Day 11 - Tea Horse Road to Lijiang ancient town
Today we will leave behind Benzilan and drive south to the ancient city of Lijiang, following the route of the old Tea Horse Road. Along the way we will pass mountains, gorges and high passes, as well as entering a completely different cultural region, as we shift from the Tibetan influences of Shangri-la to the Naxi dominated Lijiang.
Before departing we will enjoy a walk around Shangri-la's historic old town, which was once a major staging post for caravans, a final port of call before travelling the dangerous road to Tibet. A huge fire swept through the old town of Dukezong in 2014, the poignant affects of which can still be seen today. The town is being faithfully restored, but fortunately plenty of places of interest escaped unscathed, including the Guishan Temple and the world's largest Tibetan prayer wheel.
After an organic Tibetan lunch at a local restaurant we will being our journey south across the high plain. It is a journey of around 3 to 4 hours, in stark contrast to the week long undertaking that it was in the days of the caravans. En-route we will observe traditional Tibetan style houses and enjoy views of the Haba Mountain. The highlight of the trip though is undoubtedly the Tiger Leaping Gorge, through which we drive, following the path of the Yangtse River. Soon we reach the LUX* Tea Horse Road Lijiang, your home for the next two nights, in the heart of the Dayan old town in Lijiang.
You will be welcomed with a traditional cup of tea and given chance to settle in to your room, before taking a late afternoon stroll through the winding cobbled streets of this 800 year old town. A special map will be provided, detailing the most authentic shops and which will also lead you to a lookout point for a panoramic view of the city. A visit to the oldest of the tea-houses is a must, giving you the chance to watch the tea being pressed and prepared and then enjoy a guided tasting session in the company of a Pu'er tea master, whose family has traded and served tea for generations. Return to the hotel for dinner and relax after a busy day, either within the welcoming confines of the LUX hotel, or at a nearby canal-side cafe or bar.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12 - Lijiang, Impression Show & Baisha
The final day will see us explore Lijiang and the surrounding area in greater detail, to complete your Tea Horse Road experience. After enjoying another specially designed self-guided walk through the atmospheric streets of Lijiang, via picturesque stone footbridges and Naxi 'three eyed' wells, you will return to the hotel to accompany the head chef to a local market. Away from the tourist crowds, you will see an authentic exhibition of local Naxi life, as all kinds of goods are brought and sold. We will do some buying ourselves, as the head chef guides you through the Naxi cuisine and purchases the ingredients needed to make the LUX's signature Naxi Hotpot later that day.
We will then take a 45 minute drive north to the foot of the snow-capped Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to watch the awesome Lijiang Impressions Show, a visual treat set in front of a spectacular backdrop. The epic open-air show was designed by renowned movie director Zhang Yimou (he of House of Flying Daggers and Hero fame) and features hundreds of horses and over 500 actors. You will enjoy VIP seats for the best views of this hour-long performance - just don't forget your camera!
We head back to the hotel via the Naxi settlement of Baisha which, together with Dayan and Shuhe, formed the original city of Lijiang. We visit the temple to admire its ancient murals and learn about the unique Dongba hieroglyphic script - the world’s only living pictographic language. We complete the visit by walking to a local silk tapestry school. Back at the hotel, after enjoying the Naxi Hotpot, created using the ingredients procured from the market earlier, settle in for your last night at the LUX Lijiang and reflect upon an unforgettable few days that will have completely immersed you in the various cultures and ancient customs of this part of Yunnan.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The Tea Horse Road experience is based on groups of a maximum of just five people, so depending on your group size you may be joined by other guests. Alternatively we can arrange the entire experience on a private basis, for a minimum of two travellers.