In the far north of Yunnan, the town of Shangri-La (or ‘Zhongdian’ as it used to be known) occupies a high, mountainous plateau on the fringes of Tibet. Snow-encrusted peaks, exotic lamaseries and grasslands dotted with herds of grazing yaks combine to create a magical atmosphere which, for once, is not marred by excessive visitor numbers – a rarity in China.

On the outskirts of the city, the great Songzanlin monastery is a spectacular edifice second only in stature to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. After a decade of painstaking renovation work by the provincial government, its gilded rooftops and vibrant murals have been restored to their former glory. Framed by a backdrop of scrub-covered ridges, the monastery is best viewed from the boardwalk encircling its adjacent lake. If you stay in our favourite hotel here, Songtsam Shangri-La Lodge, you’ll be perfectly placed to view the monument before the day trippers descend.

Downtown, the prime attraction is Shangri-La’s delightful ‘Old Town’ – a fine ensemble of traditional-style cafés, Tibetan clothes boutiques and souvenir shops that were completely rebuilt after a fire in 2014. Early risers may also wish to sample the magical atmosphere of the Baiji (‘100 chicken’) temple, on a hilltop overlooking the Old Town, where locals go en masse in the mornings to leave offerings of fresh juniper incense. Beyond Shangri-La city, the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Region holds great potential for off-track exploration, thanks to the handful of delightful, Tibetan-style lodges established in the surrounding valleys.

Plan your 2021 Adventure

With the world beginning to open up again, now is the time to begin planning your 2021 holiday to Asia. Our Travel Specialists are ready to take your call and discuss the adventure you have spent 2020 dreaming of.

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