Walking in China travel guide


After a walking tour of the capital, heading to the Great Wall is an inevitable leap forward with watchtowers, battlements and steps, lots of steps, all to be found in varying states of repair and abandonment. Overnight sleeper trains and internal flights allow you to explore further south with one of China’s five sacred mountains, Hua Shan, expanding Taoist philosophies just to the east of Xi’an, while over the border in Sichuan, more trails lead to sacrosanct summits close to Chengdu. Hidden paths show the way through bamboo groves, rice terraces and limestone karsts to rural villages in Guilin, as an ancient tea trail takes you from the capital of Yunnan province, Kunming, past Lijiang and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, through Tiger Leaping Gorge, and onwards to Tibet. Pack your poles, head scarf and portable tea flask and set out on a walking vacation in China that will be spiritually and culturally enlightening, and scenically exciting.
Read more about the diversity of this vast country in our walking in China travel guide.




Visiting China for the first time is an amazing experience, touched with trepidation, where you’re not entirely sure what to expect from a country so vast, so fascinating and so different from your own. Confidence, experience, budget and what you wish to accomplish will all influence which type of walking vacation you’re looking for.
Joining a small group walking vacation is one way to take the edge off the nerves, as you leave logistics up to a tour leader who’s in charge of transfers, tickets, accommodation and ensuring an itinerary flows. You’ll meet likeminded travelers and local walking guides, share experiences, and will no doubt find a few friends ready and willing to make the most of an evening out in cities like Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu.
Tailor made walking vacations in China give you chance to explore with more flexibility than a fixed itinerary. You can also have an English-speaking walking guide, all to yourself, to enhance your experience with their local knowledge of where to walk and where not to, as well as pointing you in the direction of the best local restaurants.


Traveling to China can be a once in a lifetime experience so it’s really tempting to see as much as possible in one visit. Sleeper trains and domestic flights are a couple of options for exploring more than one region with locally owned hotels and guesthouses offering a base from where to start walking trails in or around heritage centers. Centre based walking in China is a great way to become orientated as you can explore your city base independently after a day’s walking in the countryside without feeling like you’re constantly on the go.

Point to point walking in China allows you to really get away from the crowds and the hustle of the city with lookout points, Taoist temples and monasteries offering places to rest and recuperate on long distance trails. Point to point provides a more adventurous experience with early starts to see the sunrise or to reach a summit part and parcel of going the extra distance for unforgettable rewards. Trek with n English-speaking local guide, while your bags are transported onto your next accommodation.


As the Great Wall of China is just a short drive from Beijing it’s often a hot spot for day trippers wishing to set foot on one of the world’s most prominent, ancient landmarks. For many, a tour of the major city sights combined with walking lesser visited sections of the Wall, such as Jiankou, Badaling and Huanghuacheng, is all that they need from a China walking vacation. Beijing really does require at least a few days to even scratch the surface with hutong tours and organised walks around ancient rural villages on the outskirts of the capital, such as Dayingpan and Simatai, certain to expand cultural expectations.
Xi’an, Chengdu, Kunming and Guilin all offering equally rewarding cultural insights in between treks, often with forested mountain trails to be found close by. Getting out of China’s cities and into the countryside invites a glimpse at the rural lifestyles that have remained untouched through the dynasties with tea houses, monasteries and village inns offering sanctuary for walkers looking to explore a little further afield.

Finally, the southwest provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan offer trekkers a tantalising taste of Tibet with legendary passes through Tiger Leaping Gorge and along the Tea Horse Trail surrendering to mountains and fast-rushing rivers to offer adventurous alternatives to temples and tea fields.



Click on a location: Beijing | Chengdu | Guilin
In general, the best time to go walking in China’s north, northwest and east, is Apr-Jun or Aug-Oct. Winters in the north fall between Nov-Dec while in the northeast, Mar-Apr find freezing temps for fair weather walkers to avoid. The best time to walk in the west/southwest is May-Jun or Sep-Oct. Although Sichuan and Yunnan are in the southwest the best time to go walking in Sichuan is May-Jun and Sep-Oct, whereas in Yunnan, the best time is Mar-May and Oct-Nov. Finally, Jul-Aug bring heat and humidity, especially further south, resulting in heavy rains which can leave trails impassable and the Great Wall extremely exposed.
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Photo credits: [Topbox: Chris Feser] [City sights and mountain heights: DaiLuo] [Small group or tailormade: damph] [When to go: Alexander Savin]
Written by Chris Owen
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