Yunnan - Adventures in Tribal China

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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 province's 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 grottos.

After lunch we walk through the Bird and Flower market, followed by a visit to the Golden Temple. This temple is the largest bronze temple in China and the cradle of Taoism in Yunnan. Time permitting, we will attend a tea tasting.

Overnight in Kunming.


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, Boat Cruise on Lake Erhai

Our day begins with a boat cruise on Lake Erhai. We stop at a small fishing 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 "tie dye" workshop in nearby Zhoucheng. The Bai are renowned for their impressive "tie dye" skills. In the afternoon, we arrive at Shaxi.

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.

Upon arrival, we will have lunch at our resort. Our afternoon will be relaxing as you can enjoy afternoon tea from your balcony with beautiful views, or spend an afternoon visiting a nearby village.

Overnight in Tacheng (basic accommodations).


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. Group size is small, typically only 20 to 60.

We continue up along winding mountain roads. The scenery is breathtaking with grand vistas of mountains, prayer flags and stupas abound. We cross over the Baimang Pass (14,009 ft/4,270 m) and encounter the locals who reside in this remote area.

Overnight in Deqen. (Altitude: 11,640 ft/3,550 m)


Day 10: Mingyomg Glacier, Feilai Temple

Today we have a scenic drive to Mingyomg Glacier. We will go by shuttle bus to the halfway point of the walk. There will be 1300 gentle steps to the top where we are rewarded with views of the 1.2 million-year-old glacier and a small Buddhist temple. We will have lunch and visit Feilai Temple. (There is an option to just go part way and return down if the walk is too difficult. Or remain in the village and explore the visitors center before meeting up with the group for lunch.)

Overnight in Deqen. (Altitude: 11,640 ft/3,550 m)


Day 11: Explore the Himalayan Region, Return to Shangri-La

We hope to visit a local school this morning (pending permission from local authorities.) Next stop is the interesting small local market.

After lunch we make our way back to Shangri-La through spectacular mountain scenery. We will visit a local family where we can sample some barley wine and yak butter tea.

Overnight in Shangri-La. (Altitude: 10,500 ft/ 3,200 m)


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 Yangtze is squeezed between two massive walls of rock creating a roaring spectacle of water.

In the afternoon we see the first bend of the Yangtze and visit Stone Drum village, which at over 1000 years old is the oldest Naxi village in the region. We see the 700-year-old Stone Drum and admire the architecture.

Overnight in Lijiang.


Day 13: Lijiang - Yufeng Temple, Traditional Naxi Village

Lijiang is a major center of the Naxi people, a minority 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.

Today we visit Yufeng Temple and the village of Yuhu, where Dr. Joseph Rock, one of the first foreign botanists, lived with local people for over 12 years. A visit to his old house will tell you more about Lijiang.

Next, a short drive takes us to Shuhe, a picturesque traditional Naxi village. We have our lunch and enjoy a walk through the old town. This evening we attend a Naxi cultural performance.

Overnight in Lijiang.


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).

The afternoon is at leisure to stroll the charming old town, shop or relax till our flight to Chengdu.

Overnight in Chengdu.


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.

In the afternoon, we pay a visit to the Jinsha Pre-Historic Museum, followed by a visit to the 600 year old Wenshu Temple.

For our farewell dinner, we sample the legendary local Sichuan hotpot (spicy/non spicy options).

Overnight in Chengdu.


Day 16: Depart Chengdu

The Yunnan adventure concludes with a transfer to the airport to catch our international flights homeward.

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