ATOL logo

Japan and China by rail

15 days

Kyoto - Tokyo - Mt Fuji - Beijing - Xi'an - Shanghai

Kyoto golden pavilion Forbidden City Beijing

A special tour itinerary that combines two very different countries but which also have some similarities. Travel by modern high-speed bullet trains in both countries: the famous shinkansen in Japan and the rapidly expanding CRH network in China.


Day 1  Depart London Heathrow or regional airports.

Day 2  Arrive Kansai airport and transfer to Kyoto and check-in to your hotel.

Day 3  Today explore the cultural and spiritual side of old Japan among the streets and temples of Japan's most famous historic city. Visit Nijo Castle - the former residence of the Shoguns, Kinakaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Heian Jingu Shrine, Sanjusangendo Temple and the Kiyomizudera Temple on its hillside location overlooking the city. End the day in the Gion district, famous for its geisha and traditional tea houses. (B, L)

Day 4  Take a day trip to the nearby city of Nara, Japan's ancient former capital. Visit the Buddhist complex at Todai-ji Temple, home to the world's largest wooden structure and the colossal bronze Buddha statue inside. Continue on to the nearby Nara Park and watch the many deer roaming its greenery and visit the Kasuga Shrine. Travel back to Kyoto for overnight stay. (B, L)

Day 5  Transfer to railway station for high-speed bullet train to Tokyo, Japan's modern capital. Transfer to hotel. (B, L)

Day 6  Day tour of Tokyo mixing the old and the new to include the Meiji Shrine, Harajuku District, the Senso-ji (Asakusa Kannon) Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street. (B)

Day 7  Travel to Hakone, travelling up to the 5th station of iconic Mt Fuji for spectacular mountains views (weather permitting!). Then a journey on a cable car across the valley and enjoy a short cruise on Lake Ashi, one of the volcanic lakes of the region, before returning to Tokyo. (B, L)

Day 8  Transfer to airport for flight to Beijing. Met on arrival and transfer to Holiday Inn Express Dongzhimen or similar. (B)

Day 9  Start the day with a visit to Tiananmen Square, followed by the Forbidden City - the complex of buildings in the heart of Beijing that was the centre of power for China's rulers for over 400 years. Explore both the grand halls and some of the smaller rooms and courtyards that housed the imperial family. Then visit the imposing Temple of Heaven where emperors prayed for good harvests. Also visit a shop selling freshwater pearls. (B, L)

Day 10  Full day excursion to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, about 1.5 hours drive north of Beijing. The wall here is not so busy at some other sections and is very scenic as its winds its way down the mountainside. Includes cable car up to the wall. Walk along part of the wall and explore the many fascinating aspects of this iconic symbol of China's past. En route to the wall pass the 2008 Olympic stadium, known as the 'Bird's Nest' and the 'Water Cube' - the national aquatic centre. Also visit a workshop carving items from jade, a stone of special significance to the Chinese. (B, L)

Day 11  Transfer to railway station for high-speed train to Xi'an (about 5.5- hour journey). Met on arrival and transfer to 4-star Somerset Xindicheng Xi'an Hotel or Grand Dynasty Culture Hotel (B, L).

Day 12  Day excursion with your own English-speaking guide and driver to the life-size warriors of the world-famous Terracotta Army in the morning, created in the 3rd century BC to guard the tomb of China's first emperor. Also visit Xi'an's Grand Mosque and the streets of the Muslim Quarter. Lunch included. (B, L)

Day 13  Visit Xi'an's impressive medieval city wall and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda before transfer to railway station for high-speed bullet train to Shanghai. Met on arrival and transfer to 4- or 5-star hotel. (B)

Day 14  Full day city sightseeing tour of Shanghai, to include the Yu Garden - a traditional house and garden in old China town district; the famous Bund or waterfront with its European-style former banks and trading houses; and the Shanghai Museum with its rich collection of art and antiques. Then take a boat trip on the Huangpu River that flows through Shanghai, giving you the best view of the city's modern striking skyline. (B, L)

Day 15  Transfer to airport for exit, arriving back in the UK later the same day.