Journey from Shanghai to China’s vibrant capital

Capture the spirit of China on this 13-day tour from Shanghai to Beijing. Stroll along the narrow paths of Shanghai’s Nongtang, be entranced by ancient Buddhist art at the Longmen Grottoes, see the incredible Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, get a sense of local life in the Tibetan town of Xiahe and walk on the Great Wall of China. This is a journey abounding with bustling cities, natural beauty, incredible culture and history stretching through the ages.

From 1st January 2017 this trip will change. We have added 1 extra day in Shanghai on Day 2 and replaced the Soft Sleeper overnight train with a flight from Lanzhou to Beijing. To constantly improve our itineraries we take on all feedback from our previous passengers and from our local team.

2017 Itinerary:
1 Shanghai
2 Shanghai
3 Overnight Train
4 Luoyang/Shaolin
5 Xi'an
6 Xi'an
7 Overnight Train
8 Lanzhou/Xiahe
9 Xiahe
10 Lanzhou to Beijing (Flight)
11 Beijing
12 Beijing
13 Depart

Shanghai, China
Beijing, China
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
529kg pp per trip


  • The Longmen Grottoes are the most stunning remnants of Northern Wei and Tang-era Buddhist art in existence, and you'll have plenty of time to explore them with your local guide
  • By taking three sleeper trains, you'll maximise your time in your destinations, get a chance to interact with locals and see some beautiful countryside
  • This trip is a fascinating story book of ancient and 20th-century history. The tale behind the discovery of Xi’an’s famous Terracotta Warriors is almost as amazing as the statues themselves
  • Experience the enchanting ambience and mountain scenery of Xiahe. This Tibetan pilgrimage town is the stuff of legend
  • Perhaps no trip to China is complete without seeing the iconic Great Wall. Take an invigorating hike along the Mutianyu section


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 23 October 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 6 pm on Day 1. 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 – the pulse of new China. Those arriving a day or two early might want to catch a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats or ride the Maglev Train – this mechanical masterpiece can travel upwards of 400km/h.
Embark on a walking tour of historic Shanghai – see the art-deco style buildings of the Bund and meander along the quaint winding lanes of the Nongtang. In the evening, take an overnight train from Shanghai to Luoyang (approximately 16 hours).

Notes: You'll travel on a soft sleeper class train for this trip. These are four berth compartments with a lockable door. Note that compartments are not segregated by gender, so you could be sharing with members of the opposite sex. 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. Food is available on the train, but it's a good idea to stock up on snacks for the trip.
Arrive at Luoyang at around 7 am. Then travel to Shaolin (approximately 3 hours), check into your hotel and freshen up for the day ahead. This afternoon you will visit Shaolin Temple, the legendary birthplace of kung fu. This is a great opportunity to live out your martial arts fantasies, as optional kung fu classes are available. While you're here, you'll also visit the vast and amazing Pagoda Forest.
This morning you'll drive to the Longmen Grottoes (approximately 3 hours). These 2,100 caves, filled with more than 100,000 statues of Buddha dating back as far as the 4th century, are rare examples of exquisite Buddhist rock carving. Learn more about this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site as you explore some of the masterpieces with a local guide. In the afternoon, take a bullet train from Luoyang to Xi'an (approximately 2 hours), arriving in the early evening.
Enjoy a short walking tour of lovely Xi'an. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and is still surrounded by city walls. On your walk you'll see highlights such as the Bell and Drum Towers, the Muslim Quarter, and the City Walls and Gates (entry fees to the latter are not included). Visit Xi'an's most famous site, the Terracotta Warriors. You'll travel by bus (approximately 2 hours) to reach the site. Once there, you will hear all about this incredible archaeological find, which happened when farmers were digging a well in 1976. Until then, the site had been 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 display to the public.
A great optional activity while you're in town is to visit Xi'an Huiling, a special Intrepid-supported project for young people with intellectual and learning disabilities. There you can 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. Another excellent choice is to visit the impressive Tang-era Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. Try a leisurely cycle along the Xi'an city wall – a total distance of 13.74 km. You may also like to see the Great Mosque in Xi'an which features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion. Get ready to leave the big cities and head towards China's Tibetan fringe. Board your overnight train to Lanzhou (approximately 9 hours).
Arrive in Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou, at around 7 am. Travel onwards by private bus to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe (approximately 4 hours), your base for the next two nights. Many Tibetans come here on pilgrimage, and the combination of the many monasteries, saffron-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags and spectacular scenery make this small town feel very much like Tibet. Indeed, in all but name, you are in Tibet; Xiahe is right up on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and the population here is over 45% Tibetan. Visit a Tibetan family and learn about their local way of life, take a small walk up a local trail and take in a view of the town and monastery. Visit the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants.

Notes: Xiahe sits at an altitude of 2,800–2,900 metres above sea level. Some travellers can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.
Enjoy further free time in Xiahe. You may like to venture further afield to the Sangke Grasslands. The village of Sangke is located 14 kilometres from Xiahe, and its gorgeous surrounding hills offer excellent hiking and cycling. Alternatively, you can head to the Ganjia Grasslands (located 34 kilometres from Xiahe) and check out the local monasteries of Trakkar and Bajiao.
Drive back to Lanzhou today (approximately 4 hours). Here you'll board your overnight train to Beijing (approximately 17–21 hours, depending on the train).
Arrive in Beijing at around midday or early afternoon. After settling into your hotel, you'll take short public bus ride to an area known for its hutongs (narrow streets and alleys). Enjoy a guided walking tour of these historic streets. You'll get a unique and fascinating insight into how the locals live. Although Beijing is modernising rapidly (its contemporary culture is a huge source of fascination in itself), there are many pockets in which to discover the nation's ancient roots.
It's time to visit the legendary Great Wall. Take a private bus there (approximately 1.5–2 hours). Spend some time exploring the Mutianyu Section (approximately 3–4 hours) which features guard towers dating back to the Ming dynasty. On your trek (around 5 kilometres long) you'll walk over some steep, remote terrain. Some parts of the wall are unrestored, so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing. A great idea is to bring a picnic lunch with you from Beijing to enjoy during one of the rest breaks.

Notes: You'll need a reasonable level of 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 overall experience are a real highlight for many travellers.

You can either walk or catch a cable car up to the wall. On the way back down, you can walk or take a toboggan. The latter is highly recommended, though it may involve a surcharge. Also, due to the excessive heat in the summer months (Jun-Aug), the Great Wall excursion may be altered to provide a shorter, less strenuous trek. Your leader will advise you of any changes at the group meeting.
Today you'll enter the amazing Forbidden City, former home of China's imperial rulers. Discover its many palaces, gardens and courtyards. You will also explore the historic Tiananmen Square, one of the world's largest downtown squares. Staying an extra few days in Beijing is highly recommended, as there is so much to see and do. A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a glimpse of where art is heading in today's China. Another great option is to hire a bike and see the city as so many locals do (you'll need to organise your own helmet, if you want one, as they're not commonly supplied with rental). Alternatively, the Summer Palace is a simple metro ride away, and this former imperial residence boasts the best-preserved imperial garden in the country.
Your trip comes to an end this morning and you are free to depart at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


9 breakfasts, 2 lunches
Private Bus, Train (bullet), Overnight Train, Public bus, Metro
Hotel (8 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)
Included activities
  • Informal Chinese language lesson
  • Shaolin - Temple & Kung Fu show
  • Luoyang - Longmen Caves
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors & Guide
  • Xiahe - Labrang Monastery
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square


There are currently no departures for this trip.

{{departure_day.departure_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}} {{departure_day.arrival_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}}

Style: {{}}

Boat/Ship: {{departure.vehicle_name}}
On sale Hot deal Departure guaranteed On request
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.base_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.discount_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
Fully booked Bookings closed

Total price per person {{room.room_type | lowercase}}
Includes {{departure.kitty_currency_code}} {{departure.kitty | noFractionCurrency:departure.kitty_currency_symbol}} kitty
Includes {{extra.extras_code}} {{extra.extras_symbol}}{{extra.extras_value}} in local payments Single supplement available from {{product.currency_code}} {{departure.single_supp | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}

Contact us to arrange an alternative departure for you

Book {{departure.places_left}} spaces left! space left!

If you can’t find the dates you’re after here, click on the button below to find options for the next season. Please bear in mind that some of our itineraries can change from year to year, so this trip may differ slightly next season to the information shown on this page.

Next Season Dates

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. Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 4-berth ‘soft-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.
4. 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.
5. 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 Explore China trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 10 reviews in the last year.

Explore China , September 2016

Explore China , July 2016