Dates: Yours to choose
Daocheng, Yading Nature Preserve, Shangri-La
Chengdu (Inc. return flight to Shangri-La)
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 a rest at your hotel, you're off to dinner and a visit at China's historical Three Kingdoms era Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple and Jinli Ancient Street.
Your private guide will escort you to the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Center for close up viewing of these curious creatures who are more native to Sichuan than the people themselves. In the afternoon you'll enjoy a stroll into China's past on a visit to Luodai Historic Town followed by an evening's entertainment at the Sichuan Opera.
Leaving Chengdu, today you take a direct flight out of the Sichuan basin to penetrate deep into the mountains that guard the approach to fabled Shangri-La . You pass through a virtual time warp on this one hour flight. Everything becomes new: landscape, climate, cuisine, language, customs, and of course the people, as you do your best to capture it all with your camera. After landing at Daocheng airport - one of the highest in the world - it is on by private vehicle to Yading . Your room for the night is in a comfortable hotel in the quaint village just outside Yading Nature Preserve (2800m). Vehicle distance: 120km.
This full day in China's beautiful Yading National Nature Reserve will be a welcome opportunity to stretch your legs on the well kept trails beneath the three 6000m peaks that are packed into this stunning area. As much or as little walking as you like, the presence of electric transport ensures there will be no limit to what your eyes (and camera) can take in. Distance to the park: 40km.
This morning you enjoy a relaxed stroll in the village before a scenic drive to Daocheng and an optional dip in a natural hot-spring. After dinner you'll mingle with the local Tibetans at their community dance (feel free to join in!), before settling in to a comfortable home-stay for the night. Distance: 95km.
Heading back North for a spell before turning further west and south, the highlight to today's travels will be the contrasting lush vegetation at the lower elevations as you descend a thrilling highland canyon to Xiangcheng (2800m). The Tibetan farms in this river valley offer a distinct difference to the livelihood of the nomads back on the mountain passes. Distance: 115km.
After following the Shuoqu River as it continues to carve through the surrounding mountain canyon, today includes your last mountain pass of your trip before descending to 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. Distance: 205km.
The romance of Shangri-La's Old Town feels as if a full day would not be enough to capture all there is to see and do (and eat!). The competing option of an afternoon of cycling in the Tibetan countryside outside town causes you mild anxiety that you consider treating with a glass of wine at one of the many cafes along the Old Town's cobbled streets.
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.