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Arrive at Dali Airport and be welcomed by our representative. Today you will take a boat ride across Erhai Lake to local Bai ethnic minority villages, go on a cable car up Cangshan Mountain and enjoy bird watching at Cangshan Mountain.
Tucked against Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, Ming Dynasty-era Dali is a living testimony that time cannot erode the beauty of an architectural marvel. The fourteenth-century Dali Old Town, surrounded by a moat, is a picturesque example of the Bai ethnic minority’s flair for architecture and elegant living. Take a tour through the chessboard-like town with a Bai elder, and then stop for tea in a traditional Bai house, which is composed of three rooms and a screen wall.
Erhai Lake is the largest highland lake next to Dianchi and one of the seven biggest fresh water lakes in China. It means, 'sea shaped like an ear', in Chinese. Enjoy a boat ride on Erhai Lake as it takes you to local Bai villages on the eastern side.
Mt. Cangshan is made of 19 peaks that make up the highest peaks of the Yunling Mountain Range. All are 3,500 meters (11,483 feet) above the sea level and at 4,122-meter (13,524-feet), Malong Peak is the highest. In between every two peaks are streams, and water rushes down the mountain and pours into Erhai Lake. Spot the black-crowned night heron, peregrine falcon, Himalayan whistling thrush, white-collared yuhina and great tit amongst others.
After breakfast, travel to Lijiang today. En route, visit Shaxi village, a historic trading post. Lying in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at 7,874 feet (2,400 meters), the old town of Lijiang, given the name “Beautiful River” by Kublai Khan in 1254, has been recognized as an UNESCO world heritage site for its distinctive architecture and waterways. Lijiang is the cultural center of the Naxi ethnic minority. The area is historically known as an important center of commerce and culture on the Ancient Tea Horse Route, which dealt in trade between southwestern China and Tibetan plateaus, as well as Burma and India. The Naxi are one of several minority peoples who live in the mountains of the region, and have languages, religions and cultures very distinct from what we know as “Chinese,” the eastern Han majority.
Today you will go bird watching at Black Dragon Pool Park where the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain rises majestically in the distance above a tranquil lake and pagoda. Walking away from the tourists, catch opportunities for birds watching around the Pool or on the hill behind it. Spot the brown-breasted bulbul, Chinese mountain fulvetta, fire-breasted flower pecker, and little grebe amongst others.
Also stroll through Lijiang Old Town’s lane. Explore the old town’s maze-like cobblestone streets and traditional houses, visit the area’s most prominent temple, hear a Naxi music performance, and enjoy the residents’ renowned hospitality. Also tour the Dongba Culture Center in town to take a look at Naxi calligraphy.
Today you will drive to Wenhai Valley, where you may have the opportunity to see some forest birds and do some easy hiking in Wenhai Valley. A glorious biotope of natural wonders, Wenhai Valley is home to 15 rhododendron species and over twenty percent of China’s total bird species. Hiking through this area, you are graced with excellent views of Lijiang. Also, along the route is the former residence of Joseph Rock, an Austrian-American who spent over two decades in the early 20th century researching and documenting the flora and cultures of southwestern China.
Then visit a Yi ethnic minority village where only 30 families stay. Visitors can enjoy a rare encounter with a Yi minority village shaman who will share his perspective on village life and the challenges of development. Furthermore, learn about the ancient Naxi religion of Dongba, a religion that predates Buddhism in China.
The Bimo, a shaman in the Dongba animist religion, will then greet visitors. Have lunch with the Bimo, followed by a blessing ceremony during which the Bimo will pray for visitors’ safe travels. Finally, go bird watching around Yufeng Temple.
Today you will drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge. En Route, visit the First Bend of Yangtze River. One of the world’s deepest gorges, Tiger Leaping Gorge roars with 34 rapids of the Yangtze River, or the “Jinsha” as they say in this area. The gorge is located upstream of the Yangtze River, one of China’s main waterways. Descend roads hugging sheer cliffs into the area, and the scene is ever more rugged as the road runs through the Lijiang Valley, filled with wheat fields and drying haystacks. After a 30-minute drive off the main road, leave the vehicles to travel by foot. It is a 45-minute walk to a viewpoint with stunning vistas of the gorge
Arrive in Shangri-La (Zhongdian) in the late afternoon, the rest of day is free for you to rest at hotel and get used to the altitude. Zhongdian (“middle district”), or Gyalthang in Tibetan, is the capital of the Deqin Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and the gateway to the historic Tibetan kingdom in Northern Yunnan. Located in a wide valley surrounded by soaring snow-capped peaks, primeval forests, and pristine lakes, the region’s architecture is characterized by flat-roofed and richly-decorated buildings.
Zhongdian is now officially known as “Shangri-La” after the mythical paradise of natural beauty in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.
Visit Songzanlin Monastery in the morning. Songzanlin Monastery, one of the largest Tibetan monasteries outside Tibet and the largest in Yunnan, was built on a spot chosen by the fifth Dalai Lama in the late 1600s and houses over 700 monks. The surrounding snow-covered peaks, combined with the chanting of the monks and the drifting incense, create a very evocative scene. The monastery is a highly important Tibetan complex for its many treasures, such as handwritten scriptures, paintings by famous lamas, and beautiful architecture. While at the monastery, you add prayer flags to the thousands of hung colored cloths embellished with Buddhist sutras. You may then follow the pilgrims on the kora (pilgrimage path) around the monastery.
Then explore Ringha Temple located on Ringha Hill. You will need to walk 30 minutes up the hill to get to the temple. The caretaker will then help you inscribe your name and a prayer on a prayer flag.
Finally walk around Shangri-La’s Old Town. Shops selling Himalayan arts and crafts, such as prayer flags, thankas, jewelry and traditional clothes, as well as cafes and restaurants are found along the Old Town’s narrow alleyways. The Old Town has become a favorite last stop for travelers making their journey to Tibet. On top of a hill just behind Old Town, the Zong Gu Monastery is home to the world’s largest prayer wheel.
Drive about one hour southward to Jingmenkou Valley and Forest, where you have the opportunity to watch birds, and enjoy beautiful views. Spot the large hawk cuckoo, collared owlet, crested finchbill, red-billed blue magpie, and red-breasted flycatcher amongst others. If time permits, drive to Shika Snow Mountain.
Today is your last day of your holiday in China and you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Kunming from where you can connect to your onward journey home.
Requires a spirit of adventure and some degree of fitness, as the trip might consist of many activities or long journeys. These adventures involve walking, trekking, hiking, cycling, rafting, sea kayaking, or driving for long hours, at times for up to six to eight hours a day at a steady pace. The maximum altitude is 3000m, so it requires you to be reasonably physically fit because you may be travelling in extreme weather conditions. The trips are usually 6 to 12 days in duration.
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