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The Way to Shangri-La: Highlights of Yunnan

The lush province of Yunnan provides the backdrop for this luxury 11-day itinerary. You’ll begin in the city of Kunming, enjoying its mountain scenery and temperate climate. From there, you’ll make your way to Dali to take in the classic architecture of the Old Town for a few days before pressing onwards into the Tibetan territory, with a few nights in the beautiful city of Shangri-La. Next, you’ll travel south to Lijiang, where you can explore more of China’s history in the picturesque city’s well-preserved alleys and canals. At the end of your journey, spend time delving into Naxi history in Baisha Village. 

Highlights   Pricing
  • Explore the monasteries and mountains of Shangri-La on the Tibetan Plateau
  • Journey through spectacular landscapes and visit scenic places such as Tiger Leaping Gorge and Erhai Lake
  • Stay in the ambient old towns of Lijiang and Dali
  • See the Naxi village of Baisha, with its diverse ethnicities and beautiful flora
 
Starting at
$760
per person per day
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Day by Day Itinerary

View The Way to Shangri-La: Highlights of Yunnan in a larger map
Day 1

You’ll begin your tour of Yunnan province’s spectacular landscapes in the capital of the province, Kunming. This scenic high altitude city is home to beautiful mountains, lakes and forests, and its fertile soils have made it a center of horticulture in the region. Upon arrival, you’ll be transferred to your hotel, then brought to the local markets where you can check out some of Kunming’s fresh produce first-hand. In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner in a local Muslim restaurant before returning to your hotel for the night. In Kunming, we recommend the Green Lake Hotel, a five-star property within walking distance to the lake.

Day 2

Enjoy breakfast in the hotel before taking a morning trip to nearby Green Lake Park and Yuantong TempleMonastery. Green Lake Park is a complex of four lakes, with brightly-colored traditional pavilions dotted here and there. Here, you can see different species of migrating birdlife and explore the pretty Yuantong Temple, the most famous Buddhist temple in the city. After enjoying lunch in a Korean restaurant, pay a visit to the Western Hills, which offer sweeping city and lake views. In the evening, return to your hotel.

Day 3

This morning, you will take a short flight to the city of Dali. This ancient capital features beautiful classic Chinese architecture, with distinct old and new districts and well-preserved architectural landmarks. You’ll check into a luxury hotel in Dali - we recommend the Linden Center in the Old Town, a fully-restored courtyard mansion with stylish modern interiors. After checking in, you’ll take a quick tour of the Old Town and enjoy some traditional Bai cuisine, famous for its sharp flavors and spice.

Day 4

Your destination this morning is Erhai Lake, a vast alpine lake with an area of almost 100-square-miles. There are a number of islands in the lake, and you’ll visit Golden Shuttle Island to enjoy the lake-caught seafood. This island was once a royal retreat, but is now home to a fishing village and the colorfully-decorated Three Star Temple. In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a traditional Bai Tea Ceremony and have the rest of the day at your leisure to explore downtown Dali. Return to your luxurious boutique hotel for the night.

Day 5

Today, you’ll head to Zhonghe Temple by cable car. This old Buddhist temple is located in the Cangshan Mountains, high above Dali’s Old Town, providing exceptional regional vistas. You’ll enjoy lunch on the mountain and have the chance to follow one of the many hiking trails that weave through the mountain forests. Today, you’ll also visit the beautifully decorative Guanyin Temple, a shrine to the Chinese Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. In the evening, return to the Old Town for dinner and spend another night in your Dali hotel.

Day 6

You’ll leave Dali today and head for Shangri-La in the Yangtze Valley, a 6-hour journey that will take you through spectacular scenery. Along the way, you’ll stop to visit Shibaoshan, the Stone Treasure Mountain Grottoes, nestled in pine forest. You’ll reach the Tibetan Plateau in the evening at an elevation of more than 10,800 feet. In Shangri-La, you’ll be brought to your hotel in Zhongdian Old City, with its wonderfully-preserved temples and monasteries, fluttering prayer flags and rustic shingle-roofed houses. Check into a luxury hotel such as the exclusive Banyan Tree Ringha, and enjoy an authentic hot-pot dinner in the Old Town.

Day 7

Today you’ll explore the stylistically-diverse architecture of the Shangri-La’s Old Town, and have the option to walk the incline to Baiji Si, or 100-Chicken Temple. From this vantage point, you can enjoy expansive views over the region and take in the snowcapped Himalayan peaks. Though it’s a 45-minute climb, it’s worth the effort for the serenity that surrounds this Tibetan Monastery, the path draped in colorful prayer flags. After that, you’ll visit Songzanlin Monastery, the largest in the province, with its numerous ceremonial pavilions, its auspicious 108 pillars and brilliant golden prayer wheels. Tonight, sample some delicious Lhasa cuisine with a traditional Tibetan dinner.

Day 8

Breath in the fresh high-altitude air today with an easy hike around the hills of Shangri-La. Your walk will bring you to a small monastery belonging to the Kagyu School of Buddhism, overlooking a tiny village. You have the afternoon at your leisure to explore this village, browsing the markets, sipping local coffee and enjoying the scenery. You’ll sample Tibetan cuisine again tonight, with a local meal - perhaps try some yak butter tea. Return to your hotel in Shangri-La for the night.

Day 9

Today you’ll make your way 4 hours south to Lijiang. Along the way, you’ll visit Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Jinsha River, a tributary of the Yangtze. This scenic canyon was carved out over millennia and is one of the deepest in the world. Once you arrive in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, you’ll check into your hotel - we recommend the Banyan Tree Lijiang with its gorgeous Naxi-style architecture and all modern amenities. Explore the Old Town in the evening, wandering around Lijiang’s ambient cobblestone alleys and lantern-lit canals.

Day 10

Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast at your hotel before paying a visit to the Naxi village of Yuhu. This village was once the home of famous botanist and explorer Joseph Rock, and you’ll have the chance to visit his home to appreciate his work. You’ll also visit Yufeng Temple and the ethnically-diverse Baisha Village, the ancient capital of the Naxi Kingdom. In the evening, you’ll get a taste of Chinese Taoist music with a special performance on traditional instruments. Return to Lijiang for the final night of your journey.

Day 11

Today you’ll check out of the Banyan Tree, and take a short flight to Kunming, where you may check in for your departing international flight.

 

Suggested Accommodations

Location
Accommodation
KUNMING
Green Lake Hotel

Green Lake Hotel

Overlooking the tranquil waters of Green Lake, one of Kunming’s signature landmarks, this hotel is a true, five-star resort. Each of the 365 comfortable, stylish guest rooms and suites feature plush beds, free internet access, air conditioning, and televisions. There is also an in-house restaurant, shopping center, swimming pool, bar, and fitness center. The Green Lake is situated less than half an hour away from Kunming Airport and the Railway Station, and is within walking distance of downtown Kunming and Green Lake Park.
 
 
DALI
Linden Centre

Linden Centre

Immerse yourself in Chinese culture at the Linden Centre, located in Xizhou, a pristine village just outside of Dali City. Set in a fully-restored Chinese residence, the Linden Centre features four courtyards, lush, well-manicured gardens, and tasteful rooms and suites that feature locally built furniture, comfortable, plush mattresses, clean bathrooms, and Wi-Fi access. There are two restaurants at the Linden Centre, one serving Chinese cuisine and the other serving Western dishes. Amenities include a library, movie room, exercise facility, a small museum, and a series of gardens with sweeping views of the nearby countryside. The Linden Centre is located about a half-hour’s drive from Dali’s Old Town.

 
 
SHANGRI-LA
Banyan Tree Ringha, Songstam Shangri-la

Banyan Tree Ringha

Banyan Tree Ringha is in China’s Yunnan province, in a mountainous area that has been officially designated “Shangri-La” by the Chinese government and is part of Greater Tibet, both historically and culturally. The architecture reflects the local Tibetan culture: the 32 spacious lodges and suites are traditional Tibetan farmhouses with intricate woodcarvings, enormous pine pillars, smoky fireplaces and wooden balconies that have valley or river views. There are three restaurants to choose from: Llamo, which serves Chinese and Western dishes, Chang Sa, for Tibetan specialties, and Jakhang, a cozy teahouse with a large fireplace and an encyclopedic collection of teas. The Ringha has a divine Banyan Tree spa and a business center, but no fitness center or pool. The Shangri-La Airport (DIG) is a half-hour drive from the hotel.

 

Songstam Shangri-la

Set in the high hills outside Zhongdian, Songtsam Shangri-la brings a new level of five-star luxury to this wind-swept, scenic area. Each of the resort’s rooms feature a collection of hand-made fixtures, from antique furniture to Tibetan textiles and carpets; in addition, all rooms offer amenities such as cable and satellite television, complimentary high-speed Internet access, and large, expansive windows. Songtsam is home to a restaurant serving Tibetan specialties as well as creative, fusion dishes, such as pizza with Tibetan cheese. Additional amenities include a conference room, a rooftop that offers guests wonderful views of historic Songzanlin Monastery, as well as a delightful, spacious courtyard for guests to browse at their leisure. Songtsam Shangri-la lies twenty minutes from Zhongdian’s Diqing airport.
 
 
LIJIANG
Banyan Tree Lijiang

Banyan Tree Lijiang

Banyan Tree Lijiang sits just south of the magnificent Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, with 55 deluxe mountain-view villas. The hotel is constructed in the regional Naxi style of architecture with its distinct rooflines and courtyards. Each villa is decorated in contemporary Naxi style and has a heated pool, jet pool and Internet connection. The Bai Yun Restaurant serves Chinese Cantonese banquet style meals with local musical accompaniment. Asian and Western-style cuisine are offered in a choice of indoor and outdoor settings at the Ming Yue Restaurant. The Spa offers treatments featuring Asian healing and relaxation techniques as well as European rejuvenation therapies. There is a business center with fax and Internet services, a fitness center, yoga room, and tennis court. The Banyan Tree Lijiang is an approximately 40-minute drive from Lijiang Airport (LJG).

 
 
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Our co-founder & COO Jay Tindall is a former China resident and a true China expert. He loves visiting remote rural areas and meeting China's ethnic minorities.
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