Mountains & Meadows – Beautiful Yunnan

Duration: 8 days

Highlights: Northern Yunnan is the inspiration for James Hilton’s Shangri-La in his acclaimed novel, “Lost Horizon”.  A region of snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys and rolling meadows

A region of snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys and rolling meadows – set within the watershed of three of Asia’s great river systems, northern Yunnan is a traveler’s wonderland.  This natural beauty is complemented by a rich diversity of cultures that includes 11 of China’s 55 different cultures.  Among these are the Naxi one of the last matrimonial cultures on earth and the Khampa Tibetans, the once feared warriors of Tibet. 

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Day 1 - Arrive Lijiang

Arrive today into Lijiang which is situated at an elevation of 2,400 metres (7,875 feet). 

After disembarking from your flight and clearing arrival formalities you are met and transferred to your hotel which is ideally located in the historic old town area.

The balance of the day will be at leisure for you to acclimate to the elevation.

Overnight: InterContinental Lijiang Ancient Town Resort


Day 2 - Lijiang

This morning attend a performance of “Impressions of Lijiang” a spectacular music and dance extravaganza  staged by the Chinese film director, Zhang Yimou who was also the creative force behind the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.  The performance takes place on a specially constructed stage at the base of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulongxueshan) and involves more than 500 local performers representing 11 different minority cultures.

Following the performance transfer to Baisha Village once the capital of the Naxi Kingdom (before the 13th century) and explore this charming hamlet.  The village is home to the historic Baisha murals which are more than 500 years old and incorporate the diverse belief systems of the Naxi people who are the largest non-Han Chinese group in the region.

Return to Lijiang and the afternoon will include a guided walking tour of the historic Old Town which has a continuous history of over 800 years.  Now a fully invested UNESCO World Heritage Site (1997) the old town is a warren of cobble stone lanes and alleys that take you to another time and place.  During your walk you will enjoy a cup of Pu’er tea – Lijiang was once one of the most important depots on the “Cha Ma Gu Dao” the ancient tea trade route that brought Pu’er tea from southern Yunnan up and onto the Himalayan Plateau.  The tea was transported on the backs of mule trains that sometimes exceeded 10,000 mules that made the 6-month perilous journey to Lhasa.

Overnight: InterContinental Lijiang Ancient Town Resort

Meal Plan: B,L,D

Day 3 - Lijiang

This morning you will transfer out of the city and drive to Lashi Hai (Tiger Lake) which is located 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) to the west of Lijiang.  The lake’s name means “Tiger” and it is an important ecological zone especially for migratory birds.  The lake is one of the few places in China where the highly endangered Black Necked Crane winters.  The surrounding wetlands support some of the most fertile farming regions which grow bumper crops of potatoes, apples and other garden vegetables. 

You will visit the Zhiyun Temple when at the lake; this is a Tibetan Buddhist temple that is home to an active community of young lamas many of whom are from the Tibetan regions of western Sichuan.

Return to the city and tour the sprawling old town market before ending the day with a visit to the lovely Heilongtan Park and Dongba Museum, a fine facility that exhibits some fascinating examples of Naxi religious traditions as well as a series of old photographs of Lijiang’s Old Town.

Overnight: InterContinental Lijiang Ancient Town Resort

Meal Plan: B,L,D


Day 4 - Lijiang - Shangri-La (Zhongdian)

This morning you set off from Lijiang and drive west and then north to Shangri-La (Zhongdian) the seat of Khampa Tibetan culture in northern Yunnan.  The drive is approximately 170 kilometres (105 miles) crossing some of the most scenically beautiful landscapes in China.

You will make a few stops on your overland journey to Shangri-La beginning with the “First Bend” which is a historic geographic landmark that is important to all Chinese.   Here the Yangzi River (which flows south from the icy glacial plains of the Qinghai/Tibet Plateau) into Yunnan province but when it reaches the site of the First Bend the river turns sharply north staying in Yunnan and China.   

Your next stop is the charming rural village of Shigu (Stone Drum) which is just a few kilometres beyond the First Bend.  The village is an idyllic snapshot of rural Yunnan life with its busy markets and charming buildings.  The village has an important memorial to the heroes of the “Long March” who passed through this region during the winter of 1934 – 1935 and who were aided by the local Naxi community. 

Before reaching Shangri-La you visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge one of the single most beautiful regions in all of China.  The gorge is 19 kilometres (11 miles) in length and is formed by the Yangzi River as it carves out a course between two sacred mountains:  the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Mount Haba, sacred to Tibetans. 

Later this afternoon arrive into Shangri-La and transfer to your charming hotel which overlooks the magnificent Songzanlin Monastery.

Overnight: The Songtsam Linka, Shangri-La (Zhongdian)

Meal Plan: B,L


Day 5 - Shangri-La

Early this morning drive to Napa Hai a protected botanical region located just outside the city.  The Napa Hai region is an important wetlands area that floods each spring and summer turning part of the meadows and grasslands into a seasonal lake.  Napa Hai is also an important wintering ground for the Black Necked Crane and during the early spring months visitors can see as many as 50 cranes across the wetlands.  The grasslands are used as grazing land for horses and yaks and during the spring and summer months the region is coloured by profusions of wildflowers including some highly endangered species like the Himalayan Blue Poppy. 

The balance of the morning will be spent exploring the Songzanlin Monastery, the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist site in Yunnan.  Founded by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century the monastery was almost razed to the ground during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) but over the past 40 years has been painstakingly rebuilt to it former grandeur. 

This afternoon, following lunch, you will transfer from the city to Ringha, a charming rural village set amid meadows ablaze with wildflowers.   Enjoy visiting a local Tibetan homestead to learn about the lives of the villagers and then climb the Dabaosi a holy hill site sacred to Tibetans living in Yunnan.  

This evening enjoy a traditional Tibetan hotpot dinner in the old town area.

Overnight: The Songtsam Linka, Shangri-La (Zhongdian)

Meal Plan: B,L,D


Day 6 - Shangri-La - Shanghai (via Kunming)

This morning your guide will transfer you to the Shangri-La Airport where you board your flight to Kunming.  On arrival into Kunming you are met and assisted with the transit onto your onward flight from Kunming to Shanghai.

Arrive into Shanghai and meet your guide who will transfer you to your elegant hotel.

Overnight: The Peninsula, Shanghai

Meal Plan: B,L


Day 7 - Shanghai

This morning you will meet your guide and set off on a full-day tour of Shanghai beginning with an orientation tour of different city neighborhoods.  This will include the lovely former French Concession noted for its elegant villas and gardens, a reminder of another time and place.  You will also follow the circuitous lanes and alleys of the “Old Town” the historic heart of Chinese Shanghai.  Here, more than 600 years ago the city flourished as a busy trading centre.  Your walk through the old town will include a visit to the magnificent Yu Garden, an exquisite 16th century scholar’s garden. 

This afternoon, following lunch, you visit the Shanghai Museum, regarded as one of the world’s five best museums of Chinese art and antiquities. 

Your afternoon ends with a walk along the historic riverside promenade known as the “Bund”.  The name is actually an Anglo-Indian term that refers to a “quay” or “embankment” but now includes the riverfront area of Shanghai.  The Bund is the most ideal place to appreciate the marvel that Shanghai has become – on one side is the sweep of historic buildings that recalls the city’s treaty port past while the Pudong side (the eastern bank) represents Shanghai, city of tomorrow.

Overnight: The Peninsula, Shanghai

Meal Plan: B,L


Day 8 - Depart Shanghai

This morning (depending on the departure time of your flight) you will meet your guide and transfer to the Long Yang Road Maglev Station where you board the Maglev Train, the world’s fastest high-speed train link to an airport.  Reaching a top speed of 430 kilometres per hour (265 miles per hour) the train journey takes 8 minutes.  

On arrival at the Pudong International Airport you will be assisted with the check-in for your onward flight.

Meal Plan: B


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