Join likeminded individuals, stay in boutique accommodation and see this captivating destination from the perspective of a local


4 Days, 3 Nights     FROM CNY 5,233 PER PERSON

In 1933, British author James Hilton wrote about a mystical earthly paradise in the mountains of Tibet that he dubbed ’Shangri-La’ in his novel Lost Horizon. The utopia he depicted told of a mythical land isolated from the outside world – a ’Garden of Eden’ where people enjoyed lengthened lives far beyond the normal lifespan. Although his musings were fictional, much was inspired by his readings of National Geographic accounts about several regions around the Himalayas.

One such place is Zhongdian, which has now formally renamed itself Shangri-La County to reflect its accurate likeness of the utopia Hilton described.

Our four-day, three-night ’In Search of Shangri-La’ tour provides a glimpse at some of the most picturesque landscapes and terrains of Southwest China and includes visits to: Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world; Baishuitai, a collection of stunning limestone pools; Nixi, a small pottery town nestling on the mountain side; as well as spending time at Songzanlin Monastery and the Mingyong Glacier.


Each of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and our destination based teams will start planning a unique and personalized trip.

The Backyard Travel Team,


Enjoy a picnic breakfast while taking in a sublime sunrise over the Meili Xue Shan mountain range at Feilasi Temple
Learn the ancient art of thangka at a school in Zhongdian
Visit the Songzanlin Monastery and observe the daily life of the 600 monks who live around Lamuyancuo Lake
Take a tour of Pudaocuo National Park, a large natural area that contains over 100 endangered animal species, including the Red Panda and Asiatic Black Bear

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

  • Start
  • Day 1: Lijiang - Tiger Leaping Gorge - Zhongdian (Shangri-La)

    Welcome to Shangri-La! Unlike the mythical paradise that James Hilton wrote about though, on this tour you’ll have the chance to visit a modern-day utopia that’s very much real!Departing from Lijiang, the tailor-made tour begins with a stop at Tiger Leaping Gorge, located two hours away by car (depending on traffic) on the way to Zhongdian. One of the deepest gorges in the world, with staggering variations in altitude, the gorge separates the Jinsha River from the jagged mountains of Northern Yunnan. This area has become a playground for walkers, ramblers, and climbers from around the world, keen to conquer the unforgiving terrain.

    You will take a short walk in the gorge before continuing on to Baishuitai, a collection of limestone pool formations brimming with water, resembling a calcified lava flow in a stunning likeness to a terrace farm. The full magic of the site is unveiled as the sun reflects on both the white stone and the small ponds of turquoise water.

    Arrive in Zhongdian in the late afternoon and make a stop at your hotel before going on a guided stroll through the old town, a maze of cobbled streets lined with decadent wooden houses. On the walk you’ll have the chance to participate in the daily spectacle of dancers who congregate to take part in a dance on the old town’s main square. Participants usually dance in a circle to the rhythm of traditional music. It’s a unique show, particularly appreciated by the locals and is not to be missed!Optional: As long as the weather is suitable, you will be taken to the cozy and artistic Tara Gallery Café & Bar, once used as a trading house on the Tea Horse Road, for a traditional Tibetan dinner on the terrace.

  • Day 2: Zhongdian (Shangri-La)

    The next morning you will then continue to the small pottery village of Nixi (around 30 minutes’ drive from Zhongdian), nesting on a mountain that overhangs the marvelous Napahai Lake surrounded by mountains on one side and the other by a broad meadow where horses and yaks graze happily. During the journey you will stop at the house of a Tibetan family where you can try tsampa, a mixture of yak’s butter, tea and flour and take the opportunity to savor this local specialty in a traditional small Tibetan house.

    Optional: if you wish, it is also possible to take a bike tour of Napahai Lake to enjoy the site in all its glory (tour is available subject to an extra charge). The scenic bike tour route is flat and lasts between one and two hours.

    In the afternoon you will travel to Pudaocuo National Park, which is located 40 minutes’ drive from Zhongdian. The park contains nearly 20% of the country’s biological diversity (including orchids and Himalayan yews that are used for treating certain ailments) and over 100 species of endangered animal, such as the Black-necked Crane, as well as the rarely seen Red Panda and the Asiatic Black Bear.

    Special buses run regularly around a 66km route of the park, for visitors to hop on and off at will as no cars are allowed within the park. Your first stop will be at Shudu Lake, where you can take a 3km walk along the lakeside. Along the way you may be lucky enough to observe the unique spectacle of fish feeding on the toxic azalea petals. You will then continue to the meadows of Militang, whose green pastures are a paradise for grazing horses and yaks in the summer months.

    If you wish, your park visit will end with a 4km walk along the Bita Lake, a virtual open-air natural museum of unique biodiversity, before being transferred back to your hand-picked hotel.

  • After breakfast, day three will begin with a visit to the impressive Songzanlin monastery, which is located 10-15 minutes’ drive from the old town and is an important location for Tibetan Buddhism. At the monastery you can admire the glittering golden roofs all around and countless prayer flags waving in the wind, as well as the scenes of local life around the Lamuyancuo Lake and the 600 monks who stay in the small houses adjoining the monastery as they go about their daily duties.

    Later in the morning you will have the opportunity to visit a local school in Zhongdian to observe and learn about the art of thangka. This particularly beautiful local art form is said to date back to the 11th century and involves painting on embroidered cotton or silk, usually depicting a Buddhist deity or scene.

    Teachers at the school hail from Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China and come to teach talented young Tibetans the ancient art which is so closely related to Buddhism and meditation. As this area sits on the Tibetan plateau, there are strong links between the two areas. This session will help you better understand the spiritual representations that adorn temples and Tibetan monasteries.

    We will then travel to Deqin County, which is around a three-hour drive to the north of Zhongdian and is located at an altitude of 3,500m above sea level, where you will spend the night. Deqin is located in the center of the Hengduan Mountains and contains the valleys of the Salween, Mekong and Jinsha Rivers.

    Once in Deqin, your evening will be free to spend as you please, so ask you guide who will be happy to recommend a delicious local restaurant to dine at.

  • Day 4: Deqin - Zhongdian (Shangri-La)

    On your last day you will rise at dawn so as not to miss the sunrise over the Meili Xue Shan mountain range. These mountains stand as an impassable border between Tibet and China and are dominated by the mystical Kawa Karpo, a true natural boundary that, at more than 6,700 meters high, towers over the neighboring mountains. This amazing experience will be enjoyed whilst eating a picnic breakfast, prepared in advance by the hotel.

    The gorge below Kawa Karpo was carved over millions of years by the Mekong River (called Lanciang Jiang in Chinese), which begins in the northern part of the Tibetan plateau. After breakfast, you will cross the legendary river to get to the charming village of Mingyong, the starting point for hikers who trek towards the Mingyong Glacier. The glacier is sacred to locals and many perform kora around it. Kora is a pilgrimage of faithful Tibetans who walk around a religious site in a clockwise direction while spinning prayer wheels, chanting mantras, counting mala (a set of beads), or repeatedly prostrating themselves.

    Optional: From Mingyong, you have the chance to embark upon a 20km round-trip trek at an altitude of 3,500m, which will lead you to the Lotus Temple in order to further observe the dedication to religion that still flows through the veins of this region, and which also provides a remarkable view of the Mingyong Glacier. Here you’ll see prayer flags tirelessly flapping in the wind against the beautiful backdrop of this enchanting natural scenery.

    As the trek is challenging, a good physical condition is required for this tour, but those that wish can also do the journey on horseback. Please contact us for more information.

    You will then make the three-hour journey back to Zhongdian and transfer to the airport before flying on to your next location. However, depending on your destination and departure times you may have to stay one more night in Zhongdian to catch a morning flight.

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Local vietnamese woman

Tour Details

All of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

icon Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles
Service of English speaking guides in every location
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

icon Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.

We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.

With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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Our advantage lies in having local expertise to create unique, bespoke tours. Whether you’re looking to cruise down Asia’s tranquil rivers, bike the peaceful rural roads, or eat at bustling night markets, Backyard Travel’s in-country Travel Specialists can plan your ideal trip. Send us a message about your ideas, and we'll send you our best suggestions.




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Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.