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Yunnan Adventure: 8-day
Kunming, Dali, Jianchuan, Lijiang & Tiger Leaping Gorge-Yunnan Bike Tour

 

Highlights:

• This tour is designed as an easy moderate ride. Average daily cycling mileage will be about 30 miles (50 km). On most days we will use vehicle transport to supplement the cycling to get us to the next destination. Riders will carry only their own day gear; luggage will be transfer in the support vehicle. This eight-day bicycle tour begins and ends in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province known as the "Spring City" and the gateway to China's largest concentration of ethnic minorities
• On this tour you will also get to hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest and longest canyons, and is widely acknowledged as the best hike anywhere in China
• On this tour you will also get to visit and experience the minority cultures of Yunnan by visiting villages, islands, and local bazaars

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

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Tour code:
AYN-07
Day 1: arrive in Kunming (D) (30km/18miles of cycling)

You will fly to Kunming, and upon arrival at Kunming International Airport you will 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. After you arrive in Kunming you’ll met the other members of the bike tour and we’ll talk about the future itinerary. Afterwards we’ll get started on a little warm-up cycling tour of Kunming.

Our first stop will be the Yuantong Temple, which is located at the foot of Luofeng Hill in the northern part of the city. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Kunming, where the Yunnan Provincial and city's Buddhism Commissions are based. The temple was built during the Tang Dynasty, with a history spanning over 1,200 years. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the temple was reconstructed and repaired several times to its present size and appearance. The temple is now one of the most important Buddhist temples under State special protection.

Then we’ll peddle on to the Eastern and Western Pagodas The Pagoda of the West Temple (Xisi Ta) and the Pagoda of the East Temple (Dongsi Ta), both date from the Tang period (618-907) and both have been faithfully rebuilt in 1901 after the Muslim uprising of 1868. The Eastern and Western Pagodas were both constructed more than 11 centuries ago. A great earthquake during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) toppled the Eastern Pagoda, which was rebuilt shortly afterward. Thus, the Western Pagoda is in actuality several centuries older than its counterpart.

Today the Eastern and Western Pagodas have been enclosed by small parks – the Eastern Pagoda is surrounded by a greener park. The Western Pagoda has less greenery around it and more in the way of historical commentary (in Chinese) and interesting bas-relief depicting images from the past.

The last place we’ll visit on our little ride through the city will be the city park of Cuihu. The Cuihu Lake Park, situated at the western foot of Wuhua Hill, is a scenically beautiful park inside the city. By the end of the Yuan Dynasty, it was still a swampy field for growing vegetables, lotuses and rice, hence the name "Vegetable Lake". The water-level of Dianchi Lake was then so high that it was connected with the Cuihu Lake. That is why we have the couplet: "Dianchi Lake spreads five hundred li; the Vegetable Lake merges with it." As there were nine mouths of springs beyond the Bamboo Island in the northeast, the lake was also called "The Nine-Dragon Pond". It now covers fifteen hectares of land. Since 1985, the red-pecked seagulls from Siberia have been spending the winter months on Cuihu Lake.

The entire Cuihu Park is a green world, with willow trees swaying gently on the dikes, and the surface of the lake covered all over with lotus plants. All the year round the park is the venue of one sort of exhibition or another, and with its snug seclusion it is frequented by local residents who come here for a few hours of leisure. In winter and spring, Kunming residents flock to the Cuihu Park to feed red-beaked gulls - there are tens of thousands of them, which descend upon the lake. This lovable scene, in which man, birds, and nature mingle in such harmony, has kept occurring over the last ten years. The love of the Kunming people for wildlife has added to the charms of the City of Spring.

You’ll then be taken to your hotel for the evening.

Day 2: Kunming-Xiaguan-Dali (B, L, D) (20km/12miles of biking)

After breakfast in the hotel, you’ll be taken to the airport and you will make the short flight to Dali (the closest airport is in the city of Xiaguan, and then you’ll be driven to Dali), which is also in Yunnan province. The Old Town 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 bike ride through the ancient city with its stone paved streets, traditional style houses, and numerous gardens is an interesting excursion, and it will also be a memorable one.

Then we will ride on to Dali’s most distinctive attraction, the Three Pagodas. 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. Nearby the pagodas is the Buddhist temple of Chongsheng, which we will also visit.

Day 3:
Dali (B, L, D) (50km/30miles of biking)

Today we will be exploring the further wonders of Dali. Following breakfast we’ll ride out to the Erhai Lake area, and the whole region 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.

Within the area we will cycle halfway around the lake, visiting 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. When we finish our visit to Erhai we will return to Dali via boat.

Day 4: Dali-Jianchuan (B, L, D) (50km/30miles of biking)

Today we will cycle along the old Dali-Lijiang road in order to reach Jianchuan, and on the way there numerous minority groups can be seen along the road in traditional dress. On the way there we will also stop at the village of Shapin, a village largely inhabited by the Bai minority group. In Shapin we can peruse the local market, where we can see the local crafts and goods that the Bai people produce. The Bai people specialize in Tie-dying, so expect to see soe pretty colorful objects!

When we reach the town of Jianchuan we will get to pay a visit to the Jihuashan Precipice Bas-relief Grottoes. The grottoes are a good reflection and reminder of the deep Buddhist heritage and culture that runs through Yunnan, and all of southeastern Asia. For the night we will stay at a guesthouse in Jianchuan.

Day 5: Jianchuan-Tiger Leaping Gorge (B, L, D) (50km/30miles of biking)

Continuing north we will cycle along side the Yangtze River and view the First Bend (of the Yangtze. 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.

We’ll then arrive at Tiger Leaping Gorge. 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 (Yangtze) is only 25 meters in width. The water there makes violent whirlpools and hits the banks so powerfully that soaring breakers are created.

For our time here we will spend two nights in the gorge in simple cabin-like lodgings.

Day 6:
 Tiger Leaping Gorge (B, L, D)

The following day we will spend the day hiking in the gorge. Around mid-day we will reach the steep cliffs of Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge, along the bank of the Jinsha River. At this point we will visit the narrowest point of the gorge, where it is said that a tiger could easily jump over the Jinsha River, hence the gorge’s name. It is a tight spot with the whole of the Yangtze River confined to a 20-meter (70-foot) width.

Day 7: Tiger Leaping Gorge-Lijiang (B, L, D) (50km/30miles of biking)

After finishing our hike we will bike on to the town of Lijiang. Lijiang is a charming little city that is an enclave of ethnic minority cultures, and the Naxi ethnic group is especially prevalent here. On the way to Lijiang we will stop to visit the town of Baisha.

The Baisha Old Town is one of the oldest towns around 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.

When we arrive in Lijiang you’ll get to stroll along the Lijiang Old Town. 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 8: Lijiang-Kunming (B, L)


Before flying to Kunming, you’ll get one last chance to walk around the Lijiang Old Town. You’ll then be taken to the airport, and you’ll make the flight back to Kunming. Once in Kunming you will fly on to your next destination, ending your ride 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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