Small Group Journey – XMAS in Shangri-La

11 Days / 10 Nights
, China


Connect with the people and traditions of Tibet during the Christmas holidays. Visit iconic spiritual sites to witness Tibet’s deep spiritual roots and traverse dramatic landscapes, soaking up the beauty of this corner of the world. Celebrate Christmas with a local Catholic community, a memorable end to this Tibet adventure.

Trip Highlights

Small Group Journey – XMAS in Shangri-La

Join locals for Christmas in China

Celebrate mass with Catholics from the Lisu, Tibetan and Naxi ethnic groups and experience their Christmas traditions.

Explore Yunnan’s spectacular scenery

Appreciate the beauty of the Tibetan Plateau with its snow-capped mountains, glaciers, gorges, lakes, forests and fertile valleys.

Be immersed in Tibetan Culture

Pray with the lamas, sip tea with families and try traditional art to get a deeper understanding of Tibetan culture.



(16 Dec) : Arrival in Kunming

Kunming airport – Kunming city (approx. 30km): approx. 40 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Welcome to Kunming, capital of Yunnan province!

Upon arrival in Kunming, a guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport into the city and to the hotel.

Overnight in Kunming


(17 Dec) : Kunming to Lijiang

Kunming Town to Kunming Airport (approx 30km): approx 40 minLijiang airport to Lijiang(approx 40km): 50min*Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin the day with a short walk in Green Lake Park, providing a unique feel for the atmosphere of Chinese parks in the morning. Early birds start their day with tai chi, qigong, or a similar type of exercise, which is considered vital to health and well-being. Others engage in a friendly game of Chinese chess, Go (an ancient Chinese board game), or Mahjong.

After exploring the park, pay a visit to Yuantong Temple. Founded during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the temple is one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in Kunming and is known for its unique location in a quiet valley. Continue with a visit to the Golden Temple (which takes its name from the gold leaf which covers the main pavilion), which is perfectly located on a small hill surrounded by pine and cypress trees. Despite its Buddhist influence, the temple is dedicated to Taoism, providing a unique glimpse into another fundamental pillar of traditional Chinese belief. From here, move on to the Yunnan Provincial museum, an essential stop for anyone wishing to truly understand the characteristically multi-ethnic nature of this region.

Transport will be provided in the afternoon to the airport for the flight to Lijiang.

Welcome to Lijiang!

This UNESCO-celebrated town is a labyrinth of traditional redwood and brick houses topped with grey slate roofs, surrounded by canals, stone bridges, and cobbled streets; a true paradise at the heart of Naxi culture.

Originally coming from Tibet over 2000 years ago, the Naxi first lived as nomads in Sichuan before settling in Yunnan. There are around 300,000 Naxi People living in China, found mostly in Yunnan and Sichuan. They are most notable for their expertise in canal building which, among many other things, assures each home has running water.

Overnight in Lijiang


(18 Dec) : Lijiang

Begin the day with a walking tour through the old town. As the streets are cobbled (and often slippery), it is advised to wear a strong, sturdy pair of shoes.

For those who don’t mind an early rise, the most interesting time to explore the streets is early in the morning (when things are peaceful and quiet.) After some morning explorations, cross over the labyrinth of alleyways to arrive at “Lion Hill,” offering fantastic views over the village below. At the top, there will be a chance for a quick coffee break on the terrace; the perfect means of relaxing after the ascent.

After the climb, pay a visit to the Mu Palace, named after the Chinese Empire warlords who ruled from this magnificent residence in this region during the Mongol Dynasty (13th century). The palace is a vivid example of Ming and Qing architecture, based on the same style of architecture as the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Following the visit to the palace, head to the edge of the old town where the local market takes place; a great way to get a feel for the ‘real’ Lijiang. Here locals still dress in traditional clothing and sell teas, vegetables, fruits, and even daily tools in a vibrant, animated atmosphere.

Continue on with a walk to the Black Dragon Pond Park in the north of the town which offers, on a clear day, a panoramic view of the famous Jade Dragon Mountain.

Afternoon at leisure

Overnight in Lijiang


(19 Dec) : Lijiang - Jade Dragon Mountain

Begin the day with a trip to the Jade Dragon Mountain, which stands majestically to the north of the city. The mountain, also called Satseto in the Naxi language, takes its name from the God of War in the Dongba religion. As the number of visitors to the site is rather high, we will instead visit a lesser-known region called the Yak Prairie. The views from here over the glacier are equally as stunning as from the more popular destinations.

Overnight in Lijiang         


(20 Dec) : Lijiang / Shangri La

Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge (approx 90km): 2h30Tiger Leaping Gorge – Zhongdian (Shangri La old town) (approx 100km): 2h45*Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

For those who wish to hike to the highest point (5600m) at Ganzidou, please consult us for further advice.

Continue the journey onwards to Zhongdian (in Shangri La), the mythical paradise of Tibetan Buddhists and imaginary world described by novelist James Hilton.

Make a stop at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world with staggering variations in altitude (nearly 4000m). Separating the Jinsha River from the jagged mountains of Northern Yunnan, this area has become a playground for trekkers from all over the world, keen on defying this unforgiving terrain.

Enjoy lunch in a guesthouse overlooking the gorge

Note: For those interested in a trek through the Gorge, please consult us further.

Arrive in Zhongdian in the afternoon.

Overnight in Songtsam Shangri La 


(21 Dec) : Shangri La

Songtsam Shangrila– Songzanlin monastery: 5minSongzanlin monastery - Shangri La old town (approx 3km): 15 min*Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

After breakfast, pay a visit to the impressive Songzanlin monastery. An important location for Tibetan Buddhists still in use today, this is the largest  monastery in Yunnan province. Admire the glittering golden roofs of the monastery at sunset (weather permitting) and take note of the countless prayer flags waving in the wind. The region is filled with scenes of local life around Lamuyancuo Lake, where some 600 monks live and study in the monastery.

Head onwards to a school in the old town for a course in the art of the Thangka. Many teachers come directly from Lhasa to teach students this unique form of art, which is directly related to Buddhism and meditation. This session will provide some unique insights into these artworks which adorn the walls of temples and Tibetan monasteries.

Continue with a stroll through the old town, a small maze of cobbled streets lined with wooden houses. Wrap up the walk with a visit to the Baijisi temple, which offers a beautiful view of the city.

Free time at leisure for wandering in the old town.

Overnight in Songtsam Shangri La 


(22 Dec) : Shangri La / Deqin (Kawa Karpo)

Shangri La – Nixi village (approx 55km) : 1h40Nixi village – Benzilan (approx 45km) : 1h15Benzilan - Dhondrupling Gompa (approx 25km) : 1hDhondrupling Gompa –Songtsam Meili (approx 70km): 2h*Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Start the morning with a drive to Deqin, located at an altitude of 3500 meters.

There will be a stop made along the way at the small village of Nixi, known for its production of pottery (almost 70 of the 100 families living in the village work on this craft.) Stop off at the house of a Tibetan family to sample some “tsampa”, a mixture of yak butter, tea and flour. Take this opportunity to savor the Tibetan specialty in a traditional, small Tibetan house.

Continue then to the small city of Benzilan for lunch.

After lunch, visit the Dhondrupling Gompa set on the edge of a mountainside; one of the most important monasteries in the prefecture. While not as impressive as Songzanlin, it is certainly more authentic. Its main assembly hall and different colleges still house around 300 monks.

Check in at Songtsam lodge Meili. The lodge (3,600m) overlooks the majestic Meili Mountain Range (most rooms have a stunning view of Meili.)

For those interested, a romantic dinner can be arranged on the hotel’s open terrace where mountain peaks look so close, it’s almost surreal!

Overnight in Deqin (Songtsam Meili)


(23 Dec) : Deqin / Mingyong / Deqin

Songtsam Meili – Mingyong village (approx 56km) : 1h30Mingyong – 36KM, 1.5 hours / Feilasi –26KM, 1hour BucunBucun 80KM, 2.5 hours– Songtsam Cizhong*Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Rise at dawn to admire the sunrise over the “Meili Xueshan” from the platform of the hotel bar or terrace. The range is dominated by the mystical Kawa Karpo, towering 6,700 meters in height. This amazing spectacle will be enjoyed whilst eating breakfast, prepared in advance by the hotel.

The Mekong River, whose source comes from the northern Tibetan Plateau, has carved the gorge below Kawa Karpo. Cross the legendary river to reach the charming village of Mingyong, the starting point for hiking towards the glacier of the same name (also one of the stages of the “kora”.)

A 10km walk will continue on to the Feilasi, a unique spot where pilgrims congregate and there are some remarkable views of the glacier. Prayer flags tirelessly flap in the wind against the backdrop of truly enchanting natural scenery.

Note: Peak physical condition is required for this hike; alternatively, the route can be done on horseback (please consult us further.)

Before reaching Cizhong, there will be a chance to stop at Bucun, a small village where the tradition of making wine took roots with the arrival of the Jesuits. This site is perhaps one of the highest wine making facilities in the world!

Transfer to Songtsam Cizhong and afternoon/evening free at leisure.

Overnight in Songtsam Cizhong


(24 Dec) : Cizhong

Begin the day with a visit to the village of Cizhong, where it will be possible to meet with a family of Tibetan Catholics. Talk about the history of the religion in Cizhong, Tibetan culture, and enjoy homemade  dessert and tea made by the family.

In Cizhong, the local catholic church was built by Jesuits in 1867 on the site where previously a lamasery were erected. Spend the evening attending Christmas Mass together with Tibetans, Lisu, and Naxi people.

Overnight in Cizhong


(25 Dec) : Cizhong

Cizhong village - Lisu village (approx 96km) : 2hSongtsam Cizhong – Songtsam Tacheng (approx 180km) : 3h30*Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

In the morning, participate in the dancing celebrations of Cizhong (lasting all day until 3-4 PM)

Visit the nearby Tongle Village (one of the Lisu villages), and transfer to Tacheng.

Overnight in Songtsam Tacheng


(26 Dec) : Tacheng / Shangrila

Tacheng – Shangri La airport (125km) : 3h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Spend the morning visiting the Snub-nosed monkey in the nearby National Park. Following the park visit, a transfer will be provided back to Shangri La for the flight to Kunming and the eventual departing international flight.

Note: For those interested in extending the trip in Kunming (for a visit to the Stone Forest for example), Yunnan, or other Chinese cities, please consult us further. 

We advise that do not talk sensitive politics topic with guide and locals to avoid any unpleasant experience.

Important Information

Our services include:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner).
  • English speaking guide (no shopping basis rates) (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits

Our services do not include:

  • Other meals not mentioned
  • Visa for China
  • Other services than mentioned
  • International and domestic flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.

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Small Group Journey - XMAS in Shangri-La

  • Celebrate Christmas in China
  • Meet Tibetan lamas
  • Trek the Meili mountains
  • Admire Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Explore charming Lijiang

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