Planning a trip to China but don’t want to visit the super touristy cities of Beijing and Shanghai? You’re in the right place! Our first trip to China was following this 2 week China itinerary. We found cheap flight tickets from the UK to Hong Kong and then planned a China trip itinerary that wouldn’t involve too many days on trains. It’s a long way between Hong Kong and Beijing after all! Finding information about this area of China, known as “western central China” was hard. It appears not that many people travel this part of China and honestly, they’re missing out big time!
This China two week itinerary involved ancient towns, rice fields, learning how to use the high-speed trains in China, and spending time in Hong Kong. It was fab. Despite the difficulties of travelling in China, we had a great time and we enjoyed it so much that we actually went back to China when we took a 2 week trip on the Trans-Mongolian Railway!
If you want to explore a lesser-known part of China then check out this classic two week China itinerary and get planning!
Our 2 week China travel itinerary
Outlined below are all the places we visited during our two weeks in China. We visit western-central China, Hong Kong and Macao.
I’ve also included a bit more information about travelling in China below. Unless you can speak Chinese, it’s not going to be the easiest travel experience you’ve ever had but it will be a fun one!
Our 2-week travel itinerary on a map.
How to travel in China
Travelling in China is best done by making the most of their super-efficient high-speed rail network. While super-efficient, it’s not always the easiest to actually book a ticket.
My guide on how to use the high-speed trains in China and accompanying video should help you navigate the system. We found it easiest to go up to the ticket office with a printed out/photo of the place we were trying to get to in Chinese characters rather than trying to say the name.
Difficulties of travelling in China
China is one of the hardest places to travel in that I’ve experienced. No one really speaks English and that’s fair enough, why should they? I should be speaking Cantonese or Mandarin.
This lack of understanding makes travelling in China pretty tricky, as does the lack of Google translate. There are a few ways to overcome this, mostly by downloading Google translate offline in advance of your trip, or using Baidu translate which actually works even better.
In bigger cities, you’ll have better luck finding people who can speak English, but outside of those cities, there’s going to be a lot of gesturing to try and communicate.
I’ve written a whole post here about the things I wish I’d known before travelling to China which is well worth a read.
Also, avoid travelling on any Chinese national holiday. The country has very few holidays and those that do exist see huuuuge movement of Chinese people making all attractions and trains extremely busy (and expensive). It’s easier to just plan your travels outside of them.
Getting visas for China
Most travellers to China will need to get a visa to visit China and it’s best to do this at least 2 months in advance. The Chinese visa is notoriously difficult to get hold of with a lot of paperwork needing to be done.
Getting a visa for this China 2 week trip was a frustrating experience with the application getting rejected several times. The first time being as we hadn’t included proof of hotel bookings, and the second time I can’t even remember! If there’s a China visa centre in or near where you live, I’d highly recommend going there to get it done as they’ll check over it before it’s submitted meaning it shouldn’t be rejected.
While UK citizens don’t need a visa to visit Hong Kong, you will need one for mainland China so don’t forget that!
2 week China Itinerary: Where we went!
Here are the places we visited on this 2 week trip to southern China.
We started our trip in Hong Kong where we spent around 4 days exploring the food, hikes and culture. I really enjoyed visiting the city and discovered it’s totally possible to visit Hong Kong on a budget, even though it’s usually deemed an expensive city to visit.
Where we stayed: Hang Ho Hostel
Shenzhen is just across the water from Hong Kong as is part of mainland China. Crossing over on the ferry from Hong Kong to Shenzhen our visas were checked and we were good to go.
Shenzhen is tech central. You’ll find a huge several storey high market here that Thom, in particular, was very excited. The ground floor sells the electrical components and as you go up each floor the items become more and more complete. It’s pretty interesting to wander around as I’d never seen anything like it. You’ll also notice an incredible amount of “official” apple resellers as you walk the streets on Shenzhen.
An unexpected experience in Shenzhen was their massive theme park. One evening we decided to visit it and actually had a great time! In the evenings the rides are closed but you can still wander around Window of the World theme park in Shenzhen and “travel” across the world. Almost every country has its own section with our favourite being the “Venezuelan flash flood” attraction. Here, you’d sit in the stands provided and watch as a flash flood took out the exhibit and sprayed anyone walking past. There was also a replica of the Grand Canyon, London and a 108m tall version of the Eiffel Tower!
Guangzhou is a huge city that we mainly used as somewhere to spend the night before heading on to our next destination. In the end, we ended up really enjoying exploring the city.
At the heart of the city is the Guangzhou Tower which is the second tallest tower in the world. At night it lights up in multiple colours and down below women dance to music in the park.
Though we didn’t get round to it, you can actually go to the top of the tower too.
Where we stayed: Nuomo Grand Continental Serviced Apartments
The city of Hezhou was where we caught the train to before getting a combination of buses and taxis to Huangyao; one of China’s beautiful ancient towns. We enjoyed the architecture and peace of Huangyao and also the food (we’d had pretty bad luck with food up until then!).
Where we stayed: Huangyao Ancient Town Inn
As we moved on from Huangyao to Yangshuo we enter one of my favourite parts of our trip. We spent several days in Yangshuo which is an adventurer’s paradise. The town is a lot more touristy than anywhere we visited on this two week trip in China but there was so much to do. You could go cycling, climbing, hiking or take culture tours.
If you’re travelling in this part of China, be sure to check out this Yangshuo travel guide!
Where we stayed: Yangshuo Travelling With…
Guilin is another big city and a popular place for people to stay before and after their trips to Yangshuo. The beautiful landscape associated with Guilin is actually best viewed from Yangshuo so if that’s what you’re planning to visit Guilin for then I’d recommend looking at Yangshuo instead!
Besides the landscape, we enjoyed visiting the towers in Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park at night and the Shaolin monastery.
Where we stayed: Sky Palace Hotel
Longji Rice Terraces
We also took an overnight trip to the small village of Ping’an and the Longji Rice terraces which I loved! The scenery here was spectacular and spending the night in the village meant we could enjoy it at sunset and sunrise before the coachloads arrived.
Where we stayed: Travelling With Ping’an hotel
Another ancient town, Sanjiang was also beautiful and unique. The bridge here is a great piece of architecture and the drum towers were awesome to see too!
Where we stayed: Dong Village Hotel
Before heading back to Hong Kong on the ferry, we visited Macao. The country of Macao is nicknamed the “Vegas of Asia” as it’s home to many casinos. We enjoyed walking around the casinos and made enough money for a bubble tea! There’s also a full-size replica of the Eiffel Tower outside one of the casinos too!
Where we stayed: Ole London Hotel