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Shangri-La Travel Guide

At the end of 2001, the name of Zhongdian County, capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern China's Yunnan Province, was changed to Shangri-La County. After nearly nine months of research, specialists and scholars now conclude that Zhongdian is the Shangri-La of the 1933 novel "Lost Horizon" by James Hilton.

Perched on a plateau at an elevation of 3300 meters, dotted with beautiful hills, flowers and alpine lakes, the region of Zhongdian offers great possibilities for trek, botanical exploration, as well as discovery of Tibetan culture. The picturesque Tibetan villages on the outskirts of Zhongdian still keep unique customs and traditions, attracting many independent travelers.

Here, the prevailing weather conditions alternate between high-altitude, alpine cool, to a more temperate, sub-tropical monsoon climate. Shangri-La boasts the largest forest zone in Yunnan Province, known as "treasure house of flora and fauna." It is also home to the largest natural pastureland, with abundant waters and grassland, in the province. Moirig Snow Mountain, one of the ten sacred mountains in the Tibetan regions, is located here. The county's isolated position has helped residents preserve their traditional lifestyle and culture. Shangri-La County is currently one of the most sought-out tourist destinations in China.

Major Attractions

Old town and local museum

It is a local people's residential area. Many beautiful Tibetan houses and monuments have been protected from demolition. The museum displays local costumes, botanic specimens and photos of the region.

Gadain Sumzanling Monastery

Picture of Gadain Sumzanling Monastery

It is a must for tourists. Sumzanling is the largest Tibetan Buddhism monastery in Yunnan Province. It is located on a mountain slope five kilometers from the county town of Shangri-la. At sunset, the lamasery is shrouded in a mysterious atmosphere - thangka paintings line the corridors and the lamas chant sutras. Such a sacred place seems to purify the soul.

Since the 5th Dalai Lama chose the site through divination in 1679, the monastery has grown into the most important community of its kind in Yunnan. And today Sumzanling once again houses more than 700 monks and lamas.

Napa Lake

Picture of Napa Lake

Napa lake is located 7 km from the town. Worth a visit in May and June when the plain is covered by wild flowers. It has the largest grassland in Zhongdian, surrounded by mountains on three sides.

The nature reserve has a humid climate, flourishing grass, and beautiful scenery. Each year from September to March black-necked cranes, a top-grade protected bird species, winter here. This period is the best season for tourists to view black necked cranes.

How to Get in

By Plane

In Shangrila, there is an airport. Until now, there are flights from Kunming, Chengdu, Lhasa to Shangrila. (Since these three places are border with Shangrila). There is almost daily flight from Kunming, in peak touristy season, there are two flights from Chengdu per week, and one flight from Lhasa. But, the schedule is different for each year, you need check it carefully before departure.

By car

There are three places are most common for driving to Shangrila.

  1. From Daocheng (in Sichuan) to Shangrila, it is about 300km.Have to pass several snow mountains on the way, but the beautiful scenery could be a best compensation. En route, there is a chance to see Shangrila Canyon. The road in Sichuan will be better than in Yunnan. Due to the heavy snow in winter, don't take this route in winter.
  2. From Lijiang to Shangrila, it is about 200km, which costs 4 to 5 hours for drving. Mostly, the road condition is good with the stunning scenery. The most beautiful is from Zhongdian to small Zhongdian(xiao Zhongdian). A few passed en route, but road is good. It is the most safe and convenient way to Zhongdian, and most travelers are taking it.
  3. From Lhasa to Shangrila, it is about 1700km, which costs 5 to 6 days to arrive. It will pass Chamdo, Markham and Deqin, very hard way. But it is attractive for those who like adventures.

Best Time to Come

In May and June the region is alive with enchanting wild flowers. From Mid-October to Mid-November the region is covered with marvelous autumn colors. July and August is a high season for tourism as well as rainfalls. Winter is dry and cold, with average temperatures below zero(C).

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