The Search for Shangri-La

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Best time to go: March to May, July to November

11 Nights | from £5,455pp

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Holiday type: Tailor-made

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  • Step firmly off the well-trodden track to discover sacred glaciers and Tibetan villages ringed by mountains.
  • Explore the captivating 17th century Songzanglin Monastery
  • Visit untouched traditional Tibetan villages and interact with the welcoming inhabitants
  • Explore the terraced rice fields and misty peaks of Tacheng
  • Search for the unique snub-nosed Yunnan golden monkey the photogenic Tacheng Nature Reserve

Day 1 UK / Hong Kong
Maximise your time in China by flying overnight to the frenetic metropolis that is Hong Kong.

Day 2 Hong Kong / Kunming
Having landed at Hong Kong International, it's just a short flight to Kunming, China's laid-back 'Spring City' and the capital of Yunnan Province. From here your adventure begins, setting off for the misty mountains of Western Hill and Dragon Gate to see the grottoes, pavilions and stone ladders that have been artfully carved into a cliff. Your hotel is just a short drive away.
Green Lake Hotel

Day 3 Kunming / Zhongdian

Prepare to be wowed - today you'll explore Yunnan's Stone Forest, a mind-bending forest of karst formations over 270 million years old, spanning a whopping 186 miles. Rich with caves, waterfalls and legends, it is an otherworldly paradise and a photographer's dream. After lunch you'll hop aboard a short flight to Zhongdian, the high-altitude Tibetan city also known as 'Shangri-La'. Home for the next two nights is the Songtsam Retreat Shangri-La, a Tibetan-style boutique hotel located within walking distance of the astonishing Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan province.
Songtsam Shangri-La | Meals: Breakfast

Day 4 Zhongdian
Today is all about immersion in Tibetan culture. Expect prayer wheels a-plenty, towering temples and a jaw-dropping landscape punctuated by mountains, meadows and lakes. A particular highlight is likely to be Songzanglin Monastery, built under the Dalai Lama in the 17th century, and still active today. There will be plenty of time to wander along the Old Town's cobbled lanes taking in the ancient wooden buildings, and in the evening you'll be treated to an enthralling performance of traditional dance.
Songtsam Shangri-La | Meals: Breakfast

Day 5 Zhongdian / Tacheng
Today's three-hour road-trip is an enlightening adventure in itself, driving along ever higher, twisting mountain roads, stopping at rural villages and interacting with the villagers, before arriving at the picturesque Songtsam Tacheng Lodge. For the next two nights you'll be surrounded by a sleepy mountain valley where rice farmers and beekeepers have toiled for generations. This setting is classic Yunnan, a soothing antidote to the bustling Chinese cities.
Songtsam Tacheng | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 Tacheng
Don't forget your binoculars and a camera;today you'll go for a gentle ride (or walk if you prefer) through the Tacheng Nature Reserve, an unobtrusive way of observing traditional rural life, while keeping your eyes peeled for the unique and elusive snub-nosed monkeys that inhabit the dense forest.
Songtsam Tacheng | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 Tacheng / Meili
A dramatic mountain drive takes you to the village of Mingyong, home to a sacred glacier, fed by the pure snow that falls on Mount Meili. Arriving at the romantic Songtsam Meili Lodge, you can't fail to be impressed;Situated at 3,600 metres, it affords spell-binding views in every direction over the majestic Meili Mountain Range. From here you can watch the sun rise over the snowy peaks right from your bedroom window.
Songtsam Meili | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 MeiliI
t's worth getting up early for the mesmerising pleasure of watching the sun rise at Kawagebo. Not only is this the highest mountain in Yunnan but also a deeply spiritual place. To experience it in context, you will witness a small religious ceremony, and afterwards follow in the footsteps of the countless pilgrims who have traipsed along an ancient winding path in search of enlightenment. A leisurely picnic lunch affords an opportunity to reflect on the morning's spiritual experience.
Songtsam Meili | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9 Meili / Benzilan
You may choose to start the day with a zen Buddhist meditation before setting off for Benzilan, the gateway to the glacier of Meili Snow Mountain National Park. Along the way you'll stop at a traditional Tibetan village to soak in the soaring snow-capped peaks and glaciers, lakes and canyons that make up the glittering Baima Nature Reserve,, home to the largest primeval forest in the world.. You'll visit the striking gold-topped Dongzhulin Monastery, built in 1667, before heading to Songtsam Benzilan, a charming retreat tucked away in a peaceful green valley, where you'll be staying for the next two nights.
Songtsam Benzilan | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10 Benzilan

Today can be as active or relaxed as you choose, as you absorb the peaceful ambience of your surroundings and interact with villagers. Your guide will show you around handicraft villages and a traditional lacquer bowl painting workshop if you choose, or you may prefer to go walking in the tranquil valley, or simply take it all in from the relaxing comfort of the hotel.
Songtsam Benzilan | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11 Benzilan / Zhongdian

Your last day in Yunnan begins with a visit the village of Nixi, where you will see how the distinctive black pottery, unique to the region, is made. You'll travel on to Zhongdian where an unforgettable evening awaits;a dinner hosted by a Tibetan family in their own home. Sure to be both lively and disarming, the evening will leave a lasting impression of this charming and welcoming region.
Songtsam Shangri-La | Meals: Breakfast

Day 12 Zhongdian / UK
It's time to say goodbye - or au revoir - to Yunnan as you head to the airport for your flight to Hong Kong via Kunming, where you'll connect with your onward flight home.

At A&K all of our journeys are individually tailored to suit your needs and timescale. As a guide, this 12 day itinerary will cost from £5,455 per person based on two sharing, including international flights.

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Our office in Hong Kong is managed by a local team of experienced and passionate travel professionals with an intimate knowledge of China, enabling them to provide clients with great insight into this fascinating destination, and ensuring a seamless experience every step of the A&K journey. With their long standing personal connections and networks they're also there to help you uncover local secrets and experiences, and to open doors to people and places normally beyond the reach of the ordinary traveller.

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Annie, Brandon, Debbie, Margaret, Vicky Smith, Lynne and Rachel - are experts in designing travel experiences across the region to suit your personal needs, interests and budget.

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Useful info


Best time to be there

While there are differences in the climate according to the region in China, it is best to travel in Spring and Autumn when the weather is not too hot nor freezing cold. But we also pay attention to festival periods and special occasions.

Fly to

Beijing/Shanghai/Hong Kong (British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Virgin)

flying time

11 hours 20 minutes non-stop

time difference

GMT +7 hours


Visa required for UK passport holders

Health Requirements

Yellow Fever certificate if arriving from an endemic area

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