A Classic Tour Collection by Mark Sukhija

Please mention MarksTravelNotes.com when contacting eclipse tour operators.

[ Main tour ] [ Option A ] [ Option B ] [ Option C ]

A firm known as A Classic Tour Collection have provided me with quite detailed information about their tours to China for the 2009 eclipse. There is a main tour and an additional three options to extend the trip around China.

July 19: SUN- DEPART

Early this morning board Asiana Airlines flight to China. China isn't just a country - it's a different world. It is the world's most populous country, with a continuous culture stretching back nearly 4,000 years. Many of the elements that make up the foundation of the modern world originated in China, including paper, gunpowder, credit banking, the compass and paper money.  Today it is the world's fastest-growing economy and is undergoing what has been described as a second industrial revolution.


Change planes in Seoul for Hangzhou. Meeting assistance on arrival by A Classic Tours Collection representative & transfer to the Hotel. XIHU STATE GUEST HOUSE. Famed for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and its West Lake have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276. Even Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, calling it "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world".  Rest of the afternoon is at leisure. This evening meet your fellow tour members at a dinner reception. D


Full day city tour of Hangzhou including West Lake (with boat ride), Lingyin Temple, Tea Plantation, Former Residence of Hu Xueyan. BL

Note: Sightseeing tour may be cut short if participants want to visit the eclipse site today.


Early morning departure and travel to our eclipse viewing site near Tian Huang Ping Reservoir. Join Prof. Jay Pasachoff for eclipse viewing followed by Lunch.

The 2009 total solar eclipse will be the longest of the 21st century. The eclipse passes over many Chinese cities including our eclipse site Hangzhou- duration 5 minutes & 36 seconds of totality. It is the longest duration total solar eclipse that anyone now alive can witness, the longest in nearly twenty years and not to be exceeded until 2132.

Return back to Hangzhou and time permitting visit Six Harmony Pagoda. Celebrate the eclipse viewing and share your experience/ pictures, views over a gala dinner this evening. BLD


Take the morning flight to Urumqi on a unique air route that geographically covers two of the world’s biggest deserts, many high & dry red rock or snow capped mountains, valleys and canyons. It almost gives one the feeling of flying on Mars. In the afternoon visit the Provincial Museum to view the incredible mummies from over 2,000 years ago. Continue to Red Hill Park, where you will have a bird’s eye view of the city. XINJIANG GRAND HOTEL. BD


Morning excursion, 70 km southwest to one of the eighth major deep valleys and passage ways along the whole Tianshan (Heavenly) Mountain-called Nanshan Grassland, where we visit the minority families of Kazakstanian, Uzbekistanian, Kyrgyzatanian and chat with them in their yurts. Return back to Urumqi and board your flight to Kashgar. KASHGAR CENTRAL ASIA INTERNATIONAL HOTEL. BL


Visit the Karakul Lake, the highest of the Pamir plateau, near the junction of the Pamir Mountains, Tian Shan and Kunlun Shan mountain ranges. Surrounded by mountains which remain snow-covered throughout the year, the three highest peaks visible from the lake are the Muztagh Ata (7546m) Kongur Tagh (7649m) and Kongur Tiube (7530m). The lake is popular among travelers for its unreal scenery and the clarity of its reflection in the water, whose color ranges from a dark green to azure and light blue. Tour the old town visiting Temple & tombs of Fragrant Concubine. The old town setting resembles and reminds one of life thousands of years back and a paramilitary era. BL


The city comes to life as thousands of Uygur farmers and tradesmen from the surrounding countryside converge on Kashgar’s famous Sunday market—a fabulous and colorful yet chaotic scene as eager traders hawk their wares and piles of foodstuffs and goods fill the streets. The market is crowded with a variety of donkey carts and bicycles, and graceful poplar trees provide welcome greenery in the desert atmosphere. The animal market is thrilling: herds of goats and sheep are bargained, Uygur men test-drive horses and camels, and chickens are passed around for inspection of plumpness. Visit Abakh Hoja’s Tomb, Id Kah Mosque, and the surrounding bazaar, a medieval scene of craftsmen making things by hand, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, cobblers, woodworkers and other artisans who supply the local farmers and shepherds with wares of daily life. Fly back to Urumqi in the late evening. YINDU HOTEL BL


Drive to Turpan, an oasis watered by the melting snows of the Tian Shan, the “Heavenly Mountains.” Although located in the Turpan Depression, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth (Marco Polo heard of it as “the demon haunted desert of Lop”), Turpan has abundant crops of melons and produces fine grapes for wines as a result of the sophisticated karez system of irrigation. Visit the Karez Wells, Emin Minaret and the Town Fortress of Jiao He, strategically placed on a mesa between two fertile river valleys and destroyed by the Mongols during a tax revolt by the locals. TUHA PETROLEUM HOTEL. BL


Proceed on a tour of Turpan: visiting the remains of the ancient city of Gaochang, red sandstone hills of the Flaming Mountains, Astana Tombs, Bezeklik Buddhist caves, and Turpan Museum. After dinner at a local restaurant, transfer to the railway station for overnight train to Dunhuang. OVERNIGHT ON THE TRAIN. BD


Arrive Dunhuang, referred in earlier times as 'Sha Zhou' (beautiful desert oasis), was the hub of middle and eastern silk routes. After a morning at leisure visit the site of the Mogao Grottoes, the greatest repository of Chinese Buddhist cave art spanning from the Northern Wei to the Yuan dynasties (4th to 14th centuries). The grottoes document the arrival of Buddhism from India (and its subsequent Sinofication). The early murals are graced with very slim, dark Indian figures, while the later ones show very full, light-skinned figures representing the prosperity of the Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties. See the high yellow sand dunes of Mingsha with an optional camel ride to Crescent Lake. DUNHUANG HOTEL VIP BUILDING. BL


Full day excursion to Yangquan Pass and Museum. The pass is located in Nanhu Village, along the Hexi Corridor 43 miles southwest of Dunhuang City. It is one of the two important western passes. During the Han Dynasty (206BC -24AD) rule, Emperor Wu ordered the pass to be built to consolidate a frontier defense as well as to develop the remote western region. Continue to the Western Thousands Buddhist Caves. There are 16 caverns, over 800 square meters of murals and 34 painted clay statues. Some of the caverns were made during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) and the rest in the Wei Dynasty (386 - 534). About ten of them are open to visitors.  In the evening walk around the lively night market to get a sense of local people’s life. You may also try the local snacks at the night market (B, Lunch at a local farmer’s house)


Travel by air to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. Chengdu has a long history, beginning 2,500 years ago when Kaiming IX, king of ancient Shu (Zhou Dynasty) began setting his capital in Chengdu. It gradually became one of the most important centers of politics, economy and culture in China. During the Western Han Dynasty, brocades were produced in Chengdu which is very popular in China. This evening witness Sichuan Opera followed by local Cuisine dinner. TIBET HOTEL, BD

Aug 01: SAT- CHENGDU/ LHASA – Tibet

Morning visit Panda Breeding Research Center with Volunteer program (you may participate in cleaning the cage, talk with an expert, prepare food and feed the pandas); Giant Pandas are China’s national treasure that are bordering on extinction. Only found only in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, they number less than 1000. The Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center was designed to emulate the Pandas’ natural habitat to provide the best possible environment for rearing and breeding. The Research Center spans an area of 92 acres, 96% of which is lush vegetation. The Center also cares for other rare and endangered wild animals including red pandas, black-necked cranes, white storks and over 20 species of rare animals. Numerous varieties of bamboo, trees, and flowers thrive at the Research Center. The Center has an active program of rescue, research, and breeding. Later fly to Lhasa, the forbidden city, heart & soul of Tibet for centuries, a city of wonders. The majestic Potala Palace dominates the Lhasa skyline & is the residence of the Dalai Lamas. The Lhasa River known as the "merry blue waves," runs through the snow-covered peaks and gullies of the Nyainqentanglha Mountains. Rest of the day is at leisure to adjust to the high altitude. JORDIN HOTEL BD


Full day city tour of Norbulinka, Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery- Norbulinka means `the jeweled garden’ is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. The large complex of many palaces lies within the walled garden that covers 360,000 sq. meters, housing fascinating murals, mandalas & frescoes in excellent condition. Sera Monastery set at the foot of the Wudu Hill comprises of a great sutra chanting hall and a college. Founded by Jamchenchupje in 1419, Sera was famous for its martial arts and monks perfecting the art by practicing for many years. Continue to Drepung Monastery located at the foot of West Valley Mountain, 10 kms away from Lhasa. One of the largest monasteries belonging to Gelupa sect housing a huge collection of rare Buddhist scriptures, cultural relics and gilded statues. BL


Full day city tour of Potala Palace, Johkang Temple and Barkhor Street – begin your sightseeing tour of Potala, the winter palace of the Dalai Lama. Stunningly dominating the skyline of Lhasa atop the crest of Marpo Ri Hill, the seventh-century Potala is considered Lhasa’s most holy destination for a pilgrimage. Winding up the hill, a stone path leads to the 14-story, 1000-room, 23,000 square-foot palace. Each day, thousands of pilgrims give the prayer wheels lining the path a clockwise spin as they make their way up to the entrance. Though a holy place, it is also an administrative and political complex. The most poignant areas are the roof terraces housing the Dalai Lama’s residences. It is replete with ancient artifacts, the sacred statue of Arya Lokeshwara, ornate burial chorten's of the Dalai Lamas, galleries & chapels noted for their murals, the 3 dimensional Mandala & much more. Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. Our final stop is at Barkhor Street, a place full of religious atmosphere and a world of exotic articles. Located in the center of old Lhasa, it is the oldest street in Lhasa as well as the most representative. Being a circular street, Barkhor is where pilgrims either walk or crawl around Jokhang Temple. BL


Tibetan Medicine ranks among one of the oldest, continuously used medical systems in the world. Like the traditional Indian and Chinese systems, Tibetan medicine views health as a question of balance. Medicines are obtained from natural sources such as herbs, minerals and organic products and prepared under controlled conditions. Visit a Tibetan Hospital to learn about traditional medicine and therapy. This evening, enjoy Tibetan Dinner at a local restaurant, followed by the famous Tibetan Opera. BD


Time free until our late afternoon flight to Beijing. Stay at Hotel near airport SINO-SWISS HOTEL. B


Take Hotel shuttle for your international flight or extend your stay in China or Korea.

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Further reading

Chengdu - trip to the Wenshu Temple - Travelogue from our afternoon in the Wenshu Temple in Chengdu

Chengdu - three day stay in Chengdu - Travelogue from Chengdu, including the Wenshu Temple during our 18 day trip to China

Visit to Chongqing - Travelogue from our time in Chongqing during an 18 day trip to China

2008 eclipse in Nunavut, Canada - Information on and about the 2008 total solar eclipse section in Nunavut, Canada

2008 Solar Eclipse Path - Path information for the 2008 total solar eclipse, including an orthographic view

2008 Total Solar Eclipse - the post-mortem - Total Solar Eclipse in 2008 - post-mortem

2008 Total Solar Eclipse travel information - Travel ideas for the Total Solar Eclipse in 2008

Barnaul - Getting to and from Barnaul

Nadym - Getting to and from Nadym

Nizhnevartovsk - Getting to and from Nizhnevartovsk

About Mark Sukhija

Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook