Photo provided by Intrepid Travel.
The last passenger train in Hong Kong may be a relic of the colonial past. But China is also opening up its aging rail network to new travelers, creating an opportunity for daring travelers. The post originally appeared on Intrepid Travel’s blog, Sightseeing Explorers.
Newly spruced up and restarted after a three-year renovation, the 997-car Great Wall Express (The GWR Express) is back in operation on the Great Wall of China. This wooden train, one of three used on the Great Wall route, ascends the north side of the Great Wall (or Yongdingmen Lane), traveling 33 miles at a speed of 22 miles per hour. For its 12-day tour, travelers will ride a two-car, diesel train, the 3,200-car mini-stationschu.
The train will leave on certain days at noon, departing the Great Wall end of Yongdingmen Lane on tracks with a 33-foot-high wall surrounding it. This is one of the only times that travelers on the Great Wall Express will get to view a section of the actual wall. Once at the edge of the Great Wall, travelers will board another train that will pick them up at the end of Yongdingmen Lane, then loop around the Great Wall—“revisiting” two sections of the Wall on the way, returning to the beginning on a different train.
The 20-station trip begins in Chongqing. Be sure to check the itinerary and the ticketing info (more about that here) when booking your trip. I paid $3,995 for the 7-day tour and it is definitely worth it to see two sections of the Great Wall.
Wuqing Tanwei—13 days, $4,000
At 160 years old, this Chinese little gem has much in common with the Jade Dragon Express that runs from Hong Kong to China’s Pearl River Delta, which covers just 18 hours. The train begins in Wuqing Tanwei and stops in Linyi and Harbin, before reaching Dalian on the way to Shanghai. Of course, the train takes you along a route with both the old and new China to enjoy the 2,017-mile trek to Shanghai.
I spent 4 days in Wuqing Tanwei and enjoyed stepping outside the pretty town that sits along a scenic bend in the river—not that there are many people there. You’ll see fewer cars, less town life, and lots of beautiful villages and mountains. The train stops every two to three hours, allowing you to sip tea and relax.
China Major—13 days, $4,000
This train takes passengers on a 3,616-mile journey in China, starting in Zhejiang and ending in Beijing. Once it reaches Harbin, a frequently used railroad terminus in China, the train will head north. It will stop for 19 hours at the giant steel and iron city of Tangshan, another gorgeous scenery and cultural capital.
This train is also a big step up from regular cars. It has room for up to 104 people, though I noticed there was a large area reserved for holdover passengers—so I wonder if this train is more for special clients. It doesn’t sound like I would have been popular. I spent 9 days on this train, riding from Harbin to Xian, spending a lot of time in Tangshan.
China Altitude—12 days, $5,000
This much shorter train was used for the Peking-Fujian train, a popular sleeper train between Shanghai and Fujian. It also offers the same meandering journeys, often at the edge of the Great Wall. Travelers to Fujian are advised to make three to four transfers—from Dalian to the Great Wall of China (only to get back) or the Great Wall itself (only back again). At 1,220 miles, you’ll see plenty of mountains, valleys, and mountain towns.
Get the full story at Sightseeing Explorers.