Take this South China Getaway and explore Shanghai, Yangshuo and Hong Kong

Enter a world of both natural wonder and big city glamour. Discover friendly people, a passionate food culture, historic sites and deep-seated traditions on this all-encompassing southern China expedition. Meet rural people and city folk, chow down on local delicacies and world-class fare and explore the wealth of history and modern developments of this mighty nation.

From 1st January 2017 this trip will have changes to the order of destinations on days 3-7 in order to reduce the amount of travel time needed on Day 8. Please see 2017 Trip Notes for details.

Shanghai, China
Hong Kong, China
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
539kg pp per trip


  • Stay in a Tulou for a unique overnight experience – these huge earthen structures are like ancient apartment buildings, where generations of the same clan can live together
  • In Longi, hike the beautiful rice terraces that snake through the mountains of Longsheng like giant dragons, and visit hill tribe communities while surrounded by incredible views
  • Enjoy time to sit back and relax in the dramatic karst countryside of Yangshuo – immortalised in countless traditional Chinese paintings – and try the local favourite: beerfish
  • Starting and ending in two of the country's largest and most bustling cities – Shanghai and Hong Kong – you’ll also be able to experience the dazzling future of modern China


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 20 November 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai pulses with the beat of new China. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm this evening. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Settle into your hotel and then get a feel for this vibrant city – Shanghai’s bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace provide a glimpse into the dazzling global future of the country. Your evening is free for your first exploration of the city – perhaps get a taste of Shanghai’s eclectic food scene, which draws influence from far beyond China’s walls.

Notes: As we leave Shanghai in the afternoon of Day 2, we highly recommend arriving a few days early to fully experience this dynamic city.
Today you have free time to explore this bustling city until this afternoon, when you’ll board your first overnight train Shanghai to Guilin (approximately 18-20 hours). You could visit the Propaganda Museum for a fascinating look at China's revolutionary past, get a bird's eye view of the city from the Pearl Tower's observation decks, get a taste of 1920s Shanghai along the Bud, wander the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, barter in markets, stroll through modern Pudong or the explore ancient nongtangs.

Notes: Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people, as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are certainly not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Wherever possible, we will group our travellers together, but this will depend on group size and ticket availability. Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. Some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Safe, hot drinking water is always available. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins). Basic bathroom facilities with toilets and washbasins are situated at the end of each carriage. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's best to bring an emergency supply. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Food is available on the train, but it's a good idea to stock up on snacks for the trip.
This morning your train arrives will arrive into Guilin. Take a public bus from Guilin Station to Yangshuo (approximately 2 hours) and then settle into your hotel. Soak up the charm of this sleepy little town, popular with the Chinese and Westerns alike, who come for the beautiful landscape and stay for the great cafe and bar culture. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local culture and traditions, while having plenty of fun at the same time. The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in many traditional Chinese paintings – picture immense limestone karsts dotting the rural landscape and towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River, all celebrated on every 20 Yuan note.
Today is free day for you to do as you like, and there are lots of activities on offer in the home of some of China’s most epic landscapes. You could begin the day by focusing your body and mind with a morning Tai Chi class or Kung Fu lesson, and then continue the active theme by hiring a bike. Gaining an insight into rural Chinese life on a cycle where each turn in the road brings you to another picture-postcard location. You could climb up to Moon Hill – a limestone pinnacle with a moon-shaped hole penetrating the hill – or simply stroll along the river and be immersed in the natural beauty of the valley. For something a little less energetic you could simply sit back and relax as you enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Li or Yulong River. Later, perhaps watch an outdoor light show staged by 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou.
Today’s another free day to pursue you interests here in Yangshuo. Freedom and flexibility is the idea today, and your friendly local leader will be on hand to give you suggestions and tips. If you’re still feeling active then up in the limestone hills are a number of caves that can be explored; or if you’d rather see the landscape from a different perspective, then kit up in a rock-climbing harness and tackle one of the 300 rock-climbing routes. For a more laid-back day, maybe visit the market to shop with the locals and get a feel for the regional produce. You can then put this new knowledge to use in a cooking class at the Yangshuo Cooking School. Learn to cook Chinese dishes with recipes that are easy to make and ingredients readily available outside of China, so that you’ll soon be wowing friends and family back at home.
Today you’ll depart the picturesque Yangshuo and make your way to the Longji Rice Terrace region of southern China. Be prepared as today is a long travelling day, with 3 public buses to arrive at your destination (approximately 4 hours). This is a great chance to soak up the scenery and even practice chatting with the locals. The Longji region has some of the most extensive rice terraces you'll ever see. These terraces change with the seasons: filled with water from the mountains before planting, becoming green during the growing season and then golden when the rice is ready for harvest. This evening you’ll overnight in the minority village of Dazhai, which is home to the Yao minorities. The Yao still live a traditional lifestyle and preserve their unique customs, one of which is the women’s hair – they can only cut their hair at 16 years old, symbolising their entrance into adulthood. The hair isn’t thrown away, but is kept by the grandmother. When the woman marries, the hair is made into an ornamental headdress and brought to the husband's home as a souvenir.
Today you’ll hike through the Longji Valley and its rice terraces, constructed over 500 years ago (called the Dragon’s Backbone because the rice terraces resemble a dragon's scales, while the mountain summit looks like the backbone of the dragon). Here you’ll visit local hilltibe communities and learn about village life, and how the rice is grown and harvested. Walk through stunning scenery, with its unique terraces for growing rice, alongside bamboo trees and chestnut forests. Despite some challenging hills, much of the hike is spent walking around over the stones, passing waterfalls, cows and locals harvesting rice. After a day spent admiring the endless vistas, you’ll overnight in the picturesque village of Ping'an.

Notes: Expect to carry your own daypack and walk for up to five hours as your next accommodation may be in a different village. The hike can be tough going for some, with many uphill stretches and some very slippery paths. However, more experienced hikers will have no problems and there are many more optional walks available, uncovering great photo opportunities around every corner.
This morning you’ll travel by private bus from Ping'an to Guilin Airport (approximately 3 hours) for you flight to Xiamen. On landing you’ll transfer by private bus from Xiamen Airport to the Tulou Village (approximately 3 hours). This area is home to the Hakka people, who traditionally live in round, walled villages or communal houses (“tulou”) with many families and generations of the same clan living together. Accommodation is very basic in the local style. It can get quite cold at night in some months so please ensure you bring warm clothes. Washing facilities may be limited, with communal toilets outside of the rooms. Tonight you have the option to try some simple local dishes for dinner, and breakfast tomorrow may be quite different from what you are used to, but is certainly authentic. The area has been developed for domestic tourism recently and sees lots of day-trippers, but few people stay overnight, so you’re sure to have a great local experience while here.
Today you’ll take a walk with a local guide around the surrounding villages and between some of the clusters of Tulou houses, as well as a hike to a viewpoint and nearby waterfall. Learn some more about these impressive structures, which are like 500-yar-old apartment blocks, huge earthen structures that resemble coliseums with timbered galleries as high as five stories. The buildings were constructed to protect the inhabitants from animals, warlords and bandits, with five-feet thick walls repelling human and natural threats. The length and distance of the hike will depend on the weather, local conditions and fitness of the group, however most groups will generally spend a few hours exploring. Later, transfer to by private bus to return to Xiamen for the evening (approximately 3 hours).
Today is a free day for you to explore Xiamen. One of the highlights of this coastal city is the island of Gulang Yu, just across the harbour. It’s highly recommended that you jump on a ferry and head over to this island crammed full of historic mansions and villas, which is easily navigable by bike or on foot. The streets are filled with food vendors, handicraft stalls, and lovely cafes and restaurants to sit and relax. The island was declared an international settlement after the First Opium War in the late 19th century, and Europeans, Japanese and wealthy Chinese constructed lavish buildings during Xiamen’s time as an important port. Otherwise, time in the city can be spent in the landscape grounds of Xiamen University campus, surrounded by trendy bars and cafes where you might have a chat with some local students. Perhaps climb up the steps to Nanputuo Temple, one of the most important and active Buddhist sites in the region, which has beautiful views across the city and surrounds. Maybe get an insight into the area’s history at the Overseas Chinese Museum – many ethnic Chinese in Singapore and further afield were originally from the Fujian province. Xiamen has many local specialty dishes, so tonight why not try something like ShaChaMian (noodles with peanut soup) for dinner.
Today you’ll travel by high-speed train to the Chinese border at Shenzhen (approximately 4 hours). The China-Hong Kong border is busy, so there can often be a bit of a wait to get through and a lot of patience is required. On average, it takes around 2 hours to clear immigration and customs on both sides. Your bags will be with you during this time. Then you’ll walk the short distance from the train station to the border, go through procedures to exit China, and then enter Hong Kong. Once all that's done, you’ll travel on the KCR train to central Hong Kong. It was as a British colony that Hong Kong made itself known to the world and, since the 1997 handover, the city is still a unique and fascinating place to explore and see where the East really does meet the West. Hong Kong's cityscape is spectacular and its modern fast-paced life is only minutes from picturesque islands and beaches. The locals are very proud of their Cantonese culture and history, so step out of the shopping malls and off the main streets to discover another side of the city. Maybe spend the final few hours of this China searching out the best yum cha for a final night of sumptuous dining with your group.
There are no activities planned for the today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Notes: As your trip finishes today and you only have limited time in Hong Kong, we highly recommend staying a few extra days to enjoy all this incredible city has to offer: Take a scenic journey around the islands of Hong Kong on the famous passenger ferry service, the Star Ferry; venture up to the top of Victoria Peak for a bird's eye view; watch the harbour's spectacular light show or ride the peak tram to Victoria Peak for incredible views of the Hong Kong skyline.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


Public bus, Metro, Plane, Private Bus, Train
Guesthouse (3 nights), Hostel (1 night), Hotel (6 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Longji - Guided Rice Terraces trek
  • Tulou Village - Guided hike & village tour


There are currently no departures for this trip.

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. A scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport is required at time of booking in order for us to purchase your train tickets.
3. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
4. Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths.
5. The flight from Guilin to Xiamen is included in the trip price.
6. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
It’s important to let your family and friends know that you might not be able to stay in touch over your usual methods, be it – social media or email. Or let them know if you have set up a new email address in which you can access in mainland China.
The Chinese Government control and restrict certain websites. Websites on the blocked list could change at any time, any site could be restricted at any moment. Here are some of the most popular websites around the world that are blocked in China: Google, Dropbox, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, WordPress, LinkedIn,Yahoo Hong Kong, Yahoo Taiwan, Wikipedia and many more.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes


Our South China Getaway trips score an average of 4.69 out of 5 based on 36 reviews in the last year.

South China Getaway , September 2016

South China Getaway , September 2016