22 days Shanghai Loop
22-day Shanghai Backpacking Tour
For a variation on our iconic China group loop, start your journey in Shanghai before heading to Yangshuo. See the pandas in Chengdu, the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall, the Shaolin Temple and much more - before ending your Shanghai backpacking trip back where you started.
Our most popular trip, this Shanghai backpacking tour includes most of the highlights of our slightly longer China itinerary. Over 22 days, you’ll visit spectacular countryside and bustling cities, exploring some of the most iconic sites in China – and the best off-the-beaten-track bits that you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll get a taste of China’s rich history, explore magnificent landscapes, and explore some of the country’s metropolises.
Including hostels, guesthouses & 1 night camping
Bilingual Adventure Leaders in each city
Transport within China
Itinerary & map
Day 1: Welcome to China!
Your Shanghai backpacking tour starts today! After a free morning in the city, meet your Adventure Leader in your hostel, where you’ll get a pre-departure briefing. Here, you’ll learn about what the next few weeks hold for you!
After that, you’re off to the train station! It’s time to grab an overnight train to Guilin, ready for your transfer to Yangshuo.
Day 2: Yangshuo
You’ll arrive in Guilin this morning and transfer to Yangshuo, where you’ll meet your new Adventure Leader and the rest of your group. Today is a free day, meaning that you can make the most out of your time here. Why not:
- Enjoy kayaking among the mountains along the Li River?
- Experience some relaxing Chinese traditional therapies – like Hot Cupping?
Day 3: Yangshuo
Today starts with an unmissable bike ride around the local area, along with a cruise down the Yulong River on bamboo rafts. If you’re bringing your camera (which you’ll want to) – make sure it’s waterproof!
Later, you have the option of heading to the Moon Hill complex to get mucky! In this cave complex, you’ll find mud baths and hot springs galore. In the evening, you have the option of joining your fellow travellers for a spot of fun out in the local area.
Day 4: Yangshuo
This morning, you’ve got the option of heading rock climbing. The region is a feast for the eyes thanks to its beautiful limestone peaks, so why not seize the chance to scale them?
Later, you can join your Adventure Leader and get a real glimpse into rural life in China. Head to a local village, where you’ll learn what life is like on a farm in the Yangshuo region.
Day 5: Yangshuo to Chengdu
Bid adieu to your Adventure Leader in Yangshuo, because you’re off to the next destination on your Shanghai backpacking tour – Chengdu! You’ll travel by train across the country, where you’ll be greeted by your new Adventure Leader and taken to your hostel to check in.
Day 6: Chengdu
This morning, you’ll be treated to a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’re off to visit pandas! Head to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center, where you can learn all about the Center’s mission to breed and reintroduce pandas. While you can’t hold the pandas, you’ll get a chance to both get up close and learn about this amazing species.
After this, it’s time to brush up your Chinese skills! Your Adventure Leader will give you a Mandarin lesson, where you’ll learn all the key phrases you’ll need to make the most of your time in China.
If you’d like to learn more about China’s historical culture, this evening you can opt to attend a traditional Sichuan opera show.
Day 7: Chengdu
You can spend your day independently today, but if you’d like – why not join us on some optional activities? You can opt to join us on a trip to Leshan, where you’ll see the world’s largest stone Buddha. Carved into the side of Mt. Lingyun, the colossal statue is over 1,300-years-old and is considered to the tallest pre-modern statue. The site attracts millions of people every year, including Buddhist pilgrims, making it something of a sacred destination and an ancient wonder of the world.
In the evening you can sample the famous Sichuan Hot Pot (if you dare!). After that – Chengdu is yours to explore!
Day 8: Chengdu to Xi’an
If you’re keen to have a lie in, you can start your morning lazily under your own steam. However, if you want to get out and about in the local community, pay a visit to a local rehabilitation center, which works specifically with children with autism.
In the early afternoon, get a final look at Chengdu with a visit to Jinli & Chengdu People’s Park. There are many scenic spots in this park, including the Gold Water Stream, the Goldfish Island and the Potted Landscape Garden. Besides appreciating the charming landscape, tourists can sail on the artificial lake, drink tea in the teahouse by the lake and watch all kinds of exhibitions and performances on the Rockery Square.
This evening, it’s time to transfer to Xi’an, the next stop on your Shanghai backpacking tour! You’ll arrive in Xi’an tonight – the next stop on your China backpacking tour! Meet your new Adventure Leader upon arrival, and head to your hostel for some well-earned rest.
Day 9: Xi’an
Spend your morning as you see fit today. If you’d like some suggestions, ask your Adventure Leader! You might want to explore nearby museums, temples, or indulge in a spot of retail therapy. This afternoon, you have the option to bike ride on the city walls, which date back to the Ming Dynasty.
Later, you can explore the Bell-Drum Towers and the Muslim Quarter to learn about the history of the Silk Road. Make sure to enjoy some local street food while you’re there!
Day 10: Xi’an
This morning, you’re paying a visit to one of the most unmissable sights in China – the Terracotta Warriors! The Terracotta Army in Xian is a large collection of life-size terracotta sculptures in battle formations, reproducing the mega imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210BC), the first emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Terracotta Army is a must-see for every visitor to Xian.
In the evening, you can enjoy the music and light fountain show that takes place on the North Square of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, in the Qujiang District.
Day 11: Xi’an to Shaolin
Today, you’ll transfer to your next destination – Dengfeng, just outside Shaolin! Once there, you’ve got the option of joining your group for a kung-fu lesson and demonstration in the very region it began!
After dinner, it’s time for Mandarin lesson number 2 – how much have you learned so far?
Day 12: Shaolin
If you’re a keen riser, you might want to join us on a trip to the world-famous Shaolin Temple – the birthplace of kung-fu. From there, you can take a hike up to the Dharma Cave, a spiritual spot for Buddhist pilgrims. Your climb will be rewarded with beautiful views of the local shrines and temples, and incredible vistas across the region.
Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of martial arts, you might opt to head out to the Longmen Grottoes. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features 100,000 carved Buddhas!
You’ll then have the option of returning for a late lunch at the guesthouse, before your evening is yours to explore. But use it wisely – there’s an early start ahead!
Day 13: Shaolin to Beijing
This morning, we’re up before the birds to grab a bullet train to our next destination – Beijing! We’ll arrive in the late morning, ready to transfer straight to one of your Shanghai backpacking tour’s most incredible experiences – the Great Wall! Before we lace up, we’ll stop for lunch at a local farm to fuel up for our hike. Then, in the mid-afternoon, we’ll take to the Wall to hike on totally secluded, unrestored parts of the Wall. It’s here that we’ll set up camp to watch the sunset from atop one of the Wonders of the World.
[Please note: Due to cold weather before the end of April and after the end of September, we stay in a guesthouse near the Wall, instead of camping.]
Day 14: Beijing
Wake up early to watch the magnificent sunrise across the Great Wall of China. Once you’ve picked your jaw off the floor, we’ll pack up and head back into Beijing, ready to explore this mammoth city. If you’d like, you can join us with a walk through Tiananmen Square, a visit to the Forbidden City, and a look around Jingshan Park.
This evening, why not get an entertainment fill with an acrobatics show? These amazing circus-like performances feature young talents recruited from all over China.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, now is your chance to make like ancient royalty and try Beijing’s signature dish – Peking duck!
Day 15: Beijing
Today is a free day! You’ll have the option to visit the fake good markets for a spot of shopping, as well as the nearby Temple of Heaven.
In the afternoon, you can visit the Nanluo district. Nanluo is one of the best-preserved historical areas in Beijing that’s famous for its hutongs and siheyuan courtyards, as well as the bars, cafes and handicraft shops.
Day 16: Beijing to Hangzhou
Enjoy another free morning and afternoon to pack in the last few of Beijing’s sights, before heading to your next destination. You can visit the 798 art district, the Summer Palace, or any other highlights of Beijing. Be sure to ask your Adventure Leader for recommendations!
In the late afternoon/early evening, we’ll transfer to Beijing station, where we’ll board a night train bound for Hangzhou.
Day 17: Hangzhou
After arriving in Hangzhou this morning, transfer to your hostel for a late breakfast. We hope you slept on the train! Next, we’re off to the famous West Lake, ready to take a stunning boat tour to one of the Lake’s beautiful islands.
Once you’ve checked in this afternoon, you’ve got time for an optional activity if you’d like – or you can take a couple of hours respite! If you’re keen to stay vertical, why not check out China’s National Tea Museum, or the Lingyin Temple?
This evening, it’s an unmissable hike up Jiuyao Mountain to see the stunning sunset from there. Before you head back down to street level for dinner and a free evening to explore. Make sure you check out Hefang Road – the most famous ancient street in town!
Day 18: Hangzhou to Shanghai
This morning, kick your day off with a beautiful hike to the Nine Creeks. On your way, meander through the Misty Woods – a truly magical place. Once you’re back at the hostel, you’ve got time to freshen up and grab some lunch before your check out, ready to travel onwards!
This afternoon, we’re transferring back to the bustling Shanghai, the final stop on your tour. We’ll arrive in the evening, so there’s enough time for you to explore and grab some dinner.
Day 19: Shanghai
After a lazy-ish morning, you’ll get another Mandarin lesson – this time, with a twist! This extra special class will be held by professional teachers, all the way from the Mandarin Garden Chinese Language School!
Later, you’ll have the option to walk to the Yu Gardens, a bustling historical site of a former dignitary’s lavish family quarters. You can also see People’s Square, before heading on to the world’s busiest shopping street, Nanjing Road.
Afterwards, you can go for a walk along the Bund, a hub of global architecture. To finish off, head to the top floor of a skyscraper to admire Shanghai’s skyline from a rooftop bar. Enjoy your free evening!
Day 20: Shanghai
Shanghai is a bustling, melting-pot of history, culture, and modernity – so it’s only fair we give you a day off to explore it! Your Adventure Leader will be the best person to ask for tips, but here’s a taste of what you might get up to today:
- Disneyland Shanghai!
- The Shanghai Museum
- Moganshan Art Street
- Zhujiajiao Watertown
This evening, why not venture out for a night on the town with your fellow Dragons?
Day 21: Shanghai
In the morning, you have the option to stroll through the former French Concession to learn about Shanghai’s international history, visit the Propaganda History Museum, and take in the sights of the ultra-modern Shanghai financial district. You can also visit TianZiFang – a local artisan’s lane that blends the chic and the traditional.
For the daredevils, you can head up to the top of Jinmao Tower and brave the Skywalk! Or, you can just go up and take in the stunning panoramic views.
In the evening, you’ll take in the bright city lights from the water with a night cruise down the Huangpu River
Day 22: Farewell
Sadly, today marks the end of your Shanghai backpacking tour! You’ll bid farewell to your fellow Dragons and prepare to head home.
Our included activities on the Shanghai backpacking tour:
- Bike ride on the Yulong River (Yangshuo)
- Bamboo raft river cruise (Yangshuo)
- Visit the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center (Chengdu)
- Visit to the Terracotta Warriors (Xi’an)
- Great Wall of China experience (Beijing)
- Visit to the West Lake & boat tour (Hangzhou)
- Jiuyao Mountain hike (Hangzhou)
- Hike to the Nine Creeks (Shanghai)
There is always a small chance a group member’s ticket may not be sat with the rest of the group on one of the trains. Not to worry, in this situation the Adventure Leader will help you switch with a local so that the Dragon Trippers can sit together.
The use of Drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is prohibited during activities organized by The Dragon Trip. If you are in possession of a drone when entering the country it is your responsibility to be informed of and follow all local laws. This may include registering your drone with authorities. If you violate this policy or operate a drone illegally you are subject to removal from the tour as per our terms & conditions.
Please note that due to seasonal weather conditions, the camping experience only takes place between May and September. For all tours departing in this time, wherever possible we aim to include this experience. However, in the event of adverse weather conditions, travellers will stay in a nearby hostel.
Activities that aren’t included on the Shanghai backpacking tour:
- Hot cupping (Yangshuo)
- Rock climbing (Yangshuo)
- Cooking class (Yangshuo)
- Kayaking (Yangshuo)
- Moon Hill & mud baths (Yangshuo)
- Day trip to Sally’s village (Yangshuo)
- Day trip to Leshan Buddha (Chengdu)
- Hotpot dinner (Chengdu)
- Sichuan Opera (Chengdu)
- Children’s Autism Rehabilitation Center (Chengdu)
- Cycling the city walls (Xi’an)
- School visit (Dengfeng)
- Shaolin Temple visit (Dengfeng)
- Extra kung-fu show (Dengfeng)
- Longmen Caves (Dengfeng)
- Forbidden City (Beijing)
- Temple of Heaven (Beijing)
- Jingshan Park (Beijing)
- Acrobatics & circus show (Beijing)
- National Tea Museum (Hangzhou)
- National Silk Museum (Hangzhou)
- Lingyin Temple (Hangzhou)
Please note: Accommodation is in dorm rooms as a standard on our China tours.
Upgrade options (to single, twin, or double rooms) are available on the Shanghai backpacking tour – please contact us for more information.
Need hostels booked for after your trip ends? We are more than happy to help – just let us know what you need!
Room and train upgrades for the entirety of this route are available. Room upgrade requests must be communicated to the Dragon Trip before the start of the trip. Customers wishing to upgrade once the trip has started must do so independently. Train upgrades are unavailable once train tickets have been booked, train upgrades only apply to over-night trains.
Room upgrades for our 22-day Shanghai backpacking tour start from £280 for a double room upgrade. In Beijing everyone will get twin rooms, those who have paid for an upgrade will receive a superior room. Train upgrades are £40.
The Dragon Trip provides, upon request, airport transfers. In Beijing and Shanghai, the price is £40 for a pick up or drop-off. This will be in private transportation (up to 3 customers). If you’d like a bilingual guide to meet you and ride with you from the airport to your destination, or vice versa, it is £40 extra for a pick up or drop off (up to 3 customers). In Guilin, Xi’an and Chengdu, the price is £30 for a pick up or drop-off. This will be in private transportation (up to 3 customers). If you’d like a bilingual guide, it is £30 for a pick up or drop off (up to 3 customers). This service is not available in Hong Kong.
A deposit is required to make a reservation on our China tours, with the balance due 40 days prior to departure (unless booking with one of our promotions, for which specific balance due dates may apply).
The deposit is 10% of the group tour price (unless stated otherwise). If you book on to our China tours less than 40 days prior to departure, the full balance will be due within 3 days of booking.
No bookings can be accepted within 18 days of a trip departure date.