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 and 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.

Shanghai, China
Beijing, China
Explorer, Festivals and Events
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
1 059kg pp per trip


  • 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
  • Visit the famous Terracotta Warriors and learn about this amazing discovery.
  • Train travel is intrinsic to Chinese life. Bunk up with locals and other travellers on a traditional sleeper train.
  • Trek along the magnificent Great Wall of China while you visit a more remote section and enjoy a short hike.


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 30 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai is the vibrant pulse of new China.
Those who arrive early can try some of the following:
Try a Shanghai Urban Adventure.
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. These famous classical gardens were completed in 1577 by Pan Yunduan, a government official of the Ming Dynasty.
Join your leader for a walking tour of historical Shanghai including the Bund with its spectacular array of art deco style buildings, the narrow winding lanes of the Nongtang or the European-influenced French Concession.
The French Concession is 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 also home to both Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang, extremely popular shopping and dining spots for tourists. The area's tree-lined avenues and their many Tudor mansions still retain an air of the 'Paris of the East'.
Catch a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats.
As we only have 1 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.
Enjoy a trip to Xitang, one of Shanghai's nearby water towns by private transport (approx 2 hrs).
Xitang is a welcome escape from the bustle of Shanghai, especially in the evening when the day trippers have left. Wander or boat along the canals criss-crossing the town, chill out by the waterside and sip tea at a teahouse or visit one of the local history museums.
Take a gondola ride along the canals.
Board an overnight hard sleeper train bound for Xi'an (approx 15 hrs).
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). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. 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 are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and there are often snacks available on the train along the way. You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
Your leader will take you on a short walking tour of the city centre, showing you some of the highlights such as the Bell & Drum Towers, Muslim Quarter, the City Walls and Gates.

At the night markets you can try many of the tantalising local specialities such as pao mo (lamb broth that you break flat bread into), hand pulled noodles, hot pot and barbeque.
Visit Xi'an's most famous site - the Terracotta Warriors. Travel by bus for around 2 hours to reach the site. Once there hear all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public.
For lunch you will have the opportunity to visit a local farmer-owned restaurant.
Visit our friends at Xi'an Huiling (meaning 'wise spirit') - a special Intrepid-supported project for young people with intellectual and learning disabilities, where we 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.
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 (approx 6 hours) to Xi'an. Watch the landscape change from industrialised cities and urban sprawl to farmland and villages on the way.
On arrival in Beijing meet our private vehicle to take us out into the countryside to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall where we will spend the night in a family run village guesthouse.

The facilities are basic (expect simple shared showers and squat toilets outside of the rooms) but we can be assured of great local hospitality and a welcome night sleeping out in the fresh countryside air!

Dinner is included here and a great chance to sample local produce and delicious home style cooking.
Today we transfer to the Great Wall for our trek, which depending on fitness, takes around 3 hours.

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.

Some parts of the wall are unrestored so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing and in other parts the trail might take us off the wall to walk alongside it through the countryside. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip for this activity. There are many steps and slopes on the way so be prepared for a tough climb in sections. The views and experience though are a real highlight for all our travellers.

We then travel back to Beijing (approx 3 hours).
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.
Marvel at Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.

Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.

There's so much to see and do in Beijing. Some activities for your free time might be:

A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.

Pick up a bike for the day. You'll need comfortable clothes for cycling. Helmets may not be available for hire - if you wish to have a helmet you'll need to supply your own.

The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
The fantastic "The Legend of Kung Fu" is said to be a must-see production in Beijing for Kung Fu lovers.

Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location.

Today enjoy a free morning to further explore Beijing. For the travellers joining the trip in Beijing there will be a group meeting at 2pm to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.

Board your next overnight sleeper train to Harbin in the early evening. The train compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (six to a compartment).
Arrive into Harbin this morning. Make sure you pack warm clothes, as Harbin is colder than Beijing and you’ll be outside exploring the city. 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.
Today explore the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival with your local guide. 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 2015 the festival featured an ice Kremlin, enormous seated Buddha and a supersized Chinese fishermen. Observe the sculptures during the day, and engage in 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.
In the morning, board a bullet train at Harbin station for the eight-hour journey back to Beijing. 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.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Public bus, Train, Metro
Guesthouse (1 night), Hotel (9 nights), 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 - Local-style lunch
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors & Guide
  • Xi'an - Huiling visit
  • Great Wall - Gubeikou section
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
  • Saint Sophia Cathedral - Harbin
  • Harbin Snow & Ice Festival


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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. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change in Beijing.
4. Temperatures at this time of year in Harbin can be well below freezing. Please ensure you bring warm clothes and appropriate footwear.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 China Highlights & Harbin Ice Festival trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 1 reviews in the last year.

China Highlights & Harbin Ice Festival , January 2016