Example Itinerary

Traveling Yunnan's Tea Horse Road

Duration
10 days / 9 nights
Price Per Person
Interests
Heritage
Destinations
China

Retrace the ancient route of the tea trading caravans across the picturesque province of Yunnan. This 10-day luxury itinerary begins in Xishuangbanna and encompasses the Bai villages of Jinghong, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lijiang and the virtually unchanged Old Town of Shaxi. End your trip in picturesque Shangri-La, hiking to Napa Lake. On this journey, you’ll stay in the province’s best hotels and, of course, sample its famous teas. 

This itinerary is an example. It’s designed to inspire you and provide you with thoughtfully curated ideas. You can choose to do this exact itinerary or completely personalize it. All trips are 100% bespoke.

Highlights

  • Tea Country: The Tea Horse Road was a precarious yet lucrative trade that went all the way to India. Sample a wide variety of locally cultivated teas and learning of their cultural significance.
  • Hidden Land: Travel to Shangri-La, a small town in the plateau where you can visit the Old Town, mountain temples, and enjoy traditional Tibetan cuisine and customs.
  • Cultural Fusion: Meet the Dai ethnic group whose culture closely resembles Thailand. At the Folklore Village, spot the similarities in dance, music, handicrafts, and cuisine.

Day-by-Day

Day 1

Xishuangbanna

Your 10-day journey begins in the autonomous prefecture of Xishuangbanna. Located in the very south of Yunnan province, this former trading hub is the perfect launch point for exploring the Ancient Tea Route. Here, you will be greeted at Jinghong airport by your guide who will escort you to your hotel for check-in and brief you on the tour. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner and your first taste of local tea. For accommodation, we recommend the superlative Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort and Spa, located in virgin forest on the Luosuo River and sporting luxurious amenities and traditional Dai-style design.

Hotel Options
Why We Love This Hotel

Location: Set in thick forests, the Anantara enjoys peace and tranquility.

History: Xishuangbannais an autonomous prefecture belonging to ethnic Dai. It's an area rich in folklore with restored Buddhist temples and ancient hill tribe towns.

Service: Round the clock service is provided by staff, with 24-hour butlers tending to villa guests.

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Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort & Spa Preferred Hotel

Day 2

Xishuangbanna

Xishuangbanna is home to ethnic Dai, and its culture bears many resemblances to that of Thailand, with whom the region once had close ties. You can see some of these similarities today during a visit to the Dai Ethnic Folklore Village, which stages music and dance performances and provides insight into local customs and tradition. After a day exploring the beautiful gardens and pavilions of the Folklore Village, return to your resort. At the Anantara you can enjoy authentic Dai cuisine, or your favorite Chinese or Thai dishes. 

Xishuangbanna
Xishuangbanna

Day 3

Xishuangbanna

Enjoy an early start today with a visit out of town to Menghai daily market, where local farmers come to sell fresh produce. It’s a colorful affair where you can expect to see a convergence of different ethnic communities, each with their own array of fragrant spices, teas and vegetables. Next, you’ll stop at at ethnic Bulang village, after which you’ll enjoy a leisurely hike, where your guide will lead you to a local monastery. After that, you’ll enjoy locally-grown tea in the home of an Aini family. The Aini have a long history of tea cultivation and their aged Green Pu’er brew is noted for its golden color and mellow flavor. After dinner with an Aini family, you’ll return to your resort. 

Day 4

Shaxi

Today you will fly to Dali, where you’ll stop for a traditional Bai lunch before heading onwards to Shaxi, around three hours away. Shaxi is another major point along the Ancient Tea Route, and little appears to have changed in its Old Town since the days of tea caravans. You have time this afternoon to explore the cobblestone alleys and traditional architecture before checking into your guesthouse-- we recommend either the Laomadian Lodge or the Old Theatre Inn.

Hotel Options
About

Situated along the route frequented by trading caravans that runs through Shaxi, the Laomadian Lodge provides comfortable accommodation in an authentic Bai setting. The guesthouse is in a 150 year old wooden house in the Bai style and consists of only 9 private rooms, each with it's own unique theme and decor.

This accommodation has been personally vetted by the Remote Lands team and is the best available in the area. More information on this property is available on the “Hotels” tab at the top of the page.

About

The Old Theatre Inn is the premier choice for discerning travellers visiting Shaxi. The guesthouse aims to provide not only high quality accomodations, but also an experience for their guests in order to impress on them the cultural heritage of Shaxi.

This accommodation has been personally vetted by the Remote Lands team and is the best available in the area. More information on this property is available on the “Hotels” tab at the top of the page.

Shaxi
Shaxi

Day 5

Shaxi

The tranquil valley that Shaxi inhabits provides a backdrop for the day’s activities, with a morning hike and a picnic lunch. The Bai and Yi ethnic minorities call this area home, and for lunch, you’ll take part in a cooking class where you’ll learn how to prepare some traditional Bai dishes. You’ll return to Shaxi in time for dinner - another authentic local meal featuring fresh produce and plenty of indigenous tea. 

Day 6

Lijiang

Your first destination today is the Jianchuan Shibaoshan Grottoes, nestled in the stunning natural reserve of Shibaoshan mountain. These Buddhist grottoes hail from the Dali Kingdom and feature ancient frescoes, statues and stone carvings. From there, you will hike back to Shaxi and enjoy a hearty lunch before heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, around 2 hours' drive away. In Lijiang, you can wander the streets of its beautifully preserved Old Town, stopping for coffee in an ambient cafe or browsing handicrafts in its boutiques. 

Hotel Options
Why We Love This Hotel

Location: Tucked away next to the Old City quarter of Lijiang - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - this luxury resort sits atop a picturesque hill, surrounded Yunnan’s iconic snow-capped mountain backdrop.

History: This newly built hotel joins Aman’s long list of luxury resorts spread across the world, and is the third one to be established in China after the Summer Palace in Beijing and Amanfayun in Hangzhou.

Service: Attention to detail throughout this hotel continues all the way up to the high level of services. All guests are personally greeted and local experts at the downstairs reception and information desk are on call 24 hours every day.

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Amandayan Resort Preferred Hotel
Why We Love This Hotel

History: The hotel is just a short drive away from Lijiang’s “old town” of Dayan, which is a rich amalgamation of Lijiang’s culture and history.

Service: Having been awarded Best Luxury Hotel and Best Spa Resort in China at the 2007 China Hotel Starlight Awards, Banyan Tree Lijiang is well-known for its impeccable service.

Location: Sitting 2,000 meters above sea-level, with the majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain acting as a magnificent backdrop, the hotel’s location is dramatic and surreal.

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Banyan Tree Lijiang Preferred Hotel
Why We Love This Hotel

Explore: Lijiang’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by incredible wild spaces, meaning guests to this remote corner of the globe will have no shortage of sights to explore during their stay.

A Chance to Unplug: The Songtsam Linka Lijiang is located just outside of Lijiang in an intimate Naxi village that has a slow pace of life and invites visitors to set aside the pressures of modern life and enjoy the moment.

Style: The hotel’s unique combinations of Naxi-Dongba, Chinese-Hantang, and Tibetan-influenced art pieces infuse the hotel with a distinctive style.

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Songtsam Linka Lijiang Preferred Hotel
Lijiang
Lijiang

Day 7

Shangri-la

In the morning, you have time to explore more of Lijiang’s Old Town before driving 4 hours to Shangri-La. En route, you’ll take a break at a viewpoint along the Yangtze River, enjoying the scenery while sipping hot tea. In the afternoon, you’ll arrive in the idyllic town of Shangri-La on the Tibetan Plateau. Tonight, check into your hotel in Shangri-La - we recommend the Banyan Tree Ringha or the Songtsam Shangri-La, both stylish modern properties with a traditional Tibetan design aesthetic.  

Hotel Options
Why We Love This Hotel

History: The historic Zhongdian County was renamed in 2001 after the fictional land of Shangri-La in an early 20th Century James Hilton novel.

Service: This hotel effortlessly melds traditional Tibetan hospitality with the extensive service and attention to detail for which the Banyan Tree brand is famous.

Location: Located in the secluded, almost hidden, valley of “Shangri-La”, the Banyan Tree Ringha is surrounded by breathtaking and majestic scenery seemingly out of a fairytale.

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Banyan Tree Ringha Preferred Hotel
Why We Love This Hotel

Location: The Songtsam Shangri-La is located an incredible 3,300m above sea level in China’s Yunnan province, with stunning views of the towering Songzangling monastery.

History: The nearby Songzangling monastery was once home to 4,000 monks, and is now undergoing restoration.

Service: Songtsam Shangri-La is well-known for its warm and friendly staff who possess a keen knowledge of the surrounding area.

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Songtsam Shangri-la Preferred Hotel

Day 8

Shangri-la

Today you’ll visit the largest monastery in Yunnan Province, Songzanlin Monastery. This Buddhist center is home to more than 700 monks and during your visit you’ll have the chance to meet with one of them and tour some parts of the monastery not usually open to visitors. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, then spend the afternoon wandering Shangri-La’s Old Town. For dinner, sample some traditional Tibetan cuisine with yak milk and yak butter tea, and watch a dance performance in the town square. 

Shangri-la
Shangri-la

Day 9

Shangri-la

Continue your journey along the Ancient Tea Road with a hike around Napa Lake where you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch with stunning mountain and valley views. Next you’ll visit Nixi, a village specialising in black pottery, a tradition that dates back more than 2,000 years. When you return to Shangri-La, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable farewell feast, featuring traditional Tibetan delicacies such as yak butter tea and yak cheese. In the evening, enjoy another dance in the town square. 

Day 10

Departure

After gourmet breakfast in your hotel, you’ll be chauffeur-driven to the airport for your departing flight.   

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