Travel the Tibetan Highlands of Western Sichuan
Explore the magnificent tibetan highlands from west Sichuan to Yunnan in ChinaMap
TRAVEL FROM CHENGDU IN SICHUAN VIA THE TIBETAN HIGHLANDS TO SHANGRI-LA IN YUNNAN
This fascinating journey over the Tibetan highlands in the west of Sichuan Province begins in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.
The modern and vibrant Sichuan capital Chengdu has in the past few years developed into the economic center of Western China.
On a trip to Chengdu, the visitor will find a modern, fast developing metropolis with glass skyscrapers, western fast-food chains and numerous modern shopping malls.
But on the other side the “old” Chengdu is still there, with its maze of small colorful side streets, traditional flee and street markets, typical hairdressers as well as local restaurants, standing in an interesting contrast to the modern Chengdu.
Thanks to the modern public transport system, it is very easy to get around in Chengdu and to most of the sights in and around Chengdu. The city’s efficient subway system is easy to navigate, especially as all its stations and information is displayed in English. Otherwise there are also plenty of taxis for getting around.
That the city has much more to offer than the panda bears can be seen on a short trip outside Chengdu.
The first Chinese dynasties originated in the area northwest of Chengdu, and the spectacular archaeological site of Sanxingdui is considered by experts to be one of the most important archaeological sites in China.
North of Chengdu is Baoguang Temple, one of the most important and impressive Buddhist temples in Sichuan Province. Therefore, when visiting China, enough time should be planned for Chengdu.
If you want to shop for your souvenirs right at the beginning of your trip from Chengdu to Shangri La, the New Century Global Center in the south of Chengdu is the place to be: this huge hall is considered the largest shopping-building in the world.
SICHUAN TOUR: FROM CHENGDU TO THE VILLAGE OF SHANGLIZHEN
From the lively metropolis of Chengdu, the journey continues in south-westerly direction to Shanglizhen village. The idyllic village of Shanglizhen is about two hours’ drive South West of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. The journey to Shanglizhen takes you through the hot, humid and often foggy Sichuan Basin in the east of the province, before the first peaks of the snow-covered Erlang Mountains come into view in the distance.
The climate in the Sichuan basin is characterized by humid summers and mild, but just as humid, winters, forming a stark contrast to the dry climate and the typical deep blue skies of the Tibetan Plateau further West of Sichuan province.
On your way to Ya’An you make a stop at Shanglizhen, a quiet village on the Wangjia River. Shanglizhen was once an important stop along the famous tea and horse route. For hundreds of years, tea and other goods from the tea-growing areas of Sichuan were transported to Tibet by this ancient trade route.
In Sichuan, unlike other tea growing areas in southwestern China, tea was pressed into elongated blocks resembling a bridge. Therefore, the tea blocks from Sichuan are called "tea bridges" in the vernacular. The village of Shanglizhen was once an important trading place for these "tea bridges" and a welcome stopover for the many tea caravans between Sichuan and Tibet.
There is plenty of budget accommodation available at Shanglizhen. However, the accommodation in Shanglizhen village are rather simple. Those in search of better accommodation will find a hotel North of Shanglizhen, or you can travel on and stay in Ya’an overnight.
SICHUAN TOUR: TRAVEL FROM SHANGLIZHEN TO BIFENGXIA PANDA STATION AND YA’AN
You continue your trip and travel from Shanglizhen to the Bifengxia Panda Station. The Bifengxia Panda Station is located about two hours’ drive away from Chengdu in South-West China and was opened in 2003.
The Panda Station in Bifengxia was originally built as the extension to the Panda breeding station in Wolong, with the idea that should an epidemic occur in Wolong then there would be healthy pandas available in a second station. After a large earthquake in 2008 this idea was proved right. At the time 50 pandas were relocated from Wolong to Bifengxia. After an extensive renovation and expansion, the Panda Station of Bifengxia shows its best side and a visit is recommended.
About an hour’s drive from the Bifengxia Panda Station is the city of Ya’An.
The city of Ya’An is at the edge of the Sichuan basin in the shadow of the Erlang Mountains. Ya’An used to be a very important trading center for goods transported over the “tea and horse road” from Sichuan via Shanglizhen to Tibet. Ya’An city itself has not much to offer, but it can be a great base from where to take a trip or excursion to Shanglizhen, Bifengxia, Leshan or to Emei Mountain. During the Mao era Ya’An served for a short time as the capital of Xikang province, but Xikang province was dissolved in 1955.
In case you want to spend the night in Ya'An there are plenty of hotels of every kind available. Ya’An is also often called the “the gate to Tibet”.
JOURNEY FROM YA’AN TO MOXI AND HAILUOGOU NATIONAL PARK
The journey from Ya’an continues in a southwestern direction toward the Erlang Mountains to Moxi.
The small town of Moxi (Moxizhen) is, from a historical point of view, known to every Chinese because Mao Zedong stayed overnight here during the long march and recovered from the strains of the Luding battles. On May 29, 1935, Mao Zedong, together with Zhu De, Zhou Enlai and Chen Yun, held the famous Moxi Meeting in Moxi, where the further goals of the Long March were decided.
For Western travelers the Catholic Church will be of interest, established by French missionaries between 1918 and 1926 in European style. In this very Catholic church of Moxi, or more precisely, in the attached vicarage, Mao and his comrades stayed overnight and held their Moxi-Meeting. It is because of these prominent visitors that a visit to the Moxi Catholic Church will cost you 10 RMB. Moxi has also a small but picturesque old town.
Moxi town is the starting point to the Gongga Mountain National Park and the main reason for a journey to Moxi. You will take the Park Bus from Moxi (Moxizhen) for about an hour to the cable car station of the Gongga Mountain National Park. From there you will travel with the modern cable car to approximately 3500m, from where you can enjoy a breath-taking view of the 7556-meter-high Gongga Mountain in good weather.
There is also plenty of accommodation available in Moxi. Although on our latest trip we found that not every place is allowed to accommodate foreigners.
JOURNEY IN THE SHADOW OF GONGGA MOUNTAIN FROM THE HAILUOGOU NATIONAL PARK VIA MOXI TO KANGDING TO XINDUQIAO
The journey from Moxi to Kangding is characterized by the varied landscape of Western Sichuan. A winding road will take you in a north-westerly direction in the shadow of the Gongga Mountain to Kangding.
Kangding is a rather unattractive town at 2560m above sea level, at the bank of the river Zhepuo and is the capital of the Tibetan prefecture Ganzi. Kangding town even has an airport, however, it is about one hour’s drive away, to the West of the town, approximately halfway between Xinduqiao and Kangding and is one of the highest airports in the world. Due to the thin air the runway is over 4km long. Kangding town is often also referred to as the “gate to Tibet”. South of Kangding is the towering snow-capped Gongga mountain, the highest mountain in Sichuan Province. The highest peak measures 7556m and is a mere 50km as the crow flies from Kangding.
From Kangding your trip continues west for a further 70km to Xinduqiao. The well-constructed road leads over several passes and tunnels up to the Tibet Plateau. The views on this part of the journey are breath-taking! 2019 a new highway was put into operation which makes the trip between Ya'An and Kangding even smoother.
In the rearview mirror, the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Gongga Mountain disappear, while in front the seemingly endless grasslands of the Tibetan Highlands emerge. After about a two hour’s drive you reach the small town of Xinduqiao. The colorful prayer flags, the constantly twirling prayer wheels and the dark blue sky are already the first indications that we are now on Tibetan land.
SICHUAN TRAVEL: TO XINDUQIAO AND TAGONG
The rather sleepy-looking Xinduqiao itself does not have that much to offer, but it can serve as an excellent base to discover its wonderful surroundings.
Xinduqiao is in a wide high valley, at the Liqi River, at about 3450m above sea level. In Xinduqiao there is plenty of accommodation to choose from, where you can easily spend 2-3 days. Appropriate accommodation is also quite cheap off season.
From Xinduqiao it is recommended that you take a trip to Tagong. The characteristic Tibetan town of Tagong is about one hours drive away, North of Xinduqiao.
The city of Tagong is at 3700m, embedded in a gentle hilly landscape, surrounded by a seemingly endless steppe of Tibetan highlands. Should you have not yet seen enough monasteries on your journey through Western Sichuan, then a visit to the Tagong monastery is recommended. The Tagong monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa sect (“red hats”). The origins of the Tagong monastery go back to the 7th century, the current monastery originates from the late Qing Dynasty.
From a hill on the outskirts of Tagong there are beautiful views of wide grasslands. This hill was fenced in a few years ago and unfortunately RMB 10 must be paid now in entrance fee for the view. Those who prefer to enjoy the beautiful view over the wide grasslands, the yak herds, the snow-capped mountains and the monastery in the distance, without paying an entrance fee and in peace can climb one of the many hills in the area of Tagong. Looking for accommodation in Tagong is also easy, however, accommodation will be relatively simple.
TRAVEL FROM XINDUQIAO TO LITANG ALONG THE TIBETAN HIGHWAY
The spectacular landscape on your journey from Xinduqiao to Litang is going to inspire you. The journey today takes you along the Southern Tibetan Highway.
The 2413km long Tibetan Highway is a road connecting Chengdu and Lhasa. The construction of the Tibetan Highway started in April 1950 and took 5 years. The Tibetan Highway (the national road number G318) between Chengdu and Lhasa was completely renovated a few years ago and is in a very good condition.
The road runs at an altitude of between 3500 and 4200 meters above sea level all the way through the hilly and barren landscape of the Tibetan Plateau.
Along the way to Litang you will cross the Yalong River. The 1323km long Yalong River’s sources are near Amdo on the Qinghai Plateau and it flows into the Yangtze River at Panzhihua, on the border of Yunnan province. The Yalong River is the largest tributary of the Yangtze. The travel time for the section between Xinduqiao and Litang is about 4.5 hours.
TRAVEL THE WEST SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA: THE TOWN OF LITANG
Your journey through the Tibetan highlands from Western Sichuan takes you to Litang. The rather sleepy looking town is located at the Southern Sichuan-Tibet Highway at 4060 meter above sea level.
The city of Litang served for a long time as a resting place for lorry drivers on their way through the Sichuan province from Chengdu to Lhasa.
Litang is especially significant as the 7th Dalai-Lama (Kelzang Gyatso, 1708-1757) and the 10th Dalai-Lama (Tsultrim Gyatso 1816-1837) were born nearby. A short walk to the north of the town is the Litang monastery, built around 1580 and is dedicated to the 3rd Dalai-Lama (Sonam Gyatso 1543-1588). In 1956 the Litang monastery fell victim to the Cultural Revolution. Most of the buildings were only recently rebuilt. In 2014, the monastery was again badly damaged in a fire. Around Litang the ritual of sky burials is still often celebrated.
The climate in Litang is rather harsh. In the winter (from November until March) it is mostly very cold and dry in Litang. During the day it is often sunny, and the sky is a magnificent deep blue. The best time to visit Litang is from March to November. Especially in July and August, the temperature is pleasant and ideal for a trip to Litang. However, the summer month are also the months with most rainy days.
SICHUAN TOUR: TRAVEL FROM LITANG TO DAOCHENG AND TO THE YADING NATIONAL PARK
This part of the journey can hardly be surpassed with regard to views of the landscape. From Litang the trip goes first through a flat plateau, surrounded by an often-snow-covered mountain landscape.
As soon as you leave the plateau, the landscape changes to a flat, barren alpine one. In the distance the sparkling mountain peaks of the Yading National Park can be seen, reaching majestically into the dark blue sky. The landscape is broken up by numerous lakes and high moors, constituting the headwaters of the Litang River.
Your trip carries on to Daocheng, by doing so you will cross the highest point on your journey through Sichuan province, the Haizi Shan Mountain Pass, at 4696 m.
Right behind the Haizi Shan, the journey takes you past the highest commercial airport in the world, the airport of Yading/Daocheng. The Daocheng Yading airport is situated 4400 meter above sea level and looks almost surreal in the barren landscape. If someone would like to fly back to Chengdu after the visit to the Yading National Park, this is possible from the Daocheng-Yading airport.
There are two flights daily to Chengdu. From Daocheng to Daocheng-Yading airport it takes about 1.5 hours driving and from Riwa, the starting point to the Yading National Park, about three hours need to be taken into account.
Shortly before Daocheng you will visit the idyllic Bangpu monastery at Sangdui. (Panphuk monastery). The Bangpu monastery originates from the 12th century and is part of the Gagyu-branch of Tibetan Buddhism (“white hats”). Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Bangpu monastery gleams again in a new splendor.
From the Sangdui monastery it is only 30km to Daocheng. Until very recently getting to Daocheng was a rather painstaking exercise, and Daocheng was not more than a collection of a few Tibetan houses. But since then Daocheng has really developed. Generously arranged streets, traffic lights and new houses give Daocheng a modern flair. It is very easy to find accommodation in Daocheng as it has a number of good hotels. But Daocheng is still another 75km away from the Yading National Park. It only makes sense to choose accommodation in Daocheng if one intends to catch the flight the next morning from Daocheng to Chengdu. Otherwise it is advisable to stay over in Riwa, at the entrance to the Yading National Park or even within the Park at Yading Village.
TRAVEL TO THE YADING NATIONAL PARK IN THE SICHUAN PROVINCE, SOUTH-WEST CHINA
The trip from Daocheng to Riwa, the starting point for the Yading National Park takes just over an hour. The “village” Riwa has changed a lot over the past few years because of tourism. The authorities of Sichuan province like calling Riwa the Shangri-La of Sichuan province.
You travel by mandatory public park-bus to the Yading National Park. The coach trip to Yading is about 1.5 hours from Riwa.
The wonderful Yading National Park extends over an area of approximately 1300km2 in the southeast of the Sichuan province. The Yading National Park is dominated by the three snow-capped peaks of Chenresig, Chana Dorje and Rigsum Gonpo, which reach over 6000 meters into the dark blue sky.
You won’t be able to resist going for a walk in the Yading National Park. For example, in two hours one gets to the “5-colour Lake” and then on to the “Milk lake”. Those who prefer it a little less energetic, can simply walk to the Chong Gu monastery and to the Lhatso Lake.
One should plan two days for the Yading National Park. There are plenty of accommodation possibilities in Riwa and in Yading village, ranging from simple guest houses to the modern 5-star hotel.
TRAVEL FROM YADING NATIONAL PARK TO XIANGCHENG
Xiangcheng, a small town, is located about 70km west of Riwa and the Yading National Park. The trip from Yading to Xiangcheng takes 2.5 hours. The road from Riwa to Xiangcheng is lined with stone huts, providing shelter to the locals out searching for the valuable Tibetan caterpillar mushrooms.
Xiangcheng, a very clearly structured Tibetan town, is embedded in a highly fertile valley. The whitewashed Tibetan houses stand in a pleasant contrast to the verdant surrounding of Xiangcheng. Insiders claim that the best apples in China come from the Xiangcheng valley.
No trip to Xiangcheng would be complete without a visit to the Xiangcheng monastery. The monastery of Xiangcheng used to be in the center of town but was recently rebuilt in a larger format in a place overlooking Xiangcheng. The monastery of Xiangcheng belongs to the Gelugpa-Sect (Yellow hat) and is dedicated to Trijang Rinpoche. The third Trijang Rinpoche was an influential teacher of the 14th Dalai-Lama. Trijang Rinpoche comes from Thosong Thondigan, a small place near Xiangcheng. The entry to the monastery costs 10 Yuan. There is plenty of accommodation available around town.
TRAVEL FROM YUNNAN TO SICHUAN: FROM XIANGCHENG TO ZHONGDIAN (SHANGRI-LA)
Starting in the small town of Xiangcheng, the trip heads first in southerly direction through the 4300m high Daxueshan pass. The view from the road is breath-taking. The road on this section, for about 100km is, however, in a poor condition. The landscape definitely compensates for the somewhat strenuous journey. The highest point of the Daxueshan pass marks also the border between the two provinces, Yunnan and Sichuan. From the Daxueshan Pass, the trip continues via a winding road past a number of villages in the direction of Zhongdian.
The city of Zhongdian (in Tibetan: Gyelthang) lies in the northwest of Yunnan province, at the south-easterly end of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at 3300m above sea level. In China Zhongdian is usually referred to as “Shangri-La”, presumably based on the legendary “Shangri-La”, described by James Hilton, the British writer, in his novel “The Last Horizon” published in 1933. Shangri-La is thought be derived from the Tibetan word “Shambala”, that can be translated as “Holy Land of Peace”.
The traveler, however, will be initially disappointed at the first sight of “Shangri-La” (Zhongdian). The modern city of Zhongdian is a high contrast to the image of the paradise described by James Hilton. Honking cars, modern hotels, supermarkets and fast food restaurants arrived a long time ago. But the old town of Zhongdian shows a rather more expected image. The old Tibetan houses and cobble stoned alleys give the old town of Zhongdian a very relaxed atmosphere and invite a longer stay.
POSSIBLE EXTENTION OF YOUR TOUR: TRAVEL THROUGH THE TIGER LEAPING GORGE TO THE OLD TOWN OF LIJIANG
You will be able to add 2-3 additional days to your trip from Chengdu to Zhongdian (Shangri-La) by carrying on until Lijiang.
Lijiang is only about 160km from Zhongdian, the trip takes 3.5 hours. On the way you can take a detour into the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is also suitable for a longer hike. On a mountain path you can hike for 1, 2 or 3 days through the gorge and enjoy the breath-taking view of the jugged rock faces of the 5480-meter-high Jade Dragon Mountain as well as the entire Tiger Leaping Gorge itself.
Your trip then carries on to Lijiang. The pleasant old town of Lijiang is nestled in a fertile valley, at 2400 meters above sea level and at the foot of the 5596-meter-high Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Xue Shan).
An earthquake in 1996 almost completely destroyed Lijiang, and the town then was rebuilt. During the reconstruction UNESCO has become aware of the old town of Lijiang and a year later it appeared on the UNESCO world heritage list. In spite of the mass tourism Lijiang managed to retain some of its charm.
Those undertaking the trip Lijiang, should, if possible, visit the old town in the morning, before the great invasion of tourists arrives. The entry to the old town of Lijiang currently costs RMB 55.
THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL FROM CHENGDU TO ZHONGDIAN OVER THE TIBETAN HIGHLANDS
This trip leads through various climate zones. The best time for this trip is from early March to mid-November. For the Yading National Park the best times are March to June and September to November. In July and August, it may rain occasionally. In the winter months delays are possible because of snow. But the winter months are also the ones with the least amount of rain.
"....a fantastic journey with lots of amazing nature....we loved the hike around the grassland in Tagong....everything was well organized..."
Manuel & Franziska from Switzerland
"...Sonam has taken excellent care of us. Thanks to his Tibetan language skills, we were able to talk to the locals in the best possible way..."
Frank & Marta from Germany
Day 1: SICHUAN TRAVEL: CHENGDU - SHANGLIZHEN - BIFENGXIA PANDA RESERVE
Visit the historic Taoist Qingyanggong Temple, which dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (1122-221 B.C.). Continue to the wonderful Wenshu temple. The Wenshu Temple is the largest temple complex in Chengdu and is dedicated to the God of Wisdom. Its origins go back to the 7th century.
Travel from Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province, to Shanglizhen Village. The idyllic village of Shanglizhen was once an important trading post and an important stop-over for the horse caravans on the “Tea and Horse Road”. Over hundreds of years, tea and other goods were transported on this old trading route from the tea producing areas in Sichuan to Tibet.
You take a walking tour around the village. You visit the historic Erxian Bridge, which was built in 1776. “Erxian Qiao” literally translated means «The Bridge of the two immortals” and refers to a legend where two vagabonds threw themselves off the bridge and turned into the two stones that are now lying in the river below the bridge.
Continue to Bifengxia. Check in to your hotel near the Panda Station of Bifengxia. Overnight at Bifengxia.
Day 2: JOURNEY FROM BIFENGXIA PANDA RESERVE VIA YA’AN TO MOXI (MOXIZHEN)
The Panda Station in Bifengxia was originally built as the extension to the Panda breeding station in Wolong, with the idea that should an epidemic occur in Wolong then there would still be healthy pandas available in a second station.
After the large Sichuan earthquake in 2008 this idea was proved right. At that time 50 pandas were relocated from Wolong to Bifengxia. A short ride on the park-bus will take you inside the park. You take a walking tour around the park.
Continue your journey heading west across the Erlang Mountains towards Moxizhen, the starting point of your excursion to the Hailuogou Glacier Park. You take a walking tour around the old town of Moxizhen. You visit the Catholic Church, which was built here in a typical European style by French missionaries between 1918 and 1926. For recent Chinese history the Moxi church is of significance because Mao Zedong and his comrades stayed overnight here on May 29, 1935 and held their famous Moxi-Meeting, during which they were deciding about the further goals of the Long March (1934-35).
Overnight accommodation is at Moxizhen.
Day 3: EXCURSION TO HAILUOGOU TRAVEL FROM MOXIZHEN VIA KANGDING TO XINDUQIAO
The Hailuogou Glacier Park is located at the foot of the 7556 meters high Gongga Mountain.
Cable car ride to approximately 3500m, from where, on a clear day, you can enjoy some breath-taking views of the 7556-meter-high, snow covered Gongga Mountain. Head back into the valley by cable car. Head back to Moxi village by park-bus.
Continue your trip over a winding road to Kangding. The small town of Kangding is the capital of the Ganzi Tibetan Prefecture and is often referred to as the “gateway to Tibet”. Lunch at Kangding.
After Kangding the road winds its way up onto the Tibetan Plateau. If you look back you can catch a last view of the snowy peaks of the Gongga Massive, while in front the endless green grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau emerge. You reach the town of Xinduquiao in late afternoon. The town of Xinduqiao is located in a wide high valley at about 3450m above sea level.
Overnight accommodation in Xinduqiao.
Day 4: XINDUQIAO AND A SIDE TRIP TO TAGONG
After breakfast drive 1 hour to Tagong.
The small Tibetan town of Tagong is located at 3700m, embedded in a gentle hilly landscape, surrounded by a seemingly endless steppe of the Tibetan highlands.
The Tagong Monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa (red hat) sect and marks the center of the town. The origins of the Tagong Monastery date back to the 7th century, the current structure is from the late Qing Dynasty.
After that you climb one of the many hills surrounding Tagong and enjoy the beautiful views. Drive back to Xinduqiao. Rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 5: XINDUQIAO - LITANG
Seemingly endless grasslands, snow peaked mountains, Kham Nomads with their Yak-Herds, clean rivers and deep blue sky awaits you on your onward journey along the Tibetan Highway towards Litang.
The 2413km long Tibetan Highway is a road connecting Chengdu and Lhasa. The construction of the Tibetan Highway started in April 1950 and took 5 years.
The rather sleepy looking town is located at the Southern Sichuan-Tibet Highway at 4060 meter above sea level. The city of Litang served for a long time as a resting place for lorry drivers on their way through the Sichuan province from Chengdu to Lhasa.
Arrival in Litang. Check-in at your hotel accommodation.
For Tibetans the rather sleepy town of Litang is of big importance because the 7th Dalai-Lama (Kelzang Gyatso, 1708-1757) and the 10th Dalai-Lama (Tsultrim Gyatso 1816-1837) were both born nearby.
You visit the Litang Monastery which was originally built in 1580 and is dedicated to the third Dalai-Lama.
Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution it was only recently rebuilt. You take a tour around the monastery. After that visit the birth place of the 7th Dalai-Lama.
Overnight accommodation is at Litang.
Day 6: LITANG - VISIT BANGPU MONASTERY - RIWA - YADING VILLAGE (YADING NATIONAL PARK)
Today’s journey once again leads through some spectacular landscapes.
You travel first through a flat plateau which is surrounded by an often snow-covered mountain landscape. As soon as you leave the plateau, the landscape changes to a flat, barren alpine one. In the distance the sparkling mountain peaks of the Yading National Park can be seen, reaching majestically into the dark blue sky. The landscape is broken up by numerous lakes and high moors, constituting the headwaters of the Litang River.
With the “Rabbit Mountain Pass” at 4696 meters you pass the highest point of your trip. You pass the Daocheng Airport, the highest airport in the world, located at 4’400 meters above sea level.
Near Sangdui you visit the idyllic Bangpu monastery. (Panphuk monastery).
The Bangpu monastery dates back to the 12th century, and is part of the Gagyu-branch of Tibetan Buddhism (“white hats”). Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Bangpu monastery gleams again in a new splendor.
The main attraction of the Bangpu monastery is an 800-year old statue of Kanapa, the founder of the Gagyu-Sect, which miraculously survived the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.
Continue to Daocheng. From Daocheng you continue your journey for another hour until your reach Riwa, the starting point of your visit to the Yading National Park. Continue by park bus to Yading Village. Check-in at your hotel. Overnight accommodation at Yading Village.
Day 7: YADING NATIONAL PARK
By park-bus you travel further inside Yading National Park. The beautiful Yading National Park is located in the Western Sichuan Province and covers an area of approximately 1300km2.
From Longba village you continue by electro cart to the Luorong Pasture, the starting point of your 2-hour hike (4 hours return), to the 5-Color-Lake and the nearby Milk-Lake.
On a clear day the surrounding scenery is simply overwhelming! (The hike is rather easy however a basic level of fitness is required). Walk back to Luorong and from there drive back to Yading Village.
Overnight accommodation is at Yading Village.
Tag 8: YADING - XIANGCHENG
Take the park bus to Long Ba Village. From there an easy hike (45 Min/ca. 3km) leads you to the Chong Gu Tibetan Monastery and the nearby Zhoma Lhatso, a beautiful mountain lake which is fed by the clear waters of the surrounding Glaciers. Head back to Riwa.
In the afternoon you drive to Xiangcheng. In spring, just after the snow-melted away, you will be able to see the many locals searching for the valuable Tibetan caterpillar mushrooms.
After arriving in Xiangcheng check-in at your hotel. After that you visit the Sampeling Monastery located on a hill overlooking the town. The Sampeling Monastery belongs to the Gelugpa-Sect (Yellow hat), and is dedicated to Trijang Rinpoche one of the teachers of the 14th Dalai Lama. Overnight accommodation is at Xiangcheng.
Day 9: TRAVEL ACCROSS THE YUNNAN/SICHUAN BORDER: XIANGCHENG TO ZHONGDIAN (SHANGRI LA)
On today’s journey toward Zhongdian you cross the last mountain pass on this trip, the 4’300 meters high “Daxueshan Pass”. The views from up here are once again stunning and there are many excellent photo opportunities. Lunch takes place at a local restaurant before you continue our journey to Zhongdian.
You reach Zhongdian in mid-afternoon. Check-in at your hotel. The town of Zhongdian (Gyelthang in Tibetan language) is located in the northwest of the Yunnan Province at 3300 meters above sea level.
In 2001 the Yunnan government changed the name officially from “Zhongdian” to “Shangri-La”, presumably based on the legendary “Shangri-La”, described by the British writer James Hilton in his novel “The Last Horizon”. Overnight accommodation is at Zhongdian/Shangri-La.
Day 10: ZHONGDIAN (SHANGRI LA)
Transfer to the airport of connecting program:
Suggestion for a possible extension of your tour from Chengdu to Zhongdian (Shangri-La):
Stay one more night in Zhongdian (Shangri-La) and make a cycling tour around the beautiful Napa Lake. The Napa Lake is a natural lake located on the outskirts of Zhongdian. The cycling tour around the Napa Lake takes about 4 hours.
Another option is to add 2 or 3 additional days to your trip by carrying on until Lijiang via the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world. The Old Town of Lijiang is located a mere 160km south of Zhongdian, the travel time is about 3 hours.
Along the way you can take a short detour into the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Wedged between the Jade Dragon Mountain and the Haba Mountain range the Tiger Leaping Gorge is reputedly the world’s deepest canyon. The name Tiger Leaping Gorge comes from a legend describing how a tiger escaped its hunters by jumping across the Yangtze River in one go. For those who like to add a bit of activity to the tour, there is the option of a trekking tour through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. On a mountain path you can hike for 1, 2 or 3 days through the gorge and enjoy the breath-taking view of the jugged rock faces of the Jade Dragon Mountain and the Yangtze River deep below.
From the Tiger Leaping Gorge, you then travel to Lijiang. The pleasant old town of Lijiang is nestled in a fertile valley, at 2400 meters above sea level at the foot of the 5596-meter-high Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Lijiang inspires its visitors not only with its beautiful architecture but also with a maze of cobblestone alleys and canals that crisscross the entire old town. In 1996 an earthquake partially destroyed Lijiang. During the reconstruction UNESCO has become aware of the old town of Lijiang and a year later it appeared on the UNESCO world heritage list.
From Lijiang there are direct flight to Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou.
Of course you can always make this tour in the opposite direction: Start in Lijiang or Zhongdian (Shangri-La) and travel over the Tibetan Plateau of west Sichuan to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province and home of the Panda Bears.