Yunnan Discovery

Day 1 Arrive in Shangri-La

We meet in Shangri-La, the capital of Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. You will be met at the airport by a SpiceRoads guide for a group transfer and brought to the hotel for check-in. In the afternoon we will visit the spectacular Ganden Sumsanling Monastery, built at the instruction of the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Currently, there are over 800 monks still living and practicing here. This picturesque site located on the top of a hill, is very much similar in style to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Later this evening, we will have a Tibetan-style welcome dinner Today, Shangri-La is principally a Tibetan township but has a Han Chinese population as well as a smattering of Bai, Hui, and Naxi minorities. Historically, the town was a trading centre between Tibet, Burma, and India, where mule caravans once made journeys to conduct commerce among the regions. One of the major trade items was “brick tea” from Yunnan, in demand by Tibetan nomads and farmers.

Compass Inn

Day 2 Shangri-La Loop

As Shangri-La is at 3,300 m, we take it easy so you can acclimate to the altitude. We do bike fitting and a warm-up ride around Napa Lake, a wetland that attracts many migrant birds to spend the winter. It is a flat ride around the lake that helps you acclimatize to the thin air. We return to the hotel for lunch, and We will return to the hotel and the rest of the afternoon is free for exploring this Tibetan town.

Compass Inn
Breakfast, Lunch
Ride 25km

Day 3 Shangri-La - Bai Shui Tai

We bid farewell to Shangri-La and transfer a short distance out of town to start cycling. It is a flat ride to start, passing Tibetan villages and white pagodas before we start the day's first big climb. This is a tough day as we will be riding high, but the spectacular scenery will make the hard work worth it. There are some difficult climbs and extraordinarily long descents to drive your adrenaline rush. We wind our way up and down through valleys and across mountainsides completely covered with wild camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, and osmanthus trees. We arrive in the late afternoon to Bai Shui Tai. If after checking in, you may feel up to a walk up to the spiritual origin of the Naxi people: the Karst Terraces “Bai Shui Tai” sits above the town. It is about 45 minutes round trip.

Bai Yu Yuan Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 75km

Day 4 Bai Shui Tai - Tiger Leaping Gorge

After breakfast, we start the day with a few short climbs and rolling sections before a bigger push up and over a small pass where we see Haba Mountain (5,396 m) towering above a beautiful valley. It's a 6 km descent winding down towards the Naxi village of Haba where we have lunch in a local guesthouse. After lunch, we get back on our bikes for a 7 km climb to a pass at 3,250 m followed by another downhill for 25 km to the Yangtse River Valley. When we reach Yonke village, we turn to Tiger Leaping Gorge and cycle through one of the deepest and most dramatic gorges in the world, rising nearly 4,000 m from the river to snow-capped peaks.

Tibet Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 74km

Day 5 Tiger Leaping Gorge Rest Day

.Enjoy the magnificent scenery of the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge of the Yangtze River.. You are free to use the bikes for a 30 km round trip cycle through the gorge of the Yangtze River. Or you might want to hike down to the river side and watch gigantic rapids running over the infamous tiger leaping rock. Or go on a hike on upper trails of the gorge to see snowcapped peaks above the third deepest gorge in the world.

Tibet Guesthouse

Day 6 Tiger Leaping Gorge - Lijiang

We have an easy 12 km cycle back through the gorge again towards the Yangtze ferry. Here we will cross the river and then start a 30 km steady climb. We then conquer the Dragon Snow Mountain pass at 3,100 metres, having ascended close to 1,500 metres! We then enjoy some undulating hills with some long downhills all the way to the Lijiang area. We travel through the Dragon Snow Mountain Park which is known as a natural glacier museum. We will stop at Blue Moon Valley, which is actually an extremely blue river meandering through a lush valley of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and be transferred for the last 30 km to Lijiang, an ancient Naxi town, in the late afternoon. The Naxi people are a small but fascinating ethnic minority known for their matriarchal society, their pictographic language, and their distinctive music. Traditionally, Naxi women managed trade and commerce, while men have been musicians and gardeners. Today, Naxi society is still largely run along these lines. You may be able to recognize the Naxi women by their traditional embroidered capes, blue blouses, and trousers covered with blue or black aprons.

Liwang Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 73km

Day 7 Lijiang - Shaxi

We transfer out of the city and start another memorable day that takes us into the heart of rural Yunnan. We ride over a pass, descend into a valley, and ride along the 'Old Tibet 214 highway’ past tranquil scenes of mud brick villages, bamboo groves, rivers, and paddy fields. Right before Shaxi, we do two short but steeper climbs. A downhill (check that your brakes are working) through rural scenery that brings us to Shaxi. You really sense a feeling of timelessness, as the way of life here has remained unchanged for centuries. We stay at a wonderfully local courtyard hotel.

Tea Horse Caravan Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 90km

Day 8 Shaxi Village Rest Day

Shaxi started as a trading point of tea and horses during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). The town's prosperity was at its heights during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 – 1912). This is probably the most intact horse caravan town on the ancient tea route leading from Yunnan into Burma and Tibet. The Sideng market square of Shaxi was added to the World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites in 2001.Today is a rest day in this interesting little town, nestled in a valley, so it is a perfect place to explore the surrounding villages and countryside.

Tea Horse Caravan Guesthouse

Day 9 Shaxi - Xia Shan Kou

We start with another beautiful day of riding on the once very busy tea horse caravan route. The road was used by horse caravans transporting tea and salt between villages, and they went as far as to Tibet and India. We follow the Heihui River and pass through some interesting villages. It's flat, easy riding for 47 km to Liantie Town, our lunch place. After lunch, we transfer to the mountain pass at 3,022 m. There is an exhilarating 22 km downhill on the other side. We ride for 10 km and end the day in Xia Shan Kou where we can soothe our sore muscles in the famous hot springs.

Er Yuan Hot Springs Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 85km

Day 10 Xia Shan Kou - Dali

This morning is our last riding day as we head to the historic town of Dali (1,900 m). Cycling along a flat paved road between the towering Canshan Mountain range and Er Hai Lake, we should arrive in Old Dali in time for a late lunch. This fascinating town is home to the Bai people, one of the nation’s largest minorities and once the centre of the powerful 8th-century Nanzhao Kingdom. Dali is an extraordinary town to explore with its gated city walls, bustling old streets, and lakeside setting. In the 16th century, Dali was an important gateway for cultural exchange and trading with Southeast Asian countries. Today, it is a melting pot of different ethnic groups, reflected aptly in its amazing architecture, cobbled streets, and colorful markets.

Ru Jia Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ride 55km

Day 11 Dali to Kunming

We take a 4 to 5 hour bus ride back to Kunming and overnight there. The rest of the day is free for exploring the city before we meet again for a farewell meal together.

U-Choice Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12 Departure

The day is free until your departure.