13 Days – Secrets of Shangri-la

Highlights –

  • Step into Shangri-la, the lost paradise, home to important monasteries, mountains, lakes and grassland – and experience the Tibetan culture.
  • Explore the Forbidden City in Beijing, home to 9999 different rooms; and walk along the Great Wall. Learn to cook delicious Chinese food in the Hutongs.
  • In Lijang, wander through the beautifully preserved maze of cobbled streets past canals, stone bridges and rickety wooden buildings in time-locked Lijang – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tour Type

Day 1. Arrival Beijing

 Welcome to China!

On arrival in Beijing, we’ll be welcomed by the local guide and transferred to the hotel.

Overnight in Beijing

Day 2. Beijing

 In the morning we’ll head to the Temple of Heaven. The Chinese flock here to do Tai Qi, Kung Fu, sabre practice, meditation, tango and gymnastics. Some practice calligraphy on the park’s flagstones using giant brushes and water.

Our next visit is to the Forbidden City. According to ancient beliefs it faces south, towards Tiananmen Square. The construction of the City finished in 1420 and served as the Imperial administrative centre throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties until the fall of the Empire in 1911. According to legend the Forbidden City is made up of 9999 different rooms. Restored in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics, the Forbidden City has since regained its youthful, vivid colours.

From here, we’ll make our way to the famed hutongs – the narrow alleys and streets of Beijing, located near Houhai Lake. We’ll visit the Gulou – the Drum Tower where during the Ming Dynasty, the city marked the hours of the day with the rumbling of drums. The tower faces the Zhonglou, the Bell Tower, and gives us a glimpse of ancient Beijing.

Overnight in Beijing

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 3. BeijingJinshanling Great WallBeijing

Get ready to walk the Great Wall! We’ll visit the Jinshanling Section where well retrace our steps back to the Qin Dynasty (more than 2,000 years ago) to find the first traces of the defensive walls. During the Ming Dynasty, workers restored and expanded the Wall to the height, width and length we recognize today.

With the lookout towers placed on the highest ridges, the guards could watch out for alarm fires down the wall in case of barbarian intruders. The wall slowed down Mongolian cavalry by forcing them to dismount from their horses before attacking.

At its peak, the wall extended over more than 6,000 kilometres across ancient Manchuria to the fort of Jiayuguan, where the Gobi Desert begins.

We’ll then drive back to the Hutong for a private cooking class where we’ll learn how to prepare three dishes. The class ends with a delicious meal of our freshly cooked dishes.

Overnight in Beijing

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 4. BeijingDali

It’s time to leave Beijing and take the flight to Dali.

On arrival the guide will meet us and take us to the hotel.

Overnight in Dali

Meals: Breakfast

Day 5. Dali

This morning we will set off for the Three Pagodas at the Chongsheng temple. A mystical emblem, the temple stands proud at the foot of the Changshan Mountains. The three pagodas were part of a vast monastic centre, which unfortunately was almost completely destroyed in an earthquake. The remaining temple was restored and transformed into a museum.

We’ll then head back to the Old Town of Dali and explore some typical Bai homes. A relaxed and warm atmosphere seems to ooze from these white walled homes, often decorated by paintings representing mountains, running water, birds and flowers. Their front porches, famous throughout the country, are distinguished by beautifully carved arches.

Overnight in Dali

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 6. DaliLijiang

In the morning we’ll head to Shibaoshan, an impressive collection of temples, caves and stone sculptures dating back to the 9th century. Of particular importance are the religious effigies, such as the statue of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy; and the renowned black Stone Treasure, believed to increase the chance of fertility.

In the afternoon, we’ll drive to Lijiang – a UNESCO-celebrated town and a magnificent labyrinth of traditional redwood and brick houses topped with grey slate roofs, surrounded by canals, stone bridges, and cobbled streets. It is a real paradise at the heart of the Naxi culture. Naxi people are most notable for their expertise in building canals, which assures each home has running water.

Crossing over the maze of alleyways, we’ll arrive at the “Lion Hill,” where we can relax over coffee while taking in the views over the village below.

At Mu Palace we’ll witness a vivid example of Ming and Qing architecture, based on the same style of architecture as the Forbidden City in Beijing. Our last stop is at Black Dragon Pond Park offering panoramic views of the famous Jade Dragon Mountain.

Overnight in Lijiang

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 7. Lijiang

This morning, we’ll hop onto bicycles and pedal our way around Baisha Old Town for an authentic cultural experience. One of the oldest towns in Lijiang, it is the earliest settlement of the Naxi people and the birthplace of “Tusi”, chief of the Mu clan.

In the centre of the old town there is a square where three thoroughfares intersect. Houses and small stores stand on the both sides of these streets. A crystal clear stream winds around all the houses flowing through the small town from north to south.

We’ll see many ancient buildings including Liuli Temple; Wenchang Palace;
and Dabaoji Palace, home to the stunning Baisha Frescoes.

Overnight in Lijiang

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 8. Lijiang

Today, we head out into the countryside. We’ll stretch our legs with a walk through Wenhai Valley. Graced with remarkable biodiversity and large lush fields, the valley is home to fifteen types of rhododendron and many bird species. Keep a look out for yak and miniature horses! We’ll also meet a Yi village shaman.

Yuhu Village is located right at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain with its stone buildings seemingly tucked into the mountainside. We’ll explore the streets for a while before hiking out. Three hours of climbing later, we’ll be rewarded with beautiful views over Wenhai Valley with Lijiang far in the distance.

Overnight in Lijiang

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 9. LijiangShangrila

Shangri-la really does exist!

We’ll transfer from Lijiang to Zhongdian – a stop along the old Tea Horse Road, a major trade route between Tibet and China in ancient times. Zhongdian is also part of ‘Shangri-la’, the mythical paradise described by novelist James Hilton. To this day, the Zhongdian area is still heavily influenced by the fascinating culture of Tibet.

Another major highlight of this Yunnan journey is the Tiger Leaping Gorge. One of the deepest gorges in the world, this natural crevice separating the Jinsha River has staggering variations in altitude (nearly 4,000m). As such, it has become a playground for global trekkers keen on defying the unforgiving terrain.

We’ll arrive in Zhongdian in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel.

Overnight in Shangri-la

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 10. Shangrila

After breakfast, we’ll visit the impressive Monastery of Songzanlin, an important place for Tibetan Buddhism still in use today. We can admire the glittering golden roofs of the monastery and soak in the countless prayer flags waving in the wind.

Our journey continues onwards to Napa Lake (difficult to reach outside of the summer season) surrounded by mountains and meadows where horses and yaks graze happily.

We’ll stop at the Ringha Temple – 700 years old and partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The temple has now been rebuilt and is considered one of the first Buddhist temples in Yunnan Province.

Overnight in Shangri-la

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 11. ShangrilaShanghai

Today we say goodbye to Shangri-la and board a flight to Shanghai. After arrival and check in at the hotel, there is time for leisure.

Overnight in Shanghai

Meals: Breakfast

Day 12. Shanghai

In the morning we will head to the French Concession. We’ll stroll through Fuxing Park to watch locals practicing their morning exercise, including colourful tango dancers. We’ll wander past old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and boutiques. It’s hard to imagine that in the 1930s this area was once home to gangsters, mafia, opium traffickers and prostitutes!

We’ll continue our walk to Xintiandi, a renovated area and one of the liveliest parts of the city. In Tianzifang, we can wander through the maze of authentic alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries.

Our walk will end in the Old Town, which still has some of its old lilongs (similar to Beijing’s hutongs). This area is also home to the famous Yu Yuan Gardens, a superb example of the art of Chinese garden landscaping where rocks represent mountains; ponds represent lakes; and running water imitates rivers.

Overnight in Shanghai

Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 13. Shanghai Departure

Let’s enjoy our last day in Shanghai until it’s time to check-out. In the afternoon, we will be taken to the airport for our onward flight.

Meals included: Breakfast


13 days / 12 nights

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