Yunnan - Tibet Road Adventure
Kunming – Dali – Lijiang – Shangri-la – Deqin – Zhuka Baxio– Rawu – Bomi– Basum– Lhasa (Shigatse)
17 days 16 nights - with optional extension to Kathmandu
Yunnan Tibet Road
Lijiang Old Town
Tiger Leaping Gorge
The First Bend of Golden Sand River
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 started plans for this journey back in 2012 when the road briefly opened to foreigners. It was closed again by the government. It has subsequently opened and closed at various times. We operated an exploratory tour in October, 2018.
We were a small group with all participants having an open mind to any changes and variations that may be required. A staff member from Passport Travel was also be on board - as a liasion/participant - NOT a guide.
We can organise this programme for private groups. A minimum would be 6 persons. This is a difficult route from the persspective of paperwork - permits etc and can only be done as a group. If a section of the road closes (ie group denied permission to travel on section of road) then you would fly from Shnagri-la to Lhasa and back track the route. This happened last minute of our exploratory tour. The flight itself turned out to be a highlight of the whole programme. The views of the Tibetan and Himilayan mountains were outtanding. All particiapnts agreed that this had been the most spectacular domestic flight they had eveer experienced!
Join at Kunmingand 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 of the Kham region of Tibet.
NOTE: If you have been to Yunnan before and wish to join us at Lijiang, then this can be arranged and the price would be reduced. We do not suggest joining at Shangri-la as Lijiang offers intial acclimatisation.
Day 01 Arrival Kunming D
As participants will be arriving from different parts of the globe and at different times, it is better to use the airport taxi system. This also helps keep the overall tour cost down for participants. You will be provided with your hotel details in Chinese to show the driver. Private transfers, with an English-speaking escort, can arranged for a surcharge.
Take an airport taxi to our hotel where our local guide will greet you. A welcome dinner with local cuisine will be served that night.
Day 02 Excursion to Stone Forest B/L/D
Morning, drive to visit theYuantongTemple. At lunch, try the famous local delicacy, Yiliang Roast Duck and then visit the world heritage listed site, StoneForest (Shilin in Chinese, 89km, 1.5 hours). This is an 80-hectare area of unique limestone formations created during the Permian Era when the ocean covered this region. Shilin is managed by the local traditional owners, the Yi people. It is famous in China and unique in the world. We will visit the Stone Forest for about 2.5 hours
Day 03 Kunming to Dali B/L/D
After breakfast at the hotel there is a four-hour drive to Dali. Upon arrival we will visit the Three Pagodas at Chongsheng, about 11km northwest of the ancient city of Dali. They occupy a scenic location at the foot of Mt.Cangshan facing Erhai Lake and have a history dating back over 1,800 years. The pagodas are the symbol of the historical Dali andare a record of the development of Buddhism in the area. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas consist of three separate pagodas forming a symmetrical triangle. This is unique in China. We will then make a walking tour in the central old section of Dali. The history of the Dali Old Town can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty when Dali was the capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom that is still the home of the Bai minority. The town, with a format like a chessboard, has four gates guarding it from the east, south, west and north and is sited between the Cangshan Mountains and Erhai Lak.
Day 04 Dali B/L
After breakfast, drive to visit Weishan Old Town built about 600 years ago, where you can still see Bai ethnic life in a more compact environment. We then visit the village of Donglianhua for its old Tea House. Here is an old post that was the start of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. Overnight, back in Dali.
Day 05 Dali - Shaxi - Lijiang B/L/D
In the morning, we visit the very local and atmospheric Xizhou morning market. From there we drive to the ancient town of Shaxi. Here there is an old Tea Horse Road Bridge. From there it is a 120km drive to Lijiang. Lijiang, at 2,300m, is the first stage of our acclimatisation process.
Day 06 Lijiang B/L
The morning starts with a walking tour of the central Old Town area, a picturesque zone with beautiful wooden houses and crisscrossed with streams of mountain water. Lijiang is one of the best-preserved ancient towns in China and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. We then visit the Dongba Cultural Museum situated within the Black Dragon Lake Park. Within the Dongba Museum you can see the pictographs that were developed by the Naxi people a 1,000 years ago. These pictographs are still in usetoday. From there we visit the Baisha Naxi Village. Baisha (White Sand) is located to the north of Lijiang. It is so named because they claim to have the largest amount of white sand in one place in the world. According to history, Baisha was the earliest place of settlement for the Naxi people after they arrived in the Lijiang basin. We then travel to another of the designated ancient towns, Shuhe. Shuhe, also ‘Shaowu’ in the Naxi language, means, ‘the village at the foot of the high hill’. There is more history here attached to the ancient tea route.
Day 07 Lijiang - Shangri-la vai Tiger Leaping Gorge B/L/D
Drive to Shangri-la. On route we visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge, believed to be the deepest gorge in the world. From the top of the gorge you look down into the steeply angled (70-90 degrees) mountainsides to the rushing Golden Sands (Jingsha) River with its 18 rapids at more than 200 metres below. Upon arrival in Shangri-la we check into our hotel. We then make a walking tour in the Old Town.
Techinically, from a biological perspective, we are arriving to Shangri-la during the higer altitude wildflower season.
15 October 2018
Day 08 Shangri-la B/L/D
Today starts with a visit to Songzanlin Tibetan Buddhism Monastery. 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 only about 700. This monastery rivals many sites farther within Tibet. Then we visit the first national park in China,the Pudacuo National Park located in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. Shangri-la is at an altitude of 3,400 meters and is another stop on the route to continue the acclimatisation process.
Day 09 Shangri-la - Degin B/L/D
Today we drive a 4WD vehicle north along the Yunnan – Tibet Road, closed over many years to foreigners, to see the First Bend of Golden Sand River (the upper reaches of Yangtze River) and enjoy the scenery along the river. On route we visit the Napal Lake Natural Reserve where there is a Nixi earthenware village. Then we visit the Dongzhulin Monastery that 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 northwest Yunnan. The monastery enshrines the 6.8m-high seated statue of Buddha, and houses the body of the 5th Zhatang living Buddha that is over 100 years old, but is 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 on this portion is a breath-taking 4,296m. Near our hotel we can enjoy the sunset – subject to weather of course! Overnight in Deqin
Day 10 Degin - Yanjing - Zhuka B/L/D
Early risers can enjoy the sunrise over Meili Snow Mountain from the hotel. Today’s drive will be 120km to Yanjing, the border of Yunnan and Tibet proper where we can also view salt fields. After border permit formalities, we drive on to Chamdo, enjoying the glacier, mountains, grassland and valley scenery along the route. We travel then 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) straddles the border of Yunnan and Tibet and is the highest peak in the province. We will overnight at a small town named Zhukathat which is located by the Lancang River (Upper Mekong).
Day 11 Zhuka to Baxio B/L/D
Today our road follows the Lancang River, crossing through and over Bangda Meadow, Dongdala Snow Mountain(5008m) and Yala Mountain Pass (4618m). Overnight in Baxio
Day 12 Baxio - Laigu - Lake Rawu B/L/D
Our driving continues to Laigu, which some claim to be the most beautiful village in Tibet. You can hike (about 1.5hrs) to the Laigu Glacier observation deck (there is an option to ride a horse). We then continue on to Lake Rawu. Rawu means green water. The lake is surrounded by forest and high mountains. Overnight in Rawu
Day 13 Rawi to Bomi B/L/D
A 130km-drive will bring us to Bomi. On route there is abundant valley and mountain scenery. There is another possibility of a hike (1.5hrs – with option of a horse) on Midui Glacier.
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. Overnight in Bomi.
Day 14 Bomi - Nyingchi - Lake Basum B/L/D
Today we have a 230km-drive to Nyingchi, on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. On route sites include; Lulang Forest; the Nyang River andXiuba Castle (more than 1000 years of history). Upon arrival we can embrace the sunset over the lake. Overnight at LakeBasum.
Day 15 Lake Basum to Lhasa B/L/D
The driving distance increases today – 360km to the capital, Lhasa. Our route takes us via MilaMountainPass(5020m) and LhasaLake. Overnight in Lhasa
Day 16 Lhasa – Shigatse B/L/D
A full-day tour in Lhasastarts with 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 It was 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, Jokhangis known for its large gold image of Sakyamuni Buddha that was brought from Chang’an (now Xi’an) by the Tang Princess Wen Cheng when she married the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo, It is the principal Buddhist temple in Lhasa.
Day 17 Departure B
Take a hotel taxi to Lhasa airport, or the train station to continue on the famous train line to Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.
There will be an optional extension programme travelling across Tibet to the base camp of Everest and then down the steep gorges to Nepal and ultimately Kathmandu.
If joining this portion Day 17 will be a ‘free day' for Lhasa. Extension programme.
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.
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