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Day 1: Arrive in Kunming
Upon arrival you are transferred to our centrally located hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city on foot. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Kunming.
Day 2: Stone Forest and Kunming
This morning we drive to the Stone Forest to view the strange rock pinnacles that resemble trees. In the afternoon we explore a Sani minority village. After dinner we attend a performance that highlights Yunnan provinces' ethnic minorities. Overnight in Kunming.
Day 3: Western Hills and Kunming
In the morning, we head out to the Western Hills a few miles outside the city. The hills are set on the shores of Lake Dianchi. We follow the pathway that takes us through a series of famous temples built on the hillside, some of which are carved into the side of the cliff and are filled with sculptures and grottoes.
Day 4: Dali, Lake Erhai, Three Pagodas
Taking advantage of the new highway, we leave in the early morning for Dali which is 360 km north-west of Kunming, and the bus ride will take about 5 hrs. Arrive at Dali for late lunch. Dali is an excellent example of what ancient Chinese cities looked like. There are still remnants of the old wall that once protected it, and there are several fine gates through which people and vehicles still enter today. Dali's main inhabitants are the Bai people who have lived in the area for over 3000 years. Dali is spectacularly set against the Cangshang Mountains (13,000 ft/3,962 m) and on the shores of Lake Erhai (6000 ft/1,829 m). After lunch, we visit the 9th century Three Pagodas and have the chance to wander around the lovely old town in the late afternoon. Overnight in Dali.
Day 5: Dali
Our day begins with a boat cruise on Lake Erhai. We stop at Golden Shuttle Island to see the local seafood market. In the afternoon we take the Cangshan Ropeway (chairlift) for a birds eye view of Dali and the lake far below and then visit the only Catholic Church in Old Town with a history of over 100 years. Overnight in Dali.
Day 6: To Shaxi
Today we continue exploring the beauty of Dali. Our first stop is Xizhou, where we admire the distinctive Bai architecture, characterized by open courtyards, surrounded by rooms and walls that reflect the light into the surrounding rooms. We also stroll through a local market and visit a family "tye dye" workshop in nearby Zhoucheng. The Bai are renowned for their impressive "tye dye" skills. In the afternoon, we arrive at Shaxi, a small but beautiful village which played a major role in the ancient TEA HORSE route to Tibet. Overnight in Shaxi.
Day 7: To Shangri-La
Today is a long driving day but the beautiful scenery more than makes up for it. As we make our way north to Shangri-La Formerly Zhongdian), we head into Northern Yunnan's rugged landscape. Overnight in Shangri-La. (Altitude: 10,500 ft/3,200 m)
Day 8: To Tacheng Nature Reserve
We depart Shangri-La this morning for our 150 km drive to Tacheng Nature Reserve to search for one of the rarest primates on earth, the rare Golden monkey, also known as the Yunnan Snub-nosed monkey.
Day 9: Search for Golden Monkeys, To Deqen via the Baimang Pass
We leave early morning as this is the best time to view these rare monkeys. It is believed that there are fewer than 2,000 in the wild today. Tacheng Nature Reserve is perhaps the best place to see them in their natural high elevation habitat. They are endemic to China and are recognized as the monkeys which have the highest elevation as their habitat, having been recorded as high as 4,700 meters. Only 17 groups have survived in northwest Yunnan and neighboring regions of Tibet. Group size is small, typically only 20 to 60.
Day 10: Mingyomg Glacier, Feilai Temple
Today we have a scenic drive to Mingyomg Glacier. Local Tibetans lead us up the pathway on horses. We are rewarded with views of the 1.2 million-year-old glacier and a small Buddhist temple. We walk down a different route and after a late lunch visit Feilai Temple. Overnight in Deqen. (Altitude: 11,640 ft/3,550 m)
Day 11: Explore the Tibetan-Himalayan Region, return to Shangri-La
A short drive brings us to the Deqen county Tibetan welfare school. We meet Anui, the inspirational founder of the school and learn of his quest to keep the Tibetan written language and culture alive. Our group interacts with the students and may be asked to help teach an English lesson! Next stop is the interesting small local market.
Day 12: To Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge
En route to Lijiang, our first stop is Tiger Leaping Gorge. Legend has it that a tiger pursued by a hunter, leapt to freedom using a rock at the bottom of the gorge. It is here that the mighty Yangtse is squeezed between two massive walls of rock creating a roaring spectacle of water.
Day 13: Lijiang - Yufeng Temple, Traditional Naxi Village
Lijiang is a major center of the Naxi people, a minority descended from Tibetan nomads who live in a matrilineal society, of which many of the old customs survive to this day. They have inhabited this region for well over a thousand years and have their own written language that uses a unique system of pictographs.
Day 14: Lijiang - Black Dragon Pool, fly to Chengdu
The old town of Lijiang has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its historic architecture and layout. Here, you find serpentine walkways, footbridges and small canals that make for wonderful exploration. From here we head back to Black Dragon Park to enjoy the tranquil surroundings (gardens, pagodas and pools).
Day 15: UNESCO Panda Breeding Sanctuary; Chengdu City Tour
On the outskirts of Chengdu we visit the famous UNESCO Panda Breeding Sanctuary. We spend the morning watching the bamboo-eating Giant Pandas, as well as the brilliant-colored Lesser Pandas.
Day 16: Depart Chengdu
The Yunnan adventure concludes with a transfer to the airport to catch our international flights homeward, or connect to our Tibet program and fly to Lhasa, Tibet.
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