Our guide to cycling in China
There’s no greater joy than getting out on your bike, especially if it’s on holiday. We think it’s the best way to travel (ok, we are biased) but from our experience, seeing a new country by bike allows you to really open your eyes to the new surrounding, having the time to take in the environment and get the know the people who live there. Each month we’ll be sharing a travel blog with our recommendations for unusual, exotic or off the beaten track cycling destinations and we’re kicking things off with a trip to China.
As one of the largest countries in the world, planning out your routes or even narrowing down where you might want to visit can be daunting. To help solve this problem, we’ve teamed up with China Adventure Tours to help point us in the right direction. China Adventure Tours run all kinds of active tours including hiking, horse-riding and cycling, and focus on sustainable tourism, thus reducing the impacts of tourism on the environment and the local regions. Cycling is obviously a fantastic way to do this and allows you access to the more remote parts of China, escaping the big cities (and pollution) away from which many tourists never venture.
All the tours incorporate cultural aspects, offering a holiday as well as just a chance to ride. China is a rich and fascinating country but not quite as easy to reach (or as cheap!) as simply hopping on a plane to Mallorca. As a result, we’ve picked these three tours which pack in plenty of experiences and will give you a flavour of the diversity China has to offer.
Central China – 7 Day Qinghai Cycling Tour
Take the chance to (almost!) ride like a pro! The Tour of Qinghai Lake is an international UCI road race around Quinghai Lake which has run every summer since 2002. Although this trip won’t quite match the gruelling 1,300km the racers cover, it is still at the same altitude, as high as 3,300 metres above sea level in some parts.
This tour circumnavigates the enormous Qinghai Lake, China’s largest salt-water lake, into which 23 rivers and streams empty, so expect plenty of fresh-caught fish to be on the menu for post-ride fuel! The province of Qinghai itself is mainly used by Tibetan herdsmen and so is rather desolate as a result, but you should still expect some heavy traffic on certain stretches of road. The chance to see a host of rare bird species also makes this a great tour for keen photographers and birdlife enthusiasts alike.
When to go: Visiting between May and October should ensure the best weather.
Total cycling distance: Around 360km on paved roads throughout.
North Eastern China – 11 Day Beijing Cycling and Hiking
The Great Wall is surely the most iconic image that springs to mind when you think of China, so you can tick it off your bucket list with this tour.
This route takes you under the shadows of the Great wall over smooth, empty roads and offers plenty of climbs. Escape over the first mountain range which borders Beijing – away from the smog of the city – and you’ll find thousands of kilometres of quiet, snaking mountain roads to rival the best cycling destinations in the world. This tour offers stunning scenery, challenging climbs, adventurous back roads and of course plenty of coffee stops to keep you topped up. As well as the cycling, this trip also includes time exploring the city of Beijing itself.
When to go: between April and November
Total cycling distance: around 450 – 550km
Southern China – 9 Day Tropical Hainan Expedition with Biking and Hiking
Hainan, China’s most southern province, is a small spot of land in the South China Sea where this tropical jungle tour takes place and it’s an island paradise far away from the crowds. The tour first takes you north into the centre of Hainan island to experience local life, then leads you gradually back out to the coast and beaches. Being a tropical destination, this tour really stands out as you get to explore deep rain forests and so yet again it’s another great location for those interested in wildlife.
The Wuzhi Mountain, meaning Five Finger Mountain, is an iconic location to visit and we love this tour because there’s the chance to really unwind at the beautiful resort hotels – perfect after a long day in the saddle!
When to go: October to April are the best months to visit so that you miss the oppressive humidity and heat that China faces in the summers.
Total cycling distance: around 60km per day on cycling days
South Eastern China – 12 Day Cycle and Trek to Karst Peaks and Longji Terraces (MTB)
If road cycling isn’t your thing, this off-road trip recommended for mountain bikers might be more up your street.
Images of a ‘rural China’ are what you can expect from this trip; think farmers tilling rice paddies with water buffaloes, rivers running through vast swathes of farmland and ancient villages dotting the countryside. An undoubted highlight is cycling through the thousands of limestone Karst peaks along the Li River. Side roads or little tracks and trails lead you through the countryside rather than main roads.
You’ll also hike up to Buddhist temples, visit the UNESCO Heritage Bajiaozhai National Park with its unique red sandstone formations and relax in hot springs.
When to go: Best experienced late March to April or September to early November.
Riding time: 4-8 hours per day
To find out more about any of the tours listed or for further enquiries, visit chinadventuretours.com.