China Cycling Route

This is my planned China cycling route, starting and ending in Kunming (bottom-left). Check out the stops along the way by clicking the stars on the map or the entries in the list. The plan will change!


Kunming, Yunnan, China The capital of the vast Yunnan province, the same size as France, bordering Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam. Starting at 2000m altitude, the road west goes up and up and up into the Tibetan plateau and the Himalaya.
Dali, Yunnan, China An ancient walled town, centre of the 8th century Nanzhao kingdom that extended into Myanmar, and capital of the Kingdom of Dali that superceded it in 937. Apparently it was one of the 13 biggest cities in the world in 1000.
Lijiang, Yunnan, China The Old Town, up to 1,000 years old, is made up of timber and mud brick houses favoured by the Naxi people. Lijiang was a key town on the trade routes between China and India, named the "Ancient Tea Horse Road"
Litang, Garze, Sichuan, China A major centre of Tibetan Buddhism, this 4,000m high town of 50,000 people is home to a major monastery founded in 1580.
Yushu, Qinghai, China 3,700m high city of 120,000 people, 97% Tibetan, and capital of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous prefecture. The prefecture is home to the official source of the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, and is also in the basins of the Yangze and Mekong rivers. Greatly damaged by a large earthquake in 2010, in which more than 2,500 people died.
Golmud, Haixi, Qinghai, China Frontier town, start line of the road and rail line to Lhasa, and more than 90% Han. 35km south of here there is a checkpoint where they check for the foreign cyclists trying to sneak into Tibet without a permit. You can take the same road and turn off to Yushu, though, without entering Tibet.
Ruoqiang, Bayingol, Xinjiang, China One of the few small towns on the road bordering the southern side of the Taklamakan desert, which is much less populated than the northern side. Used as a staging point for archaelogists exploring the nearby Lop Nur area, a former salt lake that was also used as a nuclear testing site, home to discoveres of mummies from as early as 2000BC.
Qarqan, Bayingol, Xinjiang, China Qarqan, Cherchen, or Qiemo in Chinese, is an oases town on the southern silk route, visited by Xuan Zang (one of the key figures responsible for bringing Buddhism to China) in 644 and by Marco Polo in 1273. It is a larger town, in the extremely sparse environment east of Hetian.
Hetian, Xinjiang, China An oases town supplied by two rivers, Hetian (Khotan) has a population of 322,000 and a long history, including as part of the Kingdom of Khotan, from 56 to 1006AD. The kingdom was one of the earliest Buddhist states in the world and key to the transmission of Buddhism from India to China.
Kashgar, Xinjiang, China The westernmost city in China, where the north and south branches of the Silk Road meet, Kashgar is close to the borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and the gateway to the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan, the highest road in the world. Kashgar's population of 500,000 is more than 80% Uyghur.
Aksu, Xinjiang, China Aksu is situated on the northern border of the Taklamakan desert, more built-up than the sparse southern side, and is a junction between the northern silk road and another trading route over the Muzart pass to the Ili river valley through the Tian Shan Mountain range.
Yining, Ili, Xinjiang, China Yining is capital of the Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture, which borders Russia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. Yining is in the Ili river basin, divided from the rest of Xinjiang province by the Tian Shan mountain range, to the south by the main range and to the north by the Borohoro range.
Urumqi, Xinjiang, China Capital of Xinjiang province, Urumqi is a modern city of more than 3 million people. It was built up in the Qing dynasty, whish stationed Han, Manchu, and Mongol troops in the city to aid in their efforts to pacify the Dzungar Khanate, the last vestiges of the mightly Mongol empire.
Turpan, Xinjiang, China The ancient Silk Road town Turpan is located in the Turpan depression, 154 metres below sea level. It is the hottest place in China, and the second lowest depression in the world. But it is also an oases town, famous for its grapes, with an ancient irrigation network.
Kumul, Xinjiang, China Kumul, or Hami, is an ancient oases town, famous throughout China for its melons, and near the border with Gansu province. Hami prefecture borders Mongolia to the north, and is where the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts meet.
Jiayuguan, Gansu, China The end of the Great Wall, as built in the Ming Dynasty at least, a huge fort built to defend the Hexi Corridor.
Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu, China Dunhuang was a frontier garrison town on the Silk Road; the northern and southern branches of the Silk Road diverged here. It is also home to the world-famous Mogao grottoes, 735 caves carved into a cliff face filled with statues and frescoes.
Wuwei, Gansu, China Wuwei is situated in the Hexi corridor, historically the only route from Central to Western China and Central Asia, bordering the Tibetan plateau to the south and the Gobi desert to the north.
Yinchuan, Ningxia, China Capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Yinchuan is on the Yellow River. It is also where Genghis Khan died in 1227.
Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China The start of coal country, and a major industrial centre, responsible for a huge amount of rare earth mineral production. The factories near the city spew the toxic byproduct into a vast lake nearby the city.
Zhangjiakou, Hebei, China Strategically located in between China and Mongolia and China and Russia, Zhangjiakou was the chief gate in the Great Wall for foreigners travelling to China. Nearby is where Genghis Khan's 90,000 strong army defeated a 450,000 strong Chinese army in 1211.
Xilinhot, Xilin Gol, Inner Mongolia, China Endless grasslands form the backdrop for this small city, located close to the remains of the Mongol Chinese capital, Xanadu, built by Kublai Khan.
Hulun Buir, Inner Mongolia, China Capital of the Hulun Buir prefectore, which borders Russia and Mongolia. The prefecture is made up of 100,000m2 of grassland, at 700m altitude, and is crossed by 3,000 rivers.
Mohe, Da Hinggan Ling, Heilongjiang, China The northern most point in China, with a subarctic climate and an annual mean temperature of -4C. The county has a population density of less than 5 persons per square km.
Qiqihar, Heilongjiang, China The second biggest city in north-eastern China, a major garrison centre in the Qing dynasty to protect against the advances of Czarist Russia.
Changchun, Jilin, China The "Detroit of China" due to its automotive industry, the city was central to Chinese, Japanese and Russian competion in the 19th and 20th century, and served as the titular capital of Japan's puppet state in China, Manchukou.
Shenyang, Liaoning, China Settled as early as 8000 years ago, Shenyang was where Japan initiated its invasion of north eastern China. It became a huge centre of industrial activity, which entered into precipitous decline in the 1990s, when the state owned enterprises went bankrupt, leaving millions jobless.
Qinhuangdao, Hebei, China Where the Great Wall meets the sea, now a major port for China's coal supplies, as well as a famous beach resort, used by the Communist Party for summer retreats and important conferences.
Beijing, China The world's third biggest city, with a population of 21 million and six concentric ring roads to get through before I arrive at the forbidden city in the centre.
Taishan, Tai'an, Shandong, China One of China's "five great mountains", 7,200 stone steps lead to the peak, where emperors would come on pilgrimage.
Dezhou, Shandong, China Home to many of China's clean energy companies, and "Solar Valley", the "clean-tech version of "Silicon valley"
Qufu, Jining, Shandong, China The birthplace of Confucius, and an important pilgrimage site ever since his death.
Linyi, Shandong, China With a history of 2400 years, where Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" was first found.
Huai'an, Jiangsu, China On the Grand Canal between Hangzhou and Beijing, a city with a long history, with evidence of inhabitation 5-6000 years ago, and a place in mythology as where Great Emperor Yu tamed the floods of the Huai river.
Huzhou, Zhejiang, China On the shore of Lake Taihu, and one of the last stops on Highway 318, which leads from the China-Nepal border in Tibet all the way to Shanghai. Another time...
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China Once the largest city in the world, in the 12th century, a beautiful city set by a famous lake, and known as a centre of Chinese culture and literature for centuries.
Huangshan Shi, Anhui, China At the foot of the famous Huangshan mountain range, with up to 60,000 stone steps leading to the top, built as early as 1500 years ago.
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China The centre of Chinese porcelain, with over 1700 years of history making pottery.
Yingtan, Jiangxi, China Mount Longhu nearby is believed by some to be the birthplace of Daoism.
Longyan, Fujian, China The "home of the Hakka", with over 75% of the population from the minority, surrounded by villages filled with distinctive "earth houses"
Xiamen, Fujian, China Coastal city famous for its role in the Opium wars, Xiamen was a major trading centre, and home to huge numbers of protestant missionaries.
Chaozhou, Guangdong, China Home to the Teochew people, who have an international diaspora of more than 10 million people.
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China The first of China's special economic zones, Shenzhen is a city of 14 million people and one of the wealthiest cities in China, and a global manufacturing centre.
Dongguan, Guangdong, China Dongguan is a little heard of global manufacturing centre, home to a huge number of migrant workers from other parts of China.
Hezhou, Guangxi, China In the Guangzi Zhuang autonomous region, which borders Vietnam, Hezhou is home to ethnic minorities including the Zhuang, Yao, and Miao.
Guilin, Guangxi, China Known for its amazing lime stone karst hills, Guilin is on the Li river, which flows to Yangshuo.
Hechi, Guangxi, China Hechi is relatively mountainous, forming part of the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau. The airport is on top of 65 mountains at over 1000m; the tops of the mountains were blown up and the gaps between the peaks was filled in.
Baise, Guangxi, China Baise is located in between Vietnam, Yunnan, and Guizhou province to the north. The annual mean temperature is 23C.
Xingyi, Qianxinan, Guizhou, China Qianxinan is the centre of a small autonomous prefecture for the Miao and Buyei minorities, and has the same karst hills landscape as in Guilin and in north Vietnam. A hilly finish line!


Check out my route from the UK to China here.