Day 1 Arrive in Kunming
Your guide will greet you at the airport or train station with a welcome sign and then take you to check in at the pre-booked hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to explore Kunming.
Day 2 Kunming (Breakfast, Lunch)
A 1.5-hour drive along the freeway will bring you to the fascinating Stone Forest, where you can marvel at the phenomena of the broad expanse of karst limestone pillars in fantastic shapes that resemble a forest when viewed from a distance. Formed by the movement of the earth 270 million years ago and exposure to wind and running water, these extraordinary formations are of considerable interest to geologists, while the forest is home to the Yi minority renowned for their diligence, embroidery and dancing.
On a leisurely walk in the Bird and Flower Market, you’ll see shops selling plants, birds, fish, antiques, jewelry, souvenirs and other handmade crafts that you can bargain for as you mix with locals in this bustling bazaar, soaking up traditional culture. At the end of the day, you will be returned to the hotel.
Day 3 Kunming – Dali (Breakfast, Lunch)
You will be taken to the railway station to catch the bullet train to Dali, where the local guide will meet you and start the exploration of Dali. It begins with a cruise on Erhai Lake, cradled below Cangshan Mountain. Treasure the beautiful natural scenery and cultural significance of the lake to local Bai minority people. Step onto scenic Jinsuo Island where you can explore exquisite historic buildings and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Afterwards, transfer to Chongsheng Temple to visit the landmark Three Pagodas: one big pagoda with a height of 69.13 meters in the middle, protected by two smaller ones on each side, in a perfect triangle. The Buddhist pagodas were erected in the Nanzhao period (738 – 902 AD). Many significant cultural relics and Buddha statues of great value in Buddhism gathered over the eras are now on display. Last stop of the day is Dali Ancient Town, the heart of trade, politics, and culture of Yunnan province during Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) and Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD). Now it is a vibrant tourist center where you can roam the streets to experience both historical cultural ambiance of the ancient town and vigorous vibe of modern life.
Bustling Foreigner Street is worth exploring. At the end of the day, you will check in the pre-booked hotel in Dali.
Day 4 Dali – Lijiang (Breakfast, Lunch)
In the morning, your guide and driver will take you to Xizhou Town, home of the ethnic Bai minority. Soak up the bustling atmosphere of the clamorous Xizhou morning market where a wide range of commodities, including fresh marine products, diversified daily necessities, and interesting local specialties are for sale. You are likely to see women dressed in traditional Bai minority costumes amongst the sellers. A visit to a typical Bai minority residential complex in Xizhou Town constructed by successful local businessmen in different historical periods gives a deeper insight into the minority culture. The classical layout of the Yan Family Mansion reflects Xizhou’s prosperous past. Next point of interest is Zhoucheng, renowned for its fine tie-dying fabrics. It is the largest town of the Bai minority, where folk customs and primitive lifestyle have been well preserved. Afterwards, drive to Lijiang where picturesque scenery awaits at Black Dragon Pond Park. Here temples, towers, pavilions and stone tablets from past ages reflect mirror-like in the pond against the backdrop of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Gain an understanding of the local Nakhi minority culture at the Dongba Culture Museum, where more than 12,000 cultural relics are on display. Lastly walk up to the Lion Hill to visit the five stores high Wangu Pavilion, featuring traditional architecture in the elaborate arches, roof beams, veranda, tiled roofs and sculptures representing the 23 ethnic groups in the region. Near 10,000 dragon carvings grace the walls. A panoramic view of the whole ancient town seen from the top of the pavilion is wonderful at sunset. You will be transferred to the pre-booked hotel in Lijiang after the tour.
Day 5 Lijiang (Breakfast, Lunch)
After breakfast, drive to Shuhe Ancient Town, an important trading village on the Ancient Tea Horse Road. Shuhe is charming and authentic and retains quite a laid-back vibe. Wandering around, you can enjoy the quiet cobbled alleyways, old stone bridges as well as slow paced lifestyle of the Nakhi people, undisturbed by the throngs of tourists. In the center of the town is Sifang Street, a lively market square surrounded by all sorts of shops with quaint wooden facades, reminders of thriving trade in past eras.
The next destination is Yuhu Village, which is famous for the work of Dr Joseph Rock, an Austrian-born American adventurer who spent 27 years here researching and documenting ancient Nakhi culture, customs, scriptures and lifestyle. Pay a visit to his home base, The Former Residence of Rock’s Museum, which displays a myriad of precious photos and personal items that were instrumental in taking the Nakhi culture to the world.
Then transfer to Baisha Village where you can appreciate the important cultural relic of Chinese history of arts and religion in the Baisha murals in Dajibao Palace, created during the Ming dynasty, the heyday of the Mu family rule over Lijiang. Capture the essence of Badong culture through the murals which involve a wide range of materials as well as art forms. Later, take a stroll in the local bazaar to experience the tempo of village life. On a visit to Jade Peak Temple, the fusion of ethnic culture is evident in the different architectural styles. Enhancing the built environment of the pavilions and temples are the peaceful courtyards and fruit and flower trees, some centuries old that are spectacular when in bloom. You will be returned to the hotel after the tour.
Day 6 Lijiang – Shangri-La (Breakfast, Lunch)
This morning, drive towards Shangri-La, stopping off at a series of attractions along the way. The First Bend of Yangtze River is where the headwaters of the Yangtze River take a sharp ninety degree turn towards northeast slowing its pace. In a broader area, the river flows quietly through the picturesque scenery framed with overlapping peaks, terraced fields and local villages. Continue exploring at Tiger Leaping Gorge, formed by the convergence of steep vertical ridges on opposite banks rising more than 3900 meters, forcing the flowing waters of the Jinsha River into a narrow gap, causing thunderous whirlpools and dangerous rushing waters. From well-paved pathways you can observe, hear and feel the spectacle of fast waters rushing and slamming into large rocks, or you can stand up close on the viewing deck to gaze at the torrents roaring between mountains. Upon arrival in Shangri-La, check in to the pre-booked hotel and then feel free to stroll around the Old Town.
Day 7 Shangri-La (Breakfast, Lunch)
A ten-minute drive through the northern part of Shangri-La County will take you to Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province. The monastery was established in the 17th century during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama and now 700 monks and lamas assemble for important functions in what is commonly known as Little Potala Palace – for the scale of the buildings and lavish gilding on buildings and artefacts. Here you can see eight gold-plated Sakyamuni Buddhas, Palm-leaf Manuscript, colorful gold painted Thangkas, incense burners made of, or gilded with gold and silver during the reigns of the Fifth and Seventh Dalai Lamas. At the Tibetan Art Museum, you can learn about arts that have created the structure, architecture, painting and other artefacts.
Proceed to Potatso National Park, a nature reserve covering 1300 sq. km on an altitude between 3,500 and 4,100 meters above the sea level. Virgin forests of spruce, pine and meadow dotted by wild flowers and tranquil lakes have been conserved, to protect 20% of the country’s plant species found there and the many endangered animal and bird species. Wandering around the grassland and passing picturesque Shudu Lake and Bita Lake, you may chance upon black-necked cranes, beautiful orchids and yew trees. Gain an insight into the culture when a visit to a local Tibetan family to see how they live their daily lives. At the end of the day, you will be transferred back to the hotel in Shangri-la.
Day 8 Depart Shangri-La (Breakfast)
Your guide will meet you at the hotel for transfer to the airport according to your departing flight schedule.