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Lijiang and Shangri-La, Yunnan Province

In Brief: 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.

Lijiang and Shangri-La, Yunnan | 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.

See the highlights of Lijiang and Shangri-La on this five-day trip—cobbled streets and watercourses of ancient towns, country roads and fields around small settlements, Naxi and Tibetan culture, and views of snow-capped mountains.

As well as riding horses on an ancient tea trail, you’ll take an excursion by boat on the scenic Lashi Lake, and visit the Songzanlin Temple in Shangri-La. Of course, you’ll also get a quite a bit of walking about done—on peaceful country lanes near Lijiang, on the cobblestone streets of the towns we’ll visit, and at the lower end of the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Trip overview

Day 1—Fly to Lijiang, explore Lijiang Old Town, overnight in Lijiang Old Town.
Day 2—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 3—Hike up to Shangri-La’s Songzanlin Temple; lunch at local guesthouse; tour of the temple; explore Shangri-La local market and old town; overnight in Shangri-La.
Day 4—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 5—Visit Lashi Lake, boat ride, horses, ancient tea trail; free time to explore Lijiang Old Town; drive to Lijiang Airport, fly back to Beijing.

Highlights

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!

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.

Shangri-La

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

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

Songzanling Temple

Songzanlin Temple 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 temple’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 use our feet, horses, and boats to get around while we're there.

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.

High altitudes

Some places near Lijiang are around 2,500m above sea level, and Shangri-La is 3,200m above sea level. Hikes may feel more difficult than usual, and you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness.

Weather

In December, the average high for Lijiang is 14°C, and the average low is 0°C, and there’s not much chance of rain. Shangri-La can get colder than that—make sure to bring your warm clothes!

Accommodation

In Lijiang we’ll stay at a comfortable guesthouse; in Shangri-La we’ll stay in a nice hotel.

You’ll be sharing a room with another hiker. If you'd like a guesthouse/hotel room to yourself, it can be arranged at an extra cost of 1,200 RMB in total, if a room is available—usually not a problem!

Further details about room shares and single supplement can be found in the documents we send you as part of the registration.

Flights and transport

We’ll be flying to and from Lijiang Airport. Flights are not frequent, and tickets often sell out - best to book early. Transfers in and around Lijiang and Shangri-La will be by private bus.

Frequent flyers: Please let us know if you would like to use your frequent flyer miles or if you are a frequent flyer member. If you would like to organise your own flights, we can provide further details.

Food

We'll eat at restaurants mostly, and will try to sample as much of the local specialties as possible. Please let us know if you have any special dietary requirements or food allergies.

Things to bring

  • Passport
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Thermal underwear and other warm clothing (it could get cold!)
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Thick socks
  • Hiking boots
  • A day pack to take on outings, suitcases or bigger bags can be left at the hotel
  • Camera and charger, batteries
  • Suncream
  • Torch or headlamp
  • Mobile phone, charger
  • Any personal medicine or things that may be required but not available in small towns (chocolate, for example!)

Kid's prices

Ages 7–11: 8,270 RMB
Ages 12–17: 8,570 RMB

More photos

Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool, with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain seen in the distance
Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool, with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain seen in the distance. (Click for larger image)
An excursion by boat at Lashi Lake
An excursion by boat at Lashi Lake. (Click for larger image)
Folk dances in Lijiang's town square
Folk dancers in Lijiang's town square. (Click for larger image)
Folk dances in Lijiang's town square
Folk dancers in Lijiang's town square. (Click for larger image)
Dancers in Lijiang's town square
Dancers in Lijiang's town square. (Click for larger image)
Folk dances in Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool park
Folk dancers in Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool park. (Click for larger image)
Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool park
Lijiang's Black Dragon Pool park. (Click for larger image)
Views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, near Lijiang
Views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, near Lijiang. (Click for larger image)
A vegetable market in Lijiang
A vegetable market in Lijiang. (Click for larger image)
A market stall in Lijiang
A market stall in Lijiang. (Click for larger image)
Part of Lijiang's Old Quarter, seen from Lion Hill
Part of Lijiang's Old Quarter, seen from Lion Hill. (Click for larger image)
Lijiang local snacks
Lijiang local snacks. (Click for larger image)
A snack stall in Lijiang's old quarter
A snack stall in Lijiang's old quarter. (Click for larger image)
A street scene in Lijiang's old quarter
A street scene in Lijiang's old quarter. (Click for larger image)
A street scene in Lijiang
A street scene in Lijiang. (Click for larger image)
A street scene in Lijiang
A street scene in Lijiang. (Click for larger image)
A street scene in Shangri-La's old town
A street scene in Shangri-La's old town. (Click for larger image)
The giant prayer wheel in the middle of Shangri-La's old town
The giant prayer wheel in the middle of Shangri-La's old town. (Click for larger image)
A Tibetan family restaurant in Shangri-La
A Tibetan family restaurant in Shangri-La. (Click for larger image)
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge. (Click for larger image)
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge. (Click for larger image)

Full itinerary

  1. Day 1
    06:00 — Meet at Beijing Airport for a 07:25am flight (exact time TBC)
    11:10 — Arrive at Lijiang Airport
    12:00 — Check in at guesthouse in Lijiang
    12:30 — Lunch
    13:30 — Tour Lijiang Ancient City
    17:30 — Back to guesthouse
    18:00 — Dinner
    19:30 — Take a stroll in the city after dinner or have a rest at the guesthouse

  2. Day 2
    08:00 — Breakfast
    08:30 — Walk to Black Dragon Pool Park
    09:00 — Explore park scenery: lakes, hills, trees
    10:00 — Visit exhibition of local Dongba folk religon
    10:30 — Drive to Baisha Old Town
    11:00 — Explore Baisha Old Town
    12:00 — Lunch at Baisha Old Town
    13:00 — Countryside hike from Baisha to Shuhe Old Town
    14:00 — Explore Shuhe Old Town
    15:00 — Drive to Shangri-La
    19:00 — Arrive at Shangri-La, check in the hotel
    19:30 — Dinner
    20:30 — Rest after dinner or go out for a walk

  3. Day 3
    08:30 — Breakfast at hotel
    09:00 — Drive to village near Napa Lake.
    09:20 — Hike up to the village near Songzanlin Temple
    12:00 — Lunch at Tibetan family guesthouse
    13:00 — Explore the temple
    16:00 — Drive back to Shangri-La
    16:30 — Visit Shangri-La local market
    17:00 — Explore Shangri-La old town
    19:00 — Dinner at a restaurant in the old town
    20:00 — Head back to the hotel

  4. Day 4
    08:30 — Breakfast, check out of hotel
    09:00 — Visit Shangri-La Old Town and temple
    11:00 — Drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge
    13:00 — Lunch at restaurant
    14:00 — Walk up Tiger Leaping Gorge
    15:30 — Finish the walk, drive on to Lijiang
    17:00 — Check in at guesthouse
    19:00 — Dinner
    20:00 — Rest after dinner or go out for a walk

  5. Day 5
    08:00 — Breakfast, check out
    09:00 — Drive to Lashi Lake for boating and horse ride
    11:30 — Drive back to Lijiang
    12:00 — Free time for walking and shopping in Lijiang Old Town
    13:30 — Meet back at the guesthouse for late lunch
    14:30 — Drive to the airport
    15:20 — Arrive at the airport for 17:15 flight
    20:40 — Arrive in Beijing
    All times are approximate, and depend on our speed of movement

More information

Contact us at any time for more information. Payment terms, conditions, and details will be supplied along with a waiver document and travel guidelines after your registration request has been received.

We usually need to get 8–10 people signed up to go ahead with this trip. Beijing Hikers reserves the right to decide who may participate in this trip.

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

In Brief: 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.
Contact us for more information »