The Meili Snow Mountains — Sacred Mountain Range in Yunnan
The Meili Snow Mountains, also known as the Prince Snow Mountains, are deep in the Tibetan Plateau foothills, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of Deqin County Town, which is about 4 hours’ driving from Shangri-La, Yunnan Province. The area is a land of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists. In the 1930s, they were praised by American scholars as “the most beautiful mountains in the world”.
There are 13 peaks with an average altitude of over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) in the Meili Snow Mountains range, lined up north to south, referred to as the 13 Prince Peaks.
The main peak, Kawagebo, which is 6,740 meters (22,110 feet) above sea level, is the highest peak in Yunnan Province. So far, it is still a virgin peak: no one has climbed to the summit.
This article gives details about top things to do at Meili Snow Mountains, best time to visit, how to get there, popular nearby attractions and where to stay.
3 Top Things to Do at the Meili Snow Mountains
The main things to do are admiring the spectacular views of the Meili peaks, journeying into the mountains to see glaciers and other alpine scenery, and hiking to visit the Tibetan villages. (If you’re a Tibetan Buddhist, of course, the main things to do revolve around pilgrimage activities and visiting the worship sites.)
1. Admire the Snow-Capped Mountain Sunrise
At the Meili Snow Mountains, the golden sunrise on its dramatic snow-capped peaks is a must-see for most tourists. First golden sunlight shines over Kawagebo, the highest peak, and then spreads quickly over all 13 major peaks.
Against the backdrop of the dark-blue sky, the sunrise is considered very holy and is astonishing. The spectacular scene lasts for only a few minutes. You will be truly privileged if you can grasp a chance to see it.
The most recommended time of year to see the Meili Snow Mountain is from October to March when it is drier and there is less cloud/mist to obscure the view.
The recommended places to see the Meili Mountains from are Feilai Temple Viewing Platform and Wunongding platform. If you want to see the sunsise, an early start is suggested. The sunrise time is around 6:30am to 8am depending on the season. Contact one of our travel advisors for the exact sunrise time during your trip.
Feilai Temple Viewing Platform：
- Altitude: around 3,470 meters (11,380 feet)
- It is the best position to shoot a panoramic view of the thirteen peaks and to enjoy the wonderful scenery of the sunrises and sunsets of the Meili Snow Mountains.
- Feilai Temple is a small but interesting Tibetan temple, located about 5 km (3 mi) southwest of Deqin County Town. It is always the first stop for tourists visiting the snow mountains.
Wunongding Viewing Deck:
- Altitude: again around 3,500 meters (11,500 feet)
- Wunongding Viewing Deck (‘Misty Farm Summit’ 雾农顶观景台) is on National Highway G214 between Shangri-La and Deqin County Town, 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of the town. Standing there are 13 white towers and an open valley against the backdrop of the snowy mountains. Compared with Feilai Temple Viewing Platform, Wunongding Deck has a narrower angle view of the mountains.
Recommended Meili Snow Mountain trip:
2. Visit the Glaciers
Under Kawagebo Peak, continuous glaciers stretch like jade dragons. With dazzling snow, they are very rare modern glaciers at low altitude (2,700 meters or 8,900 feet). Among them, Mingyong Glacier is the longest and largest one, with a length of 11.7 kilometers (7.3 miles) and an average width of 500 meters (0.3 miles). It is also the lowest glacier in China, at around 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) at its lowest.
Mingyong Glacier is about 26 km (1 hour’s driving) from Feilai temple, and you can hike to appreciate the glacier views. The hiking route is from the scenic area entrance to the observation deck is about 10 km (6 miles), taking about 3 hours.
3. Trek around the Meili Mountains
Meili Snow Mountain is one of the holy mountains for Tibetan people, so lots of Tibetans come for pilgrimage every year. The most popular pilgrimage route is from Feilai Temple to Yubeng Village. Now this pilgrimage route has become a popular trekking route for hiking lovers.
Along the way, you will see alpine forest, stunning waterfalls, glacial lakes, and tranquil Tibetan villages. It is a good way to enjoy the beautiful scenery and experience the Tibetan culture. Ice Lake and Holy Waterfall are the most famous sights along the way.
Yubeng Village is a beautiful and wonderful Tibetan village hidden at the foot of the holy Meili Snow Mountains. It is divided into Shang Yubeng village (‘Upper Yubeng’, 3,150 meters or 10,330 feet above sea level) and Xia Yubeng village (‘Lower Yubeng’, 3,050 meters above sea level), with a distance of about one kilometer (half a mile) between them.
A Suggested Yubeng Trekking Itinerary:
- Day 1: Feilai Temple to Xidang Village by bus or car (1½ hours); then trek to Upper Yubeng village (about 4½–5 hours).
- Day 2: Trek from Upper Yubeng to Xiaonong Base Camp to see Ice Lake and back. It takes about 6½–7 hours’ hiking.
- Day 3: Trek from Upper Yubeng to Holy Waterfall and then to Lower Yubeng village. It takes about 5 hours.
- Day 4: Trek from Lower Yubeng to Ninong village. It takes about 4–5 hours. Then we will drive you from Ninong Village back to Feilai Temple or to Shangri-la County.
Yubeng Hiking Tips:
- 1. Best Seasons for hiking: May to June, and from September to early November, avoiding the July/August wet season peak and the frozen winter.
- 2. It takes 2–4 days for the hike. If you choose not to see Ice lake and/or Holy Waterfall, then you can cut it short by a day or two.
- 3. You will reach altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 meters (9,000–15,000 feet). You may have altitude sickness in some places, so bring some medicine with you, acclimatize first to prevent altitude sickness, and be prepared to adjust your plans if you feel unwell.
- 4. Horse hire is available on some sections of the route and you can choose horse-riding to save some energy.
- 5. Only simple hostel accommodation is available around the Yubeng villages.
Recommended Shangri-La tours:
- 4-Day Shangri-La Exploration Tour
- 6-Day Shangri-La, Deqin, and Tacheng Adventure Tour
- 8-Day Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Highlights Tour
When to Visit the Meili Mountains
The recommended months to view the Meili Mountains are from October to March, when the weather is usually dry with clear skies. The best season to see the sunrise on the snow-capped mountains is late autumn: October to November.
December to March is also favorable if you don't mind the cold weather (averaging below freezing). However, roads might be closed if it snows heavily.
In other seasons, there is less/little chance to view the sunrise over the snow mountains, due to cloud. The height of the rainy season is July/August, so try to avoid these rainiest months especially, when the mountains will be shrouded in mist and mudslides occur.
While not so good for mountain views, the warmer months may be more pleasant for you if you plan to hike to see the glaciers and villages.
Recommended Shangri-La tours:
How to Get to the Meili Snow Mountains
The Meili Snow Mountains scenic area extends for about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north–south, centered west of Deqin County Town, which is 182 kilometers from Shangri-La Town on the G214 national highway. You can get to the Meili Snow Mountains by bus from Shangri-La, but the most recommended way is a private transfer.
Private Transfers Arranged by China Highlights
It is flexible to have a private transfer. You can stop wherever you want to take pictures and visit attractions along the way (see below). Your private guide will be with you to explain any attraction or place you pass.
All vehicles we use are air-conditioned and have comfortable seats. We always provide a vehicle that is larger than required for the number of people in your group so that you have ample room to relax and to stow your luggage. Our drivers are selected for their driving ability and knowledge. Your comfort is our priority!
Recommended tour plan:
By Public Bus
Take a bus from Shangri-La to Deqin, about 6 hours. There are only four buses daily. Then, for the famous view, charter a car from Deqen to Feilai Temple, about half an hour. The cost is about 200 yuan.
4 Nearby Attractions — on the Way to the Meili Mountains
On the way to the Meili Snow Mountains from Shangri-La, you can visit (in order along the G214 highway to Deqin) Benzilan Town, Moon Bay, Dongzhulin Temple, and Baima Snow Mountain.
1. Benzilan Town (奔子栏)
Benzilan means ‘beautiful sand dam’ in Tibetan and it was an important stop on the famous Tea-Horse Road. Benzilan Town is on the Jinsha (Yangtze) River, about 1 hour’s driving north from Shangri-La Town.
There you can walk in the nearby virgin forest or make a Tibetan wooden bowl. Wooden bowls are used by local Tibetans to hold highland barley flour and other Tibetan living utensils, and you can take your own bowl as a souvenir after making it. Contact us to visit Benzilan on your way to Deqin.
2. Jinsha River Big Bend Viewing Platform (金沙江大拐湾观景台)
The Jinsha (Yangtze) River Big Bend is also called Moon Bay (Yueliangwan 月亮湾), and it is about 15 km (10 miles) or 20 minutes driving north from Benzilan Town. The Yangtze river turns a Ω-shaped bend in a canyon, making an incredible view.
A beautiful and spacious observation platform has been built on the mountainside overlooking Moon Bay. Standing there, you can have a panoramic view of “the first loop of the Yangtze” (not to be confused with the First Bend of the Yangtze just west of Lijiang).
3. Dongzhulin Monastery (东竹林寺)
Dongzhulin Monastery is at an altitude of about 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), and it is about 100 km (60 miles) or 2 hours from Shangri-la (Zhongdian), and about 80 km (50 miles) or 2 hours from Deqin — basically mid-journey.
Built in 1667 in the early Qing Dynasty, Dongzhulin Monastery is the earliest birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism in western Yunnan. There are more than 300 monks in the monastery now. The monastery features a rich collection of thangka (linen banner) embroidery, scriptures, Buddha statues, and Tara statues.
Every year from the 27th to 29th of the 8th month of the Tibetan calendar (in September/October), the monastery will hold a Monks’ Day Festival. On the first day of the festival, a pair of colorful silk-and-satin thangka embroidered with Yama King images will be displayed. In addition, there are grand Tibetan opera performances and ‘god dancing’ ceremonies at that time. It is a happy festival for monks and folk people in that district to pray for blessings and good fortune.
4. Baima Snow Mountain(白马雪山)
Baima (‘White Horse’) Snow Mountain looks like a galloping white horse, hence its name. This snow-capped mountain is about a 2½ hours’ drive from Shangri-La and about 1½ hours from Deqin — next stop on the journey after the monastery.
The best time to visit the mountain is from May to October when the brooks gurgle and the wildlife is at its most active. Baima Snow Mountain is an ideal habitat for Yunnan snub nosed monkeys, as it is quiet, inaccessible, and has many other species.
There is an observation deck at 4,290 meters (14,000 feet) for you to get a panoramic view of the whole mountain. Or you can do a 1–2 day hiking trip in a U-shaped valley of Baima Mountain, featuring pastures, snowy mountains, forests, and wooden houses built by herdsmen — a fairytale world. Contact us for more.
Where to Stay — Recommended Meili Snow Mountain Hotels
The best view of the snow mountains is the golden sunrise. So, we recommend you to spend at least one night there.
There are many guesthouses and hostels along the street near Feilai Temple (Feilaisi). Most of the hostels have viewing decks, which provide tourists with a convenient way to enjoy the scenery of the sun shining over the snow mountains.
High Mountain Resort – Deqin (高山别庄德钦精品酒店) **** is now the best hotel in Feilaisi Town. The hotel is just 200 meters from Feilai Temple Viewing Platform, and you can see the snow mountain even while laying on your hotel bed!
Deqin Teng Yue Hotel (德钦腾悦·梅里雪山度假酒店) ****, Feilaisi Mingzhu Hotel (飞来寺明珠酒店) ****, and Deqin Once Upon a Time in Meili Hotel (德钦飞来寺梅里往事) are also frequently recommended hotels there.
Touring Shangri-La with China Highlights
The Meili Snow Mountains are a good place to enjoy breathtaking scenery and feel the Tibetan culture. Please feel free to contact us if you need any assistance in trip planning and arrangements.
Top Shangri-La tour ideas:
- 4-Day Shangri-La Exploration Tour
- 6-Day Shangri-La, Deqin and Tacheng Adventure Tour
- 8-Day Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Highlights Tour
See more Yunnan tours, which cover the highlights of Yunnan and also include exclusive programs to give you a unique experience.