Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing has quickly shed its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places that give an insight into the nation's ancient past, as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour guide and fellow travellers. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Settle into your hotel and then maybe head out to explore the Beijing streets – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises.
2 Great Wall
Today you'll have some free time in the morning to explore Beijing before taking a private bus to a lesser-known section of the Great Wall – Gubeikou (approximately 3-hour drive) in the afternoon. An incredible piece of engineering, the wall stretches 6000 km/3730 miles westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. Originally constructed to protect empires from invaders from the north, and even though the Great Wall it failed in this purpose, it's still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements. Take you first steps along the iconic barrier today, then head to a family-run village guesthouse where you'll learn the art of dumpling-making with a demonstration from your hospitable hosts this evening. (D)
3 Great Wall hiking
Today you'll rise early and trek from the Gubeikou to Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. You will walk over some steep, remote terrain for approximately 5 - 6 hours. Some parts of the wall are un-restored so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing, while in other parts the trail takes you off the wall to walk alongside it through the countryside. You'll often feel like you have the whole wall to yourself as you take your time strolling along the wall, which snakes through the hills almost endlessly into the distance. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience. After the trekking, you'll stay at a different guesthouse by the foot of the Wall. Put your feet up, have a few beers or maybe learn how to play mahjong in the evening. (B/L/D)
4 Great Wall hiking
This morning, we'll drive back to where we got off yesterday to continue our trek along the Great Wall. This portion of Jinshanling winds through stark hills and mountain ridges. Steep stretches make parts of today's 3 to 4-hour trek challenging, but also largely devoid of other travellers. This stretch is also known for its unusual Barrier Walls, or walls within the Wall, and inscribed watchtowers. Today will be your last day walking the Great Wall, so make the most of it. (B/L/D)
5 Ming Tombs cycling - Miyun
Change gears today as you say goodbye to the Great Wall and drive to Miyun, a mountainous region of lush forest and intermittent farmland, for a day of exploration by bike. A stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of nearby Beijing, pass villages and orchards as you pedal through land where the tombs of 13 emperors from the Ming dynasty are located. Only three of the Ming tombs are open to the public. You'll visit Dingling, often called the Underground Palace. After a leisurely, 13 kilometre/8 mile ride through the countryside, drop off your bike and drive to a lovely courtyard guesthouse and kung-fu retreat for the night. (B/L/D)
6 Miyun kung fu - Beijing
Start the day with a lesson in kung-fu. Learn basic principles, common misconceptions and how this ancient practice relates to Zen tradition as an instructor guides you through simple moves. Wrap up an enlightening morning with a vegetarian lunch, just like a Shaolin monk, then depart your meditative retreat and return to the chaos of Beijing. The rest of the day is yours to spend how you please. Perhaps see some of the sights you missed at the beginning of the trip or hit up the markets for some last-minute souvenir shopping. In the evening, why not toast to your active adventure with your new mates and leader at an optional final dinner – you deserve it! (B/L)
7 Beijing - Guangzhou
Your Great Wall adventure finishes today and you'll need to make your own way from Beijing to Guangzhou to continue the 2nd part of this combination trip. You tour leader and group composition may change today too.
8 Kaiping cycling - Guangzhou
In the morning, drive about 2 hours south-west to the region of Kaiping for a day of sightseeing. The landcape here is particularly unique - dotted with more than 1800 diaolou, multistorey fortified watchtowers. Build by individual clans largely with money from emigres to South East Asia, Australia and North America in the late 19th and 20th centuries, they are now largely abandoned but still fascinating to explore. The best way of course, is by bike. We spend around 4 hours exploring some of the most picturesque villages and best known diaolou clusters. Return to Guangzhou in the late afternoon for a free evening.
9 Longji Rice Terraces
This morning, you will zip inland on a bullet train to Guilin (about 3 hours). From there, transfer to a private bus for the 3-hour journey to the rice terraces of Longji. This part of the country has some of the most extensive rice terraces around, which change dramatically with the season. This evening, you'll spend the night in the village of Ping'an, home to the Zhuang community. Get a glimpse into Zhuang culture and traditions at your guesthouse this evening.
10 Longji Rice Terrace hiking - Yangshuo
Today you'll hike through the Longji Valley and its rice terraces. Constructed over 500 years ago, this region is commonly called the Dragon's Backbone because the rice terraces are said to resemble a dragon's scales, while the mountain looks like the backbone of the dragon. Walk through stunning scenery, alongside bamboo trees and chestnut forests. Despite some challenging hills, much of the hike is spent walking around over the stones, passing waterfalls and fields. On your way, you might chance upon locals from Yao minorities. The Yao still preserve some of their traditional lifestyle and unique customs. You'll notice women only cut their hair at 16 years old, symbolising their entrance into adulthood. The hair isn't thrown away, but is kept by the grandmother. When the woman marries, the hair is made into an ornamental headdress and brought to the husband's home as a souvenir. In the afternoon, drive about 4 hours to Yangshuo.
11 Yangshuo cycling
Soak up the charm of this little town, popular with the Chinese and Western travellers alike, who come for the beautiful landscape and stay for the great cafes and bars. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local culture and traditions while having plenty of fun at the same time. The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in many traditional Chinese paintings – picture immense limestone karsts dotting the rural landscape, towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River. Gain an insight into rural Chinese life on a bike tour through the picture-perfect surrounds. Climb moon hill before indulging in a delicious local lunch. Use free time this afternoon to further explore this beautiful region. Perhaps take a scenic boat cruise along the Li River. Alternatively, choose to find your inner Zen with a tai chi class. (L)
Drive out to the countryside to gain an insight into an important element of Chinese culture; learn how tea leaves are grown and picked with a visit to a local tea farm. Follow this up with a short walk up the Xianggong Hill for a stunning view of the Li River winding through rice paddies and limestone hills. Perhaps cap off this scenic excursion with a lovely cup of tea before returning to Yangshuo. If you have free time today, a cooking class of local specialties is a perfect choice.
13 Hong Kong
A bullet train speeds things up, but prepare for a long day of travel today. Hop an eastbound train, arriving in Hong Kong around 5 pm. The China-Hong Kong border is busy, so there can often be a bit of a wait to get through and a lot of patience is required. On average, it takes around 2 hours to clear immigration and customs on both sides. Your bags will be with you during this time. Then you'll walk the short distance from the train station to the border, go through procedures to exit China, and enter Hong Kong. Once all that's done, you'll travel on the KCR train to central Hong Kong. After settling into your hotel, why not delve into the city's renowned food scene for dinner. You tour leader offer suggestions on where to eat if you're feeling overwhelmed by choice.
14 Hong Kong kayaking
While Hong Kong is largely known for its neon lights, towering skyscrapers and relentless energy, this destination is also ripe with lush green space, quaint fishing villages and unspoiled marshes – if you know where to look. Today we head to Sai Kung for a day of kayaking through some of Hong Kong's more tranquil parts. Paddle through dramatic caves, uninhabited islands and untouched beaches on a 3-hour adventure. Return to Kowloon tonight for an optional final night dinner with your group.
15 Hong Kong
Your active adventure comes to an end today. There are no planned activities and you are free to depart at any time.