LANDSCAPES OF YUNNAN & CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS ON THE TEA HORSE ROAD
Enjoy Yunnan's stunning landscapes and cultural experiences as you go behind the scenes on the old Tea Horse Road.
- Our special in-depth Yunnan tour, taking you the cultural heart of this region
- Experience the historic Tea Horse Road, enjoying intimate cultural encounters
- Start in the historic capital Beijing, exploring the Forbidden City
- Enjoy a trip to the Great Wall of China, an essential element to any visit
- Continue on to Yunnan, marvelling at the Kunming Stone Forest
- Journey to Shangri-la to start your LUX Tea Horse Road experience
- Visit expansive wetlands, a Nixi pottery master and a remote Tibetan Monastery
- Move on to the ancient city of Lijiang via the breathtaking Tiger Leaping Gorge
- Finish at Dali, admiring the Three Pegodas and peaceful Erhai Lake
- Includes all flights, trains, transfers, hotels, excursions & meals as shown
- Click to get a tailored quotation based on this tour
The Shangri-la Tour
Day 1-2 - Welcome to Beijing - The private tour departs on a direct overnight flight from London, or via an alternative route at one of the major regional airports in the UK if you prefer. Arrive in Beijing in the morning and be welcomed upon arrival for transfer to your hotel. You will receive a walking orientation tour around your hotel with our guide, familiarising you with the surroundings and answering any questions you may have. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax, or you may prefer to add an afternoon tour.
Day 3 - Special tour: Beijing's Past & Present - Our special tour gives you an in-depth view of the the city's history, culture and modern life. We start amid the Communist-style buildings of Tiananmen Square and walk into the mythical Forbidden City, home to 24 Chinese Emperors. Here you can learn about China's dynastic past, before climbing Coal Hill for an overview of the central Beijing landscape. After lunch in a traditional hutong, enter the Confucius and Buddhist temples to understand China's two most important belief systems and their role in daily life. (B,L)
Day 4 - Temple of Heaven Park & Hutongs - We start at the Temple of Heaven, considered by UNESCO "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design", to learn about Chinese philosophical beliefs, cosmogony, art, dynastic politics and sacrificial rituals. We visit early to gain wonderful insights into local life, as large groups of elderly Beijingers gather to take communal exercises, sing, socialise and play musical instruments. We take lunch at a family hutong home and then survey the traditional streets from the back of a rickshaw and on foot. Enjoy some cultural activities like calligraphy or paper cutting or perhaps attempt to cook the Chinese way by making some local dumplings. (B,L)
Day 5 - Hike the Great Wall - We drive two hours north of Beijing to access the iconic Great Wall of China to hike a wild section away from the crowds. Here we can truly appreciate its full majesty and savour stunning views of the surrounding mountains, taking the cable cars down from the restored part at Mutianyu, allowing you a look at the Wall in its original state. (B,L)
Beijing & Great Wall - First Hotel
Described as a "neighbourhood lifestyle hotel", the Penta is a distinctive 4 star contemporary hotel, close to the Temple of Heaven and a short walk from the subway. The laid-back hotel offers 307 ensuite rooms in a minimalist style, including family rooms, as well as the use of bikes and maps to explore the local area. The heart of the hotel is the bustling Pentalounge; an all-encompassing café, deli, noodle bar, library and games area that provides a meeting place where guests and locals come and go.
Beijing & Great Wall - First Boutique
The Cote Cour is a renowned boutique hotel spread out around a traditional inner courtyard and nestled in an historic centuries-old hutong. Fully refurbished in 2016, the rooms and communal areas are decorated to a high standard with classic paintings, furnishings and details, evoking a timelessness and a deep connection with the long history of the structures. You will find all the modern amenities that you will need during your stay, as well as an attentive service and free internet access and bicycle hire.
Guests can relax on the rooftop space and perhaps choose to dine in the a la carte restaurant. For families, there is both a standard and deluxe family room.
Beijing & Great Wall - Deluxe Hotel
A multi-award winning luxury hotel close to Tiananmen Square and shopping streets, providing guests with outstanding service in opulent surrounds. 500 spacious rooms and suites are elegantly finished in traditional Chinese style, whilst floor-to-ceiling windows fill the rooms with natural light and afford panoramic views, including of the Forbidden City from some. Connecting rooms are available for groups and there is a choice of renowned restaurants, as well as an indoor pool and wellness centre.
Day 6 - Transfer to Kunming - Today you will fly to Kunming ahead of our visit to the Stone Forest. You will be met at arrival by our guide and drive and will be transferred to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure. (B)
Day 7 - Stone Forest & Kunming - Kunming is the capital of the Yunnan province, a modern city with a beautiful urban park at its centre. The reason for our visit here though is to explore the nearby Stone Forest, known as Shilin in Chinese. A sea of limestone pillars, many in weird formations and with wonderfully descriptive names, rise powerfully out of the ground, creating a magnificent karst landscape. Mysterious caves, underground rivers, ponds, lakes and waterfalls only add to the beauty found here. A guided tour will help you understand how they came to be and lead you to the very best viewing points.
In the afternoon we will return to the city to visit the Yuantong Buddhist Temple, at the foot of Yuantong Hill and also the pretty Green Lake Park, for a glimpse into everyday life in Kunming. (B,L)
Kunming & Stone Forest - First Hotel
The JinJiang hotel offers 305 simple and comfortable rooms that are well-equipped with good facilities. There is a choice of dining, including local Yunnan specialities. The hotel also boasts a sauna, spa, on-site shop and fitness centre.
Kunming & Stone Forest - Deluxe Hotel
Sat on the edge of the Green Lake Park and close to the Yuantong Temple, this well-regarded 5 star hotel offers a convenient base from which to explore the City of Spring. 306 elegant, light and well-equipped rooms offer panoramic views over the park or downtown Kunming.
The hotel offers a choice of dining, a sauna, swimming pool, fitness centre, cafe and bar area.
Day 8 - Napahai Wetlands & Benzilan arrival - Today you will fly from Kunming to Shangri-La airport, after which we will drive out of town to the ever-changing Napahai wetlands, encircled by mountains. At different points of the year it is possible to sea a huge variety of migrating birds, including the rare black-necked crane and herds of yaks and horses grazing, as the waters recede.
We continue on into the mountains, driving through a dramatic canyon to reach your base for the next three nights; the LUX Benzalin luxury resort. Relax by the pool or roof terrace and enjoy a specially prepared dinner, ahead of tomorrow's exploration. (B,L,D)
Day 9 - Dongzhulin Monastery & Shuibianhe Valley - After breakfast we will drive 30 minutes to the Dongzhulin Monastery and small religious community. We will listen as the monks chant their morning prayers and then take a guided tour of the temple. This particular temple, unlike the more famous Songzanlin Monastery, is not a big tourism attraction and so allows for a far more insightful and intimate experience. You can even speak to the monks to ask them about Buddhist life here.
We depart the monastery, returning later, to drive in to the Shuibianhe Valley to visit the small Tibetan hamlet of Shiyi. Here we will observe the process of making traditional Tibetan incense sticks. We then return to a second hamlet - Bairen - to watch a bell-maker at work. For lunch you can choose between a Tibetan-style picnic lunch or a home-cooked French lunch, made with Tibetan ingredients and served in the home of a local.
After lunch we will return to the Dongzhulin Monastery, enjoying privileged access to a Gelugpa-sect debating session. These debates are lively and expressive affairs, involving much shouting, jumping, dancing and posturing. Following this unique experience we will return to the hotel where you can relax and have dinner, before perhaps watching a movie outdoors under the stars in the LUX's Cinema Paradiso experience. (B,L,D)
Day 10 - Balagezong Canyon & Nixi Pottery Masterclass - The next day we will drive 45 to the Balagezong Canyon, a wonderful place to experience the precipitous gorges and biodiversity of the Three Parallel Rivers area, protected by UNESCO. Following a dramatic ascent, via some 30 switchbacks, we will enjoy panoramic views over the valley below. We continue down the canyon to enjoy a guided nature walk, crossing a spectacular suspended walkway high above the river, before taking to the water itself for a short boat trip.
After lunch we head on-wards to the remote Nixi village of Tangdui, to visit a master potter at work. Luo Sang Enzhu Is recognised as the greatest exponent of black pottery in the surrounding area, following on from the legacy of his father. Learn how the pottery gains its distinct black colour and be taught by the master himself how to mould a Tibetan bowl with your very own hands.
We will then return for a final night at the LUX Benzilan hotel, offering the chance to relax, dine and perhaps enjoy another Cinema Paradiso film under the stars. (B,L,D)
Shangri-la - Deluxe Resort
The LUX Benzalin promises guests an ultra-attentive service inspired by the best Tibetan hospitality, in a luxury resort surrounded by beautiful nature and in a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. You will stay here as part of the LUX Tea Horse Road experience, exploring the natural beauty and rich culture of the region, before returning each night to unwind by the pool, sample delicious local cuisine and perhaps watch a film as part of their Cinema Paradiso club.
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. (B,L,D)
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. (B,L,D)
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.
Lijiang - Deluxe Hotel
Named after a network of historic caravan paths that created a vital tea carrying route between Tibet and Burma, this LUX Tea Horse Road hotel is situated in the heart of ancient Lijiang, close to the main square. These historic roots are evident throughout this 5 star boutique hotel and its welcoming guestrooms. Laid out in traditional courtyard form, the LUX aims to recapture the essence of its past, mixing modern facilities with an atmosphere that evokes those intrepid and epic journeys.
The hotel also offers tea lessons and Naxi cooking classes, as well as bicycle hire and horse-riding excursions.
Day 13 - Shaxi, Shibaoshan Grottoes & Dali - After breakfast at the LUX hotel, we will take a transfer south to the city of Dali. En-route we will visit the Shibaoshan grottoes and admire their intricate carvings and then continue on to Shaxi, one of the best-preserved of the caravan towns of the ancient tea route into Myanmar and Tibet. In the afternoon we arrive at Dali old town, famed for its centuries-old Three Pagodas. (B,L)
Day 14 - Zizhou Village & Erhai Lake - Today we will start with a visit to the picturesque minority village of Xizhou and explore the nearby Erhai Lake, taking a scenic boat trip to visit the three main islands and their small temples. We finish at a traditional fishing village. (B,L)
Dali & Erhai Lake - First Hotel
The Landscape Hotel is positioned at the foot of Mount Cang, in Dali's ancient old town, with Erhai Lake a short drive away. It claims to be the only hotel in Dali designed in the traditional Bai Minority courtyard style and offers ethnic food, as well as other Chinese cuisine, in its on-site restaurant. There are 160 classically decorated and well-equipped rooms, plus a sauna, bar and chess room.
Dali & Erhai Lake - Deluxe Hotel
The One Resort is located in the heart of Dali old town, making it a great option for those who prefer to stay in the heart of the city, rather than the seclusion of Erhai Lake. Close to points of interests and within walking distance of cafes, bars and restaurants, the hotel offers a wide range of amenities and 101 classically decorated and well-equipped rooms, suites and villas.
The Maple Café and Snow Bar serves both local Yunnan and western-style cuisine and guests can relax in the hotel's gardens and spa.
Day 15 - Fly to Beijing - Take a Amorning flight back to Beijing, with time for any last minute shopping or sightseeing in the capital. (B)
Day 16 - Return flight to UK - You will be transferred with your guide to the airport for your flight back to the UK. (B)
Beijing & Great Wall - Deluxe Hotel
Located in the stylish neighbourhood of Sanlitun in the Chaoyang District and close to bars, restaurants and shops, the Conrad is a luxury retreat in the heart of Beijing. It is also well located for the metro and to reach the airport and so is ideal for those returning to Beijing for an extra night in order to catch their return flight the next morning.
There are 289 very well equipped and tastefully decorated guest rooms, including some rooms with two double beds for families, all with views over the iconic buildings of the business district or the Tuanjie Lake Park. Guests can also enjoy use of the Nespresso coffee machine and Chinese tea set and choose to dine in their renowned Chinese or international fine restaurants. The Conrad boasts an excellent spa and fitness centre, as well as an indoor pool, perhaps earning you a guilt-free visit to the chocolate boutique and stylish cocktail and wine lounge.
Prices are per person. Please request a quote for Special Events, Christmas, New Year's Eve & Chinese New Year.
|Season||Low Season||High Season|
|Travel Dates||03/10 - 15/06||16/06 - 02/10|
|Multiple Travellers - Twin Room||-||£4,668||£4,886||-||£5,013||£5,264|
|Multiple Travellers - Own Room||-||+ £310||+ £468||-||+ £360||+ £530|
|Single Traveller - Own Room||-||+ £1,862||+ £2,390||-||+ £1,926||+ £2,436|
|Season||Low Season||High Season|
|Travel Dates||03/10 - 15/06||16/06 - 02/10|
|Multiple Travellers - Twin Room||-||€4,468||€4,718||-||€6,018||€6,369|
|Multiple Travellers - Own Room||-||+ €357||+ €540||-||+ €-739||+ €-605|
|Single Traveller - Own Room||-||+ €2,142||+ €2,749||-||+ €1,062||+ €1,586|
|Season||Low Season||High Season|
|Travel Dates||03/10 - 15/06||16/06 - 02/10|
|Multiple Travellers - Twin Room||-||$5,535||$5,840||-||$6,018||$5,264|
|Multiple Travellers - Own Room||-||+ $435||+ $656||-||+ $504||+ $1,848|
|Single Traveller - Own Room||-||+ $2,607||+ $3,347||-||+ $2,697||+ $4,516|
- International return flights
- 3 internal flights as shown
- 14 nights accommodation as shown on the itinerary
- Includes 5 night LUX Tea Horse Road experience
- Meals as described on the itinerary
- Transfers to and from airport
- Excursions listed, all with expert, English-speaking guides and private vehicle
- Prices are per person based on two sharing a room
- Guideline price only - please request a bespoke itinerary for an accurate quote
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