Meet your private guide in the lobby of your Chengdu hotel at 8am. It's about a 2-hour drive through the countryside to Leshan.
Here you'll stroll through landscaped grounds to the top of the 233-foot (71-meter) statue, and descend the steep staircase to his feet at the water's edge.
The Leshan Grand Buddha (or Giant Buddha) was built in the eighth century thanks to the inspiration of a monk named Haitong. He believed that Buddha's presence would calm the waters below, where the Min, Dadu, and Qingyi rivers meet, and enable ships to make their journeys safely. Amazingly, once the structure was completed, the waters did calm down. Some say this was due to the Buddha; others attribute it to the large amount of rock removed in order to carve the sculpture.
After you've admired the Buddha's truly enormous toes, your guide will lead you back to the top of the statue to visit two of the many temples in this sacred area. Lingyun Temple stands overlooking his head, and dates back even further than the Buddha, although the buildings you see today are around 300 years old.
Next, visit the Wuyou Temple, which sits on its own island atop a hill. The Hall of Arhats is home to hundreds of lifelike carvings of arhats – Buddhists who have achieved nirvana and progressed to the level of a saint.
Should you wish to get another angle on the Buddha, your guide can arrange a short river cruise from the opposite bank (own expense). Choose whether to enjoy lunch before or after your visit to the Grand Buddha.
You'll leave Leshan around 2pm, returning to your hotel at 4pm.
Hotel pickups commence prior to this time