Shangri-La, China: A guide for tourists

Feb 14, 2022 | Global travel, Asia, China

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item that I link to then I may make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

(Last updated on: 28/01/2022)

Shangri-La is a special place to visit. Tucked far away from the mass tourism crowds associated with much of China, this destination is a (not so) hidden treasure. Read on to find out why you should visit Shangri-La and what to do while you’re there.

Where is Shangri-La?

Shangri-La

Otherwise known as Xianggelila, Shangri-La City is a city in China’s north-western Yunnan Province. It borders Sichuan to the north-west, north and east. In Tibetan, the name Shangri-La means ‘sun and moon in heart’ – the area has always been referred to as an eden of sorts, full of magic, mystique and more. The area was previously known as Zhongdian, but took the name ‘Shangri-La’ in 2001. Ever since 1933, when James Hilton imagined the stunning area of Shangri-La in his bestselling novel Lost Horizon, various Himalayan areas have tried to lay claim to the name. But this stunning part of the Yunnan Province came out on top. The name change was an effort to promote tourism in the area!

Shangri-La is around 410 miles from Kunming (approx. 1 hour by air) and around 120 miles from Lijiang – you can drive from here in around 3.5 hours. There are 5 towns in Shangri-La, as well as a national park, an airport and easy access to Tibet.

Why should you visit Shangri-La?

Shangri-La

From the azure lakes to the snowy mountains, rolling grasslands and incredible gorges, Shangri-La has a little bit of everything. Its beauty is unrivalled, and the warmth of the people who live there will make you feel so welcome. This mountain paradise has so much to offer, and is an amazing way to experience the Tibetan lifestyle, culture and religion with venturing into Tibet itself. It also makes for a great gateway to Tibet, if your trip is a bit of a longer one and you have time to do both.

GOOD TO KNOW: the city pretty much shuts down in the winter, as there are heavy snow storms which can hinder transportation. It is recommended that you plan your visit between March and October, though remember to pack a jacket year round as it can get cold in the early and late hours!

If you want a holiday that strays away from Western ideals, Shangri-La is a great option. Don’t go there expecting the levels of service you’d expect from elsewhere, but do go knowing that the locals will do everything they can to ensure you enjoy your stay.

Things to see and do in Shangri-La

There are plenty of things to see and do in Shangri-La. It is a beautiful area with a rich culture, and plenty of scenic spots as well as iconic monuments…

Tiger Leaping Gorge

This is one of the world’s deepest gorges. It is often labelled as China’s top hiking route, and if you are interested in hiking and walking then this can’t be missed on a visit to Shangri-La. It is an incredible scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, and you can hike the entire length of the gorge. The high road, maintained and used daily by the Naxi, a local tribe, is a hiking path with varied views and guesthouses for the trekking Tiger Leaping Gorge. With waterfalls and micro-ecosystems, you are advised not to use this trail during rainy season!

Meili Snow Mountains

None of the major peaks of this mountain range have veer been summited, because there are a lot of avalanche risks and various restrictions, but they are beautiful to look at. The mountains are sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, who encircle the mountain t worship in the winter – this gives the mountain range a bit of added magic.

Shangri-La

Songzanlin Lamasery (Monastery)

This is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in the whole Yunnan Province. Also known as the Potala Palace, it was listed as a Key Provincial Protection Unit of Cultural Relics by the government of the Yunnan Province in 1993. You can find it at the foot of Fopingshan Mountain which is around 3.1 miles north of Shangri-La itself. The main hall fits 1,500 people inside; there are two main temple buildings, Zhacang and Jikang, as well as several smaller buildings. There are Chinese-style houses for monks to live in, too. It is a beautiful place that offers an incredible insight into Tibetan Buddhism.

Pudacuo National Park

Also known as Potatso National Park, this was the very first national park in China to meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature standards. Located in Shangri-La, it is so beautiful that every corner you turn feels like looking at another oil painting. With the Bita Lake Nature Reserve and the Duhu Scenic Area, be sure to pack your camera so you can take home some lasting memories of this incredible park. Around 20% of the country’s plant species can be found here, as well as around 1/3 of China’s mammal and bird species. There are around 100 endangered species here too. From are orchids to Black-necked cranes there is so much to see at Pudacuo National Park.

GOOD TO KNOW: there is a visitor centre, and from here a bus will transport you to Shudu Lake to start your park exploration.

What you need when visiting the area

  • Green health code
  • Passport and most recent China entry stamps
  • Mask
  • Record of travel itinerary 
  • Nucleic acid test results (required by some hotels)

Places to stay in Shangri-La

There are various places to stay in Shangri-La. Many are top-class hotels, but there are guesthouses, homestays and hostels to be found in the area too. As previously mentioned, the locals are incredible friendly and no matter where you stay, you’ll be made to feel at home in this beautiful part of China.

Songstam Linka Shangri-La

If you want world-class customer service and an amazing luxury experience, Songstam Linka Shangri-La is perfect for you. Just 25 minutes from Diqing Airport, the hotel offers free WiFi, bathroom toiletries and parking. With the Songzanlin Monastery just 5 minutes away, you’re in an ideal location here. Enjoy Tibetan yoga classes or go hiking, experience the stunning Linka Spa by L’Occitane, or simply sit in the stunning grounds of the hotel and soak up the view. There is a bar and multiple restaurants here, daily housekeeping and so much more to ensure your stay is perfect.

Hilton Garden Inn Shangri-La

Another luxurious option, the Hilton Garden Inn Shangri-La is just 15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from the monastery. Elegantly decorated, there are plenty of facilities here to ensure your stay goes without a hitch. With free WiFi, a bar, restaurant, free printing parking and a fitness centre, you’ll find everything you need on site. You know what you’re getting with the Hilton, and this hotel is no exception. It’s clean, friendly and comfortable – a great choice for accommodation in Shangri-La.

Banyan Tree Ringha

If you want Tibetan-style accommodation in Shangri-La, Banyan Tree Ringha is perfect. In the most breathtaking setting, the hotel offers free internet and parking as well as car hire, a business centre and a spa. With 32 suites and lodges it isn’t a huge hotel, but each one has its own fire, balcony and lovely wooden bath. They were originally Tibetan farmhouses, so you know you’re getting a really traditional place to stay if you opt for Banyan Tree Ringha. There is a library, gift shop, beautiful garden, two restaurants and plenty of wellness services.

Home Away From Home

A clean and comfortable hostel, Home Away From Home has free WiFi, a 24-hour front desk, airport shuttle services and so much more. There is an on-site restaurant, and the hostel is really more like a hotel – private bathrooms, a coffee-house, BBQ facilities, a garden area and so much more make for a brilliant place to stay in Shangri-La. It is beautifully decorated and extremely welcoming! What’s better is that pets are allowed here – so if you’re travelling from within China you can bring your furry friend with you. And overseas visitors can enjoy plenty of pet cuddles during their stay…

Yi’s Hostel

Another hostel, this is a great option for those travelling on a budget. Still clean, comfortable and welcoming, the hostel offers an airport shuttle service, a tour desk, free WiFi, free parking and more. There is a bar, a shared kitchen, laundry services and more. It’s perfect for travellers who need somewhere to rest as part of a longer trip! Yi’s Hostel is great, and the staff speak a variety of languages too.

4 reasons why you NEED a VPN in China!

Beginning to believe peak yellow mountains Huangshan

1- Keep your data secure from watching eyes (and there are many eyes in China...)

2- Share your travel updates with friends and family back home on social media (only accessible with aVPN)

3- Watch your favourite Netflix shows and sports fixtures

4- Get unrestricted access to the World Wide Web

 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ABOUT

Dr Hayley Stainton

Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

Follow Me

LATEST POSTS

50 Must-See Landmarks In NY

What are the must-see landmarks in NY? Which of these landmarks deserve a spot on your New York itinerary? I reveal all and more in this article outlining the 50 must-see landmarks in NY. Ready to find out more? Keep reading... 50 Must-See Landmarks In NY New York is...

50 Fascinating Landmarks in Mexico

There are so many fascinating landmarks in Mexico! By area, Mexico is the thirteenth-largest country in the world. Occupying a massive area and being surrounded by bodies of water; Mexico has a lot of interesting sights and landmarks to show off. If you don’t have an...

50 famous and awe-inspiring landmarks of Brazil

There are so many incredible landmarks in Brazil. From pristine beaches, to the depths of the jungle, to the built infrastructure in some of the world's biggest cities, Brazil has a lot to offer. In this post I will tell you all about the most famous landmarks of...

35 Incredible Landmarks In Scotland

There are so many incredible landmarks in Scotland that everyone should see once in their lifetimes! But what are these landmarks? And why are they so great? Read on to find out... Landmarks in Scotland Scotland is not only famous for its whisky distilleries,...

50 Famous Landmarks in Spain

What are the most famous landmarks in Spain and why ate they so famous? Which landmarks in Spain should be on your next Spanish travel itinerary? I have all this information and more covered in this article... keep reading to learn more about the 50 most famous...

50 Incredible Japan Landmarks

There are many incredible landmarks in Japan, making tourism in Japan one of the biggest industries in the country. In this post I will teach you all about these landmarks and tell you why they should be on your itinerary for your next trip. Keep reading to learn...