This tour shows you the impressive Tibetan, Chinese, and many other landscapes. Drive from the wide Erhai Lake in Dali in the heart of the Yunnan province high up to the Tibetan mountains. Cross high passes and grasslands inhabited by nomadic people further up to Chengdu. Ride through the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world, and experience the wild Yangtze River on its way down from the Himalayas. On the way back to Dali, we will pass through the territories of the Mosu and Yi at Lugu Lake and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lijang. A unique adventure for sure!
|Highlights / Route:||Dali – Shaxi – Tiger Leaping Gorge – Shangri-la – Derong – Batang – Litang – Tagong – Danba – Chengdu – Ya´an – Shimian – Xichang – Lugu-See – Lijiang – Dali|
|Length:||~ 3200 Km|
|Duration:||17 days / 14 driving days / 1 rest day (Chengdu)|
|Style / Character:||Adventure tour with overnight stays hotels and guesthouses / Focus on the religious and cultural way of life of Tibetans, minorties in Yunnan and the landscape of the eastern Himalaya|
|Vehicles:||4×4, SUV, Van, Bus|
Google maps only offers a basic overview on the route.
Many smaller roads are not documented.
Daily itinerary for Southwest China (Dali-Chengdu) Tour over the Eastern Himalaya
Arrival in Dali:
Our journey begins in the old town of Dali, the former capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom, which was built on the banks of the 42-kilometer Erhai Lake. There will be airport pickup and transfer to your hotel. Depending on arrival time we will have a short walk through Dali old town and visit the 1,200 year-old Three Pagodas.
Dali – Shaxi – Tiger Leaping Gorge:
First, we will drive along the shores of the Erhai Lake. After leaving the villages with the white Bai minority style houses, we will enter the mountains surrounding Dali and drive along the side of the Cangshan Mountains. We arrive in Shaxi in the early afternoon to visit the old town before we hit the road again. Shaxi has many well-preserved historic buildings, an ancient town square dating back to the time of the Tea Horse Road, and a wooden theater – a unique attribute of a town in ancient, rural China. Later in the afternoon, after crossing Shi Bao Mountain we will arrive at the Tiger Leaping Gorge. After a 20-kilometer ride through the gorge we will get to a small guesthouse with a great view into the gorge. The gorge itself is one of the deepest in the world, with 5,500-meter high mountains rising above.
Tiger Leaping Gorge- Shangri-la:
After breakfast we will drive along the old road to the 3,700-meter high mountain pass that demarcated the plateau of Shangri-la over the centuries. This little busy road leads through the villages of the Naxi Lisu and isn’t straight for more than 100 meters. This winding road takes us to the White Water Terraces (Baishuitai), the birthplace of the endangered Dongba religion. Here we will have lunch and visit the sacred source of Dongba. Two hours later we will look down at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which opens up like a giant crack in the valley. The road through the gorge offers a fantastic view of the Yangtze River and into one of the deepest canyons in the world. It also offers spectacular views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains, a massive formation 5,000 meters high.
Shangri-la – Derong:
We will take the road in a northeasterly direction following the Yangtze River through a narrow gorge. 30 kilometers further, after passing Derong on tarmac road, the grassland of Sichuan offers a great view into the wide valleys with herding yaks and nomads. Here, at about 4,000 meters high, are great spots for camping. In the months from May to September, nomads are living at this altitude together with their cattle. Alternatively, the night can be spent in a basic guesthouse in a nearby village.
The road to Batang follows the main road between Chengdu and Lhasa for the last 30 kilometers. In Batang, the Chöde Gaden Pendeling Monastery can be visited
From Batang we will follow the G318 further until a small intersection. The road leads along mountain rivers and through thick pine forests to a small lake surrounded by mountains. On the way we will encounter hot springs. Local villagers build bath tubs for taking a natural bath there. We drive over grasslands to one of the highest cities in the world: Litang. Located at 4,014 meters above sea level and surrounded by snowcapped peaks; the way to get here is a real highlight. The street is lined with nearby monasteries and you are free to stop and take a look. Litang itself is a city that is mainly inhabited by Tibetans. In addition to the good food (Momo: Tibetan dumplings) you can buy traditional clothes and jewelry.
Litang – Tagong:
We follow the highway heading east to Chengdu, crossing some high passes where you have spectacular views. After a few hours we leave the main road to take a small road that leads us through the grasslands of Tagong. Many summits are festooned with prayer flags or covered with lime stones that form the Om Mani Beme Hum in meter-high Tibetan script. Tagong itself is a quiet village with a small monastery, located in the middle of streams and green meadows. Recently, a gas station was built there.
Tagong – Danba:
Today’s destination is Danba. Danba is located on the banks of the river Sancha. In previous centuries, pirates often sailed down the river on small boats and attacked the nearby villages.
Danba – Chengdu:
We will arrive in Chengdu in the late afternoon and the contrast between Tibetan rural life and the economic capital of western China could not be greater.
Chengdu rest day:
A day to relax and experience the vibrant metropolis; time to visit the theater, one of the many good restaurants, or do something else.
Chengdu – Ya´an:
Ya’an is a small town near Chengdu, offering a remarkable river walk or the panda breeding center that can be visited. Pandas are released back into the wild from here.
Ya´an – Shimian:
We will continue our trip over the winding roads.
Shimian – Xichang:
Xichang is a place where the life of the Yi minority plays a special role – it is one of the cultural epicenters that has its own architecture, language, religion, and culture. Cut off for centuries from the rest of the world it, has been opening slowly since the 1980’s.
Xichang – Lugu-Lake:
After we got to Lugu Lake we are back on the roads of the province of Yunnan. The west side of the lake offers many beautiful places to stay, such as the peninsula of Lige. You can take a row boat and get out on the lake. Lugu is the home of another minority, the Mosu. This culture is one of the last matriarchal cultures of the world. The shore of the lake is lined by a coniferous forest and small Buddhist temples.
Once again we encounter the Yangtze River, which has an azure blue to color here. It is a short drive to Lijiang. We will stay in the old town of Baisha, where we have plenty of time to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site.
We cross a mountain range that separates Lijiang and Dali. After two and a half hours of driving we will arrive in the old town of Dali.
The journey ends after breakfast in Dali.
Overnights stays in hotels and guest houses
English speaking tour guide
Vehicle plus driver/ or self-driving
Meals (Breakfast, lunch), mineral water
Help with applying a Chinese visa