Our Yunnan Explorer tour takes us to the most
fascinating destinations in the province. Accompanied by an English-speaking
guide, we experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the province,
whose cultural landscape is as varied as its geographic one. The
unique cultures of its 25 ethnic tribes make each stop a new and
different experience, and the mystery of its alluring landscape
beckons the traveler ever deeper.
1st Day: We arrive in Kunming, the “City of Eternal
Spring,” where we are met at the airport and transferred
to our hotel. Located atop a mile-high plateau, the capital of
Yunnan Province enjoys a moderate climate, abundant flora and beautiful
landscape. We enjoy a welcome dinner and have the evening free
2nd Day: Today we depart on a full-day tour of the Stone
Forest, a vast limestone karst formation. An immense expanse of
water covered the area 270 million years ago, but geologic uplift
exposed the floor to the elements, which over millenia eroded the
stone into myriad peaks, pinnacles and caves. Humans, animals and
mythical beasts can be seen in surreal formations that tower overhead.
3rd Day: This morning we fly to Shangri-La, located on
the doorstep of Tibet. Formerly named Zhongdian, the city was
officially renamed “Shangri-La” in 2001. We visit
Songzanlin Monastery—the largest Buddhist monastery in
Yunnan Province—which was built in 1679 after the fifth
Dalai Lama chose the site through divination. We then head into
the mountains along the Tibet-Yunnan highway to visit the remote
Dong Zhu Lin Monastery and view the First Bend of the Jinsha
River (the local name for the Yangtze). Back in Shangri-La we
tour the old town and market and enjoy the nightly dance in the
4th Day: Today we travel to the spectacular Tiger Leaping
Gorge, one of the deepest river canyons in the world, where the
Jinsha River thunders between massive mountains in a series of
rapids. Legend has it that a tiger, trying to escape from a hunter,
leapt across the gorge at its narrowest point—a distance
over 80 feet! We continue to the town of Lijiang, one of the
best-preserved ancient towns in China, where we walk through
a maze of cobblestone streets and canals. In the evening we enjoy
a concert of Naxi Ancient Music, a traditional ethnic artform
performed by octogenarian musicians from the Naxi tribe. During
the Mao era they buried their instruments to prevent them from
5th Day: We visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a small,
cloud-enshrouded mountain range of 13 peaks that resembles a
dragon lying in the clouds. It’s highest peak, Shanzidou
(18,359 ft.), has never been summited. We ride a cable car to
a glacier to experience the majesty of this massif up close.
In the afternoon we travel to Baisha Village to see the famous
Baisha Murals. Painted over a period of 300 years by expert artists
from different nations and religions, each colorful and detailed
scene contains at least 100 unique portraits.
6th Day: We travel to Dali, an ancient city that first
appeared on a map in the 2nd century AD. Its abundant historical
sites, colorful ethnic culture and beautiful natural setting
make it a popular destination. We visit the Three Pagodas—the
largest, 230 ft. tall, was built over 1100 years ago. In the
afternoon we stroll through Dali Old Town, former site of the
capital city of the Nanzhao and Bai Kingdoms. At its heyday it
was the economic and cultural capital of Yunnan. We then fly
to the tropical city of Jinghong, where we overnight.
7th Day: In the morning we visit the Xizhou
morning market, Bai Villiage and Zhouchen Village. After lunch
we’ll transfer to the airport for the flight to Jinghong.
8th Day: In the morning we travel to Ganlanba,
a traditional Dai town, where we visit the morning market, Dai
water villages, the Burmese Temple and Rubber Orchard. After
lunch by the Mekong, we explore Wild Elephant Valley. A nature
reserve for elephants, this valley is covered by rainforests,
crisscrossed by rivers and streams, and teeming with such endangered
species as wild Asian elephants and green peacocks. We take a
half-hour cable car ride through the primitive rainforest, then
enjoy a traditional Dai barbecue dinner before returning to Jinghong.
9th Day: This morning we fly from Jinghong
to Kunming to connect with our departing flight.
What’s included: Accommodations, English-speaking
guide, domestic airfare, ground transportation, transfers, entrance
fees to mentioned sites, and meals.