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Watch the sunrise over the Great Wall of China
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Essential China Adventure - 18 Days map

SEMI INDEPENDENT TOUR: From Shanghai discover the karst landscape of Yangshuo, visit the world’s main Panda Breeding centre in Chengdu, encounter an army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, learn the art of Kung Fu from the masters of Shaolin Temple, sleep along the Great Wall to witness incredible sunrise, and climb Jiuyao Mountain. This is China at its very best.

Prices & Dates

Trip Highlights

Yangshuo – cruise down the Yulong River in Chinese bamboo rafts
Xi’an – walk among the famous UNESCO listed Terracotta warriors made to protect the emperor in the afterlife
Beijing – roam the streets of China’s fascinating capital independently. Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Silk Alley markets, Hutong area of Beijing, Chinese Acrobatic Show
Hangzhou – enjoy scenic boat trip on the West Lake
KTV – sing your heart out in some of China’s beloved KTV rooms (optional)
Nine Creeks – hike to the spectacular waterscape in Misty Forest
Chengdu – get up close to China’s national icon at the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Centre, one of the best places in the world to see the Giant Panda
Shanghai – explore China’s biggest city independently
Great Wall of China – hike to unrestored sections of the wall, set up camp on a deserted section and watch the sunrise on one of the Wonders of the World
Mandarin Challenge – enjoy free Mandarin lessons with your guides and use your new skills completing challenges around Beijing
Shaolin – learn the art of Kung Fu from masters in Shaolin Temple (optional)


Local guides for scheduled sightseeing in Yungshuo, Chengdu, Xi’an, Beijing, Hangzhoua and Shaolin. Unescorted travel between cities
13 nights dorm hostel accommodation
All relevant transfers and transportation using public transport
Excursion along Yulong river on Chinese style Gondolas
4 overnight sleeper trains (6-berth hard sleeper cabins): Shanghai to Guilin, Chengdu - Xi'an, Shaolin - Beijing, Beijing - Hangzhou
1 night camping along the Great Wall
Free Mandarin lessons with your guides
Entrance to Giant Panda Research and Breeding Centre, and Terracotta Warriors Museum

Not Included

International flights and visa
Optional activities, these must be paid for locally
Tip for your tour guide is not included in the Tip Kitty. We suggest USD$3-5 per day, per traveller for a job well done, however the amount is up to you
Laundry, meals, drinks, items of a personal nature


Day 1

Shanghai to Yangshuo

Huan ying, welcome to China! Meet the trip leader and the rest of the group at the Phoenix Hostel (also known as Laoshan hostel) roof top bar for a quick tour briefing. We then make our way to Shanghai South Station, where our leader leaves us and we board the night train to Guilin (the journey takes approximately 19 hours).
Overnight: Sleeper Train

Days 2-4


This morning we arrive in Guilin and transferred to our hotel in Yangshuo, famous for its crystal-clear rivers, lush vegetation and traditional Chinese architecture. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore Yangshuo or participate in one of the many optional activities on offer. For those looking to discover the natural landscape there is an option to kayak along the Li River past karst peaks and rice paddies or for those looking to relax there are authentic Chinese therapies such as hot cupping on offer.

We begin day 3 cycling from our accommodation to the stunning Yulong river where we cruise down the silky water on Chinese style bamboo rafts taking in the natural landscape of green bamboo forests, roaming buffalo and locals performing every day tasks. Remainder of the afternoon and day 4 is at leisure. Choose to hike to Moon Hill and enjoy a dip in the hot springs and mud baths or try your hand at deep water soloing or rock climbing on one of the many peaks. Time can also be spent watching the local fisherman use their trained cormorants to catch fish or visit your tour leaders home village and learn about life on a rural farm.
Overnight: Yangshuo

Day 5

Yangshuo to Chengdu

Yangshuo - Chengdu. Our final morning in Yangshuo is spent at leisure before we're transferred back to Guilin to board the night train to Chengdu, our home for the next two nights.
Overnight: Sleeper Train

Days 6-7

Chengdu Pandas

Arrive to Chengdu where the highlight of our stay has to be the visit to the famous Giant Panda Research and Breeding Centre on day 6, the world’s main Panda research centre created to offer a natural environment for rearing and breeding one of the most endangered animals on the planet. Visit the panda nursery and get close to the new born or infant pandas and look out for other endangered animals such as white storks and black-necked cranes. Later, we have a brief Mandarin lesson with our tour leader, who teaches us useful phrases to use throughout our tour. We return to our accommodation for an evening at leisure, or for those looking for an authentic Sichuanese experience, tonight there an optional visit to watch a traditional opera performance.

Day 7 is at leisure to further explore Chegdu or participate in one of the optional excursions on offer. Visit the city of Leshan and marvel at the world’s largest stone Buddha or relax with a massage by a blind masseuse. For dinner we recommend trying the famous Sichuan hot pot before testing out Chengdu’s buzzing nightlife scene.
Overnight: Chengdu

Day 8

Chengdu - Xi'an

Chengdu - Xi'an. We have some free time on our final morning in Chengdu with an optional visit to Jinli pedestrian street to admire the Qing Dynasty style buildings and People’s park. We leave our Sichuanese tour leader behind as we board our night train to Xi’an (approx 16 hours).
Overnight: Sleeper Train

Days 9-10

Terracotta Warriors

We arrive in Xi’an where we meet our new local tour leader and transfer to our accommodation using public transport where we have the remainder of the day at leisure. For those looking to explore straight away there is an optional bike ride excursion on the Ming Dynasty City Walls, one of Xian’s most iconic landmarks. Dating back to 1370 the 12m-high walls are some of the few remaining urban fortifications still standing in China today and after extensive restorations the City Walls offer ample opportunities from which to explore Xi'an. In the evening there is the optional visit the Bell-Drum towers and Muslim Quarter to learn about this history of Silk Road, the Great Mosque. For dinner we recommend visiting the local market on Silk Road.

The next morning, we visit the Terracotta Warrior archaeological site. The Terracotta army is Xian’s most popular site and was built by a local craftsman for the emperor Qin Shi Huang to offer protection in the afterlife, during the 3rd century BC. The rest of the day is at leisure and this evening there is an option to volunteer at the Star Sun home in the Muslim district, which cares for children with mental handicaps. Take some time to give back to the local community and donate your time.
Overnight: Xi'an

Day 11

Xi'an to Shaolin

Xi'an - Shaolin. Today we board a bus to the village of Den Feng, the closest village to the Shaolin temple (the journey takes approximately 7 hours). On arrival to Shaolin we make our way to the family run guest house where we’ll rest our heads for the night. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to relax and explore the area, or for those looking for an authentic experience, there is an optional excursion to the Kungfu Children’s home run by one of the Shaolin Temple masters for a Kungfu lesson and show. Dinner is a group affair in the guesthouse (not included) and for dessert we have a brief Mandarin lesson at the guesthouse.
Overnight: Shaolin

Day 12

Shaolin to Beijing

Shaolin - Beijing. We have some free time this morning, or for the early risers there is an optional excursion to visit The Shaolin Temple, the flagship of Kung Fu, where you witness masters displaying near impossible techniques. We then hike to the Dharma Cave, a spiritual place for Buddhist pilgrims located on the Elephant Trunk Mountain, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes and shrines. In the evening we depart for Zhengzhou, where we bid farewell to our tour leader and board our night train to Beijing (approx 10 hours).
Overnight: Night Train

Day 13

The Great Wall

Arrive to Beijing bright and early and meet our new tour leader. We then have some free time to relax in our hostel and our third Mandarin lesson. We then use our newly learned language skills to complete challenges all around Beijing’s ancient streets and alleyways in the Mandarin Challenge. This afternoon we make our way to the Great Wall of China for an unforgettable experience stopping at a local farming village for lunch (at your own expense). We head to a secluded section of the wall where we take time to hike and marvel at this wonder of the world while watching the sun set before pitching our tents for the night along the wall.
Overnight: Great Wall

Days 14-15

Morning at The Great Wall

We wake up early to witness the incredible sun rise over the Great Wall, a memorable experience. Return to Beijing with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure where there an optional visit to the Olympic Bird’s Nest Stadium or enjoy an incredible acrobatics show in the heart of the city. For dinner we recommend one of Beijing’s signature dishes – Peking roast duck. The next day is at leisure to explore the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, or Jingshang park for a bird’s eye view of the three.
Overnight: Beijing

Day 16

Beijing to Hangzhou

Beijing - Hangzhou. Today we have some free time for a final discovery of Beijing's highlights before we board the night train to China's most beautiful city, Hangzhou (14 hours).
Overnight: Sleeper Train

Day 17

West Lake

On arrival to Hangzhou, we board the minibus to our accommodation to get freshened up. We then head to the West Lake (Xi Hu) - the large lake that Hangzhou straddles. We board a scenic boat tour around the lake passing the various islands and causeways, offering wonderful vistas of green trees, hills, flowers, pavilions and pagodas. This afternoon we hike to Jinuyao Mountain where we are rewarded with stunning views of the sunset descending over the West Lake. After returning to the city we have the evening at leisure to explore the Old Town, be sure to walk around the waterfront.
Overnight: Hangzhou

Day 18


Hangzhou - Shanghai. Our China adventure comes to an end on day 18. We spend out final morning heading to the luscious Misty Forest to hike the Nine Creeks trail, considered one of the best waterscapes in China. We return to the hostel to collect our bags and make our way to the train station and hop on our train to Shanghai, where our tour ends. Should you wish to extend your trip with some additional nights in Shanghai let us know and we can arrange this for an additional cost.

Is this holiday for you?

If you’re the kind of traveller that doesn’t mind time spent travelling independently on public transport and sharing a mixed dorm room with other travellers, then this trip will suit you just fine. There’s plenty of free time on this tour so it’s a great option if you like to explore a city at your own leisure.

At a Glance

Hotel Rating
Simple accommodation and Camping
Tour Guide
Local guides, unescorted between cities
None Provided
Minimum Age
15 yrs, accompanied by an adult
Arr. Transfer
Dep. Transfer
Click to play videoThe view across the Huangpu River to the modern cityscape of Pudong in Shanghai
Click to play videoBeautiful mountainous scenery in Yangshuo
Click to play videoCyclists on the old city walls in Xian
Click to play videoGreat Wall Highlight
Click to play videoBeijing cityscape with a view of the sprawling Forbidden City palace complex from above
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