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 amazing 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.
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.
More photos from the streets of Lijiang Ancient City
- The rooftops of Lijiang, seen from Lion Hill
- Traditional dance in the town square of Lijiang (1/3)
- Traditional dance in the town square of Lijiang (2/3)
- Traditional dance in the town square of Lijiang (3/3)
- A tree by a canal in Lijiang
- A bridge reflected in Black Dragon Pool, near Lijiang Ancient City
- A Lijiang resident and his eagle
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!
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, the town 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.
Lashi Lake and tea trail
On the way to Shangri-La we'll stop for a look at 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.
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.
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.
Yunnan is home to at least 25 of the various ethnic groups of China. On this trip we see a lot Naxi and Tibetans, but also some Dai, Yi, and Mosuo.
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.
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!
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.
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
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Thermal underwear and other warm clothing (it could get cold!)
- 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
- Torch or headlamp
- Mobile phone, charger
- Any personal medicine or things that may be required but not available in small towns (chocolate, for example!)
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
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
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
14:00 — 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 old town
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
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
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.