Shangri-la Travel Guide, Yunnan

Created date: 2020/12/12
Shangri-La, formerly Zhongdian County Town, at an altitude of 3,450 m (11,300 feet), is the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province in southern China. Shangri-la is a Tibetan word meaning ‘a land of sacredness and peace’.

Yunnan’s Shangri-La City/County got its apt name in 2001 for tourism promotion. It is named after the fictional place of eternal peace and tranquility somewhere in the mountains of the East described in the novel “Lost Horizon” by British author James Hilton, published in 1933.

Shangri-La County is remarkable for its Tibetan culture and alpine landscapes, including sacred snow-capped mountains, spectacular gorges, clear lakes, and bucolic villages. Famous worldwide, it is no longer a hidden paradise per se, but hidden paradises can still be found within.


Why You Should Visit Shangri-La, Yunnan

    1. Shangri-La is a mountain paradise, with dense forests, alpine lakes, grasslands, and gorges distributed among the meadows and plains.

    2. Shangri-La is home to more than 20 ethnic groups, with Tibetans comprising the majority of the population. It is a great place to experience the Tibetan lifestyle and religion, especially if you have no chance to visit Tibet.

    3. Shangri-La has historical sites with more than 1,300 years of history.

    4. Its iconic fame has made this place of pilgrimage “the sun and moon” in every traveler’s heart.

Besides the normal trips to see the Meili Snow Mountains, Yubeng Village pilgrimage hiking is popular among hiking lovers to admire the holy mountians. You can also travel from Shangri-La to Daocheng Yading by road.


Top Attractions in Shangri-La

Shangri-La’s prefecture Diqing is where some of the World Natural Heritage site "Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas" is located. It is inimitably idyllic and a utopia in many people’s hearts. Snowy mountains, prehistoric forests, grasslands, canyons, rainbows, starry skies, ancient cities — all these are reasons for you to go. The top attractions in Shangri-la are introduced below.

  1. Songzanlin Lamasery, known as the Little Potala Palace, is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in Yunnan Province. It houses many Buddhist statues and precious cultural treasures.

  2. Dukezong Old Town is the biggest and best-preserved Tibetan residential building group in China.

  3. Pudacuo National Park is a stunning display of nature, with lakes, forests, meadows, streams, brooks, and rare plants and animals.  

  4. Napahai Nature Reserve features the largest grassland in Yunnan Province — Yila Grassland — and clear Napa Lake.

  5. The Meili Snow Mountains, the highest mountains in Yunnan Province, are a holy land of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists.

  6. Tiger Leaping Gorge, located between Lijiang and Shangri-La, is one of the world's deepest and most marvelous gorges. It's often cited as China's top hiking route.

  7. Nixi Pottery Village, an ancient Tibetan village, is well known for its natural beauty and century-old pottery making.

Usually, 2 days is suggested to explore Shangri-La’s easily-reached highlights. If you want to extend your trip to set foot on the Meili Snow Mountains, another 2–3 days are needed. Contact us for a Shangri-la trip customized to your requirements.


Shangri-La Weather and Best Times to Go

The most comfortable months to visit Shangri-La are from May to October, when the weather is warm and pleasant, and the wild flowers are in bloom.

However, summer time (June–August) is the rainy season in Shangri-La, and 70% of the annual precipitation will be in summer. If you do not like the wet or clouds spoiling the Meili Mountain views, please avoid the rainy season.

Shangri-La county is about 3,400 meters (11,000 feet) above sea level, and like on all plateaus, the temperature difference is large between day and night. So, remember to pack a warm jacket even if you travel in summer as early morning and evening can get quite cool.

Winter is cold and long in Shangri-la from November to March. However, it is a good time to see the Meili Snow Mountains, when the weather is usually dry and clear.


How to Get to Shangri-La

Shangri-La is located in the very-mountainous northwest of Yunnan Province, with Tibet to its west and Sichuan to its east. There is no railway and roads are winding.

It is about 175 kilometers or 3½ hours by car from Lijiang, and you can visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge on the way with a private transfer. Contact us for a Tiger Leaping Gorge trip and/or private transfer.

Diqing Shangri-La Airport is about 5 km (3 miles) from Shangri-La City. It is the largest airport in the eastern Tibetan region. It is about 660 kilometers (410 miles) from Kunming, which takes about 1 hour by air (by land, Kunming–Shangri-La takes at least 10 hours). At present, there are regular domestic flights from Kunming, Chengdu, Lhasa, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shanghai, Beijing, etc.


Where to Stay in Shangri-La & Recommended Hotels

Shangri-La is a very small city, with Dukezong Old Town as its tourism center. Being about 5 km from the airport, it's convenient to live around the Dukezong old town if flying in.

There are lots of hotel choices around Shangri-La city, from budget hostels to luxury 5-star hotels. Nearly all the hotels or hostels have Tibetan-style decoration, offering you a Tibetan atmosphere and experience.