Also unforgettable was our experience driving through Beijing in an old fashioned motorcycle side car followed by lunch with a local family in their traditional hutong house.
The capital of the predominantly Tibetan prefecture of Diqing, Zhongdian was renamed Shangri-la, after the mythical, Tibetan-influenced setting of James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon. While Zhongdian did see a large increase in visitors and tourists after its name change, the city nonetheless managed to preserve its heritage and unique architecture, especially its flat-roofed, ornate buildings. Today, as in the past, Zhongdian is home to the Kham people, a distinct ethnicity of Tibetan origin famed for their warrior traditions.
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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.
Drive into Zhongdian and explore the Old Town. Shop for Himalayan arts and crafts, such as prayer flags, thangkas, or painted, embroidered silk tapestries, jewelry and traditional clothes. Afterwards, visit the Zong Gu Monastery, home to the world’s largest prayer wheel, a towering, gold-painted monolith.
Lunch & Antiques
Have lunch at the Songsten Hotel, filled with the owner’s excellent collection
of rare Tibetan antiques.
Visit the Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan
Province. Join the monks for a private blessing ceremony, before having tea
with a senior lama in his private chambers. You will be able to visit parts
of the monastery normally off-limits to visitors, including the kitchen,
bedrooms and storage rooms.
Enjoy an authentic traditional dinner and cooking demonstration in the home of a local family. Savory yak-butter tea, stewed yak meat, and cheese made from yak milk are all staples in the local diet, highlighting the importance of the hardy animal to the people of this remote region. After dinner, join the locals for a dance in the village square, a unique local tradition that goes on most evenings.
Spend 11 days traveling in sheer luxury as your private jet whisks you across China’s mountaintops. Starting in Beijing, you’ll discover the lush Shangri-La valley on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, observe colorful cliffs in Zhangye Danxia, and stay overnight in luxury hotels like Banyan Tree and Songstam.
Take in some of China’s most breathtaking natural surroundings as you travel 14 days from Changbaishan to Zhangye Danxia, stopping along the way in the stunning valleys of Shangri-La, below the majestic Huangshan Mountain, and aside colorful geocliffs millions of years old, staying at luxury hotels along the way.
Take in the serene natural beauty of the valleys and peaks of remarkable Yunnan, China as you spend 8 luxurious days traveling between Lijiang and the epic Shangri-la. Capture the incredible Yangtze River, hike through national forests, visit remote monasteries, and sleep in luxury at Songstam hotels.
Spend 11 days luxuriating in China’s lush Yunnan province, making your way from Kunming to Dali, Shangri-la, and Lijiang. You’ll stop at local markets, enjoy a fascinating look into China’s lush nature at Green Lake Park and the Yangtze Valley, hike through the iconic Shangri-La, and stay at the luxurious Banyan Tree.
Follow the scenic, one-time trade route of tea traders past, Yunnan, China’s Tea Horse Road. You’ll make your way from Xishuangbanna to Shangri-La on the Tibetan Plateau, taking in the Luosuo River and the Jianchuan Shibaoshan Grottoes, spending time in Lijiang’s Old Town, and sleeping in luxury at Banyan Tree.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.