Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)
We depart the UK on our overnight flight to Kunming via Beijing.
We arrive late in the evening in Kunming, the City of Eternal Spring. We will transfer to the hotel to enjoy some well earned rest.
After a leisurely start we will explore Kunming on foot. In the afternoon we travel out to the western hills (about 1hr driving) to walk in the countryside. We plan to walk from Gaiqiao to Longmen. We might cover 5km over the ground at a leisurely pace.
Today, we visit the Shilin Stone Forest, about 60 miles from Kunming, a spectacular set of distinctive karst rock formations. The pillars rise from the ground like stalagmites making them look something like trees to the people who originally named the area. Known since the Ming Dynasty (1300’s) in China as the 'First Wonder of the World', the area is perhaps the most important attraction in Yunnan. A local proverb has it that visiting Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest is a wasted journey. We explore the area on foot with a myriad of paths to choose from.
This morning, we drive south to the famed Yuangyang rice terraces. The terraces are a masterpiece of the ingenuity of the Hani people. You may well recognise the scene even if you have not heard the name before. Yuangyang is famous for its beautiful rice terraces, idyllic rural scenery and unique ethnic minority culture. We should arrive early afternoon. After checking into the hotel we can walk to a viewpoint to enjoy stunning views across the terraces that stretch down the sides of the hills for as far as the eye can see. Hopefully we can enjoy the sunset if the weather permits.
Those who would like can get up to see the sun rise across the terraces. Well worth the early start! After breakfast in the hotel we will explore more of the terraces and local culture with our local guide to explain something of what we see. The walking will be at a leisurely pace winding passed paddies and through villages. Hopefully we will come across a local market. These always offer insight into local culture.
We have some free time this morning to explore the local area before transferring back to Kunming. We should arrive early afternoon giving us some time to further explore the city.
Today we travel north from Kunming by train. We will use the recently built high speed line from Kunming to Dali. The journey takes about 2hours. On arrival in Dali we transfer to our hotel. This afternoon we have a guided walking tour of this beautifully preserved city. You will have free time here to stock up on local souvenirs as you prefer.
We are back on the walking trails today exploring the Cangshan Mountains. The highest peak here, Malong, rises to 4122m. We will walk in the mountains making use of local cable cars to make sure we get the best views. We plan to take a cable car and walk up to up to Zhonghe Temple (2600m). From here we walk along the mountain ridge on a relatively flat path to the evocatively names Seven Dragon Pool. The walk offers great views over Erhai Lake and Dali. We continue to Qingbi Brook at the top of the Gantong Cable car which will take us back down to the valley.
Today we transfer by road to Shaxi. Much of the town's charm lies in the fact it has been restored rather than rebuilt. Being off the main highways it hasn't seen the rapid development of tourism that has taken place in Lijiang and Dali. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities maintaining their traditions, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the original walled town gates and market square that prove Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail. You will stay in a local family-run guesthouse. The accommodation is very simple and bathroom facilities are basic and shared, but the warm hospitality makes for a memorable experience. In the afternoon we will take a stroll around the ancient town and visit the well-preserved historical sites of Sifang Street, Xingjiao Temple, Yuxi Bridge and Ancient Opera Stage.
Today we drive out into the Shibao Shan Mountains. We will walk to Shadengqing Temple. And if time allows further to Shizhong temple for which you might need another hour. The paths are generally good underfoot. It is quite possible we will encounter troops of monkeys en route. Please be careful interacting with them as they can bite.
After breakfast we head out by private bus to Leaping Tiger Gorge. About 15 km in length, the gorge is named after a legendary tiger that leapt across the gorge to escape the clutches of a hunter. No mean feat considering the canyon’s narrowest point is still a staggering 25 metres wide! This explanation of the name could conceivably have been embellished over time. Part of the Yangzi River (known here as the Jinsha River) thunders through the gorge, which is in turn framed by 5000m high mountains. On arrival at the entrance of the gorge we will be met by minivans to take us to Naxi Guest House. From here we will hike straight to the Tea Horse Guest house where we overnight. Again facilities at the guest house will be simply with no en suite accommodation available.
Ascent 800m/Descent 600m
This morning, we have an early breakfast and start out at 07:30. We will walk from Tea Horse Guest House straight to Tina’s Guest House. Expect the path to be muddy and stony underfoot. We plan to arrive for lunch. Later we transfer by private bus to Shangrila (about 2.5hours), a reference to the mythic utopia from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. This charming Tibetan town lies around 3200m. On arrival we will take it easy to acclimatize. Later we will stroll on winding streets past prayer halls and pagodas in Dukezong Ancient Town. A fire tore through the area in 2014, destroying most of the town, but painstaking restoration work continues, and the town remains charming. It’s also home to a towering, gilded prayer wheel – the largest in the world.
Ascent 100m/Descent 500m
After breakfast, we drive to Pudacuo National Park, the first National Park on the Chinese mainland, set up in 2007. There are three main scenic areas open to visitors: Bita Lake in the south, Shudu Lake in the north and Militang Alpine Pasture in the middle. We plan to hike from the park entrance to the Eco hiking way and continue to Shuimingdu. The path will be muddy underfoot but fairly level.
This morning we explore Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan, before flying back to Kunming this afternoon.
After breakfast we transfer back to Kunming Airport for our day flight back to the UK via Beijing.