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Cycle the Backroads of China
12 days
China - Trip code CCH

Cycle the Backroads of China

On this remarkable journey through southwestern China we discover remote ethnic minority villages and incredibly picturesque landscapes perfect for cycling. Starting in the mega-city of Chengdu we visit the Giant Panda breeding centre. The cycling begins after a sleeper train south as we ride on back roads, sometimes driving to avoid traffic, through a stunningly beautiful, mountainous land of tribal villages with
ancient traditions, unique architecture and colourful dress.

Trip highlights

  • Villages and Rice Terraces - Take in rural China as we bike amongst the villages of the Dong, Yao and Miao people
  • Chengdu - Visit a world famous panda research centre
  • Yangshuo - Enjoy beautiful karst landscapes as we cycle along the Li River
  • Cycle through picturesque tea plantations and bamboo - lined quite roads
Accommodation grade:
Our standard, mid-range accommodation offers a good level of service, often with other amenities such as a restaurant, bar, garden or swimming pool. Generally rooms will be comfortable with en suite facilities.
Cycling grade:
Moderate To Challenging
Combining moderate grade rides with some challenging days in the saddle, this grade is ideal for reasonably fit cyclists who want to challenge themselves.
Group Size:
10 - 16
Maximum group size ranges from between 6 to 20 people, depending on the type of trip, the transport and accommodation used and activities included. We rarely have groups that are smaller than five or six people and the average is 12 people plus an Explore leader.


Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.

Day 1 - Join tour Chengdu

Arrive Chengdu and check-in at the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax, or perhaps explore something of our local surroundings and acclimatise a little. Chengdu has rapidly gown up to become one of China's megacities. Tonight there is an opportunity to visit to the famous Sichuan 'face-changing' opera.

Accommodation: Chengdu Furong Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: None
Day 2 - Visit the Giant Panda Centre before our night train south to Guiyang

This morning we visit the Panda Research Centre, to see for ourselves an animal that has become synonymous with China itself. Operational since 1990, the centre covers an area of 92 acres and is home to many Giant Pandas, who roam their large leafy enclosures. The ultimate aim of the centre is to reintroduce Giant Pandas back into the wild, in such numbers as to ensure their survival, and the centre's nursery has enjoyed a success rate with new-born pandas over the past few years that has been quite extraordinary. After our visit we will return to the city and drive to the railway station for the overnight train to Guiyang. The train normally departs in the early afternoon and we use soft sleeper cabins which mean four bunks per cabin and all bedding is provided. There are wash rooms at the end of each carriage with local squat toilets and an endless supply of boiling water is available for hot drinks and noodles. On the rare occasion soft sleepers are not available we book the hard sleeper which has 6 bunks per cabin.

Accommodation: Overnight Train from Chengdu to Gui Yang

Simple Overnight Train
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 3 - Cycle journey begins, ride to the Miao ethnic minority village of Xijiang

Our train arrives in the early morning and we start with breakfast in Guiyang before driving about 2.5 hrs to the rice producing city of Kaili. This is where we will begin our first ride towards the Miao ethnic village of Xijiang. The Miao ethnic minority group are one of the largest in China and known for being very hospitable and observing strict rules of etiquette. They are skilled at handicrafts including delicate and beautiful embroidery and silvery jewellery. This traditional village comprises of dark wooden houses and is situated in the protected Lei Gongshan National Park. The ride is generally quite flat along this section and is 90% on tarmac. For the last 8 km we have a steep uphill to the gates to Xijiang village. We will then catch a local bus into the village itself where we will have time to explore this historic village which is often quoted by researches as a living fossil for the study of Miao people's history and culture.

Our total cycling distance today is 28 kilometres (total 450 metres ascent)

Accommodation: Xijiang Yue Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 4 - Cycle through incredible scenery of terraced rice paddies to Yong Le Village

This morning after breakfast we have a short drive out of the village to the start point of our ride. From here we cycle about 38 km through incredible scenery of terraced rice paddies all the way to our lunch stop at Leishan town. After lunch we climb up to Leishan mountain pass which sits at 1500m. It is a gradual climb over 37 km, so while it is long, we can take our time and enjoy the views. There is always the support vehicle for back-up if needed. From the top of the pass we cycle another 24 km to reach our destination at Yong Le village. Some sections of this afternoon's ride are on gravel paths and your efforts will continually be rewarded by the beautiful setting of today's ride.

Our total cycling distance today is 80 kilometres (total 750m ascent)

Accommodation: Yongle Hotel(or similar)

Standard Guesthouse
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 5 - Cycle along the bamboo-lined Jiang River through Miao villages to Congjiang

Today we start with a 90 km drive to Ba Ji village and we will stop here for quick refreshment before starting our ride. From here we will cycle 26 km along the Du Liu Jiang River, a tributary within the Pearl River system and rumoured to contain piranha although only one has ever been found. This part of our route is lined with bamboo which is not only beautiful to look at but offers some shade. We make a stop at Xiajiang, a town once on the ancient Silk Road trade route. Choices are limited here so lunch will be quite simple, traditional noddle or rice based dishes, perfect fuel for more cycling. We will then continue for another 42 km on an undulating section of road to Congjiang. From here there is a 7 km climb to visit the traditional Miao village of Basha. Once you have had a look around the village, it is an easy cruise back down the hill to Congjiang where we will spend the night.

Our total cycling distance today is 75 kilometres

Accommodation: Congjiang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 6 - Cycling on small country roads to Zhaoxing. Visit a Dong 'wind and rain' bridge en route

Today is relatively easy after the last two days of cycling. After breakfast we have a short drive to our starting point located on a small country road, from here we cycle 22 km to our lunch stop at Guandong - meaning 'East of the Pass'. After lunch we continue for another 14 km towards Zhaoxing where we spend the night, passing a Dong 'wind and rain' bridge en route. The Dong minority are famous for their carpentry skills. The wind and rain bridges are beautiful covered wooden structures where pavilions on the bridge provide people with shelter from the wind and rain, hence giving them their name. These bridges have now become a place where locals meet and socialise on rainy days, not just a point to cross the river.

Our total cycling distance today is 50 kilometres

Accommodation: Zhaoxing Qing Dian Ge Guest House(or similar)

Standard Guesthouse
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 7 - Cycle through picturesque scenery dotted with Miao and Dong villages to Chengyang

From Zhaoxing we have another short drive to the start point of today's ride. It is then a short cycle along a gravel track to Dudong where we tackle a 4 km steep climb after which the riding is undulating for a further 13 km through the picturesque scenery of the surrounding tea plantations. Tea, believed to be first drunk by Hang Dynasty emperors as far back as the 2nd century BC has been a staple crop in China for millennia. The Chinese drink tea all day, most often in place of water. Green tea is the most popular but this region also produces black, Oolong and white tea as well. After viewing the tea plantations we then have a 10 km stretch of downhill to Tongle for lunch. Once refuelled we will then drive about 70 km to Sanjiang, and from here we finish with a final 23 km ride to the picturesque Chengyang Bridge old town where we will spend the night.

Our total cycling distance today is 46 kilometres

Accommodation: Sanjiang Asil Guest House(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 8 - Explore the dramatically beautiful area of Longji rice terraces by bike, cycle to Pingan

This morning is free to explore the village and watch any local cultural performances that are going on. There will be plenty of time to relax before heading off after lunch. We drive towards the Longji rice terraces or 'dragon's backbone' as it's known locally. Once we have turned off the main highway onto the quiet roads, we will begin cycling in the scenic area of Longsheng. The terrain is mainly flat in this area with some short undulating sections. The final 15 km is a steep uphill to the entrance of the scenic area. We will stop cycling here and take a short walk to our guesthouse in Pingan village and hopefully see a beautiful sunset over the Longsheng rice terraces.

Our total cycling distance today is 55 kilometres

Accommodation: Ping An Guesthouse(or similar)

Simple Guesthouse
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 9 - Bamboo-lined quiet roads to Yangshuo, charming town in a dramatic setting

After breakfast we take a short walk back to the park entrance to collect our bikes and start cycling back the same way that we arrived yesterday. This will be a leisurely ride of about 45 km on a nice, quiet road lined with bamboo. We will stop for lunch and then continue for another 25 km before completing our journey by bus to the stunning setting of Yangshuo. A charming town, nestled amongst the dramatic Karst peaks with the Lijiang River meandering through it. There are plenty of shops to pick up souvenirs and numerous places offering classes in Chinese writing, cookery or massage. There are lots of cafes and restaurants and one of the highlights is the vibrant local night market offering lots of local delicacies from barbecued bamboo rat to the more appetising chicken satay skewers, to be enjoyed sitting on small plastic chairs and with a portable karaoke machine doing the rounds, an experience not to be missed.

Our total cycling distance today is 70 kilometres

Accommodation: New Li Jiang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 10 - Cycle along the meandering Li River amid stunning Karst scenery on the way to Xingping

Today we start our ride from the hotel and cycle towards Xingping. We follow the valley with stunning limestone karst scenery along the way. We will cycle past rice paddies, bamboo forests and follow the meandering Li River on this gentle ride. Finally we take the ferry across the Li River to our local guest house in Xingping. A highlight of the Guilin region, Xingping is known for its scenery, so impressive it is featured on the back of a 20 Yuan note. The ancient town is packed with pavilions, temples, bridges and beautifully crafted residences with the characteristic white walls and blue tiles. We have plenty of time to explore on foot and photograph this beautiful village.

Our total cycling distance today is 50 kilometres

Accommodation: Xingping Laodifang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 11 - Return to Yangshuo through wonderful scenery by bike and boat

Today is the last day of cycling. After breakfast at our guesthouse in Xingping we will start to make our way back to Yangshuo. First, we board a boat to cross the river towards Yangdi. This section is probably one of the most beautiful of the Li River. We will then cycle along quiet, rural lanes, passing the local markets in Bai Sha village. The final stretch follows the Yulong River back to Yangshuo. There will then be some more time to explore the wonderful town of Yangshuo.

Accommodation: New Li Jiang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Lunch
Day 12 - Trip ends at Guilin Airport

After breakfast we drive to Guilin Airport where the trip ends.

Meals Provided: Breakfast

Cycling information

General cycling information
On this tour we cycle 494 km over nine days (an average of 55 km per day). The terrain is undulating with a few steep hills and we cycle on a mixture of tarmac roads (80%) and gravel tracks (20%). We mainly follow quiet backroads, however sometimes you have to travel on busier roads when leaving the larger towns. A support vehicle accompanies the rides throughout the tour. We have graded the route as moderate to challenging.
Bike included
24 gear Giant ATX750 with front suspension.
Bike information
Your included bike for this trip is a 24 gear Giant ATX750 mountain bike and will be the correct frame size for your height. This bike is provided with a water bottle holder, but does not have a pannier fitted. The bike mechanic can fit your own pedals or saddle if you wish to bring them. A support vehicle accompanies all rides. We provide spare parts and take care of the day to day maintenance. All you need to bring is your own helmet.
Cycling grade

What's included?

Included meals
  • Breakfast: 11
  • Lunch: 10
  • Bus
  • Bicycle
  • Boat
  • Train
Trip staff
  • Explore Tour Leader / Cycle guide
  • Driver(s)
  • 2 nights standard guesthouse
  • 1 nights simple guesthouse
  • 7 nights standard hotel
  • 1 nights simple overnight train

Trip information

Country information



China has primarily a temperate climate, with a wide spectrum of extremes due to its huge area. Summer months are hot and rainy though in the south the climate is tropical and we can experience rain at any time of the year, often falling in sharp tropical rain-storms which are heavy but short lived. Winter is colder and drier, temperatures in Beijing can be as low as -12c.

Time difference to GMT



3 Pin Flat


Mainly Buddhist



Budgeting and packing


In the hotter months you will need to pack accordingly with light weight shirts and tops. In the earlier parts of the year it can get very cold so jumpers and fleeces are recommended.


If you are not bringing cycle shoes then try to bring stiff-soled shoes as these are better for cycling - transmitting your energy into the pedals more efficiently. This becomes more relevant and recommended the more demanding the grade and distances to cover. SPD cycle shoes are not well suited to trips that combine sightseeing with cycling.
Comfortable shoes, trainers, sandals or flip flops are useful when not on the bike.



Luggage: On tour

We recommend you bring a daypack and one main piece of luggage (total allowance: 44lb/20kg) which will be transported between hotels while you cycle. Check the bike details section to see if a pannier or handlebar bag is provided on the bike.

It does occasionally happen that luggage does not always reach its destination on the same flight as its owner, or possibly it may be damaged in transit. If you are unlucky enough for this to occur, it is important that you file a PIR (Property Irregularity Report) with the airline before leaving the airport. This is essential when you come to make a claim either against the airline or from your travel insurance company.


On all Explore cycle holidays we strongly recommend you bring along and wear your cycle helmet. In case of an accident resulting in personal injury, certain insurance policies are invalidated in cases where a helmet was not being worn. Cycle glasses to protect against dust, pollen and the sun, padded cycle gloves and a water bottle or water delivery system (e.g. camelback or platypus) are also useful. You may choose to bring your own gel seat cover for added comfort. If a handle bar bag or pannier is not provided (check bike details) then you may like to bring a small rucksack to wear while cycling. Other items to consider bringing are a sunhat and sun cream, torch, earplugs and insect repellent. Please carry some or all of your cycling equipment e.g. helmet as part of your hand luggage.


Explore leader
At your discretion you might also consider tipping your Explore Leader in appreciation of the efficiency and service you receive.
Local crew
Although entirely voluntary, tipping is a recognized part of life in this region of the world. Some local staff will look to members of the group for personal recognition of particular services provided. In order to make things easier for you, the Explore Leader may organise a group's tips kitty and if this is the case, they will account for it throughout the trip.
Country Information


Food and drink

The costs for meals may vary depending upon location, type of restaurant and number of courses eaten and so the prices given are an average guide. Local restaurants located off the beaten track may be less expensive, whereas an upmarket restaurant located in the centre of a major city may charge more.

Lunch price
Dinner price
£6.00 - 10.00
Beer price
Water price
Foreign Exchange
Local currency
Recommended Currency For Exchange
Either EUR, USD or GBP.
Where To Exchange
In all towns - your Tour Leader will advise you on arrival. When changing money ask for a receipt so you can change Yuan back into your own currency when leaving China.
ATM Availability
All major towns.
Credit Card Acceptance
Most major restaurants and stores.
Travellers Cheques
Travellers cheques can be changed in Hong Kong and at the Bank of China in all major cities but only during bank opening hours. Please note this is very time consuming and is not recommended.

Transport, Accommodation & Meals

Transport Information

Bus, Bicycle, Boat, Train

Accommodation notes

Booking a Single Room

All of our group tours are planned and operated on a twin-share basis, meaning that the standard cost is based either on individual travellers sharing accommodation with another group member of the same sex, or people who book together sharing accommodation. Please refer to the tour notes where the single room option availability is detailed on a night by night basis for this tour, and the price for the available nights is detailed on the dates & prices tab by departure date. For Self-Guided trips the Single Room supplement offers the option of a single room each and is charged per person. The Single Room supplement also applies to the third person in a party of three that will be accommodated in a single room.

Standard - Our mid-range accommodation offers a good level of service often with other amenities such as a restaurant, bar, garden or swimming pool. Generally rooms will be comfortable with en-suite facilities.

Essential Information

FCO Advice

We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice click here.

For more information from Explore about travel advice, click here

Under 18 immigration guidance

Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.

Price Guarantee

Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions

Visa and Passport Information

In order to apply for your Chinese visa you will need to submit supporting documents from our local supplier confirming your itinerary and travel arrangements, which we will obtain on your behalf. So that we can provide this for you, and to ensure all local arrangements are in place, we require a copy of your passport no later than 8 weeks before you are due to start your trip. Once we have your passport copy it will take a minimum of 5 working days to process the documents you require and pass them on to you, please be mindful of this when applying for your visa.

Passengers wishing to extend their stay in China should be aware that current visa regulations only allow foreigners to stay in the country for up to 30 days. Please consider this when planning your trip.

You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.

If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may consider applying through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.

Booking conditions

Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.


Find out more about Trip Transfer Terms and Conditions before you book.

Booking a land only package with Explore

Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information. 

You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.

Joining Tour Abroad

Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will now receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The transfers will be from the Explore designated airport or train station to the joining point of your tour, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.  

Free transfers are not available for Self-Guided, Polar, Tailormade or Tours for Churches customers.

If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.  

For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here


It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.

Flight information

Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.

Flight Information

You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.


Booking a flight inclusive package with Explore

We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.

On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.



Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Travellers may wish to take immunisation against Japanese Encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

Dates, prices and booking

Price from

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