Venture from the big cities to rural villages of China

China really does have it all – tranquil countryside full natural scenery and hiking trails, supercities boasting incredible, and historical, artistic and cultural discoveries to make at every turn. Get acquainted with this country's complexities and contrasts on this fascinating 20-day Lonely Planet Experience that will have you walking the Great Wall, trekking through the Longji Rice Terraces, idling the hours away in serene Hongcun, drifting along the Li River and living it up in Hong Kong. Jam-packed with colour and culture, China will astonish you with the levels of diversity throughout the country.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Beijing, China
Finish
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Destinations
China, Hong Kong
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
CBRKC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Spend two nights at the base of the Great Wall in a locally run guesthouse, and follow in the footsteps of soldiers from hundreds of years ago when you trek the lesser-visited Gubeikou to Jinshanling section.

  • This adventure offers plenty of opportunity to get active among the wonders of China. Explore city laneways on walking tours, climb the steps of the Yellow Mountain, trek the Great Wall and cycle countryside lanes in Hongcun.

  • In Longji, hike the beautiful rice terraces that snake through the mountains of Longsheng like giant dragons, and visit hill tribe communities to learn of a local way of living.

  • Enjoy time to sit back and relax beside the dramatic karst countryside of Yangshuo. This region, immortalised in countless traditional Chinese paintings, is a haven of exploration.

  • Cross the border into cosmopolitan Hong Kong – one of the world’s global cities, and a perfect place to extend your stay. Why not dig a little deeper and explore its up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

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.

  • We cover a fair amount of ground to enable you to see some of China's biggest cities and main highlights, so be prepared for some long travel days. As we use plenty of public transport, you will be better off to bring only minimal belongings, or to leave your larger luggage in Beijing/Shanghai and take a smaller bag with you to the Great Wall, Huangshan and Hongcun.

  • We pack a lot in, in a short amount of time, so if you have some time to spare we highly recommend extra time in Shanghai and Beijing.

  • 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, with more basic facilities than hotels, such as cold water showers and outdoor squat toilets.

  • With walks on the Great Wall and Huangshan, you'll need a good level of fitness to get the most out of this trip. 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 at times. You'll be rewarded with sensational views!

  • This trip uses a mix of transport – overnight sleeper trains, private buses and public buses. The trip covers a fair amount of ground to maximise experiences, so be prepared for some long journeys.

  • Not a lot a time is spent in Shanghai or Hong Kong (the starting and ending points) so that you can get straight into the highlights of South China, but we highly recommend booking additional nights here as these exciting cities have so much to offer.

Itinerary

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is a food-centric city with ancient sites and modern architecture around every corner. Your adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm this evening. Following the meeting, settle into your hotel and then perhaps get together with your newfound travel crew and head out for dinner – your local leader will have a couple of recommendations.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY290
  • Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
  • Beijing - Kungfu Show - CNY280
  • Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
  • Beijing - Summer Palace - CNY50
  • Beijing - Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

As you will depart for the Great Wall tomorrow, we highly recommend arriving a few days earlier to make the most of your time here in Beijing. If you would like to spend more time here, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Enjoy a few hours of free time in the morning to explore Beijing before taking a 3-hour private bus to a section of the original Great Wall– the Gubeikou section. Built as a northern defensive line for Beijing (then called Youzhou), this section of the Great Wall was first constructed between AD550 and AD557, then fortified during the early years of the Ming Dynasty. You’ll spend the night in a family-run guesthouse nearby, and while the facilities are more basic than some of the other accommodation on this trip, the homegrown hospitality more than makes up for it. Most travellers tonight choose to eat at the guesthouse for dinner as it's a great chance to sample local produce and delicious home cooking.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As there’s plenty of public transport on this trip including subway, buses and trains, you will be best to pack light for your main luggage and bring a good day pack/small overnight bag. We leave our larger bags in storage in Beijing and Shanghai when travelling to the Great Wall, Huangshan and Hongcun.

Please note that during winter months (November–February) you may stay in alternate accommodation near other sections of the Great Wall where there is better heating.
Embrace an early start and make the trek from the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall to the Jinshanling section. Hike over steep, remote terrain for around 5–6 hours, taking in incredible views along this comparatively quiet trail. Some parts of the wall are unrestored, so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing, while other stretches will take you off the wall to walk alongside it through the countryside. The trek will be challenging, but the sight of the wall snaking through the hills as far as the eye can see and the feeling of being immersed in ancient history will be ample reward for your efforts. After the hike, check-in to a guesthouse by the foot of the Great Wall and put your feet up, have a few beers or maybe learn how to play mahjong with the locals.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Beijing - Great Wall trekking
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
This is one of the highest-rated Great Wall trekking routes. Parts of the section of wall here are not well maintained and the trek can be challenging. You'll need good fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip for the walk – a walking pole may be handy as well. There are many steps and slopes (some very steep) 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. If you don’t believe you’re fit enough for the trek, you can take the bus with the driver to where the trek finishes and still have a chance to explore.

Please note that during winter months (November–February) you may stay in alternate accommodation near other sections of the Great Wall where there is better heating. The trekking route along the Great Wall may also be altered to account for this.
Take a 3-hour drive back to Beijing before midday and make use of your last free afternoon in the capital. Consider checking out the Temple of Heaven while you're in the city, or tuck into a Peking Duck banquet right in its birthplace. Keep in mind that this evening you’ll board a 13-hour overnight train bound for Xi’an, so maybe stock up on snacks and supplies for the journey. While comfortable, the train isn’t luxurious, but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the vastness of this country. Be sure to have a good book or a device loaded with binge-worthy shows for the journey.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Hard Sleeper Train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
We use hard sleeper class trains for the overnight train journey. Compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (six to a compartment). Wherever possible, travellers will be grouped together, but this will depend on size and 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. Basic shared 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 sometimes available on the train, but it's a good idea to stock up on snacks for the trip.
Welcome to Xi’an – the capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China. Head to the hotel to freshen up and then head on a leader-led walking tour, uncovering what was once the start of the ancient trading route known as the Silk Road. Choose to visit the Bell Tower, which according to legend was built to restrain dragons that were causing earthquakes, or the Drum Tower, which is full of instruments once used to mark time and warn the population in emergencies. Your leader will also introduce you to the Muslim Quarter, which features narrow streets of quaint shops, lively markets, and a unique mosque. Another option is to explore the 13-kilometre-long City Walls and attached Gates. Xi’an’s Silk Road history means it has an exciting mixture of cultures, especially found in its food options – Muslim dishes are a specialty here. In the evening, perhaps visit the night markets and try local specialties such as pao mo (lamb broth that you break flat bread into), hand pulled noodles, hotpot or barbecue.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY25
  • Xi'an - Big Goose Pagoda - CNY80
  • Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
  • Xi'an - Little Goose Pagoda - CNY50
  • Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As you’ll arrive early in the morning, you may not be able to check in right away if rooms are still occupied or have not yet been cleaned. Your leader will try to secure one room for early check-in if possible where the group can leave their luggage and freshen up, however this is subject to availability.
Make the 2-hour journey by public transport to the acclaimed Terracotta Warriors. Spend a few hours at this incredible archaeological find, buried for 2000 years before being discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well. These clay statues of 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. Three main pits are open for viewing, where just under 2000 of the total 6000 warriors – each an individual with a different costume, height, and even facial expression – are on display. Later, return to Xi'an and board your second overnight train bound for Shanghai (approximately 16 hours).
Accommodation
  • Overnight Hard Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai pulses with the beat of contemporary China. Arrive and take the busy subway to your accommodation. Enjoy a full day of exploration, but don't worry if you can't see everything you want to today – you’ll be back later on in your trip. Get a taste of the city during the roaring 1920s with a leader-led walk of the Bund, a strip of spectacular art deco-style buildings. Wander the narrow winding lanes (nongtangs) of Old Shanghai, where you can get a glimpse of local life. Explore the European-influenced French Concession, then pound the pavement along Luwan's Huaihai Road – a busy shopping street. The area's tree-lined avenues and many Tudor mansions earned it the nickname 'Paris of the East'. When night falls, why not get together with a few of your travel pals for a taste of Shanghai’s eclectic food scene.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (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 - CNY280
  • Shanghai - Oriental Pearl Tower Viewing Deck - CNY150
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel into stunning countryside on a 6-hour public bus journey to Huangshan, otherwise known as Yellow Mountain. The 72 sharp peaks of Huangshan provide some of China's most breathtaking scenery, as well as a respite from the bustle of the city. Spend the next two days in a guesthouse with free time to explore the area as you wish. Two popular trails are the Eastern Steps (7.5 kilometres, approximately 3–4 hours) and the Western Steps (15 kilometres). It’s recommended to take the cable car to the summit, explore the area and then descend via the Western Steps. Whatever you choose, the dramatic limestone peaks framing this region make for some breathtaking vistas. After taking in the natural beauty of Huangshan during the day, return to the guesthouse for a well-earned evening rest.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (2 nights)
Included Activities
  • Huangshan - National Park Trek
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
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.

The paths in Huangshan 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 and October are considered the best months to visit Huangshan. In any season you should ensure 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.
Jump on public transport again and travel through Anhui province to the picturesque villages of the Huizhou region (approximately 2 hours). A number of these villages are now World Heritage listed, and you may recognise the ramshackle, ornate buildings from the film ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. Arrive in Hongcun, check-in to your village guesthouse and then set out on a guided tour of cobbled alleys and Ming Dynasty architecture. Following this short walk, you have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to spend as you wish. Perhaps you might like to clamber up into the hillsides for panoramic views over the traditional settlements. Or maybe you'd prefer to explore the surrounding villages on two wheels. Your group leader will have all the information on bicycle hire and other optional activities.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hongcun - Guided Village Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Bid farewell to the glorious countryside and make the 6-hour journey back to Shanghai by public transport. You’ll arrive back mid to late afternoon, and if there’s time, consider booking into a traditional tea ceremony to learn how important this drink is to Chinese culture. Tonight is cause for celebration, so why not gather with your travel crew and go all out in one of Shanghai’s great restaurants. If you haven't already, tonight is the perfect chance to try the city's famous xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings).
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Shanghai - Huangpu River Night Cruise - CNY120
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy another day exploring one of China's biggest cities. Today is an ideal opportunity to check your Lonely Planet app for their recommendations! The world – or Shanghai, at least – is your oyster.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, enjoy some free time to get a bigger taste of 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, daydream of a 1920s Shanghai along the Bud, wander the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, barter in markets, stroll through modern Pudong or the explore ancient longtangs. So much to do! Keep in mind you’ll be boarding an overnight train from Shanghai to Guilin some time this afternoon (approximately 18–20 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.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Hard Sleeper Train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are certainly 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.
Disembark the train in Guilin and jump on a bus to Longji. The Longji region has some of the most extensive rice terraces around. These terraces change with the seasons – filled with water from the mountains before planting, becoming green during the growing season and then golden when the rice is ready for harvest. This evening you’ll spend the night in the village of Dazhai, which is home to local Yao communities. The Yao still preserve some of their traditional lifestyle and unique customs. You'll notice women only cut their hair at 16 years old, symbolising their entrance into adulthood. The hair isn’t thrown away but kept by the grandmother. When the woman marries, the hair is made into an ornamental headdress and brought to the husband's home as a souvenir.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Longji - Guided Rice Terraces trek
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today, you will leave big luggage at the entrance to the scenic zone in Longji and carry only our overnight pack with us to the guesthouse. Please prepare an overnight pack suitable for a two-night stay at the local village guesthouses. You'll also need to be able to carry it by yourself during tomorrow’s trekking activity.
Today you’ll hike through the Longji Valley and its rice terraces, constructed over 500 years ago. This region is often referred to as the Dragon’s Backbone because the rice terraces resemble a dragon's scales, and the mountain ridge provides the ‘backbone’ of the dragon. Walk through stunning scenery, with its unique terraces for growing rice, alongside bamboo trees and chestnut forests. Despite some challenging hills, much of the hike is spent walking around over the stones, passing waterfalls and fields. After a day hiking and admiring the scenery, spend the night in the picturesque village of Ping'an.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today, expect to carry your own overnight pack and walk for up to five hours as your next accommodation may be in a different village. The hike can be tough going for some, with many uphill stretches and some very slippery paths. However, more experienced hikers will have no problems and there are many more optional walks available, uncovering great photo opportunities around every corner.
This morning, head on public transport towards Yangshuo (approximately 4 hours). Soak up the charm of this town, popular with many domestic and foreign travellers who come for the beautiful landscapes. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local cultures and traditions. The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in many traditional Chinese paintings – artists are drawn to the striking limestone karsts dotting the landscape, towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River. You might be wondering why it all looks so familiar – that’s because it’s pictured on every 20 yuan note.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Yangshuo - Xianggongshan & Tea Farm Visit (Minimum. 6 Clients) - CNY300
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Yangshuo. You could begin by focusing your body and mind with a morning tai chi class or kung fu lesson, and then stay active by hiring a bike and cycling past rural Chinese towns. You could climb up to Moon Hill – a limestone pinnacle with a moon-shaped hole penetrating the hill – or take a stroll along the river for some pretty stunning riverside vistas. For something a little less energetic, you could simply sit back and relax as you enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Li or Yulong River. Later, why not book a ticket to watch an outdoor light show staged by 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Yangshuo - Tai Chi/Kung Fu class - CNY100
  • Yangshuo - Bike Tour with Lunch & Moon Hill Visit (Minimum. 6 Clients) - CNY300
  • Yangshuo - Impressions Liú Sānjiě show (minimum 4 people) - CNY298
  • Yangshuo - Li River Cruise - CNY200
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Another free day to explore at your leisure in Yangshuo. Freedom and flexibility are key today, and your local leader will be on hand to give you all their suggestions and tips. If you’re still feeling active, then up in the limestone hills are a number of caves that can be explored. If you’d rather see things from a different perspective, kit up in a rock-climbing harness and tackle one of the 300 rock-climbing routes. For a more laidback day, why not visit the local markets and get a feel for what’s grown in the region. You can then put this new knowledge to use in a cooking class at the Yangshuo cooking school if you’d like.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Yangshuo - Cooking School & Market Tour - CNY230
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, travel by high-speed train to the Chinese–Hong Kong border at Shenzhen (approximately 4 hours). Walk a short distance from the train station to the border, go through procedures to exit China, and then enter Hong Kong. Once all that's done, you’ll travel on the KCR train to central Hong Kong. Hong Kong made itself known to the world as a British colony and, since the 1997 handover, the city has become a unique and fascinating place to see where the East really does meet West. Hong Kong's cityscape is spectacular, and its modernity and fast-paced way of doing things means it’s become a popular destination for travellers from around the world. Tonight, why not get together with your travel group and find a dim sum banquet to share – a sumptuous meal around a large table is a perfect way to celebrate your Lonely Planet adventure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hong Kong - Star Ferry - HKD15
  • Hong Kong - Victoria Peak & Tram - HKD40
  • 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.
Special Information
The China–Hong Kong border is often super busy, so there can be a bit of a wait to get through, so some patience is required. On average, it takes around two hours to clear immigration and customs on both sides. Your bags will be with you during this time.
With no activities planned for today, you are able to depart the accommodation after checkout. As there isn’t heaps of time spent in Hong Kong, we recommend spending a least an extra couple of days to see what this city has to offer. Yes, you’ve got Victoria Peak and the harbour’s light show, but what about the up-and-coming Sham Shui Po neighbourhood – full of boutiques, open-air street markets and Michelin-star hole-in-the-wall diners, or Tai Kwun – an old prison which has now been converted into a contemporary art and performance space. With so much to see and do, if you would like to spend more time here, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Overnight sleeper train, High Speed Train, Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi, Subway

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nts), Guesthouse/Hostel (7 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (3 nts)

Included activities

  • Beijing - Great Wall trekking
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter walking tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Shanghai - Walking tour
  • Huangshan - National Park Trek
  • Hongcun - Guided Village Tour
  • Longji - Guided Rice Terraces trek

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip, excluding overnight trains and guesthouses
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 six-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.
4. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
5. In winter months (Nov–Feb), we may stay in alternative guesthouses near the Great Wall due to the cold weather. This may also alter our trekking route along the Great Wall.
6. This is a combination tour which will save you the hassle of making multiple bookings. But please note that your tour leader and tour composition may change on Day 12.

Essential trip information

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