Get the full experience of modern, rural and cultural China on this sensational small group adventur

Get a taste of China on this cultural and ice-filled adventure. Travel from modern Shanghai to old Beijing, exploring bustling Xi'an on the way with the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors just a couple of highlights on offer. Delve beneath the surface of this massive country, discovering gourmet delights and learning about Chinese lifestyles and traditions. Then embrace the frozen glory of a Chinese winter and head north-east to experience the Harbin International Ice & Snow Festival in all its winter wonder. From Beijing head to the remote north of the country to discover a city shaped by Russian as well as Chinese culture and experience a festival that’ll take your (frozen) breath away.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Shanghai, China
Finish
Beijing, China
Country
China
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer, Festivals and Events
Code
CBSIC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Like everything it does, China’s ancient history is on an epic scale – see it when face-to-face with thousands of Terracotta Warriors (or thousands of local tourists at the Forbidden City!)

  • Exploring the narrow alleyways of Shanghai's nearby water town of Xitang, you can imagine a life long lost to modernity

  • Escape to the countryside, overnight near the Great Wall at a family run guesthouse, and see this iconic structure without the masses

  • Built to accommodate Russian engineers working on the Trans-Siberian Railroad in the 19th century, discover Harbin’s Russian and Jewish heritage on a guided walking tour

  • Experience Harbin’s International Ice and Snow Festival, a vast winter wonderland of the biggest and most elaborate ice sculptures in the world

  • Tour the festival with a local guide during the day and again at night, when the frosty re-creations of famous buildings, monuments and characters are lit up in technicolour

  • Train travel is intrinsic to Chinese life. Bunk up with locals and other travellers on an overnight sleeper train from Beijing to Harbin, and experience a high speed train back the other way

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip travels on overnight hard sleeper trains on sections of the journey. 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. It's the main form of transport for locals, so take the chance to interact.

  • The trip covers a fair amount of ground to enable you to see some of China's biggest cities and main highlights, so be prepared for some long travel days.

  • We pack a lot in, in a short amount of time, so if you have some time to spare we highly recommend extra time in Shanghai and Beijing.

  • Temperatures in northern China in January are extremely cold, especially in Harbin. It can easily get as low as -35° C. As you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors exploring the city and the festival, it’s vital that you pack extremely warm clothes, including a coat, hat, gloves, scarf, boots and thermals.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. 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 only have one full day in Shanghai as part of the trip, we highly recommend arriving a few days earlier to make the most of your time here. Those who arrive early 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, wander the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, barter in markets, stroll through modern Pudong or scope out the city’s buzzing nightlife at a local bar. Check out our range of Urban Adventures for the insider's take on exploring the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Informal Chinese language lesson
Optional Activities
  • Shanghai - Propaganda Museum - CNY20
  • Shanghai - Yuyuan Gardens - CNY40
  • Shanghai - Oriental Pearl Tower Viewing Deck - CNY150
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today join your leader for a walking tour that will take you to historical Shanghai. At the Bund you can get a taste of 1920s Shanghai; its spectacular array of art deco style buildings, formerly belonging to Western banks, line what was once the most important financial street in Asia. Wander the narrow winding lanes (nongtangs) of old Shanghai, where you can get a real glimpse into the locals’ daily life. Explore the European-influenced French Concession, the area of Shanghai once designated for the French, consisting of today's Luwan and Xuhui Districts. Luwan's Huaihai Road is a busy shopping street and is home to both Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang, extremely popular shopping and dining spots for visitors. The area's tree-lined avenues and their many Tudor mansions still retain an air of the 'Paris of the East'. This evening you’ll witness the impressive feats of the famous Shanghai acrobats.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shanghai - Walking tour
  • Shanghai - Acrobat Show
Optional Activities
  • Shanghai - Shanghai Museum - Free
  • Shanghai - Yuyuan Gardens - CNY40
  • Shanghai - Oriental Pearl Tower Viewing Deck - CNY150
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Get a taste of traditional China on a day trip to an ornate water town. Drive approximately 2 hours by private transport out to Xitang, a town full of picturesque architecture and views. Wander through the small streets and across the bridges that criss-cross the town. Chill out by the canals, sip steaming cups of tea at a local teahouse or learn about local history at one of the many museums. Get lost among the maze of peaceful cobblestone streets lined with village buildings – it’s a welcome break from the bustle of modern Shanghai. While here, gliding along the waterways in a gondola is the ideal way to enjoy a real water town experience. Return to Shanghai and then board an overnight hard sleeper train bound to Xi'an (approximately 15 hours).

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 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. An optional upgrade from a hard sleeper to a soft sleeper berth (4 travellers per compartment with a lockable door) may be available for some overnight train journeys on this trip. Please contact us for booking and more details.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xitang - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Xitang - Gondola ride - CNY120
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China. Once the imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites and is a great place to explore. Today you’ll join your leader on a short walking tour to uncover what was once the start of the ancient trading route of the Silk Road. Perhaps visit the Bell & Drum Towers, the former built (according to legend) to restrain the dragons that were causing earthquakes, the latter is (unsurprisingly) full of drums, once used to mark time and warn in emergencies. The city also has a wonderful Muslim Quarter, and you’ll wander the narrow streets of quaint shops, lively markets, groups of white-bearded men in skull caps sipping tea in cafes, and the Great Mosque, one of the most important in China. See the City Walls and Gates, the most complete in China, running over 13 kilometres around the city. Xi’an’s Silk Road history means it has an exciting mixture of cultures, especially found in its food options, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great little dumplings in Chinese restaurants. Perhaps visit the night markets and try many of the tantalising local specialties such as pao mo (lamb broth that you break flat bread into), hand pulled noodles, hot pot and barbecue.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Xi'an - Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
  • Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY25
  • Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you’ll journey out in to the countryside surrounding Xi’an (approximately 2 hours) and visit what is undoubtedly one of the man-made wonders of the world – the Terracotta Warriors. You’ll learn all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered after being buried for 2,000 years by farmers digging a well in 1976. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots (and originally individually painted) were commissioned by the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi as part of his mausoleum after he ascended to the throne in 264 BC. Three main pits are open for you to view, where over 1,000 warriors are displayed – each individually sculpted from clay, each having a different costume, height, and even facial expressions – stand in battle formation. The scale is incredibly impressive. Afterwards you'll enjoy lunch with a local family, before visiting our friends at Xi'an Huiling (meaning 'wise spirit') – a special Intrepid-supported project for young people with intellectual and learning disabilities. Here you'll enjoy a performance of singing and dancing by the students (don't be surprised if you're asked to join in) and have a chance to see their artwork and handicrafts. Return to Xi’an for you final evening in the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Xi'an - Huiling visit
  • Xi'an - Local-style lunch
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today is a big day of travelling so grab some snacks for the journey. Transfer to the railway station and then board the high-speed train (approximately 6 hours) to Beijing. Watch the landscape change from farmland and villages to industrialised cities and urban sprawl. On arrival in Beijing meet your private vehicle to drive out into the countryside to the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall (approximately 2 hours) where you’ll spend the night in a family run village guesthouse.

Dinner is included here - a great chance to sample local produce and delicious home style cooking.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Please note that our guesthouse tonight is relatively basic comparing to the hotels we stay on this trip, though all rooms have private facilities and wifi is available. Despite the basic facilities of the guesthouse, you'll surely enjoy the warm hospitality of our host here
This morning you’ll visit a section of the Great Wall and spend some time exploring, taking photos and learning the history of this mighty site (and sight). An incredible piece of engineering, the wall stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it's still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. You’ll often feel like you have the whole wall to yourself as you take your time strolling along the wall, which snakes through the hills almost endlessly into the distance. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience. You’ll then journey back to Beijing (approximately 2 hours) – your last stop on your journey. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.

Notes: There are many steps and slopes on the way, so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip for this activity.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Great Wall Mutianyu
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will make our way to the centre of the city – Tian'anmen Square (travelling by metro and local bus). Perhaps most famous outside of the country for the 1989 massacre (and the iconic picture of a single man standing up to a tank), this square – supposedly the largest down town square in the world – is the symbolic centre of Chinese power. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum, and with elaborate flag raising and lowering ceremonies at dawn and dusk, it's a place of pilgrimage for the Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation. From here you will enter the enormous Forbidden City. Built more than 500 years ago and off limits to commoners for almost all that time, its a truly amazing place. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City thankfully looks much like it always has. As you explore the great halls and courtyards you’ll be able appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Beijing is vast and overflowing with sights – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is another free day for you to explore Beijing until the evening train to Harbin. This is a combination trip, so your group leader and group composition may change. The group briefing for the 2nd part of the trip is at 2pm. Check with your leader on where it'll take place.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Hard Sleeper Train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The train compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (six to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided (although it’s recommended you bring your own sleeping sheet, as the quality and cleanliness of sheets may not be what you’re used to). Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It’s a good idea to bring a mug and cutlery if you’ll be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train. Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's advisable to carry some of your own. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey begins.
Arrive into Harbin this morning. Make sure you layer on the warm clothes, as Harbin is colder than Beijing and you’ll be outside exploring the city for a lot of the day. Transfer from the train station to the hotel, where you may be able check in early and freshen up if the rooms are ready. Enjoy a walking tour of Harbin, visiting Saint Sophia Cathedral and the busy central street of Zhongyang Dajie. Your guide will provide a history of the city during the tour, including Russia’s influence on Harbin. In the evening visit a local restaurant and try some typical northern Chinese fare, such as braised pork with vermicelli.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Harbin - Walking Tour & Saint Sophia Cathedral
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today explore the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival with your local guide. Winters are very long and very cold in Harbin, and for entertainment a tradition of ice carving developed, said to date back to the Qing dynasty when fishermen would pull ice from the Songhua river to carve into lanterns. This has evolved in to an epic winter festival, with artists and sculptors competing to create the largest, most extravagant and intricately detailed structures. Entire buildings - cities, almost - are reimagined in frozen form. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world. Tour the various exhibitions of sculptures made from snow and ice, which is sourced from the nearby Songhua River. The sculptures are life-size re-creations of famous buildings, structures and characters, created by master sculptors and artists. In 2016 the festival featured an ice Kremlin, enormous seated Buddha and a supersized Chinese fishermen. Observe the sculptures during the day, and engage in other optional activities such as sledding, ice hockey and ice mini golf. Revisit the festival at night, when the ice is lit up with colourful lights, keeping warm with a coffee or hot chocolate from one of the festival stands.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Harbin - International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival
  • Harbin - Snow Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, board a high speed train for the comfortable journey back to Beijing (approx 7-8 hours) across the winter landscapes of China's north. Transfer to your hotel on arrival and enjoy a free evening to explore the city. Perhaps catch an acrobatic performance at the Chaoyang Theatre or wander through busy street markets. Beijing boasts a world-class gastronomic scene. Feast on roast duck in a traditional restaurant, eat dumplings and noodles in a backstreet eatery or enjoy some of the best international dining in China. Ask your leader for local food recommendations and farewell your group tonight with a feast.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This winter wonderland adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities included, so you may depart the hotel at any time.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

Overnight Sleeper Train, Private Bus, Public Bus, High Speed Train, Subway

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights), Guesthouse (1 night), Overnight Sleeper Train (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Informal Chinese language lesson
  • Shanghai - Walking tour
  • Shanghai - Acrobat Show
  • Xitang - Walking tour
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter walking tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Xi'an - Huiling visit
  • Xi'an - Local-style lunch
  • Beijing - Great Wall Mutianyu
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
  • Harbin - Walking Tour & Saint Sophia Cathedral
  • Harbin - International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival
  • Harbin - Snow Park

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip, excluding overnight trains.
2. A scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport is required at time of booking or no later than 30 days before departure in order for us to purchase your train tickets.
3. Temperatures at this time of year in Harbin can be well below freezing. Please ensure you bring appropriate clothing and footwear.
4. Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilets (squat/western) are available in each carriage, but there are no shower facilities.
5. An upgrade to Soft Sleeper class is available on this trip.
6. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
7. As this is a combination trip, your leader and group composition may change in Beijing.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.