Shangrila, Stairway to Heaven 5 Days / 4 Nights
Embark on this incredible Shangri-La tour from Lijiang, stopping first along the Old Tea Horse Road in the town of Zhongdian (Zhongdian’s name was formally changed to Shangri-La city in 2001.) A former trade hub between Tibet and China, Zhongdian was considered part of the mythical Tibetan paradise, “Shangri-La.” An imaginary world described by novelist James Hilton, several districts of the region have staked claim to ownership of the mythical locale, which was previously part of the “historical Tibet,” in addition to the Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. To this day, the area is still visually stunning and retains a heavy influence from Tibetan culture.
Pay a visit to Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world, with nearly 4,000 meter variations in altitude. Separating the Jinsha River from the jagged mountains of Northern Yunnan, this area has become a playground for trekkers from all over the world, keen on defying this unforgiving terrain. Standing up to the challenge, a short walk through the gorge is definitely in order for the day!
Lunch in a guesthouse overlooking the gorge
Arrival in Zhongdian in the late afternoon with a brief stop at the hotel.
Stroll through the old town of Shangri-La city, a small maze of cobbled streets lined with wooden houses, before paying a visit to the Baijisi temple (literally "Temple of hundred chickens"), offering beautiful views of the city.
One of the most unique spectacles in town is the daily occurance of dancers in the old town square. Dancing in circles to the rhythm of traditional music, visitors can either watch along or step in to try their hand at the daily activity.
Optional: Head to the cosy, artistic Tara Gallery Café & Bar for a Tibetan dinner on the terrace (weather permitting.)
Overnight in Shangri-La city
Fill up on a delicious breakfast at the hotel and continue the Shangri-La tour to the impressive Songzanlin monastery (Ganden Sumtselling Gompa in Tibetan), an important location for Tibetan Buddhists still in use today. Glittering golden monastery roofs and countless prayer flags are offset by scenes of local life around Lamuyancuo Lake, with some 600 monks inhabiting the surrounding region.
Discover the art of Thangka painting and its relation to Buddhism and meditation at a nearby school, with instructors coming directly from Lhasa to teach talented young students. This session will provide excellent insights into these spiritual works adorning the walls of Tibetan temples and monasteries.
Head onwards to Napa Lake (difficult to reach outside of the summer season), a region of natural beauty surrounded by mountains and meadows, where horses and yaks graze happily.
Optional: A cycling tour truly reveals the beauty of the lake; available at an extra charge.
From Napa Lake, continue on towards Ringha Temple, a 700-year-old temple, partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and recently rebuilt; considered one of the first Buddhist temples in Yunnan Province.
Transfer back to hotel. Overnight in Zhongdian (Shangri-La City)
Begin the with a journey out to Deqin, a county located at an altitude of 3,500 meters.
Stop along the way at the small pottery village of Nixi, where the majority of families living in the village have worked on the craft for at least a century. Stop off at the home of a Tibetan family to try “tsampa,” a local staple comprised of yak’s butter, tea, and flour. A unique opportunity to savor a Tibetan speciality in a traditional Tibetan setting.
Continue onwards to the small city of Benzilan for a delicious local lunch.
In the afternoon, visit the Dhondrupling Gompa, one of the most important monasteries in the prefecture, set on the edge of a mountain. While not as impressive as Songzanlin, it is certainly more authentic. Its main assembly hall and collection of colleges still house around 300 monks.
Return to Deqin for an overnight at a hotel nearby the Feilai temple.
Awake at dawn to admire a breathtaking sunrise over Meili Xue Shan (Mainri Snow Mountain) from a platform at the Feilaisi temple. Part of an impassable group of peaks, this range acts as a natural border between Tibet and China. Dominated by the mystical Kawagarbo, this peak reaches over 6,700 metres in height, towering over its neighbors. Soak in this amazing spectacle while enjoying a prepared breakfast, sorted by the hotel.
Cross the legendary Mekong River (whose source traces back to the plateau below Kawagarbo) to reach the charming village of Mingyong, the trailhead for hiking towards a glacier of the same name (also one of the stages of “kora”, the pilgrimage of faithful Tibetans.)
A 10km walk ultimately leads to the Lotus Temple, where prayer flags tirelessly flap in the wind against the backdrop of truly enchanting natural scenery.
Please Note: good physical condition is required for this trek; this trip can also be done on horseback (there and return). Please contact us accordingly.
Return to Zhongdian on the same road as before (without stops). Arrival in Shangri-La city the evening.
Overnight in Zhongdian
Wrap up the Shangri-La tour with a transfer to the airport. Departing flight towards next destination.