Dates: July 8-17, 2021
Kangding, Tagong grasslands, Danba, Zhonglu village
Private vehicle with driving distance 850 KM
Starts and end in Chengdu
The heart of Western China welcomes you as your driver navigates the throngs of cyclists which mix with the rhythm of a modern city. After check-in and a rest at the beautiful Fraser Suites, you're off to dinner and a visit at China's historical Three Kingdoms era Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple and Jinli Ancient Street.
Leaving Chengdu, today you head out of the Sichuan basin to penetrate deep into the mountains that guard the approach to the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. You pass through a virtual time warp on your six 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 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 half day trek to the top of Kangding grasslands for a scenic view of the city will follow breakfast. On the way down, a visit to Dordrak Monastery affords a unique introduction to the Tibetan Buddhist worldview. The afternoon will include a stroll through the markets to give you an idea of why this town has been a key historical trading center between Tibetans and the Chinese for centuries.
Today a forty-five minute drive will take you out of town to the scenic mountain pass of Ya Jia Gen. 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 the Zheduo Mountain pass (4200m) to the renowned nomadic trading village of Tagong (3700m). Weather permitting, you'll see the peak of Gong-ga Mountain (7566m) along the way - the highest peak in China outside of the Himalayas. This high altitude grassland area is home to many nomadic families who spend their days herding yaks. The warmth of Tibetan hospitality awaits you at a local homestay where Extravagant yak has been bringing guests for years.
After a visit to a local monastic community, you'll enjoy one of the most scenic drives on the Tibetan plateau. The drive from Tagong to Danba is breathtaking in its rugged beauty. The route provides stunning views of one of the most beautiful mountains in Eastern Tibet, Mt. Yala , as you follow a seemingly endless mountain canyon down to the tucked away town of Danba (elev. 1900m). High up on one of the surrounding hills lies your destination for the next two nights: the quaint Tibetan village of Zhonglu.
Today a relaxing hike on the surrounding slopes will offer stunning views of the valley along with beautiful terraced farms where the locals have cultivated an existence for generations. This area is also famous for its ancient tower ruins that date back hundreds of years to the warring period between Tibetan clans. In the afternoon your host will treat you to an historical and cultural tour of his 700 year old home complete with cultural relics from hundreds of years ago.
Descending from the terraced heights of Zhonglu, this morning follows a tight canyon valley for three hours on a gradual climb to Changping, the gateway village to the alpine wonderland of Four Sisters Mt. The village is a quaint mountain community of local Tibetans who make a living off of serving mountaineers and trekkers who come from around the globe to adventure in the breathtaking mountains known as the Four Sisters (Siguniangshan, in Chinese). Following lunch, enjoy an afternoon photographic walk through the village and surrounding valley. An optional climb to the adjacent ridge for images of the sunset on the mountains will precede a later dinner.
This morning marks your reluctant departure from the mountains, but not before crossing one more 4,000m+ pass (Balang Mt.) for a final view from the Roof of the World. Descending the countless canyons and switchbacks through mountain villages will remind you again why Tibet has remained so cut off from the rest of the world for much of history. After a half day of travel you'll pull into Chengdu in the afternoon to enjoy rest and refreshment in your Fraser Suites room. Enjoy an optional bamboo bike ride along Chengdu's Funan River to feel the vibe of the city before a farewell dinner.