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

  • Like everything it does, China’s ancient history is on an epic scale – see it when face-to-face with thousands of Terracotta Warriors (or thousands of local tourists at the Forbidden City!)

  • Imagine a way of life lost long ago while exploring the narrow alleyways and canals of Xitang, a water town just outside of Shanghai

  • Escape the chaos of China's cities and spend the night in a charming guesthouse near the Great Wall where we learn to make dumplings with the family who run it

  • No matter how many photos you've seen, nothing can quite prepare you for the grandeur of the Great Wall - see this iconic structure without the masses

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.

  • The trip covers 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.

  • 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.

  • As a short, city based trip there's not a lot of time to experience China's beautiful natural landscapes or get further off the beaten track. If you have longer to spend exploring, consider our Yunnan & Tiger Leaping Gorge, North or South China Getaway, China Experience, or Travel the Silk Road 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 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 get a feel for this vibrant city – Shanghai’s bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace provide a glimpse into the dazzling global future of the country. Your 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.
Today join your leader for a walking tour that will take you back in time. At the Bund you can get a taste of 1920s Shanghai; its spectacular array of art deco style buildings 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 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, this town 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 for a daylight exploration of 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. 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)
Included Activities
  • Xitang - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Xitang - Gondola ride - CNY120
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
An optional upgrade from a hard sleeper to a soft sleeper berth (4 travellers per compartment with a lockable door) may be available for some overnight train journeys on this trip. Please contact us for booking and more details.
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 trading route of the 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 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. This is reflected in the food options, which range 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 - 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. You’ll learn all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered after being buried for 2000 years by farmers digging a well in 1976. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots (and originally individually painted) 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 and then board the high-speed train (approximately 6 hours) to Beijing. 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 village 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 without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. You might even 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 then journey back to Beijing (approximately 3 hours) – your last stop on your tour. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing has quickly shed its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase 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.
Today you will make our way to the centre of the city – Tian'anmen Square (travelling by subway and local bus). This square – supposedly the largest down town square in the world – is 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, its a truly amazing place. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City thankfully 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. Beijing is vast and overflowing with sights – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises. Enjoy some free time for exploration in the afternoon, maybe check out the Temple of Heaven, not only a historically important temple for sacrificial ceremony with exemplary Chinese traditional architecture style, also a lively park full of locals singing and dancing, doing tai chi and traditional arts like calligraphy. Get together with your fellow travellers in the evening. What better than celebrate the end of your journey in China than with a Beijng duck dinner?
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 that we highly recommend staying an extra few days. Some activities for your free time might be: a trip to the 798 Art District, cycling round the city with Beijing Urban Adventures or an exploration of 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

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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 4.8 out of 5 based on 207 reviews in the last year.

China Highlights, June 2018

Tarran Frost

China Highlights, June 2018

Helen and Andrew Dadd