A short but sweet adventure from Shanghai to Beijing

Get a taste of historical China on this culture-stuffed adventure. Travel from Shanghai to Beijing, taking in iconic attractions such as the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors along the way. In between the well-known sights, you'll delve beneath the surface, making dumplings with a family who lives near the Great Wall and exploring the quaint canals of Xitang.


Start
Shanghai, China
Finish
Beijing, China
Destination
China
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
CBSD
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • This is our most popular trip in China and one of the top trips from the entire Intrepid range. The trip may be quick, but it is packed full of experiences that will give you a great insight into China in a short time.

  • In addition to the main highlights in the big cities of Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai, you'll get a glimpse of small-town life in Xitang and a taste of the countryside when we stay near the Great Wall. 

  • Our small group size allows us to explore destinations on foot together, eat in authentic local restaurants, travel by subway and train, and escape the tourist traps - all under the expert guidance of a passionatelocal leader.

  • Spend the night in a charming, family-run guesthouse near the Great Wall. Learn how to make dumplings for dinner and see this iconic structure without the masses.

  • Stay overnight in Xitang, a water town just outside of Shanghai. Imagine a way of life lost long ago as you explore the narrow alleys and canals after the daytrippers go home. 

  • Like everything it does, China’s ancient history is on an epic scale. No matter how many guide books you have read, nothing truly prepares you for the grandeur and immensity of sights like the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Terracotta Army (or thousands of local tourists at the Forbidden City).

Is this trip right for you?

  • The overnight train travel included on this trip is in “hard sleeper” class – carriages sectioned off into 3 tier/6 berth compartments. It’s not luxury, but it’s efficient and a great local experience. If you would prefer more comfort, upgrades to “soft sleeper” (2 tier/4 berth compartments with lockable doors) can be requested, subject to availability, through your booking agent. If you would prefer a trip without overnight train travel, check out our Explore China (CBKS – 2019 only), China: Great Wall Hike, Bike & Kung Fu (CBXG – 2019 only) or South China: Hike, Bike & Kayak (CBXA – 2019 only) trips.

  • Be prepared for some long travel days as we need to cover plenty of ground in order to see China's main highlights and include a good variety of experiences. 

  • We pack a lot in over a short amount of time, so we highly recommend extra time in Shanghai and Beijing before or after your trip to experience more of what these great cities have to offer.

  • As a short, city-based trip there isn't a lot of time to experience China's beautiful natural landscapes or get further off the beaten track. If you have more time to explore, consider our Yunnan & Tiger Leaping Gorge (CBSP), North or South China Getaway (CBRF & CBRS), China Experience (CBSE), or Travel the Silk Road (CBSZ) trips.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2019 to 31 December 2019. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

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 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 then get a feel for this vibrant city and its bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace. The 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Join your leader today for a walking tour that'll take you back in time. At the Bund you can get a taste of 1920s Shanghai; its spectacular array of Art Deco buildings line what was once the most important financial street in Asia. Wander the narrow winding lanes (longtangs) of Old Shanghai, where you can get a real glimpse into the locals’ daily life. Explore the European-influenced French Concession and the tree-lined avenues and Tudor mansions of Luwan's Huaihai Road. In the afternoon, leave Shanghai in the rearview mirror and make the two-hour journey to Xitang, a nearby water town. Once a hub for 19th-century businessmen, Xitang turns on the charm in the evening when all the day trippers go home. Take a stroll along lantern-lit canals and ask your leader for advice on which hole-in-the-wall eatery to pick from, enjoying some classic Chinese cuisine while watching the lights reflected on the waters' surface.   
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shanghai - Walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Rise and shine to explore the streets of Xitang. Wander across charming bridges and relax by the canals, sip steaming cups of tea, learn about local history at one of the many museums or simply get lost among the maze of peaceful cobblestone streets – a welcome break from the bustle of modern Shanghai. Return to Shanghai and board an overnight hard sleeper train bound for Xi'an. The journey will take around 15 hours in total, though you'll hopefully be sleeping for most of it. 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.



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.
Special Information
Train compartments are open-plan and clean with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). We will group our travellers together whenever possible, but this will depend on group size and ticket availability. Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided, though 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
Arrive in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China. Once the imperial centre of China for 2000 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 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 of emergencies. The city also has a wonderful Muslim Quarter, and you’ll wander past 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, running over 13 kilometres around the city, then check out your eclectic food options ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great Chinese dumplings. Perhaps visit the night markets and try some of the tantalising local specialties such as pao mo (lamb broth with flat bread), hand-pulled noodles and meat skewers.
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 - Cycling on City Wall - CNY99
  • Xi'an - Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you’ll journey outside of Xi’an (approximately 2 hours) and visit what is undoubtedly one of the man-made wonders of the world – the Terracotta Warriors. Learn all about this incredible archaeological find, which was discovered after being buried for 2000 years. These clay statues depicting soldiers, horses and chariots were commissioned by the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi as part of his mausoleum after he ascended to the throne in 264 BC. See over 1000 warriors, each individually sculpted from clay and with a different costume, height and facial expression. Afterwards you'll enjoy lunch with a local family nearby.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Xi'an - Home-cooked lunch
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today is a big day of travelling so grab some snacks for the journey. Transfer to the railway station  then board the high-speed train  to Beijing (approx. six hours). Watch the landscape change from farmland and villages to industrialised cities and urban sprawl. On arrival in Beijing, board a private vehicle and make the three-hour drive into the countryside, where you’ll spend the night in a family-run guesthouse. This evening your host will show you how to make dumplings for dinner.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Great Wall - Dumpling making
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 hosts here. In winter months (Nov-Feb) accommodation may be in an alternate guesthouse from warmer months, with better heating.
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 6000 kilometres west from Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from invaders from the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it's still one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. Stroll along the top of the wall, which snakes through the hills almost endlessly into the distance, and you may feel like you have it all to yourself. You’ll then journey back to Beijing (approx. 3 hours) – your last stop on your tour. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is frenetic city with ancient pockets. There are plenty of places that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as China's contemporary culture.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Mutianyu Great Wall
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
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. Please note that in winter months (Nov-Feb), we may do a day trip to Great Wall depending on the weather and heating condition at our guesthouses.
Make your way to the centre of the city. Tiananmen Square – supposedly the largest downtown square in the world – is the symbolic centre of Chinese power. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace, Mao's Mausoleum and the Great Hall of the People, it's a place of pilgrimage for the Chinese tourists who consider it to be the heart of their nation. It's from here that you'll enter the enormous Forbidden City, which was built more than 500 yeras ago and has been off limits to commoners for almost all that time. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City looks much like it always has. Explore the halls and courtyards and you'll appreciate the might and grandeuf of the Imperial Chinese court during the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to explore on your own. Maybe check out the Temple of Heaven before getting together with your fellow travellers for a farewell dinner. There's no better way to celebrate the end of your journey than with a crispy Peking duck unless, of course, you don't eat duck.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time after check out. There's so much to see and do in Beijing so we highly recommend staying an extra few days. Perhaps take a trip to the 798 Art District, cycle round the city with Beijing Urban Adventures or explore the beautiful, Tibetan-style monastery of Yonghegong (the Lama Temple).
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
  • Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

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

Accommodation

Hotel (6 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night), Guesthouse (1 night)

Included activities

  • Shanghai - Walking tour
  • Xitang - Walking tour
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter walking tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Xi'an - Home-cooked lunch
  • Great Wall - Dumpling making
  • Beijing - Mutianyu Great Wall
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip, excluding the overnight train.
2. A scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport needs to be sent to your booking agent no later than 40 days before departure 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 toilets (squat/western) are available in each carriage, but there are no shower facilities. An upgrade to a Soft Sleeper train compartment (4-berth compartment) is available to book on this trip.
5. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.

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 China Highlights trips score an average of 4.78 out of 5 based on 223 reviews in the last year.

China Highlights, September 2018

Deborah Askew

China Highlights, September 2018

Helen Voight