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How to plan your tour to Shangri-la & Other Places in Yunnan Province

2018/6/3 23:08:57125 People viewed this article

Yunnan is the most southwestern province in China, with the Tropic of Cancer running through its southern part. With an area of 394,000 square km, 4.1 percent of the nation's total, Yunnan is the 8th largest province in China and famous for its towering mountains and plentiful rivers, abundant natural resources as well as many ethnic groups. Yunnan is situated on a plateau and borders on the eastern section of the Himalayas where Shangri-la area is located, thus it seems to be the last step to Tibet, the "roof of the world". "Yunnan” this word means “the South of Clouds” in Mandarin. Various colors and shapes of the clouds over this plateau give Yunnan its full name "South of the Colorful Clouds". These beautiful rosy clouds always appear in the south, which is thought to be an auspicious sign. Yunnan people, therefore, are proud of living on this blessed land. Yunnan borders on Myanmar in the southwest; Vietnam and Laos in the south. With a long borderline, is the main passageway connecting China with the Southeast Asian nations. 

 

Shangri-la in the northwest Yunnan

Zhongdian in the western Yunnan Province was named officially Shangri-La in 2001. Shangri-La is a name that has worked its way into the English language. Synonymous with utopia, the word was first used in 1933, coined by the British author James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizon. Characterized by towering snow-capped mountains, blue moon, lush forests, vast gorges, idyllic lakes, mysterious monastery and immortal people. Shangri-La is described by Hilton as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery. It has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. The word also evokes the imagery of exoticism of the Orient, arouses a certain curiosity and mystery whenever it is heard. 

 

In the ancient Tibetan scriptures, existence of seven such places is mentioned as Nghe-Beyul Khembalung. Khembalung is one of several beyuls ("hidden lands" similar to Shangri-La) believed to have been created by Padmasambhava in the 9th century as idyllic, sacred places of refuge for Buddhists during times of strife. 

 

The word Shangri-La is also thought the same as Shambhala, a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

 

In Yunnan, there are more than 600 rivers which belongs to 6 river-system. Among them, Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is the most famous and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. "Consisting of eight geographical clusters of protected areas within the boundaries of the Three Parallel Rivers National Park, in the mountainous north-west of Yunnan Province, the 1.7 million hectare site features sections of the upper reaches of three of the great rivers of Asia: the Yangtze (Jinsha), Mekong and Salween run roughly parallel, north to south, through steep gorges which, in places, are 3,000 m deep and are bordered by glaciated peaks more than 6,000 m high. The site is an epicentre of Chinese biodiversity. It is also one of the richest temperate regions of the world in terms of biodiversity." - valued by UNESCO website.

 

Not only can many rivers be found in Yunnan , but also 37 lakes with an area of over 1 square kilometer can be seen here, boasting a large number of plateau lakes. For example, the Dianchi Lake in Kunming, the capital of the province, is called the bright pearl of Plateau. There are 700 hot springs as well in the province. Yunnan’s mountains are also famous, including the Yulong Snow Mountain in Lijing, which was regarded as one of the key scenic spots at state level. The mountains and rivers in Yunnan are both very superb landscape.

 

The climate in Yunnan is generally mild with pleasant and fair weather because of the province's location on south-facing mountain slopes, receiving the influence of both the Pacific and Indian oceans. As we all know Kunming is called the Spring City that's because it’s always warm as spring. In general, the weather is favorable throughout the year, tempered in summer and mild to warm in winter (except in the almost tropical south, where temperatures regularly exceed 30 °C (86 °F) in the warmer half of the year) which makes Yunnan a favorable resort all the year round.

 

Because of its abundant natural resources, Yunnan enjoys the reputation of the "Kingdom of Flora and Fauna", "Kingdom of Nonferrous Metals", "Kingdom of Medicinal Herbs", "Natural Garden", "Hometown of Perfumes" and is a popular area for tourism.

 

Yunnan Province, due to its beautiful landscapes, mild climate and cultural diversity, is one of China's major tourist destinations.

 

How long the tour in Yunnan could be

There are many extraordinary natural and historical sites on display in Yunnan. But the following areas/cities are commonly regarded as the essence scenery area of Yunnan: 

 

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, famed for the Spring City and Stone Forest, a series of karst outcrops east of Kunming.

Shangri-La (Xamgyi'nyilha County in Tibetan, formerly Zhongdian county), an ethnic Tibetan township and county set high in Yunnan's northwestern mountains, noted for the mythical Shangri-la world in it.

* Please note: The average altitude of Shangri-la County is 3300m. Maybe there will be high altitude reaction on tourists. 

Lijiang, a Naxi minority city. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

Dali, the historic center of the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms.

Xishuangbanna Dai Minority Autonomous Prefecture, with Jinghong the center and capital of the prefecture, a national scenic resort, noted for its natural tropical sceneries and cultural attractions.

In Honghe Hani Minority and Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture, famed for the Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Tengchong area, in the southwest of Yunnan and famous for its abundant hot spring source. 

 

* If it is your first time to tour in this beautiful land and only with limited tour days, say no more than 7 days, normally your tour itinerary can go like this: 

 

Itinerary One: Kungming-Dali-Lijiang-Shangri-la
Day1  Arrive in Kunming before noon, Tour in Kunming to visit the Stone Forest, a typical karst landform. Overnight in Kunming 

Day2  From Kunming to Dali by car (5.5 hour), tour in Dali to visit the Three Pagoda Temple facing Erhai Lake, stroll in the primitive and tranquil Dali Old Town. Overnight in Dali 

Day 3  From Dali to Lijiang by car (3 hours), tour in Lijiang to visit the Ancient Baisha Town, ancient Lijiang town, UNESCO World Heritage site. Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 4  One Day Tour to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and ancient Shuhe Town in Lijiang, Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 5  Lijiang-(1.5 hours)-the Giant Bend of Yangtze River-Tiger Leaping Gorge -(2.5 hours)- Shangri-la city, Visit Dukezong Town, Overnight in Shangri-la.

* Please note: The average altitude of Shangri-la County is 3300m. Maybe there will be high altitude reaction on tourists.

Day 6  Tour in Shangri-la city to visit to Sumjtseling Monastery, Puacuo National Park. Leave Shangri-la by air at night or on next day. 

 

Itinerary Two: Kungming-Dali-Lijiang-Xishuangbanna 

Day1  Arrive in Kunming before noon, Tour in Kunming to visit the Stone Forest, a typical karst landform. Overnight in Kunming 

Day2  From Kunming to Dali by car (5.5 hour), tour in Dali to visit the Three Pagoda Temple facing Erhai Lake, stroll in the primitive and tranquil Dali Old Town. Overnight in Dali              Day 3  From Dali to Lijiang by car (3 hours), tour in Lijiang to visit the Ancient Baisha Town, ancient Lijiang town, UNESCO World Heritage site. Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 4  One Day Tour to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and ancient Shuhe Town in Lijiang, Overnight in Lijiang.

Day 5  Lijiang- Jinhong (capital of Xishuangbanna) by Flight (around 1 hour), visit the Primitive Forest Park in Xishuangbanna. Overnight in Jinghong city
Day 6  Tour in Xishuangbanna to visit Ganlanba (means Olive Dam) Market, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Park - the most famous botanical garden in China with 3,000 different types of plant, Dai Minority Garden with 5 well-preserved natural Dai minority villages in it. Overnight in Jinghong city. 

Day 7 Tour in Xishuangbanna to visit Wild Elephant Valley, Jino Minority Mountain.
Leave Jinhong city at night or on next day by flight. 

 

What to see in Yunnan Province

In Kunming, capital of the province 

Stone Forest, West Mountain Scenic Area with Dragon Gate (Longmen) Grotto, Cuihu Park, Dianchi Lake Area and Daguan Park (Grand View Park). 

 

In Dali

Ancient Dali City, Xizhou Town, Shaxi Town, Three Pagoda Temple, Erhai Lake, Butterfly Spring

 

In Lijiang

Ancient Lijiang town (UNESCO World Heritage site) with Black Dragon Pool and Mu family’s Palace, the Ancient Baisha Town, Ancient Shuhe Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, The Giant Bend of Yangtze River, Tiger Leaping Gorge 

 

In Shangri-la

Ancient Dukezong Town, Sumjtseling Monastery, Puacuo National Park

 

Xishuangbanna Dai Minority Autonomous Prefecture (include Jinhong, the capital of this prefecture):
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, The Primitive Forest Park, Ganlanba (means Olive Dam) Market, Dai Minority Park with 5 well-preserved natural Dai minority villages in it, Wild Elephant Valley, Jino Minority Mountain.

 

Yuanyang County in Honghe Hani Minority and Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture

Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, UNESCO World Heritage site. 

 

In Tengchong Area

Rehai (Hot Spring Sea) with around 80 hot springs in the area of 9 square kilometers, about 20km to the southwest of Tengchong city.

 

More Detail Info:

In Kunming, capital of the province

Stone Forest is a series of karst outcrops around 120 km to the east of Kunming and covers an area of 400 square kilometers, includes The Greater and Lesser Stone Forests, as well as many other scenic spots, all of which feature stones in various formations. Animals, plants, and even human figures can be found here. The magnificent, strange and steep landscape creates countless labyrinthine vistas. Walking through the Stone Forest, visitors will marvel at the natural stone masterpieces and are bewitched by the intricate formations. 

 

Western Hill with Dragon Gate (Longmen) Grotto 

At a distance of 15 kilometers west suburbs of Kunming, on the west bank of Dianchi Lake, stands a cluster of hills called "West Mountain". West Mountain Forest Park is renowned for its rolling mountains, tranquil forest with towering trees, singing birds and clear streams, and numerous historic sites. It stretches 35 km from north to south. Among those peaks, the Arhat Peak is the highest one with an elevation of 2,050 meters. This range is also known as the 'Sleeping Beauty Hills', a reference to the hills' undulating contours, which are thought to resemble a reclining woman with tresses of hair flowing into the sea, hence the name "Sleeping Buddha Mountain" and "Sleeping Beauty". The main sights are Huating Temple, Taihua Temple, Sanqing Pavilion and Dragon Gate Grotto. The scenic area is well-equipped with road, river transportation and cableway. 

 

Dragon Gate (Longmen) Grotto is the most spectacular and extraordinary part of West Mountain, enjoying a high reputation at home and abroad. The grottoes were carved out in elegant layout and refined workmanship along the sheer cliffs of Arhat Peak, featuring danger, tranquility, and uniqueness. The construction spanned 72 years during the Qing Dynasty, more than 200 years ago.  Perched on the cliff of Luohan Hill, Sanqing Pavilion looks like a castle in the air. It is the seat of Taoism. The surrounding tablets and couplets add religious atmosphere and also contain living philosopher. Looked afar, it is high up in the air and seems to be flying. How spectacular! From there, you can hike up to the Dragon Gate and enjoy the panoramic view of Dianchi Lake. It’s also an ideal place for you to watch sunrise.

 

You can hike up to Dragon Gate using the flight of steps. There is quite a lot to see as you climb uphill, such as grottoes, sculptures, corridors, and pavilions, as well as a good view of the lake and Kunming City.

 

The steps to the Dragon Gate are uneven and narrow. You are recommended to wear comfortable shoes. The plank road leading to the Dragon Gate only allows two people walking abreast so be careful when there are too many tourists. 

 

Huating Temple was a country temple of the Nanzhao Kingdom believed to have been constructed in the 11 th century, rebuilt in the 14 th century, and extended in the Ming and Qing dynasties. As the biggest existing temple of Kunming area, it is a famous sacred place for Buddhism with large and significant halls and buildings. The sculpture of Buddha and five hundred statues of Arhat here are quite unique, so are the historic couplets. In addition, there are various famous flowers and precious botanies such as Arhat pine. 

 

Cuihu Park

The Cuihu Lake on the west side of the Wuhua Mountain in downtown Kunming is extolled as a "Jade in Kunming". Two long dikes divide the lake into four parts. The entire Cuihu Park is a green world, with willow trees swaying gently on the dikes, and the surface of the lake covered all over with lotus plants. In winter and spring, Kunming residents flock to the Cuihu Park to feed red-beaked gulls - there are tens of thousands of them, which descend upon the lake. This lovable scene, in which man, birds, and nature mingle in such harmony, has kept occurring over the last ten years. The love of the Kunming people for wildlife has added to the charms of the City of Spring.

 

Daguan Park (Grand View Park) by the side of Dianchi Lake

Daguan Park, located in the southwestern suburb of Kunming City, is a picturesque lakeside park. This 2-storyed pavilion was built by the governor of Yunnan In 1696. With a good view of the waters and hills in the distance, and the sailing boats and trees in mist, the pavilion was titled Daguan (Grand View) pavilion. In the later years, the Daguan pavilion had twice been reduced to ruins by warfare and flood. It was renovated in 1883, the 9th year of Emperor Guangxu, and the pavilion has remained intact ever since.

 

Since the Daguan pavilion was built, men of letters coming from far and near have often gathered here, composing and reciting poems. During the past two to three hundred years, many excellent works and poems have been created. Among them, the long couplet with 180 Chinese characters written by Sun Ranweng has for many years enjoyed the highest reputation around the world. Daguan Park has become famous due to Sun Rangweng's Long Couplet.

 

In Dali:

350 kilometers to the west of Kunming, Dali city, the capital of Bai Autonomous Prefecture, is a famous Chinese cultural city and a national scenic zone. Situated between the Cangshan Mountains and the Erhai Lake reputed for their beauty intertwining snowcapped pinnacles and crystal clear waters, Dali is an ideal tour destination with relaxing atmosphere and laid-back pace of life. Many international backpackers have regarded it as a Mecca to tune out for a while.

 

A rich heritage dates back to the days when the city was the capital of the kingdoms of Nanzhao and Dali. Dali is a major habitat for the ethnic Bai people, whose folkways are at once time-honored and distinctive. During the Tang and Song Dynasties (618-1279 AD), it was the capital of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms, the political, economic and cultural centre of Yunnan, an important gateway of cultural exchange and trading with southeastern Asian countries, and an important pass of the ancient "Silk Route of the South". It has long enjoyed the reputation of "a land of letters".

 

In fact, Dali is so famous for the stone that the name of marble in Chinese is literally "Dali Stone". 

 

Present day Dali is a city that combines history with modern convenience. It is divided into two areas - the Ancient City and the New District - Xiaguan. The Ancient Dali City is centered around the ancient city of Dali, first built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ancient buildings, city walls and the old city moat are the sites most frequented by visitors. The famous Foreigner Street in the Ancient City attracts visitors with its handicrafts, and local culinary delicacies. Xiaguan, located to the south of the Ancient City, home to the government of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. Here hotels, public squares, and shopping centers add modernity to the otherwise historical city.

 

Located 18 km north of Dali old town (34 km to Xiaguan), on a fertile plateau between the Mt. Cangshan range to the west and Erhai Lake to the east at an elevation of 2000 meters, Xizhou Town is the typical town with Bai minority characters. Green mountains, winding creeks and fertile land make here a lyrical and carefree life. More than 1500 years ago, Xizhou and nearby area has been the major habitat for the Bai people. Xizhou was once a commercial center of Yunnan, and the birthplace of Bai's modern entrepreneurs. It is said that more than 140 wealthy families built their houses here, now almost 200 national heritage listed private houses of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) well-preserved, including the Yan's, the Yang's, the Dong's and the Zhao's. The family estate of the Yan clan is preserved as a museum and open to the public, and while an excellent example of the architecture of the very rich is too commercial and compares poorly with more ordinary family homes in the township. These houses are characterized by '3 rooms and a wall screening' and '4 joints and 5 courtyards'. '3 rooms and a wall screening' refers that every house boasts a major room flanked by two wing-rooms, and facing the middle room erects a wall screening for the house privacy. '4 joints and 5 courtyards' means the houses have a central courtyard with rooms in all directions; other smaller four courtyards join the central one from four sides to make five courtyards. All these houses are decorated with woodcarvings, colored patterns, marbles and wash drawings, which represents the masterpieces of Bai's architecture. The old houses and streets are well preserved, through which visitors may still find some traces of past glory.

 

In Xizhou, visitors also have the opportunity to appreciate the genuine tea ceremony of the Bai minority. Sandao Tea is a must-drink. It consists of bitter tea, sweet tea and aftertaste tea, indicating the whole life of the people. 

 

Shaxi Town is one of the sole remaining INTACT Tea-Horse caravan towns and a culturally diverse town to the Bai and Yi minority peoples in Yunnan and it looks exactly like the set of a Chinese Kung-fu movie. As one of the world's 100 most endangered sites listed by the World Monuments Fund, it is a place where you can breathe in fresh air around-the-clock.

 

Since the successful biding of the endangered sites by WMF, Shaxi Town has undergone massive efforts to preserve ancient architecture and culture. Through the trade by Horse Caravan Road stopped, the border-town flavor of Shaxi can still be sensed, not only from the old cobble-stoned alleyways which still look like they did a thousand years ago, but more from the Sideng Friday Market.

 

If you have never seen what an ancient Chinese market looks like, your will surely feel excited in joining the Sideng Friday Market. Different minorities gather every Friday on main road in Sideng when mountain villagers come down from the hills to trade their goods. 

 

Another attraction of Shaxi Town is the Stone Treasure Mountain with numerous temples and grottoes as well as some fantastic views on it. It was designated as one of the first officially protected sites by China in 1982 as a fantastic nature reserve and religious site. The fresh mountainous landscape and pleasant weather, combined with Shaxi's unique history and culture, make for a completely enjoyable experience.

 

Tang Dynasty Three Pagodas are located about 1.5km north of Dali Ancient Town. The Central Pagoda is almost 1,200 years old and represents a period when Dali was a Buddhist Kingdom. They are standing at the east foot of the tenth peak of the massive Mt. Cangshan and facing the west shore of the Erhai Lake. Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas comprise three independent pagodas forming a symmetric triangle. The elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China's ancient Buddhist architectures, worthy of a visit for the Tang Dynasty architecture, numerous statues of the Buddha and Guanyin with influences from both India and China, dragon fountains, and two small museum showcases, which make it a must-see in the tour of Dali. The Three Pagodas, visible from miles away, has been a landmark of Dali City and selected as a national treasure meriting preservation in China.

 

Erhai Lake is considered a Mother Lake of locals (Bai Minority) and was cordially called as Gold Moon by Bai people. An elegant and graceful lake in plateau and with the surface of 256.5 square kilometers and an average depth of 10 m (the deepest depth is 20 m), Erhai Lake in Dali is the 2nd largest freshwater lake in Yunnan and a 7th largest one in China. The water in Erhai Lake is crystal clear with high transparency clarity, which made the Erhai Lake with great reputation as A Immaculacy Gem Amidst Mountains or A Gem on Plateau since ancient times. The lake got its name from its ear-shape as ear called Er in Chinese. Lying against Mt. Cangshan, Erhai Lake possesses great charms especially with a Moon Scene, which is one of the Four Greatest Scenes in Dali (other three are flowers of Shangguan, winds of Xiaguan and Snow of Mt. Cangshan). If looking down in the sky, the Erhai Lake is also a crescent-shape, peacefully lying between Mount Cangshan and some dams. 

 

The charming scenes of Erhai lies in its accompanied Mt. Cangshan in the west, Mt. Yu’an in the east as well as its three islets, four sandbars, five lakes, nine lake bends and numerous bays, of which with Guanyinge Island, Jinsuo Island (Golden Shuttle Island), Nanzhao Island and Xiaoputuo Island being available for visits. The picturesque scenery of the lake is with islets, caves, marshes, shoals, forests, and cottages, and each part offers elegant demeanour respectively. 

 

Located 27km south of Dali Ancient Town, the Butterfly Spring was named as the spring rises to form a pool which was shaped by the dense leaves. Above the pool there is an ancient tree known as the Butterfly Tree, because its fragrant blossom attracts thousands of butterflies fluttering among the branches and blossoms and over the spring forming an amazing 'Kingdom of Butterflies' in the short interval of spring turns to summer. These colorful creatures fly around the pool and settle on the tree in great clusters as they sip the nectar from the blossoms. This spectacular sight has given rise to a local festival when Bai people gather around the tree on 15 April for the Butterfly Meet. Then the youth will seek to engage with their loves.

 

In Lijiang

Nestled beneath snow-capped peaks, Lijiang, capital of Naxi Kingdom, at altitude of 2,500 meters, is located in the northwest of Yunnan province. Listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site, the beautifully preserved Lijiang Old Town (composed of Dayan Old Town, Shuhe Old Town and Baisha Old Town) is incredibly rich in natural and cultural resources. Strolling along the 800-year-old bridges and waterways of the world-famous old town district is like stepping back in time. Dayan Town, the old town of Lijiang, is China's best-preserved minority ancient town, and the only one among China’s ancient towns without city walls. It is famous for its ancient architecture and orderly system of waterways. It is the main center of the Naxi or Nakhi people. The Naxi number under a million and are perhaps best-known for their embroidery; they also have their own language with its own hieroglyphic-style writing system, and their own religion, clothing, art, architecture, music and dance. Lijiang is home to the Naxi people who have steadfastly preserved their centuries-old heritage. They still live in traditional homes, play ancient music and celebrate ethnic festivals with vitality.

 

Boasting spectacular natural scenery varying from snowy mountains and highland glacial lakes to majestic canyons, Lijiang is a healthy place to escape city stress, with an excellent environment and leisurely lifestyle, which draws a large number of visitors from bustling metropolises. Lijiang is also an important transit point along the Ancient Tea Horse Road. It was a center for the economic and cultural communication between various ethnic groups such as the Naxi, Han, Tibetans, and Bai.

 

It was constructed in the late Song and early Yuan dynasties around 1000 years ago. In 1278, the Yuan Dynasty appointed the Naxi chief Mu De hereditary ruler of the area, and the Mu family retained power for about 500 years. Today their palace is one of the major tourist attractions of the old town. 

 

Embraced by the tree-covered Lion Mountain in the west, the Elephant Mountains in the north, the old Dayan Town looks like a big jade ink slab. The old town has made the best use of water source from the Black Dragon Pool. The water flows through the town and every house as the East, Middle and West Rivers, plus a large number of separate streams. Thus, the view described as "rivers surrounding every house and willows in front of every family ", a best-known scene of south China, is the style and feature of the town. Rivers and bridges can be seen everywhere in the town: the number of bridges within this small area ranks the first in China. If you lose your way in the old town, just walk along the rivers to enter and away from the rivers to go out of the town. The streets in the old town are paved with local blue stones and therefore they are neither muddy in raining season, nor dusty in the dry season. 

 

Sifang Street is the main street of Lijiang, it is actually a square branching out in all directions. It is the center of the old town.

 

Lijiang Old Town should be on the top of you travel schedule. When night falls, you can enjoy the Naxi ancient music. Spend whole day on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which include Yak Meadow and Cloud Fir Meadow. On the following day, rent a bicycle in order to visit fascinating sights all together. If you have enough energy and willpower, hiking along the Tiger Leaping Gorge would be more challenging.

 

Lijiang is elected as one of the laziest cities in China in 2004. Life here couldn't be more comfortable. There is an upside to Lijiang being a tourist attraction. A late breakfast in one of the many up-scale cafes fits the slow, lazy pace of life. The pizzas, pancakes and coffee are up to standard, refined over the years through tips from overseas travelers.

 

Lijiang became known in the west through two men who lived in or near the town in the early 20th century, Austrian-American botanist Joseph Rock who wrote a Naxi dictionary, several scholarly papers, and many articles for National Geographic, and Russian Peter Goullart who wrote several books. It has been suggested that Rock's articles inspired James Hilton's Lost Horizons novel about a fictional Himalayan paradise, Shangri-la, but the claim is controversial. 

 

The Best Times to Visit Lijiang

Generally speaking, the weather in Lijiang is mild, warm in winter and cool in summer. It is suitable for travelling all year round. 

 

Try to avoid Chinese public holidays, such as Labor Day (May 1 to 7) and National Day (October 1 to 7), and school summer vacations in July and August, when Lijiang is full of Chinese tourists.

 

As one of three ancient towns, ancient Baisha Town has its unique aspect that there are many Mural Paintings in temples. Most of the temples were built from the early days of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the Mural Paintings were created at the same time, over the course of about 300 hundred years. The originality and figures of the mural paintings reflect the different religious cultures and artistic forms of Buddhism, Lamaism, Daoism and the Naxi Dongba religion, as developed in a Naxi school. Therefore, Lijiang Mural is quite different from other frescos. Each painting includes at least one hundred portraits, but perspective is used very well, and the close, middle and establishing images are clear. The various lifelike portraits are not only Buddhas but also ordinary people such as bureaucrats, criminals, tourists and executioners. Many of the scenes and subject matters are drawn from daily life-people are shown fishing, riding horses, weaving, dancing and casting iron. The painters used different methods of portrayal within the different elements of the fresco, such as flesh, garments, jewelry, weapons and many other components. The style of these true-life frescos is rural and unconstrained; the colors are strong and have intense contrast but are also unified.

 

Just 6 kilometers northwest of the fully packed tourist town Lijiang (Dayan Town), Ancient Shuhe Town is alive with the strong culture of primitive simplicity, and a place where visitors seek the traditional way of local life. Once an essential stop along the ancient Tea Horse Road, Shuhe has displayed its commercial spirit by opening clusters of shops and bars catering to tourists. Nestled at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, 6 km northwest of Lijiang old town, it is a tranquil town with a population of about 3000 people. Along with its sister town Lijiang (Dayan Town), it is also part of the UNESCO Heritage site. Shuhe is the earliest settlement of Naxi people in Lijiang when their ancestors first moved to this region. 

 

Shuhe town is just like a small-sized Lijiang with a similar layout, which boasts a Square Street (Sifangjie) and rivers flowing at downtown. It is really a delight to visitors who first come here. Compared with Lijiang, the town is less touristy and polished with more original characters.

 

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a mountain massif (also identified as a small mountain range) rising majestically from the plains near Lijiang. Its highest peak is named Shanzidou (5,596 m). The nearest slope is only about 30 km north of the Dayan Ancient Town (old Lijiang Town), and the view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool (Heilong Tan) in Lijiang is noted as one of China's finest views. The mountain is the most southerly year round snowcapped mountain in the Northern Hemisphere and with its natural unspoiled beauty it draws a great many scientists, as well as visitors from both home and abroad. 

 

The highlights in the scenic area are Glacier Park, Ganhaizi Meadow, Yak Meadow, White River (Blue Moon Valley), Spruce Meadow, and the Impression Lijiang show.

 

3 Cableways on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

There are three cableways in the scenic area, running to Glacier Park, Spruce Meadow, and Yak Meadow. The Cable car to Glacier Park is the 2nd highest cable car in China.

 

The Cable car to Glacier Park

This cableway can take you up to experience the glacier and its surroundings. Once you get off the cable car, there will still be stairs for you to climb to reach a higher peak at an altitude of 4,680 meters (15,354 feet). This short climb is difficult, but you will be rewarded by the beautiful panoramic view. 

 

Altitude range: 3,356 meters (11,010 feet) – 4,506 meters (14,783 feet)

Cableway fee: 180 yuan for a round trip

 

Cableway to Spruce Meadow

Spruce Meadow is located at an altitude of 3,240 meters (10,630 feet) and is surrounded by lofty spruces. This large meadow is hidden behind ancient woods. Its meadow and forest scenery is peaceful and beautiful.

 

Altitude range: 2,938 meters (9,639 feet) – 3,205 meters (1,0515 feet) 

Cableway fee: 55 yuan for a round trip.

 

Cableway to Yak Meadow

Another cableway goes to Yak Meadow, which has an elevation of 3,650 meters (11,975 feet). It is the furthest cableway from Lijiang, and it is also the least visited area. 

 

Yak Meadow is an area of grass near the high peaks. Taking this cableway, not only will you admire the beautiful scenery of the snowcapped mountain from a great position, but you will also see yaks grazing on the highland grassland. 

 

Altitude range: 3,180 meters (10,433 feet) – 3,650 meters (11,975 feet)

Cableway fee: 60 yuan for a round trip.

 

The Best Times for a Visit 

The best time to visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is from November to April when enough snow has built up and the sky is clear so that you can have a great view of the snowcapped mountain. 

 

Tips:

1. You will be advised to take portable oxygen cans in case you experience high-altitude sickness. You can purchase them in supermarkets at the towns, or at the cable car station before going uphill. 

2. Be well prepared with thick gloves and warm clothing to overcome the freezing temperature at the top of the mountain. Down jackets are also available to rent at a cost of 50 yuan.

3. Queues for the cableway can last for up to 3 hours during peak season and Chinese public holidays. You’d better avoid those periods or start your tour early in the morning.                 

 

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Located 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Lijiang City, part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is between the Yulong Snow Mountain of Lijiang and the Haba Snow Mountain of Zhongdian (Shangri-la area), and one of the finest treks through some of the most naturally beautiful and diverse landscapes China has to offer. The movement of the earth's crust caused the Jinshajiang River (Upper reach of Yangtze River) to change its course. When the river flows to where the gorge is, its banks suddenly narrows, the narrowest point being only 20 m in width. From the peak of the Jokul on the west bank to the river there is a drop of 3,900 m, thus making it one of the deepest canyons of the world. With a length of 16 km. it is divided into the upper, the middle and the lower sections, having 18 rapids. A huge square stone, Tiger's Leaping Rock, stands in the river. The river's swift currents, racing like a thousand horses, with cataracts pounding the banks, are awe-inspiring and spectacular. It was given the name, according to the legend, because a hunted tiger made his excape to the other side of the gorge in a single leap.

 

The hike through the gorge is very popular. It takes about two days with one night at the small town of Walnut Grove, which is the approximate halfway point.

 

If you prefer to visit without any (strenuous) hiking, a road along the south side of the gorge enters from the west and goes for a couple kilometers before stopping at a parking lot. After that there is a fairly level paved trail to Upper Tiger Leaping stone. 

 

In Shangri-la

As an inseparable part of Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas - the UNESCO World Natural Heritage, Potatso National Park makes up of the Wetlands of International Importance Bita Lake Nature Reserve and the "Three Parallel Rivers" world natural heritage Red Hill Area’s Shudu Lake. The park is 22 km away from the Shangri-La county, with a total area of approximately 300 Square kilometers. The park is in Northwestern Yunnan Province’s alpine cold temperate coniferous forest vegetation zones with altitude from 4159m in the northern peak of Militang Mountai to 3200m in the east of the Bita Lake. Potatso National Park is the first national park in China, which set environmental protection, ecological and cultural tourism.

 

The region of this park contains more than 20 percent of the country’s plant species, about one-third of its mammal and bird species and almost 100 endangered species, though it comprises only 0.7 percent of China's land area. It is notably home to vulnerable Black-necked cranes, many rare and beautiful orchids, and Himalayan Yew, a coniferous tree whose extracts are a source of the anticancer drug, paclitaxel. Summer scenes inside Potatso Park are so intoxicating that one will call it the home for meconopsis, primrose, rhododendron, spruce, fir, birch and other treasured plants. Lots of wild lives live in the park such as wild boar, musk deer, leopard, pheasant, and different species of birds.

 

Potatso is the transliteration of “Mandala” or “Putuo” which refers to a sacred mountain of Avalokiteshvara (Goddess of Mercy). “Putuo” or “Puda” means a boat to ferry people from sufferings. “Cuo” or “Tso” in Tibetan refers to a lake; so Potatso together means “Boat Lake”. Potatso used to be the original Tibetan name for Bita Lake where we can see an isle called Mandala or Mantuluo. Potatso is an unearthly world without pollution, far away from the bustle and hustle world. 

 

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (one of the 6 most important Lamaseries in China), Meili Snow Mountain, ancient Dukezong Town here are also the must attractions for all tourists. 

 

In Xishuangbanna

Founded in 1959, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden under Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) covers an area of 1,100 ha. Over 13,000 species of tropical plants are well preserved in its 35 living collections. One of the tributaries of the Asian Danube Mekong River - the Luosuo River cuts the topography here into Gourd peninsula in Menglun Town, Mengla County of Xishuangbanna. The Botanical Garden just selects its site on this beautiful island, and makes the island enjoy fantastic landscapes like the legendary teach orchard. It is in the northern edge of the Southeast Asian tropical areas, and the natural condition there is quite favorable; therefore, large blocks of rain forests are preserved in this part. These make the place become an ideal place for botanical research, plant seed resource preservation, technical development, science popularization and tourism. The tropical rain forest is a forest biological system with the most abundant life forms on earth and Xishuangbanna is such a survived oasis on the North Tropic and the only large stretch of tropical rain forest in China. 

 

Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden is the largest manmade botanical garden with the richest life forms established on this aftermost stretch rain forest on the Chinese territory.

 

8 km away from Jinghong proper, Xishuangbanna Primitive Forest Park, which covers an area of 16.5 square kilometers, features some of the best preserved tropical rainforest valleys south of the tropic of cancer. Among the fifty spots which have made Xishuangbanna into the nation's largest comprehensive ecological tourism location, the area's peacock breeding base, the large ethnic customs performance field and Aini Minority Village are some of the best sites on offer. 

 

Surrounded by bamboos and fruit trees which make the whole area dressed in green, and full of intoxicating scent, Dai Minority Park is around 30km to the south of Jinhong city. Together with the exquisite tropical scenery, ancient Buddhist temples and the gems of Xishuangbanna, five precious Dai villages, it presents the world with Dai original culture. Large performance areas for dance and "cultural shows," plus three daily "Water Splashing Festivals" ensure it stays more Disneyland than Dai village. While you're unlikely to feel transported into a genuine enclave of daily Dai life (wandering the streets and coconut plantations beyond the park's walls is a better bet for that), it is a quick and easy way to soak up a little of the lively (but wet) celebrations that traditionally only take place once annually (in mid-April), whenever you happen to be passing through. The Water Splashing Festival marks the arrival of the Dai New Year and is celebrated by Dai people across Xishuangbanna and neighboring Laos, Thailand and Burma. People splash water on each other as a sign of respect and to wash away the old year but being a festival that takes place in the toasty climate of southeast Asia, splashing quickly turns to soaking—you'll need to stand back or be prepared to get drenched. This is no less true at the Dai Minority Park where residents and visitors alike leap into the central fountain with gay abandon and, armed with colorful plastic buckets, proceed to soak eachother and anyone within splashing distance. Take a spare set of threads so you can really get in on the action. Water pistols optional. 

 

Located in Mengyang National Nature Reserve, a UNESCO Man and Biosphere reserve, 36 kilometers from Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley is China's first national park dedicated to wildlife and environmental protection. With its collection of tropical rain forests, subtropical evergreen broad-leaf forests and large populations of rare animals and plants, the park is a comprehensive scenic region for eco-tourism, scientific research and vacation, and was awarded the "Best 50 Places in China for Foreign Visitors" Gold Award. Most of China's Asian elephants live in Mengyang National Nature Reserve, Xishuangbanna. Practicing the concept of ecological and environmental protection, the park has built an elevated walkway for elephant viewing so as to return the ground to the herd, making it a place frequented by wild elephants, and, with the convenient transportation and unique tropical rainforest landscape, an excellent tourist attraction of Xishuangbanna. 

 

Located around 50km from Jinhong, Jino Minority Mountain is around 620 square meters. It is the origin of Jino minority. Now part of it, include a big village, was developed as the tourist attraction to show the special local customs, buildings and charming scenery.

 

Yuanyang County in Honghe Prefecture 

The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces are the system of Hani rice-growing terraces located in Honghe Prefecture. The terraces' history spans around 1,300 years. The distribution has four counties: Yuanyang, Honghe, Jinpin and Lüchun. The core area of the terraces is located in Yuanyang County. The total area measures 1,000,000 acres, with the declaration area being 16,603 ha. In 2013, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces were listed as a World Heritage Site.

 

The Rice terraces cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Honghe River. Carved out of dense forest over the past 1,300 years by the Hani people, the irrigated terraces constitute a harmonious ecological system as well as a place of artistic beauty. 

 

Hani people developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to these terraces. The creativity of the Hani people has not only transformed the area into a fertile area for growing rice but also a place of artistic beauty.