SEMI INDEPENDENT: Take in the buzzling metropolis from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, enjoy free time in Yangshuo soaking up the spectacular landscape, visit Chengdu’s Giant Pandas and walk along the Terracotta Warrior army in Xi’an before heading North to Shaolin to learn the art of Kung Fu. Top off this classic journey with a night along the Great Wall and exploring the country’s historic capital.
Hong Kong to Yangshuo
Hong Kong – Yanghsuo. Welcome to China. Arrive into Hong Kong International Airport and independently travel by public transport into the Yess Inn @ Tau Ma Tei Hostel where you will be met by your tour leader and the rest of the group. We then travel to Victoria Peak for spectacular views of the cityscape and harbour. Return to collect our bags at the hostel before independently boarding our first bullet train to Guilin (3 hours), where meet our new tour leader and transfer to our hostel in Yangshuo for an evening at leisure.
Yangshuo, set on the banks of the Li River, home to karst limestone peaks and emerald waters, is ours to explore for the next few days. On arrival we are met by our new trip leader and make our way to the hostel for an afternoon to explore Yangshuo at leisure or perhaps partake in some of the optional activities; kayak down the Li River or for those looking to unwind there is the option to enjoy some traditional Chinese therapies, such as hot cupping. This evening wander down West Street and try some local delicacies.
On day 3 we begin exploring this stunning landscape with a bike tour passing spectacular scenes of rural life; farmers tending rice paddies, village people washing their clothes in the river and fisherman meandering downstream on their bamboo rafts. We reach the Yulong river, a tributary of the Li River where we have the opportunity to glide down the silky water on our very own traditional bamboo rafts, passing ancient bridges and villages on the river, the perfect photo opportunity. The rest of the afternoon and next day are at leisure to relax; try your hand at cooking some traditional Chinese cuisine, travel to the famous Moon Hill and caves for a dip in the mud baths and hot springs, enjoy deep water soloing or rock climbing on the limestone peaks, or visit your leaders home village for a truly authentic experience showcasing rural life in China. Whatever you decide to do, you will not be disappointed.
Yangshuo to Chengdu
Yangshuo – Chengdu. We have the morning at leisure before we board the bus to Guilin where we bid farewell to our leader and board an afternoon train to Chengdu (7 hours).
Overnight: Sleeper Train
Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province and home to the world-famous Giant Panda Research & Breeding Centre, which was created to protect and breed this once endangered animal, imitating the panda’s natural habitat so that they might have the best possible environment for breeding and rearing. We arrive just in time to witness breakfast time and have the chance to wander through the grounds. Be sure to visit the nursery to see the new born pandas and look out for the other endangered animals housed here such as the red panda, black-necked cranes and much more. This afternoon our leader gives us a basic Mandarin lesson, before arriving back to the hostel for an evening at leisure. For those looking for some evening entertainment, there is an optional traditional Sichuan Opera on offer.
Day 7 is at leisure to meander around Chengdu or participate in some of the optional activities on offer. Visit Leshan and marvel at the world’s largest stone Buddha, which took over 90 years to carve, or give the famous Sichuan hot pot a taste. This evening sample the city’s buzzing nightlife scene!
Chengdu to Xi'an
Chengdu – Xi’an. We spend one final morning in Chengdu to visit any last-minute sites we have missed. Visit Wenshu monastery, the Sichuan Province museum or visit a traditional Chinese teahouse before saying goodbye to our Sichuanese leader and board the an afternoon bullet train to Xi'an.
Overnight: Sleeper Train
Ancient Xi'an & Terracotta Warriors
On arrival to Xi’an we are greeted by our new leader and board the bus to our hostel where we have the chance to check-in and freshen up or perhaps participate in some of the optional excursions available. Cycle along the Ming Dynasty ancient wall that divides the city, explore the Bell-drum towers, wander through the Muslim quarter to see unique Chinese mosques and learn about the history of the Silk Road. For dinner we recommend the local street food in the Muslim quarter, the lamb skewers are a must!
On the morning of day 10, we visit the jewel of Xi’an – The Terracotta Warriors. The army was made to guard Emperor Qin Shihuang in the afterlife after he unified China for this first time in history. Take time to walk through this impressive army and museum which has been built on top of the emperor’s underground palace and burial site. This evening there is the option to give back to the community with a visit to the Star Sun Home, a local charity in the heart of the Muslim district, which provides care and education to children with mental illness.
Xi'an to Shaolin
Xi’an – Shaolin. Today we leave Xi’an behind and board the bus to Shaolin (approx. 7 hours). On arrival we make our way to our family run guest house, located a stone’s throw away from the Shaolin temple. This afternoon there is an optional Kung Fu lesson and show at a local children’s home run by a master from the Shaolin Temple and finish our day with another Mandarin lesson from our trip leader.
Shaolin to Beijing
Shaolin – Beijing. Rise and shine early this morning for an optional visit to The Shaolin Temple, the flagship of Kung Fu, to admire the masters practicing physically impossible moves in the courtyard. Then, hike to Dharma cave, located on Elephant Trunk Mountain, and be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding shrines and landscapes. Return to the guesthouse for a late lunch (at your own expense) before we check out and board our night train to Beijing (approx. 10 hours).
Overnight: Sleeper Train
The Great Wall
Arrive into Beijing this morning, where we’re greeted by our new leader and take a bus to the Great Wall stopping at a local farming village for lunch (at your own expense). Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes as we will be hiking on un-restored sections of the wall, where we’ll have the place to ourselves, as we watch the sun set on this Wonder of the World and enjoy another Mandarin lesson with our leader.
Please note: Due to cold weather bookings made before the end of April and after the end of September will be staying in a guesthouse near the Wall but will return to the Wall to watch the sun rise.
Overnight: Great Wall
Morning at The Great Wall
We have an early start this morning as we wake up bright and early to witness the sun rise along the Great Wall, a completely unforgettable experience. We then return to Beijing where we have the rest pf the day to enjoy this amazing city. In the afternoon there is an optional excursion to the fake goods market and use your haggling skills to buy souvenirs for your friends and family. In the evening opt to taste Beijing’s signature dish of Peking Roast Duck before witnessing a stunning acrobatics performance.
Today is our final day in the Chinese capital and is ours to explore as we see fit. Take a walk-through Tiananmen Square, visit the Forbidden city, the once imperial palace of 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. For a bird’s eye view of the Forbidden city, Temple of heaven and Tiananmen Square head to Jingshan Park. There is also an optional visit to Nanluo district, one of the best-preserved historical areas in Beijing, famous for its hutongs and siheyan courtyards as well as an array of bars and cafes. After a day of exploring its time to say goodbye to our group and make your way to the airport. Airport transfers and additional nights can be arranged for an additional fee if you’re not quite ready to go home.
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.