Category: Lijiang

october holiday adventure – 5-8 days in yunnan


Looking for an adventure for your October holiday? We’re gathering a group of intrepid travelers to venture to one of my favorite places in China, the northwest region of Yunnan province. This is a five-day trip taking place during the golden week in October 2018, extendable to 8 days including an optional hike.

Yunnan is the China of your dreams, with blue skies, colorful clouds, cobblestone villages, and mountain vistas. I’ve designed the trip to get to some lesser known places and skip the most crowded days of the national holiday, so you don’t have to worry about the crowds.

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 will fly into Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m) to start our adventuring. First we’ll travel down to the Dali (大理 elev. 6480ft/1975m) region near the famous Erhai Lake. The Bai minority are the most populous in this area, with elegant ladies in colorful headdress working the markets, restaurants featuring local vegetables and even the Bai people’s own kind of cheese, and of course narrow lanes made lively with hand painted entrances and distinctive tie dyed fabrics.

We’ll also visit nearby Xizhou (喜洲), another Bai town, known for its daily market, ornate courtyard homes, and well known embroidery shops.

On our third day we will venture up to the Shaxi (沙溪 elev. 6890ft/2100m) valley, where green rice paddies and blue hills encircle the special town of Shaxi. The preservation of its central opera stage, temple and other distinctive buildings won an award from UNESCO. We’ll arrive here on Friday in time to catch the action at its market, frequented by villagers who come down from the hills for their weekly supplies.

On the fourth day we’ll head northward ascending to Shuhe and Baisha (束河,白沙 elev. 7900ft/2400m), in the region of Lijiang. 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 stay in the relatively quiet town of Baisha, which was the former capital of the Naxi kingdom.

If departing on the 5th day (October 7), we’ll visit the Tea Horse Road museum in Shuhe in the morning before your flight, to send you off dreaming of wildflowers, clear running streams and mountain adventures.

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 Baisha, before we fly 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.

Day 1: Fly to Lijiang, travel to Dali, visit Dali old town
Day 2: Visit Xizhou, market and crafts
Day 3: Travel to Shaxi, Sideng market and hiking
Day 4: Travel to Baisha
Day 5: Fly Lijiang to Shenzhen, or visit Shuhe
(optional Day 6: Tiger Leaping Gorge
(optional Day 7: Tiger Leaping Gorge
(optional Day 8: Fly from Lijiang)

Group size: 6-10 people

(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.)

Announcement: This trip has already been launched in agile mode to accommodate a group early bookers! If you are interested in joining this trip, just contact me and I will do my best to add you to our group! Please note some exclusions in the price due to ongoing registration.

This trip is already confirmed, so registering will remain open until Thursday September 27


3800RMB per person for 5 days, 4800RMB per person for 8 days.
Contact me for current price

Does not include airfare or meals. Price includes hotels (double occupancy), private shuttle transportation for 5 days, travel insurance, and personal English speaking guide. Price based on hotels available at time of writing; please contact me for current price and inclusions.

Recommended flights: Oct 3: CZ8581 SZX-LJG, Oct 10: CZ8582 LJG-SJX. Approximately 3100RMB. If you need help booking your flight, just contact me. I can book it for you for a small fee.

discounts available for ABNet members or SWIC members

Single supplement: 500RMB for 5 days, 750RMB for 8 days option

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.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @

best of colorful yunnan – 5 days

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.

This is a condensed tour featuring the best of Lijiang and Shangri-La areas in 5 days. No extended hiking, so it’s great for families and kids!

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 will fly into Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m), a major stop on the ancient Tea Horse Road in western China. Our home base will be the old town of Shuhe, a village 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). We’ll also visit Baisha, the former capital of the Naxi kingdom.

On our third day, 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.

We’ll come back down for our last night in Shuhe before flying out from Lijiang with colors and memories alive in our hearts.

Day 1: Fly to Lijiang, visit Shuhe
Day 2: Visit Baisha, former capital of Naxi kingdom
Day 3: Travel to Shangri-La, visit old town and prayer wheel
Day 4: Visit Songzanlin Tibetan Buddhist monastery, return to Shuhe
Day 5: Fly from Lijiang


June 27 – July 1


July 2 – July 6

Stay tuned for available dates for this route in August and September.




3380RMB discounted partner price – available for ABNet members, SWIC members, and students of Purple Peony Studio


3 nights in a high quality Naxi courtyard guesthouse, 1 night in a 5 star hotel in Shangri-La, (both double occupancy), private shuttle transportation, meals, entrance tickets, and travel insurance.
Not included:
Airfare (I can help book for a small booking fee)

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.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @

beyond the clouds


Wake up every morning to banana pancakes and local berries, a blue mountain filling your window. A land of plenty, a Shangri-La of simplicity. And it really exists, nearer than far, farther than near. We’ve just returned from a twelve day adventure through Yunnan province, through Shuhe (Lijiang), the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shaxi, and the Erhai Lake of Dali prefecture.


This is the major tourism corridor of Yunnan province, and there were areas thumping with Chinese tourists in Lijiang and Dali, but the days were also filled with moments listening to the mysterious twang of a guqin in a Naxi courtyard, gazing on the sea of stars over the rice fields of Shaxi, and imagining creatures materialize and shift form in the sunset clouds of Dali.


We didn’t hear pop music for twelve days, except for our own rendition of the Beatles and Eagles on a lone guitar by red lantern light. Worries about food safety and PMI levels were about the farthest thing from our minds, clear water flowing under cerulean blue skies.


Today my thoughts try to hold on to the images and moods of Yunnan before they slip into another shape. Further posts will explore the many scenes and highlights of our expedition. With chance and perseverance, I will see you again in Yunnan.


Falling in love in Lijiang – the old town of Shu He part 1

Shu He AlleywayThe village is small, but it’s easy to get lost in the maze of shops and stone streets. Every fourth shop is leather goods, every seventh shop carries drums and ukuleles. There is puer tea and local clothing, scarves, purses, shoes, dried yak meat, and silver jewelry. And in between the tiny shops there are cafes, restaurants and bars, and small grills offering skewers of tasty meats. Naxi women sell produce on the street. While clearly the focus of today is targeted at the tourist, you can still reminisce and envision the tea and horse road market place booming with a different kind of commerce. But whether yesterday or today, the focus is on trade.

Shop keepers still use the water that runs down from the mountains through the clever canals in the village to wash their dishes and even their produce. If you walk too far down the river, this will become a little less charming than it otherwise seems. Horses still walk the streets, but these days they are usually leading Han Chinese princesses from a far away city. Clutching a Louis Vuitton purse while dressed in rugged clothes and tights, they are ready for a half-day’s journey.

It is a simpler way of life – not to be idealized, for the shop keepers often keep 12 hour days – but the pace is definitely slower, the smiles more frequent, and the air open and clean. There are artists who have come to live here – to eek out a living or while away the days. Sometimes you’ll walk by and the person running the shop is watching the latest drama on their smartphone, but in other shops, especially the ones selling the drums, the shop keepers turn on local Naxi music, and play along with it on their merchandise. The simple melody of a flute and the accompanying drum brings a sturdy, steady pace to life.

Part of a continuing series on Yunnan and Lijiang – see here for the previous post.