Budget-friendly backpacking trip through China's best bits
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Group Size: Avg 10-15, max 25
Trip code: CHAD
Duration: 17 or 26 days
Welcome to China, one of the world’s most exciting travel destinations. This awesome group trip takes you to its top spots over 17 or 26 days. Imagine walking the iconic Great Wall as the sun comes up, coming face to face with the Terracotta Army at Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb, learning the ancient art of Shaolin kung fu, and spending the night in a 17th Century mud roundhouse. It’s not all history though; China echoes the past, but it dreams of the future. Party the night away on Shanghai’s streets, visit the cutting-edge Panda Research Base, and experience the island of Hong Kong. It’s the journey of a lifetime.
- Spend the night camping on one of the deserted stretches of the Great Wall of China
- Tick off a bucket list biggie at the unforgettable Terracotta Army Museum
- Meet Chengdu’s most adorable locals at the world-famous Panda Breeding Centre
- Take a bike tour of Fujian’s traditional villages, and stay in a ‘tulou’ mud roundhouse
- Get active in Yangshuo with a bike ride and bamboo rafting experience on the Yulong River
Day 1: Hong Kong. Feel your excitement levels rising as you step off the plane in Hong Kong Airport. Hop in a taxi and make your way through the sprawling metropolis. Arrive at our hostel and drop your bag before heading out to explore the bustling streets.
Day 2: Hong Kong to Yangshuo. Take a tram up Victoria Peak for breathtaking views of the city before crossing into China where we’ll catch a high-speed bullet train to Guilin followed by a short drive to beautiful Yangshuo. Check in to our hostel and enjoy some drinks with your new mates.
Days 3 - 5: Yangshuo. We’ve got three days to explore Yangshuo’s limestone peaks, emerald rivers, and rustic villages. We’ll enjoy a bike ride and bamboo rafting experience on the Yulong River on day 4 and optional activities including a cooking class, kayaking, a bike ride to the Moon Hill and cave complex, rock climbing, KTV karaoke, and traditional Chinese hot cupping!
Day 6: Yangshuo to Chengdu. Hop on a minibus to Yangshuo station, then board the train to Chengdu. Famous for its laid-back teahouse culture, fiery Sichuan cuisine, and streets that mix up historic architecture and modern skyscrapers, Chengdu is an authentic taste of China.
Days 7 – 8 Chengdu. Meet China’s most adorable locals on day 7 with a visit to Chengdu’s Panda Breeding Research Centre, before a Mandarin lesson with your guide. Day 8 is yours. See the world’s largest stone Buddha, enjoy a Sichuan hot pot tasting, or just spend your time exploring.
Day 9: Chengdu to Xi’an. This morning you’ll have the opportunity to visit a centre for autistic children, or to check out Jinli and People’s Park. This afternoon we’ll board the train to Xi’an.
Days 10 - 11: Xi’an. Spend the next couple of days getting to know one of China’s most historic cities. Explore the traditional teahouses, try some Xi’an biang biang noodles, and take an optional bike ride on the city walls. On day 11, take a tour of the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army museum.
Day 12: Xi’an to Dengfeng. Take the bus to Dengfeng today. Arrive mid afternoon and join an optional kung fu lesson and show at a local kung fu school. After dinner, brush up on your local language with a Mandarin lesson.
Day 13: Denfeng free day. Enjoy a day soaking up Dengfeng’s laid-back, spiritual vibe. There’s an optional early morning visit to the Shaolin Temple, a hike to Dharma Cave, or a trip to Longmen Grottoes. This evening, share a few drinks with your buddies before turning in.
Day 14: Great Wall of China. Take an early train to Beijing from where we’ll transfer to the legendary Great Wall. Enjoy a meal at a local farm before heading to a deserted section of the Wall. Take a sundown hike before setting up camp. Then settle down under the stars for one of the most memorable nights of the trip.
Please note: In colder months you may stay in a guesthouse close to the wall rather than in tents, although you will still watch the sun rise over the wall. If staying in a guesthouse you’ll enjoy a karaoke session tonight.
Days 15 - 16: Beijing. Tick off a bucket list biggie as you watch the sun come up over the Wall (camping only). Then travel to Beijing and spend the next two days exploring. Take an optional tour of some of the city’s most iconic sites, pick up some designer dupes in the fake goods markets, visit the Temple of Heaven, or pay an optional visit to Nanluo district.
Days 17 - 18: Hangzhou or trip end. If you’re on the 17 day tour, your adventure ends here. If you’re on the longer trip, you’ll take the night train to Hangzhou on day 17. On day 18 we’ll visit the West Lake for a boat tour of the islands and hike up Jiuyao mountain to see the sunset
Day 19: Hangzhou to Shanghai. Get ready for another active day as we hike to the Nine Creeks in the magical Misty Forest. Take the train to Shanghai late morning before an evening of dinner and drinks with the gang.
Days 20 - 22: Shanghai. The next three days are yours to enjoy Shanghai. A sensational mix of modern Asian flavours, this fast-paced city is one of the world’s most exciting. We’ve got tons of optional excursions and activities on offer, including West Nanjing Road, the Bund, Disneyland, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Fake Goods Market, the Skywalk, and the legendary Shanghai Drunken Panda Pub Crawl!
Days 23 - 25: Fujian. Take the train to Fujian Province, one of Asia’s most picturesque areas. We’ll spend the next three nights in a traditional mud roundhouse known as a ‘tulou’, exploring the region’s picturesque villages and tea fields, meeting the Hakka people, and cycling to a local village.
Day 26: Fujian to Hong Kong. Take a minivan to Zhangzhou station before boarding the bullet train to Hong Kong West station. Arrive in Hong Kong and say your goodbyes to your new friends before heading home, or continuing your travels.
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Most expensive: £1,014 December, 2023
The trip begins in Hong Kong on day 1. There are no activities planned for today so fly into Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) at a time that suits you. Airport transfers are not included so you’ll need to make your own way to our starting accommodation. Taxi transfers take between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on traffic. Other more affordable options include the airport express train.
If you’re on the 17 day tour, we’ll leave you in Beijing and you can depart at any time on your end date.
If you’re on the 26 day trip, your tour ends back in Hong Kong. As the group travel back to Hong Kong on day 26, you should arrange your onward flight for the day after your trip ends. Your guide can help you book an extra night of accommodation locally.
All your accommodation is included for the duration of this tour (16 or 25 nights).
Most nights will be spent in hostels in shared (usually mixed sex) rooms, sleeping 4 to 12 people per room. All hostels offer clean, basic accommodation with either air conditioning or fans in each room. All bedding is provided. There are shared bathroom facilities and modern showers, plus laundry services (small fee) and free Wi-Fi. If you’d like to upgrade to a private room, please get in touch for costs.
Weather permitting you’ll also spend one night camping at an unrestored and unspoilt section of the Great Wall, right off the beaten tourist track. Camping gear will be provided in packs, including two-man tents, sleeping bags and a roll mat. Pillows will not be provided so you may want to bring your own travel pillow. You’ll hike to your campsite carrying your camping gear on your back, pitch your own tent and collect firewood to build a campfire.
Cooking facilities are not provided, but you’ll have a chance to buy snacks and drinks to take with you before you set out on your hike. There are no bathroom facilities at the camp either - it's a real outdoor experience!
Please note: Camping at the Great Wall usually takes place from May to October or sometimes outside these times if the weather is unseasonably warm. At other times you will be staying in a guesthouse around 10 minutes’ walk from the Wall, and you will still wake and walk to see the sunrise. If there are adverse weather conditions at any time of year, or any safety concerns, camping may also be replaced by the guesthouse stay.
Some nights will be spent travelling by sleeper train with triple-level flat bunks to sleep on. These are not in individual cabins but set out dorm-style in the train carriages, and you will be sharing your space with locals and other travellers. Travelling around China by train is an incredible experience, which offers a unique insight into local life, as well as fantastic views of the countryside.
Please note: Trains can be subject to delays, which may affect your itinerary. Due to the Chinese rail booking system, we cannot guarantee that all members of the group will be seated or berthed together when travelling on trains, although our guides will make every effort to ensure you are seated as close together as possible.
Food is not included as part of this tour, but your guide will always recommend great local restaurants in which to enjoy a group meal, where you can find cheap and delicious food. If you want to eat on a budget, you can grab a bowl of noodles or fried rice for very little. Most of the hostels we stay at also offer affordable Western dishes like pizza and pasta. If you want to eat out at Western restaurants, you can expect to pay a similar price as you would at home.
This trip is recommended for travellers aged 18-39. A reasonable level of fitness is required to take part in this trip. Although many of the activities are optional, and alternative means of transport or the choice to opt out are available for many of the hikes, it is an active tour.
British nationals need a visa to enter mainland China. You’ll need to make your visa application in in person at a visa application centre (London, Manchester, or Edinburgh). As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) has to be provided. For further information on visas please visit the Chinese Embassy website. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from your date of arrival.
Please note: Visa rules are subject to change. You should check with the relevant embassies before travelling.