Terraced rice fields in Yuanyang County

China’s Wild Yunnan

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14 days
from
£2,549
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Trip code: 
ACJ
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Min age:
16
Group size:
5–16

A comprehensive itinerary covering the north and south areas of Yunnan province

The South West province of Yunnan is arguably one of the most diverse regions in China. Dramatic high altitude vistas, panoramic views across kaleidoscopic rice terraces and beautifully preserved Chinese architecture are just a taste of the many highlights this area has to offer. On this trip we’ll discover the mountainous region of the north with an opportunity to experience Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the most scenic one-day hikes in the country. We’ll spend time at the rice paddies of Yuanyang county, before ending at the capital Kunming, the ‘Capital of Eternal Spring’.  This trip offers a real insight into the culture of the Yunnan people, home to over 50 different ethnic minorities unique to this region. There are plenty of opportunities to sample the mouth-watering cuisine, which takes its flavours from the neighbouring countries of Tibet, Laos, Burma and Vietnam.

Highlights

  • Discover Kunming; 'City of Eternal Spring'
  • Snow-capped mountains and panoramic rice terraces
  • Trek through the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Sample the famous 'Crossing the Bridge' noodles
  • Visit the heritage towns of Lijiang and Dali

Key information

  • 12 days land only/ 14 flight inclusive
  • Travel by private minibus and internal flight
  • 9 nights comfortable hotels, 2 nights guesthouses
  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners included
  • Optional single supplement, available on request
  • Group normally 5 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners
  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival and departure transfers 

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request) 
  • Vaccinations
  • Chinese Visa - GBP201 with Travcour or GBP151 plus GBP18 special delivery direct with Embassy
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Lijiang, Yunnan Province

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Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

London
to
London
  • Day 1

    Depart London

  • Day 2

    Arrive Hong Kong

    The group flight generally arrives in the early afternoon and there is time to relax and get over the jet lag before a briefing from your leader followed by an optional arrival dinner this evening.

    Metropark Hotel Kowloon or similar

  • Day 3

    Fly to Lijiang

    Today is a full day of travelling. A short taxi ride takes us to the bus terminal. A first bus takes us to Shenzhen Bay where we go through the customs and immigration procedure. Upon entry into mainland China, we swap into a new bus and travel direct to Shenzhen airport, from where we catch an afternoon flight via Kunming to Lijiang in Yunnan Province (flight time approx. 4 hrs 40 minutes). We arrive at our beautiful hotel, which is located on a hilltop overlooking the town and set around a series of inner courtyards, in time to head out for dinner. 

    This UNESCO World Heritage town is located at an elevation of 2,400 metres, with the incredibly scenic 'Jade Dragon Snow Mountain' as its backdrop. The architecture in the town is particularly noteworthy as it blends elements from several cultures that have come together over hundreds of years. The Lijiang area is home to the Naxi people who are related to Tibetans but have their own language and culture and can only be found in this region. Dinner tonight will be taken in a restaurant with our first opportunity to sample some delicious Yunnan cuisine, which with it's melting pot of cultures and flavours is arguably one of China's top culinary destinations. 

    Lijiang Qianxuelou Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Walking tour in Lijiang; transfer to Tea Horse Guesthouse

    We'll take a walking tour in Lijiang's old town this morning, which boasts some beautifully preserved ancient buildings (and some more modern, built in the traditional style). We'll wander through the Black Dragon Pool Park first as locals gather here in the mornings to practice tai chi, square-dancing and to exercise together. The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is beautifully framed by the gardens, the central lake, and colourful pagodas.

    Next, we wander through the narrow and meandering cobbled lanes to appreciate the architecture, innumerable willow trees and almost 350 small bridges which have seen Lijiang referred to as 'Oriental Venice'. Weather permitting, we climb up Lion Hill to the five-tier Wangu Pagoda, which offers stunning panoramic views of Lijiang town and the nearby mountains. 

    After some free time and perhaps some shopping for handicrafts, we drive to our guesthouse in Tiger Leaping Gorge (approx 2 hours driving). The guesthouse itself is simple but all rooms are fully equipped and have en-suite facilities. There are beautiful views of the nearby mountains.

    Tea Horse Guesthouse or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Trek in Tiger Leaping Gorge; night in Tina's Guesthouse

    Today we will trek along arguably one of the best hiking routes in South-West China. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest on the planet and the surrounding valley is part of a UNESCO natural preservation area, with an unusually large number of different plants and animals in a relatively small region. Legend says that a tiger, in order to escape a hunter, jumped across the gorge at the narrowest point (approx. 25 metres), hence the name.

    We walk door to door from one guesthouse to the next. The first half of the walk is relatively easy, following a gently undulating trail to Halfway Guesthouse, where we stop for tea. The latter part of the walk involves a long descent (a few hundred metres) on a fairly steep and rocky zig-zag path and requires careful footwork. Our walk will take us approximately 4-5 hours (around 11km), allowing for plenty of stops to admire the spectacular scenery and towering mountains. 

    This evening we stay in another simple guesthouse with views of the sheer rock wall of the opposite side of the gorge. On a clear night, the stars are phenomenal.

    Tina's Guesthouse or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Transfer to Dali; afternoon walking tour

    We begin driving towards Dali this morning. About 20 minutes into the journey we make a stop at the Tiger Leaping Gorge visitor centre and walk down the staircases to the raging river. This is the narrowest part of the gorge and the site where the legendary tiger is said to have leapt across. Continuing on, it's roughly three hours drive to Dali so we should arrive at lunchtime. 

    This ancient town is popular with tourists; its combination of beautiful scenery, authentic local culture and good food meant that a two-day stay could easily turn into two weeks. Today, Dali has retained the small-town charm it grew famous for, and visitors can enjoy the thousand-year-old architecture in the town alongside the beautiful Cangshan Mountain Range and the sparkling Erhai Lake; one of the seven biggest freshwater lakes in China. We will take a walking tour to experience the highlights of this pretty place, walking from the South to North Gate as well as seeing the traditional folk houses of the Bai people, which give this town a truly distinctive feel. There will also be time for an optional visit to the iconic Three Pagodas. Tonight we will take advantage of the local guide's knowledge of the area and experience some of the best cuisine Dali has to offer!

    Landscape Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 7

    Morning market tour; drive to Kunming

    Today we will take a tour of one of the local markets which often rotate between nearby villages. This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the region's produce and ingredients, as our senses are awakened by a sea of colours and the smell of tea, herbs and spices. There will also be the chance for us to taste a peculiar local cheese which is unique to this area, called 'ru shan'. This cows' milk cheese is presented in the shape of a fan, generally cooked on a bamboo stick, and is often served alongside different meat and vegetable dishes.

    This afternoon we will continue on our journey towards Kunming (approx. 5 hours' drive). Known locally as the 'City of Eternal Spring', the capital of Yunnan Province boasts a mild and pleasant year-round climate and this is reflected in the flowers that seem to bloom all through the year. Kunming was once a stop on the caravan routes to South East Asia, India and Tibet and this influence remains in the city in the form of its culture, heritage and excellent food. After a short orientation walk this evening is free to discover some of Kunming's famous eateries, and maybe try the well-known dish 'Crossing the Bridge Noodles'. 

    There is the opportunity to go to the theatre to see the Yunnan Impression Cultural Show (optional), which is highly recommended.

    Golden Spring Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Drive to Yuanyang County; sunset viewpoint

    We will have an early start today as we drive (for approx. 8 hours including a lunch stop) into Yuanyang County, known throughout China for its never-ending rice terraces built on the southern slopes of the Ailao mountain, over an area of over 28 thousand acres. Yuanyang is frequently visited by national and international photographers who come to capture the terraces in their different states (filled with water or rice depending on the time of year), and the iconic sunrise scene is surely the Holy Grail of photographs! We will visit Lao Hu Zui, meaning 'Tiger's Mouth' scenic viewpoint this evening, in the hope of witnessing a photo-worthy sunset over the spectacular rice terraces.

    Yun Ti Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Morning walk through the terraces followed by a farmer's lunch; sunset viewpoint

    Depending on the weather, there will be the option of visiting a different viewpoint at Duoyishu to watch the sunrise over the ancient terraces. We'll then take a morning walk (3-3.5 hours) passing firstly through a small village, learning more about the Hani and Yi minority people of this area, who are responsible for the creation of the beautiful rice terraces. We then descend down a rocky path to walk among the terraces themselves and view them from a different perspective. Contouring along the terraces, we pass the occasional farmhouse and see locals working the land, before climbing back up to the road on a paved path and heading for a traditional 'farmer's lunch'. This culinary adventure will typically involve fish, chicken and vegetables along with some more unexpected delicacies such as snails and insects! The rest of the afternoon is free to relax, before another sunset opportunity this evening at Bada Viewpoint.

    Yun Ti Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 10

    Drive to Tuanshan

    This morning we will drive to Tuanshan (approx. 4 hours), which is a rare example of a traditional walled Yunnan village, inhabited by the Yi minority people. Tuanshan once prospered from trade with South East Asia, which was made possible by the Yunnan - Vietnam railroad. Today, it is like stepping back in time as we visit the well-preserved (though somewhat neglected) highlights including old mansions, gardens, temples, gateways and a graveyard. This evening we can enjoy some luxury at our hotel in Jinshui.

    Lin An Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Zhu Family Garden and Confucius Temple visit

    Today we will make a trip to the Zhu Family Garden in Jianshui. The Garden is a huge residential complex which was built in the late 19th century by a very rich family. Today it is open to the public and whilst wandering we can appreciate the intricate artwork, elaborate rooms and elegant courtyards, and of course the beautiful and well-preserved gardens. There will also be time to visit the second largest Confucius temple in China, built in the Yuan Dynasty (13th century). This temple is an incredibly peaceful spot with extensive grounds, and we may see locals playing cards or mah-jong in the gardens, or practising ancient Chinese folk songs on their musical instruments.

    Lin An Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Stone forest; farewell dinner in Kunming

    This morning we will drive back to Kunming via the incredible 'Stone Forest' of Shilin. This magnificent landscape covers an area of 300 square kilometres and is an impressive collection of karst rock formations more than 270 million years old. The area became a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 2007 and has special features with a huge range of shape and colours.
    We will then continue on to the capital and enjoy some free time to relax, or to partake in some last-minute souvenir shopping in one of Kunming's many markets. Our farewell dinner tonight will be a final opportunity to taste some more delicious Yunnan dishes before we say our goodbyes tomorrow.

    Golden Spring Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 13

    End Kunming

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Arrive London

    Arrive London

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

China

Nearly all nationalities require a visa to enter China, which must be obtained prior to departure. The Chinese authorities now require a letter from Exodus, confirming all your accommodation details. Along with this, you need to supply a copy of your flight details, which are on your invoice if you have booked directly through Exodus. For further information see http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/travelink/China.pdf
It is also essential that we have a clear copy of the details page of your passport. This is required to book certain ground services in China and we cannot confirm your details with our local partners until it has been received. This must be emailed as an electronic scan to [email protected] a minimum of 8 weeks prior to your trip.

Vaccinations

China

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Eating and Drinking

This trip includes the following: all breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners.

One of the major draws of China is its exciting and varied cuisine. On this trip, you will be able to try many dishes that will be carefully selected with your leader's guidance and based on the group's dietary requirements and preferences. Meals generally consist of shared dishes, which is the best way to experience many different ingredients, and try things you might not ordinarily choose! Cuisine in Yunnan is typically referred to as Dian cuisine, and takes its flavours from the neighbouring countries of Tibet, Sichuan, Burma, Laos and Vietnam. Examples of popular dishes include the famous 'Crossing the Bridge' noodles (rice noodle soup), steamed-pot chicken, which includes herbs native to Yunnan, and Xuanwei ham (dry cured). Baba is a type of bread that is cooked over hot coals and eaten as a snack or side, and the local cheese 'rubbing' is a fresh goat cheese often served pan-fried with salt and chilli.

There is an abundance of tea as Yunnan is one of the main tea-producing regions in China. 

There are many dishes to try and the leader will always try and accommodate tastes, but if you do tire of Chinese food there are usually opportunities to eat Western-style dishes in the cities you visit. For vegetarians or those with dietary requirements, many of the traditional dishes can be amended to omit the meat products.

Plastic bottles are a big issue in many countries where recycling isn’t yet widely available; they often end up in landfill sites or get burnt, both processes are harmful to the environment and we would like to reduce our impact here. Please bring a reusable water bottle with you. There are kettles in most, if not all, hotel rooms and we encourage you to boil tap water at night so that it is cool and ready to drink by morning. Where available, your tour leader will buy large containers of drinking water using the group kitty for you to refill from during the day.

Weather

Generally speaking, Yunnan enjoys a mild climate with pleasant weather. The province has distinct dry and rainy seasons; November to April is the dry season (and is cooler), with most of the rainfall occurring between June and August. As many of the places visited on this itinerary are at a relatively high altitude, the temperature can change significantly between day and night so we recommend that this is taken into consideration when packing. Evenings and mornings can be really quite chilly so you'll need a fleece or some warm layers, whilst daytimes can be hot so come prepared with sun protection too.

Weather Chart Kunming

Weather Chart Kunming

Is this trip for you?

This trip is graded 2: Leisurely/Moderate

This holiday is designed that so you can see the highlights of Yunnan Province and is generally fairly fast-paced. There is a lot to see, but everything is scheduled so that it doesn’t feel too rushed. There are a few drives of 3-5 hours and the longest drive on the itinerary is approx. 8 hrs on day 7 (Kunming to Yuangyang Country).

You should come ready for an intrepid experience. China can sometimes be hard work and when it is hotter some of the busier sights can be a little overwhelming, however, this itinerary mainly focuses on more rural areas so there is plenty of time to find some peace and quiet and see a different side to the country.

Good mobility and a degree of fitness are required for the walking tours of the historic towns, steps to the viewpoints in Yuangyang Country (around 500 steps) and for the walks in Tiger Leaping Gorge and the rice terraces in Yuangyang Country.

The walk in Tiger Leaping Gorge will take approximately 4-5 hours (the distance is around 11km / 7 miles) and is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo as it is cut into the side of the gorge. The last half of the walk involves a long descent of several hundred metres on a rocky trail, which is steep in parts. There is no rush and we will take our time and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Please be aware that the region surrounding Tiger Leaping Gorge is subject to dramatic weather changes.

The maximum altitude on this trip is 2700m and in rare instances, some passengers may experience minor discomfort. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels and Guesthouses

On this trip you will spend 9 nights in comfortable hotels, and 2 nights in basic guesthouses, all en suite. Most of the accommodation is in traditional buildings and some have very beautiful courtyards. The comfortable hotels are generally rated locally as 4-star, and the guesthouses are run by local families and have a Tibetan influence. 

Please be aware that the beds/mattresses in this region are often harder than we may be used to, but it is always possible to request an extra quilt or bedding at the hotel if this is an issue. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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Dates & Prices

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Please provide as much information as possible below so we can best help with your holiday requirements.

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An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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