SEMI INDEPENDENT: Take in the best of China on this Essentials tour which starts and ends in Hong Kong! Admire the skyline of the city from Victoria Peak and contrast this with the lush scenery and karst peaks of Yangshuo. Enjoy bamboo rafting on the Yulong River, learn Mandarin as you travel and see giant pandas in Chengdu. Visit the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, join an optional Kung Fu masterclass in Shaolin, hike along an unrestored section of the Great Wall and explore sprawling Beijing and Shanghai independently.
Welcome to Hong Kong!
Upon your arrival in vibrant Hong Kong, make your own way to the hostel. You can take the opportunity to independently explore the surroundings today, gearing up to meet our fellow travellers and Adventure Leader bright and early tomorrow!
Overnight: Hong Kong
Hong Kong - Yangshuo. This morning we meet the group and tour leader who takes us to Victoria Peak where we admire the incredible panoramic views of the city below and have our pre-departure meeting.
Returning to the hostel to collect our bags we then make our way to Hong Kong West Kowloon Station where we board a bullet train to Guilin in mainland China (changing in Shenzhen). Arriving in Guilin we board a private bus to Yangshuo where we check-in to our hostel. The rest of the evening is at leisure to explore the town and try some of the local delicacies including beer fish, a must try.
Yangshuo is a picturesque town, surrounded by dramatic karst mountains and known for its outdoor adventure opportunities. Day 3 is at leisure, with three available optional activities including a Chinese cooking class, kayaking along the Li River or a Chinese therapy experience, where you can enjoy traditional hot cupping.
Day 4 sees us heading out to enjoy some included activities. We start the day with a bike ride before transferring to bamboo rafts to cruise down the Yulong River. You can either enjoy the rest of the day at leisure exploring the city or take part in a couple of optional activities which are a trip to Moon hill and cave complex featuring mud baths and hot springs and an evening Karaoke trip or night out.
Day 5 is free to continue exploring independently. However, there are a couple of optional activities that you could join. These include a highly recommended rock climbing trip and a visit to a local village to experience what life is like there.
Yangshuo - Chengdu. This morning we leave beautiful Yangshuo and our tour leader behind and board the train to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province and home to the largest and best-known Panda breeding and research centre. After approximately 7 hours we arrive in Chengdu and are met by our local tour guide and make our way to our hostel for an evening at leisure.
On day 7 we take a short drive out of town to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, to visit China's animal emblem. We spend time exploring the grounds and watching the pandas munch on bamboo. We can also see other endangered animals including red pandas, golden monkeys and more. We visit the panda nursery and get close to the new born or infant pandas. In the afternoon we learn some useful Mandarin phrases in a brief lesson with our tour leader. The rest of the evening is free to relax. For those looking for an authentic experience, there is the optional trip to a traditional Sichuan Opera & Culture show.
Day 8 is at leisure to explore Chengdu, and perhaps wander down Jinli street or explore the Tibetan districts. There is also the optional activity which takes us to Leshan to see the worlds largest stone Buddha. Returning to Chengdu the rest of the day is either at leisure or you can take part in an optional trip for a hot pot dinner, a must try in Chengdu.
Chengdu - Xi’an. If you’re keen to have a lie in, you can start your morning lazily under your own steam. However, if you want to get out and about in the local community, pay a visit to a local rehabilitation center, which works specifically with children with autism.
In the early afternoon, get a final look at Chengdu with a visit to Jinli & Chengdu People’s Park. There are many scenic spots in this park, including the Gold Water Stream, the Goldfish Island and the Potted Landscape Garden. Besides appreciating the charming landscape, tourists can sail on the artificial lake, drink tea in the teahouse by the lake and watch all kinds of exhibitions and performances on the Rockery Square.
This evening, it’s time to transfer to Xi’an! You’ll arrive in Xi’an tonight – the next stop on your China backpacking tour! Meet your new Adventure Leader upon arrival, and head to your hostel for some well-earned rest.
Today, day 10, we spend our morning as we see fit. If you’d like some suggestions, ask your Adventure Leader! You might want to explore nearby museums, temples, or indulge in a spot of retail therapy. This afternoon, you have the option to bike ride on the city walls, which date back to the Ming Dynasty. Later, you can explore the Bell-Drum Towers and the Muslim Quarter to learn about the history of the Silk Road. Make sure to enjoy some local street food while you’re there!
The morning of day 11, we are paying a visit to one of the most unmissable sights in China – the Terracotta Warriors! The Terracotta Army in Xian is a large collection of life-size terracotta sculptures in battle formations, reproducing the mega imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210BC), the first emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Terracotta Army is a must-see for every visitor to Xian. In the evening, you can enjoy the music and light fountain show that takes place on the North Square of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, in the Qujiang District.
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. We finish our day with another Mandarin lesson from our trip leader.
If you’re a keen riser, you might want to join us on a trip to the world-famous Shaolin Temple – the birthplace of kung-fu. From there, we can take a hike up to the Dharma Cave, a spiritual spot for Buddhist pilgrims. Our climb will be rewarded with beautiful views of the local shrines and temples, and incredible vistas across the region. Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of martial arts, you might opt to head out to the Longmen Grottoes. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features 100,000 carved Buddhas! You’ll then have the option of returning for a late lunch at the guesthouse, before your evening is yours to explore. But use it wisely – there’s an early start ahead!
Shaolin to Beijing
Shaolin - Beijing. Up before dawn, we catch a bullet train to Beijing! Arriving in late morning, our first stop is the awe-inspiring Great Wall. After a lunch break at a local farm, we hike the secluded, unrestored sections of the Wall in the mid-afternoon. Camping on this Wonder of the World, we'll witness a stunning sunset.
Please Note: Due to seasonal weather conditions, the camping experience only takes place between May and September. For all tours departing in this time, wherever possible we aim to include this experience. However, in the event of adverse weather conditions, travellers will stay in a nearby hostel.
Overnight: Great Wall
On day 15 we wake up early to watch the magnificent sunrise across the Great Wall of China. Once we’ve picked our jaws off the floor, we’ll pack up and head back into Beijing, ready to explore this mammoth city. If you’d like, you can join us with a walk through Tiananmen Square, a visit to the Forbidden City, and a look around Jingshan Park. This evening, why not get an entertainment fill with an acrobatics show? These amazing circus-like performances feature young talents recruited from all over China. If you’ve worked up an appetite, now is your chance to make like ancient royalty and try Beijing’s signature dish – Peking duck!
Day 16 is a free day! You’ll have the option to visit the fake good markets for a spot of shopping, as well as the nearby Temple of Heaven. In the afternoon, you can visit the Nanluo district. Nanluo is one of the best-preserved historical areas in Beijing that’s famous for its hutongs and siheyuan courtyards, as well as the bars, cafes and handicraft shops.
Enjoy another free morning and afternoon to pack in the last few of Beijing’s sights, before heading to your next destination. You can visit the 798 art district, the Summer Palace, or any other highlights of Beijing. Be sure to ask your Adventure Leader for recommendations!
In the late afternoon/early evening, we’ll transfer to Beijing station, where we’ll board a night train bound for Hangzhou.
After arriving in Hangzhou this morning, transfer to your hostel for a late breakfast. We hope you slept on the train! Next, we’re off to the famous West Lake, ready to take a stunning boat tour to one of the Lake’s beautiful islands.
Once you’ve checked in this afternoon, you’ve got time for an optional activity if you’d like – or you can take a couple of hours respite! If you’re keen to stay vertical, why not check out China’s National Tea Museum, or the Lingyin Temple?
This evening, it’s an unmissable hike up Jiuyao Mountain to see the stunning sunset from there. Before you head back down to street level for dinner and a free evening to explore. Make sure you check out Hefang Road – the most famous ancient street in town!
This morning, kick your day off with a beautiful hike to the Nine Creeks. On your way, meander through the Misty Woods – a truly magical place. Once you’re back at the hostel, you’ve got time to freshen up and grab some lunch before your check out, ready to travel onwards!
This afternoon, we’re off to our next stop on the China backpacking tour: Shanghai! You’ll arrive in the early evening – just in time to check in and explore the local area!
On day 20, after a lazy-ish morning, we get another Mandarin lesson – this time, with a twist! This extra special class will be held by professional teachers, all the way from the Mandarin Garden Chinese Language School! Later, we have the option to walk to the Yu Gardens, a bustling historical site of a former dignitary’s lavish family quarters. We can also see People’s Square, before heading on to the world’s busiest shopping street, Nanjing Road. Afterwards, we can go for a walk along the Bund, a hub of global architecture. To finish off, head to the top floor of a skyscraper to admire Shanghai’s skyline from a rooftop bar. Enjoy your free evening!
Day 21 is another day to explore this bustling, melting-pot of history, culture, and modernity. If you need any help deciding what to do our adventure leader is more than happy to give you some ideas.
In the morning of day 22 we have the option to stroll through the former French Concession to learn about Shanghai’s international history, visit the Propaganda History Museum, and take in the sights of the ultra-modern Shanghai financial district. We can also visit TianZiFang – a local artisan’s lane that blends the chic and the traditional. For the daredevils, you can head up to the top of Jinmao Tower and brave the Skywalk! Or, you can just go up and take in the stunning panoramic views. In the evening, you’ll take in the bright city lights from the water with a night cruise down the Huangpu River.
Rise and shine! It’s time to head to our new final new destination – Fujian. We grab the bullet train to Longyan, where you’ll bid farewell to your Shanghai Adventure Leader. After around 6 hours on the train, you’ll arrive and transfer deep into the verdant tea-growing hills. On the way, visit a mud roundhouse – these are the traditional homes of the local Hakka peoples.
This evening, you’ll arrive at your guesthouse, ready for a relaxing night in after a long day of travel.
On day 24, after a tasty breakfast at our guesthouse, it’s time for an unmissable experience! We take a walking tour around the Fujian Tulou UNESCO World Heritage Site. We explore the Hakka Minority Roundhouses, picturesque villages, tea fields, traditional tea ceremony and tea tasting. Wel head up the mountain and visit the tea plantations, so take some cash if you’d like to purchase some tea! This evening, there will be a movie night if you want to chill out. But if you’re not tired of it yet – headout for karaoke!
On day 25 we grab ours bike for a tour of the local area, and visit the world’s biggest roundhouse along the way! If you get tired, don’t worry – there’ll be a support vehicle with you if you feel like taking a load off. You’ll end up at a neighbouring local village, where you’ll have some time to explore. This afternoon is yours to relax, and prepare yourself for an early transfer tomorrow morning. One of our top tips today is to get your breakfast ready for tomorrow. Future You will thank you!
The Final Day
This morning, we’ll transfer by minibus back to Zhangzhou Station, ready to transfer by train back to Hong Kong. It’s here that your China backpacking tour comes to the end, and you’ll bid farewell to your fellow travellers.
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.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. Prices shown are per person travelling and the Dorm prices shown are based on mixed dormitory rooms. There is also a Twin / Double Room Upgrade and a Single Room upgrade for solo travellers. Twin / Double room upgrades are based on two people travelling together and are subject to availability.