After pickup from your central Beijing hotel, settle inside your comfortable, air-conditioned minivan with your guide and small group of 12 travelers or fewer. Then, travel to your first stop: the underground Dingling Palace at the Ming Tombs, just outside the city.
As you travel, hear tales of the Ming Tombs from your guide. Composed of the mausoleums of 13 Ming emperors who ruled between the 14th and 17th centuries, the complex incorporates the underground Dingling tomb — the burial place of Emperor Zhu Yijun, sometimes known as the 'Wanli Emperor.' The tomb is the only one in the mausoleums to have been excavated.
On arrival, explore the courtyards and pavilions before descending into the underground halls where Zhu Yijun and his empresses were buried. Admire the marble thrones and now-empty coffins, together with the displayed imperial regalia, including crowns, pottery, and carvings.
Having explored here, enjoy lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Savor creations like Gongbao chicken (spicy chicken stir-fry), Muxu pork (pork, egg, and spinach), and sweet and sour chicken or pork, all served with side dishes like mushroom and vegetables, egg or soy sauce fried rice, and spicy beans.
Then, continue to the Summer Palace, the garden retreat of China’s 19th-century emperors. On route, hear snippets about this exquisite garden oasis, learning how and why it was created.
After 40 minutes on the road, enjoy 90 minutes to two hours to explore the UNESCO-listed garden, whose lawns and pavilions center on vast Kunming Lake. As you stroll along the beautiful pathways, stop to see showpieces such as Longevity Mountain, the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, the Long Corridor, the Hall of Jade Ripples, and the Marble Boat — a stunning lakeside pavilion carved to resemble a boat.
Finally, travel back to your central Beijing hotel, where your trip concludes.