Tiger Freakin' Gorgeous

Kunming's flower and bird market
Lijiang - former capital of the Naxi Kingdom
The Bai traditional minority tribe of Dali
Find your favourite Chinglish menu item
  • This trip be a circuit route around some of China’s more rural attractions. Start off in Kunming, ‘The City of Eternal Spring’, then chill out in Nuodeng village and cute-as-a-button Dali. Meet ethnic minorities in Shaxi and have a gander at Tiger Leaping Gorge. You may not see tigers, but nor will you be disappointed.


    The legend behind the name Tiger Leaping Gorge is pretty obvious. Instead we'll tell you about trekking to a hillside monastery and some delightful little towns by the name of Dali, Shaxi and Lijiang.


    Day 1 - Kunming

    Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
    Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
    You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
    Known as the 'eternal spring city', Kunming is surrounded by mountain ranges and has a pleasant temperature all year round.
    Some things you might like to check out should you arrive early include:
    Head to Green Lake Park where you can join the masses for all kinds of traditional activities and games and see how the locals spend their leisure time.
    Check out "The Loft" - a disused factory area west of the city centre known in Chinese as Chuang Ku. Here you'll find a number of small galleries featuring contemporary artists along with small, trendy cafes.
    Visit Yuantong Temple at the foot of a a hill the northern part of Kunming. With a history of more than 1,200 years, it's the grandest as well as the most important Buddhist temple in Yunnan Province.
    Informal Chinese language lesson
    Yuantong Temple - CNY6
    Yunnan Impression cultural show - CNY150
    Green Lake Park - Free

    Day 2-3 - Nuodeng

    Today will be a long travelling day (about 10 hrs in total) with 3 changes of buses to get to reclusive Nuodeng village - a place which has sat hidden in the mountains for over a thousand years.
    A key trading village on the ancient salt trading routes, Nuodeng has witnessed a long history and remains authentic and unique among villages in Yunnan. Enjoy a slow paced life there, chat with the elderly sitting in the sun, visit the temples and museums to observe their beliefs and history, and learn about the local salt production - their longtime livelihood and path to the future. It's the perfect chance to interact with locals here and get a real feel for countryside life in China.
    Accommodation is in local guesthouses where the facilities are basic but comfortable.

    Day 4-5 - Dali

    Transfer back to Dali today, our next destination in Yunnan.
    Dali has long been a favourite destination for foreign travellers and backpackers, the laid back atmosphere is enhanced by the spectacular surroundings - snow capped mountains on one side and the vast Erhai Lake on the other.
    While much of the old town is being renovated to improve the living conditions for locals, there are still enough cobblestone streets and original stone buildings lining the alleyways inside the old city walls to make wandering around here a real pleasure. Many have been converted into little shops, cafes and bars so you never have to go far to find a place to chill out with a drink.
    Some great things to do in and around Dali include:
    Take a boat trip on Erhai ("Ear-Shaped") Lake.
    Walk the 2 km from town to the famous Three Pagodas - the symbol of the city that occupy a scenic location at the foot of the mountains facing the lake.
    The little nearby town of Xizhou has plenty of history worth exploring, with its well-preserved Bai architecture.
    To the west of Dali is Cangshan, the mountain range that looms over the town. A steep cable car ride will take you to the walking trails at the top and a phenomenal view over the town to the lake beyond.
    Don't be surprised to find the use of interesting ingredients such as flowers and petals, all kinds of mushrooms, Erhai Lake fish and milk products in the local Bai cuisine. Your leader can recommend some good restaurants to try the unique local specialities.
    Bike hire - CNY15
    Erhai Lake boat trip - CNY84
    Xizhou Bai House - CNY20
    Cangshan Park & cable car - CNY150

    Day 6-7 - Shaxi

    Travel by public transport, including a change of buses, to the tranquil town of Shaxi.
    What makes Shaxi so special is that unlike many other ancient towns in Yunnan, it has been restored rather than rebuilt and being off the main highways it hasn't seen the rapid development of the tourist industry as other places like Lijiang and Dali have. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities living their traditional lives, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the original walled town gates and market square proving that Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail.
    Stay in a local family run guesthouse in twin, triple or multishare rooms. The accommodation is very simple and bathroom facilities are basic and shared but the hospitality is one thing our travelers remember most about their time in Shaxi. The majority of our travelers choose to eat their meals (not included) here at the family guest house which not only let us taste the best of regional home cooking but is a great chance and get to know our lovely hosts.
    Walk the mountain trails with a local guide to Shizong Temple (4-5 hours return), perhaps taking a picnic lunch along to make the most of the beautiful "danxia" landscape.
    In the evening, take the opportunity to mix with the locals on the town square where it's not rare to see impromptu dancing, singing and games happen that we are welcome to join in or observe!
    Optional Activities
    Shizong Temple entry - CNY50

    Day 8-9 - Tiger Leaping Gorge

    Travel by public bus to Qiaotou (approx 3 hrs), the starting point for our trek through the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge.
    Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world. The entire gorge is 16 km long and rises up to 3,900 m above the waters of the Yangzi, one of the most important rivers in China.
    In recent years, Tiger Leaping Gorge has become a very popular tourist attraction for both local and foreign travellers. The area is rapidly developing with more guesthouses and cafes being built every year and major construction of a highway and local roads taking place which will bring more travellers to the area. Tourism here is also strictly controlled by the local tourism authorities which means that tour groups such as ours need to stick to approved routes. So be prepared - you WILL see other tourists here and this is not the remote experience it once was. But with this in mind, Tiger Leaping Gorge is still very much a rewarding travel experience and one our travellers continually list as a highlight of their time in China.
    Large backpacks/luggage will be stored for two nights, and it is required to only take the most basic essentials in a day pack, which is to be carried for the whole course of the trek. On the trek, accommodation is in simple, but comfortable guesthouses, stopping regularly at local cafes and restaurants for meals (not included) and to refresh and revive. Please note that the standard of rooms may differ and only some of the rooms may private bathrooms, others will have with shared facilities.
    Be warned that trekking in the Gorge area can be serious going for some, but for more experienced hikers it will pose no problem - expect to walk about 4-6 hours the first day, tackling some long steep sections, and about 4 hours the next. The rewards, however, are simply stunning, with awe-inspiring views. We will be accompanied by an experienced local guide for this trek. Please note that the route as well as trekking times will vary depending on the weather and fitness of the group. You definitely need to have good fitness to complete this part of the trip.
    The first part of the trek is quite arduous - this is not flat terrain by any means. Some paths along the mountainside are extremely narrow, with a steep drop down and few protective barriers so if you suffer from fear of heights then this walk is not for you. For the brave though, it's an exhilarating walk. After a slow and steady climb, we reach the 24 bends (the most challenging part of the trek), a steep and twisting path where we really gain some altitude. After stopping for a break, we continue along a flatter section of the gorge to our guesthouse.
    On our second trekking day, we start out after breakfast (not included but available at the guesthouse) with a nice easy flat section featuring incredibly spectacular views. There are only a few uphill battles and one last long, slippery downhill stretch before we reach our destination for the night at Walnut Grove, where there are more hiking options to lookout points for those who still have the energy. Otherwise, it's a tranquil place to simply sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery and rest your weary legs.
    Tiger Leaping Gorge is subject to dramatic and unpredictable weather conditions. We have scheduled departures in the more stable seasons, but the possibility still exists that conditions may make travelling through the gorge dangerous. If we are advised in advance by our local partners that conditions are likely to be unsuitable for trekking in Tiger Leaping Gorge we'll spend an extra night each in Shaxi and Lijiang. Should the weather be deemed by your leader and guide as too rainy or foggy to safely complete the trek once in the gorge area we'll be required to reroute this section of the itinerary or travel between stops by minivan instead of trekking.
    Tiger Leaping Gorge - guided trek

    Day 10-11 - Lijiang

    Travel by public transport to Lijiang (approx 4 hours).
    The World Heritage-listed town of Lijiang is home to the Naxi people - a matrilineal society descended from Tibetan nomads. You can still see Naxi around town in their distinct blue clothing, especially at the morning markets.
    By day Lijiang shows its traditional side - cobbled streets, tiny alleyways and quaint wooden bridges across the canals - which attract literally millions of (mostly Chinese) tourists a year to the Old Town. By night, the contrast with the timelocked surroundings couldn't be more stark as the town becomes party central with karaoke bars and flashing lights!
    Some great things to do in Lijiang include:
    Explore the Mu Palace, enjoy a traditional Naxi music culture show or wander around the old town and make a wish like the locals do - by sending a candle down one of the many canals on a delicate flower-shaped boat.
    Try to catch a performance of the Naxi Orchestra, which has become famous around the world for their distinct and unique instruments and sounds.
    Take a day trip to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain but be aware that most budget travellers will find the entrance and cable car fees very steep and you may prefer to view it from afar.
    Jump on a bike and ride to the pretty Naxi villages of Baisha or Shuhe.
    The Black Dragon Pool on the northern edge of town is the original source of water for the town's network of canals and waterways. A haven for bird and water life and surrounded by park and ancient monuments, on a clear day you can catch a glimpse of the Snow Mountains beyond.
    Head to the train station to take an overnight hard sleeper train to Kunming (approx 8 hrs).
    Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face-to-face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins). Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's advised to carry some of your own; keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standard you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
    Bike hire - CNY20
    Jade Dragon Snow Mountain & cable car - CNY240
    Naxi Orchestra performance - CNY120
    Black Dragon Pool - CNY80
    Mu Family Mansion - CNY45

    Day 12-13 - Kunming

    Our train arrives in Kunming early in the morning and we take taxis from the station to check back into our hotel. The whole day is free for you to spend as you wish before we meet back in the evening for an optional final night dinner at one of Kunming's great restaurants chosen by your leader.
    There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
  • What's Included

    • • Expert English-speaking Chinese tour leader throughout the tour.
      • Guided trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge and to Shizhong Temple near Shaxi.
      • All transportation and accommodation.

    Not Included

    • International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
  • Trip Dates and Prices

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  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

13 days
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1 - 12
Mini-van, Overnight train, Public bus, Taxi
6 nights Guesthouse, 1 night Sleeper train, 2 nights Basic hotel, 2 nights Hostel, 1 night Homestay

What to know

This trip is run by our sister company, Intrepid.

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