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Southwest China: Yunnan's mountains & minorities

14 days from CAD7,850pp

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Tour highlights

  • Stroll around the charming old towns of Dali and Lijiang.

  • See the endangered snub-nosed monkey.

  • Journey to Shangri-La to discover stunning scenery and Tibetan culture.

  • Visit Yuanyang’s rice terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Meet the diverse ethnic minorities of Yunnan Province.

Price includes:

  • Domestic flights in destination
  • In-destination transfers
  • Activities and excursions as detailed
  • All accommodations
  • 24-hour support while you travel
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Itinerary idea in detail

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  • Upon arrival into Kunming you're met at the airport by your private guide and driver, and driven to your city hotel by private transfer. You have the evening at leisure to explore the city, if you wish, or simply relax in your hotel after your journey. You may like to take a stroll to Green Park Lake, ringed with teahouses and criss-crossed by traditional bridges.

  • This morning, you will visit the Stone Forest with your private guide. The forest has a stunning array of natural stone peaks, stalagmites, stalactites, subterranean rivers and underground caves. Return to Kunming after your excursion, and you will have the afternoon free to explore the city independently. You may wish to visit Green Lake Park, where you can enjoy views of the lake and witness locals doing their exercises, or you can take a stroll in Kunming’s small old quarter.

  • Early morning private transfer to Kunming railway station with your guide and take the high-speed train to Dali, a journey of approximately two hours. On arrival, your private guide and driver will meet you, and you will begin your tour of Dali. Dali is well known for its colourful people, its embroidery, rich agriculture, famous marble and excellent breed of horses. You will explore Dali's walled town and then visit the historic Three Pagodas area, one of the town's most famous sights.

  • In the morning drive out to the pretty Cangshan Mountains, where you can enjoy some guided walking to take in some of the pretty panoramic views of Dali and Erhai Lake below. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the hillside this afternoon before continuing with your walk. On your return to your hotel, you can stop at the produce market in Xiaguan, where you can spend some time discovering local fruits and vegetables as well as minorities handicrafts.

  • Today you leave Dali for Shaxi. You will make a short stop at Xizhou, which was always favoured by the rich tea merchants who built fabulous homes in this little lakeside town. Afterwards, your private driver takes you to the village of Shaxi, a two-hour journey through deep countryside, weaving through villages and rice paddies. Once you have checked in to your hotel, you have time to explore this sleepy rural village. Stroll around its market square and along the river, admiring its 14th-century Ming Dynasty buildings.

  • You will have more time to explore Shaxi this morning before departing for Lijiang. There is a stop en route to visit the grottoes and temple complex of Shibaoshan before your guide and driver take you further north to Lijiang, a town in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The drive with the excursion takes approximately four hours, and you usually arrive in Lijiang in the late afternoon to check in to your hotel.

  • This morning, you will travel out of Lijiang to visit Zhiyun Monastery, one of the five most important lamaseries in the region with a 300-year history, where you may be able to witness the monks praying and studying. Continue to Shuhe village to meet a Naxi Shaman and his family. The Shaman will show you around the village and introduce you to his faith and ceremonial practises before you join his family for lunch. Return to Lijiang in the afternoon and take a tour of Lijiang’s ancient streets, which are tightly packed with slate-tiled houses and latticed with mountain streams and waterways. Later, take a short visit to Black Dragon Pond Park for some of the best views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

  • Today, you take a private transfer to Tacheng, the gateway to the Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park. You will first visit the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world's deepest gorges where you'll admire the gorge from a viewing platform. If you wish, you can take a steep walk down the steps to the Jinsha River at the bottom. You then continue to Tacheng, a journey of approximately four hours through mountains and valleys. Check in to your lodge accommodation upon arrival.

  • The golden snub-nosed monkey is an endangered species native to this part of Yunnan province. Located about 30 minutes from Tacheng, the Xiangjing Golden Monkey National Park works to protect this species and educate visitors about the monkeys. You will spend the day at the national park with your private guide to learn about these monkeys and watch them eat and play in the misty forest of this well-managed, sustainable park. You will leave Tacheng for Shangri-La in the afternoon with your private guide and driver on a three-hour journey. Sometimes called ‘Gyalthang’ in Tibetan, Shangri-La is located at 3,200 metres above sea level, and you will experience a unique blend of Tibetan and Han cultures here. Upon arrival, you will check in to your hotel.

  • Today, you’ll discover Shangri-La’s Tibetan culture with a visit to Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in China, which has great views over a valley to give you an insight into the day-to-day life of its monks and explore some of the fascinating surrounding Tibetan villages. Later, take in the beautiful scenery of Napa Lake, where there may be opportunities to spot some wildlife and birds.

  • Morning private transfer to the airport for your one-hour flight to Kunming. You will be met by a private guide and driver upon arrival and transferred to Yuanyang, five hours south of Kunming. Located in Honghe Prefecture, along the Red River, Yuanyang is well-known for its spectacular rice terraces, part of which now form the 45th UNESCO World Heritage Site in China. Check in to your hotel for an overnight stay in town.

  • You will spend most of today exploring Yuanyang with your guide. You may wish to begin with a visit to a lively morning market for a chance to witness various ethnic minorities such as the Hani, Yi, Miao, Dai and Zhuang in their bright costumes gather to sell their produce or to buy supplies, if your visit coincides with a market day. Afterwards head out to explore the region's rice terraces, made by the Hani people over centuries they look like stairs leading to the sky. Later, you will be driven to the town of Jianshui, a historic center in Yunnan province and an important transportation crossroad today. The journey takes approximately two and a quarter hours.

  • Today your private guide and driver will take you on a tour of Jianshui. Start with an excursion to the Qing Dynasty Family Zhu Gardens, followed by a visit to Jianshui's centrepiece, the Ming Dynasty Chaoyang Gate, and China's second largest Confucian temple. This afternoon drive out of the city to visit the photographic Twin Dragon Bridge before heading to Tuan Shan Village to see some beautiful courtyard architecture. Lastly, you will visit Swallow Cave with its karst formations and hundreds of swallows and return to your hotel.

  • Today you will be taken by a three-hour private transfer to Kunming Changshui International Airport in time for your return flight.

Accommodation options

While the itinerary price reflects the suggested accommodations, Audley trips are 100% tailor-made, and a specialist can help you select the option best suited to your tastes and budget.

Contact a China specialist

The specialist who designs your trip to China will have explored the country many times and, in some cases, lived there. Their first-hand knowledge gives us the belief that no other travel company can match our expertise in helping you plan your trip.

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When to go

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