Bike around southwest China on this tour of Yunnan region. Start in the appropriately-named Shangri-la, then bike to Bai Shui Tai. From here, you'll spend some days biking and hiking the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge before setting out to the area surrounding the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The tour ends in the historic town of Dali. Besides astonishing landscapes, this cycling tour will take you through historic rural villages, and introduce you to various Chinese minority cultures.

Highlights

  • See ancient Tibetan architecture in the Shangri-la ancient town of Dukezong
  • Visit Ganden Sumtsenling, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan
  • Cycle through the White Water Terraces of Bai Shui Tai
  • Hike several sections of the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Recover from biking and hiking in the relaxing hot springs of Da Dong

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Shangri-la Diqing
Day 2 Warm-Up Tour in Shangri-la Diqing
Day 3 Cycle to Bai Shui Tai Sanba
Day 4 Cycle to Tiger Leaping Gorge Hutiaoxia
Day 5 Hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge Hutiaoxia
Day 6 Hike the Middle Section of the Tiger Leaping Gorge Daju
Day 7 Cycle to Da Dong & Hot Springs Dadong
Day 8 Leisure Cycling Around Lijiang Lijiang
Day 9 Cycle Through Shaxi & Dali Dali
Day 10 Leisure Cycling Around Dali Dali
Day 11 Depart from Dali  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Shangri-la

Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery
Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery

Welcome to magnificent China! Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met by a representative who will take you to your hotel and help you check in.

Shangri-la was named after the idyllic fictional city of James Hilton's Lost Horizon, as a scheme to attract more tourism to this often-overlooked, but incredibly beautiful region. The town has since then been renamed Diqing, but tourists continue to arrive, drawn in by its tall mountains, Tibetan architecture, and sacred lakes. 

After a short rest, you will head out with your group and walk around Dukezong Ancient City, which dates back some 1,300 years. You can also visit Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province. Take advantage of this day to learn about traditional Tibetan architecture and customs.

Day 2: Warm-Up Tour in Shangri-la

Napa Lake and grasslands near Shangri-la
Napa Lake and grasslands near Shangri-la

Today, you will do a gentle warm-up cycle tour through the Tibetan highlands, passing through the scenic Napa Lake.

You'll only do about 28mi (45km), getting your muscles ready for the longer cycling days that await. On the tour, you will be stopping by some of the temples and villages that dot the mountains. As you cycle through grasslands where horses feed, beautiful lakes, and soft slopes, you'll understand why this region is often called the "Lost Horizon."

Day 3: Cycle to Bai Shui Tai

The White Water Terraces of Bai Shui Tai
The White Water Terraces of Bai Shui Tai

Get excited for the beginning of your cycling adventure!

In the morning, you'll drive through an arid plateau to Pudacuo National Park, where you'll ditch the car and start moving on your own two wheels.

You'll set off with a downhill stretch on a stable road, and cycle through a series of valleys and mountains, gradually descending to the village of Bai Shui Tai.  On the way, don't neglect to take in the beautiful rural scenery.

The final stretch of the route brings you through a conifer forest. Located below the Haba Snow Mountain (the other side of Tiger Leaping Gorge), Bai Shui Tai is famed for its natural mineral terraces known as the White Water Terraces. This natural phenomenon was created by calcium carbonate deposits from melting mountain spring water.

You'll arrive at your destination in the late afternoon, and recover while taking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Day 4: Cycle to Tiger Leaping Gorge

Bike through the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge
Bike through the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge

Set off in the morning through a few gentle hills before attempting a more serious climb to the top of a pass. From here, you will have views of the stunning Haba Mountain Peaks, whose highest point stands at a dizzying 17,700ft (5,396m)! The Haba Snow Mountain glacier is the southernmost glacier in China and boasts an alpine moraine lake, and endless clusters of azaleas and waterfalls cascading down snow-covered cliffs.

You'll make a short descent into Haba Village, whose resident minorities include the Naxi, Hui (Muslim), and Yi peoples, as well as a few Tibetans. Take a break from pedaling in this pretty village and interact with the friendly locals.

In the afternoon, you'll ascend to the next pass, and then cycle down into the Yangtze River Valley. At Yonke Village,  you'll turn into the legendary Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest ravines. Cutting its path between Haba Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the landscape that surrounds the gorge is as dramatic as its name suggests.

Once you have finished your ride, your transfer vehicle will take you to the downstream part of the gorge, which is where most tourists congregate. You'll then drive to Qiaotou Town for a night's rest.

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Day 5: Hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Scenic view of the Tiger Leaping Gorge
Scenic view of the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Set off early on a moderately difficult full-day hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

You'll be able to choose your starting point for the hike. Depending on your choice, your driver will take you to a nearby village, where you'll begin walking. The hike will take you around some seriously astonishing landscapes as you wind up and down the paths around the powerful gorge. The sound of the water rushing against the rocks will accompany you the entire way.

Once you've triumphantly finished, your driver will take you back to the guesthouse to recover and rest.

Day 6: Hike the Middle Section of the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Jinsha River in the Tiger Leaping Gorge
Jinsha River in the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Today's hike through the gorge will be entirely different since you will need precision and technique. You'll be climbing vertical ladles and walking along inclined rocks. As a reward, you'll get to walk along the edge of the gorge, appreciating this natural masterpiece up-close.

After the hike, you'll return to your accommodation to rest and pack up. Then, you'll drive across the gorgeous Yangtze River to Daju, an old town where you can witness traditional life in the Chinese countryside.

Day 7: Cycle to Da Dong & Hot Springs

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Today, you'll get back on your bike and cycle 14mi (23 km) towards the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Snow-capped and often shrouded in mist, this mountain is a sanctuary for rare animals and wild plants, as it counts with unique microclimates on its different slopes. It is also known as a natural glacier museum and is now a famous scenic spot for tourists, and scientists conducting research.

You'll then bike 19mi (31km) to the top of the mountain's southern slope, delighting in some absolutely incredible views. Finally, enjoy a long downhill ride through another valley, before finishing with a short uphill ride to Da Dong.

In the evening, you'll relax your muscles in the town's natural hot springs. 

Day 8: Leisure Cycling Around Lijiang

The Black Dragon Pool near Lijiang Ancient Town
The Black Dragon Pool near Lijiang Ancient Town

After a couple of days of hard cycling and hiking, you'll get to rest your legs by driving directly to Lijiang

Once in this historic town, you'll enjoy some leisure riding through surrounding villages, lakes, and reservoirs. Wherever you go, you are guaranteed to have the astonishing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a permanent feature of the backdrop.

When you're back in Lijiang, you can visit museums, walk around the Ancient Town, and stop by the gorgeous Black Dragon Pool.

Day 9: Cycle Through Shaxi & Dali

Streets in Shaxi Town
Streets in Shaxi Town

Start the day by choosing your preferred route: You can either spend the entire day cycling from Lijiang to Shaxi, or spend a mere two hours driving there. 

If you chose the latter option, you'll get to do leisurely rides around Shaxi, and then explore the peaceful town on foot. You will also start making your way to Dali, stopping by orchards and small towns along the way.

Once the sun begins to set, you'll get back on the car and drive to your destination for the night.

Day 10: Leisure Cycling Around Dali

Chongsheng Temple in Dali
Chongsheng Temple in Dali

Enjoy a day of riding through the mountains and hidden villages that surround Dali. You'll cycle from Erhai Lake all the way to Dali Ancient Town.

Throughout the day, you'll have several opportunities to see what life is like for the Bai people that call this area home. Once you've finished your ride, you can go to a local museum, visit the Chongsheng Temple, or see the famous Garden of the Three Pagodas. 

Day 11: Depart from Dali

Dali Ancient Town
Dali Ancient Town

Take advantage of your last morning in China by strolling through the old streets of Dali, appreciating the beauty of the town, taking in the mountain views, and buying last-minute souvenirs. 

You will then transfer to the airport or train station so you can continue your onward journey. 

Map

Map of Bike Tour of Southwest China: Shangri-la, Bai Shui Tai, Lijiang, Dali & More - 11 Days
Map of Bike Tour of Southwest China: Shangri-la, Bai Shui Tai, Lijiang, Dali & More - 11 Days