Featured Image by Songtsam
Founded by award-winning director Baima Duoji, the Songtsam Lodges form the only collection of Luxury, Tibetan-style retreats in the fabled Shangri-La region. Each hotel showcases the scenery, culture, and spirituality of its location, presenting a rounded picture of this renowned region with each lodge spinning its own unique thread.
With spectacular views and an abundance of biodiversity, this region has recognized the increasing demand for sustainable forms of tourism and hopes to protect its spectacular landscapes and rich wildlife. Constructed using unique local materials and artisanal techniques, the Songtsam Lodges have proven themselves to be trailblazers in the field of responsible travel without compromising its high standards to hospitality. Boasting a total of eight different lodges dotted throughout the valleys of the Shangri-La, we’ve painstakingly selected our favorite three, and here’s why.
The Songtsam Shangri-La Lodge | Picture by Songtsam
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Songtsam Shangri-La Lodge
Occupying a traditional Tibetan dwelling, the Shangri-La Lodge sits unassumingly in the childhood village of Songtsam’s founder, Baima Duoji. With views framed by mountain ranges in all directions, the flagship hotel offers a gateway to the Tibetan Kingdom in a rustic village setting. The village itself is self-sustainable, showcasing age-old farming practices and hardy beasts at your front door. At a mere ten minutes’ walk from the Sonzanlin Lamasery, you can find inner calm as you practice Tibetan Buddhist meditation at the largest monastery in the whole of Yunnan which is still home to over 700 monks. Whether it’s learning of cultural preservation efforts in Shangri-La Old Town or joining a Tibetan family for dinner, the Songtsam has made significant efforts to bring host and traveler together in a mutually beneficial way. Upon retiring to your room, admire the hotel’s collection of handpicked furniture and intricately woven carpets, featuring modern comfort and Tibetan style in a delicate balancing act. Not far from the border (you can spot Tibetan peaks from the hotel’s open-air roof terrace), this site offers a Tibetan feel without the need for a permit.
The Songtsam Lodge in Lijiang | Picture by Songtsam
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At an altitude of 2,400 meters, the Songtsam Lijiang is the lowest of the lodges, marking the start of the Yunnan-Tibet Route, and the perfect opportunity to get acclimatized. The hotel is situated in the traditional Naxi village of Ciman and offers easy access to charming Lijiang while avoiding the touristy old town. Nestled between the Yulong Snow Mountain to the north and the Wenbi Peak in the south, the sprawling lodge connects guests to the striking landscapes of this region through Naxi-style floor-to-ceiling windows. On the larger side of Songtsam lodges, guests can enjoy added bonuses in the form of a fitness center, spa, and outdoor pool. As an important crossroads between Tibetan and Han culture, the hotel reflects the importance of preserving heritage by blending traditional Chinese art and Tibetan-style carpets throughout. For the history buffs, the ancient Horse Tea Trail also passes by the hotel, telling the story of a westerner that lived in Yunnan for over 27 years.
The Songtsam Lodge in Tacheng | Picture by Songtsam
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Buffeted gently from all sides by fertile, low mountain valleys, Tacheng Lodge finds itself among Tibetan, Naxi, and Lisu ethnic minority communities. The views from each of the lodge’s nine rooms are awash with fertile rice paddies and vineyards, while the outdoor pool offers the perfect chance to unwind after the journey. As part of a farming community, hotel guests can delight in the fresh produce of this bountiful area by hand selecting their own ingredients from the organic gardens. The hotel is also within walking distance of Hadda village, with its black roofs and warm-hearted residents who welcome guests as long-lost friends. Get to the heart of local culture by joining an evening of traditional dance or learning more about the rare Yunnan Golden Snub-Nosed Monkeys which are among the world’s most endangered primates. With views that stretch through the scenic valley, your private terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy the last rays of sun before a restful night’s sleep in rural tranquility.
The Songtsam Lodge in Tacheng | Picture by Songtsam
As individually crafted, boutique hotels, the Songtsam Lodges offer the inquisitive traveler the chance to explore this extremely beautiful region in a personal and responsible manner. Whether it’s tips on the best golden-hour spot or an amusing tale of a runaway yak, the entirely locally-sourced staff reinforces the Songtsam’s grounding in this region, making for a truly unforgettable stay. These may be our three favorite lodges, but there are so many more to explore, each with their individual personality and astounding location. Get in touch to find out more about the different lodges and the option of hopping from our three favorite lodges along our Dreaming of Shangri-La route.