- Follow the Yunnan-Vietnam railway and visit the one of the oldest train stations on this line at Bisezhai village for a fascinating glimpse into history
- Explore idyllic Yuangyang on a guided half-day walk, snapping photos of the spectacular rice terrace landscapes and learning a thing or two about their makers, the Hani people
- Discover the Ming and Qing marvels of Jianshui Ancient Town on a guided walk. Visit Zhu's Family Garden, the Confucius temple and the amazingly preserved Tuanshan village
- Kunming is yours for the taking. Enjoy plenty of free time in the liveable, laid-back 'Spring City' to make your own discoveries
Discover the spectacular southern reaches of China on this adventure through the past. Start in Vietnam's jewel of the north, and delve further into the region's French heritage over the border, with a stop in Mengzi. Explore Yuanyang, the picture-perfect home of the Hani people, where eye-popping terraced landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. Step back in time among the Qing and Ming dynasty masterpieces in Jianshui, and wander the busy streets of Kunming.
Day 1: Hanoi
Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you arrive early in Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city. Start by visiting the Temple of Literature, drop into a traditional tea house, learn the stories of the Hoa Lo Prison museum and finish among the temples at Hoan Kiem Lake. Alternatively, take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter and admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, relax in a park, or enjoy some street food.
Day 2: Mengzi
Prepare for a long day of travelling today. After breakfast, set off for Lao Cai, near the border with China, on a private bus. Say goodbye to your Vietnamese leader and meet your Chinese leader at Hekou after border crossing. From there, take a taxi to the bus station and board your bus to Mengzi. Transfer to your hotel and settle in. Spend your free evening kicking back and relaxing – or perhaps head out for a taste of the famous Yunnan rice noodles which originated here.
Day 3: Mengzi
As well as noodles, this town is known for its remnants French architecture - a rarity in today's China. Spot the simple, stately aesthetic of the European style buildings, with their soft yellow facades and tiled roofs which set them apart from the modern structures around them. Visit Bisezhai Station, the finest surviving station on the French-built Vietnam-Kunming railway. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. This is a town rarely visited by foreigners. The Nanhu Park area is great for a wander and meeting locals.
Day 4: Yuanyang
Travel by private bus to Yuanyang (approximately 3 hours). If you're a keen photographer, you're in luck, as this is one picturesque destination. This place is famous for its beautiful rice terraces, idyllic rural scenery and unique ethnic minority culture. Some 88% of Yuanyang County belongs to ethnic minorities; the Hani and Yi people created the ornate rice terraces that impress so many visitors. We are staying right inside the Duoyishu Scenic Area. The terraces here are considered a superior spot to photograph the sunrise.
Day 5: Yuanyang
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes today for your hike around the rice terraces with a local guide (approximately 4 hours). You'll be able to take it at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. Most of the paths go through villages, which makes it easy to stop for a break. Check out the local farmer's market where locals wear their traditional clothes, go about their daily business like time has never changed.
Day 6: Jianshui
Travel by private bus to Jianshui (approximately 3.5 hours). With a 1,200-year history and a distinct cultural heritage, the ancient town is a veritable outdoor museum of magnificent buildings. Many of these date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. You will set out on a walking tour of the city and visit the Zhu Family Garden, as well as the incredible Confucius Temple.
Day 7: Jianshui
Visit Tuanshan Village, a cultural echo of the Qing Dynasty that's still intact. You'll learn a little more about the Yi minority as you explore. It's a fascinating window to the China of the past. Visiting the village is like travelling to the China of the past. Small, cobbled lanes leave you with impressions of timelessness, art and architecture. In the afternoon and evening, enjoy some free time.
Day 8: Kunming
Today we travel to Kunming (approximately 3 to4 hours). Stop at the geological wonder of the Stone Forest on the way. The Forest covers an area of 400 square kilometres (96,000 acres) and includes both large and small clusters of towering limestone pillars, as well as many other scenic spots. An old local saying says that 'If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time'. Truly, the site is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore the large, yet laidback city. The 1000-year-old Yuantong temple is most definitely worth a visit, or find the traces of old Kunming at Lingguang street. Perhaps head to Green Lake Park where you can see locals spending their leisure time on all kinds of activities and games. Check out The Loft, a disused factory area west of the city centre, home to many small galleries and cafes. In the evening, perhaps get together with your mates for a final dinner in this 'Spring City'.
Day 9: Kunming
There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Hotel (4 nights)
- Guesthouse (4 nights)
Intrepid Travel is the world's largest small group adventure travel company. Intrepid trips are of the grassroots type and include travel via public transport, local food, and locally-owned accommodation Intrepid Travel has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1989. A company that began with two bearded backpackers, a typewriter and a kitchen table now leads 100,000 travellers across the globe each year. And although we’re a bit larger these days – with 1,000 local staff based around the world and over 800 different trips across every continent (not to mention multiple kitchen tables) – our mission remains the same. We still get a kick out of responsible travel, small groups and very (very) big adventures.