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Shangri-la and Panda Explorer 

Kunming – Dali – Lijiang – Shangri-la – Daocheng – Yading – Kangding – Riwa – Xingduqiao – Chengdu
16 days 15 nights 4-WD Jeep Tour

Giant Panda
Dali Old City
Lijiang Old Town
Tiger Leaping Gorge
The First Bend of Golden Sand River
Yading: Another Shangri-la Legend

Day 01 Arrival Kunming D
Visit the Bamboo Temple which is a Mahayana Monastery (30 minutes from airport to Bamboo Temple). Set in the tranquil hills just outside Kunming, this complex dates back to the Tang Dynasty. It is famous for its 500 life-sized carved Arhats or disciples of Buddha. A special local delicacy Mushroom Hot Pot will be served at dinner.  Overnight in Kunming

Day 02 Excursion to Stone Forest B/L
Leave Kunming in the morning and drive to Stone Forest which is an 80ha site of fantastic limestone formations created during the Permian Era when the sea covered this area. Shilin is a World Heritage listed site and managed by the traditional owners, the Yi people. It is famous in China and unique in the world. Today's lunch includes a local Yunnan dish - Yiliang Roast Duck. Overnight in Kunming

Day 03 Kunming – Dali B/L
Take morning flight from Kunming to Dali, beautifully sited between the Cangshan (Azure Mountains) Range and Erhai Lake. The Bai people are the inheritors of the famed Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms and are justly famous for their wood and stone carvings. In the afternoon visit the spectacular Three Pagodas complex situated on the ruins of Chongsheng Monastery. In the evening, stroll through the vibrant Dali Old City. Overnight in Dali

Day 04 Dali – Lijiang B/L
In the morning visit the morning market of Xizhou (the largest Bai village) and Zhoucheng village which is famous for tie-dye craftsmanship. You can observe how Bai people make tie-dye products at home. Then drive from Dali to Lijiang. Visit Lijiang Old Town, a lovely traditional town with beautiful wooden houses and criss-crossed with streams of mountain water. Lijiang is one of the best preserved ancient towns in China and is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A traditional dinner will be served, followed by a presentation of Naxi music performed by very old musicians. Overnight in Lijiang

Day 05 Lijiang B/L
Today’s journey takes you to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains (Yulong Mountain) which is the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. Shanzidou is the highest of 13 peaks with an altitude of 5,600m. Looking from Lijiang Old Town in the south which is 15km away, the snow-covered and fog-enlaced mountain resembles a jade dragon lying in the clouds, hence the name Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Take the cable car up to Yak Meadow. In the afternoon visit Baisha Naxi village and Baisha Ancient Mural. All of the 55 murals were masterpieces in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The biggest one is stored in Dabaoji Palace. We walk to the picture postcard Black Dragon Pool Park in the north of Lijiang. It derives its name from the waters which sparkle like jade and are as clear as spring water. Free time to explore the Old Town. Overnight in Lijiang

Day 06 Lijiang – Shangri-la B/L
Drive to Shangri-la (Tibetan minority area). On route visit Tiger Leaping Gorge one of the deepest gorges in the world. Afternoon arrival to Shangri-la. In the evening visit Zhongdian Old Town with Tibetan old streets and houses. Enjoy the local Tibetan people dancing in the middle square of old town. Overnight in Shangri-la. See note on details and price page about upgrading the Shangri-la overnight stay to a very special boutique resort hotel.

Day 07 Excursion to Dongzhulin Monastery B/L
Today we drive along the Yunnan – Tibet Road to see the First Bend of Golden Sand River (the upper reaches of Yangtze River) and enjoy the scenery along the river. Then we visit Dongzhulin Monastery which was first built in 1667, the 6th year during the reign of Emperor Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty. It was where the Monlam Festival of Prayer for the Emperor's birthday was held and is one of the most important monasteries in North West Yunnan. The monastery enshrines the 6.8m high seated statue of Buddha, and houses the real-life body of the 5th Zhatang living Buddha which is over 100 years old but still well preserved. We stop at Benzilan for lunch, after which we continue ascending the scenic mountain range of Baiman Snow Mountain Nature Reserve. The highest pass is a breathtaking 4,296m. Drive back to Shangri-la. Overnight in Shangri-la

Day 08 Shangri-la B/L
In the morning visit Songzanlin Tibetan Buddhism Monastery, designed as a smaller version of Lhasa's Potala Palace and home to 780 monks of the Yellow Hat Tibetan sect. Balance of day free. Overnight in Shangri-la

Day 09 Shangri-la – Xiangcheng – B/L/D
In the morning we drive through the high mountain country of the eastern Himalayas, all the way to Xiangcheng which is in Sichuan Province. It lies in the ancient Tibetan province of Kham in what was previously eastern Tibet. This beautiful countryside is dotted with Tibetan villages and temples. The town is a pleasant place to linger or to serve as a starting point for excursions into the surrounding mountain areas. We visit Sangpi temple on the way.

Day 10 Xiangcheng - Daocheng – Riwa B/L
Continue to drive to Daocheng, which is located on the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the east of the Hengduan Mountains. On the southwestern border of Sichuan. The area covers 7,323 Sq Km and its 30,000 inhabitants are mainly Tibetan people. Continue to the village of Riwa the gateway to the 'Yading Nature Reserve', one of the highlights of this journey.

The reserve is home of three sacred Tibetan mountains - Chenresig (Avalokitesvara, 6032m), Jambeyang (Manjusri, 5958m), and Vajrapani (5958m). Tibetan Buddhists believe that making a kora (pilgrimage) around these mountains brings great merit, and that the three mountains represent compassion, wisdom and energy - attributes one must cultivate on the path to enlightenment. Overnight in Riwa.

Day 11 Riwa - Yading – Riwa B/L
Visit beautiful Yading on foot (an 8 - 9 hour round trip of medium grade hiking). From the reserve entrance we will traverse a beautiful wooded pathway leading to a valley set at the foot of the spectacular Mt. Chanadorje. We pass piles of mani stones by the side of the pathway, and at the base of the Reserve there are stunning views. We also visit Tshonggo Gonpa - a small Tibetan temple, which Joseph Rock nicknamed 'Bandit Monastery.' (Joseph Rock, an US botanist and explorer, conducted extensive explorations of northwest China and Tibet for Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and National Geographic from mid 1920s until the Revolution). We continue our hike to the foot of Mt Chenresig, where we ascend a small but steep hill to view a beautiful mountain-top emerald green lake. Local lore has it that this magical lake can reveal your future if you spend a few moments in quiet contemplation by its side. Then we return to the open meadows at the foot of Mt. Chanadorje before returning to Riwa for the night.

Day 12 Riwa – Daocheng – Litang – Yajiang B/L
In the early morning, drive via Daocheng and Litang to Yajiang. At an altitude of just over 4000m, Litang is one of the highest towns in the world (Lhasa is 3700 m). Situated high on a grassy plateau, Litang has the feel of a rough and tumble Wild West town. From surrounding areas, the Khampas people - dressed in yak skin coats with colorful necklaces and hair ornaments, and long daggers hanging from their belts - amble into town to stock up on food and supplies, play pool on the streets and hang out in the local teahouses. This small town is great for people to observe and just strolling around. Visit Litang Temple. Overnight in Yajiang.

Day 13 Yajiang - Xinduqiao – Kangding B/L
After breakfast, drive to Kangding, the capital city of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Kangding is a busy commercial city serving the needs of Chinese and Tibetan merchants. Along the way we can appreciate the idyllic scenery and visit the local people. After dinner, enjoy the hot springs at Erdaoqiao (optional). Overnight in Kangding

Day 14 Kangding – Luding – Chengdu B/L
Drive to Luding which is located halfway between Moxi (Hailuogou) and Kangding. A major traffic junction between western Sichuan and Chengdu, Luding is a small, bustling town with little to see in the town itself. Visit the Luding Iron - chain Bridge. In the past this was a flash point in the civil war. We drive through the Erlangshan Pass on our way to Chengdu the capital of Sichuan province. Chengdu is also one of the most important economic centres, as well as transportation and communication hubs in Southwest China. Overnight in Chengdu

Day 15 Chengdu B/L
Visit the Giant Panda Breeding & Research Base, located just 10km away from downtown Chengdu,. The Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre has been created to replicate the natural panda habitat in order that they might have the best possible environment for breeding. We then drive to visit the Historic Irrigation System in Dujiangyan. Construction of the Dujianyang Irrigation System began in the 3rd century BC and is an ancient marvel. It continues to control the waters of the Minjiang River (the longest tributary of the Yangtze River) and distributes the waters to the fertile farmland of the Chengdu plains. Drive back to Chengdu. Overnight in Chengdu

Day 16 Departure Chengdu B
Tour finishes and departs Chengdu.

Map of tour route

Weather in Yunnan province.

Minority Ethnic Groups of China

Departure Dates and prices; Please go to the NEXT PAGE