However, if you're coming from the south and felt the old towns of Shangri La, Lijiang and Dali were too commercial, Benzilan is heavily recommended.
By busAll of the buses from Zhongdian to Deqin pass through the town. In fact the midpoint lunch stop is often taken a mere five minutes south of Benzilan. Tickets can be bought at Zhongdian bus station for ¥15. For some reason no tickets to Benzilan are sold in Deqin, though if you stand just outside the station and get on a bus headed to Zhongdian you should be able to get there for ¥30 or so.
The townThe many different routes down to the river provide a pleasant walk among traditional houses, orchards, and cultivated fields. Getting to the bank of the river can be a bit tricky as there is a steep drop-off as you approach the bank, but if you persist you will come across one of the purpose-built staircases. It is no longer necessary to take a boat to get the other side of the river, as there is now a bridge. There is however not much to see on the other side.
East Bamboo Forest TempleA wonderful temple built on the side of the gorge around 15 km northwest along the main road to Deqin. The monastic village that surrounds it is also quite lovely. Dhon-Drupling Gompa was founded in 1667 by Kusho Dondrub and received its name by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1670. It has many beautifully intricate paintings inside and houses several precious statues. Getting there by hitch-hiking or hiring a mian bao che (microvan) presents no problems.
The first bend of the Jinsha RiverThere is a viewing platform along with the customary ticket office but it is not necessary to pay the fee to see the bend.
Huan Ying Guan Lin has, as of November 2018, excellent double en-suite for ¥100 (during holidays, possible cheaper normally). Take the first road right after walking up from bus stop to get there. Big building with small vegetable field right in front of it. No English spoken.