Follow the Yunnan–Vietnam railway and visit the one of the oldest train stations on this line at Bisezhai village for a fascinating glimpse into history.. Explore idyllic Yuangyang on a guided half-day walk, snapping photos of the spectacular rice terrace landscapes.. Discover the Ming and Qing marvels of Jianshui Ancient Town on a guided walk. Visit Zhu’s Family Garden, the Confucius temple and the amazingly preserved Tuanshan village. In Shaxi, you’ll see one of the best-preserved traditional towns in Yunnan. Stay in a friendly, family-run guesthouse and sample some local specialities.
Discover the spectacular southern reaches of China on this adventure through its most stunning and diversified natural scenery and ethnic cultures in the unique Yunnan province. Start in Vietnam’s jewel of the north, and delve further into the region’s French heritage over the border, with a stop in Mengzi. Explore Yuanyang, the picture-perfect home of the Hani people, where eye-popping terraced landscapes of hundreds of years old stretch as far as the eye can see. Step back in time among the Qing and Ming dynasty masterpieces in Jianshui, wander the busy streets of Kunming, stop at the tea horse trail towns of Dai and Shaxi, admire its amazing architecture while being welcomed to our local friend’s home. Join the Tibetan pilgrims at Sumtseling Monastery and learn about the idyllic life on the pasture in Shangrila. Trek the epic Tiger Leaping Gorge with Jinsha River roaring underneath and snow capped Jade Dragon Mountain towering above. This is the ultimate Yunnan adventure.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you arrive early in Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city. Start by visiting the Temple of Literature, drop into a traditional tea house, learn the stories of the Hoa Lo Prison museum and finish among the temples at Hoan Kiem Lake. Alternatively, take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter and admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, relax in a park, or enjoy some street food.
Prepare for a long day of travelling today. After breakfast, set off for Lao Cai, near the border with China, on a private bus. Say goodbye to your Vietnamese leader and meet your Chinese leader at Hekou after border crossing. From there, take a taxi to the bus station and board your bus to Mengzi. Transfer to your hotel and settle in. Spend your free evening kicking back and relaxing – or perhaps head out for a taste of the famous Yunnan rice noodles which originated here.
As well as noodles, this town is known for its remnants French architecture - a rarity in today's China. Spot the simple, stately aesthetic of the European style buildings, with their soft yellow facades and tiled roofs which set them apart from the modern structures around them. Visit Bisezhai Station, the finest surviving station on the French-built Vietnam-Kunming railway. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. This is a town rarely visited by foreigners. The Nanhu Park area is great for a wander and meeting locals.
Travel by private bus to Yuanyang (approximately 3 hours). If you're a keen photographer, you're in luck, as this is one picturesque destination. This place is famous for its beautiful rice terraces, idyllic rural scenery and unique ethnic minority culture. Some 88% of Yuanyang County belongs to ethnic minorities; the Hani and Yi people created the ornate rice terraces that impress so many visitors. We are staying right inside the Duoyishu Scenic Area. The terraces here are considered a superior spot to photograph the sunrise.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes today for your hike around the rice terraces with a local guide (approximately 4 hours). You'll be able to take it at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. Most of the paths go through villages, which makes it easy to stop for a break. Check out the local farmer's market where locals wear their traditional clothes, go about their daily business like time has never changed.
Travel by private bus to Jianshui (approximately 3.5 hours). With a 1,200-year history and a distinct cultural heritage, the ancient town is a veritable outdoor museum of magnificent buildings. Many of these date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. You will set out on a walking tour of the city and visit the Zhu Family Garden, as well as the incredible Confucius Temple.
Visit Tuanshan Village, a cultural echo of the Qing Dynasty that's still intact. You'll learn a little more about the Yi minority as you explore. It's a fascinating window to the China of the past. Visiting the village is like travelling to the China of the past. Small, cobbled lanes leave you with impressions of timelessness, art and architecture. In the afternoon and evening, enjoy some free time.
Today we travel to Kunming (approximately 3 to4 hours). Stop at the geological wonder of the Stone Forest on the way. The Forest covers an area of 400 square kilometres (96,000 acres) and includes both large and small clusters of towering limestone pillars, as well as many other scenic spots. An old local saying says that 'If you have visited Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest, you have wasted your time'. Truly, the site is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore the large, yet laidback city. The 1000-year-old Yuantong temple is most definitely worth a visit, or find the traces of old Kunming at Lingguang street. Perhaps head to Green Lake Park where you can see locals spending their leisure time on all kinds of activities and games. Check out The Loft, a disused factory area west of the city centre, home to many small galleries and cafes. In the evening, perhaps get together with your mates for a final dinner in this 'Spring City'.
Today is a free day until a planned group meeting at 6 pm. Here, you'll meet some new travellers joining you for the next stage of your Yunnan adventure. Until then, check out the sights!
Travel by public bus to your next destination, Dali (approximately 3–4 hours). For many years this spot has been a favourite destination for foreign travellers and backpackers, thanks to its laidback atmosphere and spectacular surroundings. There are snow-capped mountains on one side and the vast Erhai Lake on the other, making for an impressive sight. This afternoon you will take a guided walk around Dali's ancient town with your leader. Present-day Dali is a city that combines history with modern convenience. It is divided into two areas: the Ancient City and the New District (widely known as Xiaguan). After your tour, enjoy a free evening in this picturesque town. Perhaps circle back to Foreigner Street in the Ancient City, where handicrafts and local culinary delights rightly attract many visitors.
Take a private bus to Xizhou, around 23 kilometres north of Dali on a day trip today. Xizhou is famous for its Butterfly Spring and Bai architecture. Enjoy a guided tour of the town and the local markets – a great chance to learn more about Bai architecture. Interact with some local families living in the traditional courtyards to get a feel for local life. Be sure to try some tasty local snacks such as baba (fried rice cake) or the local cheese. Enjoy some more free time upon your return to Dali - perhaps take the cable car up Cangshan Mountain or stop in at the Three Pagodas.
Travel by public bus to Jianchuan, then by private van to Shaxi (approximately 3–4 hours). Much of Shaxi's charm lies in the fact it has been restored rather than rebuilt, and being off the main highways it hasn't seen the rapid development of the tourist industry that other places like Lijiang and Dali have. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities maintaining their traditions, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the original walled town gates and market square that prove Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail. You will stay in a local family-run guesthouse in twin, triple or multi-share rooms. The accommodation is very simple and bathroom facilities are basic and shared, but the warm hospitality makes for a memorable experience. Most travellers choose to eat their meals at the family guesthouse, which is a great chance to further interact with your hosts, and there are also other options nearby.