Southern China and Tibet: Itinerary and Highlights

In April, I took a trip of a lifetime to Southern China and Tibet. I will be doing detailed blog posts about the trip in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, this is a short post about our itinerary and highlights of the trip.

The Itinerary

  • Day 1: Guangzhou – City Tour of Guangzhou and travel to Yangshuo
  • Day 2: Yangshuo – Rafting trip down the Li river, visit to local fishing village and an evening watching the Impression Liu San Je show
  • Day 3: Day trip to Long-ji Rice Terraces
  • Day 4: Travel from Guilin to Chengdu
  • Day 5: Fly from Chengdu to Lhasa
  • Day 6: Lhasa: Visit to Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery
  • Day 7: Lhasa: Visit to the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple
  • Day 8: Travel from Lhasa to Gyantse
  • Day 9: Travel from Gyantse to Shigatse
  • Day 10: Travel from Shigatse to Lhasa, then onward flight to Chengdu
  • Day 11: Day Trip to Leshan Buddha
  • Day 12: Visit to the Chengdu Panda Base Research Centre, Wenshu Temple and evening flight out of China


We travelled with The China Travel Company, a UK based travel operator specialising in China*. They put together this tailor-made tour for us and it was thanks to them that we were able to cover so much in such a short space of time.

Trip Highlights

The Chen Family Temple in Guangzhou: The Guangzhou city tour included visits to the Six Banyan Tree Temple, The Memorial Hall of Dr. Sun Yatsen (founder of the Republic of China who was from Guangzhou) and the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family built in the 19th century. The Chen family temple was particularly impressive. It is now run as a folk art museum and contained many impressive works in silk, jade and other materials.


Rafting trip down the Li river: Sailing down the Li River, enjoying the breathtaking scenery of the Karst Mountains around the Xing Ping area. Being in the small 4-person raft, (and not the large river cruise) gave us the chance to soak it all in.

Karst Mountains – Li River Scenery
Karst Mountains – Li River Scenery

Impressions Liu San Je: A performance by over 600 actors, with the Li River and the mountains of Yangshuo as a backdrop. Easily one of the best live performances I have ever seen, anywhere.

Impressions Liu San Je show on the Li River

Long-ji (Dragon’s Backbone) Rice Terraces: Even though it was not the perfect season for visiting the Rice Terraces, the scenery was still breathtaking and it was a great way to find out about rural village life in China.

Longji Rice Terraces

Visiting Tibet: Tibet is on the bucket list for many people and with good reason. Temples that make you feel like you are in the 14th Century, some of the highest mountains on the planet and its relative inaccessibility only adds to the mystique. The plane journey from Chengdu to Lhasa was an eye opener too, as I have never been on a plane flying so close to mountains peaks.

On the way to Lhasa – mountain peaks breaking through the cloud barrier

The Tibetan Plateau

Potala Palace: One of the architectural highlights of China, the Potala Palace needs no introduction. It was as remarkable in real life as it is in photos.

Potala Palace

Jokhang Temple and Bakhor Square: The Jokhang Temple is the most sacred temple in all of Tibet. When you visit you can see the veneration with which all Tibetans hold this temple.

Jokhang Temple

Colourful shops around Bakhor Square

The Sand Mandalas and the Debating Monks at Sera Monastery: The Sand Mandalas at Sera Monastery were a sight to behold. The patterns and colours were so intricate you would think it was a work of embroidery rather than sand. I couldn’t imagine the many hours of work that must have gone into each of these. 

Sand Mandala at Sera Monastery

Debating Monks at Sera Monastery

Journey from Lhasa to Gyantse: Travelling through the Kambala Pass (at 4,780 meters) passing the ice blue Yamdrok lake, witnessing some of the best scenery Tibet has to offer.

Yamdarok Lake

Giant Buddha at Leshan: At 71m tall, Leshan Buddha is the largest Buddha statue in the World. It’s carved on to the side of the mountain at Leshan, and you can only look in awe as the boat takes you past this architectural marvel. 

Leshan Giant Buddha

Vegetarian Hot Pot: The Vegetarian restaurant at Wenshu Temple in Chengdu served up some of the best meat-alternative food I have tasted anywhere, and coupled with their Hot Pot buffet, was easily the best food on our entire trip.

Vegetarian Hotpot

Visiting Pandas: No trip to Chengdu is complete without visiting the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre. The time spent here was well worth it, even though most of the Pandas were asleep!

Giant (and cute) Pandas

In the coming weeks, I will be doing a series of posts, giving a day-by-day account of our trip. If there is anything you want to know specifically about our trip, please leave a comment below and let me know, and I will try to answer in one of my posts.

*I have no affiliation with The China Travel Company, I just think they are very good. This was our second trip to China with them, having travelled to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai in 2017. They are a small, family run independent company based in UK and put together a great tailor made itinerary for us. They were really helpful, answering all my questions from the serious to the banal.  They also provided a fantastic guide book which covered everything from where to eat to how to take trains in China and everything else in between.  


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