A Trip to West Sichuan -- The Shangri-La

  • Detailed Itinerary
  • Dates & Prices
  • Trip Notes

Where the mountains of eastern Tibet descend into China lies a region of incredible and varied natural beauty. Forested gorges dispel dozens of rivers to water vast grasslands and multi-colored lakes. This is a Tibetan area inhabited by Tibetans with numerous monasteries; prayer flags dot the landscape; all against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. A trip for nature lovers and photographers.

Day 1 Arrive in Chengdu
Nihao! Welcome to Chengdu, a charming city in Southwest China, renowned for its food culture, leisurely lifestyle and surrounding scenic beauty. It was voted the happiest city in China recently due to its spicy food and pandas.
You will be met by your guide at Chengdu airport and transferred to your hotel before spending the rest of the day exploring Kuanzhai Alley, a local landmark. Here we will see the historical remains of the old city and experience the leisure lifestyle of Chengdu locals.

Accommodation:
• Joha Forstar Hotel Chengdu or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• There are no meals included today

Day 2 Chengdu Panda Center, Jinli Street, People’s Park
A morning visit to the Panda Breeding Center where you can witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endangered species. Pandas look adorable with amazing body movements. They are bred and protected at this base and you can get quite close to them, watching them at play, eating, napping, and munching bamboo.
Back in Chengdu city, after lunch, take a walking tour around Jinli Street. This street is famous for its historic atmosphere, bustling businesses and most of all for its local snacks. Enjoy sticky rice cakes with sesame sauce, spicy chicken on a stick, sweet rice jelly, fried beef pancakes and, for the more adventurous, seasoned rabbits’ heads.
In late afternoon, we will have a walk in the People's Park and relax with a cup of tea in the century-old Heming Teahouse.

Accommodation:
• Joha Forstar Hotel Chengdu or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3 Chengdu – Kangding, Mugecuo Lakes
It takes about 3.5 hours to drive from Chengdu to Kangding (268km), the capital of the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture; a town that was once central to the trade routes between Tibet and China.
Lunch in a local restaurant before heading to Mugecuo Lake. This is one of the highest (3700m) and most beautiful in Sichuan and is surrounded by over 30 smaller lakes and marshes, including the Seven Colour Lake, Boiling Springs and White Sea lake & grasslands. Driving up to the main view point you have a couple of hours to admire the lake, valleys, colorful rock carvings, stone houses and prayer flags; all with a backdrop of snow mountains. The descent is an easy walk of 2.5–3 hours.
This evening in Kangding join the locals for a campfire party in the central square.

Driving distance: 322km. Elevation: 2,560m–3,700m

Accommodation:
• Local Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4  Mugecuo Red Sea, Mt. Gongga viewpoint, Xinduqiao
Heading west the winding road leads up to Zheduo Pass (4298m). From the far side of the pass we can reach the east side of the Mugecuo Lake area and the Red Sea lake and grasslands, an area of peerless beauty backed by snow-capped mountains.
In the afternoon make a detour to a viewpoint for Gongga Shan, at 7556m it is the highest mountain in Sichuan. It is sacred to Tibetans, many of whom make a sacred clockwise circuit (kora) at certain times of the year. The mountain mass has dozens of peaks covered by snow and ice year-round and, if you are lucky, will shine golden with the sunset.
From here it is just 45 minutes’ drive across the plateau to Xinduqiao. This small Tibetan town is famous for its picturesque scenery with vivid plants, meandering streams, snow mountains and Tibetan houses.

Driving distance: 108 km. Elevation: 2,560m–4,800m

Accommodation:
• Local Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5 Xinduqiao, Tagong grasslands and monastery, Bamei Stone Forest, Yajiang
After taking time to take some photos of this beautiful area in the morning light it is one hours’ drive to Tagong.
This is a small Tibetan town particularly famous for its grasslands and monasteries. The name refers to “a place that the Bodhisattva likes” and came about as Princess Wencheng was traveling to Lhasa in AD640 and one of the famous statues of Shakyamuni toppled off her cart here. A replica was made, and the temple evolved around it. This Sakyapa complex is the most easterly of the 108 geomantic “border taming” temples of which the Jokhang in Lhasa is the center.
Continuing through the Tagong Grassland, passing by the ‘Mani’ stones –pieces of slate carved with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hom” – arrive at the Muya Golden Pagoda. Its design echoes that of Tagong, a magnificent mandala-style Buddhist temple with red walls, yellow tiles and a gold painted spire. The golden top against the backdrop of the Yala Snow Mountain makes a memorable photo.
Leaving the grasslands, it is only 30 minutes to Bamei Stone Forest; an impressive geological wonder with sharp rocks rising like spears from the mountainside. According to the locals, the color of the rocks varies with temperature from season to season. Overnight in Yajiang.

Driving distance: 171km.  Elevation: 3,730m–2,640m.

Accommodation:
•Yajiang Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6 Yajiang to Daocheng
This morning, we will head to Daocheng (sometimes called Shangri-La by locals) at 3700m. The 280km takes about 4.5 hours with photo stops.
The white pagoda of Daocheng, Zunsheng Tower is a five-story tower centered on a 37-meter chorten surrounded by 114 smaller chorten in 4 layers; the 114 smaller chorten representing the 114 villages in Ganzi Tibetan Region.
Around the towers, you may see the local Tibetans praying for peace and good luck. Remember, always circle Buddhist sites in a clockwise direction.
From here it is 82km to Yading Nature Reserve; China’s most spectacular and pristine reserve. Located at the eastern end of the Himalayan range there are three sacred Tibetan mountains here - Chenresig (Xiannairi, Avalokitesvara, 6032m), Jambeyang (Yangmaiyong, Manjusri, 5958m), and Chanadorje (Xianuoduoji, Vajrapani, 5958m). Overnight in a Tibetan style guesthouse near the entrance to the reserve.

Driving distance: 360km.  Elevation: 2,640m--3740m

Accommodation:
• Guesthouse in Riwa (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7 Yading Nature Reserve -- First day of trekking
Taking only essentials for the 2-day hike set off into the reserve. Their sightseeing bus will deliver us to the start of the trail at Zaguanben, from here it is a short walk to Chonggu Monastery. The trail then leads through the woods (affording views of animals, alpine flowers, grasslands, glaciers and rivers) until you reach the phenomenal viewpoint that gives you an image of Yading’s three sacred mountains.
Stay one night in Yading village (inside the park, 3900m), A small Tibetan village with only 28 households.

Hiking distance: 7km, 400m ascent, 100m descent  Elevation: 3,700m-3900m

Accommodation:
• Guesthouse in Yading (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8  Yading Nature Reserve
Another day of hiking rewarded by a montage of supernatural views.
Again start with the Yading bus to Zaguanben followed by the short walk to Chonggu. From here it is 20 minutes by electric car to Luorong pasture (4200m). Cattle farms and clear streams dot the landscape.
It is a 4.5km hike upwards to the ever-so stunning Milk Lake (4600m). Due to the high elevation and 400m ascent, it is a tough walk. We will take a packed lunch and small bottles of oxygen in case of emergency.
After Milk Lake, the trail continues to Five-Colour Lake (4700m). Spend some time admiring the outstanding natural scenery before returning to Chonggu Monastery and the shuttle back to the entrance of Yading Nature Reserve. Overnight in the same guesthouse as on day 6.

Hiking distance: 7km, 400m ascent, 100m descent

Accommodation:
• Guesthouse in Riwa (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9 Depart Daocheng
Leaving the Tibetan realm behind it is 157km (3 hours) drive to Daocheng Airport for a short flight back to Chengdu, where the trip ends.

Meals Included:
• Breakfast

Visas - A visa is required for entry into China for all nationalities except Japan, Singapore and Brunei who are allowed visa free stays under 14 days. Travellers holding APEC cards are allowed entrance visa free if their card has already been approved for China.

Under the current guidelines to get a visa you will need to provide the following:

- Letter of Invitation from a Chinese agency

- Copy of Flight tickets

- Hotel booking confirmation

- Travel Insurance (some embassies ask for this document) 

In some cases, you may be required to provide further information or documentation and if this is the case we will notify you as soon as possible.


Booking a Single Room - On this particular tour we are pleased to be able to offer travellers the option of pre-booking a guaranteed single room. Due to the variety of accommodation used on this tour, single rooms are available for a majority of the nightstops, however it would still mean sharing on any overnight trains. All of our tours are planned and operated on a twin-share basis, meaning that the standard cost is based either on individual travellers sharing accommodation with another group member of the same sex, or people who book together sharing accommodation.

Vaccinations and Your Health - We recommend that you contact your primary care physician or a travel doctor for advice on vaccinations and travel health and we advise that you check to see if your tetanus-diphtheria booster is still valid every 10 years. 

Insurance - Travel insurance is compulsory for all our customers. At the start of the trip you must provide us with: the name of your insurance company, your policy number, a 24 hour medical emergency contact number, and the expiry date of the policy. You should ensure that your policy covers you for medical expenses and repatriation. If you are unable to provide all this information at the start of the trip you will not be allowed to join the trip. You can purchase insurance easily online by checking our Travel Insurance page.

Luggage - One main piece of lockable baggage and a shoulder bag. Total allowance: 44lbs/20kgs. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage – so don’t overload yourself. It is essential that your baggage is lockable; the airline/train authorities insist on this. Please be aware, before boarding a flight in China that the Chinese authorities will only allow bottles onto aircraft if they have been checked in as main luggage. Any bottles in the hand luggage may be confiscated.

Itinerary Disclaimer – The information in this trip details has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and the operator. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. 

Accommodation -Your accommodation is selected for convenient.


9 Days