Shangri-la Weather

The prefecture named Diqing, also alternately called Deqen Prefecture, Zhongdian and Shangri-la, is an idyllic meadowland, dissected by the Three Parallel Rivers (the Yangtze (locally called the Jinsha), the Mekong (locally called the Lacang) and the Salween (locally called the Nujiang)), and surrounded by mountains, which is how the mythical land called Shangri-la – now believed to be identified as the prefecture of Diqing – is described in the 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, by the British author and adventurer, James Hilton.

Diqing lies on the southern extremity of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, at an altitude of 3380 m (3696 yd), surrounded by the Nushan, the Yunling and the Gongga – aka Minya Konka – Mountains, collectively known as the Hengduan Mountain Range. Since Diqing is located at a low latitude – it is only 4.5 degrees latitude (1 degree latitude is equal to 111 km/ 69 mi) north of the Tropic of Cancer, meaning that it belongs to the subtropical zone – it can be warm, but because the prefecture is situated on a high plateau, it can be cold.

The way this odd mix actually works out as regards Diqing is that by day it is warm, while by night it is cold – seasonally, very cold indeed. This general pattern is true for all of Yunnan Province except for mountain heights (they are frigid) and deep gorges (they are tropical). In addition to the extreme daily temperature swing, there is a slight seasonal swing in temperature in the province, just as precipitation generally follows a seasonal pattern.

For example, on the mountains surrounding Diqing, the temperature in spring is rising at higher elevations, releasing water on the terrain below, but this leads to evaporation, which, by night, can result in cold mists, so Diqing nights during springtime seem as cold if not colder than during winter, and since the daytime temperature is also rising on the plateau in springtime, it feels as if the daily temperature swing is greater than it actually is, from 5-20 degrees Celsius. Summer is the warmest season and also the rainiest – unlike many other regions of the world, where spring and autumn are the seasons with the most rainfall. The daily temperature swing in the Diqing area during the summer is 15-30 degrees Celsius. The daily temperature swing in Diqing during winter is at its greatest, from below 0 to 20 degrees Celsius, with lots of snowfall on the surrounding mountains and the occasional blanket of snow in the meadowland below.

Summer and autumn are the best periods to visit Diqing. Autumn offers the usual spectacular color changes, when the leaves of the trees are ablaze with color and when Shangri-la is at its most enchanting. Regardless of when one visits the area, it is absolutely imperative to bring along clothing suitable for a hot summer day as well as a frigid winter night, as both can come into use on a daily basis.

Questions and Answers About Shangri-la Weather

monique 2014-03-29
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we will be in the Yunnan province for 15 days and Beijing 3 days near the end of Apr,what clothes to take and for the Yangtze cruise? thank you for your help.
Dear Monique, During that period, the temperature will range from 13℃ to 25℃, you could take some shirts, jeans and jackets. You could wear the clothes which can make you comfortable on the boat for Yangtze cruise, and you don't need to take the formal ones. Lussie Lu replied on 2014-03-30
Letizia radoni 2013-07-19
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We are planning a trip in yunnan statunitense from kunmning on October 25 and deportino from shangai la on November 7 in the Morino. We are 2 la dies and prefer to stay in good hotels. Could you please send to me a proposal?

Hello, this is Nora. I've arranged a private tour for you and sent it to you via email. Please check and feel free to let me know if you would like to book the tour.

Nora Ou replied on 2013-07-19
MANEEKANT 2013-01-15
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I am planning to visit Shangrila and Dahli, Lijiang on Jan 19-24 for 6 days. How should I dress? Is it cold? what weather can I expect? Is it possible to visit places around the town at that time or will it snow and difficult to travel out?

Hi MANEEKANT, generally, January is not very cold in these cities. The minimum temperature is 2 °C (36 °F) and the maximum temperature is 16 °C (61 °F). But there may be snow in Shangrila.  A coat with a woolen sweater is suitable during the day. However, given the large temperature difference between day and night, better prepare more warm clothing. It is no problem to visit places around the town at that time.

Whitney Liao replied on 2013-01-16
An Lim 2012-10-30
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I can only get to Shangrila on 13 Nov at the earliest. Is it possible to visit places around the town at that time or will it snow and difficult to travel out?
Dear Sir or Madam, The main attractions are far from the down town, such as Pudacuo National Park and Haba Snow Mountain. During that period, the temperature will be -5 to 10℃(-23 to 50℉), it might snow, but it won't affact your tour in general. Lussie Lu replied on 2012-10-31
tom 2012-10-02
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I am planning to visit Shangrila and Dahli, Lijiang on Oct 20 for 8 days. How should I dress? Is it cold?
Hi Tom, October is a little cool and it rains less. The maximum temperature is 20 °C (68 °F) and the minimum temperature is 12 °C (54 °F). Besides wearing T-shirt and long trousers, bring a cardigan or coat for the early mornings and evenings. Ultraviolet radiation is strong, so wear sunscreen with SPF 20 and PA++ to protect your skin. Michael Hu replied on 2012-10-04
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I updated this article on April 16, 2012
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