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The Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan

In the Hengduan Mountains, the Yangtze, the Mekong and the Salween Rivers flow parallel to each other through snowy peaks that measure almost 20,000 feet high in parts. The quiet valleys within this rugged landscape are rich in biodiversity and are home to several ethnic groups. On this 8-day journey, you'll travel a circuit around the region, visiting remote mountain villages, navigating through the region’s tallest mountains, exploring thick forest and discovering the beauty of this UNESCO-listed zone.

Highlights   Pricing
  • Hiking through national forests to spot endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys
  • Visit remote monasteries, each beautifully-decorated and offering spectacular views
  • Picnic at the towering Kawagebo Mountain, a sacred Tibetan Buddhist site
  • Stay in Songtsam properties, with their luxurious rooms and traditional Tibetan aesthetic
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1
Lijiang to Tacheng

You'll begin your journey in Lijiang, where a guide will meet you and drive you to Tacheng, four hours away, at more than 6,600 feet elevation. You'll be taken to your hotel, where you can acclimatize to the altitude and prepare for your upcoming trip. In Tacheng, you’ll stay at the Songtsam Tacheng, housed in a beautifully-designed Tibetan house, offering spacious rooms, traditional wood furnishings and panoramic valley views. Your afternoon is free to explore the gardens and fields surrounding the hotel.

Day 2

This morning, you will visit Yunnan Golden Monkey National Park, hiking an hour or two into the forest to try and catch a glimpse of the endangered golden snub-nosed monkey. The park provides excellent opportunities for avid photographers, especially those who manage to sight some of these photogenic creatures. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the park, then pay a visit to a local family, who will offer you samples of homemade honey created from the nectar of wild flowers. Return to Songtsam Tacheng tonight.

Day 3

Drive to Benzilan today, at an altitude of 6,200 feet. You'll be taken directly to the Songtsam Benzilan, where you can freshen up before visiting some more of the area’s scenic mountain villages. Enjoy the cool climate and brisk air with a forest walk, and in the evening, visit the village prayer pavilion where elders come most evenings to pray. Settle into Songtsam Benzilan tonight, nestled in barley and wheat crops by the Yangtze River.

Day 4

Make your way to Meili today after breakfast, where en route you'll visit Dongzhulin Monastery, positioned atop a cliff, offering majestic valley views. Dongzhulin Monastery is the second-largest monastery in the region, home to more than 500 Yellow Hat monks. On the way to Meili – at 11,800 feet - you'll traverse Baima ("Horse") Snow Mountain, named for the snow-covered peaks that, from a distance, look like galloping horses. Check into the Songtsam Meili this afternoon, where you can enjoy unforgettable views of the Meili Mountains from your room. Take a walk around the village in the evening if you would like.

Day 5

Rise early today to witness sunrise at Kawagebo, the highest peak in Yunnan at more than 22,000 feet. You can hike around the mountain today, following trails that take from three to eight hours – which direction you take is entirely up to you. For lunch, enjoy a gourmet picnic with a view. In the evening, return to the Songtsam Meili for a hot shower and a comfortable bed.

Day 6

Today you'll make your way to Shangri-La, where you'll visit the village of Nixi, famous for its black pottery. Take part in a handicraft workshop lacquer-painting bowls, then check into the Songtsam Shangri-La, beautifully-decorated in traditional Tibetan style. The spacious rooms of the Songtsam are luxurious and equipped with all modcons, while immersing guests in a traditional Tibetan ambiance.  The Banyan Tree Ringha is another excellent option.

Day 7

Today you'll get to explore the surrounding hills and valleys on horseback – the time-honored method of traversing this stunning terrain. You'll also have the opportunity to see the small village of Xiaozhong Tian, including the vividly-decorated Wenfeng Monastery and the village's authentic Tibetan farmhouses. In the afternoon, explore the Old Town of Shangri-La, enjoying a traditional Tibetan farewell dinner.

Day 8

Today a driver will take you to Shangri-La airport in time for your departure flight to your onward destination.


Suggested Accommodations

Songstam Tacheng

Songstam Tacheng

Neighboring the ethnic Lisu farming community of Tacheng, the area surrounding this property is known for its fresh produce, with organic rice in particular one of the most significant local harvests. Beekeeping is also a popular trade in this fertile zone, also known for being the playground of endangered Yunnan Golden Monkeys, no doubt attracted by the abundance of fresh fruits and nuts. The Lisu community offer plenty of opportunities for guests to learn about local farming culture, with home visits a highlight of any stay. The onsite pool is also a popular venue for guests looking to relax with a commanding view of the surrounding mountainous terrain.  

Songstam Benzilan

Songstam Benzilan

The tranquil village of Benzilan sets the scene for this property - an idyllic pastoral backdrop of wheat, barley and rice fields. The pace here is relaxed, giving harried travelers a chance to experience rural living, largely unchanged for centuries. Within the property, guests can enjoy all modern conveniences, with WiFi throughout the public zones and gourmet meals prepared by local chefs. The garden provides plenty of onsite space for chilling out and enjoying the breathtaking views of this unique location, while the nearby village provide endless hours of cultural discovery, interacting with the community and experiencing an almost forgotten way of life. 

Songstam Meili

Songstam Meili

This charming hotel must be one of the most remote hotels in the world, located in a tranquil village with just five families. It looks out onto one of China’s proudest features - the incredible Meili Xue Shan mountain range, of which each room in the hotel has a fabulous view. Since meals are included in the room price, guests need not worry about carrying around their wallet in this tranquil and relaxed environment. Instead, they may dine in the communal Tibetan restaurant, on anything from Western dishes, to traditional Tibetan yak cheese and barley wine. The cozy book bar provides an array of reading material for guests to enjoy, and bonfire parties are a wonderful occasion for guests to let their hair down, interact with other guests, and enjoy some traditional local performances.

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.

Meet An Asia Expert
From Travelogues
Our co-founder & CEO Catherine Heald lived in China for 7 years and returns often. She loves trekking in the rice terraces of Ping An, and hugging baby pandas in Chengdu!
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