Experience some highlights of old China between Beijing and the country’s original capital of Xi’an. Start in Beijing where you can experience traditional Chinese culture as you wander through hidden hutong communities. One of the best places to see the Great Wall is less than 100km north of the capital at Mutianyu. From here, go southwest to Xi’an, the ancient city that is home to the Terracotta Army. While you’re there, discover its history with a cycle around the city wall. From here, return to Beijing via Pingyao, a city famed for its history and well-preserved ancient architecture.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Beijing, Xi'an, Great Wall of China, Pingyao
Activity Activity Family, Culture
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Explore China’s complex capital

Explore China’s complex capital

Day 1–2 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 3 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 4–5 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.

Step back in time in ancient Pingyao

Step back in time in ancient Pingyao

Day 6 in Pingyao

Considered China’ best-preserved ancient walled city, Pingyao Ancient City (its appropriate official name) is famous for its largely intact Ming and Qing-dynasty infrastructure and architecture. Though a number of China’s cities boast “ancient” historic features, history-buffs shouldn’t miss Pingyao’s authentic and extensive old town.

Return to Beijing

Return to Beijing

Day 7 in Beijing

Head back to Beijing for your onward departure.

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