Experience the nuanced essence of China from Beijing to Hong Kong

Experience the breadth of cultures, flavours and landscapes that make up the vast Middle Kingdom on one our most popular tours through China. Marvel at iconic attractions like the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors, then find a quieter side of the country with a cruise along the Yangzi River and a stay in a Buddhist monastery tucked into the mountains of Emei Shan. Discover a land of epic history, vibrant cultures and dramatic vistas on this 19-day China Experience.  


Start
Beijing, China
Finish
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Destinations
China, Hong Kong
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
CBSE
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • This is one of our most comprehensive trips in China, taking in key destinations from north to south with plenty of variety in experiences and sights along the way 

  • Travel by overnight train to get a sense of the vastness of this country, as well as zip between cities while you sleep easy on this high-speed rail network

  • Take through the iconic scenery of the Yangzi River as you meander through the dramatic Three Gorges Dam on a three-day cruise

  • No matter how many guide books you have read, nothing truly prepares you for the grandeur and immensity of historic sights like the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Leshan Big Buddha and the Terracotta Army. The country's modern man-made sights refuse to outdone, however, and you can see the modern equivalent of symbolic shows of power in the skyline of Shanghai and the Yangzi River hydroelectric dam 

  • Get up close to giant pandas in Chengdu and learn about their struggle for survival

  • Beyond adorable, endangered giant pandas, Chengdu is one of our favourite cities in China. Find out why our travellers end up falling in love with this emerging travel hotspot here: intrepidtravel.com/adventures/chengdu-china-travel-guide

  • Escape the cities to discover China's natural beauty. Trek up the misty peaks of Emei Shan for a stay in a monastery, waking to the sound of drums and prayers

  • Cycle through the Chinese countryside with backdrops that resemble paintings – the picturesque limestone karsts of Yangshuo, for example, grace the walls of conference rooms and Chinese embassy's around the world

Is this trip right for you?

  • The overnight train travel included on this trip is in “soft sleeper” class – carriages sectioned off into 2 tier/4 berth compartments with lockable doors. If you would prefer a trip without overnight train travel, check out our trips Explore China (CBKS – 2019 only), China: Great Wall Hike, Bike & Kung Fu (CBXG – 2019 only) or South China: Hike, Bike & Kayak (CBXA – 2019 only).

  • This trip is a true journey in the sense that we are covering huge distances and visiting many destinations along the way. Be prepared for long days of travel in between days packed with sightseeing. 

  • With walks on the Great Wall and up Emei Shan (both which have many steps!), you'll need a good level of fitness to get the most out of these activities. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of more relaxing days too, such as the Yangzi cruise. 

  • There is a variety of accommodation on this trip including hotels, guesthouses, monasteries, riverboats and overnight trains. They might not always be as comfortable as home, but each accommodation site will give you a different perspective on China.

  • While we finish in Hong Kong, due to our late afternoon arrival we do not include any activities or free time here. We highly recommend staying a few extra days post trip to make the most of this exciting city. Here's some tips to get you started: intrepidtravel.com/adventures/what-to-do-in-hong-kong

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

Ni Hao! Welcome to Beijing, capital of the most populous country on earth. With plenty of places that give an insight into the China's ancient history, as well as newer sights that showcase contemporary culture. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We will collect/check your passport, insurance and next of kin information at the group meeting, please have these on hand. After the meeting 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. Perhaps kick off your China adventure with a tate of an iconic dish – Peking duck.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you wish to arrive a few days early in Beijing, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). 
Today you’ll explore two of the most popular sights in Beijing on foot amd using public transport. While this can be crowded, it's the best way to immerse yourself in the local culture. Make your way to the centre of the city – Tiananmen Square, 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, the Forbidden City 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. This evening is free to explore the Beijing street food scene; the quiet hutongs (historic narrow streets and alleys) come to life with lights and noise in the evening full of eateries to try the local treats.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven - CNY40
  • Beijing - Summer Palace - CNY40
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
  • Beijing - Kungfu Show - CNY180
  • Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
  • Beijing - Beijing Foodie Walk Urban Adventure - CNY360
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are the number one attractions in the whole country for local travellers and as such can get very crowded with tour groups. Be ready!
This morning you’ll take a private bus to visit Mutianyu Great Wall (around 2 hours) and spend some time exploring, taking photos and learning the history of this mighty site. An incredible piece of engineering, the wall stretches 6000 km west from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from nomadic northern tribes, and even though it failed in this purpose it's still one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. The walk is generally on the restored section of the wall, but this still means walking on steep, uneven terrain with multiple steps, so reasonable fitness and comfortable shoes are needed. The walk is approximately 5 kilometres and will take 2 to 3 hours depending on your level of fitness. You can choose how you access the wall, with options including cable car, chairlift or even toboggan to come down (at your own expense). It's a good idea to pacl a picnic lunch with you to enjoy atop the wall during a rest break. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience. Return to Beijing by private bus, and then enjoy a free evening to either relax or explore further.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Mutianyu Great Wall
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you'll travel to Xi'an by high-speed train (around 5.5 hours). The capital of Shaanxi Province, Xi’an is the largest city in northwest China. Once the imperial centre of China for nearly 2000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites and is a great place to explore. Join your leader on a short walking tour to uncover what was once the start of the ancient trading route of the Silk Road. The city has a wonderful Muslim Quarter, and you’ll wander the narrow streets past shops, lively markets, and groups of white-bearded men in skull caps sipping tea in cafes. See the City Walls and Gates, the most complete in China, running over 13 kilometres (8 miles) around the city. Xi’an’s Silk Road history means it has an exciting mixture of cultures, exemplified by its food options, which range from delicious Muslim fare to great little dumplings in Chinese restaurants. Maybe choose to 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. 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 - Cycling on City Wall - CNY99
  • Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
  • Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will travel by public transport (around 2 hours) to 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, rediscovered in 1976 by farmers digging a well after being buried for 2000 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 just under 2000 of the warriors – each individually sculpted from clay and with a different costume, height, and even facial expressions – stand in battle formation. The scale is incredibly impressive. Return to Xi’an for you final evening in the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information

Take a 3.5-hour train ride to Chengdu. The capital of Sichuan Province, Chengdu is most famous for two things – the pandas living in the mountains, and the food. Chengdu's signature spicy cuisine is largely regarded as the best within China. In such a food-focused country, this is no mean feat. Maybe sample a Sichuan hotpot this evening. Go on a walking tour with your leader and check out Tianfu Square and People's Park, arguably the most lively park in China, full of locals singing, dancing, doing tai chi or even modelling! It might be one of China's biggest cities, but Chengdu has preserved plenty of its traditional flavour, and you'll get a tase of it during this tour and your free time. Don't miss out on the teahouses – pull up a stool and sample the local favourite green and jasmine tea. Don't be surprised if someone offers to give you a head massage or clean your ears while you sip!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chengdu - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Chengdu - Sichuan Opera - CNY90
  • Chengdu - Cooking class - CNY120
  • Chengdu - Bike hire - CNY20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Find out more about why Chengdu is an Intrepid favourite here: intrepidtravel.com/adventures/chengdu-china-travel-guide/
Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base today, where you're able to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endearing species. There are only around 1000 pandas left in the world and 80% of them are found in the mountains in Sichuan. The facility was set up 30 years ago to help protect this animal, and there are more than 80 giant and red pandas living at the base. The pandas have over 600 acres of parkland to live in, and today you'll have the honour of getting up close to these gorgeous creatures. Watch them play, eat bamboo and climb the trees. If you’re lucky enough (and travelling between July and September) you might get to see newborns taking their first steps in the nursery. Afterwards, return to downtown Chengdu for some free time. Perhaps take in a performance of traditional Sichuan Opera, visit the Wenshu Temple, or take a cooking class. Ask your leader for details.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chengdu - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by private bus to the sacred mountains of Emei Shan. Along the way, stop in the town of Leshan to visit the World Heritage-listed Leshan Giant Buddha. Facing the river, the 71-metre-tall Buddha is carved out of a cliff face and took almost a 100 years to finish. Take in the solemn beauty during a boat ride along the river. Then continue to Emei Shan where you'll spend the next three nights.
Accommodation
  • Monastery/Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leshan - Giant Buddha
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information

Today will be spent exploring the landscape surrounding Emei Shan, one of China’s four sacred Buddhist mountains. In the morning, travel by bus and then cable car (about 3 hours total), to the summit. The views from the 3099-metre/10,170-feet peak at Emei Shan are truly spectacular, especially on clear days. Take a public bus down the mountain, where you’ll start your 3-hour trek with a local guide to your accommodation at a monastery. Expect plenty of steps and steep paths, and dress accordingly. Sturdy footwear will help you to enjoy this challenging but rewarding day on the mountain. You’ll find the accommodation to be basic, with simple rooms and shared bathroom facilities, though the incredible setting keeps our travellers raving. Nights here are incredibly peaceful and waking to the sound of monks chanting is truly unforgettable.
Accommodation
  • Monastery/Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Emei Shan - Scenic Area Hiking
  • Emei Shan - Cable car & Golden Summit
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that during religious festivals or peak travel periods, you may stay at a guesthouse in Emei town as an alternative to the monasteries here. If you are travelling in the months of October-April, while we still visit Emei Shan and the surrounding areas there may be some changes to the activities and accommodation available depending on the weather conditions. We advise you to bring very warm clothes (waterproof shoes, windproof coat, hat, scarf, gloves) as there can be snow and sub-zero temperatures in the mountains in March/April or November
Today continue to explore the beautiful countryside at the base of the mountain, which provides ample opportunity for leisurely walks. It may be possible to visit some local hot springs to relax and revive from your hike, or take a tour of some nearby villages. You can also visit the Crouching Tiger Monastery, hidden deep in the forest, and see its seven-metre copper pagoda inscribed with Buddhist images and texts.
Accommodation
  • Monastery/Guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Emei Shan - Crouching Tiger Monastery - CNY6
  • Emei Shan - Hot Springs - CNY128
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by public bus to Chongqing, gateway to the Yangzi River. Chongqing is the biggest city in China with a population of over 20 million in the city centre and suburbs that spraw along the river and up the steep hills behind it. Board your river boat, your home for the next few nights, and begin the cruise down one of the world’s greatest rivers. The gorges are spectacular and most travellers enjoy their time on the Yangzi boats but some words of warning are necessary. The Yangzi River region is one of the most industrialised and rapidly developing areas in China. We travel on Chinese tourist boats rather than luxury tourist vessels. We like to call it a river trip, rather than a traditional cruise. Cabins are twin-share with private bathroom facilities. While all meals are included during yor time on the boat, the buffet-style Chinese cuisine can be quite plain, but there's a chance to visit the supermarket in Chongqing before boarding in order to stock up on some favourite snacks, drinks or fruit for your journey.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Boat (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that depending on the composition of the group you may be required to share a cabin with your leader or a traveller from outside of your group on a same gender basis as tour groups are not permitted to book single rooms on the Yangzi boats. The Chinese authorities oversee the travel of all boats on the Yangzi. We do everything we can to ensure standards are maintained for our river trip but some things are outside our control. We use a range of different boats, depending on availability and the date of our departure. All boats comply with our required safety standards, although the size and age of boat varies from trip to trip. As the departure times of the boats are subject to frequent change this can mean that we need to make some changes to our itinerary and at times we've been unable to see all three gorges due to the boat schedule or poor visibility. Any changes made will be done with the aim of giving you the best possible Yangtze experience but we'd like to forewarn
Continue your cruise along the Yangzi River. The Yangzi has inspired numerous poets, writers and travellers over the centuries. You will travel along one of the most picturesque sections, through the renowned Three Gorges. The dramatic 'Sanxia', as they are known in Chinese, stretch for 200 kilometres and vary from 100 metres to 300 metres in width. As well as relaxing and taking in the sights (now much changed since the implementation of the Three Gorges dam), you may have opportunities to visit some riverside attractions and towns on optional group excursions, including leaving the river boat to take a side trip down a tributary of the Yangzi River. If you prefer to stay on-board, perhaps take the chance to learn some Mandarin words or how to write characters from your leader, how to play mahjong, sing some Chinese songs, catch up on your travel diary or just relax and chat with your group members and local travellers.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Boat (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Yangzi River - Fengdu Temple - CNY40
  • Yangzi River - Fengdu Temple Cable Car - CNY20
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
  • Lunch (2)
  • Dinner (2)
Your Yangzi boat trip will end in the small city (by Chinese standards!) of Yichan, which offers a great chance to see typical Chinese life in the provinces. Here you’ll enjoy a tour of the incredible feat of engineering that is the Three Gorges Dam. The world’s largest hydroelectric project, the dam generates power and prevents the major flooding that had long threatened the people of the area (though the impact on displaced people and archaeological sites should not be ignored). From here you’ll take a private bus to the train station and board your second overnight train to Liuzhou (approximately 15 hours). As Yichang is not a major railway hub there's only one train heading south passing through here. To make the long journey as comfortable as possible, you will travel by soft sleeper (4 people per compartment with a lockable door) on this leg of our trip. It's important to try to get a good night's sleep as you’ll have to disembark the train very early tomorrow morning.
Accommodation
  • Overnight train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yichang - Three Gorges Dam Project
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
As Yichang is not a terminal station at times the bedding on this train is not always fresh. You may wish to bring your own sleeping bag or sleep sheet.

Occasionally, train tickets from Yichang won't be available for sale to us, in this case, we'll reroute to Wuhan for the night and take a bullet train to Guilin, from where you'll be transferred to Yangshuo. Your tour leader will be able to advise you accordingly if this happens.
Arrive in Liuzhou very early in the morning (approximately 4.30 am) and travel by private transfer direct to your next destination, Yangshuo (approximately 3.5 hours). When you arrive, take the day to rest and soak up the charm of this little town, popular with the Chinese and Western travellers alike, who come for the beautiful landscape and stay for the great cafe and bar culture. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local culture and traditions, while having plenty of fun at the same time. The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in many traditional Chinese paintings – picture immense limestone karsts dotting the rural landscape and towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River, all celebrated on every 20 yuan note.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Yangshuo - Li River Cruise - CNY100
  • Yangshuo - Bike hire - CNY20
  • Yangshuo - Cooking School & Market Tour - CNY150
  • Yangshuo - Zhang Yimou's Impressions Show - CNY198
  • Yangshuo - Tai Chi/Kung Fu class - CNY50
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you’ll shake out your train legs and experience the dramatic limestone karst landscape durinng a bike ride, where you’ll gain a real insight into rural Chinese life. Stop for lunch at the house of our local friends for a tasty meal made from locally grown produce. This is an absolutely stunning region to explore, as every turn in the road brings you to another postcard-worthy location. You’ll have a local guide during the ride, and helmets and bike rental are included in the trip price. The evening is free for you to explore Yangshuo's lively cafe and bar scene. Maybe grab a bowl of pork stuffed tofu or beer fish (simmered fresh water fish).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yangshuo - Cycling tour
Optional Activities
  • Yangshuo - Moon Hill - CNY15
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today is as clear as a Yanghsuo spring day, but there are plenty of optional activities to choose from. You could begin the day by focusing your body and mind with a morning tai chi class or kung-fu lesson. Perhaps try your hand at Chinese calligraphy, or simply sit back and relax as you enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Li or Yulong River. Maybe visit the market to shop with the locals and get a feel for the regional produce. You can then put this new knowledge to use in a cooking class at the Yangshuo Cooking School. Learn to cook Chinese dishes with recipes that are easy to make and ingredients readily available outside of China, so that you’ll soon be wowing friends and family back at home. Later, perhaps watch an outdoor light show staged by 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a private bus from your Yangshuo Hotel to Guilin North Station, and then board a bullet train to Shenzhen North Station (approximately 3.5 hours). Then it’s a short metro train from Shenzhen to the Hong Kong border. The China-Hong Kong border is busy, so there can often be a bit of a wait to get through and a lot of patience is required. On average, it takes around 2 hours to clear immigration and customs on both sides. Your bags will be with you during this time. Then you’ll walk the short distance from the train station to the border, go through procedures to exit China, and finally enter Hong Kong. Once all that's done, you’ll travel on the KCR train to central Hong Kong. Hong Kong's cityscape is spectacular and its modern fast-paced life is only minutes from picturesque islands and beaches. The locals are very proud of their Cantonese culture and history, so step out of the shopping malls and off the main streets to discover another side of the city. This evening, enjoy an optional final farewell dinner to sample some of the best Cantonese dishes.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hong Kong - Victoria Peak & Tram - HKD40
  • Peak Tram - HKD30
  • Hong Kong - Star Ferry - HKD15
  • Hong Kong - Nightly Light Show - Free
  • Hong Kong - The Story of Hong Kong Urban Adventure - USD49
  • Hong Kong - Old vs New Hong Kong Urban Adventure - USD49
  • Hong Kong - Around Kowloon in 8 Markets Urban Adventure - USD49
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the today and the trip ends this morning. Check out time is 12 pm but you'll be able to leave your luggage at the hotel reception if you can't find a flight until the evening. However, we highly recommend you to spend a couple of extra days here so that you can make the most of Hong Kong. If you're interested, we can help you book additional accommodation (subject to availability). Please consult your booking agent if you are interested.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
See our travel guide to Hong Kong here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/what-to-do-in-hong-kong/

Meals

3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Overnight Soft Sleeper Train, Private Bus, Public Bus, High-Speed Train, Overnight Riverboat, Subway, Taxi, Bicycle

Accommodation

Hotel (11 nights), Guesthouse/Monastery (3 nights), Overnight Riverboat (3 nights), Overnight Soft Sleeper Train (1 night)

Included activities

  • Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
  • Beijing - Mutianyu Great Wall
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter walking tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Chengdu - Walking tour
  • Chengdu - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
  • Leshan - Giant Buddha
  • Emei Shan - Scenic Area Hiking
  • Emei Shan - Cable car & Golden Summit
  • Yichang - Three Gorges Dam Project
  • Yangshuo - Cycling tour

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 and Yangzi River boat trip.
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. The overnight train from Yichang to Liuzhou on this tour is in 4-berth 'soft-sleeper' class. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilets (squat/western) are available in each carriage, but there are no shower facilities.
4. 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 Experience trips score an average of 4.68 out of 5 based on 98 reviews in the last year.

China Experience, August 2018

Mackenzi De Piazza

China Experience, August 2018

William Hunt