LANDSCAPES OF YUNNAN & CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS ON THE TEA HORSE ROAD
14 Night Itinerary from £4,244
Enjoy Yunnan's stunning landscapes and cultural experiences as you go behind the scenes on the old Tea Horse Road
Select your preferred departure date
- Beijing & Great Wall - 4 Nights
- Kunming Stone Forest - 2 Nights
- Tea Horse Road - Benzilan - 3 Nights
- Tea Horse Road - Lijiang - 2 Nights
- Dali & Erhai Lake - 2 Nights
- Return to Beijing - 1 Night
- Our special in-depth Yunnan tour takes you into 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
- Hike on the Great Wall of China, away from the crowds of tourists
- Marvel 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
- Explore the ancient city of Lijiang via the breathtaking Tiger Leaping Gorge
- Finish in Dali, admiring the Three Pagodas and peaceful Erhai Lake
This itinerary can be tailored to your preferences by our specialist advisors, who can provide a guaranteed price based on your choice of route, duration, flights, hotels, transport and excursions.
Beijing & Great Wall - 4 Nights
Day 1 - Fly to Beijing
Day 2 - Welcome to Beijing
Day 3 - Temple of Heaven, Hutongs & Forbidden City
Day 4 - Experience the Great Wall
Day 5 - At leisure
- Full Description
Fly to Beijing
Depart on a direct overnight flight from London to Beijing, or via an alternative route at one of the major regional airports in the UK if you prefer.
Welcome to Beijing
Arrive in Beijing in the morning and transfer to your hotel for a 4 night stay. You will receive a walking orientation tour around your hotel with our guide, familiarising you with the surroundings. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax, or you may prefer to add an afternoon tour.
Temple of Heaven, Hutongs & Forbidden City
We start early to visit the Temple of Heaven located in a delightful park. The Temple of Heaven, considered by UNESCO "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design", was created as a place of learning about Chinese philosophical beliefs, cosmogony, art, dynastic politics and sacrificial rituals. In the park, you will gain insights into local life, as groups of elderly Beijing residents gather to take communal exercises, sing, socialise and play musical instruments. We continue to the Hutong district, where we explore the ancient narrow streets by foot and rickshaw and enjoy an included lunch at a family hutong home. In the afternoon, we visit Tiananmen Square and explore the mythical and vast Forbidden City, home to 24 Chinese Emperors. Here you can learn about China's dynastic past.
Experience the Great Wall of China
Today we visit one of the wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China. We travel for 2 hours out of Beijing to a remote section of the wall where in the footsteps of soldiers from the Ming Dynasty, we hike a wild section away from the crowds. It is a unique experience where you will truly appreciate the full majesty of the Great Wall and savour stunning views of the surrounding mountains. We also visit the restored part of the wall at Mutianyu, allowing you a look at the Wall in its original state. Lunch is included.
Explore Beijing at your own pace and perhaps go shopping. We have a range of optional excursions you can book with your guide including a calligraphy or paper cutting class or perhaps attempt to cook the Chinese way by making some local dumplings.
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 one of the historic centuries-old Hutongs. Fully refurbished in 2016, the rooms and communal areas are decorated to a high standard with classic paintings, furnishings and details, evoking 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, 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 on offer.
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 a traditional Chinese style, whilst floor-to-ceiling windows fill the rooms with natural light and afford panoramic views, including one 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.
Kunming Stone Forest - 2 Nights
Day 6 - Fly to Kunming
Day 7 - Stone Forest and Kunming
- Full Description
Fly to Kunming
Fly to Kunming ahead of our visit to the Stone Forest. You will be met on arrival by our guide and transferred to your chosen hotel for a 2 night stay. Afternoon at leisure.
Stone Forest and 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 unique 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.
After an included lunch, we 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.
Kunming & Stone Forest - First Hotel
The JinJiang hotel offers 305 simple yet 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 for you to enjoy during your downtime.
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.
Tea Horse Road - Benzilan - 3 Nights
Day 8 - Napahai Wetlands and Benzilan
Day 9 - Dongzhulin Monastery and Shuibianhe Valley
Day 10 - Balagezong Canyon and Nixi Pottery masterclass
- Full Description
Napahai Wetlands and Benzilan
Fly to Shangri-La airport, and to the ever-changing Napahai wetlands, encircled by mountains. At different points of the year it is possible to see a huge variety of migrating birds, including the rare black-necked crane, as well as herds of yaks and horses grazing, as the waters recede. We continue on into the mountains, through a dramatic canyon to reach your base for the next 3 nights on a full board basis; the LUX* Benzilan luxury resort. Relax by the pool or roof terrace and enjoy a specially prepared dinner, ahead of tomorrow's exploration.
Dongzhulin Monastery and Shuibianhe Valley
Morning drive to visit the Dongzhulin Monastery and small religious community. 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 speak to the monks to ask them about Buddhist life here. We drive 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. 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.
Balagezong Canyon and Nixi Pottery masterclass
Morning drive 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, enjoy panoramic views over the valley below. We continue down the canyon for 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 the included lunch we arrive at 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.
Shangri-la - Deluxe Resort
The LUX Benzalin promises guests an ultra-attentive service inspired by the best of 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.
Tea Horse Road - Lijiang - 2 Nights
Day 11 - Tea Horse Road to ancient Lijiang
Day 12 - Lijiang, Jade Dragon Mountain and Baisha
- Full Description
Tea Horse Road to ancient Lijiang
Today we 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, 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 included organic Tibetan lunch at a local restaurant we 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 Tiger Leaping Gorge, through which we drive, following the path of the Yangtse River. Soon we reach the LUX* Lijiang, your home for the next two nights on a full board basis, 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. 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.
Lijiang, Jade Dragon Mountain and 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 then 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 bought 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 Province.
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 the traditional courtyard formation, 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.
Dali & Erhai Lake - 2 Nights
Day 13 - Shaxi, Shibaoshan Grottoes and Dali
Day 14 - Zizhou Village and Erhai Lake
- Full Description
Shaxi, Shibaoshan Grottoes and 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 continue to Shaxi, one of the best-preserved of the caravan towns of the ancient tea route into Myanmar and Tibet. After an included lunch, we arrive at Dali old town, famed for its centuries-old Three Pagodas.
Zizhou Village and Erhai Lake
Today we start with a visit to the picturesque minority village of Xizhou and explore 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. Lunch is included today.
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 just 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's 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 also relax in the hotel's gardens and spa.
Return to Beijing - 1 Night
Day 15 - Return to Beijing
Day 16 - Return flight to UK
- Full Description
Fly to Beijing
Take a morning flight back to Beijing for a 1 night stay, with time for any last minute shopping or sightseeing in the capital.
Return flight to UK
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK, arriving later the same day.
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 make use of the Nespresso coffee machine or Chinese tea set and choose to dine in either of 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.
|Season||Low Season||High Season|
|Travel Dates||03/10 - 15/06||16/06 - 02/10|
|Multiple Travellers - Twin Room||£4,244||£4,442||£4,558||£4,786|
|Multiple Travellers - Own Room||£4,526||£4,868||£4,885||£5,268|
|Single Traveller - Own Room||£5,937||£6,615||£6,309||£7,000|
Prices are a guideline and per person. Please request a quote for Special Events, Christmas, New Year's Eve & Easter.
- 16 days / 14 nights
- International return flights (1 overnight)
- 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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