(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner)
DAY 1: Arrival in Shangri-la
In 1997 Chinese experts apparently established beyond all doubt that the fabled Shangri-la of James Hilton’s book Lost Horizons, and Zhongdian in the north of Yunan Province, are, without doubt, one and the same. Zhongdian was officially renamed Shangri-la and was placed firmly upon the map.
Nestling in a wide valley 3200 metres above sea level Shangri-la with its cobbled alleys winding through Tibetan architecture is a wonderful little town for our group to come together.
You will be met at the local airport and transferred to our joining hotel. In the evening we will all come together for a briefing and then head out for our first meal together.
Day 2: Shangri-la
This morning the group can come together and either build up our own bicycles or fit saddles and accessories and become acquainted with our rental bikes. For those who are feeling up to a ride at this altitude today's ride is short optional loop ride around the lovely lake of Napa Hai north of the town.
Those feeling the oxygen depletion of altitude may prefer to relax in our hotel’s café today or take a gentle stroll through the lovely cobbled streets of Shangri-La.
Cycling: Optional loop ride +/- 40KMS
Day 3 Shangri-la to Baishuaitai
Our Yunnan adventure begins in earnest after breakfast with the only scheduled transfer of the journey taking us to the top of the 3700-metre pass beyond Shangri-la. From here our ride begins with a 14-kilometre descent on a well sealed and virtually traffic free road. The day’s next three passes become progressively lower, first at 3500M and then two smaller passes of around 2900M each. The views are of valleys and hills, of rivers and farms and herds and flocks; of Tibetans and other warm and welcoming minority people. There are mountains, big mountains. Some are desolate baron peaks, some are snow-capped, and one - Kawa Karpo, is the perfect pyramid that led the Chinese authorities to concluded that Zhongdian is indeed the fabled Shangri-La from James Hilton’s book, Lost Horizon. The day finishes with a 20KM descent through the wonderful countryside to a village 1200 metres lower than where the ride began.
DAY 4: Baishuaitai to Tiger Leaping Gorge
Today's ride is simply breathtaking, a wonderful ride on a road so light of traffic it has been described as the worlds greatest bicycle path. Mountains high and rivers deep, pine forest and snow-capped peaks, and even a small desert. The longest climb of the day is around 11KMS, the longest single descent a stunning 23KMS, all on roads almost traffic of free with a fine sealed surface. The highest peak we ride past is well over 5000 metres and the deepest canyon is the famed Tiger Leaping Gorge where we finish the day in a dramatic setting enjoying tranquility, fresh air, and a well-deserved beer on the terrace of our lodge in truly stunning surroundings.
DAY 5: Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shigu
The drama of the high mountains and deep ravine continues this morning as we cycle through one of the worlds deepest gorges. Above us tower high cliffs, and below the green-blue waters of the Yangtze river flow.
Leaving the gorge the scene changes dramatically as we begin to head south. For seven kilometres we follow Hw214, in itself not too busy, but soon we cross the river and join the old road on the far bank of the river. This almost empty road undulates through terraces of barley and oilseed rape and through small rural communities giving us a taste of a different China. We continue cycling through rural isolation until we reach the fabled First Bend of the Yangtze River. Here we follow in the footsteps of both Kublai Khan and more recently the Red Army as we board a small flat bottomed boat to be ferried across the Yangtze. On the far bank of the river, we have a short ride to our night’s accommodation in the small town of Shigu, where the narrow streets wind through old houses that cling to the hillside, ideal for a little pre-dinner exploration.
DAY 6: Shigu to Shaxi
If you thought that yesterday was rural, wait until we get underway this morning. We leave Shigu via the back door where we soon begin an 18-kilometre climb along a narrow car-less road surfaced with ancient cobble stones. The gradient is gentle enough but the surface certainly adds an element of challenge as we ride through splendid rural isolation. Dropping down from the high point at 2550 metres we reach tarmac which we follow for the next forty kilometres through a wide valley. The final stretch of the day sees us back on rural roads as we rise and fall through beautiful pine and eucalyptus forests before a fantastic ten-kilometre descent into the idyllic valley in which nestles the wonderful ancient village of Shaxi, our home for the next two nights.
DAY 7: Shaxi. REST DAY
Shaxi is special, it gives us a glimpse into how China may have been today had more or the traditional architecture been preserved. For the energetic, there is the option to climb to the sacred Shibao Shan Buddhist caves or take your bike out to explore the countryside and other villages of the valley. An agreeable alternative is to spend the day wandering around the allies or sitting in the central square soaking up the atmosphere over a coffee or beer at one of the cafés housed in traditional buildings.
DAY 8: Shaxi to Liantie
With less that fifty kilometres meandering along a rural valley today, we can have a late start and enjoy a last wander through the old alleys of Shaxi. The road to Liantie is quiet passing through farm land and villages following the Yangbi River and culminating in a climb to the town of Liante, a rural market town and our base for the night.
DAY 9: Liantie to Xiashankou
Today is devoted to crossing the Chang Shan mountain range. We begin with a challenging 22-kilometre climb during which we gain over a thousand metres in altitude. We ride through pine, eucalyptus, and rhododendron to the pass at just over 3000 metres above sea level, by which time the mountains have taken on a feel of Scotland.
The descent into the valley beyond requires care as sections of this little travelled road are potholed and dusty. The views are quite stunning as the valley we are heading for drops of out of site beyond the valley through which we first must cross. Our destination for tonight is the hot spring resort of Xiashankou where we can soak away the aches of the days ride in a hot tub before dinner.
DAY 10: Xiashankou to Jizu Shan
Leaving Xiashankou we soon move onto the small roads that run through fields of rice and barley as we pass through villages and scenes of peasants tending their crops. Upon reaching Er Hai lake - China’s 7th biggest fresh water body, we follow the new scenic road along the east bank to our lunch stop at the lake side town of Wase. The afternoon’s ride is along an all but deserted road that offers beautiful valley views as it takes us through woods and forests and across two passes on the way to our hotel at the small Bai town of Jizu Shan Zhen.
DAY 11: Jizu Shan to Dali
The final day of our journey takes on a combination of brand new roads and ancient lanes as we cross hills and vales heading on a more southerly route back to Er Hai Lake where we take a half hour cruise to the ancient capital of the Bai people, Dali Old Town. This old town with its preserved stone streets, traditional white houses and town centre streams is a fitting end to an unforgettable Chinese odyssey. Beers, tea, rice wine and a great meal in a traditional Bai courtyard restaurant are a fitting finale to a wonderful adventure.
DAY 12: Finish
The tour ends this morning in Dali. There are so many possibilities for further travel that we have left the end of the tour free for you to plan as best suits your desires and needs. Our agent in Dali is able to provide connecting flights for your journey home as well as onward flights, trains and buses across China and beyond. He can also offer advice and packages for further exploration of China, be it further travel in Yunnan, a journey to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army or a visit to Beijing.
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