Scenic Train Journeys Across China

Train station at foothills of Himalayas in Lhasa, Tibet

Sure flying between those Chinese cities is an option, but when you’re visiting a country that has the third-largest railway system on the planet as well as a delightful mix of conventional trains and modern bullet trains, don’t you think it makes sense to add a train journey into your itinerary.

Sure, the Shanghai to Beijing route is all about economy and comfort, but there are a number of train routes that take you through some of the most beautiful sights and sceneries that China has on offer. Bookmundi presents the most scenic train journeys in China, journeys that are as beautiful and amazing as their end destinations!

Beijing-Lhasa (above image)

Popularly called the Sky Road, the Beijing to Lhasa route is the highest railway route on the planet. Most of the journey takes place above 4000 meters and some sections also climb to dizzying heights of 5000 meters. The line presents as many as 675 bridges which span rivers and ravines and passes through the mysterious Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, popularly known as Death Region because of its harsh climate. The main attractions of this journey include ancient towns such as Golmud, the beautiful Tanggula Pass and sights of nomadic herders taking care of their animals.


A view of Guangzhou cityscape
Image by: sevenke/

Recommended Beijing article: Top 12 Best Things to do in Beijing

The route between Beijing and Guangzhou is perhaps the best way of exploring eastern China. Connected by a bullet train, this route takes you from a capital city full of skyscrapers and modernist architecture to ancient villages and suburbs located close to the Guangdong Province. The train journey offers a fascinating country tour of China and also takes you over the Yangtze River, through mountains and hillsides, across forests and streams. Moreover, this journey lets you see the stark contrast between rural and urban as well as northern and southern Chinese life.


Lake on Engilchek glacier under peaks of scenic Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan
Image by: MichalKnitl/

The route between Urumqi and Kashgar, the most western route in the country, runs through the western desert areas of China and offers insights into the country’s medieval past. Uyghur’s claim to fame might come with the fact that it was a part of the legendary Silk Road, but the modern-day traveler is more likely to remember it because of its people, those lively bazaars and beautiful minarets. The journey also passes some of the remotest desert locations in the country and offers fascinating views of the red-sandstone Flaming Mountains as well as those snowy Tian Shan peaks. Bookmundi recommends you to reserve time for the Sunday Market held in Kashgar, a market famous for its Central Asian influence and exotic food.


Speeding train away from railway station, Shanghai China
Image by: bspguy/

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Hanghzou is one of the most beautiful cities in China and is known for its breathtaking locales and ancient relics. The mesmerizing West Lake is the city’s star attraction and the mountains also add a sense of mystery to your journey. Shanghai, on the other hand, doesn’t need any introduction. The bullet train takes just one hour, but it still manages to showcase a fascinating side of Chinese culture and natural beauty.

Relevant Tour:


Yuantong Kunming Temple panorama Kunming capital city of Yunnan China
Image by: Prasit Rodphan/

This journey originates in the Sichuan province of Panzhihua and snakes its way to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. The journey takes roughly 6 hours in one of the few green trains in the country. Oh, what we mean by green trains is that the train features an entire wet market and buyers and sellers climb at various stops, transforming the seatless carriages into trade floors where they trade everything, right from fruits and vegetables to animals and livestock. Sure to be a huge culture shock, but incredibly fascinating nonetheless.

Beijing-Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

A camel walking through the Gobi desert
Image by: jjuncadella/

Think of this route as a trailer to what the Trans-Siberian railway has to offer. The journey not only provides you a unique glimpse of the Great Wall of China, but also introduces you to all kinds of sandy towns and historic houses located close to the border. Moreover, the journey passes the great Gobi desert where you get to see sandy frontier towns and two-humped Bactrian camels. However, the most interesting aspect of the journey takes place at the border when the bogies need to be switched to the Russian gauge. Every coach has to be lifted so that the wheels can be replaced before being lowered back on the tracks. The process takes several hours, but it is certainly something that you don’t get to see every day.


Karst Mountains of Xingping, China.
Image by: SeanPavonePhoto//

The Nanning Guilin route winds through those mysterious karst mountains, and this alone makes the journey worth your while. In fact, the Chinese have actually termed Guilin’s scenes as the best under heaven. Apart from mountain views, the journey also offers views of beautiful paddy fields and breathtaking river views.


Night view of Chengdu
Image by: VogelSP/

Deciding between checking out ancient terracotta warriors and playing with giant pandas is something no traveler wants to do, and thankfully, you don’t need to make that dreaded decision anymore. The Shaanxi-Chengdu route connects both these heavyweights and also brings you closer to the numerous bridges, remote sceneries and the mesmerizing rivers of Northeast Sichuan.

Beijing-Kowloon, Hong Kong

Hong Kong View From Victoria Peak
Image by: Jorg Hackemann/

And if you’re really thinking about living it large (in terms of train journeys, that is), take a trip from Beijing to Kowloon, a journey that lets you cover almost 2/3rds of the country’s landscape, scenery and culture. It would be much quicker to simply board a flight, but where is the fun in that! After all, what journey would start with scenes of a high-tech city and sky-hugging skyscrapers, pass through the scenic Yangtze River, cross as many as 160 tunnels and 790 bridges and end in a city that feels like it has an entirely different culture.


Beautiful View Of Shanghai
Image by: Brian K./

Shanghai and Beijing are two of the biggest heavyweights in China and most tourists usually end up visiting both. The introduction of sleek bullet trains that run at speeds of more than 250 kph. ensures that the journey doesn’t take longer than 5 hours, but most of those sights and scenes pass as a blur. While you might not be able to boast of exploring the country’s fascinating beauty on this journey, you could still check out its bullet trains and modern infrastructure. Think of this journey as an insight into China at its fastest.

Flying is always an option, but why not bring in some romance into your journeys by traveling the way your ancestors used to. There are some destinations where train rides can be incredibly rewarding, and China is certainly one of them. Each of these journeys let you discover Chinese culture and landscapes at their beautiful best.

Now that you know all about the best train journeys in China, why not also check out the Top 15 Best Attractions in China. One thing is for sure, China is 100% worth visiting and even features on one of the Top Best Travel Destinations in 2016.

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