Hanoi to Beijing Overland
This great overland journey begins on the French colonial boulevards of Hanoi and takes you through some of the scenic countryside of southwest China, before ending in the Chinese capital, Beijing. You witness life along the mighty Yangtze River and experience the imperial grandeur of ancient Chinese cities. You also embark on a three-day trek through spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge and complete your journey by walking along one of mankind’s greatest engineering feats – the Great Wall of China. This is a trip that boasts one highlight after another.
Day 1 - HanoiYour trip starts today with your arrival in Hanoi. No activities are planned until your evening group meeting, so you may arrive at any time. Please check the welcome board or reception desk, located on the ground floor of the hotel, for a Welcome Notice for your tour. This will advise you of your Tour Guide's name, telephone number and the time and location of your group meeting. Normally, the meeting will be at 6pm. Until your meeting we encourage you to get out and discover the delights that Vietnam has to offer. Make sure that you take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back to the hotel.
Day 2 - HanoiAlthough there has been a settlement here since the 3rd Century AD, the City of Hanoi can trace its origins back to 1010, when Emperor Le Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to this site. From the 1880s to World War II, Hanoi was developed as the colonial capital of French Indochina and many of the old structures in the city were razed to make way for French-style buildings. Today the local residents take a lot of pride in their grand old colonial buildings and these, together with the wide spacious boulevards and tree-lined lakes, help make Hanoi one of most graceful and charming cities in South East Asia. After breakfast we'll set out on a half-day tour of the city, showcasing the most interesting attractions. We'll begin our tour with a visit to the One Pillar Pagoda, situated near the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. First constructed in 1049, it is considered Hanoi's oldest structure. If it doesn't look that old to you it's because the French blew it up in 1954, as a parting gesture! From here we'll walk to the Temple of Literature, a wonderful name for a hallowed place. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam's first educational institute and a place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined. Finally we'll visit the Hoa Lo Prison, probably better known to most of us as the 'Hanoi Hilton'. Hanoi's tallest building now occupies most of the original site and, no - it doesn't belong to the Hilton Hotel chain! The eastern wall and a small remnant of the former prison have been retained as a museum. It mostly serves as a reminder of the Vietnamese who were incarcerated here by their French colonial masters. The remainder of the afternoon is free for us to wander around town and check out the lifestyles of Hanoi's people. One of the best places to do this is the city's Old Quarter, situated to the north of the lake. It's a great place, (and an easy place) to get lost in for a couple of hours. However, it's easy to find our bearings if we remember that its boundaries are the railway line to the west and the north, the Red River to the east and Hoan Kiem Lake to the south. This evening we have the option of attending a performance of Vietnam's world famous Water Puppet troupe. This evening we board the overnight sleeper train to Lao Cai. We usually travel in six-berth compartments that have an open and relaxed feel to them. Sometimes, if lucky, we may be upgraded to a four-berth compartment. Breakfast the following day is not included on the train, so it is recommended that you purchase some extra snacks and drinks at the railway station, before the start of your journey. Facilities are basic, but our beds on board come with a pillow and sheets, although some people may wish to bring their own sleeping sheet (purely optional and not a necessity).Breakfast
Day 3 - Bus to KunmingArriving into Lao Cai early in the morning, we soon pass through customs and immigration and say goodbye to our Vietnamese tour guide. We meet our Chinese tour guide as we enter China, where the border town is now known as Hekou. We then board the express bus for a 10-hour journey to Kunming. The trip begins by following the river, as it snakes its way through a jungle of rubber and banana plantations, dotted with pineapple groves. Along the way we travel through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery China has to offer. You will be amazed at how the farmers in these mountainous regions manage to work their land. Once we're over the mountains, the landscape changes to rolling hills with fields of rice and corn. Just before Kunming, we pass the amazing stone landscape of Shilin. We arrive into Kunming at around 9pm and have two nights here to relax and catch up after our long journey from Vietnam.
Day 4 - KunmingKunming is a beautiful city with wide boulevards, picturesque lakes and tranquil gardens. We take a stroll around and explore the Flower Market. Those of you who are more adventurous can try some of the delicacies at the roadside stalls. There's free time to explore some of Kunming's other sights, such as the Bamboo Temple or Yuantong Temple, before catching the sleeper train to Dali on Monday evening. We again travel in six-berth cabins, where a blanket, sheets and pillow are provided. Travelling by train is a great way to meet the locals and practise your Chinese-language skills.Breakfast
Day 5-6 - DaliArriving in Xiaguan (Dali City) at around 6:30am, we continue on by bus to the old town. Travellers just love Old Dali, with its stunning mountain backdrop and the nearby spectacular Erhai Lake. We have time to explore the cobblestone backstreets of the Old Town, before cycling into the surrounding countryside and visiting a local Bai minority village. There is an opportunity to jump on a ferry across Erhai Lake to explore the interesting village of Wase. There is also plenty of free time here for you to participate in a multitude of activities. You can take a chairlift up the mountains behind the town and take a walk through the forest and stop at the occasional monastery along the way. Alternatively you can just relax in a café on Huguo Li, known to the locals as 'Foreigner Street'.
Day 7 - LijiangWe travel through the countryside on a bus bound for the picturesque town of Lijiang. The Old Town of Lijiang is criss-crossed by a maze of narrow streets and canals that are lined by rickety old wooden buildings, and contains a bustling market square. We stay in an authentic Naxi-style guesthouse in the heart of this area. You have the afternoon free to explore the Old Town or perhaps climb Shizi Shan (Lion Hill), for a panoramic view of a sea of classical rooftops. In the evening we can catch a recital from the Naxi Orchestra performing their traditional music (please note that this option is not available if the orchestra is on tour). N.B. For our trek though Tiger Leaping Gorge, you will need to pack a daypack with clothing for the next three days. You will also need to bring along a light raincoat, as the weather there is highly changeable. A water bottle is also recommended. You will be able to leave your larger bags at our Lijiang hotel.
Day 8-10 - Tiger Leaping GorgeWe leave Lijiang by bus and head to Qiaotou before starting our trek. Over the next three days we embark on some exercise, as we hike along scenic trails, overlooking the upper reaches of the Yangtze River (known here as the Jinsha River). The river thunders through Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is in turn framed by 5,000-metre-high mountains. As we wind our way up and down the hillsides, we enjoy some spectacular views along the way. There is no hurry so we take our time and stop to talk with the local villagers en route. The accommodation is quite basic, as we are visiting a remote area that is only frequented by adventurous travellers. Some people may choose to bring a sleeping sheet, although this is not essential. Good hiking boots are required and it is advisable to bring warm clothing, especially for the evenings and in the cooler months. Depending on the time of the year and weather conditions, our trekking route can vary greatly. Our tour guide may not be able to advise us of the actual itinerary until the last minute. After two nights in the gorge, we arrive back into Lijiang, when we have free time to relax in a sidewalk café and soak up the atmosphere.
Day 11 - Lijiang - KunmingWe leave Lijiang this morning and take a public bus back to Kunming. The journey is a pleasant one as the landscape changes from rolling hills to mountainous countryside, punctuated by rich farmland. On our last night in Yunnan, we can go out and try Kunming's famous 'Over the Bridge' noodles for dinner.
Day 12-14 - YangshuoA short flight takes us to Guilin, where we transfer to the bus station and continue on to Yangshuo. Over the next two days we explore the region by bicycle and on foot. The town and its surroundings are a photographer's paradise!. We hire bikes for half a day to ride past the amazing limestone outcrops that jut up from the surrounding paddy fields, taking time to stop in the villages and mingle with the locals. We stop on the bicylce ride at the famous Moon Hill where you can hike up and view the surrounding countryside. There is an option to take a two-hour cruise up the Li River, witnessing the picture-perfect scenery along the way. There is also plenty of free time to relax in the many cafes and restaurants that line Xi Jie (West Street), or shop for a bargain in the marketplace. On Thursday afternoon we return to Guilin and join the overnight train to Wuhan.
Day 15 - YichangArriving around lunchtime we transfer to the bus station and continue our journey to Yichang, the starting point of our boat journey along the mighty Yangtze River. Yichang is a thriving river port city and, in the early evening, we can take a stroll along the riverbank with the locals and watch the fishermen reel in their catch.
Day 16-18 - Yangzi River Cruise-ChongqingLate Saturday afternoon we begin our journey on the Yangzi River. Over the next two days, we start from near the massive dam and cruise through the famous Three Gorges. With the construction of the Three Gorges hydroelectric project, life along this majestic river is changing at a rapid pace. The scenery is spectacular! One minute we're surrounded by sheer cliff faces and the next we could be passing a thriving city or a deserted town. There is a surprise at every bend. Our riverboat is one that is used by the locals, rather than large foreign tour groups. It is basic, yet comfortable and we stay in cabins with private facilities. The boat has a viewing platform, bar, shop, dining room and, of course, karaoke room! There are opportunities to take several shore excursions, whilst we are traveling on the boat. These optional activities and prices can be found later in the notes under 'Sightseeing and Activities'. Please note, not all activities will be available on all trips. Meals can be purchased on board the boat; however, we suggest you also bring along some additional snacks. On Monday we disembark from our riverboat and drive to the bustling and hilly city of Chongqing. There is time to explore this thriving port city before boarding our overnight train to Xian on Tuesday night. N.B. The first stages of damming the Yangzi River were completed in June 2003. Please note that all rooms on the Yangtze cruise are on a share basis. If you are not already sharing a room with someone from your group, you may be required to share with someone (of the same gender) from outside your group. This could be a member of another tour group or a local person.Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 19-21 - Chengdu & Leshan (Giant Buddha)We transfer by bus to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, a province that is famous for its spicy food. For dinner tonight, why not try the local delicacy - Sichuan hotpot? We then visit Leshan on a day trip. Situated on the shores of the Min River this sleepy town is bursting with alleys and backstreets, just waiting to be explored. Measuring 71 metres in height, the Giant Buddha (Dafo) is located at the convergence of the Dadu and Min rivers and is considered the largest such statue in the world. Construction on this amazing sculpture began in 713AD, by a Buddhist monk called Haitong, and took 90 years for it to be completed. After visiting this impressive site, we then catch an afternoon bus and return to Chengdu. On Thursday morning we drive out to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, which was set up in 1990 to ensure the survival of China's living national treasure. This place provides visitors with a rare chance to glimpse this cute and cuddly icon - a real highlight! On Thursday afternoon, we board the sleeper train bound for Xian.
Day 22-23 - XianOn Friday morning we arrive in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, where we are soon out exploring the awesome army of Terracotta Warriors. Unearthed in 1974 by farmers digging a well, these life-sized soldiers, horses and chariots were all individually hand carved. There are over 6,000 of these clay statues, all in battle formation and facing east, in order to protect China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang. Afterwards, we have free time to wander around this historical city. The Muslim Quarter, situated just a few blocks from our hotel, is a fascinating place to visit with its Great Mosque and vast array of market stalls. The local dumplings here are legendary! Alternatively, you can cycle along the top of the ancient city walls or climb the Bell Tower, with its commanding views across town. On Saturday evening we take the sleeper train to Beijing.
Day 24-25 - Beijing & Great WallBeijing is a thriving metropolis and home to over 16 million people. Over the next couple of days, we explore many of its main attractions. The Forbidden City, built over 500 years ago, has been off limits to commoners until about 100 years ago. After entering through an archway beyond Tiananmen Gate, we spend the morning exploring this huge complex and marvel at the many intricate carvings that adorn its buildings. A visit to China is not complete without taking a walk along the Great Wall. You will visit one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience - the surrounding views are amazing. There is ample free time to explore the many other sights of Beijing, such as the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven, or just kick back and soak up the atmosphere of this historic and vibrant metropolis.
Day 26 - BeijingOur fantastic journey ends this morning in Beijing. Checkout time is normally at 12 Noon. If you wish to extend your stay in this great city, we can arrange extra accommodation for you.
What to Know
All tours are led by an experienced regional leader (please note that you will have separate tour guides for Vietnam and China), with the addition of local site guides at certain sites. All transport accommodation and sightseeing as indicated, and breakfast in Hanoi on Day 2.
- International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Trip Dates and Prices
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What to know
The trek at Tiger Leaping Gorge requires a good level of fitness. The trek is decided by the Tour guide after assessing the general level of fitness and comfort of the group. If you have a pre existing medical condition its advisable to contact your doctor before taking the trek, or alternatively you can enjoy the country side and abstain from the trek.