Finding Shangri-La (Yunnan)

A journey of epic discoveries takes you to the remote far-flung corners of Yunnan Province as we go in search of "Shangri-La". We journey to the autonomous region to gain insights into the Tibetan culture and customs, explore spectacular landscapes and seek solitude away from it all. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Witness extraordinary landscapes through Shangri-La autonomous

Stay in the intimate and authentic Songtsam Lodges

Experience intimate encounters with the Naxi, Tibetan & Bai people

Get up close and personal with the endangered Snub-nose monkeys

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE  SHANGRI-LA / BENZILAN

Meet and greet at Shangri-La Deqen Airport and begin our journey through the beautiful landscapes to Benzilan (1.5hrs drive). We visit the Dongzhulin Monastery, built in 1667 with exquisite collections of wall paintings and artefacts and once housed treasures from Tibet's Potala Palace. Next, admire the the stunning First Bend of Jinsha River, part of the Three Parallel Rivers system. Arrive at the intimate Songtsam Lodge Benzilan, tucked in a village hidden away in a valley with rice terraces and crop plantations. Spend the rest of the day at leisure to gradually acclimatise to the altitude. 

Overnight: Songtsam Lodge, Benzilan

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: BENZILAN / MEILI

Awake to a refreshing morning as we travel north on an inspiring journey to the Meili Snow Mountains where we arrive at the Songtsam Lodge Meili (3hrs drive), set on an altitude of 3600m with spectacular views of the area. After some acclimatizing, we take a walk to the villages and visit the local villagers, learn about their way of life while admiring the unmistakable views of the sacred Kawagebo

Overnight: Songtsam Lodge, Meili

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 3: MEILI

A spiritual day begins as you awake for a spectacular morning sunrise view of Kawagebo. Participate in a traditional ceremony to worship the spiritual peak like the locals do. At 6740m high, it is the first of six most sacred mountains in Tibetan Buddhism. Spend the day on a guided hike through the villages as we visit some local village houses. Learn the process of yak-milking, yak butter tea-making and visit the local market to get the glimpse of ethnic tribes with their daily shopping for fresh produce. 

 

Overnight: Songtsam Lodge, Meili

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4: MEILI / CIZHONG

After breakfast, we bid farewell to the Meili Snow Mountains and drive along the scenic Lancang River Valley (Upper Mekong River) for 2hrs before arriving at the remote Tibetan village of Cizhong, where early French missionaries settled and built a catholic church over a century ago and half of today's population in the village are Christians. Wine-making is a tradition in many households where we will visit a local vineyard for some sampling. Visit the Cizhong Catholic Church which mixes Gothic style with features of Chinese architecture and chat with the local priest about his duties and life in a Tibetan village. 

Overnight: Songtsam Lodge, Cizhong

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5: CIZHONG / TACHENG

Set off today on a scenic 3.5hrs drive to Tacheng passing through low mountain valleys and one of the most fertile areas in the region. Fresh vegetables, fruits, local ham and rainbow trout are famous in Tacheng, making it a "healthy and tasty" destination. On arrival at Songtsam Lodge Tacheng, we visit the surrounding Naxi villages and visit a local Naxi family to gain insights into their heritage and customs and enjoy some leisure walks in the rice fields

Overnight: Songtsam Lodge, Tacheng

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

DAY 6: TACHENG

After breakfast, we embark on a tour to visit the renowned and endangered Yunnan Golden Monkeys, also known as the Snub-Nosed Monkeys. The species is elusive due to their endangering numbers, less than 2000 in the wild and endeamic to Yunnan. After lunch, we visit Bazhu Tibetan Village to learn about their culture and experience the daily lives of the villagers. 

Overnight: Songtsam Lodge, Tacheng

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 

DAY 7: TACHENG / SHANGRI-LA

We return to Shangri-La today, also known as Zhongdian (3hrs drive). On arrival, make a visit to Shangri-La Old Town, an atmospheric town center, adorned with traditional Tibetan architecture and buildings and currently in restoration process after a fire broke out in 2013. Thereafter, we arrive into the compounds of Songzanlin Monastery scenic area where you will enjoy an inspiring stay at the Songtsam Retreat

Overnight: Songtsam Retreat, Shangri-La

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

 

DAY 8: SHANGRI-LA

We begin the day with a visit to the Songzanlin Monastery, second in importance in the world of Tibetan Buddhism. Built in 1679, the monastery is composed of Zhacang and Jikang lamaseries and is regarded as a holy ground by the Dalai Lama and the locals. In the afternoon, spend a leisure day and consider an excursion to Shika Mountains where you can ascend to the top by cablecar or consider a horse-riding excursion to the beautiful Napa Lake

Overnight: Songtsam Retreat, Shangri-La

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

 

DAY 9: DEPART SHANGRI-LA

Today, be transferred to Shangri-La Deqen Airport for your onward journey. 

Meals: Breakfast

 

HOTELS

In a small green valley, sits Songtsam Benzilan (1900m) sitting between Shangri-La and Meili. Amid barley and wheat fields, the lodge is surrounded by white-walled Tibetan houses and close to a white stupa. Some of the pristine villages are hidden in the mountains covered by original forests where traditions are well-kept. The forest is rich in natural wonders, a day hike to it will discover numerous flowers in spring, taste wild mushroom including the revered Matsutake. 

Songtsam Lodge, Benzilan

Songtsam Meili at 3600m overlooks the majestic Meili Mountain range. Most rooms have stunning views of Meili, a memorable experience for every guests. Breakfasts are set in the small book bar for great views of the sunrise on the snow peaks. Guijiunong, where Songtsam Meili was built is a tranquil village inhabited by only five families who practise polyandry. This is also one of the few places where traditional Tibetan herding and farming are still practised. 

Songtsam Lodge, Meili

Songtsam Cizhong sits in the lovely Tibetan village by the mighty Mekong River (Lancang River). It is surrounded by vineyard covered slopes and overlooks beautiful rice fields. Not far from the lodge, there is one of only few working local suspension bridge left. 

Songtsam Lodge, Cizhong

Songtsam Tacheng is situated in a low valley with year-round mild weather and sufficient rainfall and one of the most fertile places in the area. Besides fresh vegetables, local ham and rainbow trouts, wild honey is also a specialty in Tacheng and guests have the opportunity to visit local beekeepers. Rooms feature a wide balcony with views of the terraced fields. 

Songtsam Lodge, Tacheng

Songtsam Retreat Shangri-La is at the heart of the sacred region of the Three Parallel Rivers set at 3300m above sea level. A refuge at the end of the world, immerse in genuine Tibetan hospitality and be wowed by luxurious furnishings, views and architecture of the retreat. 

Songtsam Retreat, Shangri-La

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