The total solar eclipse of 22nd of July 2009 will be the longest eclipse of the 21st Century, being up to 6 minutes 38 seconds at the point of maximum eclipse. Bearing in mind factors such as cost, weather, access, etc, we recommend viewing the eclipse from the island of Putuoshan to the south of Shanghai.
Whereas the path of totality crosses India, China and some Japanese islands (to the south of Japan itself), the best place to view the eclipse will be from the Japanese islands. However the limited space there and high cost of reaching those islands, makes the mainland of china the next best thing - and the most popular destination in terms of numbers of eclipse chasers on 22 July. The eclipse in India does not have good weather prospects, or indeed in western China - the best prospects are closest to the sea/coast of China, if viewing from southern Japan islands is not an optino, due to cost.
However, the weather conditions for viewing totality are still not ideal in many parts of China, due to the expected monsoon's and general poor air quality in China's big cities. Even near the coast and outside cities like Shanghai, the conditions are only slightly better. Many tour groups, eclipse chasers and astronomers will look to view the eclipse from just north of Hangzhou, for example near Qiantang, as this offers some of the best chances for clear visibility and also the longest duration of eclipse totality. However, perhaps a better location than this will be the island of Putuosham, which lies to the east - and is an oasis of green and quiet from the hustle of the big cities. Although not on the centreline, it is close enough to experience over 5 minutes of totality on 22 July. It lies on the eastern edge of Hangzhou Bay, about 150 km east of Hangzhou and about the same distance from Shanghai - far enough away to avoid the "smog". A national park, there is an entrance fee to get onto the island, about Y110, but once on the island, there is a host of interesting sites to visit, beaches and countryside to explore on foot. Ferry's go from both Shanghai and Ningbo to Putuoshan on a regular basis.
Viewing totality at about 9:40am local time, Putuoshan island should provide one of the best spots for this natural event. There are a limited number of hotel and guest house accommodations on the island, booking in advance is essential however, to secure rooms during the days around 22nd. Read more about Putuoshan here.
After the eclipse, head to Hangzhou and stay a few nights at one of the hotels on West Lake. The West Lake is reputed to be one of the most beautiful lakes in China. Hangzhou itself has a history going back to 221BC, with some attractive parks and buildings. It is one of the country's best known tourist attractions. After leaving Hangzhou, a visit to Suzhou should be made - just outside Shanghai - and the place which is known as one of the major silk producing areas of China. Suzhou has been at the centre of Chinese Silk production for 2,500 years. Sushou also has some wonderful gardens worth visiting.
After Suzhou, time to head back to Shanghai travelling there by train. A visit to the Bund amongst other Shanghai highlights should be made, before flying home, via the MagLev ultra-fast transportation system from the city to the airport.