Chengdu Panda Sanctuary

Essential China

11 days
$3,199 USD
incl. taxes
Activity level:
Leisurely / Moderate
Activity Rating - Leisurely/Moderate
Trip code: 
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
Group size:

Travel from Beijing to Shanghai and get a taste of ancient and modern China

Visit China's iconic sites and bring its fascinating history and culture to life! Beijing's history stretches back three millennia and the scale of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City never fail to amaze. Leaving the grandeur behind, explore the old town's narrow 'hutongs', and have a class in the traditional Chinese craft of papercutting inside one of the homes. Head out of the city and step foot on one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall; here you'll begin to comprehend the magnitude of this construction as it snakes across the mountains to the horizon and beyond. Juxtaposed to this is Xi'an's vibrant Muslim Quarter, where we catch a shadow puppetry show at Gao's Family Mansion. Xi'an is most famed for the nearby Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin, where excavations have revealed thousands of hand-crafted life-size and lifelike army figures. A China holiday would not be complete without a trip to Chengdu to see the endangered Giant pandas - these black and white furry animals are a national emblem and a rare sight. End in cosmopolitan Shanghai, with its unmistakable skyline illuminated at night.


  • Beijing's Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Jingshan Park 
  • Giant pandas at Chengdu's Breeding & Research Centre
  • One of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu
  • The famous Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin, near Xi'an
  • Shanghai's Bund waterfront area and French Concession

Key information

  • 11 days land only/12 flight inclusive

  • Travel by bullet train, sleeper train, domestic flight, metro/public bus and private coach
  • 9 nights hotels and 1 night sleeper train
  • All breakfasts and 1 lunch included
  • Optional single supplement, available on request (excludes sleeper train)
  • Group normally 5 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Premium departures available: 10 nights upgraded accommodation (no sleeper train), upgraded transport and 2 dinners in 'Michelin' class restaurants included
  • Countries visited: China

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 1 lunch
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival and departure transfers

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation, excluding sleeper train (available on request) 
  • Vaccinations
  • Chinese Visa - GBP201 with Travcour or GBP151 plus GBP18 special delivery direct with embassy
Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for private group trips:
1 844 227 9087
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus, we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


  • Day 1

    Arrive Beijing

    The group flights are scheduled to arrive into Beijing this afternoon. Free transfers are included for any flight as long as you have provided Exodus with your arrival details in advance (please specify if you arrive into PEK airport of the new airport, PKX – Daxing). You will be met upon arrival and transferred to our hotel. There will be a welcome briefing at approximately 6pm where you will meet your tour leader and the rest of the group (please see the noticeboard in the hotel reception for further details).

    Dong Fang Hotel / Traditional View Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Sightseeing including the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park and a walking tour of the hutongs including a class in traditional paper cutting

    We’ll head straight to Tiananmen Square (approx. 30 minutes by public bus/metro), one of the largest squares in the world, able to hold over a million people. The square is named after the 'Tiananmen' meaning 'Gate of Heavenly Peace' located at its north, which leads to the Forbidden City.  Continuing on foot, we spend a few hours exploring the innumerable courtyards and temples the Forbidden City. Exiting via the north gate of the complex, we walk directly to Jingshan Park and climb up to the top of the hill for a different vantage point.

    After lunch, we go on a walking tour of some of Beijing’s traditional 'hutongs' (narrow alleys of the old town) where we'll visit a local's house and try and master the art of paper-cutting, a traditional Chinese craft. Afterwards, we’ll meander our way through the hutongs and back to the hotel.

    Dong Fang Hotel / Traditional View Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Visit the Great Wall of China; return to Beijing and take an overnight train to Xi’an

    We leave the capital and head into the countryside to visit one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall, at Mutianyu (approx. 2 hours’ drive). It is an impressive sight, snaking across mountains and valleys into the distance. We take the shuttle bus to the ticket office and from there it’s about a 40-minute uphill walk to the top of the Great Wall (anyone not wanting to walk can pay to take the cable car, which takes about 8 minutes). We spend the next couple of hours or so walking along the top of the wall. There are some steep steps to navigate and anyone who suffers from vertigo may find it difficult. This section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. The wall here stands up to 8.5 metres high and 5 metres wide, and there are 22 watchtowers along its 2,250m stretch.

    We’ll leave the wall behind and drive a short way to our lunch stop in a local village and then drive directly to the train station in Beijing, arriving in the late afternoon/early evening in time to catch our overnight train to Xi’an (approx. 12 hours) which is scheduled to depart at 20:40 (the schedule may be subject to change throughout the year) - please see the 'Accommodation' section for more details. We recommend purchasing food beforehand as there is a limited selection on board. 

    Overnight train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Arrive Xi’an; afternoon walking tour of the Muslim Quarter with a shadow puppetry show at Gao’s family mansion

    The train is scheduled to arrive into Xi’an at about 8:30am (again, this may be subject to change). We take a short transfer to the hotel, drop off the luggage, and freshen up in the lobby bathroom (the rooms won’t be available for check-in until later). Xi'an is one of China's former capitals and one of the few cities in China to have retained its city walls, probably because they are so massive that no revolutionary was willing to tackle the huge task of removing them. Today, after an opportunity to try some local Chinese breakfast, we will embark on a walking tour, passing the Bell and Drum Plaza and exploring the spice markets of the vibrant Muslim quarter where we visit Gao’s family mansion and enjoy a shadow puppetry show (depending on the show time). We’ll return to the hotel to check-in at about 2pm, and the rest of afternoon is free.

    Bell Tower Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Excursion to the Terracotta Warriors

    Today we visit the famous Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin (the transfer is approx. 2 hours each way). Originally four armies were planned, at each point of the compass, life-size and lifelike. Three have been found and it is assumed the Emperor's successors decided enough was enough before the fourth was begun. The first pit excavated had an estimated 6,000 figures in its one army. The third pit has been opened to the public, which contains the 'command post' for the entire operation. This is one of China's great tourist attractions, and some people may find the sheer numbers of visitors overpowering. After our visit we will take our lunch at a local farmer's restaurant nearby before driving back to Xi’an.

    Bell Tower Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 6

    Free day in Xi’an; optional cycling along the old city walls or Mount Huashan day trip

    There are no planned activities today but your leader will provide information on what is available to do and help you to arrange it. Perhaps you might like to walk along or hire bikes and cycle along the city walls to appreciate the sheer scale of these constructions. For a full day excursion, you might like to visit Mount Huashan for some walks with magnificent views (please note that we strongly advise against the plank trail due to safety concerns and anyone wanting to do this will be asked to sign a form releasing them from the tour as Exodus accepts no responsibility for this activity).

    Bell Tower Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Bullet train to Chengdu; afternoon walking tour around the People’s Park – try Chinese water calligraphy (weather permitting)

    Take a short transfer to the train station and board a late morning bullet train to Chengdu (approx. 4 hours), the capital of Sichuan province, arriving in the early afternoon. This region is recognised throughout China as being 'the spicy province', and major flavour combinations include garlic, star anise, chili peppers, and the ever-present Sichuanese peppercorn (hua jiao). We recommend having a ‘hotpot’ dinner during your stay here (spicy or mild broths are available).

    In the late afternoon we set off on foot for a walking tour, passing through the city centre square (Tianfu Square) and visiting the People’s Park where, weather permitting, we can see and have a go at Chinese water calligraphy.

    Chengdu City Garden Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Centre

    We leave early today to spend the morning visiting the Giant Panda Breeding & Research Base located 10km out of the city. These furry animals once roamed over large expanses of Asia but the last survey estimated the world’s population of wild Giant Pandas at only 1,864. Giant Pandas eat for up to fourteen hours a day and so hopefully we will witness these highly endangered animals feeding, as this is when they're most active. Otherwise we will have the opportunity to watch the Pandas indulge in their next favourite past time - sleeping! Afterwards we drive back to Chengdu and the afternoon is free to explore at your own pace.

    Chengdu City Garden Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Fly to Shanghai; afternoon visit to the Shanghai Museum

    We catch an early flight to Shanghai so we’ll take a simple box breakfast with us from the hotel. The flight duration is approx. 2.5 hours: we should land by late morning and arrive at our hotel by lunchtime. With a population of around twelve million, Shanghai is a cosmopolitan coastal hub with a futuristic skyline.

    This afternoon we take the public bus (metro) to visit the Shanghai Museum, which has 11 galleries housing some of China's most beautiful and best preserved cultural relics - some over 5,000 years old!

    Shanghai Kingtown Plaza Hotel or similar 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Explore the Bund waterfront area and the French Concession

    After breakfast we’ll set off to discover some of the highlights of Shanghai on foot, starting with the famous Bund waterfront area to see the iconic buildings, before moving on to explore Nanjing Road (Shanghai's equivalent to London’s 'Oxford Street') and the French Concession with its tree lined avenues, cafes and Tudor mansions. The afternoon is at your leisure.

    Shanghai Kingtown Plaza Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    End Shanghai

    The trip ends in Shanghai after breakfast.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info



Nearly all nationalities require a visa to enter China, which must be obtained prior to departure. The Chinese authorities now require a letter from Exodus, confirming all your accommodation details. Along with this, you need to supply a copy of your flight details, which are on your invoice if you have booked directly through Exodus. For further information see here. It is also essential that we have a clear copy of the details page of your passport. This is required to book certain ground services in China and we cannot confirm your details with our local partners until it has been received. This must be emailed as an electronic scan to [email protected] a minimum of 8 weeks prior to your trip.

IMPORTANT: Please note that all visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 will need to visit one of the Chinese Visa Application Service Centres in person (appointment required) where biometric data will be taken as part of the visa application process.



There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

If your trip visits Hong Kong, dengue fever is a known risk - this is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten: apply insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 1 lunch included.

One of the major draws of China is its exciting and varied cuisine. On this trip, you will be able to try many different dishes that will be carefully selected with your leader's help and based on the group's dietary requirements and preferences. Meals generally consist of shared dishes, which is the best way to experience as many different ingredients as possible and try things you might not usually choose. Examples of popular dishes include Ma Po Tofu, a delicious tofu dish made with beef, chillies and onion, Gong Bao chicken, a very popular dish with chilli and peanuts, the iconic Peking Duck, served with hoisin sauce and pancakes, and dumplings in many shapes and sizes. Chengdu in Sichuan province is known for its spicy hotpots but you can request mild options too. There are many different dishes to try and your leader will always try and accommodate tastes, but if you do tire of Chinese food there are always opportunities to eat Western-style dishes in the cities you visit. For vegetarians or those with dietary requirements, many of the traditional dishes can be amended to omit the meat products.


Beijing & Xi'an: The north of China has warm (25ºC+), quite humid summers, and cold dry winters. If you travel between June and August, it will be hot more or less everywhere, except in the mountains (around the Great Wall). Some rain must be expected, possibly heavy. If you travel in September/October, you will probably get less rain and the temperatures will be fairly warm (around 20ºC) everywhere. November is starting to get cooler (3-13ºC) and can therefore sometimes feel chilly. The Great Wall region will be colder than the cities due to the mountainous terrain.

Shanghai: The south of China is subtropical with hot (30ºC), wet summers (May to September), and warm, relatively dry (November to March) winters, though rain is possible at almost any time of year.

The winter months in China are cold (+3ºC), so if travelling in November/March be prepared for temperatures to drop to below freezing at night in the North, but with almost guaranteed dry sightseeing. The weather is milder in the south.

Is this trip for you?

This is an ideal introduction to China for anyone visiting for the first time who wants to experience the best of the country's many iconic sites: Beijing and the Great Wall, Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors, Chengdu and the Giant Panda's, and the bright lights of Shanghai. Premium departures are also available. 

This holiday is graded Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate). Despite the grading, this is still an adventure holiday and you should come armed for an experience: China can be hard work and the summer heat and the bustle of some of the cities can be a little overwhelming. That said, there are places where you can find peace and quiet and we try to fit these into the itinerary at regular intervals. You should have a reasonable level of fitness and be prepared to be on your feet sightseeing for a few hours at a time. For the Great Wall visit, the walk up and down from the wall is quite steep but for anyone not wanting to do this, there is the option to pay to take a cable car. 

Some of the activities are weather dependent (such as water calligraphy in Chengdu's People Park) or are subject to local schedules. 

Although the distances in China are massive, this tour has been carefully designed to keep travelling time to a minimum by utilising an overnight train, a bullet train and a domestic flight. With two-night stays in every location and a free day in Xi'an, the pace should not be too tiring but there will be some early starts and long days. On days 8 and 9 in particular, early starts are required to view the pandas and to catch our morning flight to Shanghai. 

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for private group trips:
1 844 227 9087
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Hotels & Train

Shanghai Kingtown Plaza
Shanghai Kingtown Plaza

9 nights hotels and 1 night sleeper train.

In all the cities, we stay in good, tourist class hotels with twin rooms and private facilities. Nearly all the hotels are locally rated as at least 3-star and wherever possible located as near to local attractions as possible. 

There is one overnight sleeper train, from Beijing to Xi'an (journey time approx. 12 hours). For this, we book 'soft-sleeper' class where you will be accommodated in comfortable 4-berth (bunk bed style) cabins. Please note that whilst every attempt will be made to place passengers together in the same/nearby cabins this is not always possible due to availability and you may find yourself sharing a cabin with other (non-Exodus) train passengers. However, we will never place a solo traveller in a cabin by themselves (they will always be either with another passenger on the trip or with the leader). Clean bedding is provided and there are shared washrooms on board but you may choose to bring your own sheet. The train itself is of a good standard, although please note that facilities such as washrooms and toilets are shared with other passengers and the cleanliness can never be guaranteed.

The hotels usually used are named in the detailed itinerary, however, these may be subject to change by departure date, depending on availability. Chinese government officials occasionally take over hotels at short notice and so there can sometimes be last minute hotel changes which are beyond Exodus' control - in this event, we will book an alternative of the same local rating but we cannot guarantee that the facilities will be the same. 

A limited number of single supplements are available on a first-come-first-served basis, excluding the overnight train. Please request this at the time of booking. 

Shanghai Kingtown Plaza lobby
Shanghai Kingtown Plaza lobby
Beijing Traditional View Hotel
Beijing Traditional View Hotel
Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for private group trips:
1 844 227 9087
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Have you been on this adventure? Tell others what it’s like by writing a review.

Dates & Prices

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