Yunnan – South of the Clouds
Type: Discovery Tour
Duration: 15 Days
Best Time to Travel: October – April
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Yunnan – South of the Clouds - Itinerary
Meet upon arrival and transfer to your hotel.
Kunming – Jianshui
Early morning drive to Jianshui. On the way stop at Tonghai where we visit Mount Xiushan with an array of traditional Temples and Pavilions in various styles of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism some of which are from the late Jin Dynasty (265-420). Continue to Jianshui. Visit the recently renovated Confucius Temple „Wen Miao“. The "Wen Miao" of Jianshui is the third largest Confucius Temple in China and construction started around 1285. There is a small lake (“the sea of knowledge”) within the compound which, during the early summer months, is full of beautiful, blooming Lotus flowers. We also visit the “Westgate” from the late Ming Dynasty.
Jianshui – Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Visit the magnificent Zhu Mansion. Drive to the traditional Zhuang-Village of Tuanshan with its unique and well preserved architecture. On the way you also visit the "Twin Dragon Bridge", an ancient stone bridge from the Qing Dynasty.
Continue through magnificent scenery towards Xinjie, the gateway to the stunning and spectacular rice terraces of Yuanyang. The Yuanyang rice terraces have been carved out of the Ailao Mountains over hundreds of years by Hani farmers living in the area. We reach Xinjie in the late afternoon.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces
We leave the Hotel early (around 6 am) to witness a magnificent sunrise over the rice terraces. After that if possible we will visit one of the bustling weekly local markets in the area where we can observe the local people from various ethnic groups (Hani, Yi, Zhuang, some Miao) doing their weekly shopping. Many of them still wear their traditional costumes. In the afternoon we make a hike (about 2.5 hours) through the magnificent rice terraces of Yuanyang to a nearby Hani village.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces – Jiangcheng
Drive through magnificent, ever changing landscape and experience some of the most spectacular rice terraces of the region. There are countless photo opportunities along the way. This area is home to the Yi and Hani ethnic minorities. The Yuanyang Rice Terraces have been carved out of the Ailao Mountains over hundreds of years by Hani farmers living in the area. We take lunch in Luchun before continuing towards Jiangcheng (280kms / 5.5 hours).
Jiangcheng – Menglun Botanical Gardens – Jinghong
We drive in a Southwestern direction, parallel to the border to Laos along the recently enlarged Route 218 towards Menglun in Xishuangbanna. The name Xishuangbanna originates from the Thai word Sip Song Pa Na, which means literally “12 rice-growing districts.” At some places the border to Laos is just a stone's throw away. This area is one of China's major tea growing areas. After 3 hours we reach Menglun.
Upon arrival at Menglun we visit the magnificent Menglun Botanical Gardens situated on the shores of the Luosuo River and spreads over 900 hectares. The park was founded in 1959 and today more than 8,000 species of plants can be found within the Garden. We continue our drive north along the Mekong to Jinghong where we arrive in the late afternoon (240kms / 5.5 hours).
inghong – Menghai – Jinghong
Today we drive to the west of Jinghong towards Menghai. You drive through one of Chinas major tea growing areas. You visit a tea factory where you learn more about the local tea production. This area is famous for its quality Pu'er Tea, Depending on the day of the week we visit one of the local markets in the area where Members of ethnic minorities like Dai, Hani or Jino from their nearby villages are gathering. Continue to Jingzhen where we pay a visit at the over 700 years old Octagonal Pagoda and have a look inside the nearby Buddhist Monastery. Drive back to Jinghong.
Jinghong - Dali
Late morning we fly to Dali. Upon arrival, transfer to Dali Old Town. Dali Old Town is situated on the eastern shores of the stunning Erhai Lake at the foot of the 4,000m Cang Shan Mountains. During the 9th century Dali served as capital of the once powerful Nanzhao and later Dali Kingdoms, before the town was overrun by the Mongols about 400 years later.
Lunch in Dali (not included). In the afternoon we take the cable car to the Zhonghe Monastery located half way up Cangshan Mountain. From there a well maintained walkway called the "Jade-Belt-Path" follows the Eastern slope of the mountain for 11km and offers spectacular views over the Dali valley and the Erhai Lake below. The walk takes about 2 hrs. Take cable car down where our driver will take us back to Dali.
Dali – Shaxi
A drive through beautiful landscape takes us to the Bai village of Shaxi (115kms / 4 hours). Shaxi was formerly an important pivotal stop on the Tea and Horse trail from Yunnan to Tibet. The village has been renovated with the assistance of the Swiss Government. We visit nearby Shibao Mountain. The impressive rock carvings of Shibaoshan are over 1300 years old and are testimony of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism from Tibet in the region. You can either walk back or take the car back to Shaxi. Overnight accommodation is at a wooden Bai House with a 150 year old history.
Shaxi – Qiaotou – Nuoyu Village
We drive through ever changing landscape to Qiaotou, located at the entrance of the Tiger Leaping Gorge and the starting point for our Trek. The trek through the Tiger Leaping Gorge is as follows:
Walking: Qiaotou – Nuoyu Village: Walking time 2 hours / 6.5kms. The path climbs steadily while it follows the hillside in a north-eastern direction into the gorge. There are already some spectacular views of the Yangtze River below. After a two hours walk we arrive at the Nuoyu Village where we stay for the night. There is some time to relax, enjoy the well-earned beer or to explore the village and its surroundings. Accommodation is at the Naxi Family Guesthouse, a very simple guesthouse which is run by a nice and friendly Family.
Nuoyu Village – Bendiwan Village
After breakfast (at own account) we head out to face the “28 bends”, the steepest and toughest part of the trek. From the top one has spectacular view of the Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia) and the “5 Fingers” of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. From there the path is mostly flat or downhill along the hill for another hour until we reach the "Tea Horse Guesthouse" where we have a good lunch. Continue walking for another 2 hours until Bendiwan Village. This last part of the trek offers exceptional views. We stay overnight at the “Halfway Guesthouse” which has a nice balcony with great views of the Tiger Leaping Gorge! The right place to put your feet up, relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery!
Bendiwan Village – Walnut Grove - Zhongdian
We leave the Bendiwan Village, from where the path is mostly downhill towards Walnut Grove. The walk offers some last views of the valley below. (walking time about 2 hrs). At Tina’s Guesthouse our driver is waiting for us. We drive in the shadow of the Haba Mountain Range through stunning scenery towards the impressive Baishuitai (White Water Terraces) where we arrive around lunch time. The natural Limestone-stepped terraces where formed over a period of 250’000 years by the water that is constantly flowing over the terraces. We take a short walk around the terraces before heading for lunch at the nearby Baidi village. In the afternoon the road winds its way up onto the Eastern Tibetan Plateau before continuing through magnificent landscape towards Zhongdian.
Zhongdian is situated amongst a stunning landscape on the eastern Tibetan plateau at about 3200 meters above sea level. It recently changed its name and is now called "Shangri-La", after the Shangri-La that the British writer James Hilton described in his Novel "The Lost Horizon". We visit Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300 year old impressive Tibetan Monastery. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Ganden Sumpseling Gompa is now again one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the area. After that visit the picturesque old town of Zhongdian. We climb Turtle Hill and spin the giant prayer wheel three times for a good karma. Time at leisure to explore the ancient town of Zhongdian on your own.
Zhongdian – Shigu – Lijiang / Shuhe
The road back to Lijiang offers spectacular views of the Yangtze valley.Along the way we visit Shigu village, to see the Yangtze’s famous "First Bend" where the Yangtze River makes an abrupt 180 degree turn and flows for several kilometres, parallel to itself towards the north again. We take a stroll through Shigu village before continuing our trip to Lijiang/Shuhe.
For those who find Lijiang too much of a tourist place, Shuhe might be just the right place to visit. Located 10 minutes’ drive north of Lijiang, this laid back, sleepy Naxi village is a good place to stay a few days. Shuhe was once an important trading post on the “Tea & Horse Road” for tea on the way from Southern Yunnan to Tibet. An idyllic river runs through the middle of the cobble stoned village, and many of the old buildings where carefully renovated and turned into tastefully decorated restaurants, bars or guesthouses. Upon arrival, check-in at your guesthouse. After that, take a walking tour around Shuhe.
Lijiang / Shuhe
By public bus (20 Min.) we head for the old town of Lijiang. Enjoy a walking tour along the captivating confusion of alleyways and canals leading through the well-preserved old town. We learn more about the mystic Dongba religion, an ancient cult still practiced today. We ascend Lion Hill to catch a birds-eye view of the old town. Visit the local market and taste some of the local snacks. The city of Lijiang was devastated by an earthquake in 1996 and after its reconstruction the old town was given UNESCO World Heritage status. Continue on foot to the wonderful "Black Dragon Pool" Park from where, weather permitting, we will enjoy a spectacular view of the 5'596 Meters high "Jade Dragon Mountain" (Yu Long Shan).
After lunch we can either head back to Shuhe together with our guide or explore the old town by ourselves and head back to Shuhe on our own.
Optional Idea for the afternoon: On rented bicycles you can ride to Baisha (5km). The Baisha village used to be the capital of the once powerful Naxi Kingdom. You visit the Liuli temple with beautiful wall paintings from the late Ming Dynasty, which, miraculously, survived the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. You continue riding to the Yufeng Monastery which is famous for the over 800 years old Camellia Tree. You cycle through the magnificent countryside of the Lijiang valley past Jade Water village to Yuhu, a romantic village where the Austrian-American Botanist Joseph Rock used to live from 1922 to 1949. His house has been transformed to a small museum about the live and work of Joseph Rock. You head back to Shuhe. (Total cycling distance is approx. 30km - mostly flat with a short incline).
End of services. You can depart Lijiang by train to Kunming or by flight.
- Room accommodation in twin share
- Private transportation by air-conditioned vehicle
- Experienced English speaking Yunnan guides
- Domestic Flight: Jinghong – Dali
- Daily breakfast and meals as mentioned in itinerary
- Entrance and sightseeing fees as mentioned in the itinerary
- Airport arrival and departure transfers
What's Not Included?
- International Flights
- Drinks during meals
- Optional tours
- China visa
- Any personal expenses such as laundry, hotel phone etc
- Tips and gratuities
Tour Cost: £ 2,949 per person based on 2 people sharing in Superior Accommodation
|Jianshui||Zhu Family Garden *** Qing Dynasty||Linan Hotel 4* Superior|
|Jiangcheng||Marvellous Land 2-3* Standard||Marvellous Land 2-3* Standard|
|Jinaghong||Dai Garden Hotel *** Standard||Intercontinental 5* Superior|
|Dali||Fairyland Hotel 2-3* Standard||Gurong Hotel 4* Superior|
|Shaxi**||Shou Wang 2-3* Standard||Fancy Holidays 3* Standard|
|Tiger Leaping Gorge**||Naxi Family 2* Best available||Naxi Family 2* Best available|
|Tiger Leaping Gorge**||Half Way House 2* Best available||Half Way House 2* Best available|
|Zhongdian||Outfitting Inn 3* Standard||Arro Khampa 4* Superior|
|Lijiang||First Bend Inn3* Standard||Lux Resort 4-5* Superior|