If you are arriving on day 1 you will be met at the airport and transferred to the group hotel. Depending on your arrival time we can visit the Bamboo temple and flower market. Later you may wish to spend time having a walk around the relaxing Green Lake where we can sample from the variety of superb Yunnan teas at one of the tea houses. In the afternoon many Chinese people head to the lake to play checkers, drink tea and catch up on all the local gossip. Tonight we are introduced to the Chinese cuisine by enjoying a dinner of Yunnan specialties.
After a breakfast consisting of local dumplings we fly to the fascinating city of Lijiang. After checking into our hotel in the ancient town we wander the cobbled stone streets and Ming Dynasty stone bridges through bustling markets and rickety old buildings. This city is home to the colourful Naxi people, easily spotted in their traditional blue dress. In the afternoon we visit the spectacular Black Dragon Pool set underneath the imposing sight of the snow capped Jade Dragon Mountain. We enjoy a leisurely walk on to the Naxi Museum, a wonderful museum explaining the culture of the local peoples. This evening we have the option to see a Naxi concert (payable locally).
Today we visit the charming village of Yuhu or Nguluku and witness the day-to-day life of the Naxi people that has not changed for centuries. We explore the village on foot before driving onto Nguluku, the village that was the base of the renowned botanist Joseph Rock. Rock collected around 80,000 species of plants and herbs in this region to be sent to Britain and America for identification. We visit his old home, now a museum and spend time in this quiet area before returning to Lijiang for dinner.
This morning we wake early and drive seven hours north east to the land of the Moso tribe where we will spend the next few days exploring this region and the unique Moso culture. The Moso are a matriarchal tribe and descendants of the ancient Qiang people of the north. The Moso adopted Buddhist religion in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties and practice a custom called Azhu whereby there are no formal marriages. We drive through the northern Naxi plains and mountainous terrain to Yongning (2900M). Lion Mountain rises to the east and to the north stands the mountains of Sichuan Province. We have great views from all directions. We stay near Lugu Lake which at 2685M and straddling the Yunnan/Sichuan border is the second deepest lake in China.
The next two days are spent exploring the lake and it's surrounding areas. The verdant fields of the Yongning valley are where Kublai Khan is supposed to have massed his forces here before his decisive battle against Dali in 1253. Our time spent in this region will be both spectacular for its diverse mountain, forest and lakeside landscapes along with the cultural significance of the Moso people.
Today we drive back to Lijiang and have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the ancient city.
After breakfast we depart for our five hour drive to Zhongdian, also known as Shangrila or Gyalthang in Tibetan. On route we stop at Stone Drum Village to view the first bend in the Yangtze River. The Yangtze flows south from Tibet into Yunnan and then turns north for approximately 60 miles. We also stop at the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge, set amongst two huge mountains the gorge descends over 3000 meters into the river below. We have a chance to take in several points along the Gorge. During the drive we have a chance to get great views of Yulong Shueshan Mountain before continuing north. We pass through rich Naxi farmlands and forested hills before reaching the high plains and meadows of Zhongdian. Zhongdian is the capital of Dechin Tibetan Autonomous County, where the land levels off into large expanses of grassland dotted with Tibetan chalet-like villages. This afternoon we spend time to rest and acclimatize.
After a leisurely breakfast we visit the impressive Ganden Sumtsaling Monastery located on a hill in the old part of town. This five storey monastery is an amazing sight and second in importance to Tibetan people only to the Potola Palace in Lhasa. 700 practicing monks reside in the monastery. Built in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama, the monastery houses numerous chapels, woodcarving and paintings and is like a living museum of Tibetan culture. We continue to the sacred pilgrimage of Righa temple gaining impressive views back over the city.
Today we head right off the beaten path as we drive north along the stunning valley of gorges towards the Tibetan border. We pass the villages of Nishi and Gonzo before reach Punzera (Benzilan) at 2100m. This is a warm oasis valley where oranges, pomegranates and olives grow. We continue along the Yangtze River and leave behind the lush forests and drive into the rocky limestone spires of the Yangtze Mekong divide. We visit Dhondupling Monastery and see the change in architecture to the flat roof villages of central Tibet. Before reaching the trading town of Dechin nestled in a lush valley and the last post town before the Tibetan border.
After a breakfast of local fare including Dechin's, excellent Tibetan bread and soft cottage cheese, 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. 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 a hot cooked 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)
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 for the short journey to Melungtse village at the base of Ming Yong Glacier. We stay at a basic but clean and comfortable lodge at the base of the glacier. Depending on weather and time we may trek up along the glacier on the 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. (hike approx: 20kms)
We may trek along the glacier this morning if we were unable to do so yesterday before driving back to Dechin for lunch. Time permitting we stop for a walk to an ancient nunnery nearby before driving drive back to Gyalthang for a special farewell hotpot dinner.
Early morning transfer to the airport for our flight to Kunming. On arrival in Kunming airport the journey ends.