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Yunnan To Tibet Overland  

Yunnan - Tibet Road Adventure

Kunming – Dali – Lijiang – Shangri-la – Deqin – Mangkang – Basu – Bomi – Bayi – Basongcuo – Lhasa (Shigatse)

16 days 15 nights 4-WD Jeep Tour



Yunnan Tibet Road

Lijiang Old Town

Tiger Leaping Gorge

The First Bend of Golden Sand River

The Poto-chu Valley

Drepung Monastery.

Potala Palace

Get well and truly off the beaten track in Tibet’s remote and stunningly picturesque Kham region on this cross-country exploration of the historic Lhasa Kunming tea route into the headwaters of the Mekong and Salween rivers.

We had planned to operate this exploratory trip in October/November of 2012, but the road was closed to foreigners by the government. So far the road is, once again, not open to foreigners to travel on. It may open again , but could suddenly close again. This is all due to protests within Tibet and the governments desire to stop publicity of such events. Our partners in the area had advised us to avoid this route at present as the road could suddenly be shut at the last minute. It is still possible to fly, or rail into Lhasa. An exploratory tour travelling from Beijing to Lhasa and then to Khatmandu has just concluded.

We are always reviewing the situation and when we feel the road will stay open for the planned travel period we will make the exploratory tour. Whilst the portion Kunming, Dali, Lijiang to Shangri-la is known and has been recently visited by someone from our office the road route from Shangri-la to Lhasa has not been visited by one of us (in recent times) as it has only recently been occasionally reopened by the Chinese government. This will be a small group and one must have an open mind to changes and variations on route if required.

Join at Kunming then set out from historic Lijiang overland along the adventurous northern route to explore the hidden valleys of the upper Mekong and Salween Rivers. Magnificent scenery, authentic cultures and spectacular landscapes are a feature of this recently opened back door route to ancient Lhasa. Our journey takes us into the heartland Kham region of Tibet and the new “Three Rivers Running Parallel” World Heritage Area.

Day 01   Arrival Kunming   B/L/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   Kunming to Dali  B/L/D

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 03   Dali to Lijiang  B/L/D

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. We spend 2 nights here not only because of the beauty of this UNESCO listed city, but as part of our acclimitisation procedure. We are now at 2,300 meters. Overnight in Lijiang

Day 04   Lijiang   B/L/D

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 05   Lijiang to Shangri-la  B/L/D

Drive to Shangri-la (Tibetan minority area), and visit Tiger Leaping Gorge one of the deepest gorges in the world. 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

Day 06  Shangri-la  B

We spend another day in Shangri-la (3,400m) to assist with acclimitisation. In the afternoon 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.Overnight in Shangri-la

Day 07  Shangri-la (Zhongdian ) to Deqin B/L/D

Today we drive a 4WD vehicle north 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. Overnight in Deqin

Day 08   Deqin to Mangkang  B/L/D

Departing Deqin, we travel along the north of Mekong River valley into Tibet. Along the way, we may be able to see the peaks of Kawagebo Mountain range on a good day. Mt. Meili (6,740 m) which straddles the border of Yunnan and Tibet, and is the highest peak in the province. Overnight in Mangkang

Day 09  Mangkang to Basu  B/L/D

Travel through Tibetan peaks and valleys, and over 2 mountain passes of 4,000 – 5,000 m. Overnight in Basu

Day 10   Basu to Bomi  B/L/D

Drive along the Poto-chu Valley at Tramog (2743m) located deep in the thickly forested gorge of Parlung Tsangpo with glacial waterfalls streaming from the mountain sides. It is one of the most stunning drives in China. Overnight in Bomi

Day 11  Tramog ( Bomi ) to Bayi  B/L/D

Subject to weather conditions you will have an unobstructed view of the majestic Nam Jiabawa peak. At 7,755m, it is the highest peak in eastern Tibet. After a long 9 hour drive, we arrive in Bayi, a large Tibetan town. Overnight in Bayi

Day 12  Bayi to Basong Lake (Gongbujiangda Town)  B/L/D

We continue to drive along to the nearby town of Bayi, with its famed Buddhist Buchu Monastery and Lamaling Temple. It is a temple of the Red Sect and is the most important place for the Tibetan Buddhism in Nyingchi. We finally arrive at the crystal clear waters of the Basong Lake (Basum Tso Lake), another place you would be reluctant to leave. Overnight in Basong Lake

Day 13  Basong Lake to Lhasa   B/L/D

Leaving the lake after breakfast, we arrive at Gongbujiangda in time for lunch. The afternoon will be left open for you to take a walk or explore the nearby glacier. Then continue our drive. After the 9-day-long challenging overland trip, you will understand why Tibetans regard the journey to Lhasa as one of the most sacred of pilgrimages. Overnight in Lhasa

Day 14   Lhasa tour   B/L/D

Full day tour in Lhasa, visiting Drepung Monastery. The Drepung Monastery was once home to 8,000 monks, who were taught in the traditions of Vajrayana, Mahayana and Sutrayana, the three vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism. We also visit the lively Barkor Bazaar in Lhasa, a colorful place where Tibetan merchants meet. Visit the Sera Monastery, founded in 1419, is a monastery of the Gelugpa (Yellow Sect) order. Its many white buildings, which sit at the base of a rocky hill, have roofs graced with gilded, bell-shaped gyamtschen (like a ‘Bell’ and are symbolic of flourishing Buddhism). The former Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace Norbu Lingka, a richly decorated complex, is located in a beautiful garden setting, has been the traditional summer palace of the Dalai Lamas. This is the very place from which the current Dalai Lama fled to exile in 1959. Overnight in Lhasa

Day 15   Lhasa tour   B/L/D

Another full day tour in Lhasa, visiting the world famous Potala Palace. The 13-storey Potala Palace, reputed to contain 1,000 rooms, is one of the world's most remarkable buildings. The palace, which covers the mountain it sits upon, contains hundreds upon hundreds of magnificent Thangkas, frescoes and images built in an era when religious art was created anonymously as a means of gaining merit for future lives. Then we visit the oldest temple in Tibet. Originally built in the 7th century, Jokhang, is known for its large gold image of Sakyamuni Buddha. It is the principal Buddhist temple in Lhasa. Overnight in Lhasa

Day 16   Lhasa – Shigatse   B/L/D

Drive to Shigatse to visit the awesome Tashilhumpo Monastery built in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama. On the way, explore Gyangtse Dzong Fortress, the centre of a battle between British and Tibetan forces in 1904. Overnight in Shigatse

Day 17   Departure   B

Return to Lhasa airport where the tour finishes. Or, continue on the famous new train line to Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. Another option extension is to travel overland to Kathmandu in Nepal. All extensions require additional arrangements and costs.

Map of tour route

Exploratory trip is planned once the government reopens the road. Please email us your expression on interets in joining that venture.


On the exploratory trip we will use comfortable hotels. On the section from Shangri-la to Lhasa we will seek the best comfortable hotel we can, but you must expect Asian style squat toilets on this section.


You can see by the itinerary that we traverse some serious altitudes. You can further recognise that we have planned the approach to the Tibetan plateau region with stops at Lijiang and Shangrila to allow the body time for some acclimitisation. If you know from pervious experience that you could have issues with such heights you should not book on this tour.

Visa and Tibet Permit:

You first obtain the Chinese visa. we then send a copy of this to China and based on your booking on this tour you will be issued a 'Tibet Permit', which you will collect upon arrival.

Expressions of interest for exploratory trip
; Please email request.

Weather in Yunnan province.

Minority Ethnic Groups China

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