Shangri-La Exploration Tour
This tour takes you to visit remote minority cultures and the legendary Shangri-La. The most magnificent scenery and cultures of Yunnan are waiting to be explored, — from ancient towns to snowy mountains, from one of the world’s deepest canyons to notable limestone “forest” formations. No shopping, no detours, no factories, and more time to relax at every spot.
- Lose your way in the less-visited karst landscape of the Stone Forest
- Hop in a horse-drawn carriage to explore well-preserved Xizhou Ancient Village
- Capture a postcard-perfect photo at the Black Dragon Pool Park
- Take a cable car up to the holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
- Check out the power of the water and the towering mountains at sensational Tiger Leaping Gorge
- Seek enlightenment from a Tibetan Buddhist at the Songzanlin Lamasery
- Entrance to the attractions listed in the itinerary
- Meals mentioned in the itinerary
- Private transfers between the airport, attractions, and hotels
- Private local English-speaking tour guide and driver service (except for voluntary tips)
- Hotel accommodation with breakfast, free Wi-Fi and service fee
- Specified flights
- Horse-drawn carriage tour in Xizhou Ancient Village
- Specified round-trip cable car at the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Price Per Person in US Dollars
|Nov.1 - Mar.31||5-star||4-star|
|Apr.1 - Oct.31|
The price for children is about 60–70% of the adult price, depending on the number of people in the group and the room arrangements.
After your flight lands at the airport, your tour guide will wait for you with a welcoming smile at the arrival hall. Transfer to your hotel by a private car and driver. The rest of the day is for you to acclimatize and explore the city, or relax and recoup ready for the tour tomorrow.
Good to know:
If you arrive early in the morning and have some time to kill, you may consider enriching your day by visiting Yunnan Minority Village, which gives a very quick view of the various minorities in Yunnan and their cultures, costumes, and customs. If you are interested in the history of the American Flying Tigers during World War II, Kunming Museum is recommended.
Kunming New Era Hotel (4-star)/Green Lake Hotel (5-star).
After a 1½-hour drive, visit a fantastic natural phenomenon located 90 kilometers southeast of Kunming — the Stone Forest. The various shapes of limestone were formed due to millions of years' movement of the Earth. The Stone Forest area is the home of the Naxi people, and their folk customs have become a spectacular scene. The colorful embroidery and minority dances combined with the natural scenery will surely leave you with a lasting impression. Enjoy a local lunch in a quaint courtyard with the Stone Forest Park in the background.
In the afternoon, transfer back to Kunming and visit the Yuantong Temple, the largest and most ancient Buddhist temple in Kunming, to learn about the differences between the halls of the three denominations of Buddhism.
After the tour, your guide and driver will escort you back to your hotel for a good rest.
Good to know:
For Chinese tourists, the Stone Forest Park is a must-see attraction; therefore, the countless tourist groups there during the peak season rank among travelers’ pet peeves. Due to the gigantic size of the park, your guide will help you find quieter, more remote areas to avoid the crowds, especially in the winter months.
You will be transferred to your morning flight to arrive in Dali within one hour. Upon arrival, your Dali guide will be waiting to start a colorful day with you. First, visit the houses of the Bai minority people> in Xizhou Village. You will see typical Bai traditions and dresses. Some buildings are old and have typical ancient architectures, and are the ‘real local’ houses. Then hop in a horse-drawn carriage to enjoy a relaxing tour along the lakeshore of Erhai, which is blessed with a mild climate and stunning scenery. Have lunch at a popular local restaurant.
Located at the foot of the Cangshan Mountains is Dali Ancient Town, where clear springs flow and local minority people live. In a quiet corner of the town, you will also find a Chinese-style Catholic church that was built in 1927. Stay overnight in the ancient town and relax.
Good to know:
The Three Pagodas between the Cangshan Mountain and Er'hai Lake are considered the landmark of Dali. Towering aloft in a triangle shape, the Three Pagodas were built more than 1,000 years ago. It's recommended if you have extra time or interested in landmark photography.
Dali Landscape Hotel (4-star)/Gurong Hotel (5-star).
Your personal guide and driver will transfer you directly from Dali to Lijiang. Enjoy lunch and start the tour in Lijiang. Lijiang Ancient Town is the best-preserved minority ancient city. Most of the people living there belong to the Naxi minority, some of whom still make a living by making handicrafts of silver, leather, textiles, and some local snacks. Enjoy the quaint city scenery and see plenty of handicrafts in a distinctive style only found in this area of China. You can climb up to Lion Hill to have a bird’s-eye view of the whole town.
Then pay a visit to the Black Dragon Pool Park, where the view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is one of the most famous postcard-perfect sceneries in southwest China. Stay overnight in Lijiang Ancient Town.
Good to know:
Lijiang Ancient Town attracts more tourists than the Forbidden City in Beijing during peak season. Here are some tips to escape the hordes of tourists:
1. Stay overnight in Lijiang Ancient Town and start early: 80% of the tourists will be in 20% of the places. Get up early and find the best spots with the help of your guide.
2. Stay overnight in Shuhe Ancient Town: 20-minutes away from Lijiang by car, Shuhe ancient town is less touristic and quieter.
Lijiang Wangfu Hotel (4-star)/InterContinental Lijiang Ancient Town Resort (5-star).
Welcome to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the holy mountain of the Naxi people. Use the cable car and find yourself in a real paradise as you overlook stunning and variant natural beauty, including spruces, meadows, pines, and clouds.
On your way back to Lijiang, enjoy lunch and see the mysterious Baisha Murals at Baisha Village. Painted over 1,000 years ago, the murals display the life stories of China’s main religions, including Confucianism, Taoism, and Tibetan Buddhism. Drop by a local herb clinic of Dr. Ho to see how the old doctor and his apprentices diagnose and treat patients using traditional Chinese medicine. Stay overnight in Lijiang.
Your guide and driver will escort you from Lijiang to Shangri-La. Along the way, visit one of the world’s deepest and most marvelous gorges — Tiger Leaping Gorge. The dashing water from the magnificent Jinsha River flows into the narrow valley with a stone in the center. There is an ancient saying that the gorge is so narrow that a tiger was able to leap over to the other side of the river, hence the name.
After lunch, continue the 2-hour drive to Shangri-La. Have a good rest in hotel to adapt the high altitude of 3200 meters.
Good to know:
Tiger Leaping Gorge’s rainy season comes in June and August. This is when the view is the most magnificent, but the stone steps could be slippery. May and early June are the best times to go there, when the hills are adorned with plants and flowers.
Shangri-la Old Town Hotel (4-star)/Songtsam Shangri-La Hotel (5-star).
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty and holy religious atmosphere of the unspoiled Shangri-La. Visit the largest Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery in Yunnan Province — Songzanlin Lamasery — which was built in the style of Potala Palace in Lhasa and represents the Tibetan culture, housing Buddhist statues and many precious cultural treasures. Visit a Tibetan family to enjoy an authentic local meal for lunch.
Pudacuo National Park retains a well-preserved ecosystem within the virgin forests. The must-see scenery in this park includes Lake Bita and Lake Shudu. ‘Bita’ means ‘a place with a dense oak forest’ in the Tibetan language and ‘Bitahai’ means ‘a quiet lake’. The Bitahai Lake is surrounded by mountains covered with ancient pines, oaks, and rhododendrons, and appears like an emerald in the heart of the mountains. Shudu Lake is surrounded by a forest of fir, spruce, and silver birch, and is home to lots of wild animals, such as squirrels, golden cats, and pheasants. Stay overnight in Shangri-La.
Good to know:
When entering the Songzanlin Lamasery, please avoid pointing at any idols in it.
As your journey concludes, your tour guide, driver, and car will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Kunming. They will assist you with your luggage and check-in, and accompany you until the security checkpoint to wave goodbye.
Good to know:
Apart from Kunming, you can fly from Shangri-La to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Lhasa. If you prefer to end your tour in other cities, please inform your trip advisor and we will check the best price for you.
1. Tour Map (click to enlarge)
2. Tailoring Your Tour
This tour is very flexible. You can alter the itinerary, and extend or shorten it to suit your price, interest, and schedule. Feel free to tell us your requirements, and we will be happy to help you arrange a tour using our professional knowledge and experience. We promise a "No Shopping Policy".
3. Getting There and Traveling Away
Kunming is a convenient transportation hub. There are domestic flights to most of China's major cities, such as Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Chengdu and Shanghai. International routes include flights between Kunming and Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Rangoon and Singapore.
Shangri-La is a good choice to connect Lhasa in Tibet. There is a daily flight from Shangri-La to Lhasa: MU5939 (10:45-12:45) (schedule for reference).
Standard hotels with a convenient location and good reviews are recommended in the itinerary. If you prefer other hotel options (boutique hotels, economical choices, or Chinese-style hotels) or would like to book the hotels on your own, please feel free to inform us and we will be happy to adjust the details. Here are some alternatives for your reference:
|City||Luxury & Special||Boutique||Economical|
|Kunming||Silver Chest Hotel||Kunming Quanji Hotel|
|Dali||The One Resort||Linden Centre in Xizhou||Fairyland Hotel|
|Lijiang||Indigo® Lijiang Ancient Town||Banyan Tree Lijiang||Manxin Hotels & Resorts|
|Shangri-la||Banyan Tree Ringha||Zincjourney Arro Khampa||Gucheng International Hotel|
Note: The boutique hostels in Yunnan offer good value for money: a decent environment, local-style decoration, and a convenient location, but most of them only have 10–20 rooms and there may not be any English-speaking staff. Early booking is highly recommended.
5. Optional Extension:
If you are interested in seeing the karst caves, Jiuxiang Cave is recommended after your visit to the Stone Forest and it takes about one hour to get there. There are more than 100 karst caves in the Jiuxiang scenic area and it’s the largest cave group system in China. Climbing up the 336 steps to reach the Bat Cave could be a challenge for seniors. Please inform your trip advisor about your preferences.
Show and Entertainment
The following shows are recommended to enrich your tour. It is recommended to book with your guide a day before, or on the day, to allow flexibility.
Dynamic Yunnan in Kunming is a large-scale song and dance performance featuring the remarkable and diverse local ethnic culture. It is another masterpiece from the famous Chinese dancer Yangliping who directs and heads the cast.
Lijiang Impressions Show was directed by the world famous director Zhang Yimou, and performed by more than 500 locals of the 10 ethnic groups. Take the enchanting scenery of Jade Dragon Mountain as a natural background, the show aims to provide an insight into the lives of the region's ethnic groups through song and dance.
Dali Er'hai Lake Cycling
If you are athletic enough, cycling is also an exciting way to explore Erhai Lake. You can spend either one day going round the lake with a mountain bike or just two hours to cover the most scenic part of the west shore.
The Erhai circuit: 120 kilometers (75 miles), one to two days.
West shore: 50 kilometers (31 miles), 3½ hours one way. This is recommended as you can visit several local villages and markets as well as enjoy the scenic view.
East Shore: 70 kilometers (44 miles), 4½ hours one way. This trail focuses on the beautiful natural scenery.
Shaxi Ancient Town
Shaxi Ancient Town is listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world's 100 most endangered sites but is a place where you can breathe in fresh air around-the-clock. This time warp of an ancient town was once a crucial node on the Tea Horse Road and has not yet been invaded by hordes of tourists. Xinjiao Temple on Sideng Street is the only Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) Bai Buddhist temple. You can visit it during the transfer from Dali to Lijiang.
6. Booking Procedure:
Step 1: Submit your name, email address and traveling dates for the tour. The price may vary according to the location of your hotel.
Step 2: Choose to make payment via PayPal and your request will be listed as our top priority. We guarantee a 100% refund if you are not satisfied.
Step 3: Receive a reply within 24 hours. The tour will be tailor-made to meet your requirements and the booking confirmed.
Step 4: Enjoy the tour!
7. Payment Methods:
We now offer three payment methods: PayPal, credit card authorization via fax, and wire transfer. PayPal is recommended for its safety and efficiency. You can pay with USA dollars, Australian dollars, European dollars, and British pounds directly with your credit card or debit card if you do not have a PayPal account.
8. Cancellation Policy:
In the event of cancellation, we will refund any payment made to China Highlights (unless any cancellation fee is applicable) within 14 days of our receipt of your written cancellation request. Visit here for more details.
9. Travel Insurance:
Travel insurance is not included. We carefully selected some insurance providers from your region that give you the best value for money. Click here to go to the travel insurance page.