8-Day Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Tour
If you are planning your first Yunnan tour, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La should be in your list.
From notable limestone "forest" formations to one of the world's deepest canyons, from ancient towns to snowy mountains, from colorful minority cultures to delicious food. The most magnificent scenery and cultures of Yunnan are waiting to be explored.
In this 8-day classic Yunnan tour, we will help you go beyond the popular sights to see what few people see and to get a real encounter with the local culture and people.
Lose the crowds in less-visited dark karst landscapes of the Stone Forest.
Take a cable car to the snow-capped zone of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (4,500+ m, 14,700+ ft).
Hop in a horse-drawn carriage going through quaint Xizhou Village to gorgeous Erhai Lake.
Check out the power of water below the towering mountains in nerve-tingling Tiger Leaping Gorge.
China Highlights' Special Discovery Experiences
Learn to make a Naxi pancake in a local restaurant.
Visit a shaman, a local wise man of Baisha Village, and learn some mysterious Dongba characters.
Visit a lamas' dormitory in Songzanlin Lamasery, and talk with a lama seeking enlightenment from Tibetan Buddhism.
About China Highlights
Since 1998 we've guided everyone ranging from US presidents, Australian Geographic and retired backpackers. Our goal is to create unique trips that take you off-the-beaten path, helping you discover China in a more authentic way. Our motto: "Discovery Your Way!"
Bai-curious in Dali
We had a fantastic time in Dali, our host Alice was very knowledgeable and flexible. She enhanced the good times with her positive and laid back attitude. We learned much about the Bai culture and took part in the torch festival celebration. We had an amazing bike ride round the lake and a memorable trip up the mountain in a cable car. China Highlights and Alice made every part of the tour straightforward and gave us great peace of mind when navigating the COVID rules. We can't wait to visit again in future with family and friends. more
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.
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 Yi 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.
Take a 2-hour bullet train ride to Dali in the morning. 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.
Gurong Hotel (4-star)
The One Hotels & Resorts (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.
Ivy Garden Resort 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 in a restaurant run by a local Naxi family. You will make your own Naxi pancake (Naxi baba) as the main dish for your lunch. A Naxi lady from this restaurant, who is a master of making baba, will give you a demonstration. The waitress will fry the pancake for you and then you can try it with some other Naxi dishes for lunch.
And then 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.
Visit a shaman (called Dongba in Naxi language) of the Naxi nationality in Baisha village. You will have a chance to understand more about the mysterious Naxi culture, its words and music, and the Naxi people's understanding about the relationship between nature and humans. Learn some Dongba characters and enjoy a piece of Naxi music. You will be impressed by the Naxi people's passion for their lifestyle, homeland, and love.
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.
The 5th Meteorite · Light-year 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.
After visiting the lamasery, your guide will take you to a dormitory. The lamas who live there will show their hospitality and will be happy to talk with you in their study room. If you are curious about their lifestyle, religious beliefs, and discipline, this is a great chance to get close to and interact with them. If you are lucky, you might meet a living Buddha.
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.
As your journey concludes, your tour guide, driver, and car will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport. They will assist you with your luggage and check-in, and accompany you until the security checkpoint to wave goodbye.
1. 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".
2. 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).
3. About visiting Lama's dormitory
This visit cannot be arranged in March, October, or November due to the religious activities of the lamas during these times. It could also be suspended at other times if the lamas need to attend to some activities, such as being invited by villagers to host a ceremony.
Hotels with a convenient location, regional features and good reviews are recommended in the itinerary. If you prefer other hotel options (luxury hotels, boutique hotels, or economical choices) 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.
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.