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Yunnan Adventure: 11-day
Yunnan Classic Tour with Tropical Forest

 

Highlights:

• In this classic tour you will explore the Tropical Forest and the Wild Elephant Valley in Jinghong City in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, a region that borders 4 southeast Asian countries
• You’ll visit the town of Shangri-la, which was long thought to be a myth, and there you will visit holy Tibettan monasteries and Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s longest and deepest gorges, as well as one of the best nature excursions in China
• You’ll visit Kunming, the capital of Yunnan provice, and you’ll see the famed Black Dragon Pool, which gives you a dramatic view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which you will also visit, and is the best ski resort in China

B=(Breakfast) L=(lunch) D=(dinner)  DEPARTURE: Daily

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Tour code:
AYN-05
Day 1: arrive in Kunming

You will fly to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwest China, and upon arrival at Kunming International airport you’ll be met by your English-speaking guide. From the airport you’ll be taken to your hotel, and you will be able to unpack and relax after your flight.

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 the nice climate all the year round.

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.

Following a lunch of traditional Yunnan food we’ll drive back into Kunming to visit the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is surprisingly small, but exquisite. Built in 1602 and then moved to this hill in 1637. Its present form was cast in 1671. Weighing 250 tons, it is the largest bronze work of architecture in China. Double-tiered, 25 feet wide, 21 feet high, ensconced on two platforms of marble, the Golden Temple has a dark patina and looks its age. Inside, the statue of the Zhengwu Emperor, with a Gold Boy and a Gold Girl on either side, dominates the altar. An image of a fierce tortoise and a snake guard the altar. The park, sprawling for more than 133.3 hectares on the Mingfeng Mountain seven kilometers northeast of Kunming, is a national forest reserve. With a natural scenery mingled with sites of historical interest and man-made gardens, it is also a large scenic resort in Kunming. The ' 99 International Horticultural Exposition will take place there. It covers a total area of 218 hectares, and 76.7% of the site is vegetated.

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-Shangri-la (Zhongdian) (B, L, D)

In the morning you will be taken to Kunming International Airport, and you will make the short flight into northwest Yunnan in order to reach Shangri-la (also known as Zhongdian). The mythical, yet real, Shangri-la, is the basis of much legend. The English writer, James Hilton’s legendary novel “Last Horizon” wowed readers with a paradise, characterized by snow-capped mountains, vast grasslands, lush vegetation, gorgeous gorges and idyllic lakes.

You’ll be met by your guide upon arrival. After arriving we’ll first visit 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. 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, which contain bazaars and markets. The Old Town, including 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.

Day 4: Shangri-la-Tiger Leaping Gorge-Lijiang (B, L, D)

After an early breakfast we’ll make the 100km drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge, and the drive should take us around 2 hours. 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 some time to poke around Tiger Leaping Gorge and to have lunch, we’ll drive on to the First Bend of 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.

From there we’ll drive the final 60km 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 5: 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 you’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.

Then we’ll head to Black Dragon Pool, and although idiosyncratically known as Black Dragon Pool, the Jade Spring Park to the north of Lijiang derives its name from the waters which sparkle like jade and are as clear as spring water. The entire park is green with grass and shaded by swaying willow trees. Under the Shuocui Bridge, a waterfall creates a constant roar as it cascades downstream. At the far side of the pool, there are renovated buildings used for art exhibitions, the Moon-Embracing Pavilion with its own white marble bridge across the water, and the Five-Phoenix Temple built during the Ming Dynasty.

After taking in the wonderful vistas of Black Dragon Pool we’ll head to the Dongba Museum. The museum is built completely according to the traditional life style of the Naxi Minority. You can feel the traditional atmosphere of national culture from the layout of its yard, building facilities, tools and details of life.

After dinner, you’ll be treated to an evening of music and dance at the Naxi Orchestral Show , located at the Dongba Palace.

Day 6:
 Lijiang (Free day) (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. You 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 7: Lijiang-Dali (B, L, D)

After breakfast we’ll make the 200km drive to the ancient city of Dali, which should take around 4 hours. The Dali Ancient City is widely acknowledged as "Backpackers' Paradise" in China. Foreign visitors like to stay in Dali ancient city. Some of them live there for months or even years, to observe and study the fascinating culture of Bai nationality. In the so - called " Yangren Street (foreigner's street) " in the heart of ancient city where is always full of foreign visitors, there are several dozens of cafes, western style restaurants, and clothes shops offering services to foreign guests. And it seems that every one of local Dali Bai people in the Yangren Street is a multi linguist.

Once we reach Dali we will visit the Three Pagodas, which are located in the Chongshen Temple. 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.

Day 8: Dali-Jinhong (B, L, D)


Today we will be seeing and learning a lot about the Bai ethnic minority group, which is largely populated in and around Dali. After breakfast in the hotel we’ll drive to Erhai Lake, which lies next to the amazing historic sites in the Dali valley and the natural scenery and good hiking trails on Cangshan Mountain. The whole region is full of interesting and beautiful sites. Today, we’ll be visiting Jinsuo Island, and on this little Island you will find a Temple of the local Benzhu, which means Local Host (that is the Bai people's religion, to build a temple for the person which is the first man or woman who made this village in long time ago ).

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.

In the late afternoon you’ll take a flight to Jinghong, which is the capital city of Xishuangbanna prefecture. Xishuangbanna shares its border with Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Xishuangbanna, as a National Scenic Resort, is rich in nature, historical and cultural resources, noted for the multifarious folklore, rain forests, rare plants and wildlife, etc. Xishuangbanna contains the one setting of China's tropical rainforest in China and within the area is preserved pristine Dai culture, the major minority ethnic group in the region. While biology buffs may salivate over the various of flora and fauna in the region, those who have no horticultural inclination will still be intrigued by the region's unique culture.

Upon arrival you’ll be met by your English-speaking guide, and you’ll be taken to your hotel for the night.

Day 9: Xishuangbanna (B, L)

Following breakfast you’ll be taken to Menglun in order to visit the Tropical Botanical Garden. The Tropical Botanical Garden in Menglun is the biggest tropical botanical garden in China. It is a research base belonging to Chinese Academy of Science, about 80 kilometers far from Jinghong. The garden was built in 1959 under leadership of famous botanist Cai Xitao, specializing in cultivation and introduction of all kinds of tropical plants. The garden covers an area of around 900 hectares, more than 3000 kinds of plants growing here, formed a picturesque garden and has delighted countless visitors for over 50 years.

On the way back, we’ll pay a visit to the Olive Basin (also known as the Gan Lan Ba).The Olive Basin is the lowest and hottest place in Xishuangbanna. However, its torrid climate brings rich tropical fruits and products. At the Olive Basin you will marvel at the tropical scenery and the harmoniousness of the bamboo villages of the Dai ethnic group.

We will then return to Jinghong, and you can spend the evening at your own leisure.

Day 10: Xishuangbanna (B, L)


After breakfast we’ll make the short 50km drive to Sanchahe in order to visit the Wild Elephant Valley. It actually is a nature reserve for tropical rainforest and wild lives. Here in the jungle live about 70 wild Asian elephants. Wild elephants usually come out at night, so the park managers built a small hotel on tops of trees in the forest for visitors who want to observe wild elephants closely. A 2-kilometer long cableway in the park enables you to enjoy the rainforest view from the air.

Then we will learn about the Jinuo ethnic minority group, which inhabits these parts. At the Jinuo village you can observe first-hand the unique lifestyle of this special minority group, and, with a bit of luck, one might observe a Jinuo religious ceremony where ritualistic music is played involving the use of very large - and sacred - sun-drums (the Jinuo are animists, i.e., they believe, as do many other ethnic groups around the world, including American Indians, that all things, inanimate as well as animate, possess a spirit, the sun being especially sacred to the Jinuo.

Then we will return to Jinghong and take a walk down the Manjinglan Food Street, which is a good place for you to enjoy the local food culture while appreciating the beautiful night scenery of Jinghong. From Manjinglan you will have a great view of the Skew Bridge, which crosses the Mekong River, which has been praised as the oriental Danube.

Day 11: Jinghong-Kunming-deapart Kunming (B)

After breakfast in the hotel you will be taken to the airport, and you will fly to Kunnming, and from there you will fly on to your next destination, ending your trek through Yunnan.

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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