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10 Days Kunming Lijiang Shangrila Tibet Tour

Yunnan Tibet Tours 709
TOT: 10 Days Kunming Lijiang Shangrila Tibet Tour
Stone Forest
Tour Type: Private Tour: Flexible Travel Date & Travel Routes
Guide & Driver: Chinese-English-speaking guide & air-conditioned
  • Discover China’s “Spring City” – Kunming, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Shilin Stone Forest;
  • Explore the ancient town of Lijiang and its surrounding areas, including the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain;
  • Experience the area that may be the inspiration for the fantastical land of Shangri-La and the Songzanlin Monastery;
  • Find your inner peace at the sacred monasteries, temples and palaces of Lhasa;
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Day 1  Arrival in Kunming

Welcome to Kunming, the beautiful capital city of Yunnan! Your local tour guide and experienced driver will meet you at the Kunming Changshui Airport or train station to take you by private car to your downtown Kunming hotel and help you check in. You will have the rest of this day to relax at your hotel or feel free to ask your local guide for some ideas on where to explore around the city on your own.

Accommodation: Overnight in Kunming

Day 2  Kunming – Shilin Stone Forest, Flight to Lijiang

After a nice breakfast at your hotel, we will take you by private car about 90 kilometers (65 miles) outside of the city of Kunming to see one of nature’s miracles at the Shilin Stone Forest. These amazing natural karst stone formations were formed over 270 million years ago by the erosion of limestone that left towers of stone rising up from the ground, thus creating the “stone forest”. We will take you to visit both the Greater Stone Forest – where you can climb up to a pavilion for a panoramic view of the fantastic landscape, and the Lesser Stone Forest, where you can learn about the Yi Minority legend of “Ashima” and what happened when she was forbidden from marrying her true love.

After plenty of time exploring the incredible Shilin Stone Forest, we will take you back to the Kunming airport and help you check in for your short one-hour flight to Lijiang. Upon your arrival at the Lijiang airport, your local guide will greet you and take you to your private car to escort you to your hotel in Lijiang Old Town. You will have the rest of the this day free to relax in your hotel or begin exploring the local area on your own.

Accommodation: Overnight in Lijiang

Stone Forest

Stone Forest

Day 3  Lijiang Old Town – Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Baisha Village & Baisha Murals

This morning we will take you by private car to visit the magnificent Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which gets its name from its 13 peaks that are shaped like a jade dragon (you can guess where the snow part comes from.) The highest peak, known as Shanzidou, reaches 5596 meters (18360 feet) above sea level and is covered with snow and glaciers year-round, making for some spectacular views any time of the year. Enroute to the mountain we will stop at Ganhaizi (Dry Sea Meadow), which had been a highland glacial lake until it ran dry in the 1940s. The remaining fertile meadow is filled with flowers in the spring and summer, with the snow-capped mountain peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain providing a dramatic backdrop that is perfect for great photos. Other sightseeing hotspots on the mountain are the beautiful Blue Moon Valley, with its magical river that changes colors from sky blue to milky white depending upon the weather, and the Spruce Meadow with its towering spruce trees and panoramic view of the mountain peaks.

After exploring Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, we will drive to Baisha Village to see and appreciate the ancient Baisha Mural Paintings. The Baishi Village is probably the most authentic ancient village in the area, with its Dabaoji Palace and the Liuli Temple containing murals that were painted more than a thousand years ago in the various styles of Tibetan Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. After a visit to Baisha, we will move on to Shuhe Ancient Town, another ancient and well preserved village about 4 kilometers (2 miles) outside of the Lijiang Old Town. Shuhe was one of the earliest of the Naxi people’s settlements, and it served as an important stop along the Ancient Tea Horse Caravan route. Our exploration of the Lijiang area continues with a visit to the Dongba Culture Museum. This museum traces history of the ancient Dongba culture of the Naxi minority people with more than 10,000 cultural relics in its collection. After visiting the museum, we can walk over to the Black Dragon Pool for picturesque views in a calm and peaceful setting. During clear weather this is also a great place to see the beautiful Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. After we see the Black Dragon Pool, we will take you back to your hotel for the night.

Accommodation: Overnight in Lijiang

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Baisha Town

Day 4  Lijiang Old Town – First Bend of the Yangtze River, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shangri-La

This morning we will check out of the hotel and drive around 45 kilometers (28 miles) for a fantastic panoramic view of the First Bend of the Yangtze River, a horseshoe-shaped section of river that bends around a small mountain. We’ll also stop in the town there, Shigu, to see the Iron Chain Bridge that Mao’s Red Army used to cross the river during the Long March, and the ancient “Stone Drum”, a stone monument with a plaque placed there around 500 years ago to commemorate a Naxi victory over Tibetans in battle.

Moving on from Shigu we will visit one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world at Tiger Leaping Gorge, which was carved by the Jinsha River, one of the major tributaries of the Yangtze River. The maximum depth from the river to the top of the canyon is 3790 meters (12,434 feet), creating some amazing views. Legend has it that a tiger escaped from a hunter by jumping across the river using a rock that is still visible there in the middle of the river, thus the name Tiger Leaping Gorge.

From the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge we will travel on to what may be the real life Shangri-La, which is about a 2-hour drive through some beautiful scenery along the way, and then check into our hotel for the night. You will have the rest of the night free to rest and relax in your hotel room or explore the local area on your own.

Accommodation: Overnight in Shangri-la

Tiger Leaping Gorge

First Bend of Yangtze River

Day 5  Shangri-La – Songzanlin Monastery, Pudacuo National Park

“Shangri-La” is a fictional place from James Hilton’s classic novel Lost Horizon, but there is evidence to suggest that this area of northern Yunnan Province was Hilton’s inspiration for the place. A National Geographic resident explorer, Joseph Rock (whose former residence we will have visited in Yuhu Village), published articles about this area in the National Geographic magazine in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s that may have influenced Hilton’s book, which was first published in 1933.

To begin our exploration of the “real” Shangri-La, we will first visit the Songzanlin Monastery (Ganden Sumtseling Gompa), an ancient monastery of the “Yellow Hat” sect of Tibetan Buddhism situated at an elevation of 3,380 meters (11,090 feet) above sea level. First built in 1679, it is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province with around 700 resident monks at the present time. It is sometimes referred to as “The Little Potala Palace” due to the main monastery’s resemblance to the Potala Palace in Tibet. The main hall also houses an 8 meter (26 feet) tall gilded statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha along with paintings of events in his life and numerous ancient scriptures written on palm leaves. We can explore the three main lamasery buildings to see the various Buddhist treasures and the resident monks going about their daily lives, and if the weather permits, we can walk around the tranquil Lamuyangcuo Lake to enjoy the spectacular natural scenery there.

After our visit to the monastery, we will drive on to Pudacuo (also known as Potatso) National Park, the first national park in China to meet International Union for the Conservation of Nature standards and also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas. This 1,300 square kilometer (500 square mile) national park reportedly contains more than 20% of China’s species of plants, around one-third of its mammal and bird species and nearly 100 endangered species. The main sections of the park are Shudu Lake, Militang Grasslands and Bita Lake. We will start our exploration of the park by walking along the wooden plank road to enjoy the scenery around Shudu Lake (3.3 km, 1 hour of hiking) and Bita Lake (4.2 km, 1.5 hours hiking) while enjoying the Militang Grasslands between the two lakes. You may want to take an optional boat cruise on Shudu Lake or Bita Lake or both to avoid having to do some much walking.

After visiting the park, we will be welcomed into the home of a local Tibetan family for some special Tibetan snacks and yak butter tea. Fresh off of some authentic Tibetan hospitality, we will drive back to the hotel in Zhongdian to spend the night.

Tips for today’s tour:

1) Dress modestly, practice good manners and ask for permission if you want to take pictures with monks or pilgrims;

The altitude of Pudacuo National Park is around 3,538 meters above sea level, so you should avoid strenuous activity to prevent altitude sickness;

Accommodation: Overnight in Shangri-la

Songzanlin Monastery

Pudacuo National Park

Day 6  Departure from Shangri-La – Flight to Lhasa

This morning after a nice breakfast at your hotel, we will take you to the Shangri-La Zhongdian Airport for your 2-hour flight on to Lhasa, Tibet with some spectacular mountain scenery to be seen along the way. Upon your arrival at the Lhasa airport, your local guide will greet you to take you to your private car and escort you to your downtown Lhasa hotel to help you check in. You will have the rest of the evening free to rest, relax and acclimatize yourself to the higher altitude.

Tips for High Altitude Acclimatization:

1) Go for a leisurely walk in the fresh high altitude air, but avoid any strenuous activity after your arrival.

2) It's better to avoid taking a bath to avoid catching a cold.

3) Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and eat some fresh fruit.

4) Get plenty of rest.

Accommodation: Overnight in Lhasa

Day 7  Lhasa Full Day Tour – Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street

Start your exploration of Lhasa today with a visit to a world-famous landmark - the Potala Palace, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the world. Climb up to the palace along zig-zagging stone paths alongside the white and red walls to the top of the palace where you can gain a greater appreciation of the exotic Tibetan-style buildings as well as for a great view of Lhasa's entire urban area. After admiring the sweeping outside views, explore the inner spaces of the Potala Palace to find the stately chapels and learn more about the fascinating history of this special place.

From one historic landmark to another, your next stop will be at the Jokhang Temple, considered as the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Every day thousands of pilgrims come from all over Tibet and other places to the temple to worship the Buddha. The Jokhang Temple is also known as the "House of Buddha" because it houses the precious Jowo Rinpoche, a life-sized (1.5 meter/5 feet) image of the Sakyamuni at the age of 12.

The last stop for today's Lhasa exploration is Barkhor Street, the wide, circular street that surrounds the Jokhang Temple. Local residents enjoy walking on the street, completing several circuits around the temple as a daily tradition of pilgrimage. The street also has many small shops selling a wide variety of traditional Tibetan goods, religious items and handicrafts.

After your visit to the Jokhang Temple, we will take you back to your hotel for the evening.

Tips for Visiting the Potala Palace

1. The number of visitors to the palace is strictly limited to 2,300 per day. Visitors can only visit during the time specified on the admission ticket.

2. Admission tickets to visit the Potala Palace are sold out almost every day, so it is strongly recommended to book your tickets several days in advance.

3. There are many steps at the Potala Palace, so it’s best to take it slowly to avoid possible altitude discomfort.

4. Visitors should respect the rules while visiting. Do not wear hats, wear revealing clothes or step on thresholds as these actions violate local customs.

5. Photography and the taking of videos are forbidden inside the Potala Palace.

6. A security search will take place at the entrance to the palace. Explosives, flammables, knives, lighters and even water bottles are not allowed inside the Potala Palace.

Accommodation: Overnight in Lhasa

Potala Palace

Barkhor Street

Day 8  Lhasa Full Day Tour – Norbulingka, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery

This morning we will visit the beautiful Norbulingka Palace and Park, the location of the former summer palace of the Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until 1959. It features the famous Potrang, the private palaces of former Dalai Lamas built in the grandiose style of traditional Tibetan architecture.

After visiting the palaces and park at Norbulingka, we will travel around 5 kilometers to the western outskirts of Lhasa to visit the Drepung Monastery. The word "drepung" in Tibetan language means "prosperity". Since its establishment in 1416, Drepung Monastery has served as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. During its prime, more than 10,000 monks lived and studied in the monastery. Throughout its history, many important and famous Tibetan leaders studied at this monastery, including the Dalai Lamas. Accordingly, Drepung Monastery is also respectfully known as the “Mother School of Dalai Lamas”.

In the afternoon, we will escort you on to another famous monastery in Lhasa - the Sera Monastery. Sera Monastery is famous for its spectacular “Buddhist Debates”. As a daily routine, the monks gather in a courtyard, and debate on the various Buddhist doctrines with exaggerated gestures, which is thought to be helpful in facilitating a better comprehension of the Buddhist philosophy to attain higher levels of study. After enjoying the "Buddhist Debates", we will take you back to your hotel with the rest of the day and evening to relax or explore on your own.

Tips for Proper Etiquette While Visiting Monasteries

1) For clothing, shorts and/or bare shoulders are not allowed.

2) Hats and sunglasses should be removed before entering the chapels.

3) Taking photos is usually not allowed inside the chapels.

Accommodation: Overnight in Lhasa

Norbulingka Palace

Sera Monastery

Day 9  Lhasa – Namtso Lake – Lhasa

We will get an early start today as it takes about 4 hours to get to the holy Namtso Lake – but the stunning beauty that awaits you will make the drive worthwhile. There is also much to see along the way, so we will have time to stop and take pictures of some of the magnificent landscape enroute. We should arrive at Namtso Lake around noon, just in time for a nice local lunch with a view of the peaceful lake. You will have the opportunity to explore the lake, which is the highest altitude saltwater lake in the world (elevation 4718 meters (15479 feet) above sea level), as well as one of the holiest lakes in Tibetan Buddhism. Snow-capped mountains and rolling grasslands dotted with nomadic herdsmen and their sheep and yaks make this one of the most beautiful places in all of Tibet. It’s a wonderful place to wrap up your sightseeing in Tibet and China before we head back to Lhasa to return to your hotel for the night.

Accommodation: Overnight in Lhasa

Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake

Day 10  Departure from Lhasa

Today you will have free time until we meet you in the lobby of your hotel to transfer you to the Lhasa airport or train station for your departing flight or train.

Today's Tips:

1) Please take care to pack all of your belongings, particularly the small things that are easy to forget about, such as phone and camera chargers, power adapters, mobile phones, wallets, etc.

2) If your flight or train is in the afternoon, please be sure to check out of your hotel room by 12 p.m.

Accommodation: None

Price Includes.
    • Private professional English-Speaking local tour guide
    • Licensed Vehicle with experienced driver
    • All necessary Tibet travel permits.
    • All accommodations listed in the itinerary
    • Meals specified in the itinerary as "B, L, D".
    • Entrance tickets listed in the itinerary
    • Tourists Accident/Casualty Insurance
    • A container of Oxygen for emergency use in Tibet
    • All taxes, fees and handling charges
    • Lodging and meal allowance to the guide & driver
    • 2 bottles of drinking water per person per day
Price Excludes.
    • International flight to and from China.
    • China visa.
    • Sightseeing not listed in the itinerary.
    • Meals not listed in the itinerary.
    • Personal expenses such as laundry, drink, fax, telephone call, optional tour activities, etc.
    • Tips to guides, drivers, bellboys, etc.
    • Entrance tickets not listed in the itinerary
    • Single room supplement.
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