Best of Yunnan
Day 1 Kunming
Arrive at any time. There will be a welcome meeting around 6pm where you'll meet your CEO and fellow travellers. Please look for information on where and when this meeting will take place in the hotel lobby on arrival. There is lots to do in Kunming and the surrounding area so if you arrive with extra time consider visiting the local flower and bird market, Green Lake Park where you can see singing, dancing and locals doing tai chi or going further afield to the Stone Forest.
Days 2-3 Dali (2B)
Enjoy free time in Dali with optional activities like visiting the old town, taking a boat around Lake Erhai and riding a bike to Xizhou. The ancient, walled town of Dali nestles snuggly between the towering Cang Shan Mountains and beautiful Erhai Lake and is perhaps most famous for the stunning "Three Pagodas". The town is small enough to explore on foot, but a bicycle or bus ride can take you out to some of the smaller villages of the local Bai minority group, or to visit the colourful Shaping Markets where women in traditional dress sell their handicrafts. You can stop and explore the markets or ancient courtyard houses, which now serve as small communities with several families living around one courtyard. The countryside around Dali is incredibly fertile and the fields are always dotted with farmers ploughing, sowing or threshing. You may also want to take a boat trip to enjoy the beautiful scenery and visit some of the temples and villages on islands in the lake. There is also a lift up Cang Shan allowing for some great day hiking with stunning views.
Day 4 Lijiang (1B)
Explore the old town and enjoy some free time before heading to Tiger Leaping Gorge. The old town of Lijiang is a World Heritage site and home to the Naxi minority. Old men smoking pipes and women in their traditional costumes can be seen throughout the town, as can examples of the Naxi script, a form of pictograph that is little changed after hundreds of years. The best way to spend a day in Lijiang is to get lost in the small pedestrian lanes that meander throughout the town. Every twist and turn reveals picturesque old buildings, local arts and crafts, fast flowing canals and beautiful arched bridges. You can also spend an afternoon resting in a pavilion in the Black Dragon Pool Park, gazing at the reflection of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and listening to the local Naxi music.
Days 5-6 Tiger Leaping Gorge/Lijiang (2B)
On Day 6, it's a three hour drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge. In the heart of Yunnan Province, the fast-flowing Yangtze has cut a dramatic gorge so narrow in places that legend has it a tiger once escaped capture by jumping across it. Reputed to be one of the deepest gorges in the world, we allow two days to explore this magnificent landscape. We’re sure you’ll agree that this area rivals the better-known Three Gorges as the most spectacular scenery along the Yangtze River. There are two routes through the gorge, the ‘high road’ and the ‘low road’. We take the high road as it is inaccessible to vehicles and enables us to pass through local villages along the way, although the exact details of the hike may vary according to local conditions. Weather conditions in the gorge vary considerably throughout the year. The rainy season is primarily over the summer but it can rain at any time of year. At such times it may be dangerous to trek certain sections of the gorge due to rock falls. Before you arrive at the gorge your CEO will have enquired about the prevailing conditions and will have decided the best way to complete the trek and the most suitable guesthouses to use along the way. The maximum length of the trek in optimum conditions is 24km from the entrance of the gorge in Qiaotou. Under these conditions, you would walk 13.4km on the first day and the remaining on the second day. The first day is hard walking on a combination of a new dirt road and smaller farmers' trails. It includes an ascent up the '28 bends', where the path twists and turns, climbing steeply, until you come out at the top of the path (not the top of the gorge – that is still several hundred metres above you!). It is hard work but the views from the top are absolutely incredible and make the slog worthwhile! You can also see where the tiger reputedly jumped across the gorge, a mythical occurrence from which the gorge derives its name. The second day is easy walking, you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the Jade Dragon Mountain and waterfalls along the way. In less optimum conditions, for example when it has been raining heavily, it may not be possible to complete the full hike. Your CEO will decide the best route to take within the gorge to maximize your enjoyment and ensure that you see the most spectacular sections whilst taking into account any safety issues. Whilst no previous experience is required to make the trek through the gorge, it is important that you are fit before starting. You should be prepared for more than just an afternoon stroll as the trek can be hard work, particularly in the summer. We recommend that you bring light hiking boots with ankle support. The hike ends in the morning on Day 6, followed by an express bus back to Lijiang where you can relax and enjoy your accomplishment.
Days 7-8 Shaxi (2B)
Take an express bus to Shaxi, a valley that whispers of times past is nestled away in the foothills of the Himalayas. Shaxi was once one of the important towns along the famed tea horse caravan trading route which connected Tibet with Eastern China over a thousand years ago. The Ba and Yi minority peoples add colour and character to this culturally diverse village. In Shaxi you will experience village life in one of China's most stunning settings, explore the beautiful old cobbled streets, take in the courtyard house, visit quaint shops and the market square where locals gather in the evening to play music and dance, be sure to join them. Along the square sits Xingjiao Temple, parts of which dates back to the early 1400s. If time allows visit the Shibaoshan rock carvings which are over 1300 years old and evidence of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism into Yunnan from Tibet.
Day 9 Kunming (1B)
Free morning in Shaxi before a flight back to Kunming. Finish up any sightseeing still on your list and enjoy an optional final meal with the group.
Day 10 Kunming (1B)
Depart at anytime.