China Grand Tour: Explore China by Train
Train Travel China: Journey thoughout China by all sorts of trainsMap
TRAVEL CHINA BY TRAIN: BEIJING, CAPITAL OF CHINA
Your train journey through China ideally starts in Beijing, the capital of China. The city of Beijing can be reached from all over the world with numerous non-stop flights.
The visitor of Beijing awaits a modern, clean and diverse city full of surprises. Beijing’s dimensions can leave its visitors breathless at first sight. However, once you take a look behind the scenes of the modern glass facades of the skyscrapers and the noisy and bustling main streets, Beijing turns out to be a young, trendy and modern city, where you can marvel at numerous cultural delicacies from the 3000-year history of the city.
If one is not travelling in Beijing at rush hour, the subway is a very fast, cheap and safe means of transport in Beijing. The geographical center of Beijing is the Forbidden City with the Tiananmen Square in front. By the way, the name Forbidden City comes from the fact that it was forbidden for ordinary people who did not serve at the imperial court to enter the "Forbidden City" until the early 1950s.
When traveling Beijing, a visit from the Temple of Heaven should not be missing. For five centuries, the Temple of Heaven was the center of imperial ceremonies and the symbol of the connection between the "Son of Heaven" (the Emperor) and the universe, from where the Ming Emperors received the "Mandate of Heaven" to govern. Construction of the Temple of Heaven began during the reign of Emperor Yongle and was completed around 1420. The harmonious architecture as well as the simple beauty of the Temple of Heaven inspire visitors to this day.
CHINA TRAVEL: JOURNEY BY NIGHT TRAIN FROM BEIJING TO XI'AN
In the evening you board the night train for your journey from Beijing to Xi'an. The approx. 12-hour journey is done in a so-called "soft sleeper" train. The "Soft Sleepers" are lockable 4-bed cabins with 2 beds on each side on top of each other.
Therefore, it is possible that you will share your cabin with other travelers. This in turn is a good opportunity to talk to the locals and get an insight view of how the locals travel! Water and simple snacks can be bought in the train, but it is advisable to stock up with the necessary water and snacks before the trip.
Night trains are a popular and cheap means of transport in China. People who can't afford a plane ticket, usually travel by night train. However, the introduction of high-speed trains has drastically reduced the number of night trains and made travelling around China more convenient.
While the night train from Beijing to Xi’An takes 12 hours, the high-speed train covers the same distance on a separate track in approx. 4 hours. For the journey from Beijing to Xi'An we deliberately use the night train. This is pure railway romance, which will be a thing of the past in a few years.
CHINA TRAVEL: THE ANCIENT CITY OF XI'AN AND THE TERRACOTTA ARMY
The city of Xi'An is the capital of Shaanxi Province in central China. Both historically and culturally, Xi'An is one of the most important places in China.
The history of Xi'An can be traced back to the Bronze Age 3000 years ago. The heyday of Xi'An only began during the Han Dynasty (221-206 BC) when it became the first capital of China under Emperor Qin Shi Huang. At that time the city was called "Chang An" which means "Long Peace".
With the death of Qing Shi Huang in 210 BC came also the end of the Qin dynasty. His successors were the Han, who ruled from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. and made Xi'An - or Chang An - also the capital of their Han empire.
Xi'An was long regarded as China's gateway to the West and was the beginning/end point of the Silk Road, one of the oldest trade routes in the world. Here camel caravans unloaded their goods from the Eurasian region and in return were loaded with valuable goods from China that were sought after in the West. Chinese silk in particular was in great demand in the Roman Empire.
After the decline of the Han Dynasty (220 A.D.) Xi'An was destroyed during the subsequent turmoil of war.
Only with the beginning of the Sui Dynasty in 581, after a long period of fragmentation since the fall of the Han Dynasty, was it possible to reunite the Chinese Empire. Under the rule of the Sui, Xi'An was rebuilt and declared the capital of the short-lived Sui Dynasty (581-618). It was not until the Tang Dynasty (1386-1644) that Xi'An experienced a new heyday. Xi'An developed into a trading center on the Silk Road and became a center of the arts; calligraphy, sculpture, pottery, painting and poetry reached new heights. Buddhism also entered Xi'An during the Tang Dynasty. With the disintegration of the Tang Dynasty at the end of the 9th century came the economic decline of Xi'An. The capital was moved to Nanjing. Although Xi'An was rebuilt under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it was never able to continue the heyday of the Tang Dynasty. From this last reconstruction comes also the very well-preserved city wall of Xi’An. Today, Xi'An is regarded as the city with the most beautiful city wall of China, preserved in its original state.
The last time Xi'An received imperial honors was in 1900, when the empress widow Cixi, who had fled Beijing, set up her court in Xi'An for 2 years during the Boxer Uprising.
Due to its eventful past, Xi'An today has a wide range of sights to offer. For this reason, a trip to Xi'An is particularly worthwhile. The main attraction and highlight of a journey to Xi'An is certainly the Terracotta Army, which is located about 30km outside of Xi'An. The Terracotta Army was created to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.
CHINA TRAIN TRAVEL TO THE TERRACOTTA WARRIORS OF XI'AN
Qin Shi Huang is considered the first emperor of China. Qin Shi Huang was born as Ying Zheng, son of the King of Qin, in 259 BC. His birth took place in the time of “Warring States Period" (475-221), when the kingdom of Qin fought with six other states for supremacy. After the death of his father, Ying Zheng ascended the throne of Qin at the age of 13 as King Zheng.
Between 230 and 221 BC, Ying Zheng gradually conquered the other states, putting an end to the fragmented Chinese feudal empire. The time of the fighting was over, China was born and the city Xi'An was appointed the new capital. Ying Zheng became the first emperor of China and from then on called himself Qin Shi Huang, which means "First sublime ruler of the Qin dynasty".
As ruler, Qin Shi Huang reorganized his empire with the help of a huge bureaucracy and carried out far-reaching reforms. Everything was standardized: writing, weights, coins, the width of the wagon axles and even how the moustaches and hair knots had to sit was prescribed by the official state. Qin Shi Huang continued to build the Great Wall of China and built a 6,800 kilometers road network, some of which is still preserved today.
The first emperor of China wanted to be prepared for the time after his death. Shortly after his accession to the throne, he is said to have begun the construction of his tomb. Over 700,000 forced laborers are said to have worked in his 56 square kilometers mausoleum for 37 years. In 1974 the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang was discovered by chance by a local farmer. Since then, the excavation site has long since developed into one of the most important tourist attractions in central China. The museum consists of several pits, only partially excavated so far. The largest has more than a thousand terracotta figures. The army consists of about 8000 clay warriors. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1987 and is often referred to as the 8th wonder of the world.
CHINA TRAVEL: JOURNEY BY HIGHSPEED TRAIN FROM XI'AN TO THE GIANT PANDA BEARS OF CHENGDU, SICHUAN.
From the historic Xi'An in Shaanxi Province, your China journey continues by modern high-speed train to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in southern China.
For the 700km long route through central China, opened in 2018, the CRH express train takes just 4 hours. As a rule, the CRH (China Railway Highspeed) trains have 3 classes. There is one business class for business people, which is usually located at the front or rear of the train. The comfortable 1st class compartments have 2 comfortable seats on each side, in contrast to the 2nd class cars which have 3 seats on each side.
In the middle of the train there is a snack bar, where you can buy drinks or simple snacks. The display board alternately shows how fast the train is travelling and where the train will stop next. Please do not forget that there is a smoking ban in the CRH trains in China.
PULSATING CITY CHENGDU: TRAVEL TO THE SICHUAN CAPITAL CITY
Chengdu, the bustling capital of Sichuan Province in China, located in the western part of the fertile Sichuan Basin. Despite, or perhaps because of, the massive changes of recent years, Chengdu is a city with many exciting contrasts.
In the countless side streets and alleys between the glass skyscrapers and modern shopping centers you can still find the "old" Chengdu with its typical hairdressing shops, noodle stations and local markets.
Thanks to the modern subway and a well-developed network of city buses it is quite easy to find your way around Chengdu and you can easily explore the Chengdu on your own.
The name Chengdu literally means "completed capital". The foundation time of Chengdu goes back to the 4th century before Christ. The area around Chengdu and the Sichuan Basin were settled much earlier.
The most prominent inhabitant of Sichuan Province is undoubtedly the Giant Panda Bear. A good way to observe these cute creatures is at the Chengdu Panda Research and Breeding Centre in the north of Chengdu.
SICHUAN TRAVEL, CHINA: BAOGUANG TEMPLE OF CHENGDU
A visit of the Giant Panda Bear can be well combined with a visit of the Buddhist Baoguang Temple. The Baoguang Temple is located only 10km north of the Panda Station.
It is said that the foundation time of the Baoguang Temple goes back to the eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). If one can believe these traditions, the Baoguang monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in China.
In 881 the Tang Emperor Xizong took refuge here for a short time from the uprisings in the city Xi'An.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907) Buddhism began to spread in China and the Baoguang Temple became an influential and important Buddhist center of the region.
The 13-storey, 30m high pagoda, which is the only building preserved in its original state, also dates from this period. Inside the monastery there are also more than 500 arhats made of clay. ("Saints").
CHINA TRAIN TRAVEL FROM CHONGQING TO YANGSHUO
At the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers is the huge city of Chongqing. With 32 million inhabitants, Chongqing is the largest city in western China.
Chongqing is a hectic city and one gets the impression that around the clock at every street corner of the city something is being traded. At Chongqing's West Railway Station, you start your journey first by highspeed train to Guilin and by car on to Yangshuo in Guangxi Province.
With the modern CRH high-speed train, you will travel south to Guilin at nearly 300km/h. The train will take you to Guilin in the north of the Guangxi Province and then you continue the rest of your journey to Yangshuo.
The constantly changing landscape makes the journey by train between Chongqing and Guilin a wonderful experience. You can hardly get your nose away from the train window while the surroundings slowly change from the plains of the Sichuan Basin into the enchanting karst landscape of Guangxi Province. The train journey from Chongqing to Guilin by high-speed train takes only about 4 hours.
JOURNEY BY TRAIN FROM YANGSHUO TO KOWLOON WEST STATION IN HONG KONG
The area around Yangshuo is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and famous landscapes in China. Yangshuo owes its fame not least to the fact that the karst landscape of the northern Guangxi province is depicted on the 20 RMB note of the Chinese currency.
The small town of Yangshuo located in the middle of a magical landscape in southern China, where the idyllic "Jade Dragon River" confluences with the Li River. Very popular are the boat trips on a motorized raft on the Li River from Xinping to Yangdi. We also recommend a trip to Xianggongshan, from where you can enjoy an unforgettable view of the Li River and the Karst Mountains. If you prefer a sportier pace, you can rent a bike and cycle to the Moon Mountain.
Since 2018 you can travel by highspeed train from Guilin directly to Kowloon in Hong Kong. The CRH high-speed train takes only about 3.5 hours for the entire route. The customs formalities are easily done upon arrival in Hong Kong. After arriving at Kowloon West station, you have direct access to the entire Hong Kong subway network.
As an alternative you can also continue your journey from Yangshuo with a flight to Hangzhou and on to Shanghai.
"...a magnificent journey, we enjoyed every bit of it.....we loved the journey on the small steam-railway..."
Christian from U.K.
"...the fast progress of China is really impressive....especially impressed we were about how clean everything is in China..."
Sandrina from Germany
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN BEIJING
Arrival in Beijing. Pick up at the airport and transfer to your hotel in Beijing.
For a start you make an easy sightseeing tour in Beijing. You pay a visit to the Summer Palace. This fascinating complex with numerous temples and lakes served the imperial families as a recreational park and as a refuge from the heat of Beijing.
In the late afternoon you will explore the Hutongs, one of Beijing's trademarks, during a rickshaw ride. Hutong is the name given to the maze of narrow streets and alleys that connect the traditional one-storey houses with their historic courtyards.
In the evening walk through the commercial street Wangfujing with numerous restaurants and shopping centers.
Return to the hotel.
Time at leisure.
Day 2: CHINA TRAVEL BY TRAIN: BEIJING WITH FORBIDDEN CITY AND TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
You visit the Temple of Heaven, which was built in 1421 together with the Imperial Palace. Several times a year the emperor had to hold a "dialogue with heaven", during which he prayed for a good harvest and at the same time received his "mandate" or the legitimation to rule.
Afterwards you will visit the Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City includes the former imperial palace, which served as a residence for 24 emperors over almost 500 years.
During an extensive tour of the Forbidden City you will learn many interesting facts about the last two Chinese dynasties, the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty.
Then return to the hotel. Time at leisure to explore Beijing on your own.
Overnight accommodation in Beijing, China.
Day 3: BEIJING GREAT WALL OF CHINA, JOURNEY BY NIGHT TRAIN TO XI’AN
Excursion to the Great Wall near Jinshanling with Pic Nic lunch on the Great Wall.
Although this part of the Wall has recently been renovated, this section of the Wall is still quite original and less touristy than elsewhere. With a total length of 6'300km, the Great Wall is probably the largest man-made building ever built and an outstanding architectural masterpiece.
You will take an extended walk on the wall with a simple pic-nick lunch along the way.
If time permits, on the way back to Beijing, you will stop briefly at the impressive "bird's nest" stadium, which was specially designed by the Swiss architects Herzog and Demeuron for the 2008 Olympics.
Return to Beijing to the railway station.
Board the night train for your journey to Xi’An.
Day 4: CHINA TRAVEL TO XI'AN WITH ITS TERRACOTTA ARMY AND THE WILD GOOSE PAGODA
In the morning the train arrives at Xi'An Central Station. You are picked up at the Xi’An train station.
In the morning you visit to the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor located about 30km outside of modern Xian. Qin Shi Huang was born in 259 B.C., first son to the king of Qin, one of six independent kingdoms inside modern China. These kingdoms had been warring for more than 200 years, but through a combination of military strength, strategy and natural disasters, Qin Shi Huang conquered them all, proclaiming himself not just a king, but also an emperor — the first of China.
Emperor Qin’s most memorable project was the massive mausoleum complex he had constructed for himself near the ancient city of Xi’an. Guarded by an army of more than 7,000 life-size terra cotta soldiers, the emperor’s tomb would remain hidden for more than 2,200 years after his death. In 1974 farmers stumbled upon Qin’s grave by chance while digging a well.
You take a tour around the various exhibition halls of this impressive mausoleum.
On the way back to your hotel, stop at the "Great Wild Goose Pagoda", the most famous landmark of Xi’An. The striking Great Wild Goose Pagoda of Xi'An was built in 652 and located within the Temple of Great Grace slightly south of the city center Xi'An.
Day 5: TRAVEL BY HIGHSPEED TRAIN FROM XI'AN TO CHENGDU, CAPITAL OF SICHUAN PROVINCE
Transfer to the Xi’An train station. Travel with the CRH high-speed train to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, in approx. 4 hours.
The metropolis Chengdu inspires the visitor by its contrasts: On the one hand modern, glass high-rises, western fast-food-restaurant-chains and countless modern shopping centers. On the other hand, the "old" Chengdu can still be found with its countless narrow side streets, traditional flea and street markets, typical hairdressing shops, ancient temples, traditional noodle shops and countless local restaurants.
You will then take the modern subway to Wenshu Temple. Wenshu Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Chengdu and is dedicated to the God of Wisdom.
Afterwards you continue by subway to the Qingyangong Temple. The Taoist temple Qingyanggong originates from the Zhou dynasty (1122-221 BC).
In the evening you visit a Sichuan opera. Overnight stay in Chengdu.
Day 6: CHENGDU: PANDA RESERVE - LESHAN GIANT BUDDHA - QIANWEI
In the early morning you will visit the Giant Panda breeding station outside Chengdu. The Panda Research Station, founded in 1993 with the support of the WWF, has made it its mission to protect these rare, endangered animals and to ensure their survival. You take a walking tour around Panda Research and Breeding Center.
Drive to the Giant Buddha of Leshan. With its 71 meters height, this colossal and impressive Buddha statue is considered the largest Buddhist sculpture in the world. Over 90 years this monument was carved out of a rock wall in the 8th century! After lunch take a short boat trip on the Min River. From the boat you have the best view of the entire Giant Buddha of Leshan.
Afterwards continue to Qianwei the starting point of your steam train journey by the Jiayang Railway to Huangcunjing. Overnight stay in Qianwei.
Day 7: LESHAN – QIANWEI – TRAVEL BY JIAYANG STEAM TRAIN TO HUANGCUNJING – CHENGDU
Short drive to Shixi near Qianwei, the starting point for your train journey on the Jiayang Steam Train to Huangcunjing.
The journey by the Jiayang steam train through the picturesque landscape to Huangcunjing is an unforgettable experience. In 1938, a 600 mm narrow-gauge railway to Mamiao was built in order to transport the coal from the Huangcunjing coal mine down to the Min River, where it was loaded onto ships. In July 1959 a new line was opened from Huangcunjing to Shixi.
Since May 2010, the Jiayang narrow-gauge Jiayang railway and the mine in Huangcunjing have been under national preservation order. "Jiayang" is the name of the owner of the coal mine, so today the train is called Jiayang Railway. Return journey to Chengdu.
Day 8: CHINA TRAVEL: CHENGDU – DAZU – CHONGQING
Transfer to the Chengdu train station and journey by highspeed train from Chengdu to Dazu.
Pick up at the station. Drive to the stone sculptures of Dazu, which are located about a one hour journey west of Chongqing.
This extraordinary collection of stone sculptures was created between the 9th and 13th centuries and contains over 10,000 figures, all carved out of the bare sand stone rock. They are among the most impressive stone sculptures of their kind in the world.
In 1999 the stone sculptures of Dazu were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You will visit the two most important sites Baoding and Beishan.
Overnight stay in Dazu/Chongqing.
Day 9: TRAVEL BY TRAIN FROM CHONGQING TO GUILIN AND CONTINUE TO LONGSHENG RICE TERRACES, CHINA
After breakfast transfer to Chongqing West station. You board the highspeed train, which will take you to Guilin in about 4.5 hours. Arrival at Guilin highspeed railway station.
Travel to Dazhai. Dazhai is the starting point to the impressive rice terraces of Longsheng and is home to the Zhuang ethnic minority. Longji "The backbone of the dragon" is what the locals call the rice terraces because the terraced rice fields meander through the landscape like a dragon.
Afterwards you hike through the wonderful rice terraces up to the village Tiantouzhai, which is situated high above the Dazhai valley.
Check-in at the hotel in Tiantouzhai amidst the rice terraces. In the afternoon you have free time for a walk on your own through the spacious rice terraces.
You stay overnight in Tiantouzhai.
Day 10: TIANTOUZHAI – HIKING TOUR TO PING’AN – TRAVEL TO YANGSHUO
Breakfast in local style. From Tiantouzhai you hike through the beautiful terraced rice fields and magnificent countryside towards Ping'An. The hike from Dazhai to Ping'An is not too strenuous and also suitable for the average hiker. Along the way you will have lunch with a local Yao ethnic minority family.
The Yao women near Dazhai are known for their long hair. Traditionally, Yao women cut their hair only once in a lifetime, when they reach the age of 16. The length of the Yao women's hair has even earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
You reach Ping' An in the early afternoon. Time for a tour of the car-free mountain village.
On the parking lot outside of Ping'An your driver waits for you for the approx. 3-hour drive to Yangshuo.
Check-in at the hotel in Yangshuo. Overnight in Yangshuo.
Day 11: DISCOVER MAGNIFICENT YANGSHUO, GUANGXI PROVINCE IN CHINA
The city of Yangshuo is located on the Li River in the middle of a magical karst landscape in the province of Guangxi in the south of China.
Drive to Xianggongshan. A well-maintained footpath takes you up the Xianggongshan in about 15 minutes, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Li River and the surrounding karst landscape. This is followed by a 2-hour hike through beautiful scenery from Xianggongshan to Xingping.
You take a walk through the old town of Xingping. In Xingping you board a motorized "raft" and sail at a leisurely pace on the Li River and marvel at the wonderful karst landscape. Afterwards you drive back to Yangshuo.
Overnight stay in Yangshuo.
Day 12: CHINA BY TRAIN: YANGSHUO
Bike tour to the moon mountain. From Yangshuo you cycle through the beautiful landscape, partly along the Yulong River to the Moon Mountain.
On the way there are many photo opportunities.
The moon mountain has its name from the circular hole in its summit, which should look like a full moon.
Over about 800 steps you climb up to the summit of the Moon Mountain, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding karst landscape. Lunch at the Moon Mountain.
Afterwards you cycle back to Yangshuo in about 45 minutes. The rest of the day is at your free disposal at Yangshuo.
Overnight accommodation is in or near Yangshuo town.
Day 13: TRAVEL FROM YANGSHUO TO GUILIN AND FLIGHT TO HANGZHOU
Drive from Yangshuo to Guilin Airport. Flight to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province. Upon arrival in Hangzhou pick up at the airport and transfer to the old town of Hangzhou. The historic village of Hangzhou is located 170 km southwest of Shanghai on the banks of the Qiantang River.
When Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in the 13th century, he described it as "the city of heaven" and "the most beautiful and magnificent city in the world". Hangzhou also lies on the "Grand Canal" and was once a thriving trading city for goods transported between Beijing and Hangzhou.
You take a walk on the shore of the West Lake. In 2011, the West Lake was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Afterwards you take a walk through the cobblestone streets of the picturesque old town of Hangzhou.
Overnight stay in Hangzhou.
Day 14: HANGZHOU – WUZHEN
Drive to Wuzhen. The historic water village of Wuzhen is located 120 km southwest of Shanghai. Its location on the Grand Canal made Wuzhen a prosperous trading port for goods from the south to Beijing.
Wuzhen is famous for its old town with its many, well-preserved old houses and for the many ancient bridges that cross the city's countless canals and rivers.
Wuzhen is often referred to as the "Venice of the East" because of the many canals that cross the city. With the decay of the Grand Canal at the end of the 19th century, Wuzhen fell into oblivion. In 1999 Wuzhen was comprehensively renovated and placed under the patronage of the Chinese government.
You take a stroll through the cobblestone streets and take a boat ride on one of the many canals that cross the city.
Overnight in Wuzhen.
Day 15: TRAVEL BY MODERN HIGHSPEED TRAIN FROM WUZHEN TO SHANGHAI
Transfer (30km) to Tongxian railway station. Travel by highspeed train to Shanghai in about 45 minutes. Pick up at the train station and transfer to your hotel.
You will visit the "Bund" with its dozens of historic buildings, which during the colonial period in the 19th and 20th century housed numerous banks and trading houses of various European nations.
Visit to the Long Hua Temple. Afterwards you will visit the historic Yu Yuan Garden. This wonderful garden was created in the 16th century (Ming Dynasty) by the Pan family.
Afterwards a visit of the French concession is on the program with the famous Tianzifang.
Later in the afternoon, you drive to the other side of the Huangpu River to the Shanghai World Finance Center in Pudong. This 492 meters high skyscraper was the second tallest building in the world when completed. From the hundredth floor you enjoy an impressive view over the sea of lights of Shanghai by night.
Overnight stay in Shanghai.
Day 16: SHANGHAI DEPARTURE
You can end your journey "China by Train" in Shanghai. From Shanghai you can either travel by the CRH high-speed train to Beijing in about 5 hours, or you can book one of the exciting China connecting programs. We can also book you an extra night in Shanghai with an exciting boat tour on the Huangpu River the next day.