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The Silk Road & South China
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This is a superb cultural journey through the cities and provinces of southern China, taking in several temples and other religious sites from China’s three dominant religions, Buddhism, Taoisim and Confucianism, as well as one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites, the Terracotta Army near Xi’an.

The centrepiece of this trip is a fantastic 3-day cruise on the Yangtze River among Chinese families. We travel on the same ferry used by local people, rather than a tourist ship, through magnificent scenery near the Three Gorges, stopping off at various sites along the way. Farther south we have the opportunity to follow the upper trail along the imposing Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the great treks of this part of China.

We also explore the world-famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the best place in the world to see China’s most treasured animal, as well as two of China’s sacred mountains, Wudang Shan and Emei Shan.

Accompanied by our local Chinese guide, we’ll visit tucked-away local restaurants and street food stalls, eating as the locals do. The food is a big part of any journey in China, and as we travel between provinces we’ll have the chance to sample the local specialities, such as Sichuan hotpot or biangbiang noodles.

  • Duration: 21 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure:
  • For lovers of: Active/Adrenaline, Boating, Trekking, Hiking, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites, Parks & Nature Reserves
  • Physical rating: Light
  • Supplier Tour ID: ZXM1/158294
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Starts: Xi'an, China
  • Finishes: Kunming, China
  • Age requirement: 18 +
You will Visit
  • Xi'an
  • Wudang Shan
  • Xiang Fan
  • Yichang
  • Three Gorges
  • Badong
  • Wanzhou
  • Chongqing
  • Dazu
  • Chengdu
  • Leshan
  • Emei Shan
  • Panzhihua
  • Lijiang
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Dali
  • Kunming



Day 1: Xi'an

Border Information: if joining in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).

Welcome to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'!

There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this important meeting.

The rest of the day will be free to explore the city of Xi'an, its famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Xi'an.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.


Day 2: Xi'an

This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour. We'll return to Xi'an in the afternoon and have some more free time to further explore this incredible city!


Day 3: Wudang Shan

Today we begin our journey south of Xi'an with a drive to the beautiful Wudang Shan Mountain Reserve, the birthplace of the martial art of Taichi and the location of the filming of 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'.

We will have time this afternoon and the following morning to fully explore the mountain's sights, temples and martial arts schools.

In Wudang Shan we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).


Day 4: Xiang Fan

This morning we will spend more time exploring Wudang Shan and the surrounding area, before setting off in the afternoon for a short drive to the pleasant city of Xiang Fan. We will also try to stop at the Purple Cloud Monastery en route.

In Xiang Fan we will stay in a local guesthouse or hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-4 hours.


Day 5: Yichang

Today we will drive from Xiang Fan to Yichang, where we will catch our first glimpse of the mighty Yangtze river. Yichang is a pleasant town, and we will stop here for 1 or 2 nights, depending on the ferry schedule - either way we will have time to explore a little.

In Yichang we will stay in a friendly local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.


Day 6: Yichang

Today we will have some free time to explore Yichang and the surrounding area, prepare for our 3 day Yangtze River cruise.

We will most likely have an included visit to the incredible Three Gorges Dam today, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, although it is possible this visit may take place tomorrow depending on the ferry schedule.

We will most likely stay in our hotel in Yichang tonight, but our ferry may need to depart tonight, in which case we will have a spare day later in the trip that we can use at our discretion.


Day 7-9: Three Gorges

Today we embark on our Yangtze River cruise. We travel on a local ferry boat used by local people, a much more authentic and interesting way of travelling than on a tourist cruise. We stay in shared cabins (4 members of the group to each cabin) with private bathrooms and air conditioning where possible.

The journey itself usually takes 3 days/3 nights and heads through some areas of stunning scenery, especially near the Three Gorges - the Qutang, Wu and Xiling Gorges. The boats usually stop at the Fengdu (Ghost City), Shibaozai Tower, home to the Lanruo Dian (Orchid Temple) and at the three Lesser Gorges at various points on the trip. However due to local conditions, stops cannot always be guaranteed.


Day 10: Dazu

Today we will disembark our ferry when it docks in Chongqing in the early morning, and rejoin the truck and our co-driver!

From Chongqing we have a short drive to Dazu, where we visit the Bei Shan and Baoding Shan caves, famous for their brightly-coloured freizes and carvings.

In Dazu we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.


Day 11-12: Chengdu

Today we have another short drive on to the incredible city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where we will stay for 2 nights. On arrival we will have a free afternoon to explore the city's parks, streets, and museums, and visit the fascinating and incredibly photogenic Jinli Old Town.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

On the following day we will have an included visit to the fantastic Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre. We'll then return to Chengdu for another free afternoon to further explore the city.

In Chengdu we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.


Day 13-14: Leshan

Today we continue our journey south to the town of Leshan to visit to the Leshan Grand Buddha - at 71m tall, this statue is the largest Buddha rock carving in the world!

After our visit we will continue to the small town of Emei Shan.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

On the following day we will have a full day to explore Emei Shan Mountain, one of the holiest sites in Chinese Buddhism and the site of hundreds of temples and an incredible golden statue of the deity known as Samantabhadra. It is possible to walk all the way up the stairs from the base of the mountain, joining the many pilgrims in their journey to the temple complex at the mountain summit, or take the cable car up instead!

In Emei Shan we will stay in a local guesthouse.


Day 15: Panzhihua

Today we have a long drive south through stunning mountain scenery towards China's Yunnan province.

In the evening you can take a stroll on the riverfront and get an insight into local Chinese life.

We will stay in the town of Miyi tonight in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.


Day 16-18: Lijiang

Today we drive further into Yunnan province to the beautiful 'Old-China'-style town of Lijiang, the base for visiting the world famous Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

On the following 2 days we will have free time to explore the town of Lijiang and its surroundings. One very popular excursion here is to go on a 2 day/1 night trek along the high trail above the Tiger Leaping Gorge - this is by far the best way to see the gorge from some truly incredible vantage points, and we will have the opportunity to take this trek during our time here (staying in a local guesthouse on the trail on the first night and returning to Lijiang for the second night). For those that don't want to do the full trek, your crew will also be able to arrange a trip to the low sections of the gorge, where there is a flat walkway to various viewpoints.

In Lijiang we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.


Day 19-20: Dali

Today we will drive through more stunning scenery to the beautiful Naxi town of Dali, where we will stay for 2 nights.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

On the following day we will have a free day to fully explore the area and for optional activities such as some short treks in the nearby Cangshan mountains or hiring bicycles to ride around the Dali lake.

In Dali we stay in a friendly hostel or guesthouse with good facilities.


Day 21: Kunming

Border information: if leaving in Kunming, you will most likely enter China at Kunming Changshui International Airport (IATA code: KMG).

Please note that if you are leaving in Kunming, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight - please contact the Sales Team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below. If you plan to leave today we advise that you do not book flights for earlier than 9:00pm so that you will comfortably reach the airport on time. Please note that if you wish to have time to explore Kunming, you will need to stay for at least an extra night at the end of your trip.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

    • Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife
    • Trek up the Tianzu Peak to visit the Taoist martial arts school and numerous temples on Wudang Shan
    • The cruise visits the main sites of the Three Gorges & new Yangtze Dam
    • Cruise down the mighty Yangtze River for 3 nights on a local sleeper ferry
    • Stop off to visit the 1700-year-old Zhang Fei temple, famous for its exterior red-light decoration
    • Visit to the Giant Panda breeding centre in Chengdu
    • Day trek up the lush mountain of Emei Shan, one of the most important pilgrimage treks in China
    • See the colossal Dafo Great Buddha in Leshan, the world's largest rock-carved Buddha statue
    Tour Staff
    • 2 Dragoman crew, Local guides where necessary, 1 local crew in certain areas
    • 0% Camping - 100% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • Adventure Activities
  • Boating
  • Hiking & Trekking
  • History & Culture
  • Nature & Wildlife
  • Overland Journey