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Overview

From soaring landscapes to charming villages, Yunnan showcases its incredible tapestry of landscapes on this in-depth holiday. See the iconic sites including terraced rice paddies, Tiger Leaping Gorge and Songzanlan Temple. Then delve deeper to explore lesser known places for a true immersion into Yunnan’s rich fabric of life.   

Trip Highlights

Yunnan Province from April to October

Trek Yuanyang’s rice terraces

Appreciate the beauty of China’s iconic rice terraces, hiking through the layered fields, meeting farmers and admiring the vibrant colours.

Explore traditional family Estates

Walk the intricate labyrinth of lanes of the Zhu and Zhang Estates, remarkable villages built by prosperous 19th century trading families.

Relax in charming Shaxi

Once a buzzing trade town, explore Shaxi on foot to appreciate the slow pace of life and local culture.

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Kunming (altitude: 1900m)

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

Overnight in Kunming 

2

Kunming

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Begin the day with a short walk through Green Lake Park (Cuihu Park), providing a unique feel for the morning park atmosphere of China. Early birds start their day with tai chi or qigong, both types of physical exercise which are 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 the park, pay a visit to the 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. Continue with a visit to the pine and cypress-surrounded Golden Temple, which takes its name from the gold leaf which covers the main pavilion. Despite its Buddhist influence the temple is dedicated to Taoism, providing a unique glimpse into another fundamental pillar of traditional Chinese belief. From here, continue on to the Yunnan Provincial museum, an essential stop for anyone wishing to truly understand the characteristically multi-ethnic nature of this region. The museum has a beautiful collection of finery and traditional dress along with a relatively clear explanation of popular art forms.

Overnight in Kunming

Optional: Dinner will be in Stone House restaurant, a beautiful stone dwelling that has been converted into a restaurant serving both local and Italian specialties.

3

Kunming - Yuanyang

Kunming city – Hotel in Yuanyang (approx.325 km): approx 6h (depending on your hotel location) Hotel in Yuanyang – Laohuzui (approx 19km): approx 35 min (depending on your hotel location) *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Set off in the morning for the rice terraces at Yuanyang. Part of the journey is on a well maintained fast-moving motorway, but the final stage will be considerably slower.

En route make a stop at a Hui restaurant for lunch, before arriving at our destination in the afternoon.

The Yuanyang rice terraces are a major highlight of this Yunnan 2 weeks journey and are, without a doubt, the most beautiful in China (currently in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.) Cascading down the mountainside through bamboo canals, the water transforms the mountain face into a truly wonderful site, giving the impression that the rice terraces are steps for giants leading to the mountaintop. Each season provides its own unique attraction.

For the more adventurous in the group, there will be an option to savor the local delicacy of eel, which are utilised in the rice production process. Just before the rice is harvested, eels are added to the paddy fields saturated with water to facilitate the harvest.

Stop at the hotel and head to Laohuzui, literally “The Tiger’s Mouth”, to enjoy the sunset. Here rice terraces continue as far as the eye can see, and the panorama is breath-taking, even dizzying for some.

Overnight in Yuanyang

Note: The Laohuzui is not available now since it collapsed caused by the heavy rain in mid 2018,it is still in the process of repair. It is expected to complete the restoration by the end of 2020, the specific opening times are subject to the official notification.

4

Yuanyang

Estimated pickup time depended on the sunrise time

According to the location of the hotel/guesthouse, we will set off extremely early to admire the sunrise at Duoyishu. For some, it may be possible to view the sunrise from the room’s terrace- depending on the chosen accommodation.

It is recommended to wrap up warm as the early morning can be rather fresh!

Breakfast at the hotel.

From here we will visit a local market in a Hani Minority Village (held daily, rotating between different villages.) The Hani, otherwise known as the Akha in Southeast Asia, number around 1.5 million and are mainly to be found in Yunnan. In spite of their modest numbers (compared with the scale of the Chinese population as a whole), they are famous for their mastery in the art of rice terrace sculpting and drainage systems. Often living in rugged areas where fertile land is hard to come by, the Hani have adapted their farming methods transformed 12,000 hectares of hillside into arable land.

It is mainly the Yi and Hani who come to buy their supplies for the week ahead or who sell their produce on the market. The busy market is to be savored for its traditional hustle and bustle and its bright and vivid colors.

Continue with a 4-5 hour walk through the rice terraces, starting at Duoyishu and finishing at Bada.

The day’s efforts will be rewarded upon arrival to Bada with a stunning sunset. The viewpoint from here is much closer to the terraces, providing a close-up view of the majestic work of the Hani.

Overnight in Yuanyang.

5

Yuanyang - Jianshui

Yuanyang – Jianshui (approx. 112 km): approx. 3h *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Start Day 5 with a visit to the ancient Chinese garrison town of Jianshui.

Begin first with a visit to the town's Confucius Temple, which, despite its remoteness from the heart of “Classical China,” is still considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country. It is particularly known for its green lotus pool which poetically symbolizes the immense scale of knowledge. Whilst there, soak in the unique ambience of the surrounding Chinese parks, filled with the elderly chatting and Mah-jong games.

The region is equally as well known for its residences of two families built in the 19th century, The Zhang Family Estate and The Zhu Family Estate.

The Zhu Estate is located at the heart of the old town and is one of the most stunning examples of traditional housing in the entire country. An intricate labyrinth of more than 2 hectares of bamboo groves, pavilions, courtyards and bandstands, it is entirely concurrent with one’s mental image of Imperial China. The estate is today a hotel, but its old-worldly charm is well protected.

The Zhang Estate is located at Tuanshan, around 15km from Jianshui. This seemingly timeless village is an interweaving lattice of avenues that hide the stunning former residences of merchants, who made their money in the salt trade. These houses are interspersed with the more common ochre houses of the village, which are often left unoccupied. The Zhang Estate, with its square courtyards, sculpted doors and richly decorated friezes is the best example of such a house.

Before returning to Jianshui we will visit the Twin Dragon Bridge, taking its name from the two rivers which weave dragon-like through its 17 arches. It is one of the oldest bridges in all of China, and is a wonderful piece of stonework. After this stop we will head back to the hotel.

Overnight in Jianshui

6

Jianshui - Shilin - Kunming (altitude 1750m)

Jianshui – Shilin (approx. 235 km): approx. 3h45 Shilin – Kunming (approx. 95 km): approx. 1h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Start Day 6 with a visit to the county of Lunan, to discover one of the major attractions of the region: Shilin or The Stone Forest. Due to its proximity to Kunming, Shilin can become a bit of a tourist trap. However, only a small part of the 26,000 hectare site is crowded and it is easy to escape the hordes of package holidaymakers. We will, therefore, head to the quieter and less frequented Black Stone Forest, which is roughly 10km away from the main site but just as impressive.

While this maze of “stone trees” is fascinating, it’s also easy to get lost in; so it’s imperative to always follow the guide! Depending on the weather, there will also be a picnic lunch held here in the middle of the “forest”; this not only provides some stunning scenery, but also avoids the inflated prices of the tourist restaurants.

Overnight in Kunming 

7

Kunming - Dali

Kunming – Dali old town (approx. 360 km): approx. 5h Dali old town – Three pagodas (Chong sheng temple) (approx. 3,5km): 10 minutes *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Halfway through this Yunnan 2 weeks expedition, head off for Dali. Home to the Bai minority, Dali was once a stronghold of the kingdom of Nanzhao (738-902) and acted as the epicenter of the Dali Kingdom (937-1253). The region (more specifically, Erhai Lake) is famous for its discovery of bronze artifacts dating back to 1000 BC. The Bai are most distinguishable by their clothing, predominantly white, and by their homes, which are very particular to this region (many are found in the Dali old town.

After checking into the hotel, we will set off for the Three Pagodas at the Chongsheng temple. The temple is a mystical emblem of the town and stands proud at the foot of the Changshan Mountains. The three pagodas were part of a vast monastic center, which unfortunately was almost completely destroyed in an earthquake. The remaining temple was restored and transformed into a museum; for those interested in visiting, we can happily make arrangements. The site is particularly impressive when the sun sets behind the mountains and illuminates the ochre color of the pagodas.

After the pagoda visit, head back to the old town of Dali and explore some typical Bai homes. A relaxed and warm atmosphere seems to ooze from these white walled homes, which are often decorated with paintings representing mountains, running water, birds and flowers. Their front porches, famous throughout the country, are distinguished by their beautifully carved arches.

Overnight in Dali

8

Dali - Shaxi (altitude 2200 m)

Dali old town – Shuanglang (approx. 50 km): approx. 1h15 Shuanglang– Shaxi (approx. 85 km): 2h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Start the day with a drive along the shores of Erhai Lake, getting acquainted with the daily life of the Bai fishermen. The pace of life for most local people hasn’t changed much in decades and the local culture here is quite different than that found in Dali. Pay a visit to a local market that’s held every day in various villages around the lake.

Continue on to Shaxi

Shaxi was once a major stop on the Tea-Horse Road that ran through the region, forming a major part of its heritage and history. While less well known than the Silk Road, it still remains a key trade route between the most remote areas of Xishuangbanna (in the far south of Yunnan), Tibet and, by extension, Nepal, Laos, Burma and India.

Nowadays Shaxi is a subtle blend of an oasis, a kind of western cowboy town, a backpackers’ haunt and a typical Chinese village that is unlike anything else in China. Ancient stables have been perfectly renovated and transformed into charming hotels, whilst traditional wooden homes have been changed into restaurants and cafés.

Overnight in Shaxi

Note: Shuanglang is located on the opposite bank of Erhai Lake and is one of the villages that holds the daily market. In this itinerary, it is just used as an example for a market town; the market may be held in a village closer to Dali.

9

Shaxi

Enjoy a free morning in Shaxi exploring the old town’s maze of avenues or discovering the surrounding countryside known for its ochre earth (villages are made of the same material.)

Optional: For those interested, pay a visit to the dramatic Three Terraced Pavilion, an extremely rare building in a very remote area. Whilst there, it is worth taking the opportunity to visit the nearby Buddhist Temple.

If the itinerary falls on a Friday, there will be a chance to visit a weekly market held by the local Bai and Yi people. They often come down from remote corners of neighboring mountains to exchange all types of food products and day-to-day necessities.

After enjoying a local lunch, head to Shibaoshan, an impressive collection of temples, caves and stone sculptures, dating back to the 9th century. Take note of its religious effigies, such as the statue of Guanyin (the goddess of mercy) or the renowned black Stone Treasure, which is believed to increase the chances of fertility.

The visit will also allow a walk with some spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and villages…But watch out! The area is home to monkeys who like to liberate passers-by of all of their snacks!

After the walk we will return to Shaxi, where the evening will be free.

Overnight in Shaxi.

10

Shaxi - Lijiang

Shaxi – Lijiang Old Town (approx 94 km): 2h *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Morning transfer from Shaxi to Lijiang. Welcome to Lijiang!

Arrive in the UNESCO-celebrated town of Lijiang for some free time to explore. Lijiang is a magnificent labyrinth of traditional redwood and brick houses topped with grey slate roofs, surrounded by canals, stone bridges, and cobbled streets; a real paradise at the heart of Naxi culture. 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 assures each home has running water.

The Naxi are also known for their unique social hierarchy, which is both “matrilocal” (whereby couples move in with the wife’s family) and “matrilineal” (where succession favors females over males).

Overwhelmed by the peace and quietness of Lijiang, crossing over the labyrinth of alleyways, arrive at the “Lion Hill,” which offers fantastic views over the village below. At the top of the hill, there will be a chance for a quick coffee break on the terrace to relax after the ascent.

Afterwards, pay a visit to the Mu Palace. 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 to enjoy the local market. With locals still dressed in traditional clothing selling teas, vegetables, fruits and even daily tools, it’s a good place to get a feel for the ‘real’ Lijiang.

From here, continue on to the Black Dragon Pond Park in the north of the town offering panoramic views of the famous Jade Dragon Mountain.

Continue to the Old Market Place, at the vibrant heart of the old town.

Enjoy a leisurely evening wandering around the red lantern-lit town.

Note: As the cobbled streets can sometimes be slightly slippery, it’s recommended to wear sturdy shoes. The order in which we visit the sites may be modified depending on the hotel in which we stay.

Overnight in Lijiang

11

Lijiang - Jade Dragon Mountain - Lijiang (altitude 2500 m)

Lijiang old town - Jade Dragon Mountain (approx 20 km): 40min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Head to Lijiang and Jade Dragon Mountain, which stands majestically to the north of the city. The number of visitors to the site is rather high and so we will instead visit an area less well-known, but quieter and more rural, called the Yak Prairie. The views from here over the glacier are equally as stunning as from the more popular destinations.

The rest of the day in the afternoon will be free at leisure.

Overnight in Lijiang

12

Lijiang - Tiger Leaping Gorge - Zhongdian (altitude 3200m)

Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge (approx 90 km): 2h30 Tiger Leaping Gorge – Shangri La (approx 100km): 2h45 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

Transfer from Lijiang to Zhongdian, a stop along the old Tea Horse Road; a major trade route between the Tibetans and Chinese in ancient times. Zhongdian is also part of “Shangri-la,” the mythical paradise of Tibetan Buddhists and imaginary world described by novelist James Hilton. To this day, the Zhongdian area is still heavily influenced by the fascinating culture of Tibet.

Another major highlight of this Yunnan 2 weeks journey: the Tiger Leaping Gorge. One of the deepest gorges in the world, this natural crevice separating the Jinsha River has staggering variations in altitude (nearly 4000m). As such, it has become a playground for global trekkers keen on defying this unforgiving terrain.

We will take a short walk in the gorge, followed by lunch in a guesthouse overlooking the gorge.

Arrive in Zhongdian in the late afternoon and make a stop at the hotel.

Take a stroll through the old town, a small maze of cobbled streets lined with wooden houses. Pay a visit to the Baijisi temple, which offers a beautiful view of the city. For those who are interested, participate in the daily spectacle of local dancers who come to show off their moves in the old town’s main square. Participants usually dance in a circle to the rhythm of traditional or modern music; a unique show that shouldn’t be missed!

Optional: We will head to the cozy, artsy Tara Gallery Café & Bar for a Tibetan dinner on the terrace (weather permitting.)

Night in Zhongdian

13

Zhongdian

Shangri La – Songzanlin monastery (approx 3km) : 10 min Songzanlin monastery – Napa Lake (approx 10km): 15 min Napa Lake – Ringha Temple (approx 27km): 1h Ringha Temple – Shangri La (approx 20 km): 40 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

After the breakfast at the hotel, continue on to the  impressive monastery  of Songzanlin, an important location for Tibetan Buddhism still in use today. Admire the glittering golden roofs of the monastery at sunset (again, weather permitting) and soak in the countless prayer flags waving in the wind.

Take a stroll through the old town, a small maze of cobbled streets lined with wooden houses. Head to a school located in the old town for a truly unique course in the art of the thangka. Some teachers come directly from Lhasa to teach the talented, young Tibetans this truly mesmerising art form. This session will provide unique insights into the artform adorning monasteries and temples all over the region; an art that is closely linked with both meditation and Buddhist philosophy.

Continue onwards to Napa Lake (difficult to reach outside of the summer season) surrounded by mountains on one side and the other by a broad meadow where horses and yaks graze happily.

Optional: Enjoy a bike tour of the lake to enjoy the site in all its glory (additional charge.) Please contact us.

Continue on for the Ringha Temple. 700 years old and partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the temple was rebuilt and is considered one of the first Buddhist temples in Yunnan Province.

Transfer back to hotel.  Night in Zhongdian

14

Zhongdian - Deqin

Shangri La – Nixi village (approx 38km) : 1h Nixi village – Benzilan (approx 45km) : 1h15 Benzilan - Dhondrupling Gompa (approx 25km) : 1h Dhondrupling Gompa - Deqin (approx 95km) : 2h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

[Ceremony at Dhondrupling gompa] Spend the morning traveling to Deqin, located at an altitude of 3500 meters.

Stop 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 are working in this craft for over a century). Stop for a brief tour at a house of a Tibetan family where it will be possible to sample some “tsampa”, a mixture of yaks butter, tea and flour.

Continue to the small city Benzilan where lunch will be held.

Next, pay a visit to Dhondrupling Gompa, perched on the edge of a mountainside; one of the most important monasteries in the prefecture. While it’s not as impressive as Songzanlin, it is certainly more authentic. Its main assembly hall still houses around 300 monks.

Arrival in Deqin at night; overnight in a hotel close to Feilai temple. 

15

Deqin - Zhongdian

Feilai Temple – Mingyong village (approx 35km) : 1h Mingyong village – Shangri La (225 km) : 5h *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time depended on the sunrise time

Rise early in the morning to admire the sunrise over “Meili Xueshan” from the platform of Feilaisi temple, a mountain range which stands as an impassable border between Tibet and China. The site is dominated by the mystical Kawa Karpo, a natural castle that at more than 6700 meters in height towers over the neighboring mountains. 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, carved out the gorge below Kawa Karpo. Cross the legendary river, reaching the charming village of Mingyong. This village marks the starting point for hikes that reach towards the glacier of the same name; it is also one of the stages of the “kora”, the pilgrimage of faithful Tibetans.

Take a 10 km walk to the Lotus Temple, to view the ever-present religious spirit of the area, as well as some remarkable views of the glacier. Nearby, prayer flags tirelessly flap in the wind, providing a truly mystifying backdrop for this enchanting natural scenery.

Optional: Peak physical condition is required for this hike. For those not interested in trekking, it is also possible to do the experience by electromobile(please consult us further.)

Return to Zhongdian on the same road as the day before (without stops).  Arrival in the evening.

Night in Zhongdian

16

Zhongdian

Shangri La – Shangri La airport (approx 7km) : 15 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 09:00

After breakfast at the hotel, wrap up this Yunnan 2 weeks journey with a transfer (provided) to the airport. Flight on to the next location.

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 selected hotel
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner).
  • English speaking guide without shopping (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 of China
  • Other services than mentioned
  • International and Domestic Flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance

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