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Explore China's 7 Most Scenic Train Journeys

The 7 most scenic train journeys provide not only beautiful sceneries at terminus cities, but also charming views outside the trains' windows on the way. Instead of seeing the same sea of clouds on an airplane, your trip is enhanced by seeing different landscapes through a train's windows.

Read on to see which train route you want to start your journey with.  

1. Chengdu to Kunming — "Geological Museum" Route  

  • Length: 1,096 km (681 mi)
  • Duration: 19 hours approx.
  • Price: 372.5 yuan (60 USD) for a soft sleeper
  • Train schedule: 6 normal speed trains per day (departure time: 08:54, 10:30, 13:00, 14:28, 14:57, 17:03)
  • Scenery: mountains and cliffs, deep canyons, great rivers in southwest China, long bridges
stone forestStone Forest, Kunming

This railway line has been in service since July 1970. It was praised by the United Nations as one of the three wonders of humanity's conquest of nature in the 20th century, along with the former Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 in 1957, and the Moon rocks brought back by the United States' Apollo.

It runs through southwest China, which has 56 complex geographical regions of mountains and rivers. From Chengdu's plains area, with an altitude of about 400 meters, the train goes up to altitudes of about 2,000 meters, traveling through tunnels and across mountains. The complex geography along the railway line gives this route the name of "geological museum".

Recommended Direct Train's Timetable and Price

  • Departure station: Chengdu Railway Station
  • Terminal station: Kunming Railway Station
Train No. Dep. Arr. Duration Price
Hard seat Hard sleeper Soft sleeper
K113 13:00 07:35 (day 2) 18 h 35 min 138.5 yuan
22 USD
238.5 yuan
38 USD
372.5 yuan
60 USD

2. Beijing to Shanghai — High-Speed Train in Prosperous Cities

  • Length: 1,318 km (819 mi)
  • Duration: 5 hours approx.
  • Price: 553 yuan (89 USD) for a second class seat
  • Train schedule: 43 daytime high-speed trains (depart from 06:40 to 19:00)
  • Scenery: endless wheat fields, the Yellow River, countryside scenery with colorful roofs, the Yangtze River
the bundThe Bund, Shanghai

Beijing and Shanghai are two of the most popular cities for first-time travelers to China. This high-speed train route is very popular and definitely worth a ride during your China trip. It is a trip that combines some of China's main urban landscapes with cultivated countryside scenery and mountains in between. The new and modern facilities on the train ensure you have a comfortable journey.

The scenery is not as spectacular as the Chengdu–Kunming route, but the thing to admire is China's infrastructure and expansive urban areas. The route gives a ground level view of the core of China along with some beautiful scenery including the agricultural areas.

Recommended Direct Trains' Timetable and Prices

For this route, we suggest that you leave Beijing before noon for the best scenery. Before noon, there are 15 G class trains that depart from Beijing from 06:44 to 11:35.

The fastest G1 train departing from Beijing (or G2 departing from Shanghai) takes 4 hours and 48 minutes with one stop in Nanjing South. G1/G2 leaves at the ideal time of 09:00, so if you want a fast trip with the best scenery, they are the best two to take.  

Train No. Dep. Arr. Duration Price
Second class First class Business class
G1 departs from Beijing 09:00 13:48 4 h 48 min 553 yuan
89 USD
933 yuan
150 USD
1,748 yuan
281 USD
G2 departs from Shanghai 09:00 13:48 4 h 48 min

3. Xi'an to Urumqi — Silk Road Journey in a Vast Desert Landscape

  • Length: 2,526 km (1,570 mi)
  • Duration: 33½ hours approx. (2 nights and 1 day on the train)
  • Price: 747.5 yuan (120 USD) for a second class seat
  • Train schedule: 15 normal trains (depart from 02:54 to 23:25)
  • Scenery: the Yellow River, Jiayuguan Fortress, the Gobi Desert 
Heavenly LakeHeavenly Lake, Urumqi

Xi'an has a long history, being the first of China's four Great Ancient Capitals. There are many historical buildings and heritages. Urumqi is the largest city in Western China, with colorful Uyghur ethnic group culture and the Silk Road culture.

This is a Silk Road journey, as well as an adventure journey. It is full of Western China's scenery and delicious food on the way. You will be in the wilderness of the Gobi Desert.

Recommended Direct Train's Timetable and Price

  • Departure station: Xi'an Railway Station
  • Terminal station: Urumqi Railway Station
Train No. Dep. Arr. Duration Price
Hard seat Hard sleeper Soft sleeper
K2629 23:25 08:52 (day 3) 33 h 27 min 278.5 yuan
45 USD
471.5 yuan
76 USD
747.5 yuan
120 USD

4. Dali to Lijiang — Most Relaxing Route  

  • Length: 159 km (99 mi)
  • Duration: 2 hours approx.
  • Price: 49 yuan (8 USD) for a soft seat
  • Train schedule: 8 normal trains (depart from 04:37 to 17:23)
  • Scenery: snow-capped mountains, Erhai Lake, blue sky without air pollution
Lijiang Ancient TownLijiang Ancient Town

You can see snow-capped mountains from the train, and appreciate Erhai Lake's beautiful scenery. The blue sky, green mountains, and clear water form a great watercolor painting of nature. You can put on your earphones to listen to quiet music. This is a relaxing way to enjoy your vacation.

Recommended Direct Train's Timetable and Price

  • Departure station: Dali Railway Station
  • Terminal station: Lijiang Railway Station
Train No. Dep. Arr. Duration Price
Hard seat Soft seat Hard sleeper Soft sleeper
K9619 15:23 17:22 1 h 59 min 34 yuan
49 yuan
69.5 yuan
11 USD
105.5 yuan
17 USD

5. Hefei to Fuzhou — Most Beautiful China Countryside Scenery

  • Length: 808 km (502 mi)
  • Duration: 4½ hours approx.
  • Price: 357 yuan (57 USD) for a soft seat
  • Train schedule: 13 high-speed trains (depart from 07:35 to 17:20)
  • Scenery: the Yangtze River, historical memorial archways, wetland views
The Yellow MountainsThe Yellow Mountains, Huangshan

This train route passes through many scenic sites in southeast China, mostly natural scenery and countryside scenery. It also passes through cities with three World Heritage sites — the Yellow Mountains (Huangshan City), Mount Wuyi (Wuyishan City), and Mount Sanqingshan (Shangrao City). Thus, it's regarded as “the most beautiful rail line” in China. The comfortable environment on the high-speed train makes this tour a more impressive one.

Recommended Direct Train's Timetable and Price

  • Departure station: Hefei South Railway Station
  • Terminal station: Fuzhou Railway Station

There is a lot of beautiful scenery at the stations along the way; you can get off at one of them and enjoy your trip. We recommend that you get off at Huangshan North for spectacular views of the Yellow Mountain. Distinctive villages can be seen on a bus trip for a couple of hours around Huangshan. 

G1621 Arrive Depart Attractions
Hefei South - 08:00 Mount Jiuhua
Chaohu East 08:21 08:23 Chaohu Lake
Tongling North 08:43 08:45 Tongling Yangtze River Bridge Park
Jingxian 09:02 09:04 -
Jingde 09:18 09:20 -
Yixian North 09:37 09:39 Yi County
Huangshan North 09:48 09:54 The Yellow Mountains
Wuyuan 10:15 10:17 Wuyuan County
Shangrao 10:41 10:49 Mount Sanqingshan National Park
Wuyishan North 11:11 11:13 Mount Wuyi
Jianou West 11:36 11:38 -
Nanping North 11:54 11:56 -
Fuzhou 12:33 - Xiapu's Mudflats

6. Xining to Lhasa — Way to the Sky

  • Length: 1,956 km (1,215 mi)
  • Duration: 22 hours approx.
  • Price: 781 yuan (126 USD) for a soft sleeper
  • Train schedule: 5 normal speed trains (depart from 0:14 to 21:35)
  • Scenery: snowcapped mountains, a great lake view, grassland
The  Potala PalaceThe Potala Palace, Lhasa

This train route is popular for travelers who want to visit Tibet — the roof of the world. It is the longest high altitude train trip in the world, and the scenery is beautiful, stark, and almost otherworldly — it is named as the “way to the sky”. Most of this route is over 4,000 meters and it goes above 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) several times.

The reward of the route is to see a starkly beautiful part of the world that was almost inaccessible. Instead of city views, you'll see mostly desolate wilderness or pastures. After the train has left Xining Railway Station for about 1 hour, you can see the boundless blue lake — Qinghai Lake. The stunning views outside the train's windows will impressive you during your trip.  

Recommended Direct Train's Timetable and Price

  • Departure station: Xining Railway Station
  • Terminal station: Lhasa Railway Station
Train No. Dep. Arr. Duration Price
Hard seat Hard sleeper Soft sleeper
Z6801 14:05 12:00 21 h 55 min 224 yuan
36 USD
495 yuan
80 USD
781 yuan

Travel Tips for This Route

Summer is the best time to travel by train: We recommend that you take the train in summer to enjoy better scenery and to see the native people out and about and camping alongside the train tracks with their yak herds.

Each cabin is supplied with oxygen that comes out of little vents or, if you prefer, you can insert a tube to inhale it.

All foreign travelers are required to apply for a Tibet Entry Permit. See more detailed requirements and how to apply for the Tibet Permits for Traveling in Tibet.

7. Lhasa to Shigatse — Travel to Mount Everest by Train

  • Length: 253 km (157 mi)
  • Duration: 2 hours 39 minutes, 2 hours 55 minutes
  • Price: 82.5 yuan (13 USD) for a soft seat
  • Train schedule: 2 normal speed trains (Z8801 departs at 08:30, Z8803 departs at 15:20)
  • Scenery: the Lhasa River, Brahmaputra Grand Canyon
Mount EverestMount Everest, Shigatse

This railway is an extension of the Qinghai–Tibet railway, with an average altitude of 3,500 km (2,174 mi). It makes Tibet travel more convenient for travelers, especially those who want to see Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

The train runs through the Brahmaputra Grand Canyon with magnificent views of the Brahmaputra River through the train's windows. Along the railway line, you can see local farmers and yaks. And most of the time, you can appreciate a plateau landscape of mountains and meadows.

2 Direct Trains' Timetable and Prices

  • Departure station: Lhasa Railway Station
  • Terminal station: Shigatse Railway Station
Train No. Dep. Arr. Duration Price
Hard seat Soft seat Hard sleeper Soft sleeper
Z8801 08:30 11:25 2 h 55 min 40.5 yuan
82.5 yuan
13 USD
111.5 yuan
18 USD
169.5 yuan
27 USD
Z8803 15:20 17:59 2 h 39 min

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Author: Kelly

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