Zhongdian / Shangri La (Gyelthang)
A land of sacredness and peace
Zhongdian (Tibetan: Gyelthang) is situated in north-west Yunnan on the south-eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. It is the capital of the Deqin Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. In 2001 the local government decided to rename Zhongdian "Shangri-La", after the mysterious "Shangri-La" described by the British writer James Hilton in his novel "The Lost Horizon" published in 1933. "Shangri-La" is a Tibetan word and means "Land of sacredness and peace". Truly the right description for this region!
The climate of Zhongdian can be classified as subtropical highland monsoon which provides the area with cold, dry winters and wet summers. The wettest months are July and August with an average rainfall of 200mm. The town’s pastoral, pristine environs are dotted with Tibetan Villages which provide the visitor with a glimpse of the rich and colorful Tibetan culture. The picturesque old town with its relaxed atmosphere, the surrounding snow capped mountains and the picturesque green meadows dotted with Yak herds make Zhongdian an ideal place to explore for a couple of days. Just north of town is Ganden Sumtseling Gompa (Yellow Hat), a 300 year old impressive Tibetan Monastery. From a historical point of view the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa (in Chinese: Songzanlin Si) is very significant to the region because it was inaugurated personally by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1679. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Ganden Sumpseling Gompa is now again one of the most important monasteries in the area.
Pudacuo National Park
The Pudacuo National Park is located about 20km east of Zhongdian / Shangri-La and is considered as one of the first National Parks in China. Nested deep in the mountains of northwest Yunnan at an elevation ranging from 3,500 to 4,000 meters, Pudacuo National Park is an integral part of the Three Parallel Rivers Scenic Area, recognized as much for its dramatic topological contours and rich biodiversity, as for its stunning natural beauty.
The name "Pudacuo" comes from the local Tibetan word for the divine assistance that ensures boat passengers a safe journey across the many lakes dotting the area. Foremost among the lakes in the park are the Bita and Shudu lakes, though the extended wetlands area extends far beyond to encompass forested mountains, grasslands in river valleys and a great abundance of rare plants and animals.
The idyllic Napa Lake or rather Napa Grasslands are located about 6km west of Zhongdian. Napa Lake is a seasonal lake. During the rainy season in summer the lake covers the entire plains, whereas in winter Napa Lake looks more like a big swamp. In spring and autumn Napa Lake serves also as resting place for many migratory birds. The road that leads around the lake is ideal for cycling tours. There is also horseback riding around the lake offered. However, horseback riding at Napa Lake is a bit pricy and some western tourists find it rather disappointing, so we definetefly recommend to take the bike for a cycling tour.