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.
Important—To check in to hotels and enter ticketed areas during the trip you’ll need to show a green result on the relevant Health Kit/健康宝 app.
We’ll do this trip if it’s possible to visit without needing to quarantine at either end and if any related travel restrictions are not excessive.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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 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.
Ages 7–11: ¥5,730
Ages 12–17: ¥5,940
Photos and trip reports: Lijiang and Shangri-La, Yunnan Province