Exploring the northern Yunnan Province
Fascinating landscapes of north Yunnan in ChinaMap
Travel the spectacular Yunnan Province in China: The North
This varied tour takes you to the charming landscape in the northwest of Yunnan, which has been largely spared from Chinese mass tourism. Rugged mountain scenery, raging rivers, Tibetan monasteries and old villages characterize the landscape.
You will travel along the legendary "Tea and Horse Road", an ancient trade route that connected the southwestern provinces of China, namely the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan, with the autonomous region of Tibet. On this part of the "Tea and Horse Route" tea from the famous tea growing areas in the south of Yunnan Province and Sichuan was transported to Lhasa.
You will travel along the upper reaches of the Yangtze and Mekong rivers, following in the footsteps of Swiss and French missionaries who worked here 200 years ago.
Among other ethnic groups, the northern Yunnan Province is also home to the Kham Tibetans. Hence, on this journey through northern Yunnan you get a glimpse into the rich Tibetan culture.
You visit some magnificent Tibetan Monasteries and learn about the importance of Kagebo (Meili) Mountain for the Tibetan religion.
Travel to Cizhong village, above the Mekong River
The village of Cizhong is located on a sunny plateau on the western bank of the Mekong River high above the Mekong Valley in Yunnan Province. The main attraction of Cizhong is the Catholic Church, built here 150 years ago by French and Swiss Jesuit missionaries of the "Mission Etrangère de Paris". On closer inspection one even discovers some Gothic elements in the construction of the church of Cizhong.
Construction of the catholic church of Cizhog began in 1846, when Pope Gregory the 16th founded the Tibet Mission with the aim of "Christianizing" Tibet. The then monumental task was assigned to the "Mission étrangère de Paris" and later to the Swiss "Mission St. Bernard", which together sent 44 missionaries to Tibet in the following 100 years. The missionaries encountered great resistance in Tibet with their form of faith, since many Lamas felt threatened by Christianity in their power. In Cizhong alone, two monks died in 1905 during the temporary expulsion of Catholics from the Mekong Valley by Buddhist Lamas.
In 1951 the last two foreign priests were expelled from the country by Mao's government. Religion was no longer tolerated. The church of Cizhong was left to its fate and was later mostly destroyed by Mao's Red Guards. Nevertheless, most Cizhong residents have remained faithful to their Christian faith and now celebrate mass every Sunday in their church, which was renovated during the 1980s. About 80% of the predominantly Tibetan population of Cizhong belong to the Catholic faith.
In addition to the Christian faith, the Catholic priests have carried something else into the Mekong Valley: grapes. Soon the priests found out that the climate of Cizhong is ideal for the cultivation of grapes. Soon after, there was French wine produced in Cizhong. Grapes are still cultivated in the area around Cizhong today.
The construction of the dam in Cizhong has triggered a real building boom in recent years. The wobbly suspension bridge near Cizhong over the Mekong was replaced by a solid concrete bridge. Despite the changes it is still worthwhile to stop in Cizhong on a trip throughout the Yunnan Province. Meanwhile there are numerous guesthouses available in Cizhong.
Ancient villages along the old "Tea and Horse Road"
With Weishan and Shaxi you will visit two idyllic old villages along the old "Tea and Horses Route", where goods were transported between Tibet and China up to 60 years ago. Both villages were once important trading stations for the horse caravans on their arduous journey to Lhasa and are now only silent witnesses of this once flourishing, long forgotten trade route in southwest China.
Hiking tour to Yubeng Village, Yunnan Province
For hikers and nature lovers, the hike to Yubeng village in the extreme northwest of Yunnan Province is definitely one of the highlights of this trip. Prayer flags are waving in the wind everywhere and are a clear sign that you are now moving on Tibetan soil.
The hike takes you through beautiful mountain scenery at the foot of the 6'740 m high Meili mountain to Yubeng village. Not far from Yubeng is the base camp of Meili Mountain, from where numerous expeditions from all over the world have already set out for the first ascent of the 6'740m high summit. The last attempt to climb Meili Mountain was made in 1991, when 17 climbers died in an avalanche. The Meili mountain remains to this day one of the few peaks on this earth that has never been climbed before.
A fascinating journey for the uncomplicated active traveler, who is also willing to spend the night under simpler conditions.
"...An unforgettable journey. Many thanks again for the perfect organization..."
Marlies from Switzerland
"...we can definitely recommend Colorful China. Especially the trekking tour to Yubeng was impressive..."
Olaf from Germany
Day 1: KUNMING - TRAVEL BY EXPRESS TRAIN TO DALI - WEISHAN
In the morning pick up at your hotel in Kunming and travel in about 2 hours to Dali (Xiaguan).
Pick up at the station and continue your journey to Weishan. The town of Weishan lies 52km south of Dali and was once an important and prosperous trading place during the Nanzhao kingdom in the 8th and 9th century.
With the decline of the Nanzhao Kingdom, Weishan lost increasing importance and only gained in importance again in the 14th century, when it became an important military outpost for the Ming Dynasty.
Check in at the hotel and stroll through the idyllic old town. In the afternoon you will make an excursion to Weibao Mountain with some beautiful temples from various dynasties.
Overnight accommodation at Weishan.
Day 2: TRAVEL FROM WEISHAN TO DALI OLD TOWN
In the morning drive to Dali.
On the way you make a stop in the village of Donglianhua. The inhabitants of Donglianhua are descendants of Muslim soldiers who conquered Yunnan province for the Mongolian armies of Kublai Khan in the 13th century.
The old town of Dali is located on the western shore of the idyllic Erhai Lake at the foot of the impressive, up to 4000m high Cang mountain range.
You will visit the well-preserved "San Ta Si" (3 pagoda temples) from the 9th century. Afterwards check-in at the hotel and stroll through the old town. You will also visit the Catholic church in Bai style, the former city gates and the market.
Overnight stay in Dali.
Day 3: DALI - SHAXI
Travel to Shaxi. The Bai village Shaxi is located in the scenic area of the Shaxi Valley. Shaxi was once an important and prosperous trading post on the legendary "Tea and Horse Road". The "Tea and Horse Road" was an extensive network of trade routes for the trade of goods between China and Tibet.
On your way to Shaxi you will stop at Shibao Mountain. You will explore the numerous temples and pavilions from various dynasties and admire the more than 1300-year-old Buddhist stone works - evidence of a time when Mahayana Buddhism began to spread in Yunnan.
Take a stroll through Shaxi.
Overnight in a rustic Guesthouse in Shaxi.
Day 4: SHAXI - LIJIANG
Travel to the old town of Lijiang at the foot of Jade Dragon Mountain.
Take a walk through the cobblestoned alleys of the old town. Lijiang fascinates by the maze of alleys and canals that run through the old town.
During your stroll through the city you will also learn more about the mystical Dongba cult, which is still practiced by many locals today.
Visit from the "Pond of the Black Dragon", from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Jade Dragon Mountain. The "Pond of the Black Dragon" is only a few minutes' walk from the old town.
Almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1996, Lijiang was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List after reconstruction.
Check-in at the hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 5: LIJIANG ANCIENT TOWN - HIKE TO WENHAI LAKE
In the morning you visit the local market, where the locals do their daily shopping.
Afterwards we take you to the starting point of today's hike: to Yushui village. Yushui means "Jade Water" and refers to the clean melt water that flows through the village from the Jade Dragon Mountain.
Here you start your beautiful hike through pine forests in the shade of the dominant Jade Dragon Mountain (approx. 4 hours) up to Wenhai Lake. Along the way you can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley and the Jade Dragon Mountain.
Afterwards return to Lijiang by local transport.
Overnight stay in Lijiang.
Day 6: LIJIANG - TIGER LEAPING GORGE - ZHONGDIAN (Shangri La)
Drive to Qiaotou, at the entrance of the Tiger Leaping Gorge and the starting point of your hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Wedged between the Haba Mountains to the west and the snow-capped peaks of Jade Dragon Mountain, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world! Legend has it that a tiger escaped from his hunters by jumping to the other side. Hence the name "Tiger Leaping Gorge".
From the middle of Tiger Leaping Gorge you hike about 1 hour along a small road up to the Tea Horse Guesthouse, where you stop for lunch. The views are magnificent!
In the afternoon you hike 1.5 to Half Way House. The hike leads flat, partly through pine forests, along the slope and offers a wonderful view of the Yangtze River deep down in the valley as well as the Jade Dragon Mountain.
Travel to Zhongdian (Shangri La).
The city of Zhongdian, recently also called "Shangri-La", lies at 3200m in the midst of an enchanting landscape on the eastern Tibetan plateau.
Check-in at the hotel. Overnight stay in Zhongdian.
Day 7: ZHONGDIAN (Shangri La)
By public bus You will visit Ganden Sumtseling's Gompa (Songtsam Monastery), a 300-year-old monastery of historical importance, which was personally inaugurated in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama.
During the Cultural Revolution, the Sumtseling Monastery was almost completely destroyed and is once again one of the most important yellow cap monasteries in the region.
Afterwards drive to Zhongdian where you explore the picturesque old town. You will also climb "Turtle Hill" with the signature giant pagoda on top.
Dinner takes place in a typical 200 years old Tibetan house in the old town of Zhongdian.
Overnight accommodation is at Zhongdian old town.
Day 8: ZHONGDIAN - DEQIN - FEILAI SI
You leave Zhongdian (Shangri La) in the early morning for your journey to Deqin. You stop in the village of Nixi, famous for its pottery.
In Benzilan, which is still located in the Yangtze Valley, you visit the Dhandrumping Monastery, one of the most important Tibetan monasteries in the region.
Lunch in Benzilan.
After Benzilan, the road winds up along the flank of Bai Mao Mountain to the Yakou Pass, whose summit is 4,292 metres above sea level.
On the other side you enjoy a first, breathtaking view of the snow-covered, holy Kawa Karpo Mountain (Meili Xueshan).
Continue via Deqin to Feilai Si for overnight stay.
Day 9: YUBENG HIKING: FEILAI SI - XIDANG - HIKE TO YUBENG VILLAGE
On a clear day, early risers can expect an unforgettable sunrise with a wonderful mountain scenery.
You visit the Feilai Monastery, built in 1614, dedicated to the spirits of Kawa Karpo Mountain.
The road leads steeply down into the Mekong river valley, on the right side of the valley majestically rise the snow-covered 13 peaks of the Kawa Karpo mountains. Cross the Mekong River over a suspension bridge and reach the starting point of your hike to Yubeng Village.
The first 4 to 5 hours of today's hike to Yubeng lead through a beautiful landscape steadily up to the Nanzong Pass. After another 2 hours you will reach the village of Yubeng, an idyllic village located at the foot of the Kawa Karpo Mountains.
Overnight in a simple guesthouse in Yubeng Village at 3'500 meters above sea level.
Day 10: YUBENG VILLAGE - WATERFALL - YUBENG VILLAGE (HIKING TOUR)
A not too strenuous hike takes us to the idyllic waterfall of Yubeng in about 3 hours.
It is not uncommon to meet Tibetan pilgrims on the way who circumnavigate the foot of the Kawa Karpo for 13 days to collect merits for their karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning 'act', 'action', or 'word' and is the sum of an individual’s actions in this and previous states of existence.
Overnight stay in the guesthouse of Yubeng.
Total walking time approx. 6 hours. Please bring a small day pack for your raingear and water bottles.
Day 11: YUBENG - HIKE TO XIDANG - JOURNEY TO CIZHONG VILLAGE ON THE MEKONG RIVER
You leave the village Yubeng and walk back to Xidang where the driver is waiting for you.
Then a scenic drive along the Mekong River brings you to Cizhong, an idyllic village on a sunny terrace high above the Mekong River.
You will visit the well-preserved Catholic Church, which French and Swiss missionaries built here 150 years ago and is still used and maintained by the local Christian community today. A certain similarity with some contemporary churches in France is unmistakable.
Time at leisure to explore Cizhong Village on your own.
Overnight in Cizhong Village. For your accommodation in Cizhong we recommend the idyllic Songtsam Lodge.
Day 12: TRAVEL ALONG THE MEKONG RIVER FROM CIZHONG TO TACHENG
Drive along the Mekong River south to Weixi. With a length of 4350 km, the Mekong River is the 11th longest river in the world.
You cross the watershed and descend into the Yangtze Valley. This area is mainly inhabited by the ethnic group of Lisu.
You reach today's destination Tacheng in the early afternoon. The idyllic village of Tacheng is located in a quiet side valley of the Yangtze River in the midst of seemingly untouched nature.
Check-in at the hotel.
For the overnight stay in Tacheng we recommend the beautiful Tacheng Lodge, where you can also spend 2 nights comfortably.
Day 13: TACHENG - LIMING (LAOJUN SHAN) - LIJIANG
In the morning you will visit the Tacheng Nature Reserve, home of the Golden Nosed Yunnan monkey. This rare monkey species lives exclusively in the remote forests of southwest China and northern Myanmar.
Follow the Yangtze river valley to the south as far as Zhongxing, where you pass through a side valley to Liming.The town of Liming is the starting point for your visit to Laojun National Park.
The main attraction of Lao Jun Shan (Laojun Shan) are the huge red Danxia sandstone rocks, which are among the most beautiful and spectacular sandstone formations of their kind in China. Take the cable car to the top of Qian Gui Mountain. On the summit, erosion over millions of years has left a magnificent and fascinating landscape that resembles an oversized turtle shell. Continue your journey to Lijiang.
The journey to Lijiang takes you along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. You follow the valley to Shigu, where the Yangtze River bends 180 degrees from the north and flows north again in a practically parallel direction. You take a tour of the village of Shigu.
Continue to Lijiang where you arrive in the early afternoon. Check-in at the hotel. Overnight stay in Lijiang.