Make your own way to Kunming, from where we provide flight tickets to Zhongdian for our first taste of colourful Yunnan Province. In 2002 the Chinese government changed Zhongdian's name to Shangri La as it declared it was the location described in James Hilton's fictional novel "The Lost Horizon". Zhongdian is also known as Gyalthang in Tibetan and translates to 'Royal Ground', referring to the rich and fertile pastures surrounding the city. This area is rated in the top 5 places in the world for high plant biodiversity and is famous as a favourite research area for famous Botanist Joseph Rock. Upon arrival in Zhongdian you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in hotel.
Perched on a hill overlooking the town of Zhongdian is the imposing Ganden Sumtsanling Monastery. The Monastery is 5 stories high and houses over 700 practicing Buddhist monks. It is like stepping back into a peaceful age when entering the Monastery with its huge red pillars rising from the main assembly hall. Built in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama, the monastery with its numerous chapels, woodcarving and paintings is like a living museum of Tibetan culture and many believe to be the most significant Tibetan Monastery outside of Lhasa. Parts of the monastery are being reconstructed and there is a great regeneration of the religious spirit.This afternoon we visit a Tibetan farming village, meet a local family and delight in a unique glimpse into life in the region.
After breakfast we journey to the awe-inspiring Tiger Leaping Gorge to commence our hike. It is one of the deepest gorges in the world and the sight of the 3900m walls of the gorge - as they drop from the snow capped mountain tops of Haba Shan to the cool gushing waters of Shinsha River - are simply breathtaking! Considered by most as one of the most spectacular natural wonders in all of China, we venture out amongst its wild beauty to soak in its magical presence. We start our easy walk into the Gorge from Qia Tou. Most likely from here we walk approx. 2.5 hours to a Naxi village where we will stop for lunch. Continuing walking uphill, we are on the higher trail and the 28 bend path which is more challenging than our morning walk. The trail affords excellent photo opportunities with a full view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Once we reach our highest point (2621m) we have a long decent down to the guesthouse where we will spend the night. This evening you can relax and enjoy a night of star gazing.
Note: you will only need to carry your day pack today, the rest of your luggage will be transferred by jeep to the guesthouse.
It is an early start as we continue hiking through the Gorge. The terrain this morning is mainly flat and downhill as we walk in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, passing through Halfway Village and by a waterfall. We board a small van to take us back to Qiao Tou where we enjoy lunch before boarding our own vehicle for the drive to Lijiang. The journey from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang is 80km by winding roads and takes approximately 2.5 hours. Lijiang is the cultural center and capital of the Naxi people and has existed for over 800 years. It was once at the end of a very popular ancient Tibetan trading route and is now a World Heritage listed site. The city is populated by mainly Naxi people with their vibrant blue traditional dress. Lisu, Pomi and also Han Chinese people also populate the city along with a small number of Tibetan people. The town has a thriving arts community and its own traditional music and musical instruments can be heard whilst walking along the cobbled streets. The ancient part of town with its narrow streets and clay-tiled roofing is best explored by foot and we take a walk around the canals and streets of this area.
Overnight in a hotel.
Lijiang resides in a spectacular setting with the imposing snow capped peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is never far from view and helps frame our photos. Today we visit the stunning Black Dragon pool with it's very picturesque landscape and thousand-year-old trees. Next we make our way to Baisha, the Old Town of Lijiang (approx. 11 kms away) with its beautiful, typical Chinese countryside. Baisha is home to ethnic minorities, the Dongba Cultural Center and the Naxi museum, which help visitors gain a better understanding of the cultural diversity and long history of this special place. Later we have an opportunity to watch the Naxi musical orchestra.
Following breakfast we transfer by private vehicle to the town of Dali. The drive is on mountainous roads and it will take a whole morning (approx. 3 - 4 hours) to reach Dali. In Dali we head out on an orientation walk of Dali Old Town, get to know the regions Bai ethnic minority culture and gain a small taste for their every day life as we explore the old town.
Overnight in a hotel
Set on the outskirts of beautiful Erhai Lake, Dali is a charming cobble stone town surrounded by markets, rural villages and a backdrop of the spectacular 4000m tall Cang Shan (Jade Green Mountains). After breakfast we explore the surrounds of Lake Er (ear shaped lake) by boat. Today we take it easy as we stop to visit small villages and temples that make this area so charming.
Overnight in hotel.
Today after breakfast we complete our journey through China with a transfer to the train station to take the high speed train to Kunming, where the trip concludes.
Please note: All international airports in China require 2.5 hours to check in and to go through the customs, so you should schedule any connecting international flight for the afternoon (after 15.00).