Are you dreaming of a land of blue skies, colorful clouds, people living a quiet traditional life? A place where you can stretch your legs, climb green mountains, wade amongst wildflowers, and discover temples, new friends and always a bit of adventure? Sounds like a fairy tale, some kind of Shangri-La, you say?
You would be right. And you can find your own paradise in the northwest corner of Yunnan province.
Come with Greta Bilek, author of China Tea Leaves travel guides and explorer of China, on your dream trip to Yunnan province.
Yunnan province is located in southwestern China, tucked between Tibet, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with dozens of ethnic minorities; flowers, mushrooms and other wildlife; and dramatic landscapes with the weather of eternal spring.
We’ll be visiting the Shaxi valley; Shuhe and Baisha, outside of Lijiang; Shangri-La; and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
We will fly from Shenzhen direct to Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m). There we will be picked up by private shuttle to head to Shaxi (沙溪 elev. 6890ft/2100m), a pristine valley with a well preserved Bai minority village and world class historical sites. The Bai people are a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group, known throughout Yunnan for their intricately carved architecture and fine cooking with local ingredients. Shaxi was an important trading post on the ancient Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan).
Our hotel for two nights will be located right inside a temple/theatre that served entertainment for the gods of the Bai people. We will visit the market area, with its temple and theatre complex, recognized by UNESCO for its articulate restoration. On our full day in Shaxi, we will journey into the rolling hills to find a secluded temple and the fascinating sculptural grotto of Shizhongshan.
On our last day in Shaxi we’ll be able to catch the action at the Sideng market, frequented by villagers who come down from the hills for their weekly supplies.
From Shaxi we will head back to Shuhe (束河 elev. 7900ft/2400m) near Lijiang, another town located on the ancient Tea Horse Road. On the day of our arrival, we will stroll the colorful streets of Shuhe, in the view of the imposing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Shuhe and Lijiang were stops on the old Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan). This area is the home of the Naxi minority, with their own writing system and religion.
We’ll visit Baisha (白沙 elev. 8170ft/2490m), the capital of the region’s former Naxi kingdom, and today a small village that still holds its authentic, traditional feeling. We can chat with locals, taste local street food, and hunt antiques and fabrics in the shops of the old town.
After unwinding in Shuhe, we will head north towards to Shangri-La (香格里拉 elev. 10,370ft/3160m), the center of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province. You will really feel like we’re in Tibetan country, even though we won’t have crossed the border. Ladies in traditional pink headwear do their shopping and older folks grasp their prayer beads throughout the streets. We will visit a lively market, the old town of Dukezong, the largest prayer wheel in the world, and the Songzanlin monastery, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan.
If your holiday schedule allows, what better way to finish off your time in Yunnan than with a stunning 2-day hike in the Tiger Leaping Gorge? (虎跳峡 elev. 6230-8690-6890ft/1900-2650-2100m). This is one of the most renowned hikes in the world, following a deep gorge along the Jinsha River, which becomes the Yangtze River as it flows from here through Sichuan province. Every view is breathtaking, gazing up at snow mountains so close you think you could reach out and touch them.
After one tough day of hiking, we will stay overnight in a guesthouse on the trail, and wake up to silent mountains looking on outside our window. We will continue hiking through farming enclaves, waterfalls and vistas to reach our shuttle back to Lijiang.
Our final night will be spent in Shuhe, before your departure flight back from Lijiang to Shenzhen.
After days dreaming in the heights amongst a rainbow of wildflowers and prayer flags, you will return to Shenzhen with a vision of paradise in your mind’s eye and a burning desire to come back to Yunnan province.
October 2: Arrive Lijiang, transfer to Shaxi
October 3: Shaxi Shibaoshan temple and hiking, stay Shaxi
October 4: Transfer to Shuhe, stay Shuhe
October 5: Visit Baisha, Tibetan temple hike
October 6: Transfer to Shangri-La, visit old town and monastery, stay Shangri-La
October 7: End, arrange your flight out from Lijiang or Shangri-La
October 8: Transfer to Tiger Leaping Gorge, day one of hiking, stay TLG
October 9: Day two of Tiger Leaping Gorge, return to Shuhe
October 10: Flight out from Lijiang
Golden Week only October 2-7: 4680RMB
Extended with Tiger Leaping Gorge October 2-10: 5890RMB
Hotels (double occupancy), Private Ground Transportation, Entrance Tickets, Meals, Travel Insurance, and guide by Greta
(Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 7900ft/2400m and higher. Travelers will feel the effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. The Tiger Leaping Gorge hike has some steep inclines and is at high elevation. Hiking at this elevation is tough and incurs a real risk of altitude sickness. There are donkeys available on the trail for those who feel uncomfortable, for an additional fee.The trail is in good condition, and no special prior hiking experience is necessary. But this hike is best suited for those in good physical shape. Please notify us of any health conditions when booking. China Tea Leaves is not responsible for any injuries or accidents sustained during the trip.)
How to Book:
Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)
If adding me for the first time, be sure to mention Trips or Yunnan in your introduction.