Follow the famous Dragon's Trail cycling route across southern China from rural Guizhou province to Guangxi, near the border with Vietnam. It begins in the mountain villages of the ethnic Dong and Miao peoples and continues until you reach Guilin, an area known for its towering limestone peaks. Along the way, you'll pass spectacular scenery, including traditional villages, expansive rice paddies, and winding rivers.

Highlights

  • Visit ancient villages home to China's ethnic minorities
  • Hike through the verdant Longji Rice Terraces
  • Cycle alongside the 2,000-year-old Lingqu Canal
  • Marvel at epic views of limestone mountains in Yangshuo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guizhou - Cycle to Zhaoxing Congjiang
Day 2 Combined Drive/Cycle Excursion to Liping Liping
Day 3 Cycle to Dong Villages - Drive to Basha Miao Basha
Day 4 Drive to Chengyang Village - Half-Day Cycling Tour Sanjiang
Day 5 Hike the Longji Rice Terraces Longsheng
Day 6 Cycle the Lingqu Canal Xing'an
Day 7 Cycle to Haiyang Town - Cave Hike Gaoshang
Day 8 Pro Cycling Route to Daxu - Ride to Xingping Xingping
Day 9 Hike Up Xianggongshan Hill - Cycle to Yangshuo Yangshuo
Day 10 Depart China  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guizhou - Cycle to Zhaoxing

Bullet Train Experiences in China
Aerial view of Guizhou

Welcome to China! You'll start your journey in the southeastern Guizhou region at the Congjiang Railway Station. Upon arrival, you'll pick up your bike, meet your official guide, and begin the tour.

It begins with a ride around Congjiang County. This area of China is home to the Dong and Miao ethnic-minority communities. You'll know them by their brightly embroidered clothing, which they make themselves by hand. The villages they live in are traditional, and you'll pass by many wooden houses on stilts, often with animals living underneath. If you're lucky, you'll arrive in time for one of the area's many festivals.

Your first stop on the route is the village of Zhaoxing, where you and your guide will overnight.

Day 2: Combined Drive/Cycle Excursion to Liping

The drum towers of Zhaoxing

Spend the morning exploring Zhaoxing, which is famous for its five drum towers. These wooden towers were originally built to house signal drums, and according to tradition, each tower in Zhaoxing represents one group of the local Dong people. You can also explore the town and hike across the covered wooden bridges as you make your way to the outdoor market to sample the local snacks.

You'll enjoy Zhaoxing for a bit then drive 90 minutes west to the remote village of Diman. From here you'll embark on a 12-mile (20 km) cycling excursion through traditional villages and rural countryside. This route is mostly flat with only a few brief steep uphill climbs.

After you finish the bike ride, get back on the road with your driver to the city of Liping, where you'll spend the night. If you have the energy, feel free to take a walk around town before you retire.

Day 3: Cycle to Dong Villages - Drive to Basha Miao

A local Basha Miao villager

Start the day with a bike ride into the mountains outside the city where you'll visit smaller, traditional villages. This ride moves at a relaxed pace as you travel through rural communities and country landscapes. There will be a stop along the way for a simple lunch, and you'll be able to meet locals and see them going about their daily lives much as they have over the previous generations dating back centuries. 

After finishing this portion of the country cycling tour, you'll pack up the bike and drive to Basha Miao Village, where you'll overnight. This mountain town is noteworthy as being the last municipality in China where it's still legal for residents to buy guns. It's an old village too, with about 2,000 years of history and a long-standing culture of folk traditions. Indeed, this quiet, little-visited town mainly consists of wooden buildings, drum towers, and cobbled streets. 

Day 4: Drive to Chengyang Village - Half-Day Cycling Tour

Lovely Kids and Local Hospitable People
Central square in Chengyang

Today you'll see how Basha Miao earned its designation as China's last bastion of firearms when you watch a cultural performance by villagers with their traditional flintlock rifles. Then it's a visit to the folk museum to understand the area's frontier history and the locals' spiritual traditions, such as their worship of trees.

Afterward, you'll say farewell Guizhou province as you hop in a car for the two-hour drive east to Chengyang, another Dong village known for its time-capsule wooden buildings and covered bridges. Once you've settled into your lodging, you'll embark on a half-day bike ride outside the village and through the countryside north into Hunan province, the bucolic villages will eventually give way to modern municipalities, at which point you'll catch a ride back to Chengyang.

Day 5: Hike the Longji Rice Terraces

Hike the Real Beautiful Parts of Longji Rice Terraces
Longji Rice Terraces

After breakfast, you'll take an hour drive from Chengyang into Longsheng county, an area known for its Longji Rice Terraces. These green fields climb up the mountain slopes from the river valley and reach an elevation of about 2,600 feet (800 meters). The scaley look of the terraces, combined with the sharp mountain ridge, earned them the moniker "Dragon's Backbone." The terraces date back over 700 years and were started during the Yuan dynasty and finished in the Qing dynasty by the Zhuang people.

You'll arrive at the base of the mountain and can either hike from the bottom to the top or drive halfway up and do the last section on foot to reach the viewing terraces. As a reward for the effort, afterward, you'll visit Longsheng Hot Springs, known affectionately by locals as "a heaven of peace and happiness."

There's a village here that you can explore the village on foot. A short hike will take you to two popular vantage points that offer some of the best views of the rice terraces.

Day 6: Cycle the Lingqu Canal

Lingqu Canal

After a late breakfast and a precious few last moments to enjoy views of the rice terraces, you'll drive down the mountain to a village that marks the starting point of the day's cycling tour. The area in and around the village is home to flourishing vineyards, and as it will be approaching lunchtime when you arrive, you'll stop at a local homestay to enjoy some fresh fruit and a home-cooked meal.

Newly fueled up, you'll hop back on the bike for a 19-mile (30 km) ride along the Lingqu Canal, located in Xing'an County outside of Guilin. It was constructed in 214 BCE under orders of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang. The goal was to join the Xiang and Li rivers and create a single water passage linking Beijing with Hong Kong. Coincidentally, it was Qin Shi Huang who also first ordered the construction of the Great Wall.

The ride along the tranquil canal is an easy one that will take you alongside some historic sights. As an added bonus, you'll stop at the end of the ride and sample the area's best rice noodles. If you want to keep going, you'll have the option to add on an additional 12 miles (20 km) to the route, which will take you past gently flowing brooks alongside passionfruit farms. You'll overnight in a local homestay.

Day 7: Cycle to Haiyang Town - Cave Hike

Explore the Less Commercialized Tunnel Cave
Inside the cave

In the morning you'll drive through the scenic countryside, passing the longest reservoir in Xing'an, on your way to another village. Upon arriving, you'll embark on a short bicycle ride to warm up for the day. Then you'll get back in the vehicle and continue to the town of Baishi. Here you'll leave the bicycle and continue on a 1-2-hour hike along narrow paths leading through a natural karst cave.

You'll stop for lunch near the caves, then continue cycling the rest of the way to Haiyang, a small town famous for its ginkgo trees. You'll overnight here in a local guesthouse. 

Day 8: Pro Cycling Route to Daxu - Ride to Xingping

Sunset view, on the way to Xingping
Sunset view on the way to Xingping

In the morning, you'll take a bike ride through the Guangxi region that involves uphill climbs and uneven terrain. You're headed to a mountain where one of China's most famous races, the Tour of Guangxi, takes place. Since this area is prime racing territory for professionals, the landscape can be challenging. If completing the route on the bike proves too difficult, you can take the van the rest of the way until you reach Daxu, an ancient market town on the Li River that dates to 200 ACE. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll take a ride over some hills along the Li River. Despite the uphill climbs, the route is a scenic one as you'll be surrounded by stunning mountain views. The excursion ends with a downhill ride followed a long flat stretch into Xingping, an old port village on the Li where you'll spend the night. Feel free to spend the rest of the day browsing the town's handicraft shops, enjoying the scenic lookouts, and, if the mood strikes, swimming in the river. 

Day 9: Hike Up Xianggongshan Hill - Cycle to Yangshuo

The view from Xianggongshan Hill

A morning boat will take you across the Li River, at which point you'll take a short, steep uphill ride to a viewpoint. Here you'll be treated to panoramic vistas of the region's towering limestone peaks. You can then walk up to the top of Xianggongshan Hill to take in even more incredible views.

After heading back down you'll continue cycling along the tranquil waterways and past karst mountains as you make your way to Yangshuo, a rural county located just to the south of neighboring Guilin. This bucolic area is a paradise for nature lovers, who love to come here for boat rides down the calm waters of the Li. You can choose to overnight in Yangshuo or just north of it in the river city of Guilin.

Day 10: Depart China

Farewell, China

Alas, you've reached the end of this cycling adventure through southern China. After a leisurely breakfast, you'll transfer to the nearest airport to make your connecting flights home. See you soon!