You can experience a lot of China’s highlights with this two-week tour down east of the country. Start in Beijing, from where you can visit one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Next, venture south to the ancient capital, Xi’an, home to an incredible amount of history including its epic city wall. From here, head east to the huge metropolis of Shanghai and marvel at its famous skyline. Chengdu’s teahouses are the perfect places to experience China’s renowned tea culture before finally getting away from the crowds with a bamboo raft trip down the Li River from Yangshuo.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Chengdu, Great Wall of China, Yangshuo
Activity Activity Family, Nature & Wildlife, Culture
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Explore China’s complex capital

Explore China’s complex capital

Day 1–3 in Beijing

With a history dating back over three millennia, China’s mammoth capital is a proud celebration of old and new — showcasing shiny modern skyscrapers alongside the imposing Ming and Qing-era Forbidden Palace. Like China itself, the city has been transformed over the last century, from an ancient walled city to a stylish metropolis and seat of the ruling Communist Party. Politics are never far away in Beijing, and any trip would be amiss without a visit to the vast pedestrianised Tiananmen Square — site of Chairman Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China.

Don't miss

Visit the hutongs of Beijing

Visit the hutongs of Beijing

Step into the hidden world of old Beijing and meander its maze of hutongs - hidden alleyways of ancient siheyuan courtyard houses. Go shopping, dining and experience an authentic Chinese way of life in these compact communities that pack in more than their fair share of culture and tradition.

Head to the unspoilt Great Wall at Mutianyu

Head to the unspoilt Great Wall at Mutianyu

Day 4 in Great Wall of China

Mutianyu is easy to reach from downtown Beijing and home to one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall of China, with densely distributed watchtowers and breathtaking woodland views. Go early to avoid the worst of the crowds, and choose from a cable car, chair lift or hike up, and a hike or toboggan back down.

Sample the food in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter

Sample the food in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter

Day 5–6 in Xi'an

The eastern end of the ancient Silk Road and one of China’s historical capitals, Xi’an is a fascinating fusion of culture, food, archaeology and history.

You’ll no doubt want to see its famous Terracotta Army, which is located just 50km from the city centre, and is serviced regularly by buses and tour companies, but include some time to see the rest of Xi’an too.

Once known as Chang’an (meaning Eternal Peace), the city’s 14th century walls have been carefully restored and maintained, and the Tang-dynasty-era Big Wild Goose Pagoda holds plenty of interest beyond its enjoyable name. The Muslim Quarter in the heart of the city is famous for its mosques and markets where you can sample delicious street food.

Don't miss

Cycle the old city wall of Xi’an

Cycle the old city wall of Xi’an

Xi’an is China’s original capital and home to the oldest and best-preserved city wall in China — and a great way to see it is by bike. Give yourself a few hours for regular stops so you can take in the wall’s amazing engineering.

See old and new China in Shanghai’s Bund

See old and new China in Shanghai’s Bund

Day 7–9 in Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s biggest city and a rising financial powerhouse. In the heart of the city is the Bund. This famous promenade symbolises Shanghai and from here you can see its enigmatic mix of architecture, from grandiose colonial buildings to modern skyscrapers.

Don't miss

Stroll the gardens of Suzhou

Stroll the gardens of Suzhou

Take a break from Shanghai’s buzzing metropolis and escape to the peaceful waterways of Suzhou. Just 1hr30 by train from Shanghai, a stroll through Suzhou’s classical gardens, pagodas and canals makes for a wonderful day trip.

Spice up your life in Sichuan’s capital

Spice up your life in Sichuan’s capital

Day 10–11 in Chengdu

The charming city of Chengdu, with its beautiful traditional teahouses, is the perfect place to experience China’s famed tea-drinking culture. As the capital of culinary-favourite Sichuan Province and UNESCO’s first-ever City of Gastronomy, Chengdu’s food-scene is as varied, flavoursome and spicy as you might expect. Once you’ve sated your taste buds, make sure you take a trip to the Chengdu Panda Base, a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas, red pandas and other endangered species.

Go bamboo rafting on the Li River

Go bamboo rafting on the Li River

Day 12–14 in Yangshuo

In recent years Yangshuo has transformed from a quiet rural settlement into one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. Known for its striking limestone karst landscape, the region has fantastic cycling and hiking routes, while the town itself has developed a reputation for partying and shopping. Escape the hustle and bustle and connect with nature with a paddle down the gentle waters of the Li River on a natural bamboo raft.

Don't miss

Take a day trip to Longji Rice Terraces

Take a day trip to Longji Rice Terraces

Visit the Longji Rice Terraces (known as the Dragon’s Back) in Longsheng and you’ll see a beautiful landscape shaped by the agriculture it supports, with row upon mesmerising row of terraced rice fields built centuries ago along the hillside slope.

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