Don’t waste a moment of precious holiday time. It makes sense to lengthen your stay in China with an overnight flight from Heathrow to Beijing.
As soon as you land at Beijing International we’ll be there to help you take the connection to Lijiang. This UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is a picturesque, ancient town, nestled at the foot of the Himalayas. Relax: your hotel is just a short drive away.
A morning drive to the villages of Baisha and Longquan affords you a glimpse of Naxi culture thanks to a series of historic frescoes. Back in Lijiang you can now explore the Venice of the Orient. The quaint Old Town is a maze of narrow streets crisscrossed by canals and ancient bridges. After lunch, a stroll through picturesque Black Dragon Pool Park promises spectacular views over Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Today's four-hour road-trip is an adventure in itself, scaling ever higher and more twisting mountain roads. You’ll have the chance to stop at rural villages to interact with the friendly villagers but your ultimate destination is the picturesque Songtsam Tacheng Lodge. For the next two nights you'll be surrounded by a mountain valley panorama where rice farmers and beekeepers have toiled for generations. The setting is classic Yunnan, a soothing antidote to the bustling Chinese cities.
At the Tacheng Nature Reserve, take an inspirational trek through verdant forest packed with exotic flora and birdlife. The visit also presents you with an unobtrusive way to observe traditional rural life, while keeping your eyes peeled for the unique and elusive snub-nosed monkeys that inhabit the unspoiled uplands. Don't forget your binoculars and camera.
Another 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 Songtsam Meili Lodge, you can't fail to be impressed. Situated at 3,600 metres, this exceptional hotel offers views in every direction over the snowy peaks of the Meili Mountain Range.
It's worth getting up early to catch the mesmeric sunrise 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 on an ancient winding path in search of enlightenment. A leisurely picnic lunch affords an opportunity to reflect on your experience.
You may choose to start the day with a Zen Buddhist meditation session. Having achieved inner calm you’ll set off for Benzilan, the gateway to the glacier of Meili Snow Mountain National Park. A magical journey will take in the snow-capped peaks, lakes and canyons of the Baima Nature Reserve, home to the world’s largest primeval forest. You'll visit the wondrous, gold-roofed Dongzhulin Monastery, built in 1667, before finally heading to your welcoming hotel retreat.
The Songtsam Benzilan, your home for two nights, is tucked away in a tranquil mountain valley. It’s just perfect for walking and longer hikes, absorbing the peaceful ambience of your surroundings. You may choose to head for the nearby village to meet the friendly locals and discover their traditional arts and crafts, or even take part in a lacquer bowl painting workshop.
Your day begins with a visit to the village of Nixi, where you’ll learn how the distinctive black pottery, unique to the region, is made. Travelling on to Zhongdian, an unforgettable evening awaits. You’re personally invited to dinner in the home of a Tibetan family. It’s sure to be a lively, disarming evening that will leave you with a lasting impression of this charming region.
Today is all about immersion in Tibetan culture. Expect prayer wheels and towering temples aplenty in the midst of a mountain landscape that is punctuated by flower meadows and serene lakes. Songzanglin Monastery is a real highlight, built under the Dalai Lama in the 17th-century, and still active today. Walk the cobbled lanes of Zhongdian’s Old Town amid ancient wooden buildings and enjoy the evening’s thrilling performance of Tibetan dance.
It's time to say goodbye to Yunnan as you head to the airport for your flight to Kunming, and on to Hong Kong where you'll connect with your onward flight home.