Hemmed in between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans near the narrowest point of the Central American isthmus, the tiny republic of Costa Rica is often pictured as an oasis of political stability in the midst of a turbulent region. This democratic and prosperous nation is also one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, an ecological treasure-trove whose wide range of habitats – ranging from rainforests and beaches to volcanoes and mangrove swamps – support a fascinating variety of wildlife, much of it now protected by an enlightened national conservation system widely regarded as a model of its kind.
Costa Rica is one of the most visited countries in Central America. American tourists have been flooding the company for years and it has become a hot spot for retirees and expats due to its cheap living, great weather, and friendly locals.
Located on the Caribbean coast, this city is popular with young people and backpackers because its great beaches, surf, and party atmosphere. The town is very lively, and you’ll find something going on every night. For those looking for a quieter place, there are many quiet beach hotels around.
Tortuguero, the Costa Rican version of the Amazon Rainforest, dominates the northern coast. This massive area is a series of rivers and canals that criss-cross the jungle. The biggest draw to this area are the large numbers of turtles (hence the name Tortuguero) that come to nest along the shoreline. The best time to see them nesting visit is in April and May, but even if you come in off-season, Tortuguero still offers few places to go hiking, lots of canal cruises, and lots of wildlife to see.
A great day trip from San José, Poas volcano is a dormant volcano with twin calderas filled with sulfur lakes. The lakes are so still that you’ll look at your picture and think you painted the color on. There are some small trails around the area too. Arrive early in the morning or risks the clouds coming in and hiding the view.
Arrive in Beijing, China’s political and cultural hub.
Walk in the footsteps of emperors in the Forbidden City, the former Chinese imperial palace, home of the royal families and ceremonial and political center of Chinese government. Wander through Tiananmen Square, site of several key events in Chinese history – not to mention the world’s largest public plaza. This evening, gather for your welcome dinner.
Walk or take a cable car to the top of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall; then, hop on a toboggan for an exciting ride down the curvy path. After lunch, pause to take photos of the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest.” Proceed to the Temple of Heaven, climbing in a pedicab to thread your way through the winding lanes of a hutong (narrow alleyway) neighborhood. Later, watch the thrilling feats of daring kung fu masters during an evening performance.
Fly to Xian in western China, the start of the ancient Silk Road. Explore the ancient calligraphy of the Stone Tablets Forest, the largest library of engraved slabs in China. Later, climb an ancient gate of the City Walls, one of the few city walls remaining in China. This evening, enjoy dinner that includes a dumpling-making and noodle-throwing demonstration.
Examine the Terra Cotta Warriors, thousands of life-sized ceramic soldiers and horses “guarding” the tomb of China’s first emperor. The ancient burial site was discovered when Chinese peasants dug a well in 1974. Each soldier has a unique face, and there are more than 8,000 of them spread throughout the site. Then, make your very own miniature terra cotta soldier at a local pottery factory. Later today, fly to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province. The city’s traditional daub and wood houses recall Tudor England, while its flourishing markets are stocked with fragrant teas, oranges, herbal medicines and spicy chili peppers.
This morning, visit the Panda Research Center. Afterward, spend a relaxing afternoon at leisure. Later this evening, attend a family-friendly Sichuan Opera, the famous face-changing performance – one of China’s oldest, most treasured art forms.
Early this morning, noted masters give you a lesson in tai chi before you drive to the Dazu Caves and stop to visit a family home nearby. In Chongqing, board your luxury river cruiser for a three-night journey through the scenic Three Gorges.
Spend two adventurous days on the ship and exploring the shore. Meet a local family and pass through the world’s largest dam project. On board, a Children’s Activity Coordinator engages young guests with calligraphy and Mandarin lessons as well as crafts and games.
After an early lunch on board, disembark in Yichang. Later, fly to Shanghai.
Explore Shanghai, starting off for Pudong via the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, which features a visual display of Shanghainese life. Ascend to the top of the World Financial Center, the tallest observatory in China at 1,555 feet. Walk along the Glass Skywalk, looking down from your perspective perched high above the streets of Shanghai. Back on the Puxi side of the river, wander through the streets of Old Town and visit the Yu Garden, adorned with pavilions and punctuated by streams and pools. Tonight, join your newly made friends for a farewell dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.