China's long been on our travel list and we finally made it happen in September of 2019.

We typically travel using a DIY approach but for China, we decided to book a tour so that we'd be assured to have a local guide. We booked an 18-day tour with China Tours, which was excellent. They had local guides meet us at each location and our routing was similar to that shown below (but reverse in order as we started in Beijing and ended in Shanghai). It was a trip that found us in constant motion as we covered thousands of miles in planes, high speed trains, vans, taxis, cruise ships, and small boats. China is about the size of the US, so consider visiting New York, Denver, Texas, and Florida, all in one trip.

This post is the first of four: I. Beijing and the Great Wall, II. Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors, III. Tibet, and IV: Chengdu, Yangtze River Cruise and Shanghai. At the end of the last post, I'll list some tips for traveling in China. If you're ever planning to visit, they might be of great interest.

3 days in Beijing

Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Mutianya Section of the Great Wall, and Summer Palace,

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is a large city square and is the site of Mao Zedong's Mausoleum. It's probably best known for the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in which 2600 Chinese expressing their support for a democratic China were killed. Today, it's a relatively quiet gathering area.

Chinese money showcases areas across the country. The 100 yuan bill (about $14) includes Mao's Mausoleum.

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is a huge complex of nested palaces and was occupied by emperors from 1420 to 1912. Bring your walking shoes as it has over 950 buildings and covers 180 acres!

Make a Wish

Need a little help making a dream come true? If you write your wish on a ribbon and hang it on a special rack, it will come true!

Steve making a wish.

Our tour leader, Michael.

The Great Wall

We visited the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about an 1 1/2 hours outside of Beijing. This section is a bit farther away and thus, less busy than sections closer to Beijing. And - it has a cable car up and luge slide down! Very cool!

For reference, the Great Wall is over 13,000 miles long and construction began in the 7th century BC and continued (on and off) until the late 1800s.

Learn More

Our tour group and me having a ball. it was hard to to put the camera down and, as they say, "be present." But I did.

summer palace

Summer Palace is a huge (everything in China seems larger) area of lakes and gardens that date back to the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911). We had spectacular weather!

Next up - The terracotta warriors