Lijiang is spectacularly located close to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which combines with the Black Dragon Pool Park and the Five-Phoenix Tower to create a postcard perfect scene. The UNESCO world heritage old town (also known as Dayan) is remarkable for its picturesque waterways and traditional narrow streets and the rich culture of the Naxi people, who have made the plain their homeland for 1,000 years. It was also an important stopping point along the old Tea Horse Road, a vital collection of paths that lead from Tibet to Burma. What makes Lijiang extra special though is what surrounds the city. As well as the snow-capped mountains, within easy reach are wonderful Yak meadows, the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge and one of the very best viewpoints of the Yangtze River.

Further afield is the beautiful Lugu Lake, home to the Musuo people, who have a true matrilineal society where property and land passes from mother to daughter, and all children remain permanently attached to their mother's household. The small market town of Shaxi, located roughly halfway between Dali and Lijiang, is one of the best-preserved of the caravan towns of the ancient tea route into Myanmar and Tibet. The entire area around Lijiang features many ravines, creeks, cliffs and meadows, whilst the still heavily forested mountain bursts into bloom every spring, when the camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas start flowering.

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Insights - Tiger Leaping Gorge & Yangtze River

Less than 40 miles north of the ancient town of Lijiang is the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge, a deep canyon forged over time by the powerful Jinsha River. It gets its evocative name from the local legend that tells of a tiger leaping majestically across the narrowest point of the thunderous river to escape its hunters. Not the most exciting legend, until you consider the fact that the gap measured some 25 metres wide!

Small hamlets of the local Naxi people dot the landscape, whilst the gorge itself sits within the protected Three Parallel Rivers National Park, an area of rich biodiversity, with abundant wildlife and rare plants. The real attraction here though is the jaw-dropping scenery, as the turquoise river snakes its way around the vertiginous cliffs, which rise sharply overhead, before it drops and gathers more pace, foaming into frothy white rapids.

A day visit here gives you a scenic overview of this extraordinary natural wonder and can also be combined with a panoramic view of the first bend of the mighty Yangtze River, the third longest in the world. The path of the river bends dramatically in a horse-shoe shape, creating one of the most arresting vistas in China. The bend is situated close to the Naxi village of Shiguzhen, with its local market and Iron Rainbow Suspension Bridge.

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