Yunnan Grand Tour. The comprehensive Yunnan Journey
Travel and Explore the Yunnan province in South-West ChinaMap
Travel the South-West of China: The Yunnan Province
You travel to the Yunnan Province, one of the most diverse and exciting areas of China. In terms of landscapes, history and culture the Yunnan Province in the southwest of China and is one of the most diversified and interesting provinces of China.
Starting point of your Yunnan tour is Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province and “city of eternal spring of China”. From Kunming, you travel south to the magnificent rice terraces of Yuanyang high above the Red River valley. The Yuanyang rice terraces are under UNESCO protection since 2013.
By high speed train you travel north to the towns of Dali and Shaxi, once important, and wealthy trading towns on the legendary tea and horse road. You continue to the UNESCO protected old town of Lijiang in the shadow of the snow covered Jade Dragon Mountain. You hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world.
In Zhongdian, which is also called Shangri-La, you will get an insight into the rich Tibetan culture. After hiking through one of the deepest gorges in the world - the Tiger Leaping Gorge - a visit to Lijiang old town is a worthy end to this journey through southwestern China.
Travel the legendary Tea and Horse Road, Yunnan Province, China
You explore rustic villages along the legendary tea and horse road. The Tea and Horse Road in southwest China was a network of trade routes that for centuries connected the tea growing areas of Yunnan and Sichuan with the Tibetan Plateau. Tea and salt were mainly transported to Tibet which were traded for horses and other goods from Tibet. The villages along the Tea and Horse Road came to considerable wealth through this trade.
Although the heyday of these villages has long passed, you can still feel a touch of this former wealth during a visit. Looking closer, in Zhongdian, Lijiang and Shaxi you can still find the old caravanserais, where caravan drivers once indulged their horses in a well-earned rest after the long and sometimes dangerous section of road behind them.
The trip is designed to give you plenty of time for exploration on your own in the individual villages along the Tee and Horse Road.
Travel from Shangri-La (Zhongdian) to Baishuitai to the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province
Your Yunnan journey will take you from Zhongdian (Shangri-La) through scenic landscape to the Sinter-Terraces of Baishuitai. The Baishuitai Sinter Terraces are located at the foot of Haba Mountain, approximately an hour's drive north of the southern entrance of Tiger Leaping Gorge.
The "white-water terraces" - as the translation of Baishuitai - created by lime deposits from the clear water, which flows from the slopes of Haba Mountain steadily over the terraces. Over the thousands of years, numerous limestone pools have been created in which the sunlight reflects in different shades of blue.
After a tour of Baishuitai, your journey continues along a winding road through the Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang. If you wish, you can make an extended hike on a scenic high trail through the Tiger Leaping Gorge before heading for Lijiang.
The lovely Lijiang Old Town catches your attention with its confusion of paved laneways and canals and the many well maintained temples and monasteries in the area.
Yunnan Travel: Step back in time, a trip to Shaxi Village, China
You travel to the village of Shaxi in Yunnan Province in southwest China, once a prosperous village on the legendary Tee and Horse Road. Like other villages, Shaxi, thanks to the trade on the Tea and Horse Road, accumulated considerable wealth.
During the heyday, the merchants of Shaxi built impressive mansions, a stage for opera performances, caravanserais and stone bridges. As the level dropped from Erhai Lake in the neighboring valley near Dali, a new and shorter path for the tea caravans through the Dali Valley opened up. As a result, Shaxi lost in importance and fell into a 200-year slumber from which it was awakened only in the 1990s. With the help of the Swiss government, Shaxi was lovingly restored at that time and now shines again in its old splendor.
While on a trip to Shaxi a visit to the Shizhong Temple on Shibao Mountain should not be missed.
The Shizhong Temple on Shibao Mountain contains more than 1,500-year-old Buddhist stone sculptures that survived the Cultural Revolution almost unscathed. From Shizhong Temple, you can hike to Shaxi in 1.5 hours on a well-maintained hiking trail.
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DAY 1: YUNNAN TRAVEL: KUNMING CAPITAL OF YUNNAN PROVINCE
Your Yunnan trip starts in Kunming, capital of the Yunnan Province in the very south-west of China.
Kunming, with a population of 8 million, is the capital of Yunnan province.
The twin city of Zurich is 1,800 meters above sea level, and because of the pleasant climate throughout the year is often called the city of eternal spring of China.
You are picked up at the airport or train station by your guide. Your travel program of today will be adjusted according to your arrival time in Kunming. Transfer to your hotel.
Overnight accommodation in Kunming.
DAY 2: TRAVEL SOUTH FROM KUNMING TO JIANSHUI. VISIT ZHU FAMILY GARDEN
Today you travel to Jianshui. On the way stop at Tonghai where you visit Mount Xiushan with an array of traditional Temples and Pavilions in various styles of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism some of which are from the late Jin Dynasty (265-420).
You take a 1-hour walk around the Xiushan before continuing to Jianshui.
Upon arrival in Jianshui visit the recently renovated Confucius Temple „Wen Miao.
Continue to the “East-Gate” and you also pay a visit to former residence of the once wealthy an influential Zhu family.
Overnight accommodation is at Jianshui.
DAY 3: JIANSHUI WITH TWIN DRAGON BRIDGE AND JOURNEY TO YUANYANG RICE TERRACES
Drive to the Zhuang-Village of Tuanshan with its unique and well preserved Qing-Style architecture. On the way you also visit the "Twin Dragon Bridge", an ancient stone bridge from the Qing Dynasty.
After lunch you leave Jianshui and travel to the Swallow’s Cavern, a magnificent cave that has been dug out by the Lu River.
During spring and summer hundreds of thousands of Swallows can be seen flying around inside and outside the cave.
Continue through magnificent scenery towards the spectacular rice terraces of Yuanyang.
The Yuanyang rice terraces have been carved out of the Ailao Mountains over hundreds of years by Hani farmers living in the area. Since 2013 the Yuanyang Rice Terraces are protected by the UNESCO.
DAY 4: TRAVEL TO YUANYANG RICE TERRACES, YUNNAN PROVINCE IN CHINA
You leave the Hotel early to witness a magnificent sunrise over the rice terraces. The best time to visit the Yuanyang (Xinjiezhen) rice terraces is during the harvest in late September and October or during the winter month (December to April), when the terraces are filled with water, which transforms the area into a colorful fairyland for photographers, as every pond reflects the sunlight in a different color.
After that if possible you will visit one of the bustling weekly local markets in the area where we can observe the local people from various ethnic groups (Hani, Yi, Zhuang, some Miao) doing their weekly shopping. Scenic hike through the magnificent rice terraces of Yuanyang to a nearby Hani village.
Overnight accommodation in a guesthouse in the middle of the Yuanyang Rice Terraces.
DAY 5: YUANYANG RICE TERRACES – STONE FOREST OF LUNAN – KUNMING
You leave Yuanyang Rice Terraces and travel north towards Mile. Apart from the cigarette production, Mile is also well known for its many hot springs.
Continue via the highway through an ever changing landscape towards Lunan and the nearby Stone Forest of Lunan, where you arrive in the afternoon.
Years of rain and erosion left behind a bizarre and impressive landscape of limestone pillars which, with a little imagination, indeed resemble a Forrest. You have a walk through the maze of paths and walkways leading through this natural wonderland. Travel to Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province.
Optional for the evening: You can visit the Cultural Dance Show “Dynamic Yunnan”, a song and dance medley organized by renowned dancer, Ms. Yang Liping. It shows the different dances of the minority tribes in Yunnan province. It is both vibrant and colorful as the dancers energetically perform in their traditional costumes.
DAY 6: TRAVEL BY HIGH-SPEED TRAIN TRAIN FROM KUNMING TO OLD TOWN DALI, YUNNAN PROVINCE, CHINA
Journey by express train which takes you to Dali (Xiaguan) in about 2 hours. Pick-up at Dali train station. Travel to Dali Old Town.
Dali is situated on the western 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.
Walking tour around Old Town Dali. After that you take the cable car to the Zhonghe Monastery that is located half way up Cangshan Mountain. From there a well maintained walkway called the "Jade-Belt-Path" follows along the Eastern slope of the mountain for 11km and offers spectacular views over the Dali valley and the Erhai Lake below.
Upon return optional tour: If you like you can visit the recently renovated 3 Pagodas of the San Ta Si Monastery from the 9th century. Overnight accommodation is in Dali.
DAY 7: TRAVEL FROM DALI TO SHAXI ANCIENT VILLAGE
In the morning scenic drive to Shaxi.
Shaxi was formerly an important stop on the Tea and Horse trail from Yunnan to Tibet.
The village has been renovated with the help of the Swiss government during the 1990s. Along the way you visit Shibao Mountain.
The impressive rock carvings of Shibaoshan are over 1500 years old and are testimony of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism in the region. You can either walk to Shaxi or continue by car to the hotel.
You stay overnight at a rustic guesthouse near the village square.
DAY 8: FROM SHAXI TRAVEL TO SHANGRI-LA (ZHONGDIAN)
Drive through magnificent landscape towards Zhongdian.
Half way you take a left turn and continue to Shigu village, to see the famous "First Bend", where the Yangtze River is making an abrupt 180 degree turn and flows for several kilometers, parallel to itself towards the north again.
The road to Zhongdian offers some spectacular views over the Yangtze Valley and the surrounding mountain scenery.
You reach Zhongdian, or Shangri-La as it is often called, in the afternoon. If time permits you make a walking tour around Zhongdian old town.
Overnight accommodation is in Zhongdian (Shangri-La) at 3'300m above sea level.
DAY 9: ZHONGDIAN / SHANGRI LA
Zhongdian is situated on the eastern Tibetan plateau at about 3300 meters above sea level in northern Yunnan. You take a walking tour around the old town. You climb Turtle Hill and spin the giant prayer wheel three times for a good karma.
You visit Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300 years old impressive Tibetan Monastery which was inaugurated personally in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Ganden Sumpseling Gompa is now again one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the area.
Time at leisure to explore the ancient town of Zhongdian on your own.
DAY 10: ZHONGDIAN – BAISHUI TAI – TIGER LEAPING GORGE
You leave Zhongdian and the eastern Tibetan Plateau and drive in the shadow of the snow capped mountain peaks of Haba and Jade Dragon Mountain towards the impressive Baishuitai (White Water Terraces).
The natural Limestone terraces where formed over a period of 250’000 years by the water that is constantly flowing over the terraces.
In the afternoon continue your journey through spectacular scenery to the Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hu Tiao Xia), where the Yangtze waters are squeezed through a narrow, at some places only 25 meters wide gorge.
The overnight accommodation is in a simple guesthouse high above the gorge with breathtaking views of Tiger Leaping Gorge.
DAY 11: TIGER LEAPING GORGE – LIJIANG
Travel through the Tiger Leaping Gorge to Qiaotou and continue to Lijiang.
The lovely Naxi town of Lijiang is located in a fertile valley 2’400 meters above sea level at the foot of the 5’596 meters high Yulong Shan or Jade Dragon Mountain.
Check in at the hotel. You take a stroll through the apparently countless and, on first sight, confusing narrow lanes and canals crisscrossing the old town. You also learn more about the secrets of the mystic Naxi culture.
An earthquake destroyed most of the city in 1996, and after its reconstruction, Lijiang was listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Overnight accommodation is at Lijiang.
DAY 12: LIJIANG
Day at leisure to explore Lijiang on your own.
In the morning you take the cable car up the flanks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to an altitude of over 4’500 meters above sea level.
The highest of the 13 peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain reaches 5’596 meters. It has first been climbed only in 1963 by a group of Chinese mountain climbers. A modern cable car takes you up to 4’506 meters! On a clear day the views from up here are spectacular! You can take a stroll on the wooden walkway and gaze at the glaciers and the magnificent surroundings!
On your way back visit the traditional village of "Baisha", the former capital of the Naxi kingdom. Visit the Liu Li Temple, with its beautiful, well preserved wall paintings from the Ming Dynasty.
Visit "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).
DAY 13: LIJIANG – DEPARTURE
Your Yunnan Grand Tour ends in Lijiang. You can always prolong your stay in Lijiang for a day or two if you wish. Transfer to Airport for individual departure.