Journey through northern China from Beijing to Shanghai

Discover the ancient sights and modern delights of China's north. Journey from Beijing to Shanghai and travel through the ancient city of Xi'an, to the heights of Huangshan, the base of the Great Wall and deep into the Huizhou countryside. Encounter friendly people, bustling markets and amazing historical landmarks as you take in the crazy contrasts and profound experiences that render China such a remarkable country.


Start
Beijing, China
Finish
Shanghai, China
Country
China
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
CBRF
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Overnight at the Great Wall at a family run Guesthouse, and see this iconic structure without the crowds

  • With journeys on two sleeper trains, you'll maximise your time in your destinations, get a chance to interact with locals, and see some beautiful countryside

  • Like everything it does, China’s ancient history is on an epic scale – see it when face-to-face with thousands of Terracotta Warriors with a local guide

  • Discover the mountain heights of China in Huangshan, where the stunning rock pinnacles of the Yellow Mountain peek through atmospheric mists

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.

  • Travel like the locals in a variety of different ways – local transport including overnight trains, public buses and the metro, as well as private buses.

  • This trip includes a mixture of free time and included activities, giving you choice and flexibility to pursue your own interests in China.

  • This trip includes overnight stays at family-run guesthouses and homestays. While facilities may be more basic, the hospitality is always a high level.

  • With walks on different sections of the Great Wall, you'll need a reasonable level of fitness. Walking shoes with good support and grip are essential. 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.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 23 December 2015 to 28 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. 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 that give an insight into the nation's ancient past, as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. 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 maybe head out to explore the Beijing Streets – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises.

Notes: As we will depart for the Great Wall on Day 2 of this trip we highly recommend arriving a few days earlier to make the most of your time here. Those who arrive early could enter the imposing former home of the China’s imperial rulers – the Forbidden City; take a trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour; cycle round the city; visit the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven; explore the of beautiful Tibetan-style monastery of Yonghegong (the Lama Temple) or the Summer Palace outside of the city, or catch a performance by the world renowned Beijing Acrobats.
Accommodation
  • King's Joy Hotel or similar (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City - CNY60
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
  • Beijing - Kungfu Show - CNY180
  • Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
  • Beijing - Summer Palace - CNY40
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you’ll have some free time in the morning to further explore Beijing before taking take a private bus to a lesser-known section of the Great Wall – Gubeikou (approximately 3 hours drive). 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 spend the night in a family run village guesthouse. The facilities are more basic than some of our accommodation on this trip but you can be assured of great local hospitality. Most passengers will choose to eat at the Guesthouse for dinner, it's a great chance to sample local produce and delicious home style cooking.

Notes: We recommend you bring walking poles with you or purchase these in Beijing for our Great Wall walk on Day 3. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip for the walk. There are many steps and slopes on the way so be prepared for a tough climb in sections. The views make it more than worth the while though – this is a real highlight of the trip. Because you will generally stay at two local guesthouses while at the Wall, you see the Great Wall at sunset or sunrise, an experience that should not be missed.
Accommodation
  • Gubeikou Homestay or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you’ll rise early and trek from the Gubeikou section to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. You will walk over some steep, remote terrain for approximately 5 kilometres or 3 hours, depending on fitness. Some parts of the wall are un-restored so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing, while in other parts the trail takes you off the wall to walk alongside it through the countryside. 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 spend tonight in accommodation in Jinshanling.

Notes: If you do not believe you are fit enough for the trek, you can go on the bus with the driver to Jinshanling and still have a chance to walk around this section of the Wall. Please note for CBRF departures during Chinese Winter (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb) we may not stay overnight near the Great Wall as the Guesthouses we use do not have adequate heating for the winter months. During these months, depending on the weather, you might stay in Beijing on these nights to ensure your comfort.
Accommodation
  • Great Wall Jinshanling Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Great Wall - Gubeikou section
  • Great Wall - Jinshanling section
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a long travelling day – you’ll travel back to Beijing by bus (approximately 3 hours), maybe grab some snacks for the journey, and then board an overnight hard sleeper train bound for 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.

Notes: 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.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
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. Head to the hotel to freshen up - in most cases you may not be able to check in early due to availability. The Leader will try to secure one room for early check in, so the group to leave their luggage and freshen up, however this is always subject to availability. Then join your leader on a short walking tour to uncover what was once the start of the ancient trading route of the Silk Road. Visit the Bell and 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
  • Nanfang Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY25
  • Xi'an - Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
  • Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - 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 in 1976 by farmers digging a well, after being buried for 2,000 years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots (originally all 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 6,000 warriors – 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 return to Xi'an train station and board your second overnight train to Shanghai (approximately 16 hours).
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors & Guide
Optional Activities
  • Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai pulses with the beat of new China. Arrive and take the subway to your accommodation. You’ll have a full day to explore here, but don't worry if you don't fit everything in, as you will return here for the end of the trip. 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 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 perhaps get a taste of Shanghai’s eclectic food scene, which draws influence from far beyond China’s walls.
Accommodation
  • Shanghai City Central Youth Hostel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shanghai - Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Shanghai - Propaganda Museum - CNY20
  • Shanghai - Shanghai Museum - Free
  • Shanghai - Yuyuan Gardens - CNY40
  • Shanghai - Urban Planning Exhibition Centre - CNY30
  • Shanghai - Acrobat Show - CNY180
  • Shanghai - Oriental Pearl Tower Viewing Deck - CNY150
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by public bus to Huangshan (approximately 6 hours), otherwise known as Yellow Mountain, where you’ll stay in a local guesthouse for the next two nights. The 72 peaks of Huangshan provide some of China's most stunning scenery, and you have the next two days to explore the mountain however you’d like. The eastern steps are shorter (7.5 kilometre, approximately 3-4 hours), but with less spectacular views. The western steps take longer (15 kilometres) and are more difficult. We recommend taking the cable car up, exploring the trails at the summit and then descending via the western steps. Either way, the dramatic limestone peaks populating this superbly beautiful area make for some breathtaking vistas. After taking in the iconic beauty of Huangshan (which, despite the crowds and unpredictable weather, is a rewarding destination) you’ll return to your guesthouse for a well-earned rest.

Notes: The paths are steep and often slippery, so you will need good fitness and suitable hiking shoes. Please note that Huangshan is subject to dramatic changes in weather. You will need to be prepared for mist, fog, rain and cool temperatures. September & October are considered the best months to visit Huangshan weather wise. In any season you should ensure that you take enough clothing, food and water supplies as well as extra money in case the weather changes and you need to take the cable car instead of hiking. As one of China's premier sights, you should also be prepared for crowds of domestic tourists during public holidays, although at any time of the year there can be long waits for the cable car.
Accommodation
  • Mr Hu's Guesthouse or similar (2 nights)
Included Activities
  • Huangshan - National Park Trek
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Climb aboard public transport to travel through the bamboo and pine forests of Anhui province to the picturesque villages of the Huizhou region (approximately 2 hours). A number of these villages are now World Heritage sights, and were even the backdrop to scenes in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. You will stay overnight in a village guesthouse, giving you plenty of time to wander the maze of cobbled alleys, admire Ming dynasty architecture and ornate stone carvings, or clamber up into the hillsides for panoramic views of the pretty-as-a-picture traditional settlements. You might like to explore more villages on your own by bike or public transport, or just meander through the little market or along the waterways on foot.
Accommodation
  • Linhu Guesthouse or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hongcun - Guided Village Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
A long travel day by public transport (approximately 6 hours) takes you back to the big smoke of Shanghai. Perhaps celebrate the end of your time in China with a night out with the group at a traditional tea ceremony, visit the Bund's hippest bars, or toast to the conclusion of this memorable Chinese journey in one of Shanghai's restaurants.

Notes: If you choose to spend more time in Shanghai 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, 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.
Accommodation
  • Shanghai City Central Youth Hostel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private Bus, Public Bus, Cable Car, Metro, Overnight Sleeper Train, Taxi

Accommodation

Guesthouse (3 nights), Hostel (3 nights), Hotel (3 nights), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)

Included Activities

  • Great Wall - Gubeikou section
  • Great Wall - Jinshanling section
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter Walking Tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors & Guide
  • Shanghai - Walking Tour
  • Huangshan - National Park Trek
  • Hongcun - Guided Village Tour

Dates & availability

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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. 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.
4. 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.
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. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Beijing Office can be reached on Tel: +861064067328.

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.

Reviews

Our North China Getaway trips score an average of 4.81 out of 5 based on 26 reviews in the last year.

North China Getaway, October 2016

John Balogh

North China Getaway, September 2016

Zeynep Ozbek