The Red Dragon and Lhasa

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18 Days
Spring, Summer, Fall

Set off through the red dragon land to Lhasa, the place of the gods. Along the way, experience China’s rich diversity and illustrious history on a journey that will take you from Beijing and Xi’an to Yunnan and the roof of the world.

About this Journey

Starting in the “red dragon’s” capital Beijing, you’ll travel to former capital Xi’an, through the cobblestone streets of Yunnan, and end up in the fabled lands of Shangri-La and Lhasa. As you traverse the country, you’ll understand why the various cultures of these areas have fascinated travelers for centuries. Beijing and Xi’an are highlights of China’s imperial might while Dali and Lijiang are laidback old towns. Shangri-La and Lhasa are legends in and of themselves, centers of Tibetan life and spirituality.

What we love
  • Traversing the length and breadth of China, from north to south and east to west before ascending to the roof of the world
  • Experiencing the fabled cities of Shangri-La and Lhasa, where Tibetan life and spirituality has thrived for centuries
  • Learning about the different threads of the rich tapestry that is the red dragon land and Tibet
Where you're going

Day 1 - 4Beijing

Begin your Beijing adventure in style as WildChina arranges private access to the concept store and gallery of Ma Ke’s fashion house, Wuyong. • Explore the imposing Forbidden City, where emperors ruled for 500 years • Hike up jingshan and take in a commanding view over the Forbidden City • Weave your way through Beijing’s ancient, interwoven hutong alleys • Uncover a treasure trove of Qing Dynasty curios in the Temple Hotel • Peking duck dinner • Enjoy a champagne picnic on the majestic Great Wall, built to protect China’s heartland from invaders

Day 5 - 6Xi'an

Learn the calming art of taichi in a private lesson on Xi’an’s ancient city wall • Visit the grand Taoist Temple of the Eight Immortals • View the proudly unflinching Terracotta Warriors • Learn about Xi’an’s 1,300 year old Muslim community by visiting the Great Mosque • Walk on a glass walkway above countless terracotta figurines and burial objects in the Hanyang Tombs


Day 7 - 9Dali

Learn the process of making China’s most famous drink in a tea plantation at the foot of the soaring Cang Mountain • Travel back in time by walking around Dali’s picturesque old town, a mixture of pagodas, red lanterns and mountains • Join a traditional “Three Course Tea” ceremony with members of the Bai minority • Immerse yourself in the traditional Bai architecture of Xizhou, characterized by ornate gateways and honeycomb patterns • Learn the secrets of making rushan, a local cheese • Hike up Taoist Weibao (“Magnificent Treasure”) Mountain, where you will learn to meditate with a Taoist master • Retrace the steps of traders past along the Ancient Tea and Horse Road to a Chinese Muslim village

Day 10 - 12Lijiang

Continue along the Ancient Tea and Horse Road to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang, taking a break in the historical market town of Shaxi • Explore the small paths and canals that weave through Lijiang’s Old Town

Day 13Shangri-La

Wander through the gilded pillars and incense-filled rooms of Songzanlin Monastery • Follow the narrow, winding lanes of Shangri-La Old Town pasty white stupas and lively outdoor markets • Continue along the Tea and Horse Caravan Road to ephemeral Napa Lake • Visit an artisan village where local craftsmen knead, fashion, and fire products of black clay • Partake in a festive Tibetan-style farewell dinner

Day 14 Lhasa

Acclimatize to Lhasa’s elevation and spend the day at your leisure • Recommended: follow along the Barkhor pilgrimage route to see prayer wheels being spun, pilgrims prostrating, and hear sutras being chanted

Day 15

Visit the gilded Jokhang Temple, which attracts a large number of pilgrims due to it being considered the most sacred temple in Tibet • Explore Potala Palace, Tibet’s defining religious landmark, a grand masterpiece of white, crimson and gold famed for being the former residence of the Dalai Lama

Day 16

Be greeted by the phrase “om mani padme hum” as you visit Pabongka Monastery • Hike downhill to Chupsang Nunnery, surrounded by green fields and home to 80 red-robed nuns • Witness monks animatedly debate Buddhist philosophy in the courtyard of Sera Monastery, one of Tibet’s top university monasteries • If interested, learn about thangkaa colorful Tibetan Buddhist form of painting, or visit local NGOs

Day 17 - 18

Enjoy a picnic by the freshwater Yamdrok Tso Lake, a holy lake of clear blue surrounded by softly rolling mountains • Optional: visit Ganden Monastery, another great university monastery tucked away on a mountain ridge • Spend the rest of the day at your leisure in Lhasa • Recommended: browse the bustling, multicolored handicraft stalls of Barkhor, where brightly colored beads hang alongside painstakingly crafted silver trinkets

Recommended Hotels

The Opposite House Beijing

Luxury Boutique

An artsy, modern boutique hotel featuring minimalist designs, The Opposite House offers luxury amenities amid Beijing’s happening Sanlitun area.

Shangri-La Lhasa

5 star

The Shangri-La Lhasa provides a copy of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon in each room and boasts both an oxygen lounge and reflexology pavilion.


Recommended seasons




What’s Included

  • All overland transfers with private chauffeur and in-transport refreshments
  • All admission fees and activity expenses, as noted in the itinerary
  • Meals as noted in the itinerary with complimentary drinking water
  • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
  • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide
  • Private chauffeur service to and from airport at start and end of your trip

What’s Excluded

  • International and domestic flights, domestic trains, plus relevant taxes
  • Chinese tourist visa, which is required for most foreign passport holders
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Meals, apart from those included in the itinerary, and alcohol
  • Expenses of a personal nature
  • Excursions and activities not included in the itinerary
  • Discretionary gratuities for guides and drivers
Why WildChina

We’re on the ground with you

Our team of advisors will design every detail of the trip with you through close consultation, then orchestrate your entire journey while on the ground. We’re in the same time zone as you, so we can fulfill requests and handle issues without a hitch. With over 40 staff in Beijing and an expansive network of operational partners across the country, we have the manpower to ensure your journey is safe, reliable and comfortable from beginning to end.

Your trip, your way

Flexibility is our highest-ranking compliment. We pull off journeys for pioneers with a 6-hour layover to Hollywood’s elite, and everywhere in between. Our team regularly pulls off unprecedented logistical feats; nearly any time frame or budget is within our realm. No matter how you wish to experience China, we are here to bring that dream to life.

We embody passion

WildChina guides are carefully handpicked for their knowledge and charisma, then meticulously trained to maintain our exceptional service standards. They are expert storytellers and passionate natives of the regions where they guide, having the perfect combination of local insights and service know-how to bring you seamless once-in-a- lifetime moments all across China.

The little things, the big picture

Supporting inspired local economies allows you to experience the soul of the destination, while also protecting and cultivating China’s artisanal culture. From watching artisans hand make shoes in Yunnan, to picking organic vegetables for dinner on a local farm in Fujian, our tours are designed to showcase and protect China’s heritage, both natural and human.