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On the very edge of the Tibetan plateau is one of the most important Llamaist monasteries outside Tibet. The 300-year-old Songzanlin Monastery, home to around 600 monks, dominates the outskirts of the frontier town of Zhongdian.

A new airport has opened up this beautiful and previously remote Tibetan region, renamed ‘Shangri-la’ after James Hilton’s mythical mountain paradise.

Around Zhongdian

Yaks at Mount MutzagataFurther north, at Deqen, yak-herding nomads tend their animals in a dramatic landscape of remarkable limestone terraces and slow-moving glaciers.

From here the overland route to Chengdu in Sichuan Province is open to the adventurous via a spectacular but arduous journey reaching more than 4,500 meters across the high Tibetan steppe to Litang — home to a fabulous Tibetan horse festival each August — and great Mount Gonga.

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Start planning your tailor-made trip to Zhongdian by contacting one of our China specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring Zhongdian

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Zhongdian, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Zhongdian

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Zhongdian

    Our expert guides to exploring Zhongdian

    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Zhongdian, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Zhongdian at its best.

    • Characterful stays in China
      Songtsam Hotel, Zhongdian

      Characterful stays in China

      Characterful stays in China

      Whether you’re staying in a converted farmhouse surrounded by countryside or a traditional Tibetan building overlooking a monastery, basing yourself in a boutique property during your vacation to China opens your eyes to new cultures and authentic local life. Country specialist Stephanie shares her recommendations.

      9 min read

      Read this guide
    • The slow side of China: visiting the rural provinces
      Li river, Guilin

      The slow side of China: visiting the rural provinces

      The slow side of China: visiting the rural provinces

      There are still places to visit in China that remain almost untouched by the modern world. Country specialist Cheryl shares her experiences of rural China, from meeting local people and learning about their minority cultures to hiking through mountains and rice terraces.

      10 min read

      Read this guide
    • China’s spiritual side: the best temples, grottoes, mosques and mountains
      Songzanlin Monastery, Zhongdian

      China’s spiritual side: the best temples, grottoes, mosques and mountains

      China’s spiritual side: the best temples, grottoes, mosques and mountains

      You can explore spiritual China in country specialist Anthony’s guide to the Middle Kingdom’s most intriguing holy places. He shares his thoughts on the why and how of visiting Buddhist monasteries, temples and cave art, and even sacred mountains.

      7 min read

      Read this guide

    Accommodation choices for Zhongdian

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Zhongdian. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Zhongdian

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Zhongdian, and which use the best local guides.

    • Songzanlin Monastery
      Songzanlin Monastery

      Songzanlin Monastery

      Songzanlin Monastery

      This 300-year-old monastery houses over 600 Tibetan monks and is one of the most prominent Tibetan monasteries in southwest China.

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    • Dabao Temple Hike
      Interior of traditional Tibetan house

      Dabao Temple Hike

      Dabao Temple Hike

      The trek begins at Ruobola Hill, heading through the forests toward Dabao. During the journey the highest sections are around 3,500 meters above sea level.

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