Idyllic Lugu Lake & Walking Marriages
In the "Kingdom of Daughters"Map
Travel information for your journey Lugu Lake in Yunnan Province, China
Geographically, culturally and ethnically the Yunnan Province in South-West China is one of the most attractive region in China for travelers.
From the stunning landscapes of the eastern Tibetan plateau you travel south to the famous, UNESCO protected old town of Lijiang. Lijiang not only inspires with its stunning backdrops, the snowcapped Jade Dragon Mountain, the cobblestone lanes, canals of melted snow but also with its beautiful natural surroundings and the rich cultural heritage.
On your journey to Lijiang you come across the impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge, reportedly one of the deepest canyons in the world. Wedged between the Jade Dragon Mountain and the Haba Mountain range the Tiger Leaping Gorge got its name from a story describing how a tiger escaped it’s hunters by leaping across the Yangtze River in one go.
Travel to Lugu Lake and the Mosuo Matriarchal Society
The journey to the idyllic Lugu Lake across the stunning Landscape of Northern Yunnan is another highlight of this tour.
Straddling the Yunnan/Sichuan border the Lugu Lake lies at an altitude of 2’685m above sea level, the highest expanse of water in the Yunnan province.
The locals also call the lake “Xienami”, which means “Mother Lake” or sea. Its shores are mainly inhabited by the Yi, Mosuo, Norzu, Pumi and Tibetan minorities. Probably the best known ethnic group minority in the area is the Mosuo.
The Mosuo at Lake Lugu in Yunnan Province follow an ancient practice whereby a flexible form of cohabitation takes place of formal marriage. A Mosuo woman can therefore have several “husbands” and the family names pass from mother to daughter.
Travel the Yunnan Province along ancient trading routes
Via Lijiang you travel to Shaxi. The old town of Shaxi was once an important stop on the legendary “Tea and Horse Road”, an ancient trading route between the tea growing areas in South Yunnan and Tibet. Though the glorious times of the horse caravans are long over, the remnants of this once vibrant trade route are still visible today at every corner around the idyllic old town.
The bustling city of Kunming and the Stone Forest near Lunan are other highlights of this tour and stand in a fascinating contrast to the quiet, laid back atmosphere in the North.
The drive from Lijiang to Lugu Lake takes about 5 hrs. and you travel across parts of the Yunnan Province that are not often visited by Western travelers. A certain understanding for the local customs and practices is required for this tour.
Lugu Lake Travel Information
A trip by car from Lijiang to Lugu Lake takes about 5-6 hours. Lugu Lake is located about 200km northeast of Lijiang on the border to neighboring Sichuan Province. From Panzhihua or Xichang on the Sichuan side the travel times are approximately the same.
Due to the relatively long travel time to Lugu Lake it is recommended to stay at least 2 nights. Meanwhile there are many guesthouses and hotels around Lugu Lake, ranging from the simple guesthouse to the luxurious 5 Star Resort. The most popular places for an overnight stay are Lige, Gemu and Daju on the northern side of Lugu Lake. However, there are also less frequented villages around the lake to spend the night.
From Gemu you can take a chairlift up to "Goddess Mountain", from where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Since the construction of the airport near Ninglang, a trip to Lugu Lake has become easier. However, the airport is located about 60km south of Lugu lake. In addition, there are only a very limited number of flights from Kunming to Ninglang Airport. The road around the lake is also very suitable for a bicycle tour. The entrance fee to Lugu Lake is 80 RMB.
"...we would also like to thank our guide Adam again. To travel together with him was really pleasant..."
Heidi from Germany
"...we would like to express our gratitude to you for arranging such a beautiful journey for us..."
Matt from U.S.
Day 1: KUNMING ARRIVAL
Arrival in Kunming, the capital of the Province Yunnan in South-West China. Transfer to your hotel.
The city of Kunming is located at 1900 meters above sea level. Because of the all year round pleasant, spring like climate Kunming was nicknamed “The Spring City”.
Depending on your arrival time you make a first stroll through the Kunming Business District.
You visit the East-West Pagodas for the 9th century and the former City Gates. (Jin Ma Bi Ji).
Dinner takes place at a typical Yunnan Restaurant where you get a taste of the mouthwatering Yunnan cuisine.
Day 2: KUNMING: GREEN LAKE PARK AND STONE FOREST
After breakfast take a stroll through the nearby Green Lake Park, a popular gathering point for the local population, to see the locals engaged in their morning workouts, practice Tai Chi, show off their birds and enjoy social dancing.
Drive to the Stone Forest of Lunan where years of rain and erosion left behind a bizarre and impressive landscape of limestone pillars which, with a little imagination, indeed resembles a forest.
You have a walk through the maze of paths and walkways leading through this natural wonderland and learn more about the Sani people, an ethnic minority populating the area.
Drive back to Kunming. Overnight accommodation is in Kunming, capital of the Yunnan Province.
Day 3: KUNMING - ZHONGDIAN
Flight to Zhongdian, which recently changed its name and is now called "Shangri-La".
Zhongdian is situated amongst a stunning landscape on the eastern Tibetan plateau at about 3200 meters above sea level. Upon arrival, you drive to a view point from where you enjoy a breathtaking view over the scenic Napa Lake.
You take a walk through the picturesque old town of Zhongdian before heading for the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300 years old impressive Tibetan Monastery. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Ganden Sumpseling Gompa is now again one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the area.
Overnight accommodation takes place in Zhongdian.
Day 4: TRAVEL TO ZHONGDIAN / SHANGRI LA, VISIT BEAUTIFUL PUDACUO NATIONAL PARK
In the morning drive out to the Pudacuo National Park which is located about 20km to the north-east of Zhongdian.
This beautiful National Park covers an area of 300km2 and includes the two crystal clear lakes of Bita and Shudu.
Located at 3’500 Meters above sea level, Pudacuo is regarded as the first region in China to actually achieve the status of “National Park of China”.
Drive back to Zhongdian / Shangri La. Your hotel is conveniently located near the old town. This way you can explore Zhongdian old town easily on your own.
Overnight accommodation in Zhongdian / Shangri-La Old Town
Day 5: FROM ZHONGDIAN TRAVEL VIA TIGER LEAPING GORGE TO LIJIANG
Drive through magnificent landscape toward Lijiang.
Half way you take a left turn into the impressive “Tiger Leaping Gorge” (Hu Tiao Xia), where the Yangtze waters are squeezed through a narrow, at some places only 20 meters wide gorge. Truly spectacular and noisy scenery, especially from July to September when water levels of the Yangtze River are the highest.
After lunch continue to Shigu village, to see the famous "First Bend", where the Yangtze River is making an abrupt 180 degrees turn and flows for several kilometers, parallel to itself towards the north again.
Continue to Lijiang. Check-in at your hotel right inside the old town of Lijiang.
Day 6: LIJIANG
You take a stroll through the maze of narrow lanes and canals crisscrossing the picturesque Lijiang old town. Lijiang was listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1992.
Visit the wonderful "Black Dragon Pool" Park, from where, weather permitting, one has a spectacular view of the 5'596 Meters high "Jade Dragon Mountain" (Yu Long Shan).
Continue to the Dongba Museum and drive to Baisha. The Baisha village used to be the capital of the once powerful Naxi Kingdom. You visit the Liuli temple with beautiful wall paintings from the late Ming Dynasty.
Visit Yuhu village, a romantic village where the Austrian-American Botanist Joseph Rock used to live from 1922 to 1949. His house has been transformed to a small museum about the live and work of Joseph Rock.
In the evening optional visit of a Dongba Concert, the typical Naxi Music. Naxi Dongba Music is a sort of very old and unique Taoist Temple music. Its history can be traced back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 B.C). It is believed that the famous General Chukoliang brought the music to Lijiang during the Period of the 3 Kingdoms (221- 65 B.C.)
Day 7: TRAVEL FROM LIJIANG TO LUGU LAKE
You travel across the stunning scenery of Northern Yunnan towards the idyllic Lugu Lake.
The picturesque alpine Lugu Hu (Lugu Lake) is located in Northern Yunnan, overlapping the border to the Sichuan Province.
Along the way to Lugu Lake you pass various Yi, Lisu and Pumi villages. The elder Yi women can still be seen wearing their traditional colorful skirts and their oversized black hats.
Upon arrival visit a viewpoint with panoramic views over the Lugu Lake. You visit a Tibetan Monastery and take a leisurely boat ride on the lake.
You stay overnight at a hotel near Lugu Lake.
Day 8: LUGU LAKE - LIJIANG
Situated at 2’690 meters above sea level, Lugu Lake (Lugu Hu) is the highest lake of the Yunnan Province and with a depth of 90 meters the second-deepest in China.
The locals also call the lake “Xienami”, which means “Mother Lake” or sea. Its shores are mainly inhabited by the Yi, Mosuo (Mosu), Norzu, Pumi and Tibetan ethnic groups.
Probably the best known ethnic group is the Mosuo (Mosu). The Mosuo (Mosu) follow an ancient practice, whereby a flexible form of cohabitation takes place of formal marriage.
During a 2 hour walk along the idyllic Lugu Lake we learn more about the Mosuo and their matriarchal society. Visit the home of a local Mosuo Family near Lugu Lake.
Drive to Lijiang. Check-in at your hotel in Lijiang.
Day 9: LIJIANG - SHAXI
Early morning you leave Lijiang and travel through a beautiful landscape towards Shaxi. Shaxi was formerly an important stop on the Tea and Horse trail from Yunnan to Tibet.
The village of Shaxi has recently been renovated with the help of the Swiss government. You take a walking tour around this idyllic Bai village.
In the afternoon visit Shibao Mountain.
The impressive rock carvings of Shibao Mountain are over 1300 years old and are testimony of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism in the region.
You can either walk back to Shaxi or continue by car back to Shaxi.
Overnight accommodation is at a traditional wooden Bai House with a 150 years old history!
Day 10: SHAXI - DALI
On the way to Dali you stop at Xizhou. The village of Xizhou is famous for its well-preserved Bai architecture and is now what Dali used to be about 20 years ago.
Continue to Dali. Dali is situated on the eastern shores of the stunning Erhai Lake on the foot of the 4000m high Cang Shan mountain range. During the 9th century Dali served as capital of the once powerful Nanzhao and later the Dali Kingdoms, before the historical town was overrun by the Mongols about 400 years later.
You visit the recently renovated 3 Pagodas of the San Ta Si Monastery from the 9th century.
The rest of the afternoon is at your own disposal for the exploration of the picturesque old town of Dali.
Day 11: DALI - DEPARTURE
Transfer to either the train station (15km) or to the airport (25km). End of your trip to Lugu Lake. From Dali you can travel by high-speed train back to Kunming in about 2 horus. Dali also has an airport from where you can continue your journey to many major cities in China like Kunming, Chengdu, Beijing or Shanghai.