You will join the trip in Kunming, where we catch our flight 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.
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 explore the local market for an authentic and unique glimpse into life in the region.
After breakfast we continue our journey to the awe-inspiring Tiger Leaping Gorge - one of the deepest gorges in the world. 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 Qiatou. From here we walk approx. 2.5 hours to a Naxi village where we will stop for lunch. From here we continue walking uphill 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 (2621 meters) we have a long decent down to the Naxi Family 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 to the guesthouse.
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 arrive at Tina's Guesthouse late morning and 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.
Today we explore a nearby Baisha minority village, the Dongba Cultural Center and the Naxi museum. This will help us gain a better understanding of the cultural diversity and long history of this special place. The afternoon is free followed by the opportunity to watch the Naxi musical orchestra.
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 and head out to the Snow Mountain for a leisurely walk. This afternoon is free to explore Lijiang.
Following breakfast we transfer by private vehicle to the town of Dali, a journey of around 2.5-3 hours In Dali we 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.
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 take a walk around Dali's old town before exploring the surrounds of Erhai He Lake (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.
Today we complete our comprehensive tour of China with a transfer to the airport for our flight to Kunming. On arrival at Kunming airport the trip concludes.
Please note if transferring to an International flight you will need to collect your bags on arrival in Kunming and recheck in. Your bags cannot be checked in for an International flight from Dali. 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).