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Roaming Yunnan and the Upper Mekong River  

Kunming – Dali – Lijiang – Shangri-la – Kunming – Jianshui – Yuanyang – Jiangcheng – Menglun – Jinghong – Mekong Cruise – Chiang Saen
15 days, 14 nights

Highlights:

Yunnan Hani Terraced Rice Fields

Jianshui Ancient Village

Lijiang Old Town

Tibetan Minority in Shangri-la

Mekong River Cruise & Golden Triangle

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.

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.

Day 03   Kunming – Dali  B/L

Morning flight to Dali. Meet the local guide and visit Three Pagodas which is known as the Chongsheng Santa and situated on top of the ruins of Chongsheng Monastery. The Three Pagodas are beautifully located between the slopes of Mount Cangshan 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 there is the opportunity to take a pleasant stroll in Dali Old Town which was the capital city of Nanzhao Kingdom 1000 years ago.

Day 04   Dali – Shaxi B/L

In the morning, visit the morning market of Xizhou (the largest Bai village) and Zhouchen village, famous for tie-dye craftsmanship. Drive on to Shaxi Old Town, which is located at the foot of Shibao Shan Mountain. Shaxi once played an important role as a bustling trade station on the Tea and Horse Caravan Road, an important branch of the Silk Road. Just over 1000 years ago, this ancient trade route connected Tibet with Eastern China. In exchange for teas from Yunnan, Tibetans traded their famous breed of horse. Shaxi became the main trade station along this route. A few years ago a Swiss culture organization invested a project in Shaxi to protect the old town.

Day 05   Shaxi – Lijiang   B/L

Drive to Lijiang. Meet the local guide and transfer to the hotel followed by a walking tour around the old town Lijiang, 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. In the afternoon, 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.

Day 06   Lijiang tour  B/L

After breakfast, visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (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, followed by a visit to Baisha Ancient Mural. Baisha expanse of sand (White Sand) is located in the north of Lijiang. According to history, Baisha is the earliest place for the settlement of Naxi nationality after they entered Lijiang basin. The present murals are all kept in Dabaoji Palace and Liuli Temple in Baisha. All of the 55 murals were masterpieces in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The biggest one is stored in Dabaoji Palace. The facial expressions of the 100 characters are vivid enough to show their happiness, anger, sadness and joys. Although the Baisha murals are about religion, their uniqueness comes from the fact that they are the combination of Buddhism, Taoism and Lamaism, which is a very rare phenomenon.  Free time to explore the Old Town of Lijiang.

Day 07   Lijiang – Shangri-la  B/D

Drive to Shangri-la - Tibetan minority area. On route you visit Tiger Leaping Gorge one of the deepest gorges in the world. Arrive Shangri-la in the afternoon. 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. See note on details and price page about upgrading the Shangri-la overnight stay to a very special boutique resort hotel.

Day 08   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.

Day 09   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. Construction began in 1679 and was completed in 1681. It is said that the Fifth Dalai Lama chose the site of the monastery through divination and named it "Gedan Songzanlin Monastery". In 1724, during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng in the Qing Dynasty, the monastery was renamed the "Guihua
Monastery". During its time of greatest prosperity, there were more than 3,000 monks in the temple, now there are still 780 monks residing here. Afternoon free.

Day 10   Shangri-la – Kunming – Jianshui   B/L

In the morning, take the flight to Kunming, then drive to Jianshui. Upon arrival, visit the 400 years old Chaoyang Tower which is 24 years older than Tian An Men in Beijing. The small city Jianshui is the cultural centre of southern Yunnan province. In the past, the people of this city became very wealthy due to the natural deposits of tin. You can see many private houses with typical Chinese architecture style in the city. There is the opportunity to visit one of them – Zhu Family Garden, which is formed by 250 rooms and 42 courtyards, and considered a better example compared with the gardens in Suzhou. You can also visit the second largest Confucian-temple in China.

Day 11   Jianshui – Yuanyang    B/L

In the morning, visit Zhang Family Garden, Tuanshan Village, in which you can see many old traditional Chinese houses still inhabited by Chinese families. Then drive to Yuanyang (64km) and experience one of the high points of the trip - the first wonder in the world: the endless terraced rice fields on the mountains, made by local Hani people for thousands of years.  

Day 12   Yuanyang – Jiangcheng via Luchun    B/L/D

Get up early in the morning to see the beautiful ‘sea of clouds’ on the way. Drive to Jiangcheng (304km) via Luchun county (at 155km). On the way you can see green tea gardens on both sides of the road in this region of Yunnan Province". 

Day 13   Jiangcheng – Menglun  B/L/D

Continue to drive to Menglun (182km) where our next destination will be the biggest Botanic Gardens in China. Enjoy the evergreen sub-tropical rainforests on the way. Tonight’s stay in the Botanic Gardens will be a very peaceful night.

Day 14   Menglun – Jinghong  B/L/D

After visiting the Botanic Gardens, drive to Jinghong. Visit Ganlanba, a Rubber Garden, Burmese Temple, Water Dai Village, and local market on the way. Tonight’s dinner is a “Dai people’s BBQ”.

Day 15   Jinghong – Chiang Saen    B/L

In the morning, take a speedboat down the upper Mekong River to Chiang Saen (Golden Triangle, Thailand 344km, cruise 10 hours). We hope to land at a Laotian Aini Village. After our exhilarating boat ride we reach the Golden Triangle region between Burma, Laos and Thailand. Disembark at Chiang Saen. Overnight in Chiang Saen

Day 15 Tour services end after breakfast.

Note: Additional services can be organised for you, or you can take a transfer from Chiang Saen to the main airport at Chiang Rai. From here connecting flights can get you to most international departures.

Weather in Yunnan province

Map detailing this tour.

Minority Ethnic Groups of China

For more details about price and departures go to the NEXT PAGE.