The Ancient Tea-Horse Trail

Explore western China’s beautiful mountain landscapes and its various ethnic cultures on this 16-day journey through Yunnan province and to outer Tibet.

The Ancient Tea-Horse Trail

Journey along the legendary tea-horse trail, an ancient trading route connecting West China with Tibet and India, on this 16-day guided tour of Yunnan province. Beginning in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, you’ll travel north to the Tibetan Plateau via the ancient settlements of Dali, Shaxi, Lijiang and Zhongdian, visiting remote villages and taking in stunning mountain scenery along the way.

Outline Itinerary

  1. Day 1: Arrive Kunming

    Your tour begins in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. On arrival at the airport/station, you will be met by your guide and transferred to a centrally-located hotel for two nights. Depending on the time of your arrival, it may be possible to arrange for a half-day tour of Kunming this afternoon.

  2. Day 2: Shilin Stone Forest, Kunming

    After breakfast at the hotel, depart Kunming for Shilin, the famous Stone Forest. 90km from Kunming, Shilin is reached after a 1-2 hour drive through beautiful hill country.

  3. Day 3: Kunming to Dali

    Transfer to the airport this morning for the early flight to Dali (45 minutes flying time). On arrival in Dali, you will be met by your guide and begin your tour of Dali’s vibrant city centre and famous Three Pagodas.

  4. Day 4: Cangshan Mountains and Erhai Lake

    Today will be spent exploring Dali’s surrounding region. Start with a bicycle tour around Erhai Lake, following one of a number of popular biking routes which take in small lakeshore villages and market towns. (If you’re not keen on cycling, we can arrange for a boat cruise on the Lake).

  5. Day 5: Dali Old Town and Weishan

    After breakfast, depart on a full-day excursion to Weishan Ancient Town. Weishan is a one and a half hour drive from Dali, but you can break up the journey with a stop at Dongliahua Village, a sleepy Hui settlement.

  6. Day 6: Dali to Shaxi

    Depart Dali this morning and drive north along the ancient tea-horse trail to Shaxi Village. This is a 3 hour drive that follows an old winding trail – the original tea-horse trading route – through beautiful hill country. There will be plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos along the way.

  7. Day 7: Shaxi to Lijiang

    Depart Shaxi this morning and continue along the tea-horse trail to Lijiang.

  8. Day 8: Baisha and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

    Lijiang is at its best in the early morning, when the streets are empty and the market stalls shut. Try waking before noon to get some photos of the town in the dawn light. The Zen Garden’s hilltop location allows for beautiful photos of Lijiang’s iconic rooftops.

  9. Day 9: Tiger Leaping Gorge

    Start the day with a visit to Lashi Lake, situated just outside Lijiang. On arrival at the lake, ditch the vehicle and set off on a 1-2 hour guided horseback tour (a walking tour is also possible if you are not keen to ride).

  10. Day 10: Haba Village

    Wake early to watch the sun as it rises over Haba Peak, the tallest of the Jade Dragon Mountains. Then, after an early breakfast in the guesthouse, trek down to Shenchuan Bridge, stopping for lunch along the way at the Walnut Garden, a local restaurant and guesthouse.

  11. Day 11: Shangri-La

    Leave Baidi this morning and drive to the neighbouring village of Baishuitai, famous for its limestone terraces. These mineral terraces—curious white rock formations that from a distance resemble rice terraces—are a natural wonder. After lunch in Baishuitai, continue to the Tibetan city of Zhongdian, otherwise known as Shangri-La.

  12. Day 12: Nixi and Gangjue Villages

    After breakfast at your hotel, pay a morning visit to Gedan Songzanlin Monastery, the most significant lamasery in the Shangri-La Region, and a major centre of Tibetan culture and religion outside of Tibet.

  13. Day 13: Tacheng

    After breakfast in the guesthouse, say goodbye to your hosts and trek to Bala Village, a short distance from Ganjue along an easy walking trail. From Bala, continue by vehicle to the Tibetan town of Benzilan, famous as a centre of Tibetan costume-making.

  14. Day 14: Cizhong

    Start the day with a visit to Tacheng’s most famous attraction, the Tacheng Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey Reserve, a national park housing 2,000 of these rare and endangered primates, which are endemic to this region.

  15. Day 15: Deqin

    Enjoy a morning tour of Cizhong, taking in its major landmarks, including the 19th-century Catholic Church. After lunch in town, drive through the dramatic Lancang Jiang River Canyon to Deqin, the northernmost settlement in the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan, situated on the border with Tibet proper.

  16. Day 16: Departure

    After breakfast in the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport in time for the flight to your next destination.

Price guide

Price based on two travellers in shared double/twin accommodation and subject to availability at the time of booking.

16 days from £4225pp


16 days from £4225pp


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