Traversing the Ancient Tea Horse Road with Jeff Fuchs

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10 Days
Max People: 10
About the Ancient Tea Horse Road

The world drinks over 2 billion cups of tea every day. But beyond our obsession and the fine china, how much do you know about the beverage’s 3,000 years of history?

Follow the trail back to its roots on this journey, led by tea expert Jeff Fuchs, along tea’s most ancient trade roads. Hike through the forests of the first tea trees and step into the homes of descendants of the first tea cultivators on this thirst-quenching National Geographic ‘Tour of a Lifetime’.

Traversing the Ancient Tea Horse Road with Jeff Fuchs

Jeff Fuchs is an explorer, author, and tea expert who was recently voted one of Canada’s ‘Greatest Explorers’ by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. Fuchs was the first documented westerner to have travelled the legendary Tea Horse Road, the nomadic Route of Salt ‘Tsa-Lam’, and the ‘Hor-Lam’, the Route of Pashmina through Ladakh. He has led or been a part of over 30 expeditions in the Himalayas, chronicling both the fading oral narratives and the declining ‘Himalayan Water Towers’, the glaciers.

Fuchs is the author of The Ancient Tea Horse Road, a chronicle of his journey along the Himalayan trade route and he’s the inspiration for, and host of, the recent award-winning documentary ‘The Tea Explorer’.

What we love
  • Sitting down to a pot of tea with the descendants of the first tea cultivators
  • Hiking through Aini minority areas and into the Ancient Tea Tree Forests
  • Following the narrow, winding lanes of Shangri-La Old Town and joining the locals for a cup of Tibetan butter tea
Traversing the Ancient Tea Horse Road with Jeff Fuchs

Learn more about this ancient trade route during our Conversation with Lisa See, author of “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane”.


Day 1Xishuangbanna

Upon arriving in Jinghong, your WildChina Xishuangbanna guide will meet you at the arrival hall of the airport with your private vehicle on standby • Check into your hotel and rest up for a refreshing welcome dinner • After dinner, spend the remainder of the evening at your leisure.


Day 2Xishuangbanna

In the morning, start your day off with a relaxing breakfast while Jeff gives you an introduction to the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road • Pass by waving coconut palms and banana trees as you drive along the mighty Mekong River to the stilted bamboo houses and Buddhist pagodas of Ganlanba • Trek to a Dai minority village and local monastery hidden in the hills • Enjoy a sizzling barbecue dinner at a local restaurant in the countryside.


Day 3Xishuangbanna

Spend your second morning at bustling Menghai Market, where you’ll find everything from high-quality Pu’erh tea to lively eels • Meet the descendants of the first tea cultivators and challenge your taste buds during a ‘pickled tea’ tasting • Drive past sugarcane fields and verdant tea plantations to reach the ancient tea tree forest of Nannuo Mountain • Take a load off and enjoy a warming cup of tea made with leaves from the age-old trees • Enjoy a local fresh dinner before driving back to the hotel for a rest.

Day 4Xishuangbanna to Shaxi via Dali

In the morning, your WildChina team will transfer you to the airport for your flight to Dali • Upon arriving in Dali, head to the city’s picturesque old town – home to colorful Bai minority communities – for a light lunch before continuing to Shaxi • Arrive at Shaxi Old Town, a lively border town which connected Tibet and Eastern China during the era of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road • Enjoy a traditional Bai dinner at a local restaurant before retiring for the evening.

Day 5Shaxi

Spend the day following the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road through Shaxi’s sloping valleys, brushing past golden barley and canola fields • After your full day of exploration, enjoy a filling Bai royal feast before retiring for the evening.

Day 6Shaxi to Lijiang

Admire Shibaoshan Grottoes’ ancient stone-carved Buddhist figurines and learn about the dissemination of Mahayana Buddhism from Tibet to Yunnan province along the Tea and Horse Road • Travel to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Lijiang • Check in at the Amandayan and enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 7Lijiang to Shangri-La

Explore the small paths and canals that weave through Lijiang Old Town and come across Naxi people, another cultural minority integral to the trade route • Pass by the mythical First Bend of the Yangtze River as you continue along the trade route to fabled Shangri-La • Upon arrival, check in and relax before a Tibetan welcome dinner.

Day 8Shangri-La

Wander through the gilded pillars and incense-filled rooms of Songzanlin, Yunnan’s largest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery • Follow the narrow, winding lanes of Shangri-La Old Town and join the locals for a cup of Tibetan butter tea • Spend the rest of the day at your leisure, exploring at your own pace.

Day 9Shangri-La

Reach the fringes of Tibet as you continue along the Tea and Horse Caravan Road to ephemeral Napahai Lake, which recedes into green grassland during dry season, only to be revived by fresh snowmelt in the summer • Pay a visit to a nearby artisan village and watch local craftsmen knead, fashion, and fire their famous black clay products • Partake in a festive Tibetan-style farewell dinner (and maybe swap your cup of tea for a glass of local whiskey).

Day 10Depart Shangri-La

In the morning, our WildChina team will transfer you to the airport for your departure flight home, bringing your journey to an end.


Yourantai, Jinghong
Local Boutique Guest House

Gazing out over the Mekong, experience a local kind of tropical splendor in the heart of Xishuangbanna at this authentic guest house inspired by traditional Dai architecture.

Shaxi Aoding Courtyard
Local Boutique

Boasting only 17 spacious and well-equipped guest rooms, Shaxi Aoding Courtyard offers a quiet retreat for travelers looking to immerse in local culture.

Banyan Tree Lijiang
Luxury Boutique

Blending traditional Naxi ethnic minority architecture with modern elegance and luxurious amenities, Banyan Tree Lijiang is a refuge of calm amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.

Songtsam Shangri-La
Luxury Boutique

Located right next to the Songzanlin Monastery and housed in a traditional Tibetan dwelling, Songtsam Shangri-La has made world travelers at home for ten years.



This journey starts in Jinhong, China, in the south of Yunnan Province. The regional airport, Xishuangbanna Gasa Airport (JHG), has daily flights from Kunming and other Chinese cities, as well as flights from some cities in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Flights from Beijing to Jinghong: China Eastern and Sichuan Airlines fly at least once per day to Jinghong (4 hours)

Flights from Shanghai to Jinghong: China Eastern and Kunming Airlines both fly daily to Jinghong (4 hours)

Flights from Xi’an to Jinghong: China Eastern and Lucky Air fly daily to Jinghong (2 hours, 40 minutes).


This journey ends in Shangri-La, in northern Yunnan. The airport, Diqing Shangri-La Airport (DIG), only serves short domestic routes.

If you’d like to fly out from Shangri-la, we recommend flying to a larger airport nearby, such as Chengdu (CTE) or Kunming (KMG), and transferring onwards. Diqing Airport has daily flights to both Chengdu and Kunming.

Flights to the US, Europe, Australia, and other international destinations are best served by airports such as Beijing (PEK or PKX), Shanghai (PVG), Hong Kong (HKG), or Chengdu (CTU).

What’s Included

  • Services of WildChina expert Jeff Fuchs
  • All accommodations based on double-occupancy including breakfasts, as indicated in the itinerary
  • All meals, as indicated in the itinerary, and drinking water
  • All admission fees and activity expenses, as indicated in the itinerar
  • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
  • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide

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

Domestic Air Travel


The land costs above do not include domestic flights and trains.

Economy Domestic Air from Xishuangbanna to Dali: From USD $260 per person (economy).

What to expect

Trip Difficulty: Moderate Adventure

Your journey is considered a moderate adventure. Moderate adventure includes full days outside the hotel, with drives up to 3 or 3 ½ hours on mainly well-maintained, paved roads. We may spend up to 4-5 hours walking and hiking.

Your Guides & Expert

Your guide will arrange the logistics of your trip, including meals, hotel reservations, sites, and activities, as well as providing you with information about the local region. You will also be traveling with a WildChina expert, who will serve as an in-depth source of knowledge covering your trip as a whole. Your WildChina guide is specific to each local region, but your WildChina expert will accompany you throughout your journey, escorting you to all locations. Your WildChina guides will be confirmed during booking.

Meals and Water

Meals are included, as listed in your itinerary. We strive to arrange meals that highlight authentic local cuisine in clean, local establishments.

It is safe to drink bottled mineral water, but tap water, even in 5-star hotels, is not safe for drinking. We will provide bottled water, tea, and snacks throughout your journey.

We request guests with severe allergies to consult their physicians prior to traveling and to bring all necessary medicines with them. Inform us ahead of time of specific allergies, such as peanuts or shellfish, or sensitivities to MSG, so that we can do our best to ensure these items are not used in your meals.

Next Steps

How do I secure my spot on this tour?

We will continue to work with you until your trip is perfect.

For international bookings: Once you are ready to book, a USD$500 planning fee, per booking, is required to begin reserving your arrangements. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.

For bookings made in China: Once you are ready to book, a RMB1,000 deposit, per person, is required. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.

What is the payment schedule?

1. Deposit:
A deposit is required to secure your reservation. Once your deposit has been received, we will send your confirmation along with a detailed itinerary and all the information you’ll need to prepare for your journey.

2. Full payment:
Full trip payment should be made 20 days prior to departure. If you’re booking within 20 days of your departure, you may be asked to pay make the full payment straight away.

Payments can be made via credit card, bank transfer, WeChat or Alipay

Is this trip guaranteed to run?

This trip will be scheduled to run once we receive bookings from six (6) passengers. Should the journey be cancelled due to lack of sign-ups or government restrictions, WildChina will fully refund any deposits or fees paid.

Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic

In order to travel around China at the moment (Summer, 2020) you will need to provide your passport, residency permit and, occasionally, proof of employment in China. Your travel designer will explain the exact requirements for your specific trip.

Different sites and regions of China currently have different health and safety requirements. We will let you know in advance what the restrictions are in your destination. We encourage all of our guests to bring their own face mask and wear it whenever possible. We will also have face masks and hand sanitizers available. A province or city-specific green health code is currently required for domestic travel. Your travel designer will talk you through the details of this process. Please note that certain areas also require clear COVID-19 test results.

What is your cancellation policy during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We’ve updated our booking conditions due to the current situation. See our full cancellation policy for more information.

For more information, see terms and conditions for our small group tours.

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