Lijiang and Shangri-La, Yunnan Province | Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, reflected in the waters of Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, reflected in the waters of Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool.

Lijiang and Shangri-La, Yunnan Province

See the highlights of Lijiang and Shangri-La: cobbled streets and watercourses of ancient towns, Naxi and Tibetan culture, plus views of snow-capped mountains. Cultural focus, nothing too strenuous.

Level 2+
Easy walks but at reasonably high altitudes. (Can I do it?)

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Trip overview
Day One main activities Meet up in Lijiang, explore Lijiang Old Town, overnight in Lijiang Old Town.
Day Two main activities Black Dragon Pool and culture museum; visit Baisha Old Town, see frescoes, hike in countryside; explore Shuhe Old Town; drive to Shangri-La; overnight in Shangri-La.
Day Three main activities Hike up to Shangri-La’s Songzanlin Monastery; lunch at local guesthouse; tour of the monastery; explore Shangri-La local market and old town; overnight in Shangri-La.
Day Four main activities Hike up to “Hundred Chickens” temple; see the huge prayer wheel in Shangri-La’s old town; drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge, hike in Tiger Leaping Gorge park, overnight in Lijiang Old Town.
Day Five main activities Visit Lashi Lake, ride horses, visit ancient tea trail; free time to explore Lijiang Old Town.


Folk dances in Lijiang's town square
Folk dances in Lijiang's town square. (Click for larger image)

Lijiang Ancient City

By visiting just after the peak season, we’ll be able to explore the cobbled streets, alleyways, and canals of old Lijiang at a time of year where there are comparatively fewer people about. It will still be busy, but not crazy busy.

Lijiang has a history of more than 800 years, and, like Pingyao, is a very well-preserved example of what cities looked like in China, a long time ago.

We’ll do some exploring at ground level, and then climb up Lion Hill to visit the pagoda. From the top of Lion Hill we’ll get an excellent view of the city below. Note: in Beijing, this would be an easy stroll – here, at near to 3,000 metres above sea level, it’s a bit more difficult!

We'll be back to Lijiang on the fourth day, and will have more time to explore the cobbled streets, alleyways, and canals of old Lijiang on the fourth and fifth days of the trip.

A street scene in Shuhe, near Lijiang
A street scene in Shuhe, near Lijiang. (Click for larger image)

Shuhe and Baisha Old Towns

Not far from Lijiang are two other old towns with a similar history, but comparatively less development for tourism.

Baisha is just starting to see a bit of development, but remains an example of the more pastoral side of life in Yunnan.

Shuhe is a little bit further along the road of development than Baisha, and is quite a bit quieter than Lijiang, but just as interesting to look about.

We’ll drive up to Baisha for a look about, and then we’ll take a stroll on to Shuhe, passing through the lanes and fields between the two villages.


Renamed (from Zhongdian) to entice tourists, Shangri-La has a Tibetan feel to it, as well as a large monastery and several temples. Lijiang has more of the Naxi ethnic group, and Shangri-La has more Tibetans.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-La
Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-La. (Click for larger image)

Songzanling Monastery

Songzanlin Monastery is an active lamasery of the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism. It’s the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan. It was established in 1679, bombed in 1959, sacked a little bit during the Cultural Revolution, and has since then been restored quite nicely.

As with Lion Hill in Lijiang, what would be a relatively easy walkabout at lower altitude could feel a bit tougher at 3,300m above sea level, with a steep flight of stairs to climb on the way to the monastery’s prayer hall.

On the ancient Tea and Horse trail near Lijiang
On the ancient Tea and Horse trail at Lashi Lake. (Click for larger image)

Lashi Lake and Tea and Horse trail

We'll make a visit to the Lashi Lake wetlands area, a conservation zone that's becoming more and more well known for beautiful scenery. We'll take a walk about here, and have a quick horse-ride, too!

Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge. (Click for larger image)

Tiger Leaping Gorge

On the way back from Shangri-La to Lijiang, we drive past Tiger Leaping Gorge, and why not visit while we’re in the area? We’ll just have time to stroll about the lower, slightly touristy section of the gorge, but will be able to spot the location of the fabled tiger’s leap, and see the powerful flow of the river down the gorge.

Dancers in Lijiang's town square
Dancers in Lijiang's town square. (Click for larger image)

Ethnic culture

Yunnan is home to at least 25 of the various ethnic groups of China. On this trip we see a lot of Naxi and Tibetans, but also some Dai, Yi, and Mosuo.

Getting to and from Lijiang

You’ll meet your guides at the Lijiang Airport around 11am on the first day of the trip.

The itinerary will finish in Lijiang on the last day of the trip, and we plan to drop you off at the Lijiang Airport before 3pm.

Please do not purchase your flights until we are able to confirm the departure of the trip.

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Photos and trip reports: Lijiang and Shangri-La, Yunnan Province

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