Take an inspiring train trip from Beijing to Halong Bay. See the cultural highlights of China’s buzzing capital then hit the road south to Vietnam. On the way stop in historic Luoyang and explore the stunning landscapes of Guilin and Mingshi. Cap off the adventure in beautiful Halong Bay.
See Beijing’s historic sites, discover traditional ways of life and venture out to the famed Great Wall of China.
Travel through miles of stunning scenery, stopping to explore Guilin’s hill tribe villages and Mingshi’s ‘sugarloaf’ mountains.
Unwind after the journey with an overnight cruise through the limestone karsts and clear waters of UNESCO-worthy Halong Bay.
From Great Wall To Halong Bay By Train - 12 Days / 11 Nights
Upon arrival, be met by the guide and transfer to the hotel.
Depending on the time of arrival and length of time it takes to check in and freshen up, head to the Temple of Heaven which is notable for its architectural simplicity and its symbolism reflecting early Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. Here, emperors forged a link between the round sky and the square earth through sacrificial rituals based on the founding principles of this ancient civilisation.
Overnight in Beijing
Most Chinese buildings face south which, according to ancient beliefs, symbolised the barbarian threat and potential invasion from the north. This explains why the main entrance to the Forbidden City faces south towards Tiananmen Square, the third largest city square in the world.
The construction of the city was finished in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle, and served as the Imperial administrative centre throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties until the fall of the Empire in 1911. According to legend, the Forbidden City is made up of 9,999 different rooms.
Lovingly restored for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Forbidden City has regained the youthful and vivid colours of its former glory. Take some time during this visit to such an unforgettable destination, making sure to spend some time in the more serene surrounding courtyards and rooms. Climbing the artificial Coal Hill just behind the Forbidden City provides a spectacular view of the entire site and and a better perspective of Beijing from above.
Visiting the Forbidden City can take several hours. The rest of the day is dedicated to walks around Beihai Lake, where young couples come for romantic boat trips and the more lively Houhai Lake, which is encircled by Hutongs. Hutongs are the famous Beijing alleyways home to traditional courtyard-style homes, many of which have now been converted into pedestrian streets boasting charming little restaurants and bars.
The walk leads to Drum Tower. Here. Attend a demonstration of how, during the Ming Dynasty, the passing of each hour was marked with a drum roll. From the top, admire the rooftops of the neighbouring Hutongs and the Clock Tower just opposite.
Overnight in Beijing
Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall cannot be seen from space, it is nonetheless one of the most famous symbols of China and should not be missed.
The Wall stretches for over 6,000km from ancient Manchuria to the fort at Jiayuguan at the edge of the Gobi Desert in the west, one of the world’s most hostile environments to where criminals were banished in ancient China.
Running along high ridges, the Wall offered an excellent vantage point to the north, allowing watchtower guards to raise the alarm on any potential threat from invading barbarian hordes. The wall was also high enough to slow the progress of expert Mongol cavaliers who were forced to dismount in order to continue their attack.
Visit Mutianyu Section, one of the most famous sections of the wall. Those looking to take a shortcut can take a cable car up instead of walking.
Depending on time, there may be time to take a picnic on the Great Wall whilst admiring the stunning, rugged scenery all around.
Once back in Beijing, visit the Summer Palace. At one time a simple imperial garden, the site was totally redesigned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century, becoming one of the capital’s major sites. The Imperial court used to relocate to the Summer Palace during the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the Forbidden City. A mix of temples, pavilions, lakes, pagodas and gardens make up this harmonious representation of Chinese culture and architecture.
The Long Corridor, the Marble Boat, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill are the key landscape features of the Summer Palace gardens.
Transfer back to the hotel (Summer Palace is located around 45 minutes from city centre).
Overnight in Beijing
In the morning, be transferred to the train station for a high speed train to Luoyang.
Train Station: Beijing - Luoyang
Train number: G307
Estimated departure time: 09:38
Estimated arrival time: 13:47
Second class tickets are included.
Upon arrival, be welcomed by the local guide and driver and transfer to Longmen Grottoes. Literally meaning “Dragon Door”, it’s about 13km from Luoyang, the ancient capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty.
At the end of the Han Empire (206 BC- 220 AD) and towards the beginning of the third century AD, the region became home to various small kingdoms. After some time, the Tuoba, a Turkish-speaking people from the north who were often considered by the Chinese as barbarians, unified the area, founded the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD), installed their first capital in Datong and moved in 494 AD to Luoyang. Now, locals and tourists can admire the remains of this dynasty in both cities.
In the fifth century, the Wei converted to Buddhism and adapted to the traditional Chinese roots of the area. This later gave rise to the Yungang Grottoes and Longmen Grottoes, now UNESCO listed and considered as a perfect example of Chinese Buddhist rock art of the period.
The caves are spread over a kilometre on both sides of the Yi River. They started to be sculpted during the Northern Wei Dynasty, and then this was continued in the Sui and Tang Dynasties that followed.
Among other things, this area has the Cave of 10,000 Buddhas on the west bank, and on the east bank the Ancestor Worshipping Cave, which is well-known for its 17-metre tall seated Buddha.
Note: Maximise the use of time in the region and take in both the White Horse Temple, built in the 1st century AD and taken to be the main Buddhist Temple in China, and the world-famous Shaolin Temple which is located between Luoyang and Zhengzhou, a true home of Chinese martial arts. Just ask for more information about these optional add-ons.
Overnight in Luoyang
Transfer with the driver and guide to Zhengzhou station, and take the express train to Guilin.
Train Station: Zhengzhou - Guilin
Train number: G421
Estimated departure time: 12:21
Estimated arrival time: 19:45
Second class tickets are included.
Note: a packed lunch will be given provided by the guide before taking the train. Nonetheless, it’s advisable to bring additional provisions along for the journey.
Upon arrival, meet with the local guide and driver and receive a private transfer into the city.
Welcome to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region! This region is best known for its numerous minorities and its fantastic countryside of rocky peaks bordering the Li River, uncountable caves, the Longsheng Terrace paddy fields and the Detian Waterfalls. This portion of the voyage will be the nature portion.
Overnight in Guilin
Transfer to the Longsheng area, and more precisely to the Huangluo Yao Village. The village is inhabited by people of the Red Yao minority, one of the many branches of a complex ethnic family.
Yao women are characterised by their long black hair which they, according to tradition, don’t cut until they are 16, at which age it is reckoned they are ready to find a husband. The grandmother keeps the cut-off hair, which she then gives to the family of the girl’s future husband for keepsake. Competitions take place in the region to honour the woman with the longest hair. While here, take a walk through the village.
Note: shows are arranged for visitors, but we advise against attending due to concerns over how the locals are depicted.
Continue the visit 20 kilometers away to the village of Ping’an. Tucked down a winding, serpentine road, this 600-year-old village takes around 40 minutes to reach. Populated by the Zhuang minority (China’s largest), this ethnic group is known for their passion about song and theatre.
For some great vantage points of the Longsheng rice terraces, a moderate walk (30 minutes) to the highest region in the village is possible (time depends on location).
Note: Part of the cultivation process means that the rice paddies are saturated with water, during the month of May through part of summer. In September they are a dazzling green up until the start of the harvest in October from the start of autumn taking on a wheat colour. It is not advised to travel here between December and March, during which time the snow and fog can spoil the spectacle.
Transfer back to Guilin.
Overnight in Guilin
Transfer to Guilin Train Station for a high speed train to Nanning
Train Station: Guilin - Nanning
Train number: D8209
Estimated departure time: 10:25
Estimated arrival time: 13:03
Second class tickets are included.
Upon arrival at Nanning Train Station, transfer with the guide and driver to Mingshi. The first part of the drive follows a highway before heading on a superb national road bordered by ‘sugar loaves’ and rice paddies.
Arrive at the hotel (either Mingshi Mountain Village or Art Hotel). Mingshi Mountain Village (deluxe category) is perfectly located alongside the Mingshi River and at the foot of an imposing rocky peak. ‘Art Hotel’ (superior category) is located approximately 200 metres away on the other side of the peak, along the road. Those staying at Art Hotel can benefit from all the services available at Mingshi Mountain Hotel.
Overnight in Mingshi
Transfer with the driver and guide to the Detian Waterfalls, along a road offering some stunning vista. 40 metres tall, 200 metres wide and split over three levels, these are the biggest waterfalls in Asia and are shared between China and Vietnam. Against a backdrop of the waterfalls, Karst Mountains (sugar loaves) rise up on the Vietnamese side, making Detian one of the most beautiful sites of the province.
A soft walk of around two hours allows one to admire the waterfalls and all of their intricacies. It’s also possible to take a short raft trip (optional) for a closer look.
Then transfer back to Mingshi. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Those looking to fill their spare time have two great options:
Relaxing option: go for a dip in the swimming pool, found at the river’s edge; use the outdoor Jacuzzi; or enjoy the spa (the rooms are dotted all around the swimming pool, services are not included in the price). Relax in one of the restaurants bordering the river and take in the peaceful surrounding countryside.
The region is also well-known for raft trips along the Mingshi River (price not included, make inquiries with the guide).
Fishing sessions are also organised for amateurs.
Sporting option: Book one of the hotel’s bicycles (price not included), and set off with the guide on one of four proposed routes departing from the hotel (there are excellent maps available from reception):
- Luck Line (6.8km): a simple but pleasant loop that heads across the Mingshi River and passes through several villages, of which Longleng and Naguan are just off the main route.
- Happiness Line (13.7km): this route snakes around sites of natural beauty with unique names such as “the Wedding Night”, the “Phoenix looking at the Sun” or the “Kiss of the Heavenly Lion”. It also crosses the river twice and passes through several villages away from the main route.
- Hero Line (20.5km): the longest of the four options and which does not cross the river, instead heading through surrounding areas with a wide variety of plant life comprising, amongst other things, bamboo, maples, silk-cotton trees (also known as “ceiba” or “kapok”), and fields of sugarcane. Pass through the town of Kanxu and several villages along the way.
-Discovery Line (18km): while the three other itineraries have some sections in common, this one is entirely different, which makes it the perfect complement for anyone wishing to extend their route.
Walking routes are also well marked for those who prefer to walk.
Night in Mingshi
Transfer by vehicle to Youyiguan Scenic Area (150km, 3h) and take a shuttle bus (it will take less than 5 minutes) to the Chinese border.
Upon arrival at the Lang Son Border, the guide and private car will meet and transfer to Halong Bay (190 km, 5h).
Halong Bay is one of the wonders of the world with over 1,500 km2 and 3,000 islets. Many tales have been woven about the creation of Halong Bay, or Bay of Descending Dragon. Folk law describes that, the Bay’s islands and islets were created when dragons, sent by gods, spat jewels and jade into the area to protect the people of Vietnam from invaders.
Arrive in Halong City, check in to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight in Halong City.
This morning, after breakfast check out at the hotel and arrive at the jetty towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After a welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.
Overnight on Halong Bay.
Enjoy a fresh morning in the middle of the bay, the sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi (150 km, 4h)
Note: This tour may be subject to change depending on weather conditions.
Arrive in Hanoi and check in at the hotel.
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi.
After breakfast, embark on a half-day city tour to discover the charming and historical sites in this thousands years old city. Depart the hotel for Hanoi’s Old Quarter also known as the ‘36 streets’. Take a walking tour through charming Hang Be Market and around Hoan Kiem Lake. Stop at Ngoc Son temple. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around.
Continue to the Temple of Literature. In 1076 Quoc Tu Giam - Vietnam's first university also referred to as Van Mieu, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Heading to Noi Bai International Airport for the onward flight.
Our services include:
Our services do not include:
Not quite right or still need some more inspiration? Take a look at the journeys below and discover what other people who liked this tour also looked at!
We love to talk travel. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We're here to help!