Arrive Kunming and you will connect with the flight to Lijiang. On arrival in Lijiang you will be met by our guide and private car/bus and transfered to Baisha Cloud hotel or similar hotel in Shuhe. You may catch up on your rest before your exploration begins. You explore the lovely quiet town of Baisha in the shadow of the Jade Dragon Mountain, see the traditional Naxi style homes of the local people and visit the Baisha temple to see ancient murals. After dinner, In the evening you will visit the UNESCO HERITAGE designated town of Lijiang and wander and explore the busy and colourful streets and Lijiang, its Ming Dynasty bridges, and canals, which is why Lijiang is called the Venice of the East. (2 hours of walking). (altitude 2400 - 2600 M).
In case your arrival was late you will visit Baisha and then through the countryside and head to a Shuhe village in Lijiang region. This is the home of the Naxi people. The architecture of traditional wooden houses with mud brick walls with fine wooden windows and doors are charming as are the narrow streets, shops and restaurants. As we travel, we may see farmers tending to their crops and traditionally dressed Naxi people frame our view. The region is well known for its pears, peaches, potats, corn and mustard crop. There is an interesting system or traditional wells that are interesting and sustainable, as the well water flows into 3 wells, one for drinking water, one for washing vegetables and the third for washing clothes. You can explore the town and learn about the Naxi culture and way of life. You will then drive to Wenbi temple or Yuhu village, the base from where Joseph Rock, the Austro American botanist and National Geographic's man in China explored the Snow Mountains of Northern Yunnan and collected rare species of plants. He prepared the dictionary of the Naxi language during the decades he lived in town, and also became the world’s expert on Naxi culture. You will visit Rock's old home which is a Museum now. (At least 4 hours of walking). Tonight you will stay at a 3 star hotel or a lodge in Baisha or Shuhe with its true countryside atmosphere. Baisha is a home to many artists and time permitting you may be able to visit a studio. Lunch and dinner is on your own.
Today you set out northwards passing villages with apple, pear and peach orchards on the outskirts of Lijiang. You will pass Lashe Hai Lake, a little at a distance. As the road winds up the hills you will leave behind plains below Jade Dragon Mountain. You skirt the wonderful hills resplendent with plantations of beans, sunflower, mustard, potato, corn, tobacco and descent towards the Yangtze river. You will follow the willow lined river with rich Naxi farmlands as you drive towards the first bend of the Yangtze. At Shegu , the small village you will walk up to the top of the village to see the great First Bend of the Yangtse. The Yangtse makes a V turn here and stays in China where as all the other major rivers, Mekong, Salween flow north south to south east Asia. You will then continue along the southward flowing Yangtze, stopping in Shegu to walk up to the village to see the memorial to the Long March and then drive north to the village of Tacheng, which is located at the southern edge of the Baima Reserve and the very small town of Tacheng. You will stay at local small but clean small local hotel or lodge. In the afternoon you may take walks to Naxi and Tibetan villages, to see their culture and local architecture, farmlands and vineyards. (2 to 3 hours of walking) (altitude 1910 - 2600m)
The Yunnan snub nosed monkey, lives high in the forests of Baima Reserve around 4000m and as such has the highest habitat of all the world's primates, except for humans. They are known to be able to endure the winter sub zero temperatures. They live in bamboo forests as well as coniferous forests and evergreen forests and can withstand winter snow. Baima Reserve is one of their homes and we will leave in the morning to drive and hike and explore the eastern area of the park to be able to see these amazing creatures. You will be trekking in Baima Reserve to look for the snub nosed monkey along paths marked by the monitoring staff who will accompany you on your exploration depending on the location of monkey groups on any given time (approx. 2 hours of trekking). In the afternoon we will drive north east along the Yangtze river to Punzera. We may spend a little time at Cizhong, an old trading post. Cizhong is at the base of a sacred hill. On the drive you will see Tibetan homes built of stone with fort-like walls extending down along the hills for protection. These were important villages on one of the tea trading routes to Lhasa in the past times. You will continue past the region of Nixi. In the small villages of Nixi, a special black earth is used for pottery and local teapots for butter tea, soup tureens, hotpots, coal pots are crafted by hand and not to be found in any other region of Diqin. We will arrive at Punzera town, once another important junction on the old tea and horse trading route. Leaving behind the oasis valley of Punzera we drive north and climb towards the jagged peaks of the Baima mountains. The terrain changes dramatically as we rise from 2100m to nearly 4000m. The rocky limestone mountains form the back drop for the second most important Monastery in the region. As you travel you will also see the architecture of village homes change to the flat roof villages similar to that of central Tibet but the homes here are higher and much more ornate and more typical of eastern Kham region. Dhondupling Monastery, perched on a hill is in a magnificent location from where you can have a 360 degree view of the Hengduan shan mountains - northwest lie the mountains of Tibet and Tibet Burma borders, in the west the mountains of Sechuan, and in the south the mountains of Shangrila slowly rising towards the plateau of Tibet. The central building is a four storey high structure surrounded with a large courtyard where 'cham' dances and other ceremonies are performed during special religious festivities. Overnight you will stay at a simple hotel in Felisi.
Today is a full day trek to Yipung. After a breakfast of local fare, we drive north along the Yunnan Tibet road to Namkhatashi where pilgrims have their first grand and panoramic sight of the sacred Kawakarpo Mountain (6740m). The spectacular views of the Meili Snow Mountains will leave you in awe. We can see the spectacular Ming Yong glacier descending from the waist of Kawakarpo. Here at Namkhatashi, prayers are offered and incense and juniper is burned before the beginning of all pilgrimages. We continue on to Sitang village and the start of our trek. Here our staff will arrange the pack animals to carry equipment and baggage. (Please note: only overnight packs should be taken for the trek. For any other luggage you will need to pay for horse transportation of baggage.) We trek along a pilgrimage route into the Meili Snow Mountains. The walk is through ancient forest of rhododendrons, birch, oak and countless flowering plants. This area is in the top five in the world for bio diversity. After a three hour steady climb we reach the high pass and walk through a tunnel of colourful prayer flags left by pilgrims form all over China and Tibet. We then head down to Yuben village location at the base of the sacred Kawakarpo. If the day is clear we will have dramatic views of the mountain with its triangular vertical peak. We stay at a local guesthouse in our little Shangrila hideaway.
After breakfast we walk to the village of lower Yuben where you can offer prayers here for parents at a special chorten run by two nuns. Deep in the primary forest we trek through hidden ancient retreat caves. The walk takes us past large chortens that line cool flowing streams and then up through primary birch forests. The walking is nothing short of spectacular. We join an old pilgrimage trail leading to the two sacred waterfalls descending from a cliff hanging off Kawakarpo Mountain. We will more than likely meet people who have made a pilgrimage from over Tibet and China to offer prayers at the waterfall and at a sacred site where Guru Padmasambhava is supposed to have meditated. We walk back to Yuben for the night and enjoy the traditional hospitality of the Tibetan people. (hike approx: 20kms)
Today we trek back, and on to Meyung to see the glacier and then drive to Shangrila.
This morning we head off early for our walk back to Sitang to be reunited with our car and driver. We then drive along the Mekong River and trek to view the Meyung glacier from specially built platforms to gain impressive views of Kawakarpo towering above us and the glacier itself. Ming Yong Glacier is the lowest glacier in Asia and surely one of the most spectacular. You will continue past the region of Nixi south to Gyalthang or Shangrila as the capital of the Prefecture is now named, Shangrila is another important town on the tea and horse trading route. You will drive to Napha grasslands and drive and around the lake and walk to the village of Hamagu with completely different architecture that is unique to this region and enjoy seeing the surrounding farmlands and the wetland and lake of Napha. The hills are rich in herbs and shrubs and one may see early plants of the famous Blue Poppy here which bloom in July. There is a good chance of seeing Lilium Zhongdianensis and Incarvelia Zhongdianensis, rare flowers of this region, varieties of gentian and primula in late spring and summer. You may also see just see chrome yellow euphorbias and stellera, all depending on when you are visiting. This is the home of the rare Black Neck crane that comes to winter in the region. In April there is a chance that you may see some that have not started their migration back to north west China and Russia by then. You may see yaks, horses and pigs on the lake side. You will drive around the Lake and head to your Lodge or hotel in the old town of Shangrila. (Time permitting You may take the time to walk part of the way round the Napha wetland and Lake , walking in Hamagu village on the way. Your overnight stay is at a nice traditional style lodge in the old town or a 3 star hotel in the new town. The altitude in and around Shangrila is 3300 - 3400m, so you need to rest and acclimatise.
Today we visit the monastery and then we will drive to the Valley of Ringha and the temple of the 5 Wisdom Buddhas. On arrival in Ringha you will see the chalet like Adobe farm homes of the Tibetan people of the region. Here cattle and sheep mingle with Yak in the grasslands. In springtime, the hills are covered with Azalea. You will then walk to the temple. At this most important and quiet pilgrimage site local Tibetan people go to pray and leave their problems behind. After a rest you may choose to walk to the Dafosi temple and try your hand at turning the largest prayer wheel in the region. We will have a farewell dinner in the old town in a renovated old tea trading house, the Tara Gallery Cafe and enjoy views of the Dafosi temple as you taste the special traditional Gyalthang hot pot, pork and vegetables and noodles cooked in a delicious home made ham broth, accompanied by freshly baked Tibetan steam bread, the regions delicious potats and yak cheese as side dishes. Then if you wish, join the community to dance in the old town square. Overnight at your lodge or hotel (approx. 2 hours of drive and 2/3 hours of walking).
You will have a morning transfer to the airport for your flight from Shangrila to Kunming. On arrival in Kunming airport the journey ends.