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Explore China

Trip type: 
Cultural
Adventure level: 
3. Moderate
Max group size: 
12
Avg user rating: 
Awaiting reviews
Asia, China | 15 days
Trip code: 
CBSW
What's included: 

Transport - Taxi, Private Bus, Bus, Overnight sleeper train, Train

Accommodation - Hotel (10 nts), Overnight sleeper train (3 nts)

Meals - This trip is accommodated only, no meals are included.

Trip Highlights: 
Terracotta Warriors
Historic Beijing & cosmopolitan Shanghai
Great Wall Trekking
Getting off the beaten track
see full itinerary >>

Holidays in China
You'll follow an itinerary which has been researched and planned by our experts, saving you all the hassle of organising the trip. The itineraries are designed to minimise the time spent travelling and maximise the variety of experiences.
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Itinerary options
Itinery Map

Itinerary for Explore China

(Departures in 2014-15)
  • Day 1-3 - Shanghai
  • Day 4-6 - Xi'an
  • Day 7-8 - Xiahe
  • Day 9 - Tongren
  • Day 10-11 - Xining
  • Day 12-14 - Beijing
  • Day 15 - Tour ends
Extensions and Extras: Extend your holiday and see more of the world. View additional tours for this trip »
Day
1-3

Shanghai

Take an overnight flight - on arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 2.

You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai is the vibrant pulse of new China.

Join your leader for a walking tour of historical Shanghai including the Bund with its spectacular array of art-deco style buildings, the narrow winding lanes of the Nongtang or the European influenced French Concession.

Some other great experiences in this vibrant city include:

Visit the Propaganda Museum for a fascinating look at China's revolutionary past.

The impressive Shanghai Museum houses one of the best collections of Chinese bronze and artwork - you could easily spend the whole day here discovering the various exhibitions.

Catch a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats.

Ride the Shanghai Maglev Train to a top speed of 430 km/h and travel 30km in under 8 minutes.

Get a bird's eye view of the city from the Pearl Tower's observation decks.

Wander the Yuyuan Gardens. These famous classical gardens were completed in 1577 by Pan Yunduan, a government official of the Ming Dynasty.

TRIP CHANGE FOR 2014:
Due to our traveller's feedback, this trip is changing for all departures from 1st January 2014. It is now a 14 day itinerary with 1 day in Shanghai, departing for Xi'an on day 2.

Board the overnight train to Xi'an (approx 16 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. 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 and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. 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 are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's advised to carry some of your own; keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standard you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.

Included Activities

  • Informal Chinese language lesson

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)

 

Day
4-6
Xi'an

Xi'an

The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.

Your leader will take you on a short walking tour of the city centre, showing you some of the highlights such as the Bell & Drum Towers, Muslim Quarter, the City Walls and Gates.

Visit Xi'an's most famous site - the Terracotta Warriors. Travel by bus for around 2 hours to reach the site. Once there hear all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public.

Some other things you may like to do in your free time here include:

Visit our friends at Xi'an Huiling (meaning 'wise spirit') - a special Intrepid-supported project for young people with intellectual and learning disabilities, where you enjoy a performance of singing and dancing by the students (don't be surprised if you're asked to join in) and have a chance to see their artwork and handicrafts. 

Visit the impressive Tang Dynasty Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is in a newly renovated scenic area which is very popular with locals especially in the evenings when there is a nightly light & music show around the many fountains. The Xi'an Museum and Jianfu Temple are also nearby.

Try a leisurely cycle on the Xi'an city wall - a total distance of 13.74 km. The wall, an ancient fortification surrounding the heart of Xi'an, was established in 1378 AD.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is another picturesque Buddhist pagoda built in 652 AD during the Tang Dynasty within easy reach of the city centre.

One of the oldest mosques in China, the Great Mosque in Xi'an features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion.

Get ready to leave the big cities as you head towards China's Tibetan fringe

Board an overnight train to Lanzhou (approx 9 hours)

Included Activities

  • Xi'an - Walking tour
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors

Optional Activities

  • Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
  • Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
  • Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
  • Great Mosque - CNY25
  • Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50

Accommodation

Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)

 

Day
7-8

Xiahe

On arrival in Lanzhou travel by private bus to Xiahe (approx 4 hours)

Xiahe has been described as "one of the most enchanting places to visit in China". Certainly it has a wonderful tranquil 
atmosphere and a beautiful setting. Many Tibetans come here on pilgrimage - and the combination of the many monasteries, saffron-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags and spectacular scenery make this small town feel very like Tibet as well. Indeed, in all but name, you are in Tibet; Xiahe is right up on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and the population here is over 45% Tibetan.

Labrang monastery is one of the 6 major monasteries of Yellow Sect in Tibetan Buddhism, and one of the most important in Amdo Tibetan area. With a 300 year history, the monastery has become the best lamastery school in the world with the most complete collection of Tibetan Buddhism classics. Visit this monastery with your local guide, tap into this mysterious yet mind opening religion, greet the monks and experience the mesmerising chanting if you are lucky.

Included Activities

  • Xiahe - Labrang Monastery

Accommodation

Hotel (2 nts)

 

Day
9

Tongren

Travel by private bus from Xiahe to Tongren (approx 3 hours)

Take in the scenery on our way through the Tibetan grasslands, stopping off in local villages along the way.

Tongren is situated between Gansu and Qinghai provinces. Greatly influenced by Tibetan culture, it's well known for its Thankga paintings and other buddhist art forms.

Smaller in scale and less famed compared to Labrang Monastery, Longwu monastery is more like a forgotten jewel hiding in a small village. Peaceful and tranquil, this 600 year monastery of yellow sect has partially survived the destruction during the cultural revolution. Although never restored to its former glory, as the political and religious centre in Tongren Longwu monastery has maintained its authentic religious atmosphere.

Included Activities

  • Tongren - Longwu Monastery

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

Day
10-11

Xining

Travel by private bus from Tongren to Xining (approx 2.5 hours) stopping to surround ourselves in the mountain scenery of Kanbula National Forest Park on the way.

You go for a short trek (approx.10 km) along the established trails, taking in the "Danxia" or red sandstone scenery, the colours of which change dramatically with the weather and season.

Sitting at an altitude of 2300m, Xining is the capital of Qinghai province and the biggest city on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. You may be surprised how fast such a seemingly isolated city is developing! Over 3 million people live here with the influence of Muslim, Tibetan and Han Chinese populations clearly visible in both the cuisine and faces of the city's residents.

Visit a local artist in Wutun Village, famous for producing one of the major art forms in Tibetan Buddhism - Thangka - for a chance to see the skill and effort that goes into producing these masterpieces.

Board an overnight train to Beijing (approx 23 hours) along the famed Qinghai-Tibetan Railway.

Included Activities

  • Xining - Wutun Thangka Artist Village visit
  • Xining - Kanbula National Park trek

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)

Day
12-14
Beijing

Beijing

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 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.

Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.

Explore Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.

An incredible piece of engineering, the Great 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.

On our trek you walk over some steep, remote terrain (approx 5km or 3-4 hrs walking depending on fitness). Some parts of the wall are unrestored so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing. A great idea is to bring a picnic lunch with your from Beijing to enjoy atop the wall during one of our rest breaks. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip for this activity. There are many steps and slopes on the way so be prepared for a tough climb in sections. The views and experience though are a real highlight for all our travellers.

Due to the excessive heat in the summer months (Jun-Aug), the Great Wall excursion may be altered to provide a shorter, less strenuous trek. Your leader will advise you of any changes at the group meeting.

Staying an extra few days is highly encouraged as there just so much to see and do here:

A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.

Pick up a bike for the day. You'll need comfortable clothes for cycling. Helmets may not be available for hire - if you wish to have a helmet you'll need to supply your own.

A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.

The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.

The fantastic "The Legend of Kung Fu" is said to be a must-see production in Beijing for Kung Fu lovers.

Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.

Included Activities

  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
  • Great Wall - Jinshanling section
  • Beijing - Forbidden City

Optional Activities

  • Beijing Art & Architecture Urban Adventure - CNY590
  • Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY480
  • Kung Fu show - CNY180
  • Lama Temple - CNY30
  • Summer Palace - CNY40
  • Temple of Heaven - CNY40

Accommodation

Hotel (3 nts)

 

Day
15

Tour ends

Your adventure ends today and you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.