Highlights of Japan & China16 Days • 7 Cities Highlights of Japan & China
Start in China, where a Great Wall spans 13,000 miles, tai chi is serious exercise, and everyone wants to take your picture. Then switch gears to the bustling urban streets of Tokyo and the zen-like atmosphere of sacred Mount Koya. In Japan, you’ll find ancient traditions and temples, snow-capped mountains, and abnormally polite citizens that rival any Midwestern state. Get ready, because you’re about to experience the unexpected, again and again. And then one more time.
What are the top highlights?
- Stand in awe atop the Great Wall of China
- Meditate with Buddhist monks in the Mount Koya Monastery
- Try freshly made sushi and traditional sake
- Walk across the world’s busiest crosswalk at Shibuya, the Times Square of Tokyo
- Watch performers defy physics at a Chinese acrobatics show
- Test your hand at Chinese calligraphy
Your trip includes
- Round-trip flights & airport transfers
- Multilingual Tour Director & local guides
- Private deluxe motorcoach
- 14 nights in hand-picked accommodations
- Welcome Mixer with appetizers & drinks
- Daily breakfast & three-course Farewell Dinner
- Metro passes in Kyoto and Tokyo
- Entrance to Forbidden City, Hakone National Park & other select attractions
You’ll stay at accommodations hand-picked by our team of local experts, in rooms only for EF Ultimate Break travelers. Each property is located in a safe, convenient area. You’ll receive your exact accommodations 30 days before your trip departs.
Click here for examples of where you'll stay.
Admit it, booking flights is the worst. Here's why you should let us do it for you:
- Flight costs are included in your monthly payment plan, so you can pay over time
- Airport transfers are included, so we’ll be waiting, sign in hand
- Flights are booked with major airlines
- 24/7 support no matter what time zone you’re in
- One checked bag included on most flights
- Option to make changes to your trip up to 99 days before departure
Booking with a friend? Let us know and we’ll do our best to make sure you’re on the same flight. Still want to book your own flights? That’s cool, simply select ‘No flights included’ instead of your departure city in the ‘Flights from’ dropdown.
Day 1: Overnight Flight
Board your overnight flight to China. It’s going to be a long flight, so take some naps, practice your Mandarin, and watch Mulan five or six times.
Day 2: Arrive in Beijing
Welcome to Beijing, China’s capital and perhaps most historically important city. It’s constantly changing—new buildings, new businesses, and new visitors like you. There are a lot of people in Beijing (about 21 million), so prepare for bigger crowds, longer bathroom lines, and more than a few locals showing off their English skills by yelling “hello!” as you walk by.
- Meet an EF representative at the airport.
- Transfer to your accommodations and check in.
- Receive the latest schedule from your Tour Director.
- Meet your fellow travelers as they arrive.
Day 3: Tour Beijing + Welcome Dinner
Today is your day to experience the best of Beijing with a local guide. You’ll get it all—history, culture, and a rickshaw ride. To top it all off, you’ll eat a traditional dinner with a local Chinese family. Get ready to fall in love (with China, not the family…but also the family).
- See Tiananmen Square, the biggest public square in the world and infamous spot of the Tank Man photograph.
- Visit the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace from 1420 to 1912. And until very recently, the grounds were actually forbidden.
- Gawk at the nearly three-story wall and 50-foot-wide moat that surround the complex. It’s like emperors were trying to keep people out or something.
- Visit the Summer Palace, a retreat for emperors of the past, and walk around the Qing-style pavilions, bridges, walkways, and gardens.
- Ride through the hutongs on a rickshaw, an authentic, one-of-a-kind experience like no other. Do you feel special? You should feel special.
In the evening, it’s time for your Welcome Dinner. Experience a culturally immersive meal with a local family. Following dinner, enjoy a drink in a bar nearby. Afterwards, take the party elsewhere.
Day 4: Visit the Great Wall of China
Head to Badaling, where you’ll walk on the iconic Great Wall. The Chinese started building the Wall in the 5th century B.C., as a defense against the Mongols. Today the Wall extends across mountains and valleys for more than 3,000 miles (time to get in those steps!). The belief that you can see the wall from space is actually a myth, but there’s no harm in waving at an astronaut…just in case.
- Take a bus towards Badaling, one of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall of China, built during the Ming Dynasty.
- Stand atop one of the many watchtowers and imagine being a Chinese guard, on the lookout for invaders.
- Participate in a traditional tea ceremony on your way back to Beijing.
- Feel inspired as you drive by some of the 2008 Beijing Olympic sites.
Day 5: Travel to Shanghai
In the morning, enjoy a tour of the Temple of Heaven. Afterwards, jump on a quick flight to Shanghai, China’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city. Shanghai is changing even faster than Beijing. There’s development everywhere you look, and the people are always up on the latest trends, fashions, and technology. Also, locals speak Shanghainese, a dialect so different from other Chinese dialects, hardly anyone outside of Shanghai can understand it. Exclusive much?
- Tour the Temple of Heaven, a huge outdoor park full of historical relics and locals doing their morning exercises (no, you’re not seeing life in slow-motion—that’s just Tai Chi).
- Marvel at the circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the focal point and most visually striking building in the park. Amazingly, this structure is held up only by wooden columns.
- Hop on a flight from Beijing to Shanghai, where you will spend the next few days.
- Ride the elevator to the top of the city's tallest building, the Shanghai World Financial Center.
- Gawk at people on stilts, giant puppets, and colorful costumes at a traditional Chinese acrobatics show.
Day 6: Tour Shanghai
See the city of Shanghai with a local guide. From a giant Buddha to a giant garden, it’s safe to say that today is going to be a big day.
- Go on a walking tour of Shanghai with a local guide.
- Tilt your head up at the carved Buddha made entirely of jade sitting high up in a chair.
- Walk through Yuyuan Garden and admire the trees, flowers, and giant jade rock, originally meant for the imperial palace of Beijing.
- Wander along the Bund, once considered the "Wall Street of the East." Take in the great views of the city as you make your way along the landscaped promenade overlooking the water.
- Get a lesson in the ancient Chinese art of Calligraphy (AKA pretty writing).
- Enjoy an included dinner with your group.
Day 7: Visit Suzhou
Take a day trip to the city of Suzhou. Often referred to as the “Venice of China”, this canal-filled city is well worth the visit. Located just outside Shanghai, Suzhou used to be a center of high culture and elegance. Today it’s home to a number of museums, surviving pagodas and bridges, as well as some of the most beautiful gardens you’ve ever laid eyes on.
- Follow your Tour Director around the city of Suzhou and admire the many ancient structures that are still intact.
- Visit the Suzhou Museum and check out some super-old Chinese art.
- Zen out at the Master of the Nets Garden, considered to be one of the finest gardens in all of China.
Final Dinner in China
Enjoy a dinner with your group, and say goodbye to your Chinese Tour Director. You’ll meet your next Tour Director in Osaka!
Day 8: Travel to Osaka
You’re off to Japan, a country not to be judged by its cover, where you’ll find another world taking part below the surface. Talking toilets. Bowing wars. Cuddle cafes. Your first stop is Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan.
- Fly from Shanghai, across the Sea of Japan, to Osaka.
- Sit back, enjoy the flight, and strongly consider watching the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi (it will get you pumped about sushi, and it’s also just a great movie).
- Head to your accommodation, where your Tour Director will take you on a tour of the surrounding area.
In the evening, it’s time for your Japanese Welcome Mixer. Enjoy appetizers and drinks with fellow travelers at an authentic local spot. Afterwards, take the party elsewhere.
Day 9: Travel to Mount Koya
Get ready to take a tour of Mount Koya with your Tour Director. It’s hauntingly beautiful, religiously important, and primarily known as the headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Mount Koya also has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Great Buddha (probably best not to rub its belly).
- Take a funicular up to Mount Koya.
- Feel the warmth as you see thousands of eternally-lit lanterns hang in Torodo Hall.
- Hunt for the mummified “mermaid” rumored to be at one of the nearby temples.
- Explore the area on foot to feel the magic of this sacred place.
- Spend the night in a traditional Ryokan, (re: Traditional Japanese inn with reed mats, low tables, and sliding doors…not featuring Gwyneth Paltrow).
Day 10: Travel to Kyoto
Your trip continues to Kyoto, the former national capital for more than a thousand years. For you purists, Kyoto is traditional Japan, with the kimonos, tea ceremonies, geishas, and Zen temples to prove it.
- Travel to Kyoto, this is old-world Japan as you imagine in your head.
- Wander through the four geisha districts and spot geisha women running to and from work (which is not prostitution contrary to popular belief).
- Walk two steps, stop, take a picture, and repeat as you walk through the scenic Inari Taisha Shrine.
- Visit the Kiymoizu Temple, dating back to 798 (and you thought things in the U.S. were old).
Day 11: Free Day in Kyoto + Optional Explore Nishiki Market
Learn all about Kyoto's past and present during a free day. There are castles, shrines, temples, and one famous zen garden waiting for you. You can explore a sake museum (with your eyes and your mouth), hit up one of the many fish markets, and maybe even feed a monkey.
- Explore the many bathhouses in Kyoto.
- Learn about sake (and, let’s be real, taste some) at the sake museum.
- Watch a geisha performing at a teahouse.
- Climb up to Iwatayama Monkey Park, where you can feed monkeys and savor incredible views of Kyoto at the same time.
Free Time Suggestions
Made in Japan: Head to the Kyoto Handicraft Center and check out paper, pottery, glass, wood and more at this gallery exhibiting products of more than 100 workshops. The craftsmanship is unreal. The products, on the other hand, are available for purchase.
Kyoto Clubbin': Party like it’s the 6th century (because that’s how old this city is). Let loose at a local bar or club in the city ranked 4th in nightlife for all of Japan. Make sure you’re well rested, because the party doesn’t stop till the early morning.
Explore Nishiki Market(extra cost)
Blink and 400 years goes by like THAT. That’s how long vendors have been wheeling and dealing delicacies to hungry customers in Nishiki Market, and believe us, 400 years is plenty of time to perfect the art of grilling squid or churning sesame ice cream. Take a guided deep dive into local treats and see why chefs call this place Kyoto’s Kitchen.
Why wait? Save money by booking this optional excursion before your trip departs.
Day 12: Travel to Hakone
In the morning, you’ll ride the famed Shinkansen bullet train at speeds of up to 180 mph towards Hakone. Once you arrive, get ready for a double dose of Mt. Fuji. Ride the cable car up to Mt. Komagatake for sweeping views of Mt. Fuji, Ohshima Island, Sagami Bay, and more. Then, cruise around Lake Ashi where you’ll see Mt. Fuji and all its volcanic glory from the water. This will be a great photo op. Genius idea: You can call it…Fuji Film! At night, enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner.
- Take a cable car up, up, up to Mt. Komagatake, 1,327 meters above sea level.
- Cruise around on the waters of Lake Ashi, also known as “lake of reeds.”
- Enjoy views of Mt. Fuji by land, foot, and camera.
- Feast on Kaiseke Ryori, a traditional Japanese meal served in numerous courses.
Day 13: Travel to Tokyo
Next up: Tokyo, where there are vending machines for everything, bright neon lights everywhere, and more Michelin-starred restaurants than the entire rest of the world combined. On your, stop in Kamakura, a small town that’s home to the Great Image of Buddha. This is the second largest statue of its kind, topping out at more than 37 feet tall.
- Stop in Kamakura on your way to Tokyo.
- Look up (way up) at the enormous bronze statue of Buddha.
- Arrive in Tokyo, the most populated metropolitan area in the world, which means at any given time, chances are you’re not alone (cue spooky music).
- Follow your Tour Director on a tour of Asakusa Kannon Temple, a five-story pagoda surrounded by a bustling market area.
Day 14: Enjoy a Free Day in Tokyo + Optional Experiences
Today is your day to do as you wish. And if that includes being on the lookout for the unique Kit Kat flavors Japan is known for—from sweet potato to cinnamon to soy sauce to pancake—so be it.
- Use your time to explore the various districts of Tokyo.
- Hit up some of the same spots that Shoshana did in Girls.
- Keep a lookout for mochi ice cream, delicious little balls of ice cream wrapped in gummy rice. It tastes better than it sounds.
- Eat all the ramen. All of it.
Free Time Suggestions
Time for Tokyo: When it comes to all things Tokyo, the Tokyo National Museum has you covered. Japanese art. Antiques. History. (It’s the oldest museum in the country after all.) This is the place for you.
Park it here: The Shinjuku Gyoen park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks, and is very popular with Japanese families on a day out. It’s also a great day to see the cherry blossoms (when in season).
Tokyo Sushi Experience(extra cost)
Ever wonder how sushi is made? Now is your chance to not only see for yourself but also try it on your own. You’ll start by visiting the famous Tsukiji Market, the world's largest fish market, to learn how the world’s most famous sushi chefs select their fresh marine ingredients from more than 400 types of seafood. After you've finished touring the market with a local guide, you'll apply the knowledge you picked up in a sushi-making class. Learn how to roll and assemble three types of traditional Japanese sushi (Nigiri, Temari, and Maki) from the experts. Once you've become a sushi master, enjoy what you made for lunch and indulge in a guided Sake tasting.
Why wait? Save money by booking this optional excursion before your trip departs.
Robot Cabaret Show & Dinner(extra cost)
Tokyo is known for some whacky stuff. Hence a Robot Cabaret show. But the best part? It’s actually freaking awesome. After dinner, you’ll be all set for the flashing lights, taiko drums, and techno music that await. As you grab a seat sit back and watch glitzy ladies dance with dinosaurs, ninjas, and (of course) robots.
Please note: This excursion must be booked at least 45 days prior to tour departure.
Day 15: Explore Tokyo
As you take a bus tour of the city—with some walking sprinkled in—it might feel like Tokyo is New York City on steroids. Because it is. But this concrete jungle is more than your typical office space and apartment buildings. You can still find relics of ancient Tokyo sprinkled throughout the city, and a pop culture community that’s off the charts. (The giant plushie standing in the street should be a clear giveaway.) And today, you get to explore it all.
- Check out the latest fashion trends as you walk through the Harajuku neighborhood.
- Keep pure thoughts as you enter the Sensoji Temple and Shrine.
- Make a pit stop at the Imperial Palace Plaza.
- Visit the Meiji Shinto Shrine, with its elaborate wooded Inner Garden.
Share some last laughs (and maybe shed a few tears) at an included farewell dinner with the group.
Day 16: Fly Home
Translation: Goodbye, friends. Your next destination awaits—home. Before you head to the airport, enjoy your last few moments together. Take one more group photo. Grab that final drink. (Fine, maybe a couple of drinks.) But this isn’t goodbye. It’s “See you later.” The only question is, where?
EXTEND YOUR TRIP 2 WAYS
1. Double the fun
A lot of our trips line up back to back! Give us a call—we can help you add another and save big while you're at it.
2. Go ahead or stay behind
Extending your trip is easy! During checkout, you'll have the option to fly to (or from) the gateway of your choice for an additional fee. We'll adjust your flights accordingly, but you'll be responsible to take care of your transportation, hotels, and other logistics outside of tour.
Note: Depending on your desired gateways, additional fees may apply.
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