Essential China holiday

“21 day overland tour from Beijing to Hong Kong via Shanghai including lots of time in each destination in between overnight train rides and a 3 night cruise on the Yangtze.”


Beijing | Shanghai | Xi’an | Emei Shan | Chengdu | Yangtze River | Liuzhou | Yangshuo | Hong Kong |

Description of Essential China holiday

From Beijing and the Great Wall of China to Emei Shan and a boat ride on the Yangtze through the Three Gorges, this three week holiday uncovers China’s essential highlights to allow small groups to have an authentic experience without feeling like they’re being whisked from one site to the next.

Four days in Beijing is more than enough time to explore at your own pace prior to a super speedy bullet train ride to Shanghai which opens up life on the Bund before you head east by overnight train to meet the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an.

After a couple of days hiking around Emei Shan you’ll be transported back in time along the Yangtze River en-route to Liuzhou and Yangshuo, where limestone karsts and bike rides form your days, before you reach your final destination, Hong Kong, from where you’ll prepare to fly home the next day.

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Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Low Impact Transportation: This trip gives you the chance to try out the public buses, overnight sleeper trains to go from Beijing to Shanghai to Xi’an and from Wuhan to Guilin to Hong Kong, the famous rickshaws and a traditional Chinese-style boat travelling along the Yangzi through the Three Gorges. Getting around as the locals do not only allows you to experience the culture on a deeper level, but the same way it is at home, using public transport is the most sustainable way to go – after walking and cycling of course! Supporting local culture and businesses: There are a multitude of opportunities to support local businesses and immerse yourself in Chinese culture on this trip. From the colourful markets to the bustling food stalls and cafes, the choices for eating and handicrafts are endless and the money is staying in the local economy - a vital way for tourism to make a positive impact. Activities that take you to markets, locally-owned restaurants, locals’ homes and villages are vital to the local peoples’ ability to truly benefit from tourism.

The Impacts of this Trip

Our style of trip, travelling, eating and staying with the locals, puts you right at the heart Chinese culture. China’s multi-ethnicity is evident in the Muslim Quarter. In Xi’an you can visit one of the oldest and best-preserved mosques in China. This is probably one of the few mosques in the world that incorporates a mixed architecture of traditional Muslim and Chinese styles. See the famous Giant Pandas up close and explore Emei Shan, one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. Staying in a monastery. It may not be apparent that learning about and respecting other cultures is part of being a responsible traveler, but we believe that this discovery is a natural way for people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and religions to interact and learn from each other, fostering peace and understanding. And it’s just plain fascinating!

Support World Heritage: On this trip there are numerous opportunities to visit important heritage sites on foot or by bicycle such as the famous Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and of course the Great Wall. There are also the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the limestone karst hills in Yangshou, among others. Celebrating world heritage is an important way to participate in sustainable tourism. Many world heritage sites are designated for protection so that all the world’s people can share in these fascinating and historical wonders for generations to come

Other optional unique experiences on this trip that allow you to support the local economy and learn about Chinese culture include: Hutong Tour in Rickshaw (Beijing): Take a rickshaw tour through the hutongs and discover the old world of Beijing, stopping by for lunch at a local family's home. Truly an authentic experience! Tai Chi in the Park: Rise early and join the local for a lesson on Tai Chi in the nearby park.


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