Photo: Shen Mao Mao
Trip Number: 13740A
Staff: Ruth Dyche
- Tour fascinating towns and villages
- Photograph stunning landscapes seldom seen by Western tourists
- Meet many of China’s minority people and learn of their cultures
- Explore the highlights of Shanghai
- All meals from dinner on day 1 through breakfast on day 15
- All lodging from day 1 through day 14
- All gratuities and admission fees
- All transportation, including three internal flights
Please note that the price of this trip has changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
The majority of this trip is in Yunnan Province, which is situated in southwestern
China. It offers cultural and geographical and interest at every turn. It is
home to 24 minority nationalities, all with their own customs and beliefs. We
will meet some of these people and learn of their traditions and culture.
This trip is also planned to visit and photograph some of China’s beauty
spots that are seldom seen by Western tourists. These are located in mountainous
areas "off the beaten path." In order to reach these areas we will
have a few longer driving days. In some cases accommodations will be modest but will be the best available in the area.
Our journey begins and ends in Shanghai. After enjoying many of the sights
of this cosmopolitan city we will fly to the charming town of Lijiang in northwestern
Yunnan, home to the Naxi people. We’ll view the Yangtze River leaping
through one of the world’s deepest gorges before proceeding to the town
of Shangri-La (Zhongdian) on the Tibetan Plateau where many traits of Tibetan
culture are evident. After a flight to Kunming we’ll drive to a place
known in China for its beauty called Dongchuan "Red Land." This is
an area of stunning color and vistas, a delight for photographers.
As we drive into the mountains south of Kunming we’ll explore traditional
towns, a cultural heritage city, fascinating markets filled with traders and
people of minority nationalities such as the Hani, Yi, and Miao. We’ll
visit an area known for its rice terraces carved into mountainsides over thousands
of years -- a visual spectacle. We’ll hike through Hani and Yi villages,
observe the harvesting of crops, enjoy autumn colors and meet the people of
the area. We’ll have an overnight stop at the famous Stone Forest renowned
for its pinnacles and spires before returning to Kunming.
Photo: Ruth Dyche
Day 1: Day of arrival in Shanghai. Transfer from the airport
to the designated hotel will be on your own. The trip leader will provide you
with transfer options. We will meet together at the hotel before proceeding
for dinner at a local restaurant. This will be the first meal of the trip.
Day 2: This morning we will visit the extraordinary Shanghai
Museum. After lunch, we'll visit the Old City, known as the “Paris of
the East” and Yu Gardens, cruise on the Huangpu River, and stroll on the
Bund, the city’s classic colonial riverfront. An acrobatic show will round
out the evening.
Day 3: A morning flight will take us to Lijiang in northwestern
Yunnan Province. Lijiang is the capital of the old Naxi Kingdom. We will have
time to stroll the winding lanes and rustic stone bridges built over clear streams
that run through the town, and to explore traditional wooden shops. We’ll
visit the Dongba Museum of Naxi culture and Black Dragon Pool Park with Jade
Dragon Mountain as a backdrop. Two nights will be spent at a comfortable hotel
near the Old Town.
Day 4: Today we visit Yufeng Monastery to see a typical lama
temple. We’ll also go to Baisha Village to see its famous murals. Our
explorations will take us to a Naxi village and to Joseph Rock’s former
residence before returning to the old town for lunch. In the afternoon there
will be time for further exploration and a visit to the Nature Conservancy’s
Visitor Center in Lijiang. In the evening, we will attend a performance of the
Naxi Orchestra. Overnight in Lijiang.
Day 5: We will drive from Lijiang to the town of Shangri-La
(also known as Zhongdian) with a side trip to Leaping Tiger Gorge, one of the
deepest gorges in the world. We can hike down into the gorge to view the Yangtze
River as it dramatically churns through the narrow pass. We will spend two nights
in the town of Shangri-La (elevation 11,000 feet). At this point in the journey
we are approximately 75 miles from both Tibet and Myanmar (Burma), an area of
strong Tibetan influence. Overnight in Shangri-La.
Day 6: This morning we visit Songzanling monastery, the largest
Tibetan Buddhist temple in southwest China, which resembles the Potala Palace
in Llasa. Currently over 600 monks reside here. We will also walk the old town
of Shangri-La. An afternoon visit to a Tibetan village and school as well as
Potatso National Park will round out the day. Potatso was the first area to
be preserved as a national park in mainland China. It is an area of lakes, forest,
marshland, and alpine meadows. All major spots are connected by plank walkways,
which make for easy exploration and walking. Overnight in Shangri-La.
Photo: Shen Mao Mao
A morning flight will take us to Kunming. Once there,
we will drive 156 km (97 miles) on paved road to Dongchuan "Red Land,"
a stunning area of color, terraced fields, and dazzling sunrises and sunsets.
It is a photographer’s dream. The land is red because of its iron oxide
content. There is always something plowed while other areas are planted with
colorful crops. At this time of year the leaves of trees will turn golden and
red, adding to the vivid color scheme. There will be ample time to visit various
scenic areas and enjoy the spectacular views. We will stay at a local hostel,
which is the best accommodation available in this area.
Day 8: We continue our photo tour of Dongshuan “Red
Land” this morning, beginning with the sunrise. After lunch we will drive
back to Kunming. There will be time to also visit some of Kunming’s sights
in the afternoon. Overnight at a fine city hotel.
Day 9: We embark on another phase of our adventure, driving
south into mountainous areas peopled by several minority nationalities. We will
visit the traditional town of Tonghai, which has the most interesting market
in Yunnan province. A highlight will be a stop at Ximeng, a Mongolian village
where residents adhere to the culture and dress of Mongolia. The people are
offspring of Khublai Khan from the Yuan Dynasty.
A short drive will take us to Jianshui, one of the four cultural heritage
cities in Yunnan known for traditional architecture. We will visit the second
largest Confucius temple in China as well as Zhang Garden and a “stinky
tofu” mill to see how one of the most famous local foods (tofu) is processed.
On this day we will travel a total of 204 km (126 miles), interspersed with
various stops and visits. Overnight at the best available hotel in Jianshui.
Day 10: Our destination on this day is an area known as Yuanyang
situated in the south-east of the province at an altitude of 4,500 feet. The
main residents are Hani, Yi, Miao, and Han people. The area is renowned for
its rice terraces, which have been carved into the mountainsides over a period
of centuries. The drive from Jianshui to Yuanyang is 211 km (131 miles).We will
stop at several towns, including Majie Village along the Red River. This town
has one of the most colorful markets in Yuanyang with various minority people
coming to trade from far and near. Two nights will be spent at a local guesthouse
Photo: Shen Mao Mao
Day 11: This day is devoted to visiting Yuanyang and its
wonderful rice terraces, which may be filled with water at the time of our visit,
creating a stunning visual image. Part of this day will be spent hiking over
a mountain through Hani and Yi villages, situated near the terraces. The highest
point will be 5,400 feet and the hike will take approximately three hours. Our
vehicle will be waiting for us when we complete the hike. Those who do not wish
to hike may ride in the vehicle.
Day 12: We begin our drive back to Kunming and will stop at
the famed Stone Forest for an overnight stay at a hotel. This is one of Yunnan’s
most visited tourist sites. The Stone Forest is a large formation of tightly
packed limestone pillars in various shapes -- some as tall as 100 feet. It resembles
a petrified forest through which there are winding pathways, lookout points,
and water features. It is 83 km (51 miles) southeast of Kunming and will be
a pleasant break in our journey.
Day 13: We will explore the Stone Forest this morning. The
Sami people, dressed in their native costumes, work as tour guides and dancers
in the area. After lunch we will make the short drive back to Kunming, check
into our comfortable hotel, and have time for relaxation and exploration.
Day 14: Our sightseeing of Kunming today will include the Western
Hills, the Bamboo Temple and the Minority People’s Museum. An afternoon
flight will return us to Shanghai where we will check into our hotel for an
overnight stay and enjoy a festive farewell dinner in the evening.
Day 15: The trip ends after breakfast. Transfer to the airport
is not included, but the arrangements can be made readily to go by taxi or bus.
As a practical matter, trip participants must depart the west coast of the
U.S. no later than two days before the start of the trip as a day will be lost
crossing the international dateline. Participants are responsible for travel
from home to the designated hotel in Shanghai. The transfer to the airport after
the trip is also not included. There are several airlines that fly to Shanghai
from the U.S. The trip leader will provide various options for transportation
in Shanghai to and from the hotel.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Ruth Dyche
All accommodations will be the best available in the more remote towns or regions
that we will be visiting. Several will be comfortable hotels catering to western
tourists. Other accommodations will be more modest. The trip price is based
on two people sharing a room; roommates will be assigned as applicable. Single-room
accommodations are available for an extra charge. Most breakfasts will be modified
western or Chinese, while lunches and dinners will feature a varied assortment
of Chinese dishes traditional to each region of our travel. Chopsticks are the
preferred utensils for eating. Please be aware that we will be served Chinese
food at all meals (except for the occasional breakfast) so do not expect or
ask for food to be as you have at home. It may be a good idea to bring some
food bars if you think you will need a break from Chinese food.
Vegetarians can be accommodated. Check with the trip leader about other dietary
This trip can be described as moderately strenuous since we will be traveling
moderately long distances by vehicle on some days in order to visit a variety
of extraordinary locales. It is suitable for adults of any age who are in good
health and are comfortable with walking and climbing stairs and with being in
altitude up to 11,000 feet (Shangri-La, two days). Please check with the trip
leader if you have any concerns about altitude.
Most of our travels will be by small bus. There will be three commercial flights
on this trip (Shanghai to Lijiang, Shangri-la to Kunming, Kunming to Shanghai).
Much of our time will be spent on our feet at cultural sites, markets, museums
and in the countryside. Temples, villages, and street markets can only be seen
Equipment and Clothing
The trip leader will provide all trip members with a list of suggested clothing
and equipment. In general, nothing special is required for this trip, except
sturdy walking shoes, and it is better to travel lighter rather than heavier.
Several of our lodgings will not have elevators or porters so you may need to
carry your own bags to your rooms. A collapsible walking stick may be helpful.
Trip members are expected to bring any medicine, including prescription drugs
that they may need during the trip.
- Pomfret, John, Chinese Lessons: Five Students and the Story of New China.
- Hessler, Peter, Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past
- Economy, Elizabeth, The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge
to China’s Future.
- Harper, Damien, National Geographic Traveler: China 2nd Edition.
Due to its immense population and rapid economic development, China is environmentally
challenged on many fronts. We will travel through areas of great scenic beauty,
but also see examples of severe environmental degradation. In the past 30 years,
30 percent of China’s agricultural land has been lost to pollution, erosion,
and building on cultivated land. Desert areas, already very large in China,
have increased by 25,000 square miles. Many of China’s cities suffer from
air pollution, a growing problem due to the increased use of motorized vehicles
and coal burning for electric power generation.On this trip we will be in the
countryside and in smaller towns for much of the time so air pollution should
not be a large problem. However, Kunming and Shanghai are very large cities
so air pollution will be evident.
Despite a government riddled by corruption, out of control globalization impacts,
and dramatic philosophy swings authorities have begun to act, at least in some
areas. For example, recognizing the link between past logging practices and
recent devastating floods, China has banned the cutting of trees in key watersheds.
We will visit the Nature Conservancy office in Lijiang to learn about their
work in China, and compare China’s environmental situation with our own
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Ruth Dyche has been creating and leading domestic and international Sierra Club trips for more than 25 years. "This is one of the joys of my life" she says. China is one of the countries where she has focused her efforts in order to become knowledgeable enough to offer trip members a quality experience. She has circumnavigated China in her travels, leading several trips across the width and breadth of the country. She is particularly fond of the little-known, out-of-the-way places that have not yet been discovered by the tourist masses, and she would love to share these special corners of China with you.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips