascend this magnificent range on the Eastern Stairs, like Yosemite's Mist Trail but even better engineered, with four times more stairs. En route, spot Eyebrow Peak, reach the Immortal Pointing the Way, and pass bubbling streams and pretty forests. From the top, it's an easy walk to the hotel. If you prefer, ride the effortless cable car to the top.

Explore the Summit Area of Huangshan

Weather permitting, begin the day with a spectacular sunrise spilling light over a sea of clouds. Enjoy breakfast, then set off on an all-day hike exploring the Xihai Canyon, a scarcely visited area featuring astonishing, dramatic — but safe — trails. Hike to the bottom, enjoy lunch and a rest, and then take a gently paced 5-hour walk through breathtaking scenery back to the hotel. (There's a cable-railway if you want a lift up.) If you prefer not to hike, there are easier, beautifully scenic walks available at the summit.

Traverse Huangshan Summit

After another magical sunrise, take a popular trail to the top of the Western Stairs — and one of the most photographed trees in Asia. Start the challenging summit crossing with a gentle ascent to Guangming Ding (6,100'), the park's second-highest peak, then down, up, down, up to your lunch spot. (Hardier hikers ascend via the steepest stone stairs of the park's tallest summit.) After lunch, join the crowds at the famous Yingke Song (Welcoming Guests Pine). This afternoon, relax at the hotel or climb to Celestial Capital Peak's dizzying summit.

Visit Hongcun Village, Return to Hangzhou

Rise early to have the famous tree all to yourself before catching the first cable cars down the mountain. Transfer to Hongcun Village, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, highlighting typical southern Anhui architecture — and one of China's most photogenic and well-preserved historic villages. Built along the banks of Nan Lake, walking down the streets is like being in a watery living museum filled with richly decorated porticos and swooping rooflines. Lunch in the oldest house in the village, then transfer back to Hangzhou and enjoy some downtime near West Lake.

Fly to Sichuan

Transfer to the airport for your flight to remote Jiuzhaigou (connecting through Chengdu) in northern Sichuan province. Take a deep breath — the airport is at over 11,000 feet. Drive on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau through gorgeous Min Mountains landscapes and the famed Nine Turns to Zhangzha, the gateway town for Jiuzhaigou National Park. Stretch your legs while exploring this Tibetan/Qiang village. Your hotel is near a rushing stream by the park entrance.

Revel in Jiuzhaigou National Park

Enjoy today exploring picturesque Jiuzhaigou National Park. The region suffered a 2017 earthquake but Jiuzhaigou is open and stunning — prepare to be awestruck. Your first stop, Mirror Lake, lies at the mouth of Ri Tse Valley. Its flat surface reflects every single object — and explains a local saying: "Birds fly in water while fish swim in the sky." Farther down the valley is Pearl Shoal Waterfall and, just beyond, the enchanting Five Colored Pond, whose water is multihued by leaves and wood beneath its surface, and trees and mountains above.

Take a Ranger-Guided Tour of Zharu Valley

Join park staff on an ecotour of Zharu Valley, a newly opened, limited-access area within Jiuzhaigou. Zharu Valley is ideal for hiking, camping, and observing flora and fauna — and touring it with rangers is a unique experience. Begin with a tour of a Tibetan home in Rexi Village, then walk up-valley to the ruins of Guo Da, an abandoned traditional Tibetan village made of wood and clay. After lunch, continue up-canyon past a Bonpo Buddhist temple surrounded by tens of thousands of prayer flags, then on to camp at Dere.

Pass a Quiet Last Day in Jiuzhaigou

This leisurely morning, go bird watching or walk up-canyon to the big meadow of Ranwalongong. Either way, slow down and soak up the stillness and peace in this virtually unvisited — only 200 guests per year — part of Jiuzhaigou. After lunch, depart camp and leave the isolation of Zharu Valley. Bus down to your hotel again and enjoy the free afternoon to take a shower, roam and shop in the interesting Tibetan/Qiang gateway town of Zhangzha, spend more time with park visitor center exhibits, or just rest and relax.

Explore UNESCO Wonders

Bus over a 13,123-foot pass and drop into the watershed that holds Huanglong National Park, with its world-famous travertine landscape. This mountain valley is noted for its two-mile sequence of yellow calcareous deposits. Its unique karst landscape — unlike anything in Yosemite — is accentuated by colored ponds and lakes, and travertine waterfalls and caves. After lunch, hike a steady uphill to the source of the calcareous flow and visit the Huanglong Temple before walking or taking the cable car back down. Bus over the pass and overnight in a Tibetan/Qiang village.

Meet Chengdu’s Pandas

Fly to Chengdu and transfer to the countryside of Dujiangyan, where you meet with the irresistible residents of the Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. This new panda base, in the Stone Bridge Village, includes in its panda community a bear that used to live in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Be sure you saved some storage space on your camera to capture these rare and photogenic creatures! Return to Chengdu in the afternoon and a farewell dinner with the group at a local Sichuan restaurant.

Depart Chengdu

In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home to the US via Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, or Tokyo. If you'd rather explore more of China, including the Xian and Beijing areas, ask MT Sobek about our extension packages.

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Starting From


Book Now



12 Days


Hangzhou, China


Chengdu, China

Group Size


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