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13 Days Tibet with Yunnan Exotic Minority Explorer
13 Days Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri la, Lhasa and Shigatse Tour
Discover the vast diversity of Chinese exotic ethnic minority groups and their differences in the southwest of China. Come and witness the daily lives of those groups, preserving their cultural heritages. WE will travel from natural Kunming to colorful Dali and from there to Shangri-La, a primarily Tibetan county in Yunnan and the door to the Tibetan heritage. Continuing to Lhasa and Shigatse, the cradle of Tibet culture.
|Duration:||13 days 12 nights|
* The price is per person, and depends on the number of travelers, accomodation options, extra-activities, extra-places, or tour-guide request.
|B : Breakfast
L : Lunch
|D : Dinner
SD : Special Dinner
We will visit:
A 270-million-year-old limestone karst formation of tightly bundled gray rocky outcrops, a natural wonder acknowledged as "World Karst Landscape Museum", the Stone Forest shows a variety of unique shapes, such as sword, mushrooms, tower, pillar and castle, representing the greatest miracle that nature can present to human beings.
Green Lake Park
Located just opposite the Kunming University, it is one of the most picturesque parks in downtown Kunming. There are nine spring outlets at north of the lake, so it was also named "Nine Dragon Pond" in ancient tomes. Here you may take a leisure walk or enjoy the performance by local people. In November and December every winter, huge flock of red-beaked gulls migrate here from Siberia, constructing a nice scene.
For many centuries, Dali was the principal city of Yunnan, far more important than Kunming. Dali was the capital of the Nanchao Kingdom which made its power felt deep into China.
Dali Ancient Town
First established in 1382 AD, with a moat surrounding it. This old town has a typical layout like a chessboard, old-timey roofed buildings with dark blue tiles and the white and gray tall walls.
At the foot of the Zhonghe Peak of the Cang Mountain, part of Chongshen Monastery, they are an emblem of the city's venerated history. The tallest of the trio, which is 69.13 metres tall, was built in 836 AD, while two smaller ones were built during a later period. No visit to Dali is complete without a call at these three pagodas.
Shaped like a human ear this lake covers over 250 square kilometers. With its vast pool of water shining under the sun like a sheet of vivid green and the snow mantles of the Cang Mountain reflecting quiveringly in it, it is known poetically as "Silver Cang Mountain and Jade-like Erhai".
Lijiang Ancient Town
Also called Dayan Town, it was built in the late Song dynasty and the early Yuan dynasty with a history of more than 800 years. This ancient town consists of clean streams flowing freely through the road network, the colorful cobbled streets, age-old swaying willow trees, age-old buildings and stone bridges. There are over 22 different ethnic minorities making Lijiang their home. Now and then you may see local folks in their own tradtional dress. Strolling around this charming ancient town, you will be attracted by the unique atmosphere and surprised by its ancient yet simple sense of "Harmony of Heaven and Man."
Black Dragon Pool Park
Where you can see the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from afar and the reflection of the mountain in the pool in a clear day. This park is the source of the water system of the Old Lijiang Town as the clean spring from Jade Dragon Snow Mountain gathers here.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
It is so called because it looks like a flying jade dragon from afar. The mountain consists of 13 peaks and sprawls 35 km from north to south. Its glacier is the closest to the equator in the Northern Hemisphere. By taking the cable car up to a certain height, you can enjoy the expansive mountains views and snowy scenery.
First Bend of the Yangtze River
Formed by the Yangtze River rushing down from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with a sharp turn of 45 degrees at Shigu (Stone Drum) Town before the river continues running on to northeast.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
This gorge is located 92 km north of Lijiang County, between peaks of over 3,000 meters above the Jinsha River (upper course of Yangtze River). The legend goes that tigers often leap to the other side of the river by a huge rock lying in the middle of the river at the entrance of the Gorge, hence the name. This 17-kilometer-long Gorge is honored as the deepest and one of the most marvelous gorges on the earth.
The capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region with an elevation of 3650 meters (12,000 feet) above the sea level, is nicknamed Sunlight City. It is the highest city in the world. This ancient sprawling city, settled 1,300 years ago, is the region's political, economic and cultural center as well as a sacred place of Tibetan Buddhism.
Norbulingka means "Jeweled Garden", built in 1751 AD as a summer palace for the Dalai Lama where they handled political affairs and practiced religious activities. It is now a large-scale palace complex and garden in Tibetan style covering an area of 40 hectares. The whole complex 370 rooms of different sizes and lawns shaded by green trees and enclosed by various flowers. Before 1959, commoners had no access to this park. Nowadays, on festivals and holidays, the local people in their colorful costumes come here with food and tents to sing and dance overnight.
Sera means "Wild Rose Garden" in Tibetan because lush wild rose woods once grew around it. The monastery is one of the three largest monasteries in Tibet. Located at the northern outskirts of Lhasa, it was built in 1419 AD by Jamchen Choje (or Sakyayeshe), one of the eight disciples of Tsong Khapa who was the founder of the Gelugpa Sect. The Sera Monastery houses three colleges built in the 15th and 16th centuries, and it is famous for the "Buddhism Scriptures Debating".
The largest monastery of the Gelug Sect in Tibet, standing on the slope of the majestic Mount Gambo Utse; it was built in 1416 AD and is the place where each reincarnation of the Dalai Lama received his training. In its heyday, it had more than 10,000 monks. Now it is home to about 700 monks.
The symbol of Lhasa, perched upon Marpo Ri Hill, 130 meters above the Lhasa Valley, it is the greatest monumental structure in Tibet and one of the most famous architectural works of the world. The construction was started in 641 AD and it was rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in three years, while the Thirteenth Dalai Lama extended and repaired it into what it is now. As the religious and political centre of old Tibet and the winter residence of Dalai Lamas, the palace witnessed the life of the Dalai Lamas and the important political and religious activities in the past centuries. The Potala Palace also houses great amounts of rare cultural relics including the gold hand-written Buddhist scriptures, valuable gifts from the Chinese emperors and a lot of priceless antiques.
<-- Tibet Lhasa Jokhang Temple-->
Located in the center of the old section of Lhasa, built in 647 AD by Songtsen Gampo and his two foreign wives, and later extended by successive rulers. It has now become a gigantic architectural complex and it is the spiritual center of Tibet.
A circular street around the Jokhang Temple in the center of the old section of Lhasa, it is the oldest street in a very traditional style in Tibet, where you can enjoy bargaining with the local Tibetan vendors for the handicrafts which are rarely seen elsewhere in the world. Barkhor Street is one of the most important religious paths along which pilgrims walk around Jokhang Temple while turning prayer wheels in their hands. They have been doing this for countless centuries. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths in a clockwise direction. This walk can continue all day and well into the night.
Shigatse is the most colorful area in Tibet with vast grasslands, fertile fields in river valleys, flourishing semitropical jungles and snowfields at high altitudes.
Built in 1414 AD, it is unique because three Sects of Buddhism-Sakya, Gedan and Gelug are living harmoniously under one roof. The Palcho Pagoda beside the Monastery has 9 stories, 108 doors and 77 rooms housing some 100,000 statues of Buddha, so it is famed as the "100,000-Buddha Pagoda." The frescoes, statues and sculptures in the monastery are exquisite, succinct and life-like.
One of the three largest lakes of Tibet and one of the three holy lakes. It covers an area of 638 square kilometers with a coastline of 250 kilometers. The deepest point is 60 meters. The coast of the lake is an ideal pasture where you can enjoy the intoxicating, picturesque, and natural scenery.
Built in 1447, it is the oldest and largest Gelugpa monastery in Tibet and is the seat of Banchen Lama. It is painted in red and white and the buildings in the monastery stand closely together in terraced rows. This presents a grand and majestic view. The most amazing image in this monastery is the giant statue of Maitreya (Future Buddha). It is the largest such statue in the world and was erected by the 9th Panchen Lama in 1914. It stands 26 meters in height and is 275 kg in weight. It is covered in solid gold and inlaid with a number of precious jewels such as pearls, turquoises, corals and ambers. The image of the Buddha is kind, generous and vivid.
Day by Day Itinerary
Arrival Kunming :
Arrival in Kunming, transfer from airport to hotel.
Your first day in Kunming gives you a chance to visit the famous Stone Forest and Green Lake Park. The Stone Forest is located 100 km southeast of Kunming and has been known since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) as the 'First Wonder of the World'. It was formed due to millions of years' weathering and erosion. The stone Forest, as its name suggests, is a set of karsts formations that seem to stem from the ground in shapes reminding trees, creating the illusion of a forest of stone. It looks like art gallery of stone sculpture. Each formation has a story about animals or people associated with it, a truly amazing site.
The Green Lake Park is one of the most picturesque parks in Kunming. It was also named "Nine Dragon Pond" because there are nine spring outlets at the north of the lake. You can stroll around the lake and watch performances and local people playing games and just have a good time.
If you want to do some shopping or just check out hand-made ethnic style embroidery and crafts, you are invited to come with us to Kunming Hand Workshop, near Yangzong Lake.
Kunming to Dali (B,L) :
In the morning you will take a short flight to Dali. Dali was in ancient times the political, economic and cultural center of Yunnan area. Upon arrival to Dali we will visit Dali Ancient Town that is located at the foot of Cangshan Mountain 13 km from Xiaguan, Dali city. History of Dali can be dates back to 1382 during the Ming Dynasty and it has been listed among the top historic cities of China. The traditional Bai ethnic houses give the town unique atmosphere. The ancient marketplaces were neatly arranged within the town, and they remained unchanged to this date.
Later on in the day you will visit the Three Pagodas. Three Pagodas are located about 1.5km north of Dali Ancient Town and are considered a must- see in any tour to Dali. Built over 1,000 years ago, Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas comprise three independent pagodas forming a triangle shape. The Pagodas store Buddhist scripts and scriptures and they were selected as a national treasure meriting preservation in China.
Further on the menu for today is a relaxing cruise on the Erhai Lake. The lake has a shape of an ear, therefore the name: Erhai (Ear Lake). It stretches 42km from north to south and 3.9km from east to west. It is ranked the seventh freshwater lake in China by area and water storage. The Erhai Lake is reputed as having beautiful scenery. The famous sights of the Erhai Lake include three islands, Four Lands, and Nine Curves. Many beautiful spots surround the lake, the Erhai Park, the Xizhou Mid-sea Pavilion, the Haishe and the Double-Corridor.
Near the Spring of Butterflies you can find ZhouCheng tie-dye family workshop where you will watch the process of making tie-dye cloth, one of the Bai people's traditional handcrafts.
Dali to Lijiang (B,L) :
Spend about 4 hours driving from Dali you will reach Lijiang. Lijiang Ancient Town is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The World Heritage Commission called it 'an exceptional ancient town set in a dramatic landscape which represents the harmonious fusion of different cultural traditions to produce an urban landscape of outstanding quality'. Lijiang Ancient Town is a key commercial and strategic site, a famous city in China for beautifully retaining its authentic history and culture. Its architecture is unique, merging elements from several cultures that have combined over centuries. A point of special interest is the ancient water-supply that still functions today.
After exploring Lijiang Ancient Town we will visit The Black Dragon Pool. The beautiful pool is listed in the Collections of Famous Pools of China. It is surrounded by green grass and shaded by willow trees. The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is reflected in the water. A beautiful site indeed!
Lijiang (B,L) :
Our plan for today is visiting the Baisha Murals and the Jade Dragon Mountain, you'll find both locations amazing. Baisha Murals at Baisha Village, 10km north of Lijiang, was the cradle of the Naxi culture and ancient capital of the Naxi Kingdom. Painted over a thousand years ago, the original paintings and figures within the murals reflect and display the life stories and religious cultures of Buddhism, Lamaism, Taoism and local Naxi Dongba religion's development into Naxi discipline. In each painting you can find at least one hundred portraits of Buddha and of ordinary people. Many of the paintings portray scenes and subjects drawn from people's daily lives.
Jade Dragon (Yu Long) Snow Mountain, a snow capped, fog-enlaced mountain which stands 5,596 meters above sea level, has thirteen peaks that reminds one of a jade dragon lying in the clouds, the highest is 18,360 feet above sea level. The mount is a botanist's dream of around 7,000 types of plants and 400 types of trees. You can take the Large Cable Car on the top of Jade Dragon Mountain (from Ganhaizi) and view the scenic area. The cable car will take you up to a height of 4,506 meters. It is advisable to walk slowly till your body gets used to the altitude and have a warm coat.
Lijiang to Shangri la (B,L):
This morning, we will drive to Shangri-La. On the way, we will have a sightseeing tour of two fascinating sites. Originating from Tibetan Plateau all the way to Shanghai, Yangtze River is the longest river in China with the total length of 6500 km. It also originated the famous magnificent scenes like the First Bend of the Yangtze River and Tiger Leaping Gorge, which you will visit today.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Yangtze River ( Golden Sands River), 60km north of Lijiang, located where the river passes between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain in a series of torrents under 2000m steep cliffs. It’s the deepest gorge all over the world. It is named after a legendary tiger that jumped across the river to escape from a hunter. Except getting a spectacular view, some tourists like hiking along the Tiger Leaping Gorge, but bear in mind that hiking there is quite challenging. The best time to hike at Tiger Leaping Gorge is either in spring or autumn. In the spring it is the most amazing site, as melting snow flowing down the mountains makes the river turbulent.
The First Bend of the Yangtze River is a beautiful scene that can be viewed from Stone Drum Town - Shigu Town. Stone Drum Town stands at the base of the mountain flanking First Bay on the Yangtze River. Sands of the first gulf in Yangtze River turn the direction 180 degree here turn around to go up north again and then the east creates a breathtaking huge U shape at this spot.
Shangri la (B,L):
Today you will explore Pudacuo National Park, a 1,300 km2 national park, In Shangri la. The park is the first national park in China to meet International Union for Conservation of Nature standards. It has two lakes, a visitor center, several minority villages, dense forests and pasture views. The must-see in this park are Bita Hai Lake ("A quiet lake" in Tibetan) and Shudu Lake, half an hour's drive from one to the other.
The Bitahai Lake is 3,500 m above sea level and is surrounded by mountains covered with century-old pines, oaks and rhododendrons, and appears like gem in the center of the mountain.
Shudu Lake is located in northeast of Shangri-la and it is one of the largest fresh water lakes on the Diqing Plateau. Clear water, lovely fish, herds of cows and sheep, and surrounded by lots of primitive forests spruce and silver birch makes sightseeing from Shudu Lake a memorable view.
Shangri la to Lhasa (B,L):
Today you will take a flight from Shangri la to Lhasa, China. Bon Voyage!
Lhasa ("place of the gods") is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. It is the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau and one of the highest cities in the world at 3,490 meters above sea level.
On your first day in Lhasa you will have enough time to explore Norbulingka, Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery.
Norbulingka ('Jewel Garden') is now the largest garden in Tibet. It was built in 1751, served as a palace and residence of the 7th Dalai Lama and later served the government administration. Its architectural style is borrowed from the inland areas of China but it maintains local ethnic elements.
Our next stop is Sera Monastery and you'll be able to spend around 3 hours there. The Sera Monastery is located in the northern suburbs of Lhasa. It was founded in 1419 by Jamchen Chojey of Sakya Yeshe of Zel Gungtang (1355–1435), a disciple of Tsongkhapa. It was surrounded by wild roses and therefore the name: 'Sera' – wild rose. It is famous for its copper Buddhist Statue, religious painting and the "famous daily Buddhism debates" that take place here. Visitors can watch the debate, but of course you need to keep quiet.
In west of Lhasa under Mt. Gambo Utse you will find Drepung Monastery (=monastery of collecting rice) . Its white buildings make a dramatic contrast with the surrounding black mountains. Drepung Monastery is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries, and indeed used to be the largest monastery of any religion in the world.
In the morning of your second day in Lhasa you'll visit the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple.
Potala Palace (1 hour): Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill of Lhasa, hovering high above city. The Potala Palace was the winter home of the Dalai Lama. After being rebuilt in 1645 it became the seat of Dalai Lamas and also the political center of Tibet. Today it covers more than 130,000 square meters; it is a huge, awe-inspiring network of corridors and stairs leading through rooms of richly decorated statues, tombs, murals and antiques.
The Jokhang Temple is smaller than the Potala, but no less important. It is the spiritual center of Tibet. And many locals pray here regularly. Built in 647 by Songtsen Gampo, it has a history of more than 1,300 years. The temple is the combination of Han, Tibetan and Nepalese architecture techniques. The Jokhang Temple is surrounded by the circular Barkhor Street, our next stop. Barkhor ('pilgrims' circuit') is located in the center of Lhasa. It exhibits Tibetan culture, economy, religion and arts and is also a famous commercial and commodity-distributing center.
Lhasa to Shigatse (B,L):
After driving from Lhasa to Shigatse, (the second-largest city in Tibet) Located 100 km east of Shigatse you will visit the Palcho Monastery or Pelkor Chode Monastery, in Gyantse town. It is famous for the architecture, sculpture, and mural painting art. Its architectural style is a very unique blend of characteristics of Han, Tibetan and Nepali. The monastery precinct is a complex of structures, believed to be the largest such structure in Tibet.
On your way today you will also explore Yamdrok Lake, a turquoise- blue lake that has indescribable scenic beauty. Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest holiest lakes in Tibet. It has the highest power station in the world, and is also the largest habitat for water birds in Tibet, attracting numerous swans and gulls every summer. Surrounding the lake are many snow-capped mountains which add to the enchanting atmosphere.
Shigatse to Lhasa (B,L):
Today, after a visit to Tashilhunpo Monastery in the morning, you will be driven back to Lhasa. Tashilhunpo Monastery, situated next to Shigatse , built in 1447 by the First Dalai Lama, is a historic and culturally important monastery. Its full name in Tibetan means: "all fortune and happiness gathered here" or "heap of glory". It is the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second ranking person after the Dalai Lama. Panchen means 'great scholar' and the title was traditionally bequeathed on Abbots of Tashilhunpo. The monastery is the size of a small village, and it takes several hours to explore. The buildings in the cluster painted in red and white, stand closely together in terraced rows, offering an awesome view. in the Temple of the Maitreya stands the mesmerizing statue of Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha, cast from 279 kg (614 lbs) of gold and 150,000 kg (330,000 lb) of copper and brass, nearly 27m (86ft) high, it is the biggest gilded statue in the world. The monastery is also famed for the opulent tombs of the fourth and 10th Panchen Lamas.
Departure Lhasa (B) :
Departure from Lhasa. The time before transfer to the airport is free. Bid Lhasa farewell!