18 day china gap year trip (1)

18 Day China loop starting in Beijing. An awesome round trip in the best part of China in 18 days. Join our groups to discover the real China. Loads of inclusions and plenty of optional extras. Bamboo rafting, panders, Kung Fu temples, ancient Chinese temples and some of the worlds largest and most modern cities.



Xtreme China Xplorer  – Guided China Group Tour

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  • Visit Shanghai, the biggest city in the world, with a population larger than that of Australia
  • Experience the largest bar crawl in China – the Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl
  • Explore beautiful karst scenery in Yangshuo
  • Visit Amazing sights like Tianfu Square to see the colossal statue of Chairman Mao, and visit the world’s largest statue of Buddha
  • Take an exhilarating bike ride atop the ancient city walls
  • Bamboo Rafting the Li River
  • See pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
  • See the Terracotta Army and stay on a mountain farm in Xi’an
  • Watch Kung Fu at its highest level at the Shaolin Temple
  • Hike the Great Wall then Camp on the Wall, watch the sunrise the next morning
  • Destinations connected by night train with fully flat beds, so no time is wasted travelling



China Xplorer Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Beijing

reflection-off-lense.jpg.1340x450_0_240_8224Get ready for an exciting 18 day China Xplorer that starts in the amazing city of Beijing. It is up to you when you arrive but you must be in the bar of Beijing´s Leo Hostel at 4.30 pm. The hostel is easy to find being just 10 minutes from Tiananmen Square. After some introductions your guide will give you a brief explanation of the itinerary and you can meet your fellow travellers. The group will then head off to the Beijing South Railway Station to board the overnight train to Shanghai. Over the next 14 or so hours you will cover a distance of 1100 miles.

Day 2-5: Shanghai

Xtreme Gap Year China Xplorer (7)After a good night´s sleep, hopefully, on the overnight train you will arrive in Shanghai feeling refreshed and raring to go. You can start your stay in Shanghai with an optional Former French Concession walking tour. This is a guided tour and gives you a brief introduction to this cosmopolitan and modern city and includes entry to the Propaganda Museum. After that there is plenty of free time to explore.

People´s Square is a great place to start and it is from here that all distances in Shanghai are measured. Built over what used to be Shanghai Racecourse this green lung with a mix of lakes, pagodas and gardens is a pleasant surprise in this densely populated city. Gambling and horseracing were made illegal in Shanghai in 1949 so an alternative use for the space was found.

The Huangpu River winds its way through Shanghai and on the east side is the financial district of Pudong with its distinctive Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower. On the opposite side of the river the embankment known as the Bund makes a pleasant place for a walk and to admire the modern and classical buildings fronting the river.

For shopaholics Nanjing road is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world. Three and a half miles of glittering shops, punctuated with bars and restaurants is mind-blowing in the daytime but at night it becomes a kaleidoscope of neon lights and flashing signs.

Shanghai is not called the ´new New York´ without reason. The skyscrapers just get taller and taller and an optional tour to the top of a skyscraper makes a superb trip out. You can relax in a hot tub and sip champagne as you admire the almost 360 º view of the city across the Bund and the Shanghai skyline. Until recently the Shanghai World Financial Centre and Jin Mao Tower were the tallest buildings but they have been dwarfed by the Shanghai Tower. Due to be opened in 2015 the Shanghai Tower will be the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Maybe there will be time for a quick visit to the Shanghai Museum before going out for dinner. If you are up for it a great way to see the city by night is to join in the Shanghai Pub Crawl. This is an optional trip but for a negligible cost you can discover some of the best bars and clubs with a knowledgeable guide. Helped by a few free shots on the way of course!

Please note, the China Xplorer is a variation of the Xtreme China Experience. From Day 1 – 4 you will be with one group and a different one from Day  4– 18. Occasionally, you may have a journey from Beijing to Shanghai on your own on the first evening but we will let you know if this is the case.

Day 5-8: Yangshuo

img-30381Today you catch the coach to Yangshuo. Enjoy the ride through the ever-changing scenery until the karst mountains appearing in the distance mean you are nearly at your destination. This is a back-packing and climber´s paradise and some of the crags have some interesting names; Wine Bottle Cliff, Twin Gates, The Egg, Baby Frog, Low Mountain and Moon Hill. If you have a 20 yuan note handy the picture on the back was taken in Yangshuo.

Your first free activity in the afternoon is a ride down the River Li on a bamboo raft. As you drift down the river with the soaring mountains above you and the sun setting what could be a better introduction this beautiful place. Yangshuo is famous for its stunning scenery and there are some exciting optional activities.

Accommodation in Yangshou is at Monkey Jane´s Hostel which has a super terrace with great views of the surrounding mountains and river. It is the highest roof-top bar around so definitely the place to go for a few beers while the sun goes down. If you are feeling brave the bar sells snake liquor at 10RMB a shot.

The Li River is where some of the optional activities take place. Kayaking is something everyone knows about but what about deep water soloing. All you have to do is climb up a really high crag, no ropes, and jump off into deep water!

For more relaxing classes try learning Chinese or taking instruction in calligraphy. For a fun group activity the Golden Water caves are great. Cover each other in oozing river mud until you all resemble chocolate biscuits and then jump in the hot springs to rinse it off. This is great fun and great for your skin at the same time.

Forget fishing with rods or nets. Fishing in Yangshuo is done is a slightly different way as the men use birds to catch the fish. Specially trained cormorants dive from boats and catch the fish and come back and spit them out. A snare is placed round their necks so they can only swallow the smaller ones!

For a more unusual activity but relaxing at the same time opt for some Hot Cupping treatment. Heated bamboo or glass cups are placed on your back and as they tighten the impurities and tensions are drawn out of the skin. The Yangshuo farmers love it after a day at fields and who cares if you have up to 30 dark circles on your back for few days!

There is plenty of free time in Yangshuo right up until it is time to board the night train to Chengdu.

Day 9 – 10: Chengdu

Xtreme Gap Year China Xplorer (6)Around 14 million people live in the City of Brocade or City of Hibiscus as Chengdu is also known. Today there is time to get to know the city and maybe try the famous Sichuan Hot Pot. Pots of bubbling and spicy oil surrounded by a selection of meats and vegetables mean you can select your own and then cook them in the boiling pot. Beware the Sichuan Peppercorns, they can be mind-numbingly hot!

On the second day in Chengdu it is an early start and a ride out to the Panda Breeding Research Centre. Panda´s don´t do much but look adorable and search for food. Panda breakfast time is the best time to catch these black and white cuddly creatures tucking into their daily ration of about 20kg of bamboo.

When you get back to Chengdu there is the chance to try out a massage. The masseurs here are blind, or supposed to be, and as their touch is more sensitive than a sighted person they give some great massages. It might be better to avoid anywhere that offers you a ´happy ending´ though.

Once you are suitably relaxed it is time to get on the overnight train to Xi´an. The train ride is 500 miles and takes about 15 hours.

Day 11: Xi´an

In the morning you will be taken on a guided tour to see the number one attraction in Xi’an which has to be the Terracotta Warriors. Discovered by farmers in 1974 this is one of the most unforgettable sights of any trip to China. Only a few of the many thousands of the buried soldiers have been completely recovered so far along with 40,000 weapons. Each soldier has unique features and buried alongside them were their horses and chariots.   The First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, died in 210 BCE and the soldiers were to protect him in the after-life.

It takes a lot a top off the sight of all the Terracotta Warriors but if you fancy some exercise there is an optional bike ride round the city walls.

There are many homeless people in Xi´an and tonight there is the chance to give something back to this amazing country by helping out at a soup kitchen. Not just soup but pots of tea, noodles and steamed buns are provided by the volunteer organisations come rain or shine.

Day 12:Free Time

Today is free time for exploring by yourself or with your new-found friends.

The Muslim Quarter in Xi´an is a lively bustling place where you can find the Beiyuanmen Muslim Market which is great place for some lunch and to find some souvenirs of Shanghai. There are ten mosques in the area but the most famous is the Great Mosque with intricate carvings, colourful decorations, courtyards and gardens. The main Prayer Hall of the mosque can hold up to 1.000 people and is lavishly and ornately decorated. The grounds are open all day to people of all beliefs but non-Muslims are not allowed in the Prayer Hall.

For some night time entertainment check out Big Wild Goose Pagoda and sit and watch Asia´s biggest sound and light show. Afterwards find one of the many karaoke bars and maybe have a group singsong. Karaoke or KTV as it is known is incredibly popular in China and even more so in Xi´an with nearly all the venues being night clubs combined with karaoke bars.

Day 13: QinLing Mountains18 day china gap year trip (9)

Today you will head out into the QinLing Mountains by minibus. On the way there is time to stop for some fun in the river, maybe tubing for the adventurous or grab the chance to top up your suntan. Your accommodation for the night is in traditional farmhouse and on arrival it is your chance to choose what you want for dinner later on. Once you have made your choice the farmers goes and catches it!!!

While the farmer is off hunting for food you go off on a hike, hopefully in the other direction, to see a series of beautiful water falls. On your return dinner will be ready and it is a chance to get to know your companions better while sitting under the stars drinking the local Hans beer.

Day 14: Dengfeng

Shaolin kung fu TempleUp early and you leave the QinLing Mountains behind and go back to Xi´an to catch the bus to Dengfeng. This is the closest town to the home of Kung Fu and the Shaolin Temple.

The afternoon is spent at a local market before going onto an orphanage where all the children are trained in Kung Fu. Visitors to the orphanage usually buy gifts for the children at the market. If the group contributes about 60RMB each it is possible to take rice, sweets, oil, maybe half a pig and some paper and pencils for their education.

At the orphanage there is an optional display of Kung Fu by the children who love nothing better than playing ball games with their visitors afterwards. Helping the children practice their English is great fun as well and if you are up to it there are optional Kung Fu lessons from the teacher. All proceeds go towards the orphanage.

Day 15: Shaolin Temple

Another early start as we head northwest of Dengfeng out into the thickly wooded mountains. Reputed to be the ´Number One Temple Under Heaven´ not only is the temple the home of Shaolin Kung Fu but it also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Established in 495AD the temple takes its name from the nearby Shaoshi Mountain and as well as Kung Fu it is where Chan Buddhism originated. The complex of the Shaolin Temple has 7 main halls and there are many interesting photo opportunities.

After another exciting day it is time to catch the overnight train back to Beijing. The journey this time is about 750 miles and takes around 12 hours.

Day 16: Beijing

Xtreme Gap Year China Xplorer (9)The morning is for relaxing before heading off to the Great Wall for an overnight camping experience and to see one of the world´s most impressive feats of engineering. The journey out to the Great Wall of China is by bus and this takes about two hours, depending on the traffic out of Beijing. Once the bus is clear of the suburbs the scenery changes to mainly forests and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.

Nothing can prepare you for the reality of the Great Wall of China. The sheer scale of this iconic structure snaking off into the distance will take your breath away as you stroll along the fortifications and wonder just how it was constructed. The locals call it the Wild Wall and after hiking a short distance you will find a deserted place to set up camp. Watching the sun go down over the Great Wall is a magical experience and one you will never forget.

Day 17-18

18 day china gap year trip (2)Up early in time to catch the sun rise across the Great Wall and after some memorable photos it is time to return to Beijing. The rest of today and tomorrow are at leisure in Beijing to get to know the city better.

For dinner Beijing style find the Night Market. There are food stalls with many recognisable dishes to try and some not quite so! Many of the offerings are on skewers and while strawberry-on-a-stick sounds delicious some of the more exotic ones might have the odd beetle, silk worm or scorpion on! The signs are in Mandarin Chinese and English so if you are not sure if it is a lizard or lamb kebab hopefully the signs will help. The skewers are displayed raw and then deep fried in large woks to order. This is a great fun activity in a group and will certainly sort out who has the strongest stomach!

If you are not feeling too queasy after all the weird and wonderful foods you have seen, and maybe eaten, there is an amazing acrobatic display at the Chaoyang Theatre. The award winning Beijing Acrobatic Troupe will astound you with their contortions, twists, turns and balancing acts.

Tiananmen Square is a must-see. Chairman Mao died in 1976 and has lain in state in his crystal coffin in the Mausoleum here ever since. He wanted to be cremated but his final wishes were ignored and he is visited everyday by thousands of people. On the eastern side of Tiananmen Square is the National Museum for anyone that wants a whistle stop tour of Beijing history.

A few streets from Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City which was home to many Emperors and there retinues from the 15th century onwards. Surrounded by a high wall and a deep moat the city is a fascinating place with about 9,000 rooms spread across 1,000 or so wooden buildings. The Palace Museum is also here with stunning treasures and works of art on display.

To see how the other half live escape from Beijing city to the edge of the beautiful Kunming Lake to visit the Summer Palace. Spread over acres and acres of beautiful gardens there are pavilions, towers, bridges and other man-made ancient structures numbering well over 3,000. Two of the most interesting are the Marble Boat and the Seventeen Arch Bridge.

Other notable places in Beijing are the Bird´s Nest Stadium from the 2008 Olympics and the Water Cube. They are both interesting to look at through the day by probably better viewed at night when they are lit up.

At the end of day 18 you will have covered 3800 miles together and shared many experiences which will stay with you for a lifetime. But it is time start saying goodbyes as your group departs for home or maybe onto other exciting countries.

Optional Activities

This tour is designed to allow you lots of freedom to explore and see the sights, and there are plenty of exciting optional activities on offer in each location along the route. These include:

  • Entrance to the Great Wall: 45CNY (approx £4.40)
  • Cable car at Great Wall: 55CNY each way (approx £5.35)
  • Toboggan at Great Wall: 45CNY (approx £4.40)
  • Beijing: Forbidden City: 60CNY (approx £5.85)
  • Beijing: Temple of Heaven: 35CNY (approx £3.40)
  • Beijing: Summer Palace: 50CNY (approx £4.85)
  • Beijing: Legend of Gongfu performance: 100CNY (approx £9.70)
  • Beijing or Shanghai: Acrobatic Performance: 100CNY (approx £9.70)
  • Beijing: Opera Performance: 180CNY (approx £17.50)
  • Beijing: Hutong Cycle Tour: 100 CNY (approx £9.70)
  • Shanghai: Yuyuan Garden: 40CNY (approx £3.90)
  • Shanghai: Jinmao Tower: 100CNY (approx £9.70)
  • Shanghai: Huangpu River night cruise: 70CNY (approx £6.80)
  • Shanghai: Oriental Pearl View deck 100 CNY (approx £9.70)
  • Xi’an: Terra Cotta Warriors Museum: 150CNY (approx £14.60)
  • Xi´an: Bell & Drum Towers: 40CNY (approx £3.90)
  • Xi´an: Great Mosque: 25CNY (approx £2.45)
  • Xi´an: City Wall South Gate: 40CNY (approx £3.90)
  • Xi´an: Big Wild Goose Pagoda: 50CNY (approx £4.85)
  • Xi´an: Dumpling Banquet: 80CNY (approx £7.80)
  • Yangtze River: Three Lesser Gorges: 220 CNY (approx £21.50)
  • Yangtze River: Three Gorges Dam: 120 CNY (approx £11.70)
  • Yangshuo: 40 min Calligraphy class: 30 CNY (approx £2.90)
  • Yangshuo: Chinese Language lesson: 40 CNY (approx £3.90)
  • Yangshuo: Impression Light Show: 188 CNY (approx £18.30)
  • Yangshuo: 1 hour Gongfu Lesson: 50 CNY (approx £4.85)
  • Yangshuo: Cooking School & market tour: 150CNY (approx £14.60)
  • Yangshuo: Bike rental: 20CNY (approx £1.95)
  • Yangshuo: Kayaking: 130CNY (approx £12.65)
  • Yangshuo: Li River Cruise: 80CNY (approx £7.80)

Trip Frequently Asked Questions

We include all of the accommodation during this China group tour. We usually use hostels based on shared rooms. There is the option to upgrade your own room at a cost of about £25 per night. Please give us a couple of weeks notice if that is your intention.

We regularly do check Hostels to Make Sure They Are Clean and Secure.

The idea of accommodation in China can send a shiver down your spine, but each hostel has modern showers washing facilities and Internet  access.

Some of this trip is spent camping on the great Wall of China, you do not need to bring camping equipment it is all included for you. We spend one night on a traditional organic farm and you will also get the opportunity to sleep in a roundhouse as well.

We sleep on sleeper trains during some sections, this is a great way to travel because you wake up somewhere new without spending  your days on the move. Sleeper trains all have flat beds, and there are a lot of fun. If you wish you can upgrade to first class sleeper cabin on some routes.

Please note this trip does not include food. So you will need to budget approximately £10 per day to cover your meals. The guide will always suggest good places to eat, usually most people eat together. An average meal will cost around 30RMB (approx £3) per person.

If you want to go exceptionally cheap, you can always grab a bowl of noodles or fried rice for as little as 10RMB (approx £1).

You can also get Western food and most of the hostels where you stay and this will cost about three pounds, but hey you are in China take full advantage.

You will need a VISA for this trip. A tourist VISA can be obtained at the Chinese embassy relatively easily. You will need a letter of invitation, which we will send you after you have paid your final balance so we advise you to book early so you can arrange your VISA  in good time.
We usually run groups between 10 and 18 people,the minimum group size is 5.
This trip is most popular with people between 18-25 but we get all ages travelling with us.
Please note, the Beijing to Beijing Loop is a variation of the 25 day HK to HK circuit. From Day 1 – 4 you will be with one group and a different one from Day  4– 18. Occasionally, you may have a journey from Beijing to Shanghai on your own on the first evening but we will let you know if this is the case. 
The group meets up at 4.30pm at the accommodation on the start day. You can arrive anytime before this. If you would like to arrive a day early we can help you book your extra nights accommodation.
The trip finishes at 10pm on the last day and most people spend an extra night before flying home. You will be in Beijing for the last two days so it is possible to fly out earlier but you will miss out on some activities.

Duration Option Price  
18 (Days)USD 1709Book Now

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  • All transport
  • Detailed predeparture pack
  • Services of English-speaking local coordinators  &    guides
  • All accommodation
  • Fully guided group tour
  • bamboo rafting the Li River
  • Overnight trains
  • Propaganda Museum in Shanghai
  • Shop till you drop in the Nanjing Road
  • Stroll through the Bund checking out Shanghai skyline
  • Wallow in Chinese mud baths
  • Entry to the Panda breeding research centre
  • Entry to the terracotta Warriors
  • Qin ling Mountains excursion
  • A visit to the Shaolin Temple
  • Camping out on the great Wall of China
  • Tiananmen Square and  the forbidden city


  • Transfers to and from the airport (although this is very easy)
  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Spending money
  • Optional activities
  • Meals


Dates 2017

May: 7; 28
June: 4; 9; 18; 25; 30
July: 16; 21;
August: 4; 6; 13; 20; 27
September: 3; 10; 17; 24
October: 1; 6; 8; 15; 22; 29


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