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The Top 6 Things to Do in Shangri-La

The Top 6 Things to Do in Shangri-La

Written by Coco YangUpdated Sep. 4, 2023

Situated in the hinterland of The Three Parallel Rivers, Shangri-La's prefecture is rich in amazing plateau scenery and otherworldly Tibetan culture. A trip to Shangri-La has been a must-do once-in-a-lifetime experience for many travelers for a while now. But what are the must-do things to do on a Shangri-La tour?

In this article, we have handpicked 6 top things to do around Shangri-La to give you an authentic and colorful Shangri-La travel experience.

Songzanlin MonasterySongzanlin Monastery

1. Experience Mysterious Tibetan Buddhism at Songzanlin Monastery

Praised as "the Little Potala", Songzanlin Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Yunnan Province. The whole monastery looks like an ancient castle on a mountain. Fully showing the uniqueness of Tibetan architecture, it is also known as "Tibetan Art Museum".

There are many Buddhist treasures in the monastery, such as a bronze statue of the fifth Dalai Lama, the remains of famous monks, the spiritual pagoda, Beiye scriptures, thangka (sacred tapestries), Buddhist divination tools, etc.

Songzanlin Monastery is the most important highlight in Shangri-La and should not be missed on any Shangri-La trip. It is about 7 km (4 miles) or a 20-minute drive from Shangri-La Ancient Town.

If you travel in January, you may have a chance to enjoy the Gedong festival (God Hopping Festival), including many religious activities. Contact us for more about the festival.

2. Seek the "Shambhala" of Buddhist Scriptures — Dukezong Ancient Town

Shangri-La Old Town, Dukezong Ancient TownShangri-La Old Town

Dukezong Ancient Town, also known as "the city of moonlight", or "a castle built on stone", is built according to the Shambhala utopia description in Buddhist scriptures. Shambhala is portrayed as a mysterious kingdom, hidden in the snowy mountains, where the people are rich and happy.

Dukezong Old Town was once an important town on the Ancient Tea Horse Road, and it was also the first stop for the horse caravans after entering Tibetan areas. The world's largest turnstile is the landmark of Dukezong, which is located in the Guishan Park.

Walking into Dukezong town, you can also see the traditional craftsmen's Tibetan color paintings, Tibetan wood carving, Naxi black pottery, Dongba papermaking, Mani stone carving, pine forest Tibetan incense, etc. The town was rebuilt after a fire in 2014, but the main highlights have been kept.

Recommended Shangri-La tours:

3. Appreciate Tibetan Plateau Scenery in Napahai Nature Reserve

Napahai Nature ReserveNapahai Nature Reserve

Napahai Nature Reserve consists of Napa Lake and Yila Grassland, which is the largest grassland in the Shangri-La region (Diqing). Because of the humid climate in the nature reserve, the growth of grass is faster than in other places in Diqing, so you can see the green grass in Napahai Nature Reserve from May to October. The snow-capped mountains, green grassland, cattle, and sheep make the whole reserve a peaceful pastoral picture.

You can see different views in different seasons in Napahai Nature Reserve. Napahai Nature Reserve is an ideal habitat for the black-necked crane, a rare bird under national first-class protection. From September to March, black-necked cranes live there for about half the year. In addition, you can also see grey geese, bar-headed geese, and a large number of waterfowl in the reserve. You will see a vast carpet of red ground jasmine (chamaejasme) when traveling in autumn from September to November.

Walking is always the recommended way to appreciate the beautiful natural views. Or you can also ride a horse to get around if you wish. Contact us for more about horse riding at Napahai.

4. Behold the Holy Meili Snow Mountains

Together with Mount Kailash in Tibet and Amne Machin and Juewo Mountain in Qinghai Province, the Meili Snow Mountains complete the four sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism. Their main peak, Kawagarbo, rising to 6,740 meters (22,110 feet), is the highest peak in Yunnan Province.

Meili Snow MountainMeili Snow Mountain

The Meili Snow Mountains are in Deqin County, about 4 hours' driving from Shangri-La. A private transfer with a driver and guide is highly advised for its comfort and flexibility. Your professional guide can show you the Jinsha (Yangtze) River Big Bend, Dongzhulin Monastery, and Baima Snow Mountain on the way. Contact us to make your trip well-planed and worry free.

The most recommended time to visit the Meili Snow Mountains is from October to May when it is mostly dry and clear. Feilai Temple Viewing Platform and Wunongding Viewing Deck are the best places to see the mountains. You will be privileged if you can see the spectacular sunrise on the snow-capped mountains — the holy grail moment of many a Shangri-La trip.

Recommended: 6-Day Shangri-La and Meili Snow Mountain Tour

5. Pilgrimage Trekking to Heavenly Yubeng Village

Yubeng VillageYubeng Village

Located at in the foothills of the Meili Snow Mountains, Yubeng Village is known as one of the most beautiful villages in China. As the popular saying "Go to heaven or to Yubeng" indicates, Yubeng Village is a paradise for hikers.

The hiking route is from Feilai Temple, passing through Yubeng, and ending at Ninong Village, which takes about 3–4 days. Sacred Waterfall, Holy Lake, and Ice Lake are the must-see attractions along the way. This hike is also a classic route for Tibetan pilgrims.

The recommended hiking seasons are May to June and September to early November. See detailed Yubeng hiking routes here.

6. Enjoy a Delicious Yak Hot Pot

Yak Hot PotYak Hot Pot

Yak hot pot has very distinctive Tibetan characteristics and it is one of the traditional Shangri-La foods. Incorporating plateau yak meat as the main material with kelp, garlic, onion, radish, potato, and other vegetables, the hot pot is very delicious and nutritious. There are different broth choices, such as plain broth, sauce-flavored broth, or spicy broth. You can also create a small tailor-made dipping source.

There are many good yak hot pot restaurants in Dukezong Ancient Town. See more on Shangri-La Food.

Recommended Shangri-La Tours

We have some currently-enjoyed Shangri-La tours bringing you colorful Shangri-La experiences:

Your tour could always be tailor-made. Please tell us your interests and we will customize a Shangri-La trip for you.

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