Journey through a land few have seen, and experience a timelessness found only at the top of the world. See the most remote and authentic parts of an ancient culture that has experienced little change for many hundreds of years. Mysterious customs. Warm hospitality. Majestic landscape. Each day let your five senses dictate where you want to stop and what the next adventure will be!
Along the way, your experienced guide will delight you with cultural tales and insights with each passing valley. The saying in this rugged land, "for every valley, a different dialect" not only applies to language, but also to architecture and customs too. You'll be fascinated with the diverse ways of life represented as you ascend from the lush farming valleys to the high grasslands and thin air where nomads and their animals depend on one another for their survival.
In the comfort of your private vehicle, you'll doubtless observe devout pilgrims between here and there, regardless of where the road leads.
Dates: Private Tour (Yours to choose)
*pricing based on a private group of 2
Kangding, Tagong, Litang, Daocheng, Yading National Park, Shangri-la
Private vehicle with driving distance of 1300 KM
Starts and ends in Chengdu
Leaving Chengdu early today, you head out of the Sichuan basin and deep into the mountains that guard the approach to the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. You pass through a virtual time warp on your four-hour journey. Everything becomes new: landscape, climate, cuisine, language, customs, and of course, the people. On the first evening in Kangding (elev. 2600m) you'll visit Ngachu monastery, followed by a community dance (feel free to join in!). The next couple days will be rich in cultural and scenic diversity, but equally important for acclimatizing for the days ahead.
Driving distance: 325km.
The first thing you notice the next morning is that everywhere you look goes up! Kangding is perched on the edge of the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. A cable car (or optional walk) to the top of Paoma Mountain look-out will follow breakfast. The afternoon will include a fascinating introduction to this new land with a visit to the Tibetan Museum of Cultural History. Before dinner, a stroll through the markets will give you an idea of why this town has been a key historical trading center between Tibetans and the Chinese.
Today a forty-five minute drive will take you out of town to the scenic mountain pass of Ya Jia Gen (4000m+). Along the way, scenery of rural Tibetan life in still-ancient villages mixes together with panoramic views from the top of the pass to become a visual extravaganza. An alpine lake at the top will provide a surreal location for a picnic lunch, followed by exploration of the surrounding ridges by foot. You'll return to town by late afternoon for a Tibetan dinner.
This morning is up, up, up… and over Zheduo Mountain (4200m) to the renowned nomadic trading village of Tagong (3700m). Weather permitting, along the way you'll see the peak of Gong-ga Mountain (7566m) - the highest peak in China outside of the Himalayas. A visit with the nomads and an optional short horse trek on the grasslands will precede a visit to Ani-Gonpa (Tibetan nunnery). Retracing your route 30min back toward Xinduqiao will take you to a boutique Tibetan lodge for your night’s rest (3400m).
Driving distance: 140km.
Today offers a beautiful scenic loop back through Tagong village, and then east through the rolling highland hills and nomadic pasturing areas around Yala Mountain, to Zhonggu village for a dip in a natural hotspring, before returning to the comfort of your Tibetan lodge. This is one of the most visually stunning roads in all of Kham Tibet. *Optionally, instead of the hotspring visit, there is a high elevation alpine lake called Mugecuo (3400m) that offers a beautiful walk and lakeside picnic.
Driving distance: 230km.
Today's journey truly feels like you are flying across the top of the world on four wheels. Along the way, you'll pass countless yaks and sheep, as well as the black yak-hair tents that belong to the families shepherding these animals. It doesn't seem possible that whole families could live in such an extreme climate with such basic provisions. But here they are, and happily too! Today's destination is one of the highest towns in the world - Litang (4014m).
Driving distance: 210km.
Turning South toward the alpine regions on the way to the Yunnan border, today's landscape will be rich with ecological diversity. This includes passing through Haizi Mountain National Nature Reserve with its huge boulders and moon-like landscape at heights over 4200m. Upon arrival in Daocheng (3700m) you'll be introduced to a locally run Tibetan-style guesthouse. The afternoon and tomorrow morning will be used for relaxation after several days of travel.
Driving distance: 150km.
Enjoy a leisurely walk around the village after breakfast this morning, followed by a dip in the natural hot spring outside of town. Following lunch, you’ll follow the river for a short 80km drive to Xianggelila Village, the doorstep of Yading National Park. The alpine surroundings will whet your appetite for your time in the park tomorrow.
Driving distance: 80km.
There is good reason why this remote park is a destination for travelers from around the world. The stunning protected area offers something for everyone. There are ambitious multi-day treks that circle the mountain, as well as park buses that shuttle guests to some of the most beautiful areas. It is well worth spending a whole day in these surreal surroundings.
Driving distance: 60km.
The last overland portion of your journey is an epic full day drive. Today includes two final mountain passes with the stunning Xiangcheng canyon in between, before descending into fabled Shangri-La (3200m). Quaint villages and farms dot the landscape on the approach as you imagine explorers like Joseph Rock mounting expeditions through these areas almost 100 years ago.
Driving distance: 380km.
The romance of Shangri-La's Old Town feels as if a couple days would not be enough to capture all there is to see and do (and eat!). Enjoy a tour of the old town after breakfast to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of this fabled town. After a long day of travel the previous day, enjoy an afternoon of bliss aimlessly wandering the Old Town's cobbled streets appreciating the various artisan and handcraft shops, and indulging your fancy with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine!) at one of the many quaint cafes.
After breakfast, you will visit Songzanlin monastery for an introduction to monastery life and local monastic history. After a late lunch with a local Tibetan family, you will visit the Thangka painting center for an introduction to basic Thangka painting techniques. You will have fun trying them out yourselves. Dinner and the opportunity to practice your dance moves from the night before in the square will fill your evening before heading back to your hotel.
Today is your reluctant departure from Shangri-La. The one comforting thought before you is that Shangri-La is also waiting for you back in Chengdu! That's right, there is no better preparation to be had the night before your onward travels than a restful night at the Shangri-la Hotel, Chengdu, including a farewell banquet and trip celebration.
Flight time: 1hr 15min.