Spend time with a local family in Xizhou and learn about their traditional way of life. Try your hand at cheese making and share a local lunch.. Explore the dramatic limestone karst scenery of Yangshuo, immortalised in endless traditional Chinese paintings. Get a hands-on insight into Chinese dishes and ingredients with a cooking class in Yangshuo. Explore the lesser-visited town of Xizhou, home to the traditional Bai tribe and their unique, photogenic architecture
From the dynamic Hong Kong, to the picturesque Yangshuo to the mysterious Yunnan. This trip takes you on a journey through China’s stunning nature in the southwest, blended with authentic ethnic culture of local minority groups. China’s Yunnan Province is widely regarded as the country’s most culturally diverse and scenically spectacular region. Sharing a common border with Vietnam, Laos and Burma, Yunnan is home to a multitude of fascinating minority groups, each with their own distinct characteristics. The origins of these people are as varied as their languages and costumes. Many migrated from the mountains of Tibet, whilst others came from the Muslim regions along the ancient Silk Route. This is a superb fourteen day adventure that introduces many of the highlights of an amazing region, including a memorable day trip to the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
NEW UPDATES FOR 2019:
From 1st January 2019 this trip will start and finish in Kunming, becoming a 10 day trip. The name will also change to Wonders of Yunnan.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included:
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. Start this Chinese splendours discovery in the energetic city of Hong Kong. There’s so much to do in this fusion of East and West that we recommend arriving early to explore the sights. An airport arrival transfer is included, please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or no later than 14 days prior to travel. Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Should you arrive early perhaps take a scenic journey around the islands of Hong Kong on the famous passenger ferry service, the Star Ferry, watch the harbour's spectacular light show or ride the peak tram to Victoria Peak for incredible views of the Hong Kong skyline. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm this evening. Meet with your group in the evening and perhaps enjoy a first Chinese meal together.
After a delicious Dim Sum breakfast this morning you begin your journey into the Chinese mainland. Be prepared for a long day of travel today. From 2015 China cancelled the overnight trains between Shenzhen & Guilin,so our only option is to travel overland by high-speed rail and bus. You’ll take a taxi from the hotel to Mongkok Station and board the bus to Shenzhen North. Complete the immigration procedures (be patient as this could take some time) and then walk the short distance from the border to the train station. You’ll then cross border from Hong Kong to China. Travel by high-speed G train to Guilin North Station (approximately 3.5 hours). When you arrive in Guilin you’ll be met by your private transfer to continue on to Yangshuo (approximately 1.5 hours), where you’ll stay for the night. Soak up the charm of this sleepy little town, popular with the Chinese and Westerns alike, who come for the beautiful landscape and stay for the great cafe and bar culture.
The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in many traditional Chinese paintings – picture immense limestone karsts dotting the rural landscape and towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River, all celebrated on every 20 yuan note. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local culture and traditions, while having plenty of fun at the same time. Today you'll visit the market to shop with the locals and get a feel for the regional produce. You can then put this new knowledge to use in a cooking class at the Yangshuo Cooking School. Learn to cook Chinese dishes with recipes that are easy to make and ingredients readily available outside of China, so that you’ll soon be wowing friends and family back at home. The evening is free for you to explore Yangshuo.
Begin the day by focusing your body and mind with a morning Tai Chi class and then maybe continue the active theme by hiring a bike. Gaining an insight into rural Chinese life on a cycle where each turn in the road brings you to another picture-postcard location. You could climb up to Moon Hill – a limestone pinnacle with a moon-shaped hole penetrating the hill – or simply stroll along the river and be immersed in the natural beauty of the valley. For something a little less energetic you could simply sit back and relax as you enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Li or Yulong River. Later, perhaps watch an outdoor light show staged by 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou.
Today you’ll head to Guilin Airport (approximately 1.5 hours) and then fly from Guilin to Kunming (approximately 1.5 hours). Kunming, known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ for its year-round temperate climate, is an increasingly modern city, but it still holds pockets of old-world charm in a relaxed atmosphere. After you arrive, maybe delve into local culture at the ancient temples and intriguing museums dotted around the area – the Buddhist Yuantong Temple dates back 1,200 years and you will uniquely enter the complex from above and descend down into the elegant garden and halls.
Depart Kunming by private bus and prepare for the adventure ahead as you travel through the countryside to Dali. Kunming to Dali is 340km and the drive will take about 5 hours. You’ll travel through the foothills of the Himalayas, driving through the mountains (some tunnels are kilometres long) that it used to take weeks to pass. When you arrive you’ll stretch your legs on an orientation walk with your leader, who’ll introduce the options for you during your stay here. Dali is a favourite among travellers in China, a place where you can soak up the fresh mountain air. Resting near the banks of Er Hai Lake, with the Cang Shan mountain range forming an impressive backdrop, the town's cobblestone streets, ancient stone houses, and laid-back charm make it a wonderful place to relax. Dali is also home to the proud Bai people, a traditional minority tribe renowned throughout China for their craftsmanship. The town is overflowing with places to eat and drink, so you will not have trouble finding a good meal this evening.
Today you’ll take a trip to the nearby town of Xizhou (approximately 1 hour), an authentic town of the Bai – a group renowned throughout the country for their craftsmanship. Be guided around this photogenic town filled with Bai architecture, characterised by ornate gateways with elegant detailing. The town was long ago a stop on the tea horse trail, home to wealthy merchants, officials and scholars, and during World War II, many of China’s universities decamped to this remote part of Yunnan to continue their studies. Wander around this unique town and don’t forget to try the local treat 'Xizhou Baba' – a warm baked cake filled with savoury or sweet filling. For lunch you'll enjoy a unique experience, when you visit a local family. You'll try cheese making with them and have a meal together. You’ll then return to Dali for the night.
Travel to Shaxi from Dali today (approximately 4 hours). 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 for so long, 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 traditional lives, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the cobblestone streets, original walled town gates and market square showing that Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail. After you've settled in, take a leisurely walk around the town.
Today you’ll join a local guide to hike Shibaoshan to Shizong Temple (4-5 hours return), perhaps taking a picnic lunch with you to make the most of the beautiful “danxia” landscape along the way (the beautiful multi-coloured rocks formed by millions of years of sandstone and mineral deposits). The hike climbs up to around 2,400 metres above sea level and is accessible to all travellers with a reasonable level of fitness. Bring walking poles if you have them, as these may also be useful for the more challenging Tiger Leaping Gorge hike. For those travellers who wish to sit out this activity there is the option to stay in Shaxi for the day instead. 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 (feel free to join in or just observe).
Before we depart for Lijiang today we will have a chance to visit the Friday Market, said to have been held in Shaxi continuously since 1415. Beginning back in the days of the Tea Horse Road, it's now a huge gathering and seems there is nothing that isn't for sale here! Stalls include food vendors, livestock, produce, clothing, electronics and even roadside dentists and hairdressers!
Continue to Lijiang (approximately 3 hours). Lijiang is a former capital of the famed Naxi Kingdom. The Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets and decorated wooden houses, a wonderful place to wander around and imagine being part of a bygone era. Take a walking tour of the ancient town and wander up to the Wangu Pagoda on Lion Hill, which offers an impressive view of the rooftops of the Old Town. In the evening, maybe take the opportunity to witness a performance of the local Naxi orchestra, a unique and entertaining musical experience. The musicians play Taoist temple music, a style that has been lost to the rest of the country. This was due in no small part to the Cultural Revolution, with instruments having to the buried to hide them from authorities.
Tiger Leaping Gorge/Lijiang
Take a private bus to Tiger Leaping Gorge for a day trip with a local guide. Part of the Yangzi River (known here as the Jinsha River) thunders through Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is in turn framed by 5,000-metre-high mountains. In the gorge, a sheer cliff face rises from the raging torrents. A memorable walk in the gorge is a wonderful way to take in its awesome beauty. About 15 kilometres in length, the gorge is named after a legendary tiger that leapt across the gorge to escape the clutches of a hunter. No mean feat considering the canyon’s narrowest point is still a staggering 25 metres wide! Take in the incredible views of one of the world’s deepest river canyons and one of Asia’s most dramatic and photogenic hiking trails before returning to Lijiang to for the night.
Fly from Lijiang back to Kunming (approximately 1 hour) and explore any sights you might have missed the first time around with a walking tour of the area. Soak up the unique atmosphere by wandering the ‘Old Town’ areas and maybe people-watching in Green Lake Park. There are a number of fascinating little markets hidden in the backstreets of the old warehouse area. Kunming is a perfect place to relax as your journey draws to an end.