12 Days Grand Shangri-La Photography Tour
Date: Sept. 3 to Sept. 14, 2022, 2023
Price: From 3120USD/PAX
Trip Focus: Photo + Shangri-La
Status: Open to Booking
Route: Chengdu-Kangding-Tagong-Xinduqiao-Litang-Daocheng Yading-Xiangcheng-Deqin—Shangri-La City—Lijiang
Trip Code: PH003
Where is the Shangri-La? The name Shangri-La comes from Tibetan mythology, referring to a land of extreme beauty. The name was known to the world by the novel Lost Horizon written by James Hilton's in 1933 based on the adventure stories of Joseph Rock who traveled extensively in western China in the early of the last century. Now the word Shangri-La has become a synonym of paradise in the heart of every avid traveler who spares no effort to find the very Shangri-La in his/her heart. In reality, Shangri-La is a vast area hidden in the mountains in western China featuring magnificent snow mountains, alpine lakes, indigenous people, colorful architecture, endemic plants, mammals, and breath-taking scenery.
After the hot summer, the temperature cool down, it is more comfortable to move around. The golden time to travel in western China has arrived. By this time panda mothers have almost finished their birth season and the newborn panda cubs now become stars in the panda breeding bases. The farmlands in Tibetan areas have turned golden and farmers are busy with their harvesting. The nomads start to herd their yaks to wintering ground. The higher part of forests begins to show their autumn color. For photographers looking for shots of scenery, people, and activities, this is the golden time to go. With your camera ready, we take you to the depth of Shangri-La, capture the exciting moments of people, yaks and birds along with spectacular scenery, colorful architecture and glittering monasteries, on this comprehensive expedition into the heart of Shangri-La, we will travel through holy snow mountains, vast grasslands, grazing yak herds, beautiful villages and local people in their colorful costumes. This photography tour offers a complete immersion into this landscape’s natural majesty and captivating culture. This trip will be guided by our senior photography guide who has guided lots of our photo trips crafted for avid photographers and has great knowledge about the places we are going to travel. Come and join us, we will do everything we can to help you to find your own Shangri-La through your lens and eyes.
• Explore Chengdu city, the hometown of pandas, discover its leisure lifestyle by your lens, as well as photograph giant pandas at different ages at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, especially the cute panda babies ranging from newborn to 3 months old.
• Photograph the famous holy snow mountains located in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The "three holy mountains” in Daocheng Yading of Sichuan and the Meili Snow Mountains (the Kawagebo Peak of 6,740m) of Yunnan will never let you down.
• Explore Tibetan Plateau in the active season and photograph different ethnic groups including Han, Yi, Hui, Tibetan, and Naxi people.
• Enjoy the breath-taking landscapes in a great variety including grasslands, pastures, alpine lakes, primeval forests, monasteries, Tibetan village, and ancient town.
• Guided by accomplished photograph guide who is specialized in nature, wildlife, and culture photography, with plenty of patience and enthusiasm to answer your questions and provide technical supports.
• Travel in a small group with 12 people at maximum to ensure the quality of your trip and each travel get enough attention for individual assistance.
Introduction to Trip Destinations:
Chengdu Panda Base
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (Chengdu Panda Base) attracts tourists and nature lovers worldwide. Conveniently located a short drive away from downtown, this state of the art research facility comfortably houses more pandas than anywhere else within China and abroad. During your visit, you will see pandas ranging from young cubs to lumbering adults as well as the elusive and adorable red panda. Additionally, the scenic, garden-like atmosphere of the panda base is an especially ideal place to look for urban birds like Red-billed Leiothrix, White-browed Laughingthrush, Ruddy Shelduck, Chinese Blackbird, Spotted Dove, etc.
"Tagong", in Tibetan, means the land favored by Bodhisattva. According to the local legend, Princess Wencheng passed Tagong with a 12 years old Sakyamuni Statue on her way to Lhasa to marry Songtsen Gampo, the Tibetan King. Suddenly, her retinue found the statue became very heavy and could not be lifted. The Sakyamuni Statue started to talk and said that he would like to stay here. So the princess asked her craftsman to make a replica of the statue and consecrated there. From then on, Tagong became famous in the Kangba area. Everyone who pays a visit to Tagong will not miss a stop for the Tagong Monastery, vast Tagong Grasslands, and snow-topped Mount Yala.
Surrounded by a serene grassland landscape, Xinduqiao is known as a photographer’s paradise. It is a picturesque small Tibetan town in the Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture of western Sichuan. Its scenery is highlighted with an abundance of lush green prairies, streams, mountains, and Tibetan settlements surrounding it. The best time to photograph Xinduqiao is during autumn. The prairies are especially lush during this season, and the weather is quite agreeable for travel. We feel this destination will provide our clients with a plethora of subject matter to capture with their cameras. Whether you are interested in focusing on the herds of yaks, snow-capped holy mountains, or the local Tibetan culture, we are confident there will be countless sights worth photographing.
Litang Monastery is also known as Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery, it is one of the oldest and largest Tibetan Buddhism monasteries in the Kham area and was founded by the 3rd Dalai Lama (Sonam Gyatso, 1543-1588) in 1580. In the Tibetan area, it says "Top Three Monasteries of Lhasa ranks top, Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery of Litang in Kham ranks second, Ta’er Monastery in Amdo ranks third". Also, Litang is the birthplace of the Dalai Lama VII and the Dalai Lama X which has improved Litang and the monastery's influence. Besides, Litang Monastery got a huge reputation because Dalai Lama VII once taught in there.
Daocheng Yading National Park
Daocheng Yading National Park was first introduced to the western world by the famous Austrian-American adventurer Joseph F. Rock in 1928. The renowned “last pure land” centers around three sacred snow-capped mountains named Yangmaiyong (5,958m), Xiannairi (6,032m), and Xianuoduoji (5,958m). This region is comprised of some extraordinary forested valleys, crystal-clear rivers, and glacier-fed lakes. Additionally, the unique culture of the local Tibetan communities is reflected in the numerous colorful prayer flags, stupas, and marnyi stones that are ubiquitous in the area. It is also a well-known place for hiking.
Mt. Meili (Meili Snow Mountain)
Mt. Meili is one of the most sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism which is a holy land for worshiping. Pilgrims from Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu come here at the beginning of each winter to worship. Located at Yunnan Province, Mt. Meili sits on the border of Yunnan and Tibet, where the three famous rivers, namely the Jinsha River, Mekong River, and Lancang River flow parallelly. The Kawagebo Peak (6,740m) of Mt. Meili is the highest in Yunnan. Mt. Meili is a challenging virgin mountain for all climbers from home and abroad as no one has ever reached the top. It is a must to admire the sunrise over the Meili Mountain.
Songzanlin Monastery, also known as Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, as well as "Little Potala" according to its appearance, is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province which is located at the foot of Foping Mountain near Shangri-La City with the altitude about 3,300m. In 1679, Dalai Lama chose this place by divination and it has been reconstructed several times. You will love its architecture that combined with both Tibetan and Han Chinese. Also, it is a good excuse to visit the monastery for the treasure collections accumulated from each dynasty.
Lijiang Ancient Town
Lijiang Ancient Town of Yunnan was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It is one of the four best-preserved ancient towns in China, along with Langzhong Ancient Town in Sichuan province, Pingyao Ancient Town in Shanxi province, and Shexian Ancient Town in Anhui province. As a well-preserved ancient town, Lijiang is also known its ethnic minorities with brilliant culture such as the Naxi ethnic minority. That is why the buildings here incorporate the best parts of the architectural traits of Han, Bai, and Tibet into a unique Naxi style. Also, in Lijiang, you will find its romantic and relaxing charm of the town without city walls.
Grand Shangri-La Photography Tour Map
Day 1. Arrive in Chengdu. (D)
The airport pick-up. City exploration based on your time of arrival. Overnight: Chengdu (500m)
Day 2. Chengdu-Kangding. 320km 5.5h (BLD)
Drive to Kangding after paying a visit to Chengdu Panda Base. Overnight: Kangding (2,700m)
Day 3. Kangding-Tagong-Xinduqiao. 170km 4.5h (BLD)
Drive to Xinduqiao after visiting Tagong Grassland and Moshi Park. Overnight: Xinduqiao (3,500m)
Day 4. Xinduqiao-Litang. 200km 4.5h (BLD)
Drive to Litang from Xinduqiao, the Photographers' Heaven. Overnight: Litang (4,000m)
Day 5. Litang-Daocheng Yading. 230km 4.5h (BLD)
Drive to Daocheng Yading after visiting Litang Monastery. Overnight: Shangri-La Town (2,950m)
Day 6. Daocheng Yading. (BLD)
Photograph inside Daocheng Yading National Park. Overnight: Shangri-La Town (2,950m)
Day 7. Daocheng Yading-Xiangcheng. 130km 3.5h (BLD)
Drive to Xiangcheng. Overnight: Xiangcheng (2,850m)
Day 8. Xiangcheng-Deqin. 230km 6h (BLD)
Drive to Deqin. Overnight: Deqin (3,350m)
Day 9. Mt. Meili. (BLD)
Explore Mt. Meili. Overnight: Deqin (3,350m)
Day 10. Deqin—Shangri-La City. 170km 3.5h (BLD)
Drive to Shangri-La City and visit Songzanlin Monastery. Overnight: Shangri-La City (3,300m)
Day 11. Shangri-La City—Lijiang. 180km 4.5h (BLD)
Drive to visit Lijiang Ancient Town. Overnight: Lijiang (2,400m)
Day 12. Depart Lijiang. (B)
The airport drop-off.
Day 1. Arrival in Chengdu. Meals: D
The airport pick-up. Based on the time you arrive, we can plan some free city tour programs such as visiting People’s Park to experience the typical laid-back lifestyles of Chengdu or taking you to Jinli Street to feel the bustling shopping street with unique local souvenirs and delicious local take-away food. Sichuan cuisine is among the top four Chinese cuisines, so a food tour will be a highlight. Sichuan Opera (Face-changing Show) is also a must-see that you don't want to miss.
Overnight: Chengdu (500m)
Day 2. Chengdu-Kangding. 320km 5.5h Meal: BLD
We will visit the Chengdu Panda Base early in the morning which is the best time to see panda when they are more active. Chengdu Panda Base is the breeding center that has the most giant pandas of different ages in the world. Our tour guide will share with you many stories of panda here and take you to the two nurseries to see the cute panda babies. You will have an absolute panda experience! Then we will drive to Kangding via Ya’an. Have a good rest and get used to the altitude. When mentioning about Kangding, most of the Chinese will think about a famous traditional folk song named Kangding Love Song that makes everyone fall in love with its beautiful scenery and unique culture. Kangding is the capital city of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. It is the gateway to the Kham region of the Tibetan Plateau with the rushing Zheduo River flows through the center of the city.
Overnight: Kangding (2,700m)
Day 3. Kangding-Tagong-Xinduqiao. 170km 4.5h Meal: BLD
After visiting Tagong Grassland and Moshi Park, we drive toward Xinduqiao which is famed as the paradise for the photographers. Now it is the season for harvesting. The fields will be covered with golden highland barley. The trees along the driving road start to change color. The Tibetan houses scattered in the farmlands along both sides of a winding river. We will make numerous stops to seek opportunities to frame our great shots from personal preferences. There will be lots of subjects to photograph, the yaks grazing on the mountain slope, Tibetan people working in their farmlands, beautiful family houses surrounded by farmlands, small villages at a bend of murmuring river, and snow-capped mountain peaks in distance.
Overnight: Xinduqiao (3,500m)
Day 4. Xinduqiao-Litang. 200km 4.5h Meal: BLD
After photographing Xinduqiao again in the golden morning ray, we head on to Litang. As we climb in elevation, we will see yaks bathed in the bright sunlight of the plateau prairie. These idyllic pastoral landscapes and lifestyle offer an inherently peaceful setting to explore and take pictures. On the top of the mountains, we will climb over, we will see some of the most spectacular scenery, nature maps of different sizes made by forests and grasslands. The mountain ridges stretch to distance and herds of yaks grazing on the slope. At an elevation of 4,000 meters, Litang is one of the world’s highest settlements. Though the elevation is very high, the glassy area is ideal for long-distance horse races and tent camping. Every August, the local Tibetans will hold a horse racing festival which attracts participants from around the Tibetan world.
Overnight: Litang (4,000m)
Day 5. Litang-Daocheng Yading. 230km 4.5h Meal: BLD
Drive to Daocheng Yading after visiting Litang Monastery. Litang Monastery is one of the oldest and largest Tibetan Buddhism monasteries in the Kham area and was founded by the 3rd Dalai Lama (Sonam Gyatso, 1543-1588) in 1580. Then, we will head south to Daocheng Yading. Daocheng is a Kham county blessed with a varied and beautiful landscape. From the northern glacial-erosion highland where thousands of lakes and ponds are scattered and crowds of wild animals are inhabited.
Overnight: Shangri-La Town (2,950m)
Day 6. Daocheng Yading. Meals: BLD
Photograph inside Daocheng Yading National Park. Today we will explore inside Daocheng Yading National Park, the core of the Grand Shangri-La zone. Daocheng Yading is known for being one of the best-preserved and most primitive natural scenic spots in China. With its pure and amazing plateau scenery, it is called "the last pure land on earth", "the last Shangri-La", "Western China adventure hub" and "the holy land in the sun". We will hike in the valley of the snow mountains, walking around the holy lakes and grasslands. There are some nomadic tents in the valley where we have a chance to meet up with some local nomads. You will feel immersed in the pure highland nature while challenging your physical limitation.
Overnight: Shangri-La Town (2,950m)
Day 7. Daocheng Yading-Xiangcheng. 130km 3.5h Meals: BLD
Drive to Xiangcheng. On the way to Xiangcheng, we will spot the beautiful villages scattered amongst wheat-field-paddies in the valley ground. The large, cubicle houses look like little castles and with their white-chalked exterior walls, they give the whole valley a very exotic air. Xiangcheng belonged to the ancient Tibetan province of Kham in the 1950s. Being a necessary overnight-stop on the "Backdoor" — route to Yunnan, the town is a pleasant place to linger or to serve as a starting point for excursions into the surrounding mountain areas. After the overnight in Xiangcheng, we continue venturing south to Yunnan Province.
Overnight: Xiangcheng (2,850m)
Day 8. Xiangcheng-Deqin. 230km 6h Meals: BLD
After departing Xiangcheng, we will head toward Deqin to view Mt. Meili. Meili Snow Mountain, also known as “Prince Snow Mountain”, is located 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northeast of Deqin County of Yunnan Province. It sits on the border of Yunnan Province and Tibet, where the three famous rivers, namely the Jinsha, Mekong, and Salween flow. It will be a long driving day with winding mountain roads and shifts in elevation. Our local guides will share captivating stories and explanations to all of your questions.
Overnight: Deqin (3,350m)
Day 9. Mt. Meili. Meals: BLD
Explore Mt. Meili which will treat you grandly with her indescribable grace. Known for the grandest view in Yunnan Province, Mt. Meili (Meili Snow Mountain) boasts numerous snow-clad ridges and peaks, thirteen of which exceed 6,000m above the sea level. The most splendid view is of the Kawagebo Peak, the highest in Yunnan rising about 6,740 meters, it is still a "virgin peak" for no one has ever reached the top. Visitors are treated to the spectacular view from all vantage points. The continuous mountain ridges feature snowy peaks and the sun throws golden lights on the low-floating clouds which form various extraordinary shapes, affording yet another splendid view! During our stay, our guides will escort you to all of the best spots for getting the perfect photo.
Overnight: Deqin (3,350m)
Day 10. Deqin—Shangri-La City. 170km 3.5h Meals: BLD
Today we will drive south to Shangri-La City in Zhongdian, Yunnan Province. The city is famous for its beautiful snow mountain, grassland nature scenery, the featured Tibetan folk house, the giant prayer wheel, and the monasteries. We will pay a visit to Songzanlin Monastery, also known as "Little Potala" according to its appearance. It is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province. Photograph its architecture that combined with both Tibetan and Han Chinese.
Overnight: Shangri-La City (3,300m)
Day 11. Shangri-La City—Lijiang. 180km 4.5h Meals: BLD
Drive to visit Lijiang Ancient Town. Lijiang is widely regarded as an otherworldly destination, blessed with fresh air, clear streams, breathtaking snowy mountains, and an undisturbed landscape inhabited by the Naxi People, one of China's 55 minority ethnic groups. This town was once the center of the city and continues to maintain the original flavor of the local lifestyle, the typical architecture, and the profound cultural heritage of the region. Lijiang Ancient Town has been listed as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO since 1997. Lijiang is certain to be a highlight for your photography trip and it will undoubtedly provide countless opportunities to capture a variety of captivating subject matter.
Overnight: Lijiang (2,400m)
Day 12. Depart Lijiang. Meals: B
The airport drop-off. On the final day of this tour, our team will escort you to the airport and assist you with luggage check-in.
1. If you need help in arranging a flight to Chengdu from other major cities of China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, or a departure flight from Lijiang, please feel free to contact us, we are more than happy to provide any support we can to facilitate your trip planning.
2. This trip ventures into an area that features high altitude. Follow the advice from your doctor on altitude sickness before deciding to join this trip. In some events, high elevation can cause severe health complications for those with cardiovascular diseases or other poor cardiopulmonary function.
3. The overnight altitudes and driving hours listed in the itinerary are just for your rough reference.
Dates & Prices
AbsolutePanda firmly believes travel is an art. To ensure every trip traveling with us is a great travel art for our client, the AbsolutePanda team does all we can to consider every possible detail. The choice of hotels is an essential part of making a great trip. After many years of running a travel business, we have built up our network of cooperative hotels at different levels. We understand people are different in the choice of hotels when they travel. If you want to use some specific hotels, please feel free to let us know, we are delighted to book it for you at a competitive price to make the hotel choice better meet your taste, budget and travel style. We can either reserve a hotel with competitive price for you or simply include the hotel into your trip cost if possible. You are welcome to contact us and tell us your requests, we will do our best to create the best travel itinerary for your private use.
1. What kind of food will be provided?
One of the principles of AbsolutePanda toward food during travel is that we take every meal as an important part of travel experience. So we carefully choose restaurants. Whenever it is possible we always dine at a nice local popular restaurant. In this way, our travelers enjoy the authentic local gourmet and try as many different varieties as possible. For western travelers, we also prepare some simple western breakfast though you are always welcome to try local Chinese style.
2. Is there any altitude problem for this trip?
This trip will overnight on the high altitudes from 2,400m to 4,000m. Our journey starts from low elevation (500m) area and slowly goes up to high elevation Tibetan Plateau so you have plenty of time to acclimatize to elevation. Our guide has rich experience in taking care of our clients for the trip to the highland. Surely, we also will suggest you seek advice from your doctor on altitude sickness and bring necessary medications before you decide to join this trip. In some events, high elevation can cause severe health complications for those with cardiovascular diseases or other poor cardiopulmonary function diseases.
3. What kind of lodging will we stay at?
We will choose featured local guest houses, three or four-star hotels run by local people. It is a great chance to experience local hospitality and culture by staying with lovely people.
4. If I have dietary restrictions, will that be a problem for your team to accommodate?
Our team is experienced at making sure all of our client’s needs are met. If you or anyone in your group has specific requirements for food, we are happy to accommodate your needs.
5. Does your team have tripods and binoculars that guests can use during the tour?
Yes, our company has prepared different sets of equipment for the conveniences of our clients, such as cameras, lens, tripods, binoculars, spotting scope and walking sticks, etc. Feel free to contact us ahead of the time if you need any assistance from us.
6. Is it acceptable to photograph people on this tour?
The different ethical culture we will unveil to you on this tour gives you lots of unique chances to take some breathtaking photos that showcase the unique and vibrant communities in southwest China. In times of taking photos of people, we do suggest you ask first before photographing. If you are not quite sure, please ask our guide for help.
Absolute Panda-great service and knowledge leads to great trips.
I have taken two trips with Absolute Panda. Philip He and his guides are excellent, and Philip will work with you to tailor a trip to meet your needs and desires. For both trips, one in the Sichuan Tibetan Plateau, and the other in Yunnan Province, we hired a driver, and had a guide who knew both the area and the people.We went places and saw things that most tourists never see, and had the flexibility to change directions when the opportunities presented themselves. Philip lead our second trip, and as photographers, it was great to have another photographer with us since we planned our travels around getting great pictures, whether landscape or people. We are planning on going back to China again and will be working with Philip to put together another great itinerary.
Videos & Photos
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The famous zigzag road of G318 in Yajiang.
View the holy Mt. Yala from Tagong.
Mt. Yala and the sunset.
Village on the way to Daocheng Yading.
Yangmaiyong Peak of Daocheng Yading.
Wuse Lake of Daocheng Yading
Songzanlin Monastery in Shangri-La City.
Monks and local people.
Lijiang Ancient Town
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