This jam-packed tour takes you camping out on a remote section of the Great Wall for an unforgettable sunrise, bamboo rafting in Yangshuo, biking on Xi’an’s ancient city walls, visiting adorable pandas in Chengdu, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, and learning some awesome Kungfu moves from Shaolin monks. Foodies will get to enjoy mouthwatering Sichuan hotpot, farm-fresh meals, and even scorpions and snakes! Check out the details below and contact us to ask any questions or book 🙂
New China Xplorer 18 Day China Backpacking Tour: Trip Highlights
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
New China Xplorer 18 Day China Backpacking Tour Photos
Day 1: Welcome to Shangai!
Welcome to China! The tour begins in Shanghai one of the most exciting modern cities in the world. On arrival day you will meet group at the rooftop bar of the Pheonix Hostel. You have one day to explore Shanghai at your leisure, prior to heading on an overnight train to the stunning Guilin.
Transfer to Shanghai South Station to board a night train to Guilin.
One guide will put you on the train and another will collect you in Guilin.
Please note, the China Xplorer is a variation of the more popular Xtreme China Experience. Very Occasionally, you may have a journey from Shanghai to Yangzhou on your own on the first evening aboard an over night train before meeting the larger group. We will let you know if this is the case.
If you do not wish to do this you have the option of flying into Guilin Liangjiang International Airport and you can meet the group on day 2.
A note about sightseeing in Shanghai. The 1st day is a connection day to get you to the group in Guilin. If you want to spend more time exploring Shanghai, and we recommend do so, you may want to book additional nights at the end of the trip becasue you will be finishing up back in Shanghai.
Day 2-5: 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 6-8: Chengdu
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 9-10: Xian
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.
The Muslim Quarter in Xi´an is a lively bustling place where you can find the Beiyuanmen Muslim Market which is a 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.
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 11-12: Shaolin
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.
Day 13-16: Beijing
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.
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 every day 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 their 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.
Day 17-18: Hangzhou $ Moganshan
A breath of fresh air between two major stops. Discover a stunning mountainous area that has accommodated Shanghai’s elite; from the old colonialists to Chairman Mao.
“In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Hangzhou”. Once an ancient capital of China and rumored to have been visited by Macro Polo, Hangzhou is an eclectic mix of old and new, built on the stunning banks of West Lake. Famous throughout China for its beauty and culture, Hangzhou has become one of the most visited tourist cities in the world.
At the end of day 18 you will have covered Thousands of 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.
All accommodation is included on the trip on a shared basis. Some nights are spent on sleeper trains.
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 that 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.
A Rough Idea of Price
All of our gap year holidays are completely customised to your needs and prices will therefore vary based on things like the time of year and level of accommodation; but we want to give you as good an idea of how much this itinerary will cost.
Services of English-speaking local coordinators & guides
Fully guided group tour
bamboo rafting the Li River
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)
Frequently Asked Questions
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. On the first day there may be a smaller group size.
Most of the time but not the same one. We use different guides in different cities. So sometimes you will be put on a train by one guide and picked up at the destination by another.
This trip is most popular with people between 18-25 but we get all ages travelling with us.
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.
New China Xplorer 18 Day China Backpacking Tour Trip Dates
Explore China in 27 days on this Epic China Group Tour. Easy to get to and from as it starts and ends in Hong Kong. Taking in the best China has to offer by completing a loop you will see Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou and Macau en route. Big cities, to traditional China. Shaolin temples, great wall, jawdropping scenery and good times with new friends. Guided group gap year tour with an average of 12 people per trip. If you want to explore China then this is for you.
Xtreme Gap Year offers you the chance to join exciting trips run by very adventurous travel experts! We believe incredible travel experiences create better travel memories. Read our story...
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