Historic, enchanting and ruggedly beautiful, the Yunnan province serves as the ultimate backdrop for a luxury holiday. From encountering wild elephants to praying with Tibetan monks, exploring the winding lanes of Lijiang to trekking through the mountains of Shangri La, Yunnan reveals its charm at every turn.
See tea plantations, botanical gardens and wildlife reserves and trek to spectacular mountain campsites.
Visit small villages and historic sites to better understand the rich traditions and cultures of China’s ethnic minorities.
Embrace nature by staying at exotic locations including a tea plantation, on a mountainside and camping on a Tibetan farm.
Lost Horizons, from Yunnan’s Jungles to Shangri-la - 12 Days / 11 Nights
Welcome to Kunming, capital of Yunnan province!
Upon arrival to Kunming, a guide and driver will be waiting to provide a welcome and transport to the city & hotel.
Overnight in Kunming
Begin Day 2 of this Yunnan tour with a short walk through Green Lake Park, providing a unique feel for the atmosphere of Chinese parks in the morning. Early birds start their day with tai chi or qigong, both types of physical exercise which are considered vital to their health and well-being. Others engage in a friendly game of Chinese chess, Go (an ancient Chinese board game), or Mahjong.
Afterwards, pay a visit to the Yuantong Temple. Founded during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the temple is one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in Kunming and is known for its unique location in a peacefull valley. Head next to the Golden Temple (which takes its name from the gold leaf which covers the main pavilion), which is perfectly located on a small hill surrounded by pine and cypress trees. Despite its Buddhist influence the temple is dedicated to Taoism, providing a unique glimpse into another fundamental pillar of traditional Chinese belief. From here, move on to the Yunnan Provincial museum, an essential stop for anyone wishing to truly understand the characteristically multi-ethnic nature of this region.
Overnight in Kunming
Optional: Dinner will be in Stone House restaurant
A beautiful stone dwelling that has been converted into a restaurant serving both local and Italian specialties.
Overnight in Kunming
Begin the morning with a transfer to Kunming airport for a morning flight to Jinghong (flight takes around 1 hour).
Jinghong is the capital of Xishuangbanna, which is considered the most tropical region for travel in China. Offering forests, lush jungle, fields of sugarcane, and bamboo trees, it’s also comprised of more than 1,000 different animals (elephants, peacocks, monkeys, tigers). Additionally the region is home to a range of colourful ethnic groups.
Upon arrival, a local guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to Jinuo, a town named after the minority Jinuo people. The Jinuo have been declared the 56th minority officially recognized by Chinese government, with a population of around 20,000. The group observes a social hierarchy that respects the mother's brother (uncles) as a prominent person in the family.
The next stop of the day will be to Menglun, home to the Tropical Botanical Garden, the largest botanical garden in China. The garden was established in 1959 by famous Chinese botanists, and today boasts more than 3,000 species of tropical plants covering an area of 900 hectares.
The evening will be spent at the Anantara Resort & Spa. Enjoy the hotel’s facilities (spa treatments are not included) and its beautiful location facing the nearby river. A Thai-inspired menu of indoor and open-air treatments fuses with local Chinese elements, with double treatment suites featuring outdoor bathing rituals created with couples in mind.
Alternatively, travel to a tea plantation with Anantara’s Tea Guru to learn about the centuries-old process of producing Pu’Er, famous worldwide for its health benefits (not included).
Overnight in Menglun
Begin the day with a visit to Dongfeng market, where different minorities gather daily to sell their goods; a colorful festival featuring a rich variety of traditional clothes.
Continue on to neighboring Xiaojie, home to the Lahu and Bulang minorities. Lahu number around 500,000 people, with men usually wearing black turbans and women donning different coloured clothing representing which branch of Lahu family they belong to. Elder women still follow ancient traditions and continue to shave their head.
Bulang number less than 100,000 and are culturally very close to Dai people. Mainly located in Xishuangbanna (and mostly Buddhist), women wear black turbans with fish or shellfish-shaped silver ornaments.
Continue then to Damenglong for a visit to two nearby pagodas: Manfeilong pagoda located in the middle of the jungle and the Black pagoda, sitting at the top of the hill overlooking Damenglong. Manfeilong pagoda was built in the year 1204 and is a famed stupa complex in Xishuangbanna dedicated to Theravada Buddhism.
After visiting the temples, return to Menglun for the evening.
Overnight in Menglun
Begin day 5 with a trip out to the Sanchahe nature reserve (1.5 million hectares- a definite highlight of this Yunnan tour!) to visit the Wild Elephant Valley. Here a small hotel has been built on top of the trees for guests to observe wild elephants (that usually come out at night). A 2-kilometer long cable way in the park enables people to enjoy rainforest view “from the air.”
On the way back to Jinghong, enjoy lunch along Menghai Street (lunch includes fresh passion fruit juice, fried banana flowers, pineapple and purple rice.)
Next visit the Mange Buddhist temple, built in the 15th century; one of the best local examples of Dai architecture.
Transfer to Jinghong airport for the departing flight to Lijiang.
Upon arrival to Lijiang, transfer with the guide to the Banyan Tree Lijiang, located about 50 minutes away from Lijiang airport and 20 minutes from the historical town of Lijiang.
Welcome to Lijiang! This UNESCO town is a magnificent labyrinth of traditional redwood and brick houses topped with grey slate roofs surrounded by canals, stone bridges, and cobbled streets; a real paradise at the heart of Naxi culture.
Originally coming from Tibet over 2000 years ago, the Naxi first lived as nomads in Sichuan before settling in Yunnan. There are around 300,000 Naxi People living in China, found mostly in Yunnan and Sichuan. The Naxi are most notable for their expertise in canal building, which, among other things, assures each home has running water.
Overnight in Lijiang
Day 6 marks the halfway point of this Yunnan tour; pay a visit to the Lijiang old town alongside the guide and driver for a half-day tour (on foot.) As the streets are cobbled and sometimes slippery, it’s recommended to wear sturdy shoes.
The best time to explore the region is early in the morning, when the streets are peaceful and quiet. After wandering the endless collection of streets and canals, head across to “Lion Hill,” which provides fantastic views over the village below. At the top of the hill, there will be a chance for a quick coffee break on the terrace to relax after the ascent.
After Lion Hill, head onwards to the Mu Palace, named after the Chinese Empire warlords who ruled from this magnificent residence in this region during the Mongol Dynasty (13th century). The palace is a vivid example of Ming and Qing architecture, based on the same style of architecture as the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Following the visit to the palace, continue on to the edge of the old town where the local market takes place- the perfect spot to get a feel for the ‘real’ Lijiang. Here locals still dress in traditional clothing and sell teas, vegetables, fruits and even daily tools in a vibrant, animated atmosphere.
Continue with a walk through Black Dragon Pond Park in the north of the town which offers, on a clear day, a panoramic view of the famous Jade Dragon Mountain.
Afternoon at leisure to enjoy optional activities. Here some suggestions:
Banyan Tree Lijiang optional activities:
Head on an adventure bike tour (approximately 3 hours) into the heart of two famous ancient towns: Shuhe old town and Baisha village, which made it to UNESCO world cultural heritage list in 1997. Stroll through the village with its numerous enchanting sights. Visit a traditional farmer’s yard, and get the insider’s word on local farming practices.
Test the Banyan Tree’s award-winning spa experience and a host of other facilities, including a gym and sauna.
Enjoy a game of tennis in the outdoor tennis court in the cool weather of late spring or summer in Lijiang.
Overnight in Lijiang
Continue the journey onwards to Zhongdian (in Shangri La). The mythical paradise of Tibetan Buddhists and imaginary world described by novelist James Hilton.
Stop off at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world, with staggering variations in altitude (nearly 4000m)... another great highlight of this Yunnan tour! 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.
Lunch in a guesthouse overlooking the gorge
Note: For those interested in doing a gorge trek, consult us directly
Arrive into Zhongdian in the afternoon.
After arrival, take a stroll through the old town, a small maze of cobbled streets lined with wooden houses. Continue with a visit to the Baijisi temple, which offers beautiful views of the city.
For those interested, participate in the daily spectacle of local and foreign dancers who come to show off their moves on the old town’s main square. Participants usually dance in a circle to the rhythm of traditional and modern music, a unique show particularly appreciated by the locals.
Transfer onto Shangri La Old Town
The evening will be spent at the MGallery Songtsam, known for its excellent service and amazing views.
Overnight in Shangri La
After breakfast at the MGallery, head onwards to the impressive Songzanlin monastery, an important location for Tibetan Buddhism still in use today. You can admire the glittering golden roofs of the monastery at sunset (if weather permitting) and the countless prayer flags flapping in the wind. The region is surrounded by scenes of local life around Lamuyancuo Lake, a place where around 600 monks still call home.
Head onwards to a local school for a morning course in the art of the Thangka. Many teachers from the school come directly from Lhasa, teaching students this unique art which is directly correlated with Buddhism and meditation. This session will help provide a better understanding of these unique representations that adorn the walls of temples and Tibetan monasteries.
The afternoon can be spent at leisure. Enjoy any number of the hotel’s range of facilities, an ideal spot for relaxing and seeking out a slower pace of life. Rejuvenate tired muscles with a session of yoga or explore the library for a book… the perfect time to read James Hilton’s “Lost Horizons,” where Shangri-La was first mentioned!
Overnight in Shangri La
[Ceremony at Dhondrupling gompa] After breakfast, a transfer will be provided to a mountain base, which is halfway to the fixed camp. From this point, continue on with a guided, three-hour hike, while luggage is sent directly to the campsite. A picnic will be carried on horseback for a lunch break. This is an easy walk, across hilly landscape, overlooking surrounding mountains and villages. Arrive at camp in Ringha Valley - 3,400 meters - and meet the team with a welcome refreshment. A great chance to unwind, visit the nearby farm refurbished as traditional Tibetan homestead, and explore the beautiful surroundings. Enjoy an aperitif while soaking in the sunset around the campfire; dinner will be held inside the bell tent and enjoy the rest of the evening around a Tibetan wood fire under the stars.
Overnight in the camp.
After breakfast at the Camp, transfer back to Shangri La where our drivers will wait to provide transport to Deqin, located at an altitude of 3500 meters.
Stop along the way at the small village of Nixi, known for its production of pottery (almost 70 of the 100 families living in the village are working in this craft.) Stop off at the house of a Tibetan family to sample “tsampa,” a mixture of yak butter, tea and flour. Take this opportunity to savor this Tibetan specialty in a traditional small Tibetan house.
Continue on to the small city Benzilan for lunch.
After lunch, pay a visit to Dhondrupling Gompa set on the edge of a mountainside; one of the most important monasteries in the prefecture. While not as impressive as Songzanlin, it is certainly more authentic; its main assembly hall and different colleges still house around 300 monks.
Check in to Songtsam Lodge Meili. The lodge (3,600m) overlooks the majestic Meili Mountain Range, and most rooms provide a stunning view of Meili. For those interested, a romantic dinner can be arranged on the open terrace where the mountain peaks look so close it’s surreal.
Overnight in Deqin
Rise at dawn to admire the sunrise over the “Meili Xueshan” from the platform of the hotel bar or terrace. The range is dominated by the mystical Kawa Karpo, sitting at an altitude of 6,700 meters. Enjoy this amazing spectacle whilst eating breakfast, prepared in advance by the hotel.
The Mekong River, which has its source in the northern Tibetan Plateau, carved the gorge below the Kawa Karpo. Cross this legendary river to reach the charming village of Mingyong- the starting point for hiking towards the glacier of the same step name (also one of the stages of “kora,” the pilgrimage of faithful Tibetans.)
A 10km walk will lead to the Lotus Temple; a destination interesting not only for its devotees, but also for its remarkable views of the glacier.
Note: Good physical condition is required for this tour; for those who would like to partake but may not be able to walk the entire way, a horseback option is also available (please contact us further.)
Transfer back to Songtsam Meili; afternoon at leisure.
Songtsam Meili optional activities:
Enjoy a stroll in Guji Unong, a tranquil village inhabited by only five families who practice polyandry. This is also one of the few places where traditional Tibetan herding and farming are still practiced.
Overnight in Deqin
In the morning, wrap up this Yunnan tour with a return to Zhongdian (Shangri La) for the final transfer to the airport. The flight will head onwards to Kunming, where another departing flight can be caught.
Note: If interested in extending the trip in Kunming or Yunnan, please consult us further.
We advise that do not talk sensitive politics topic with guide and locals to avoid any unpleasant experience.
Our services include:
Our services do not include:
Note : We advise that do not talk sensitive politics topic with guide and locals to avoid any unpleasant experience.
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