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Dali Lijiang Shangri-La Yunnan Photography Tour - 8 Days

Destination: Dali Lijiang Shangri-La
Duration: Eight Day
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Transportation: Vehicle
Best Travel Time:All the year
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Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La are the three ancient cities on the Yungui plateau. They are the dreamland offering you awesome photography sites to capture the diverse Yunnan.
You could wander in the old towns taking you back to ancient times, do boating in Erhai Lake, find a great loacation to shoot Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge overlooking Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, get on a viewing deck to shoot the holy monastery, walk around peaceful Bita lake and Shudu Lake...Will it fulfill your dream to get the most diverse experience and explore the colorful Yunnan? What¡¯s more, there are colorful ethnic groups like Bai people in Dali, Naxi people in Lijiang, Tibetan people in Shangri-La, showing the unique culture and folk customs.


In this Yunnan color dreamland photography tour, you¡¯ll photograph in three great destinations from Kunming, including the Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La. Please take some time and check the photography guide one by one and you are sure on the way to get the most gorgeous pictures in those places.

Dali Photography Guide

In Dali, there are Four Greatest Scenes are the most attractive and enchanting. If have enough time in exploring in Dali, you should not miss the winds of Xiaguan, flowers of Shangguan, snow of Cangshan Mountain and moon of Erhai Lake. As a photographer, you should have in-depth exploration in the ancient towns, Cangshan mountain and Erhai Lake, if interested, attend the local market and feel the authentic Bai people¡¯s life.

Best Sites for Photography

Ancient Towns & Pagodas

In Dali, there are two famous ancient towns where photographers could shoot typical Bai people¡¯s architecture and daily life. The two ancient towns include Dali Ancient City and Xizhou Ancient Town.

Dali Ancient City has four gate towers, five streets from south to north, eight streets from east to west, small and exquisite courtyards, colorful flowers blooming in every household, shops and bars standing along the old streets, people chatting leisurely in tea houses, Bai ethnic girls in traditional Bai clothes smiling...When wandering leisurely in the old town, photographers should not miss Xiyun Academy, Foreigner Street and get on South Gate Tower to capture the snow scenery of Cangshang Mountain also have a panoramic view of Dali Old Town.

Xizhou Ancient Town with a history of 1000 years, is ¡°the Museum of Bai Architecture¡±. There are many residences from Ming and Qing Dynasties. The typical Bai houses are San Fang Yi Zhao Bi (three houses from a U and one screen wall stand in the front and form a enclose space, with courtyard in the middle), Si He Wu Tianjin (four houses form enclosed space with five wells). It is recommended to visit the Seven Inch Book Mansion, Yang Family Courtyard, Yan Family Courtyard. Photographers could shoot the screen wall, well-decorated doors and windows, gables and more in the old houses.

Besides the ancient towns, photographers should never miss Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple. The main pagoda is called Qianxun Pagoda built during 824-840 AD by the King of Nanzhao State. The other two sibling pagodas stand to the northwest and southwest of Qianxun Pagoda. The best site to shoot the Three Pagodas is ¡°Small Erhai Lake¡±. It is good to capture full-face photo, pagoda, blue sky and white cloud reflection in the water, in this way, ¡°the six pagodas¡± would get into your pictures.

Cangshan Mountain & Erhai Lake

Cangshang Mountain and Erhai Lake are another two famous sites of Dali. Cangshan Mountain consists of 19 peaks and 18 brooks. All the 19 peaks are at altitude of 3500 meters, snow-capped all the year round. The photography road in Cangshang Mountain is the Jade Belt Road at an altitude of 2600m and with a length of 18 km. Photographers could use down shot to capture Dali Ancient Town, Xiaguan Town and Erhai Lake.

Erhai Lake, the mother lake of Bai minority, is located in the east of Dali Ancient City. The scenery of Erhai Lake is gorgeous and pleasing. It is great to capture the picturesque scenery with islets, caves, marshes, forest, shoals and cottage, etc. There are several ways to shoot Erhai lakes, you could choose to go Erhai Lake Park for Cangshang Mountain and Erhai Lake scenery, Wanghai Tower in Chongsheng Temple for distant view, or cruise in Erhai Lake for sunset scenery.

Lijiang Photography Guide

In Lijiang, photographers could have very romantic journey and encounter. Of course, you¡¯ll first wander and shoot leisurely in Lijiang Old Town. You¡¯ll be impressed by the old streets, old Naxi buildings, clear water, enthusiastic Naxi people and thousands of travelers...Actually, Lijiang Old Town is the place to meet others, meet nature and even the true self. Out of Lijiang Old Town, you could explore more natural scenery like snow-capped mountains, thrilling gorges, bend of Yangtze River, beautiful villages with Naxi culture and more.

Best Sites for Photography

Lijiang Old Town

It is also called Dayan Old Town, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The old street is the windpipe of Lijiang Old Town. The water is the blood of this old town and Naxi ethnic minority culture is the soul of Lijiang Old Town while the bars and shops make the old town alive. For photographers, they could shoot the old streets, old bridges and old folk houses and more sites. Also, don¡¯t forget the Naxi ethnic group. In Sifangjie Square, you could shoot the Naxi people attend the fair and dance in a circle, if you like, you could join in them. Appreciate Naxi Dongba Ancient Orchestral Music and stand at a higher place and use telephoto lens to shoot the musical instrument and performers. It is good to get up Lion Hill and Wangu Tower to take panorama view of Lijiang Old Town. In Black Dragon Pool Park, you could capture the beautiful mountains and rivers, with Jade Snow Mountain as the backdrop.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world with a vertical depth of nearly 4000 meters. The famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is located on the southern side of Tiger Leaping Gorge, visible from many places on the northern side of the gorge. On the southern side of the gorge locates the Haba Snow Mountain. Tiger Leaping Gorge stretches about 20 kilometers consisting of three sections: Upper Leaping Gorge, Middle Leaping Gorge and Lower Leaping Gorge. It is good to do photography by hiking. If you want to hike all three gorges and get the best pictures, at least two days are needed. The scenery near Tiger Leaping Stone is very fantastic. It is good to use telephoto lens to capture the amazing views. The scenery of Middle Leaping Gorge are gorgeous and be careful when shooting in this gorge. If you want to stay one night and there is no need to worry about the accommodation for there are some guesthouses along the trail roads.

Shangri-La Photography Guide

Shangri-La, also called Zhongdian, is a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a monastery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Enter into the Eden in Dream, you could see the snow-capped mountains, the vast virgin forest, peaceful lakes, fat pasture, clear streams, year-old ancient town...It is the real scene in the Lost Horizon. To sum up, there are two kinds of subjects for your photography in Shangri-La: One is the snow mountain natural scenery, the other is Tibetan folk customs.

Best Sites for Photography

Pudacuo National Park

It is the best place to shoot the lake scenery with beautiful surroundings like minority villages, lush forests and pastures. Pudacuo National Park has two lakes called Shudu Lake and Bita Lake. Shudu Lake has plank road surrounded the lake where it becomes a good location to shoot the lake view. There is a viewing deck to photograph the whole Bita Lake and it is the best location to shoot the islands in the lake.

Dukezong Ancient Town

With 1300-year-old history, it is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan city among China¡¯s 147 Tibetan counties. It is also site of the largest ancient Tibetan community. As a key stop on the Ancient Tea-horse Road and a focal point for Han-Tibetan exchanges, it has experienced both the flames of war and prosperity of frontier trade. Photographers could wander and shoot the authentic Tibetan dwellings, majestic Golden Prayer Wheel, Tortoise Hill, etc.

Songzanlin Monastery

It is referred as ¡°the Little Potala Palace¡±. Built in 1679, the monastery is not only the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, but also the most important monastery in southwest China. The best location to shoot the panoramic view of Songzanlin Monastery is Gulongcun Viewing Deck which is located on the road to the monastery. The sunrise is around 07:00 and the sunset time is around 20:00. To shoot the sunset view, you¡¯d better arrive early and wait for the amazing view. In the monastery, photographers could shoot Thangka, palm-leaf scripture, censer, light and more. The Lama and pilgrims could come into your pictures. To enjoy the Tibetan folk customs and activities, you could come during the Gedong Festival in 26th to 29th in December by Tibetan calendar.


Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction

Day 1 Kunming Arrival
Welcome to Kunming, the Spring City! Free until being escorted to the airport for your flight to Kunming. Upon arrival, be met and transferred to your hotel in Kunming. Your guide will help you check in. (Please note: you'll arrive in Kunming before 12:00 on this day.)
After a short rest, head to the Flower Market, Kunming is a city of 'flower'. Then go to visit the West Hill, looking like a beautiful young lady lying beside Dianchi Lake. Stop by to see the magic Dragon Gate. (Tips: visit Dian Lake in November or December, you will see the grandeur of huge flocks of red-beaked gulls that migrate there from Siberia. It is suitable for bird watching during the winter time.)


Day 2 Kunming (B)
Today, drive 90km from Kunming to the renowned Stone Forest, the ¡°First Wonder of the World¡±. You'll marvel at its natural stone masterpieces and be bewitched by the intricate formations. You feel like come into a "stone world".
Afterwards, visit a minority village of Sani People, to admire their colorful minority costumes and exotic tradition cultures. You'll have a nice chance to listen to the touching love story of Ashima told by local old people. Later, drive back to Kunming city.


Day 3 Kunming - Dali (B)
Take the morning flight to Dali. Dali is a historically and culturally famous city of China, is renowned for her historical interest and Bai ethnic culture. On this day, you'll visit and shoot Three Pagodas, Erhai Lake and Dali Old Town.
Three Pagodas: It has a history of over 1,800 years located at the foot of Cangshan Mountain facing to the Erhai Lake. Three Pagodas are made of three ancient independent pagodas forming a symmetrical triangle.
Erhai Lake: Take cruise in Erhai Lake by the small boat to the Jinsuo Islet in the east Erhai Lake. There are 200 Bai ethnic families around 1000 people in Jinsuo Island. In Erhai Lake cruise, you will enjoy the green Cangshan Mountain and the Three Pagodas from a far as well as lots of birds and seagulls flying over the lake.
Dali Old Town: In Dali Old Town, walk around the Foreigner Street and enjoy the relax time with local people. After climbing up to the City Wall of Dali, you could shoot panoramic view of the Erhai Lake.


Day 4 Dali - Lijiang (B)
In the morning, you'll be driven about 18 km to visit the Morning Market in Xizhou. It is a place for local people trading daily supplies, including fresh vegetable, fruits, meats, and many kinds of food and daily necessities. It is a great opportunity for getting close to local living conditions. Then, explore in Xizhou Ancient Town, a historical town showing you the Bai minority cultural, the local people's daily life and natural beauty. Shoot the traditional Bai people's architecture in Xizhou.
Then, drive to Lijiang with the beautiful farmlands and ethnic villages on the way. After arrival, you'll start your memorable Lijiang tour from Lijiang Ancient Town. Enjoy a panoramic view of this fascinating old city from Wangu Tower, the landmark building of Lijiang. This pure wood building was built at 33 meters tall on the top of Lion Hill where you could also overlook Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance.


Day 5 Lijiang (B)
Today, your guide and driver will escort you Yuhu Village which is located in the south of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. When walk around this authentic Naxi Village, you'll capture unique stone house, naxi ladies dressing in traditional clothes, a wooden fish is hunging in the middle of the roof, the kids playing¡­Then you get to the Former Residence of Joseph Rock, who is an Austrian-American Botanist came in Lijiang and stayed in Yuhu Village for 27 years.
After that, visit the ancient Baisha Mural Paintings at Baisha Village. Painted over 1000 years ago, the murals combine the cultures of Han, Tibetan and Naxi people displaying the life stories of the Tibet Buddhism, Confucian and Taoism. Then, followed a trip to Shuhe Ancient Town - a component of Lijiang Old Town listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1997. 
Later, head for Black Dragon Pool Park to shoot the pavilion, lakes and mountains. Visit Naxi Dongba Culture Museum where you can learn Naxi pictograph character and explore the rich Naxi minority culture in the museum.


Day 6 Lijiang - Shangri-La (B)
After breakfast, you'll be driven to shoot the First Bend of the Yangtze River with imposing gorge scenery and the Iron Chain Bridge in the Shigu (Stone Drum) Town (about 60 km from Lijiang with 2 to 3 hours' drive). Later you will take photograph in Tiger Leaping Gorge. Last, you'll drive to Shangri La, about 100km. You'll enjoy the enchanting natural scenes on the way.
First Bend of the Yangtze River: Surrounded by rivers and mountains, the First Bend of the Yangtze River has picturesque scenery. Three rivers join together here and take a sudden turn.
Tiger Leaping Gorge: the deepest gorge in the world. It is divided into the Upper Tiger Leaping, the Middle Tiger Leaping and the Lower Tiger Leaping three parts. In the upper part of Tiger Leaping Gorge, you will walk about 2.6 Km from the entrance to Tiger Leaping Rock. It is a nice walking along the Jinsha River and Marble trail. You will walk through three marble tunnel s in the gorge.


Day 7 Shangri-La (B)
Today is a full day to explore and shoot the on-earth paradise described in the famous novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton.
You'll visit the Garden Sumtseling Monastery to be touched about how the simple Tibetan keeps their pure and religious belief in this temporal world. Get on Gulongcun viewing deck to capture the panoramic view of Garden Sumtseling Monastery. Later take a leisurely walk beside the beautiful Bitahai Lake and Shudu Lake, feel marvel for the nature's masterpiece. Then, pay a visit to a local Tibetan family and experience the highly-praised hospitality of Tibetan people.
Visit Dukezong Old Town in the late afternoon, climb up to the top of Guishan Hill or Tortoise Hill, you will see the largest Prayer Wheel of the world and have a panoramic view of Shangri-La County and Dukezong Ancient Town.


Day 8 Shangri-La Departure (B)
On this day you will be free until your tour guide escorts you to the airport for your flight to your next destination.

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