Few countries are as epic as China. One of the world’s true giants, it encompasses a mind-boggling array of terrain and landscapes from lush tropical jungle to rolling plateaus and vast empty deserts. While many visitors negotiate the huge distances between destinations by means of internal flights, perhaps the best way to really soak in the beauty of this incredible country is to travel by train.
China’s relentless push to modernise has resulted in all sorts of improvements to its rail infrastructure. The nation now has the longest high-speed rail network on the planet with over 11,000 kilometres of track in service. The network includes the world’s longest line, the 2298 kilometres Beijing-Guangzhou service, which whizzes passengers from the southern city to the capital in a mere eight hours or so.
Other memorable rail experiences can be taken at a more leisurely pace. Indeed, some of the world’s most legendary train journeys take place in China. One of these remarkable routes is the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which runs from the north-western province of Qinghai all the way to the Tibetan capital Lhasa. A remarkable feat of engineering due to the changes in elevation and the unforgiving climate it offers scenic beauty that could only be described as widescreen.
We’ve handpicked a couple of our products that highlight the best of train travel in China. What better way to take in the epic scenery of the country while also reducing the carbon footprint of travel.
CHINA BY HIGH SPEED TRAIN (10 DAYS / 9 NIGHTS)
The old meets the new in this 10 day tour, taking in China’s most famous historical wonders from the luxury of the country’s most modern mode of transport – the high speed train.
- See the wonders of Beijing, from the famed hutongs, to the Forbidden City and The Great Wall, as you immerse yourself in the culture, trying traditional activities and interacting with the locals.
- Pay a visit to Pingyao, the best preserved medieval city in the whole of China, as you discover the main interests around the region.
- Stand in awe as you lay your eyes on the thousands of Terracotta Warriors outside Xi’an in one of the most incredible archaeological finds in history.
- Travel to the peaks of Mount Huashan and take the opportunity to undertake a night trek with local pilgrims, ascending thousands of stairs to the summit.
- Explore the UNESCO listed Yungang and Longmen grottoes, fine examples of Chinese rock art, and if time allows, witness the White Horse Temple and famed Shaolin Temple.
GUANGZHOU TO GUILIN BY HIGH SPEED TRAIN (7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS)
From the coast to the mountains, discover the diversity of China. Take a closer look at the blend of cultures in Guangzhou then travel inland to see an impressive mixing pot of ethnic groups. Come face-to-face with the traditions and lifestyles of the people with guided treks and bike rides.
- Understand Guangzhou’s colorful heritage. See how the port town’s culture and architecture have been influenced by centuries of trade.
- Trek to hill tribe villages. Take to the trails in Longsheng and Yangshou and encounter a variety of ethnic groups with deep-rooted traditions.
- Travel by high-speed train. Experience China’s efficient – and fast! – train network with a comfortable journey from Guangzhou to Guilin.
TRAVELLING BY TRAIN DURING FESTIVALS IN CHINA
While we’ve spoke about the advantages of travelling by train. It is recommended to avoid travelling China during the holiday periods to avoid the massive number of domestic travellers who are usually returning to their home towns to join their families during this time. We’ve listed some of the major holidays to avoid train travel in China.
Chinese New Year (January / February)
The Chinese New Year (also called the Spring Festival) is arguably the most exciting festival of the year; colorful and steeped in tradition. It is a time for family reunions and celebrations. On the 15th day of the New Year comes the ‘Lantern Festival’, where lanterns are lit around the country and are carried in processions throughout the streets.
Dragon Boat Festival (June)
Celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month according to Chinese lunar calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival has been held annually for more than 2,000 years and is one of the most important festivals in the country. It honors the poet Qua Yuan (340-278 BC) and many activities take place including dragon boat racing and the eating of zongzi.
Mid-Autumn Festival (October)
The Mid-Autumn Festival marks a time when the Chinese return to their home cities to spend time with loved ones. Families gather together to celebrate the moon when it is at its fullest and most bright during the year, eating moon cakes enjoying traditional activities such as lion dances.