WildChina > Podcast > Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan

A little about the destination… 

For our third episode, we travel to Shangri-La and the surrounding regions, in Yunnan province. Home to Tibetan culture, lamaseries, national parks, Snub-Nosed Monkeys, and the great Salween, Yangtze, and Mekong rivers.

Known as Gyalthang in Tibetan, the city of Zhongdian, was officially rechristened ‘Shangri-La‘ after the mythical paradise described in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Located on a broad valley on the Tibetan Plateau at an altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet), surrounded by snow-capped peaks, primeval forests, and lakes, the town was a gateway to the historic Tibetan province of Kham and an important station for trade caravans along the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Trail.  Today, it remains an important center for Yunnan’s Tibetan community. 

A little outside Shangri-La is the village of Tacheng. A day in Tacheng is a day lived simply. The first rays of sunlight come over the horizon wrapped in a wispy fog that hugs the town and lingers over early risers. Huddled at the bottom of its fertile valley, smoke from Tacheng’s chimneys will rise with you as you venture into the hills or wander through the fields. After exploring such a small community, one tucked into an idyllic, remote landscape, you’ll be forgiven for wondering if this might be the Shangri-La most travelers look for down the road. 

  • 00:45 – Where is Shangri-La and what is its history 
  • 04:14 – What is Shangri-La’s travel draw 
  • 08:40 – How to get to Shangri-La and the surrounding areas 
  • 13:06 – The story of the Songtsam hotels  
  • 17:37 – What food to try in Shangri-La 
  • 21:20 – Mei’s top local tips 

You can also listen to The China Travel Podcast Episode 3 on:

Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Episode 3: Shangri-La, Yunnan
Sunrise view of the Meili Snow Mountain by Andres Vargas

How to get there (suggested route)

  • Fly to Lijiang (7,874ft/2,400m) – more flights to Lijiang than to Shangri-La, and lower elevation to start 
  • Drive to Tacheng (9,843ft/3,000m)  4-5hr drive from Lijiang depending on road conditions 
  • Drive to Shangri-La (10,367ft/3,160m) – 2-3hr drive from Tacheng depending on road conditions 
  • Fly out of Shangri-La (airport is called “Diqing”) 

 Where to stay

 What foods to try

  • Yak butter tea 
  • Sampa (barley flour dough) 
  • Momo (dumplings) 
  • Matsutake mushrooms (harvested locally) 
  • Cordyceps (虫草)  
  • Tibetan snow tea (雪茶) 
  • Yak jerky 

Top local hikes

  • White Horse Snow Mountain (白马雪山)  
  • Yubeng village (雨崩村) 
  • Tracing the steps of the Catholic missionaries from Gongshan’s Salween River side (贡山) to Cizhong Catholic Tibetan village () 

Shangri-La journeys