Yunnan: Paradise Found

This 11D10N itinerary covers the best and brightest of the southwest province. Culminating in the fabled city of Shangri-La, this journey takes you from the modern capital of Kunming through olden towns where the spirit and sights of old China are cherished and celebrated. Gazing in wonder at spiritual temples, mastering the art of falconry and hiking the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge are just some of the thrilling experiences along the way.

This journey outline is by no means fixed. As the traveller takes centre stage in our planning – from the type of lodging to daily activities – your journey will be crafted to suit you.

Day by Day Highlights

Day 1
Singapore – Kunming (1,892m)

Touchdown in Kunming and make your way to the Greater and Lesser Stone Forest, where our guide will take you on a tour away from the crowds and deep into the maze of these magnificent limestone formations, believed to be over 270 million years old. Stop at a tranquil spot for a picnic before making your way back to central Kunming just in time for dinner. Wrap up your first day with the “Dynamic Yunnan” show, an unforgettable performance that showcases the cultures and life of ethnic minorities in Yunnan province.

Day 2
Kunming (1,892m) – Dali Old Town (1,975m) – Cangshan (4,122m) – Xizhou (2,007m)

After breakfast, catch the high speed train to Dali. Meet your guide upon arrival and drive to Dali Old Town, well known for its Bai culture and picturesque location between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake.

After soaking in the ancient city, drive to Cangshan Mountain. Take a chairlift up to the midpoint and hike for about an hour to get rewarded with breathtaking valley views, or continue on to the top through the clouds for dreamy vistas of Erhai Lake and the city below.

Once you’re down the mountain, drive to Xizhou and spend the night in a boutique hotel — one of 200 national heritage-listed private houses that has been refurbished to preserve rich Bai architecture while incorporating modern elements.

Day 3
Xizhou (2,007m) – Shaxi (2,200m)

Visit the morning market to experience a daily activity of the Bai people, along with the chance to try baba (savoury pancakes) from street vendors. A short stroll will then bring you to the town’s best cheese-maker, a Muslim lady that milks cows in the back of her nearly 100-year-old home to make a limited amount of the distinctive ru shan everyday.

Hang out in town before driving to Shaxi Old Town. Stop by the 700-year-old market square theatre, the Xingjiao Temple — the only Buddhist temple of the Bai people — and admire ancient trees and the laidback attitude of the locals along your way. A rest at the Yujin stone arch bridge concludes the end of the day’s activities.

Day 4
Shaxi (2,200m) – Shibaoshan (3,038m) – Shaxi (2,200m)

Spend the morning wandering the cobbled streets in the historic market town before driving to Shibaoshan Mountain, a national heritage site where your first hike of the trip awaits. The 2-hour journey will take you past the Qian Gui Shan viewpoint to the Stone Bell Temple, passing by Buddhist shrines, cave temples, grottoes and vantage points for panoramic views of the valley. Look out for dan xia, spectacular red-purple sandstone formations that bear a tortoise-shell surface pattern, as well as Huangshan Mountains in the distance.

Once you make your way back down, you’ll drive to Shaxi Old Town, where you’ll stay one more night.

Day 5
Shaxi (2,200m) – Bodolo Village (2,900m) – Lijiang (2,400m)

Make your way to Bodolo Village in the morning, where you’ll begin your second hike of the trip to a mystical village that few know about. Led by the village chief, hike through a pristine alpine moss-covered forest, winding through a forest of poplar and quercus trees, acorn-littered paths and moss-carpeted earth. Stop for a hearty home-cooked lunch before continuing on your hike. After, a drive will bring you back to Lijiang Old Town for dinner and some leisure time. Spend the night in Lijiang.

Day 6
Lijiang (2,400m)

Embark on a journey to the outback and practice the art of hunting in the wild with majestic falcons — a thrilling and ancient practice that few will ever have the opportunity to experience. Weave your way through lush foliage, German hunting dogs in tow, and witness local farmers hard at work, while following the falcon closely as it searches for prey. If you’re lucky, you may witness the falcon soaring to monumental heights before swooping down to catch a wild pheasant or rabbit.

Replenish your energy afterwards by tucking into a nourishing lunch prepared directly at the campsite. After a thrilling day in the wild, drive back to Lijiang Old Town for dinner.

Day 7
Lijiang (2,400m) – Baisha (2,400m)

After breakfast, drive to Baisha, an old town nestled beneath Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that’s rich in arts and culture. Spend the afternoon with a local shaman as he teaches you calligraphy, which are drawings in his Dongba language. You can also watch embroidery artists weave intricate art pieces, visit local Naxi families and, if time permits, enjoy a traditional Naxi concert — a music culture passed down from generations.

Enjoy the rest of the day checking out cafés and shops while sampling local tea and specialties. Dine at one of the eateries before resting up for the next day’s trek.

Day 8
Baisha (2,400m) – Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (1,900-2,700m)

Enjoy a light breakfast before driving to the starting point of the inimitable Tiger Leaping Gorge hike. Once there, you’ll have an early lunch at a Naxi guesthouse (2,670m) before embarking on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The hike will be moderately difficult so keep hydrated and rest when you need to.

Conquer the famous 28 Bends, the most challenging part of the route aptly named for its arduous trail of 28 bends that takes about 3-hours to complete and look out for the Tiger Leaping Stone en route. The day ends at Tea Horse Guesthouse (2,670m) for dinner and a good night’s rest.

Day 9
Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek (1,900m-2,700m) – Shangri-La (3,160m)

Start today’s trek on a flat and easy trail while enjoying assaulting views of the gorge. Pass Halfway Guesthouse (2,400m) and continue to Tina’s Guesthouse (2,100m) in time for lunch. If you feel up for it, hike down to the lower gorge. At the finishing line, you’ll be picked up and driven to Dukezong Ancient City in the transcendent Shangri-La, just in time for dinner. The Tibetan town is a peaceful sanctuary where gilded prayer halls and resplendent pagodas lend an air of mystery and antiquity to the place.

Day 10
Shangri-La (3,160m)

Spend the day exploring Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan where monks have resided in for over 300 years. Visit a local Tibetan family and try yak butter tea and traditional snacks. Enjoy your evening in Dukezong town and don’t miss the lively night scene as locals gather in the square and dance for hours into the night. Feel free to join in the fun.

Day 11
Shangri-La (3,160m)

Enjoy your last breakfast in Shangri-La before your transfer to Diqing Airport for your departure.

Let’s plan your perfect escape. To start the conversation, contact us via our interactive form or drop us an email at ask@blueskyescapes.co.

Practical Information

Kunming, Dali Old Town, Cangshan, Xizhou, Shaxi, Shibaoshan, Bodolo Village, Lijiang, Baisha, Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek and Shangri-La.

June to September, October to November. March to May are the best times to see the flora and fauna. December to February are the best times to see the snow-capped mountains and peaks.

1,892m-3,160m.

Easy to Moderate. No difficult hikes involved. The Tiger Leaping Gorge hike will be moderately difficult.

From US$3,250/person for a group of 2 on a private basis, including double-sharing rooms. Excludes flights.

As we’ll customise your journey based on your preferences and needs, please note that this indicative price is just a rough estimate. Prices can fluctuate depending on season, type of accommodation and activities/experiences chosen (private vs. shared) etc.

This journey outline is by no means conclusive. It is just a guideline and can be tailored according to your comfort level, interests and preferences for every detail from accommodation to activities.

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Yunnan, China

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