China - South
Cycling Guizhou and Guangxi
Many years ago I awoke on a train travelling through China’s Guizhou Province, and, pulling back the curtain was convinced I had awoken in the midst of a Chinese water colour. I had hitherto been quite sure that these beautiful paintings were works of fantasy, but now, here before my eyes, was proof that such enchanted landscapes exist.
Several years later as part of a longer journeyin China I found myself making a bicycle tour through the neighbouring Guangxi Autonomous Region, all karst spires and natural wonder, and I knew I must return.
A far cry in so many respects from our wonderful Yunnan cycling tour, these two distictly different China tours just begin to scratch the surface of what a diverse land this is.
At a Glance
Total Days: 15
Cycling Days: 12
Daily Average: 60km
Max. Alt.: 1350m
2017: 10 Sep - 24 Sep: £1995.00
2018: 09 Sep - 23 Sep: £1850.00
The China of Guizhou and Guanxi is a China of distinct minority groups, each with its own language and architecture. It is also a China of hillside rice terraces, bamboo forests, tea plantations and pine forests - karst spires, orange orchards, vin yards and pomelo orchards, dramatic wind and rain bridges and mythical looking drum towers. In our two week cycling holiday we experience simple villages of wooden homes, towns lit as though from a Christmas scene, boutique hotels and rural lodging. We cycle through valleys and across passes as we ride on dirt trails, pristine winding mountain byways and riverside cycle paths. Very much a bicycle tour to remember.
`I came to Vietnam for a bike tour with no expectations and without reading the brochure on where were going. I just wanted to experience Vietnam. Funny thing really... I had the best time ever. The tour was so well organised I couldn't tell I was on tour - everything just happened like clockwork. The guide (Phong), the mechanic (Lee), the driver (Mr Sa) and the leader (David) were also having fun and the bunch of us just reached out and connected with a very happy race of people, living life simply. Cycling is fast enough to cover some country but slow enough to feel the emotions of people we pass - and be touched by them. If you want a meaningful life experience, consider cycling with David and Painted Roads.....but don't wait too long. I'm booking China, Thailand South and North West Vietnam and bringing a buddy or two.
Cycling through the Fairytale like karst hills of Guanxi. Riding past the unique architecture of the Dong and Miao people. Rest day in Zhaoxing with its old stone streets running past wooden houses. Cycling through beautiful valleys of rice terraces, past tea plantations, through orchards of fruit, forests of pine and thickets of bamboo. Crossing passes and following turquoise rivers, biking in a wonderland littered with multi tiered drum towers, and wind and rain bridges with their wooden roofs leading into lost in time villages. And accommodation ranging from a village homestay to some quite lovely little boutique resorts, and, of course the food.
Touring in North East Vietnam with Painted Roads was a unique and rewarding experience. Each day was rich and full with new discoveries: rice terraces, incredible jungled pinnacles, deep valleys, breathtaking views, painted-like mountain profiles, hill tribes people dressed in their beautiful traditional costumes attending their daily duties, rural life, busy local markets, remote villages, flocks of children and friendly smiles. After a day standing the challenge of ever ‘undulating’ terrain, the simple, fresh and lovely food cooked in a local restaurant made the perfect ambiance for a convivial dinner.
Our tour begins in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province. Guiyang has a large airport (IATA airport code KWE) with regular flights from most major Chinese international airports. Upon arrival you will be met at Guiyang airport and transferred to the Novotel hotel where you will meet your tour leader and the rest of the group.
The tour ends close to Guilin, and on the last day of the tour we provide transport to Guilin airport (IATA airport code KWL), again a sizeable airport with direct flights to international airports across China.
Direct internal flights to and from Guiyang and Guizhou are available from the following Chinese international airports:
Chengdu - this has convenient direct flights from London with BA, and Amsterdam with KLM. Chengdu also a very good airport hotel and has received favourable reviews from PaintedRoads guests who have used this service for our Yunnan tour. Internal flights with China Southern are good value and comfortable
As always with flights there are a multitude of options and an internet search or a chat with a travel agent may well highlight a route suitable for your particular requirements.
Thank you for a great trip - it more than exceeded my expectations by quite a long way and I really enjoyed Sri Lanka. I think in terms of a relaxing cycling holiday its by far the best trip I’ve done – I think the mix of some challenging cycling days with the luxury hotels was pitched just right. I really wouldn’t change too much the next time it runs. See you in a hotel bar somewhere soon!
Included in this tour
All accommodation, local guide and Western tour leader, support vehicle (1 or 2 depending on group size), meals on cycling days, snacks during cycling days, drinking water whilst cycling.
Most days the distances on this tour are not great. The daily average is 60 kilometres, the longest single day is 100 kilometres and the shortest day is a meer 35kilometres, albeit with a fair climb at the end. There are some long climbs of up to 20 kilometres in duration, but on the whole the gradients are not particularly steep with the norm being around 5% and seldom achieving 10% - only very occasional does the gradients surpass 10%.
If you are a rider who is comfortable on hills and can happily cover 100 kilometres on a daily basis then this is for you.
David is an experienced cyclist, a professional tour leader, a passionate traveler and a jolly travel companion. The fact that he supervises the organisation in every aspect and takes part in person in the tours he runs, makes the difference. The local crew – professional, friendly and helpful - is the cherry on the top of the cake. No surprise that so many members of the group were returning customers, and that the new ones – like me – had come across Painted Roads by word of mouth and testimonials of friends and acquaintances from previous journeys. I strongly recommend David and Painted Road Cycling, and I look forward to join the next adventure with them.
As with all of our holidays we try to pick the time to visit from a weather point of view. With Guangxi and Guizhou this is September and October, when the average temperatures are reasonable and the rain fall is low. With an altitude variation of just above sea lever to over 1300 metres temperatures can vary and a warm jacket may be necessary of an evening and on some days the temperature may be above 30ºC. Rain is also possible at any time, with around 8 to 10 days per month likely to experience some rain. Consider an English summer and you will have an idea of the sort of weather to expect.
If you are bringing your own bicycle for this tour then most kinds of bicycle, except light weight racing bikes, are suitable: touring bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, gravel and cyclocross bikes are all fine. There are many long climbs so please consider your gear ratios carefully. The majority of roads we ride upon are well surfaced smooth asphalt, however there are sections of cobble stone and smooth hard-packed dirt. One section of such surface is 20KMS in length. In case of heavy rain the dirt sections may of course become muddy. There are also some stretches of potholed road with loose gravel in places where extra caution must be exercised. As with anywhere conditions may vary. Tyres from 28C in width upwards will be fine.
This tour is all above 2000 metres where the air is dry and can be warm so the ability to carry one or preferably two water bottles is essential (either on your bike or in a backpack). Our back-up vehicle carries tools but please bring any specialised parts your bicycle may need - including a small selection of spare spokes, spare brake pads, spare tubes and a spare tyre etc. A means of carrying your camera, sunblock, jacket etc is also useful – either an on-bike bag – handlebar or saddlebag for example, or a lightweight day-pack.
If you do not wish to bring you own bicycle we have our own fleet of good quality hardtail mountain bikes for rent. Please contact us for further details and rental price.
•Recommendation: Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. You may also like to bring bar ends if you use them. Please bring you own bicycle water bottles or hydration pack.
The tour price quoted on the website is for a twin room share basis. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the supplement price for this tour is as per the website.
(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner)
DAY 1: Arrival - Guiyang
For many people, arriving in China can be a daunting prospect. An alien language and a written scrip which to most Western eyes makes for an interesting tattoo but does little towards conveying an idea.
With nothing notable hinting towards Western tourism in Guizhou Provinces capital we have carefully chosen a joining hotel to make early arrivers fee relaxed and at ease. The Novotel is a luxury Western standard 4 star boasting a relaxed bar, cafe, and restaurant all with English menus. Nearby for those wishing to relax without the complication of communication one can find the usual international fast food protagonists, whilst the more adventurous need only wander a few more steps before bing immersed in characterful streets of hole in the wall noodle shops and local restaurants. The natives of Guiyan are a friendly bunch and a wander along the main streets is an introduction to modern China, whilst a stroll through the local backstreets will soon immerse you in the character of a more traditional land.
Arrival. Upon arrival you will be met at Guiyan airport and transferred to our joining hotel. Typically the group will meet in hotel reception at around 18:00 for a briefing before heading out for our first meal together as a group. In practice each group is different and our final meeting arrangements will be organised and explained to you closer to the time.
Day 2: Leishan
With its interesting architecture and characterful riverside promenade the prosperous little town of Leishan is a perfect destination for our first day on the bikes. First though we transfer away from the bustle of Guiyan in our support vehicles.
Whilst the group takes luncheon the crew will prepare our bicycles for the afternoon’s ride. Ahead of us is a perfect introduction to our cycling journey as we undulate along a quiet valley riding past pine trees and valley views of rice terraces and villages of the Miaow minority people. The road undulates to warm us up before the first of two notable climbs leads to tea country, always a lovely backdrop for a bicycle tour. A seven kilometre descent leads us into Leishan and our 4 star accommodation, where, following post ride refreshments and a shower we can stroll to the delightfully illuminated town centre where we can dine riverside on the regional speciality, hotpot.
Day 3 Yongle
A smooth winding road rolls through valleys of pine trees and beautiful rice terraces as we tackle two notable notable climbs today, the first of which is 12 kilometres and the second measuring up at nine. The corresponding descents do not disappoint with sweeping corners and more villages of Miao people scattered along the valleys.
Our destination offers us the opportunity to experience small town life in rural China. Our hotel for the night is not the best in China, but it is the best in town, and is clean with AC rooms, a bed, and a warm shower.
DAY 4: Rongjiang
A lovely day is ahead for the sporting cyclists amongst the group as we ride a well sealed road that twists, turns and undulates in a manner that should bring a big grin to the face of anyone who loves a spirited ride. For the more sedate riders and photographers we have a slight change of flora as the pine becomes denser and bamboo enters the equation. The rivers we follow flow with green and turquoise water and rice terraces add their unique beauty to the valleys along with the beautiful wooden houses of the Miao people.
DAY 5: Conjiang
We join the turquoise water of the Duliu river as we leave the hubbub of Conjiang behind and head for a day of valley cycling. The road we follow is wide and well surfaced and a treat for the lover of gentle undulations. With a more than a hint of alpine the views are of conifer woods and agricultural clearings on the valley sides as we pass the wooden rural homes that make up the villages of both Dong and Miao people.
DAY 6: Zhaoxing
Early risers may find a pre breakfast stroll through the nearby Dong village well a rewarding way to begin the day. Once breakfast is over it’s back to the bicycles and a return to the Duliu river as we head into Guanxi Autonomous Region for the first time. The road here is of more characterful and a quieter demeanour than that of yesterday and with little traffic its winds bumpily through villages of Dong minority people. Turning north the road improves markedly as we cycle towards or destination for the day, the Dong village of Zhoxing.
DAY 7: Zhaoxing. REST DAY
Although something of a tourist attraction these days, with its scenic pedestrian streets, timber dwellings, winding alleys, and little cafes, Zhaoxing is the perfect restudy venue for the touring cyclist. You can choose to relax in a café, stroll the streets with your camera, enjoy the view from our hotel balcony, or explore the local countryside either by foot or by bike. For those interested in local culture there is a dance show each evening telling the tearful story of an unrequited local love that turns inevitably sour, all from a time long since past.
DAY 8: Gaoding
The road from Zhouxing is small and blissfuly quiet as we ascent from the valley floor through woods of pine and terraces of rice. The bike ride today is short in distance but huge in character as long climbs are followed by wonderful descents and undulating valley roads through small villages of wooden houses. Our destination is the old village of Gaoding, lost in time and far from the concrete jungles of modern China. Our lodging for the night is a simple wooden guest house. Basic, but clean and full of character, it is an ideal base to discover the real rural China and spend an afternoon wandering a village most visitors to China would never even glimpse.
DAY 9: Longshen
An adventurous off road section takes us through a fantastic stretch of rural China this morning. Leaving the sealed road we follow a stone jeep track for several kilometres until a pedestrian, horse, and cyclist path takes us through a small village and to a challenging double track climb leading us to a beautiful quiet sealed road that descends through bamboo, pine, and rice fields.
There is no avoiding a busier main road for this afternoon’s journey and for this reason we have deemed it prudent to transfer the remainder of the day in our support vehicle to our comfortable resort.
NB. The off road section throws in a challenging steep climb, and circumstances such as the weather may dictate the need to take an alternative route this morning. Fear not though, we have a lovely scenic on road alternative to the off road cycling adventure.
DAY 10: Xiaozhai Rice Terraces
Although short in distance, todays section of our Chinese cycling odyssey is thoroughly beautiful.
Fifteen kilometres from town we turn onto a smaller road and begin the dramatic climb to Xiaozhai. Ten kilometres of gentle uphill and undulations along a scenic valley lead us to the winding and satisfying ten kilometre climb to our rural retreat in time for lunch. Our resort is set amidst an exquisite mountain scene ideal for relaxing with a coffee and book, or enjoying convivial company and a cold beer. But before relaxing a post prandial stroll amidst the stunning scenery should be considered mandatory, with such beauty as Yulan lake and the stunning Dragons Back rice terraces so nearby.
DAY 11: Qingshi
leaving our lofty nocturnal haven behind we begin the day with a long descent. Turning south the scene changes as an almost traffic free rural route winds upwards through denser foliage on the day’s longest climb. Bamboo and ferns are predominant and with the trill of insects the long gentle climb has a jungle feel about it. As we cycle through this rural scene smoke rises from the chimneys of the wooden house that dot the valley, and we pass small cottage industry where harvested bamboo is processed.
The mood of the afternoon changes as first we follow minor concrete roads winding along the valley floor through rural communities and scenes of agriculture. Passion fruit growing beneath blankets of green vine is a common sight, and as we turn north east for the final 25kms of the day we will be passing through orange groves on a minor country road. We end the day at a lakeside resort with a garden and promenade ideal for post ride relaxation.
DAY 12: Guilin
After a short gentle climb we top the first rise of the day to be treated by a vista of the karst spires that Guilin is renowned for. Our first fifteen kilometres is the sort of road suited to both the sporting rider and the sightseer, smooth and light of traffic with a climate altogether warmer, dryer and Mediterranean like in demeanour, save for the karst spires of course.
Turning off of this road sets a different tone for the rest of the day as an eclectic mix of highways, byways, bicycle paths and unsealed tracks lead us on a winding route into the largest city we encounter during our cycling adventure. Arriving in time for lunch there is plenty of time to have a wander and explore Guilin city before dinner.
DAY 13: Xinping
A morning of bicycle paths sees us leave the centre of Guilin on a wide urban path shared with all manner of two wheeled, and at times four legged traffic. This is the China that is home for the majority of the city dwelling population, and a steady ride out of town allows us to see something of big city life.
Leaving the town behind we turn to a dedicated rural cycle path that leads us through an ancient town and along the banks of the Li River, swooping through tunnels of bamboo and catching glimpses of river life and jagged karst spires beyond. Back on a two lane rural road we crest our major climb of the day and descend through a beautiful karst scene to into a warm dry valley blanketed in orchards of orange trees, grape vines, passion fruit and pomelo. Our final stretch of the ride takes us along small trails, sometimes unsealed and at time concrete following the Li River to Xingping.
DAY 14: Jiuxian
The region south of Guilin is famed for its fairytale like karst mountain scenery, and today our tour reaches a grand crescendo as we cycle into a little lost in time village deep in the heart of this enchanting countryside. We skirt the famed town of Yangshou, which alas long ago lost its charm, and head instead to Jiuxian, a village that although unspoilt by tourism will provide a delightful end to our tour in the shape of a characterful boutique hotel set in the tranquility of the delightful Yulong Valley. A beautiful way to end our cycling extravaganza, this little resort is an ideal spot for anyone wishing to relax for a few days following a wonderful tour of Southern China.
Why No Yangshou?
Back in the later part of last century Yangshuo was a delightful little village popular with Western backpackers visiting this region to explore the enchanted landscape of Guangxi. Along with the recent development of the Chinese economy came a unprecedented boom in domestic tourism, and by 2006 sleepy Yangshuo had become an epicentre for a form of tourism the exact antithesis of that which had nurtured it. Now wide streets are home to touts, karaoke bars, McDonalds and KFC, mass tourism, and hustle and bustle and mind numbing noise. The Yangshuo of my first visit many many moons since has long gone. And so, desirous of a suitable crescendo to mark this tour’s end, I searched to find what Yangshuo once was, a peaceful haven offering holiday comforts set amidst a scene of rural ideal, a desire I feel I have realised, and feel sure you will enjoy.
DAY 15: Finish
Our bicycle tour through Southern China draws to a conclusion after breakfast this morning. For those heading home or travelling onwards today transport will be provided to Guilin airport. For those who wish to stay on we are happy to arrange extra nights here in Jiuxian for you.
Markers below are clickable as are the markers on the map itself.
Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.
2017: 10 Sep - 24 Sep
2018: 09 Sep - 23 Sep
Rental bikes for this tour are PaintedRoads own Orbea and Stout hardtail MTBs with Simano Deore 2x drivetrains.
Rental bike price £150
The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.
** Early Bird Discount.
Book with a deposit four or more months prior to the tour running to secure your place at this discount price.
Our Other Tours in China
Cycling From Shangri La
Dates: May 2018
From the Tibetan town of Shangri-La, across a 3700 metre pass, through one of the world's deepest gorges to an unspoilt town from the ancient tea trading route. Onwards across a mountain range leading to one of China's biggest fresh water lakes. And hence to the capital of the Bai minority people, Dali Old Town. This cycling epic offers more of China in two weeks of pedalling that many would ever imagine exists. Featuring epic landscapes and a a real sense of adventure this tour has become, quite rightly, our most popular.
Total Days: 12 | Cycling Days: 8 | Difficulty: 7/10 | Daily Average: 70km | See more information, dates & prices »
A Journey To The High Mountains of Eastern Tibet
Dates: May 2018
Tibet is an almost fabled land that many long to visit but few do. For most people when thinking of Tibet it is of Lhasa, the Potala Palace, and Everest, the Tibet of the classic Lhasa to Kathmandu ride. This is the Tibet of The Autonomous Region which unfortunately suffers travel restrictions and the need for foreign travel permits, permits that are all too frequently withheld from issue.
The Tibetan region of Kham fortunately suffers no such restrictions and is open for anyone holding a Chinese visa. Having explored the area several times by bike during the first decade of this century it has long been David’s intention to run a tour in Kham. This is a truly Tibetan experience with soaring mountains, hight passes, open pastures and narrow valleys. There are monasteries and monks, yaks and barley, and cowboys on motorbikes. The also boasts lower sleeping altitudes, comfortable hotels and the absolutely wonderful cuisine of Sichuan. And with the border between Nepal and Tibet being firmly closed with little sign of it reopening in the near future Kham presents a excellent opertunity for a cycling adventure in a most exotic land.
Total Days: 16 | Cycling Days: 11 | Difficulty: 9/10 | Daily Average: 86km | See more information, dates & prices »