8 Most Scenic Train Rides in China
China’s most beautiful train rides take passengers to not only metropolises, but also countryside and even areas off the beaten track. On the way, one can appreciate not only skyscrapers rising up to the sky, quiet villages dotted among paddy fields, but also woody or snow-capped mountains, running rivers, peaceful lakes, endless deserts and isolate gobi, etc, somehow making these China best train trips discovery of China in depth. If coming to China, you should enjoy at least one of these best train trips in China.
Here below are the 8 best train journeys in China, covering large tourist destinations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Lhasa, Chengdu, and Kunming, as well as small featured towns like Lijiang and Dali.
Beijing-Shanghai: Urban Landscapes and Countryside Scenery
This ride reveals China’s urban areas, including two of the most popular and prosperous metropolises, Beijing and Shanghai. When passing by the fertile Central China Plain, you will find the vast fields “weaving” up and down, resembling green oceans in spring and summer, colorful oil paintings in autumn and pure white blankets in winter. Dotted with small villages, they look so peaceful and beautiful!
Recommended Rides: The daytime high speed trains departing before noon
Duration: 4.5-6 hours
Ticket Price: CNY553 for a second class seat, CNY 933 for a first class seat
Recommended Guided Tour:
6 Days Group Tour to Beijing & Shanghai from $739
Beijing-Guangzhou: Four-season Scenery in One Trip
As a super long high speed rail route running in a north-south direction, it offers passengers a chance to appreciate the scenery of four seasons during this one trip. Starting from Beijing, the high speed train first travels through the flat agricultural area. If in winter, it may be a white fairyland. After running over the Huaihe River, it enters bountiful southern China decorated by green plants all year round. Passing by Changsha, the scenery changes again and you will see hills one after another.
Recommended Rides: G71 and G79 for Beijing to Guangzhou; G72, G80 and G66 for Guangzhou to Beijing
Duration: 8-10 hours
Ticket Price: CNY862 for a second class seat, CNY1,380 for a first class seat
Recommended Guided Tours:
2 Days Small Group Tour in Beijing from $299
3 Days Private Guangzhou Tour from $259
Shanghai-Kunming: A trip along Mysterious 30 Degrees North
Traversing four ancient civilizations, 30 degrees north has been mysterious and unique for long, akin to the Bermuda Triangle, the Pyramids, the sunken Atlantis, and the nearby world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. Hopping on and off the train between Shanghai and Kunming, you will know what the 30 degrees north has left to show in China. Is it the modernized cities, tranquil water towns, rippling lakes and rivers, green mountains, dense stone forests, or profound historical relics? Well, it's all!
Recommended Rides: G1371 and G1373 for Shanghai to Kunming, and G1378 and G1372 for Kunming to Shanghai
Duration: 11-12.5 hours
Ticket Price: CNY1,475 for a first class seat and CNY879 for a second class seat
Recommended Guided Tours:
3 Days Shanghai Tour from $369
11 Days Yunnan Tour to Beijing, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shanghai from $2289
Hefei-Fuzhou: China’s Most Beautiful High Speed Railway
This railway is famous for mountain and countryside scenery, including Yellow Mountain famous for green pines, strange rocks, Cloud Sea and hot springs; Mt. Wuyi, a typical Danxia landform bounded with waters; and Wuyuan, China’s most beautiful countryside with white walls, grey tiles, and terraced fields covered by yellow rape flowers.
Recommended Rides: High speeds leaving before 14:00
Duration: 4-4.5 hours
Ticket Price: CNY357 for a second class seat, CNY601 for a first class seat
Recommended Guided Tour: 5 Days Yellow Mountain Tour from $839
Lanzhou-Xinjiang: Most Majestic High Speed Railway along Silk Road
Running in northwest China, scenery along the way is unique and diverse. You will for sure not feel bored, rewarded with the roaring Yellow River, boundless rape flowers, snow covered Qilan Mountains, desolate desert and vast windmill forests. If you by chance know some China history, you will be more interested in this trip, as it follows the Silk Road.
Recommended Rides: The earlier departures the better, because they offer more day-time scenery
Duration: 11-11.5 hours
Ticket Price: CNY548.5 for a second class seat, CNY658 for a first class seat
Recommended Guided Tour: 11 Days Silk Road Tour to Xi'an, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Urumqi from $2209
Xining-Lhasa: A Ride to “World’s Roof”
This ride will take you to highland Tibet, passing by the blue Qinghai Lake, vast grasslands, grand snow covered mountains, mysterious river origins and the deserted Gobi, like a painting scroll gradually opening in front of you. On this scroll about Chinese natural scenery, you may also see Tibetan antelopes, yaks, and wild donkeys every now and then. A majority of the residents along the way are Tibetans, so you can also see some scenic features about this minority group, like Mani Stones, prayer flags, golden-roofed temples, and the Tibetan style folk houses.
Schedule: Altogether 6 pairs are running for this route. If you prefer highland scenery, choose those arriving Lhasa in the afternoon or leaving in the morning.
Duration: 21-22 hours
Ticket Price: CNY540 for a hard sleeper, CNY826 for a soft sleeper
Recommended Guided Tour: 10 Days Tibet Train Travel to Beijing, Lhasa, Xi'an from $1899
Chengdu-Kunming: Diverse Geographical Landscapes
Traveling between the Sichuan Basin and Yungui Plateau via Hengduan Mountains, Jinsha River, Dadu River and many other complicated terrains, the rail route was “born” to be dangerous but undoubtedly charming. Trains go over numerous raging torrents and through tunnels, but mostly they travel along the mountain feet or slopes with rivers or villages on one side and high mountains on the other. Sitting in the front carriages, one can even see the following carriages being dragged out from the tunnel and snaking forward.
Schedule: 2 pairs of high speed trains and 4 pairs of non-bullet trains are available. For those who prefer scenery on Yungui Plateau, choose non-bullet ones leaving Kunming in the morning or arriving in the afternoon.
Duration: 17.5-22.5 hours
Ticket Price: CNY261.5/255.5 for a hard sleeper, CNY398.5/388.5 for a soft sleeper
Recommended Guided Tours:
2 Days Chengdu Panda Tour from $207
3 Days Kunming Tour from $329
Kunming-Lijiang: Escape to Fairylands
The clear Erhai Lake, snowcapped Mt. Cangshan and blue sky make you feel like you are entering a fairyland. The Tashan Tunnel exit is the best site to view Mt. Cangshan on a train. If looking afar, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain will come into your view, which is believed by the local Naxi people to be where the gods live.
Recommended Rides: K9612, K9682 for Kunming to Lijiang; K6104, K6108 for Lijiang to Kunming
Duration: 7-10.5 hours
Ticket Price: CNY152 for a hard sleeper, CNY226 for a soft sleeper
Recommended Guided Tour: 8 Days Yunnan Tour to Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La from $1149