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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Lunch & Antiques

Have lunch at the Songsten Hotel, filled with the owner’s excellent collection of rare Tibetan antiques.

Songzanlin Monastery

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.

Yak Dinner

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.

Zhongdian Old Town

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.

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