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Yunnan Adventure: 11-day
Kunming-Dali-Jianchuan-Lijiang-Shangri-La Tour

Highlights:

• This tour takes you to all the must-see classic spots in Yunnan, as well as a visit to the town of Shaxi. Shaxi is an original trading post on the Tea Horse Trade, the ancient trading route that connected east China with Tibet and south Asia. You’ll also be taken to the natural wonders of Tiger Leaping Gorge, and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the southern-most ski resort in China
• You’ll be accompanied on your tour by a professional English-speaking guide, ensuring that your trip will be stress-free as well as informative and fun
• Yunnan is renowned for its ethnic diversity, and you’ll be shown a range of different and exciting cultures, like the Naxi people in Lijiang, the Bai ethnic group in Dali, and the large Tibetan presence in Shagri-La

B=breakfast; L=lunch; D=dinner  Departure: Upon booking

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Tour code:
AYN-18
Day 1: arrive in Kunming

You will fly to Kunming International Airport, and upon arrival you’ll be met by your English-speaking guide. Kunming is the capital of southwest China's Yunnan province, a primarily agricultural province of 45 million. Kunming has a population of five million and is located in one of the world's most geographically, ethnically, biologically and linguistically diverse regions. Situated at 1,900 meters (6,233ft) above sea level and 25° north of the Equator it has a rather unique and pleasant climate for a Chinese city. Kunming is also well known as the Spring City because of its nice climate all year round, and this will make the golfing even more enjoyable.

You will be taken to your hotel, and you will have the night to unpack and unwind from your flight.

Day 2: Kunming (B, L, D)

Today you will be seeing the sights and attractions of Kunming. Following breakfast in the hotel, you’ll get started on the day’s activities with a trip to the Stone Forest. It will take between 1-2 hours to drive there because it is 86km from the city. Being one of the National Scenic Resorts in China, the Stone Forest Scenic Resort has a complete range of karst formations. Among the most wonderful attractions in this area are the following eight scenic spots: Large & Small Stone Forests, Naigu Stone Forests, Large & Small Zhiyun Caves, Qingfeng Cave, Long Lake, Moon Lake, Fairy Lake, Feilong Falls. Standing upright in the Stone Forest are innumerable cliffs and peaks, lofty and majestic, steep and precipitous, charming and enchanting.

From afar, it really looks like a dense forest but as you walk closer, you will find "trees" are all slender stone pinnacles. The sight is vast covering some 350 kilometers. The Yi and Sani ethnic group who live there are hardworking and good at singing and dancing. Their folklore and culture are colorful and multifarious, backed up by a long history.

After lunch we’ll make the drive back to Kunming, and once we arrive we’ll stop to take a look at the Golden Horse and Phoenix Archway, which is located at the corner of Sanshi Road and Jinbi Road. Then we’ll relax a bit by taking a walk through Green Lake. Green Lake (Cuihu) is Kunming's answer to Central Park in New York. Lined with willows, the lake is gorgeous, crisscrossed by small arched bridges in imitation of Hangzhou's more famous West Lake. The best season is winter, when days are warm and sunny and the large flocks of "Laughing Gulls" with their cackling cries as they arrive from their breeding grounds in Siberia. The gulls enjoy the legendary "eternal spring" weather in Kunming.

For the night, you’ll try your hand at local shopping at the city market. The flower markets in Shangyi Street are quite famous. The florists there sell their wares by weight, so one can buy as little as a single rose. There is a flower & bird market in Jingxing Street, with numerous market stalls and shops run by ethnic minorities where one can buy all manner of ethnic handicrafts, including flowers and even live birds. Kunming is renowned for its handicrafts such as ivory carvings, wood carvings, Burmese jade and other stone items. The food specialty shops of Kunming also offer many unique food and health-food items (aka Medicinal Foodstuffs) that are not available elsewhere in China, including tropical fruits.

It is not unheard of to get something on less than 50% of the original asking price by bargaining. If you need some help your guide will be happy to help you out!

Day 3:
Kunming-Dali (by private car) (B, L, D)

Today we’ll be driving to Dali via Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture. When we arrive in the afternoon we’ll first visit the Three Pagodas, one of Dali’s signature landmarks. The Three Pagodas of Dali are famous in China for their size, beauty, and antiquity, and for their preservation. The central one is more than 1,100 years old and is one of the tallest pagodas ever built in China. These pagodas are situated between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, about 1.5 kilometers (.9 of a mile) northwest from the ancient city of Dali. The Three Pagodas are cream-colored, delicate-looking pagodas. They are situated in the shape of a triangle. The tallest and oldest of the three was built during the reign of a king of the Nanzhao Kingdom about 1,150 years ago. The other two were built about 100 years later, probably by the Kingdom of Dali. They are made of brick. They stand at the foot of one of the high peaks of nearby Cangshan Mountain named Yinglo Peak. The tallest pagoda is one of China's best preserved buildings from the time of the Tang Dynasty, and the smaller two pagodas differ in style.

Then we’ll take a stroll through time in the Dali ancient town. The ancient city of Dali is one of Yunnan's most popular tourist destinations. When visiting the area you can see temples and architecture 1000 years old, buy beautiful souvenirs and objects of art, and learn about the history of the area and of the native peoples. The local customs and architecture is distinctive. A stroll through the ancient city with its stone paved streets, traditional style houses, and numerous gardens is an interesting excursion.

You’ll also get the chance to walk down Foreigner Street, which contains Western-style restaurants and bars and English-speaking business owners. The street is popular with both foreigners and Chinese, and is known as a backpackers’ haven.

Day 4: Dali (B, L)

Following breakfast we’ll make the short drive to visit Erhai Lake. The whole lake area is full of interesting and beautiful sites. Lining its banks in the valley are fishing villages, Bai farming villages, ancient temples, historic towns and the ancient city of Dali. You can watch the people live their daily lives in a traditional way. That is an interesting backdrop for the scenery. The local people feel that this big lake with its clear water and its reflections of land and sky as well as the entire region are unusually beautiful, and is another highlight of a visit to Yunnan Province.

At the lake we will visit several villages, temples, and Jinsuo Island. Jinsuo Island (Golden Shuttle Island), and the nearby fishing community of Bai Minority do really deserve a visit with its attractive Bai culture and lifestyle, and because of the rare beauty of the lake and its surrounding scenery.

After returning from the island we’ll head to Xizhou Old Town, which will give you a chance to experience the Bai minority's life. Xizhou is a now a quiet town with a population of about 32,000 people. Though now it is surrounded by rice paddies and is mainly known for the well preserved Bai traditional houses, many times it has been important in Chinese history. During this century, it was a haven for Chinese intellectuals and a leading university was located here, fleeing the Japanese invasion. Before 1949, Xizhou was the main center for Bai commerce, and many families were extremely rich. The best examples of Qing Dynasty era Bai architecture can be found here. Xizhou has about 200 national heritage listed private houses dating from the Qing Dynasty. The houses are among the best examples of traditional Qing architecture in China and are exquisitely detailed. By visiting this small town, you gain a better understanding of the history of this ingenious people and an appreciation of a culture that has been important in Chinese history.

Next you’ll have the chance to add some color to your life with some tie-dying at Zhoucheng, the biggest town of Bai people in Dali. There in the Town live altogether more than 1,500 Bai families. In the town you can see typical houses of Bai people with close courtyards, "three rooms and a shining wall", and "four rows of houses and five dooryards".

For some of the houses, one family makes one courtyard; while others have several courtyards in one family. These houses have a plane of a square. The roof contains two layers of eaves made from green tiles, and is designed in the shape of the Chinese character . There are three to five major rooms which are facing east or south. They are built with bricks and stones with the wooden frame. The wooden frame is assembled through tenons. One courtyard, and sometimes several courtyards, connect with each other and make a whole. The walls outside are washed with lime upside and fine mud downside.

At night we’ll return to Dali and spend the night further exploring the Dali ancient town.

Day 5: Dali-Shaxi(Jianchuan) (B, L, D)

Today we will drive along the old Dali-Lijiang road in order to reach Jianchuan (also known as Shaxi), and on the way there numerous minority groups can be seen along the road in traditional dress. The high mountain historical villages of Shaxi Town at the foot of Shibaoshan are in a valley that is at an elevation of about 2000 meters or about 6,500 feet. This area lay on trade routes that led throughout Asia, so the ancient remains, frescoes, art and graffiti on the mountains show a mixture of cultural influences from other parts of the world. Shaxi once played an important role as a bustling trade station on the Tea and Horse Caravan Road, an important branch of the Silk Road. Just over one thousand years ago, this ancient trade route connected Tibet with Eastern China. In exchange for teas from Yunnan, Tibetans traded their famous breed of horse to Song Dynasty officials in eastern China, who were busy defending their territory from invaders from the north. Thus the Tea and Horse Caravan was born. Shaxi became the main trade station along this route. The several ethnic groups in the region also have a mixture of Asian influences in their cultures.

Shaxi Town is made up of about 16 villages in the valley. In China, a town is considered to be not only the main village or town but also the surrounding villages and towns. The largest of the villages is Sideng. The World Memorial Fund for Architecture and the local government is funding reconstruction of Sideng Village. The villages have populations ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. The population Shaxi Town is about 23,500, and about 85 percent of the people are ethnic Bai people. Approximately 70 percent of the residents do farm work, and most of the people are quite poor by western standards. The average income of the Bai farm people in the valley is about 140 dollars a year.

When we arrive in Shaxi, we will tour the old town, the nearby Shaxi River, the Xinjao Temple, as well as the ancient courtyards that abound in the town. For the night we will stay at the Laomadian Lodge.

Day 6:
 Shaxi-Shibaoshan Mountain-Lijiang (B, L, D)

After breakfast today we will make the quick 10km from the Shaxi old town in order to visit Shibaoshan Mountain. From Baoxiang temple we’ll hike 3 hours to look around the area. Baoxiang temple is a Chinese Buddhist Temple that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty. In the mountains there are many small old temples. On the path, you’ll be treated to some very nice views (forests, fields with crops, villages in big valley…). Once we arrive at the mountain we’ll visit the Shizhong Temple in the mountain. There are eight grottoes of Shizhong temple that are over 800 years old. The grottoes are a good reflection and reminder of the deep Buddhist heritage and culture that runs through Yunnan, and all of southeastern Asia.

In this area about 3 hundred wild monkeys live with kulapatis around the Baoxiang temple. You should prepare some food for these monkeys if you want to play with them. If you do not have food, please do not gesture to these monkeys, otherwise they will be very angry and bite you because they usually misunderstand human actions.

After the mountain, we will drive to Jianchuan Town and visit Thousands of Lions (Qianshishan) Mountain. Thousands of Lions Mountain is 1.5 km from Jianchuan. These stone-carved lions are from the Song (906-1279) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). You will find countless lions and endless steps. Stone Carving Jianchuan has a long history of stone carving. Influenced by the grotto of Shizhongshan Mountain, the crafts of stone carving is extremely skillful, especially in the area of Meiyuan and Yangcen around Jianyang Town. The most outstanding stone carving art wares here are thousands of stone lions in Manxianlin Qianshishan Mountain.

From there we’ll continue our drive in order to reach the town of Lijiang, an enclave of ethnic minority cultures, and the Naxi ethnic group is especially prevalent here. You will have the rest of the night to walk around the old town of Lijiang. The old town is made up of three old districts that retain a special character of Naxi and Han construction and Naxi customs, arts and culture. It was a former trading town and a stop for traders carrying goods on the “Chama Road” trails. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 following an earthquake and reconstruction in 1996 that returned the city to a more ancient look. The UNESCO description says: “The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity.

Day 7: Lijiang-Jade Dragon Snow Mountain-Lijiang (B)

Today we will be exploring Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which dominates the landscape of Lijiang. The Jade Dragon Snow Mountains are a small group of peaks close to the city of Lijiang. The nearest slope is only about 30 kilometers north of the Dayan Ancient City District, and the mountain can be clearly seen from the Black Dragon Pool next to the ancient district. The group of mountains is notable because they contain a small ski area, good hiking along Tiger Leaping Gorge, great scenic views, and a 15,000 foot mountain with a specially built stairway and path to make climbing to the summit easy. If you’d like to climb to the top of a high mountain, that might be one to try. There is no sliding on steep paths or climbing with your hands, the distance from the tram is short, and oxygen tanks can be rented for a little more than 4 dollars USD. But the view is excellent! The tallest peak called Shanzidou has only been climbed once by two Americans who say it is extremely dangerous. The Yangtze River runs through Tiger Leaping Gorge in the valley below. The mountains are a place to go to in Yunnan for skiing or fun in the snow in the winter and for hiking and enjoying the natural scenery the rest of the year.

By cable car and by foot we’ll visit all the scenic spots of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, including the Yak Meadow and the Ganhaizi Meadow.

In the afternoon ou’ll have the opportunity to get better acquainted with the Naxi people at the village of Baisha. Baisha Old Town is one of the oldest towns in Lijiang. It is the earliest settlement of the Naxi people and is the birthplace of "Tusi", chief of the Mu clan. In the town there are many ancient buildings built during the Ming Dynasty, including Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Temple, and Wenchang Palace. The well-known Baisha Frescoes are located in Dabaoji Palace. Because of the white sand on the ground, the town was named "Baisha", which means "white sand". In the Naxi language, it is called "bengshi". The architectural complex is made up of two parts, folk residence and cultural sites. The folk residence is called "pengshizhi" which in the local language means "Baisha Streets". The streets all go from south to north. In the center of the old town there is a square where three thoroughfares intersect. Houses and small stores stand on the both sides of these streets. A crystal clear stream winds around all the houses flowing through the small town from north to south.

The center of town features a beautiful rendering of frescoes religious frescoes. The 44 pieces of Baisha frescos were drawn in the early Ming Dynasty. Most of the paintings are about religious stories of Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. The murals embody the artistic characteristics of the Naxi, Tibetan, Han and Bai ethnic groups. Among them the paintings about Kwan-yin and Sakyamuni are the most famous ones. Now Baisha Frescos, also known as Lijing Frescos have become precious data for the study of China's history of arts and religions.

We’ll then drive back to Lijiang for the evening.

Day 8: Lijiang (B)


Today you will have a free day for yourself, and you can further explore the Lijiang Old Town and the aspects of Naxi life that it has to offer. The old town is made up of three old districts that retain a special character of Naxi and Han construction and Naxi customs, arts and culture. It was a former trading town and a stop for traders carrying goods on the “Chama Road” trails. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 following an earthquake and reconstruction in 1996 that returned the city to a more ancient look. The UNESCO description says: “The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity.

You also have the option of taking a tour of the Shuhe Old Town, a charming town to visit for everyone, because there is a traditional Naxi village where you can enjoy Naxi drinking and food at the bank of the river in the farmland. You can rent a bike in Lijiang Old Town and ride to Shuhe, which is about 5KM away from the Lijiang Old Town.

In the afternoon you might want to visit the Wangfu Pagoda, which is located on top of Lion Hill in a small park. The top of the hill affords excellent views over Lijiang. When you walk down from the hill you can come across the Mu Chieftain’s Palace, which is the residence of the former chieftain of the area.

Day 9: Lijiang-Tiger Leaping Gorge–Shangri-La (B, L)

Today you will get to see Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest and longest gorges in the world. From Lijiang we will drive about 60km to the First Bend on the Yangtze River. It is called the “First Bend” because the river makes a 90 degree turn from south to east within a distance of 1 kilometer. The place was important militarily because big armies crossed the river at that point, and it was a place where Tibetans came down to trade with the people living in the area. It is an interesting scenic area, and there is hiking and other outdoor activities in the area.

Then we’ll visit the Stone Drum Town. This town derives its name from a white marble carved monument in the shape of a drum, (diameter 15 m, thickness 0.7 m). This monument memorializes the victory and subsequent spread of power of Baizhuang, the Tusi of Mu Family of Lijiang, during the Jiajin years of the Ming Dynasty. This historically relevant stone monument was erected during one of the earliest periods in Lijiang. To the right of the monument is a lovely willow forest at its bank; while on the left flows the Chongjiang River. Spanning this river is the 17m long Tiehong Bridge, constructed of boards paved over iron chains, and with similar iron chains serving as fences on both sides. Stone Drum Town is a historically important town on the ancient trade route for tea and horses between inland provinces and Tibet. The town still features a flourishing trade fair, currently held every three days.

Then we’ll reach Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world’s deepest gorges, and is tucked in between Jade Dragon now Mountain and Haha Mountain. At a length of 17km, Tiger Leaping Gorge is the birthplace of the ancient Lijiang culture, whose people lived in the many caves, big and small, in the side of Yulong Xueshan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain). These caves were naturally formed houses. In some caves, rock paintings and artifacts shedding light on the life of these primitive peoples were found. The rock paintings have now become another attraction of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The gorge is regarded as one of the top ten hiking trails in China. At the mouth of the upper gorge, squeezed by the two snow-capped mountains and further blocked by the huge Tiger Leaping Boulder, the Golden Sand River is only 25 meters in width. The water there makes violent whirlpools and hits the banks so powerfully that soaring breakers are created. This really makes boating treacherous. However the high waves, soaring water, and the mountains shrouded with clouds and mist constitute the most magnificent scenes of the gorge and attract numerous brave explorers.

After taking time to hike and explore for a few hours, we’ll drive on Shangri-la (formally known as Zhongdian). The name Shangri-la was made famous by the English author James Hilton in his legendary novel "Lost Horizon" where he described a fictitious paradise. However, there is a real Shangri-la in China's southwest Yunnan Province. It is a beautiful land characterized by snow-capped mountains, vast grasslands, idyllic lakes and religious culture. It is a "Utopia" free from stress, pollution and turmoil that plagues most of the cities where we live.

Shangri-la, at the far north of Yunnan province bordering Sichuan and Tibet province was a crucial staging point on the ancient Tea-horse Road. The region first became a trade town during the Qing Dynasty and gradually rose as one prosperous business center on the Tibet-Yunnan trading passage. Caravans from South Asia carried horses, carpets, herbs etc through Lhasa, Tibet to Shangri-la to exchange tea and other local products to return.

Day 10: Shangri-La (B, L, D)


You will have a full day of sight seeing in Shangri-La, and our first stop will be the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. Being the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, Songzanlin Monastery, also known as Guihua Monastery, is one of the famous monasteries in the Kang region. The monastery is located near Shangri -La County, at the foot of Foping Mountain.

Construction of the monastery began in 1679 and was completed two years later. The monastery seems like a group of ancient castles and is composed of two lamaseries, Zhacang and Jikang. The gilded copper roof endows the monastery with strong Tibetan features and the 108 (an auspicious number in Buddhism) columns downstairs also feature the monastery with characteristics of Han nationality. The main halls in the monastery are magnificent, and on both the left and the right sides are wonderful frescos, depicting Buddhist tales and legends. The inside-halls are exquisite with cloisters running through. The cloisters are all decorated with beautiful sculptures and consummate frescos.

Then it is off for some relaxation at the Pudacuo Nature Reserve. This is a protected wetlands area that has a primitive forest of coniferous trees lakes, and lies 3,539 meters above sea level. Two lakes that accentuate the beauty of this park are the Shuda Lake and the Bita Lake. We will then follow this up with a visit to the Summer Pastures at Napa Lake, right outside Shangri-La.Several rivers flow into the lake, including the Naizi and Naqu Rivers. The lake is seasonal in that it is dry in the fall and winter seasons, naturally becoming part of the Yila Prairie. During this time, visitors can see many sheep and cows grazing in the lakebed.

Afterwards we’ll head to the Old Town of Shangri-la (known as the Jiantang Old Town), which contain bazaars and markets. The Jiantang Old Town contains hefty Tibetan wooden buildings (some old, and many that look rather older than they are), and several temples built onto a hill in the centre of town. Next we’ll go over to Guishan Park, a lovely preserve with a temple one top that gives you a sweeping panoramic view of the entire city.

In the evening, you’ll get to have some firsthand experience in the Tibetan culture of the area by visiting the home of a local Tibetan family. At their home you’ll be treated to a dinner of Tibetan cuisine, and if you’re a good guest (and we’re sure you will be!), you’ll get to try some yak butter tea (yummy!), and even take part in some Tibetan dancing!

Day 11: Shangri-La-Kunming-departure (B)

After breakfast, you’ll be taken to the airport, and you’ll fly back to Kunming. Once in Kunming you will fly on to your next destination, ending your tour.

Stuff to bring:
• Sturdy shoes or boots, sunglasses and sunscreen
• Bug spray and any other items needed in dealing with the tropical heat
• Tips for a job well done by your guides and drivers, money for any personal expenses not mentioned

 

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