ShangrilaYunnan Province. The second town with this name is in Sichuan, and known as the gateway to Yading National Park.
While the crass name change in 2001 was a sign of the desire for increasing mass tourism a la Lijiang, the town has got nowhere near Lijiang's crowds, and it's still possible to experience the area's Tibetan heritage and see gorgeous countryside in near isolation.
Zhongdian was renamed Shangrila for marketing reasons. Signs in bus stations still use Zhongdian. There is also a third name in Tibetan, Gyelthang. The original Shangrila, from James Hilton's novel The Lost Horizon, was a (fictional) hidden paradise whose inhabitants lived for centuries. Hilton (who never went to China) located his Shangri-La in the Kunlun mountains which form the border between Tibet and Xinjiang near the southern branch of the old Silk Road. The Hunza Valley in Pakistan claims to be "the original Shangrila".
Elements of Hilton's story were apparently inspired by National Geographic articles about various places in eastern Tibet, written by an American who lived in Lijiang, hence China's rationale for claiming the name. Local Khampa Tibetans claim that the name Shangri-la was most likely derived from their word for paradise "Shambala," by Hilton through exposure to Rock's writings on the region.
- Lijiang to Shangrila - these days a fast 4 hours. There are road works so expect possible delays until the new express way opens.
- Dali to Shangrila is a 6-hour drive - both night and day buses do this run.
- Kunming to Shangrila is a 12-hour drive - also serviced by both night and day buses.
- Panzhihua to Shangrila takes 12 hours, passing through Lijiang. There seems to be one bus per day, leaving at 17:00. Cost is around ¥140.
- Deqin to Shangrila is a windy 4-hour drive (April 2017) it used to be much longer but the road condition is great now. The town of Benzilan, which lies about midway is worth stopping off at in its own right, and breaks the journey up nicely.
Shangrila is the important stop for the journey from Yunnan to Tibet (G214), with regular buses to Lhasa and Chamdo. see also Overland to Tibet.
- Lhasa - there are several buses to Lhasa from the bus station, you should ask at the bus station as it is not a daily schedule. You could choose the seat bus or the sleeper bus. The cost for the bus is around ¥550 and takes about 4 days for the trip. Although it is convenient for travellers, it misses much of the great views along the route.
- Chamdo - there is also a bus to Chamdo, an important city in East Tibet. Unfortunately, this bus is even less frequent than the Lhasa bus so it is important to check at the bus station for the itinerary.
Contrary to what the Lonely Planet guidebook says, it is relatively simple to get to Chengdu from Shangrila. Firstly, a sleeper bus to Pan Zhi Hua（攀枝花） at 17:10, with dinner break, arriving at 05:00. A 25-minute taxi journey (¥70-80 for 1 to 4 people; which bus driver almost push you) to the train station to catch a midday train to Chengdu (there is a bus 64 stop near station but don't know if it allows to go to train station and at what time it starts). No 08:00 train, next 12:00. This arrives at 23:15 and costs ¥82 for a hard seat. All in all, 31 hours from Shangrila to Chengdu at a cost of ¥315.
At Pan Zhi Hua, there are 2 internet shops, one opposite the police station (¥3/hr, no Wi-Fi), and one near the market with a metal platform (named something like 'lo san', 1st floor, ¥3/hr, no Wi-Fi).
|08:20, 09:20, 10:30, 12:00, 14:30
|4 hours ; new road
|24 April 2017
|23 May 2011
|Pan Zhi Hua
|26 August 2011
|18 April 2015
The main area of town runs along the north-south running Changzheng Road. The old town is at the south end of Changzheng Road, and the bus station is at the north end of town.
By busThe bus costs ¥1.
- Number 1- From the old city to the Bus station and Continues north.
- Number 2-
- Number 3- Songzanlin Monastery.
By motorcycleTurtle Mountain Gear & Outfitters offer motorcycle rentals (dirt bikes of 200 cc) as well as 110 cc minibike adventures .
Another motorbike tours and rental service is available at Kersang´s Relay Station.
By bicycleRenting a bike is a great way to see Shangri-La, the old town and the surrounding attractions. A decent mountain bike will cost ¥20-30 per day to rent. One warning to cyclists, some of the rental stores in the old town can be dangerous to rent from, as they refuse to provide tire repair kits and spare tires. If you get a flat tire they also will not pick you up, saying it is not their problem, then when you return they charge you to repair the flat. When asked to call for pickup they wanted to charge ¥200. Enjoy cycling but beware of the first rental store at the corner of Dawa Road, called 枫星户外 (FengXing Outdoor). The rentals from Yak Bar next door are a good choice though, and the boss there is quite friendly (just across from the Old Town parking lot and main entrance).
Old TownThe old town is rapidly being turned into a mini-Lijiang, complete with endless shophouses selling tourist trinkets (including fake tiger skins and counterfeit North Face jackets), minority costumed dancers and too-clean streets. However, there are still plenty of small charming streets to explore. The temple at the top of the hill gives a free taste of what can be seen in Songzanlin Monastery. The nightly dancing in the square beginning at 19:00 is popular for locals of all ages, and anyone is welcome to join in. The whole thing lasts until 22:00 and each song has its own set of moves choreographed by Raihan Zhang. The old town was entirely destroyed by a giant fire in January 2014. It has been rebuilt and hosts plenty of shophouses for tourists. The temple at the top of the hill with a giant praying wheel gives a first taste of what can be seen in Songzanlin Monastery.
Songzanlin MonasteryImpressive structure becoming less of a monastic institution, more of a tourist destination. The temple was restored by an architect named Xu Wei Han in 2005 to reflect its past glories. Minor restoration are still done (August 2017) which could limit access to some parts of the monastery.
- The third floor of the Tsongkapa Temple has a small room with a resident Lama giving blessings to worshippers.
- Away from the large Tsongkapa and Sakyamuni Temples are two smaller ones which are worth visiting. If you are facing the main temples, they are just to your left down the hill towards the large white chorten.
- The one closet to the chorten is a Bon temple, the religion which predates Buddhism's acceptance in Tibet during the 9th century AD. Bon emphasizes the protective forces of nature, especially of mountains, and includes Shamanism and elements of black magic.
- The second has some of the best artwork in the Monastery. From the second floor, you can access the roof for a commanding view of the area. There is a Bon temple on this floor as well with some fairly dark demonic images. In the courtyard lies a very old Tibeten Mastiff who has lived there since he was born in 1994!
- The chorten is worth a walk to and is arguably one of the more important places for local people to worship on the Monastery grounds. It was built in 1981 in honor of the 10th Panchen Lama's visit to Shangri-la for the opening of the newly restored monastery which had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. For local Tibetans the 10th Panchen Lama is considered one of the most important religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. You can see his portrait throughout the Monastery. Take a walk around it clockwise, spin its prayer wheels, and have a fabulous view of Shika Snow Mountain from its west side.
- On the way down the long stairs leading to the main entrance/ exit of the Monastery are several smaller temples. They are quite interesting and few tourists visit them, especially the one to the right as you descend the stairs towards the entrance. Look for its beautiful rose garden.
- Bus 3 goes direct to the Monastery, filled with pilgrims. For foreign passengers the bus driver will stop at the ticket office and gesture wildly for you to buy a ticket and may not let you continue onwards unless you do. Monks claim the ticket revenue goes to tourist company and not the Monastery.
Pudacuo (or Putacuo) National ParkIt's advised to take at least half if not full day to visit the park.
Old townWander the old town at the south end of town.
HorsesTibetan horses are available for hire outside of town. Taxi drivers should know how to get there.
Biking around Napa LakeRent a mountain bike and ride out into the grasslands west of the Old Town near Napa Lake. There are checkpoints on the road that stop bikers and ask them to buy a ¥60 Napa Lake Ticket. It is possible to avoid this depending upon where you ride, however villagers can get aggressive if they stop you and you refuse to pay. Do not attempt to ride the full 30 km. around the lake because the road on the far side near Napa Village is heavily under construction.
Nixi Tibetan VillageArchaeological evidence shows that the Tibetan tradition of crafting pottery in Nixi Village dates back at least 2,000 years. Visit the master potters and learn to make the pottery; have lunch in a traditional Tibetan home; take a walk or hike around this scenic village.
Private homesVisit the homes of local people. Many of the locals open up their homes to tourists. They ask for a small fee to compensate for the food. You can hang out with the family, and the younger adults will lead you to ride horses in the open field. Mind you the Tibetan horses are trained, but they can be very unfriendly towards strangers.
SkiingA new ski resort has opened. T-bars and chair lifts available.
CountrysideHire a vehicle for a few hours to just explore the countryside, or rent bikes and go see the surrounding villages.
Shika MountainClimb the mountain or take cable car (¥220, 45-minute ride to the top).
phone: +86 18687645054Thin Air Adventures provides horseback riding and guided mountain biking tours in the area's surrounding Shangri-la (Zhongdian). No office was to be found in Aug 2017 in the old town. Best is to SMS or contact through Web site.
Golden Dragon Street Gallery
Tianshenqiao Hot springsNatural outdoor amphitheatre. Public bath mostly Chinese, women may feel uncomfortable.
Xiagei Hot Springs
phone: +86 18708871463TMG has camping and outdoor gear rental, motorbike rental, and jeep hires. They take people on hiking and backpacking trips in the surrounding area or can point you in the right direction to go on your own. They don't have an agency in the old town anymore. The best way to contact them is to send a SMS to the phone number on their web site (WhatsApp mentioned there but not used since Jan. 2017. English speaking is ok for SMS (limited when guiding)
phone: +86 136 589 133 23address: Old TownA non-profit social enterprise handicraft project selling high-quality, authentic Tibetan handicrafts from over 500 artisans, both local in DiQing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and from the Tibet Autonomous Region. All profits are reinvested into the sustainability of the enterprise and the Tibetan artisan community in the form of technical and business training, business loans, and product design and development consultation.
Arro Khampa !phone: +86 133 8887 3878address: Pijiang po, Old TownTibetan cuisine. Run by a Franco-Chinese couple, Damien and Ting, Arro Khampa is a local restaurant housed in an authentic two-storey Tibetan house in the middle of the Old Town. The restaurant offers a wide range of classic Tibetan dishes and nice French wines. Its Tibetan-French raclette is unique in Yunnan.
Bhaskar's Kitchenphone: +86 15184990110address: Dawa Road, across from old town entrance and car park, Old TownHimalayan cuisine. Rated the top eatery in Shangri-la, Bhaskar's Kitchen has a reputation throughout Yunnan for the quality of its food, due largely to its chef: Nepalise chef Bhaskar, who prepared fresh a variety of Nepalise, Indian and Tibetan dishes. Authentic cuisine, cosy atmosphere and friendly staff make it place for travellers, foreigners living in town, monks, musicians and locals. Best dishes are the curries. The Indian chai tea is also sought after.
Compass CafeServes excellent authentic Western food (homemade spaghetti sauce!) and delicious cakes. Equipped with an Espresso machine. Cozy atmosphere, it has several heaters and is great for family. Free wireless available. Recently opened a bakery "In & Out" next door selling breads, muffins and other savouries.
Karma CafeGood food and hospitable staff. Owner Afang speaks perfect English. Not located in busy old town but off the beaten path. Tibetan house and meals, though western meals are also served. Rooms available, though only two rooms.
phone: +86-13378876480, +86 887 8228900address: Room 409, Building 8B, Huajun Square, Changzheng Road, Shangri-La, Diqing, Yunnan, ChinaEstablished by Charles Tang. He loves hiking very much. You can take bus No. 1 or No. 3 to "Huajun Square". "Huajun Square" is just across from "Sto Express". If you raise your head, you can just see four Chinese words "华骏广场". Then follow the arrow on the map and find "Building 8B". After reaching the 4th floor, you will turn right in the hallway and get to "Hiker's Coffee" immediately. Western food, coffee, drink, Shanghai food, Shanghai pan-fried steamed bun (生煎馒头) and pork dumping (小笼包子) are very good (￥20 for big ones).
Hongxin Restaurantaddress: Heping RoadDecent restaurant, serves some Tibetan dishes (baba, pipa meat).
Korean RestaurantTasty Korean fare including seafood pancakes, sushi, zucchini rolls, table-top BBQ, bibimbap. They rent bikes from the front of restaurant (¥20-30), and the boss even has a private stash of higher quality mountain bikes in storage for a slightly higher rental price. He will give you his cell number and come out to help you if you have any trouble with the bikes.
The Olive (previously Noah Cafe and Inn)Best western food in town. Also Middle Eastern food. Free Wireless available. Their guest house is just across the street.100m west of the old town square.
Puppet Restaurantphone: +86 887 8225485, +86 13988782100address: Old Town StreetGreat Tibetan food in a warm and friendly atmosphere, although there is only one page of the Tibetan food in their menu. They also serve Indian and Korean cuisine. Full of locals rather than tourists. If you have a sweet tooth, 奶渣炒面团 is worthwhile trying.
Qionglai Restaurantaddress: Wujin RoadGreat Sichuan dishes.
Sean's Cafe No 2address: North Gate Street, Old TownAuthentic Tibetan food, great for breakfast. The Tibetan porridge and yak cheese dumplings are recommended. Daisy, daughter of the Tiger Leaping Gorge's Sean, speaks great English and can give good local travel advice.
The Shangri-La Yak Cheese Shopphone: +86 18088478725address: No. 3 Chi Lang Shuo, Old TownA specialty cheese shop that produces locally sourced yak cheese with Western methods. Great selection of local wines to pair with the cheese, as well as a wide selection of cheese-inspired local and Western dishes.
Soyala Tibetan Diner & Baraddress: Cangfang St 1Burgers, patties and dumplings are made with free range 100% organic Yak meat and burger buns are prepared daily. The restaurant staff are former residents from the Children Charity Tendol Gyalzur in both Shangrila/Gyalthang and Duilong/Lhasa. The owner is a Swiss-born and educated ethnic Tibetan married to a local Tibetan. Good pizza, great Lentil soup, and tasty Shangrila brand beer (go unfiltered).
N's kitchenaddress: old town, 5 meters to main squreBread served by French baker, Good quality western food, nice breakfast menu, cozy place with sunshine design. Best yak burger in town.
phone: +86 887 822 7742address: Old TownA locally-run non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Yunnan heritage, the YMHC features a shop selling local traditional handicrafts from the Tibetan, Yi, and Naxi peoples and a Small Library with books in Chinese, Tibetan, and English. Volunteers from across China and abroad contribute to a diverse and lively environment, teaching free English and Chinese classes to local Tibetans, hosts community events, and supporting local environmental initiatives.
phone: +86 887 823-0447address: Old Town, Cang Fang Street, #5 Chi Lang GangThe owners of Black Pottery Coffee, Russ & Kesang, know the region well, so you can get up to date travel information and arrange local excursions with them. They specialize in day trips to Kesang's village, and trekking at Meili Snow Mountain 梅里雪山 (Kawa Karpo). Kesang, Russ, and their daughter Fei Fei, will make you feel welcome in Shangri-la, and help you plan your adventures there. The Cafe offers coffee and cake, wine by the glass, creamy hot chocolate, and ginger tea, as well as Tibetan, Chinese and Western food specialties. Try their Tibetan Hot Chocolate 藏热巧克力 (with rum; espresso optional). Free Wireless Internet.
Traveller's ClubRecently renovated. Friendly boss Wandou. Located just north of the old town.
Tashiis Lodge/GuesthouseWhere European cuisine malanges with a quiet gentle breeze of Tibetan infuence. It is pretty good, bur who's goes the food though??
Helen's Pizza Ristorantephone: +86 887-8224456address: Dawa Road Zhong DianWhen you feel like a respite from local food the friendly and helpful English speaking Italian owner serves authentic pizzas and pastas.The homemade tagliatelle is particularly good. And best pizza in Yunnan. Serves also Chinese and Korean food and excellent curries and Indian tee. The stove at the window table is very comforting on a cold night and the owner is very willing to give advice and help with onward travel etc.
Marco Poloaddress: Opposite the Raven PubExcellent Western Food at reasonable prices. Good pizza. Opened in July 2010 and run by Dawan who set up N's Kitchen and restaurant and established the western menu there.
phone: +8613116908979address: Qingkou Industrial DistrictShangri-La Beer is the only craft brewery of its kind in China. Their local Tibetan beers are brewed using only 3 all-natural ingredients (Tibetan mountain spring water, Tibetan barley, and premium hops) and come in six varieties, from a dry lager to the newly released Fat Douma, a sweeter, double bock wheat beer. It was founded in 2015 by Swiss businessman Sonny, of Tibetan heritage. His parents run the local orphanage. The brewery itself is situated outside of town, but transportation is easy to find or coordinate with a hotel or guesthouse. The trip is well worth it, both for the delicious high-quality beer and the company's story, both of which are included in a brewery tour.
BudgetSeveral budget guesthouses can be found in the old part of town, prices for a double should be in the region of ¥50 per night (low season). Heating is not provided even in the winter months, but additional blankets are happily provided and electric blankets are common.
phone: +86 8878228178address: 138 Dawa RoadThis really cozy Inn has a range of three people dorms(¥30/person), double rooms (¥100), luxury double rooms (¥150) and a triple bedroom ensuite (¥120). 24-hour hot water and free Internet and wi-fi. Laundry service is available for ¥15/kg. Kevin and his wife are really friendly and speak fluent English.
phone: +86887-8223118, +8613388879497address: No. 1 Yamenlang, Jinlong StreetFamily run boutique guest house, central location, nice decoration with wood carvings. Mekong Responsible Tourism Award.
Bright HotelAmenities include western style toilets, 24-hour hot water, and free wireless internet and computer to use at reception for free. Laundry ¥2 per piece. Owner can help with booking tours. Clean, comfortable rooms.
Harmony Guesthousephone: +86 13988747739address: Bendi Wan Village, Yongsheng, Shangri-La CountyA hostel somewhere along a hike up the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It has incredible views.
Halfway Guesthousephone: +86 887 8228671, +86 887 6878210address: 98 Heping RoadGreat youth hostel with clean and comfortable dorms and rooms with electric blankets. Good hot showers and decent toilets. The best part is the bar/restaurant/common room with a wood fired-stove. The staff are friendly, even if a little eccentric! Good travel advice and information (January 2008).
Shangri-la Traveller Club (HI Affillited)phone: +86 887 8228671, +86 887 6878210address: 98 Heping RoadGreat youth hostel with clean and comfortable dorms and rooms with electric blankets. Good hot showers and decent toilets. The best part is the bar/restaurant/common room with a wood fired-stove. The staff are friendly, even if a little eccentric! Good travel advice and information (January 2008).
N's Kitchen&Lodgephone: +86 887-6886500address: No.33, Yiruomulang, Beimen St,Old TownNice and clean, budget, all dorm room with private bathroom, western toilet, excellent courtyard sunshine terrace, a good place to meet travellers, helpful travel advice, free Wi-Fi, good western food, especially their huge yak burger, perhaps the best in town.
Tavern Hostelphone: +86 887 8881147, +86 13308879070 (English & Chinese), +86 15012223514 (Korean)address: 47 Cuo Lang Street, Shangri-la Old TownLovely old house with a roof top terrace. Owned by Korean-Naxi couple. Dorms ¥30, doubles without bathroom ¥70, with ¥120. Great big beds with comfy mattresses. Free internet and Wi-Fi. They speak English and Korean and can give you travel and trekking info.
The Old Farmhousephone: +86 15184990012address: Hala Village, Nixi, Shangri-laExperience Tibetan village life with Western comforts. All the rooms have wall-to-wall carpets with floor heating, toilet and shower (24 h hot water). Common area includes kitchen, dining area, fireplace with couches, wide-screen TV, pool table and outside deck.
phone: +86 887 8881144address: Cangfang StreetQuiet, clean and spacious room. Air conditioning (cold/hot), bathroom with hot shower and WC, TV, free Internet access (cable or Wi-Fi) in room. Washing machine and dryer are available for ¥25 a load. Also a good western food restaurant. Staff speaks English.
Gyalthang Dzong Hotelphone: +86 887 8223646Opened in 1996, the hotel is the home base for travelers heading to/from the Kham region of Tibet and beyond. Beautifully situated on an alpine meadow in the lap of Rutapo Hill, it was designed in the traditional Tibetan dzong architectural style. The renovation preserved the traditional character of the hotel and enhanced many of the Tibetan aesthetic elements, while making it more comfortable and luxurious for guests.
Songstam HotelExcellent service and beautiful rooms.
The Compass LodgeHas 4 units of town house that are suitable for families, fully heated (double story per unit), as well as 4 new budget rooms for backpackers at a lower price.
Banyan Tree RinghaA wonderful resort in a stunning location. Each private 2-storey villa is gorgeously appointed and fully heated, with 24 hours hot water supply and wireless access. The spa is excellent, and with the most gracious and attentive of staff, the service is just downright amazing all round, all of the time.
phone: +86 18288831293This is the first glamping with traditional yurts/gers in the Tibetan County of Shangrila or Gyalthang. Located at 15 minutes from Shangrila Old Town and 10 min. from the airport. Come to enjoy the nature in the Tibetan "Dara Village". They are next to their partner "Dara Eco-lodge", so you can also use all their facilities (hot shower, meals, etc). They have trekking programs, hiking, horse riding, biking, traditional Tibetan dancing, ethnic and rural tourism activities. They say they promote responsible tourism and send 30% of their income to help the local community and also the Shangrila Association of Cultural Preservation and Thangka Center.
Be aware of the risk of altitude sickness. Zhongdian is at 3,200 m vs 2,000 for Dali or Kunming. Plan your trip to allow time to acclimatise.
There is a cheap laundry service in dawa lu near old district. Costs ~¥2-3/piece.
PSB - visa extensionsCan extend your visa
- Beware of local scam: men selling nuts and sweets by weight for an outrageous price.
- Another tourist trap is the Tibetan medical man in a Tibetan herbal museum, which most of the guided tours will arrange to visit without informing you. The medical man in a private room, will look at your palm, and telling you that you suffer from certain health problems, and they can help you to cure it by their herbal prescription. If you are from overseas, they will suggested a 3 months prescription, costing hundreds to thousands of Reminbi. You may be facing undue pressure by their sometime health threatening talk or persuasion. If you are from the same religion, it will be added psychological pressure. An obvious tourist trap using medicine and religion.
- Tangka painting - private tour will take you to a tangka exhibition, a form of Tibetan traditional painting. Tangka painting is linked to religion, not purely traditional painting. A guided tour will bring you to the exhibition, a lecture related to religion will take place in a room, after the talk, the speaker will give you a card with religion content, and pursue to buy tangka painting under undue pressure to buy linking with religion. It is ¥100 per tangka.
- Herbal medicine, they will say it is better as it is grow in the higher attitude than Schechuan or other part of China. Unless you know the price and quality of the herbal medicine, it is better to avoid it as it is very expensive.
- Oxygen - The tour guide will tell you that oxygen is a must in snow mountain tour, they will tell you the oxygen you buy at Lijiang or other place is of lesser quality, sometime they will tell you it led to poisoning. The oxygen you buy is of better quality, it is pure oxygen. Advise to take one tank before going to the snow mountain, and buy another tank to be used while at the mountain. Each bottle or tank is cost ¥50-55, ¥100 for 2 bottles. The tour guide that warned you of highland sickness will earn a commission on that as a little card issued by the shop will be given to tour guide to exchange with a bottle of mineral water. A little card determined how many oxygen bottles been sold. A bottle of oxygen will normally cost ¥15-20 per bottle. Oxygen requirement depended on the individual health condition, normally you do not need it, if you are fearful of the highland sickness, just buy one bottle. There will be unused oxygen bottle available as many may not need that. It was surprise when we went to highland in Switzerland, there is no commercial persuasion of that type in the country.
- Don't panic, just avoid large group organised travel, or hiring a guide through large agencies. Check first if guides run on a kickback basis (the norm and officially sanctioned throughout Yunnan.)
- Chengdu, see get in/around