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How To Go From Tiger Leaping Gorge To Shangri La – China


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Druci Mccue



Welcome to the breathtaking region of Southwest China, where epic landscapes and vibrant cultures await you. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey from the rugged beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge to the mystical charm of Shangri La. Prepare to be captivated by the natural wonders, rich history, and warm hospitality that this part of China has to offer.


Tiger Leaping Gorge is located in the Yunnan Province, and it is one of the deepest and most dramatic river canyons in the world. Carved by the mighty Yangtze River, the gorge boasts towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and a trekking route that promises adventure and awe-inspiring views. From here, we’ll venture to Shangri La, a mythical destination that has inspired countless stories and legends.


Getting to these destinations is relatively convenient, with various transportation options available. Whether you prefer to travel by air, train, or bus, you’ll find connections that will take you to the heart of Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri La. Once you arrive, be prepared to immerse yourself in the local culture, indulge in delicious cuisine, and explore the unique attractions that make these places truly unforgettable.


Throughout this guide, we’ll provide you with all the essential information you need to plan your trip, including hiking routes in Tiger Leaping Gorge, accommodation options in both locations, and tips on experiencing the best of what each place has to offer. So, pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an incredible journey through Tiger Leaping Gorge to the enchanting world of Shangri La in China.


Getting to Tiger Leaping Gorge

To reach Tiger Leaping Gorge, the most common starting point is the city of Lijiang. Lijiang has an international airport, so if you are coming from outside of China, you can fly directly to Lijiang Airport. From there, you have a few options to get to Tiger Leaping Gorge.


If you prefer to travel by land, you can take a bus from Lijiang to Qiaotou, which is the village at the entrance of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The bus ride takes approximately 2 hours and offers stunning views of the surrounding scenery. Buses depart regularly from the Lijiang Bus Station, and tickets can be purchased on the day of travel.


Another option is to hire a private car or taxi from Lijiang to Qiaotou. This gives you the flexibility to stop and enjoy the scenic spots along the way. It’s recommended to negotiate the price with the driver before starting the journey.


If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can opt for a shared minivan. These minivans operate from the main bus station in Lijiang and can take you directly to Qiaotou. The advantage of taking a minivan is that it is faster than the bus and offers a more comfortable ride. However, keep in mind that the minivans only depart once they are full, so there may be a wait time.


Once you reach Qiaotou, you can start your trek into Tiger Leaping Gorge. There is an entrance fee that is payable at the ticket office in Qiaotou. From there, you can choose between two main hiking routes, the Upper Trail and the Lower Trail, each offering unique experiences and breathtaking views.


If you’d rather not trek, you can hire a local guide who can take you on a horseback ride through the gorge. This allows you to enjoy the stunning scenery without the physical exertion of hiking.


Whichever mode of transportation you choose, the journey from Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge is an adventure in itself. Be prepared for winding mountain roads, breathtaking vistas, and the anticipation of experiencing the natural wonders that await you in the heart of the gorge.


Exploring Tiger Leaping Gorge

Once you’ve arrived at Tiger Leaping Gorge, get ready to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of this natural wonder. The gorge offers a variety of activities and attractions that will leave you amazed and inspired.


The first thing you’ll notice about Tiger Leaping Gorge is its sheer size and grandeur. The cliffs rise dramatically on either side of the roaring Yangtze River, creating a breathtaking spectacle. Take a moment to soak in the surroundings and appreciate the power of nature.


One of the main highlights of exploring Tiger Leaping Gorge is hiking along the stunning trails that wind through the gorge. The two most popular routes are the Upper Trail and the Lower Trail. The Upper Trail is more challenging, offering breathtaking views of the gorge from higher vantage points. The Lower Trail is less strenuous and is suitable for all fitness levels, still providing scenic views and the opportunity to witness the powerful force of the Yangtze River up close.


As you trek through the gorge, keep an eye out for the famous “Tiger Leaping Rock.” Legend has it that a tiger once leaped across the river from this rock, hence the name of the gorge. While crossing the narrow gorge might be out of the question for most, the massive rock itself is an impressive sight to behold.


Along the hiking trails, you’ll encounter picturesque waterfalls, cascading down from the cliffs. One of the most famous waterfalls is the “Pearl Shoal Waterfall,” a majestic display of nature’s power and beauty. The mist from the waterfall creates a refreshing atmosphere, providing a perfect spot to take a break and capture some memorable photographs.


During your exploration, you may also come across local villages inhabited by the Naxi and Yi ethnic groups. These villages offer a glimpse into the local way of life, with traditional houses, terraced fields, and friendly locals. Take the opportunity to interact with the villagers and learn about their culture and traditions.


Another must-visit attraction is the “Halfway Guesthouse,” located at the midway point of the main hiking trail. This guesthouse offers a welcome rest stop, where you can savor a warm meal, enjoy a cup of tea, and take in the panoramic views of the gorge.


At the end of your day’s adventure, make your way to a viewpoint called the “Tina’s Guesthouse,” named after the famous guesthouse owner in the area. From here, you can witness the golden sunset casting its glow upon the gorge, painting the sky with vibrant hues and leaving you awe-struck by the beauty of the natural world.


Exploring Tiger Leaping Gorge is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature. So, put on your hiking boots, bring a sense of adventure, and get ready for an extraordinary journey through the majestic Tiger Leaping Gorge.


Hiking Routes in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge offers two main hiking routes, each offering a unique experience and breathtaking views of the gorge and its surroundings. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a casual adventurer, there’s a route for you to explore.


Upper Trail:


The Upper Trail is the more challenging route, but it rewards hikers with stunning panoramic views of Tiger Leaping Gorge from higher vantage points. This trail takes you along the cliffs, providing a bird’s eye view of the Yangtze River as it rushes through the narrow gorge below.


The hike along the Upper Trail is a rigorous and exhilarating experience, with steep ascents and descents. The trail passes through narrow paths and rocky terrain, adding to the sense of adventure. Be prepared for a physically demanding journey, but the breathtaking views make it all worthwhile.


Lower Trail:


If you prefer a less strenuous hike while still enjoying the beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Lower Trail is the perfect choice. This trail follows a more gradual path along the banks of the Yangtze River, allowing you to experience the raw power and grandeur of the gorge up close.


The Lower Trail offers a more leisurely hike, ideal for those who want to take their time and soak in the natural surroundings. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming villages and terraced fields, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to rest at scenic spots, such as waterfalls and viewpoints.


Both hiking routes offer breathtaking views of the gorge and its natural wonders, but it’s important to choose the route that matches your fitness level and hiking experience. It’s recommended to wear comfortable hiking shoes, dress in layers, and carry plenty of water and snacks during your trek.


For those looking for a more immersive and challenging hiking experience, there’s also the option to do a multi-day trek from one end of the gorge to the other. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the landscape and spend more time discovering the hidden gems along the way.


Whether you choose the Upper Trail, the Lower Trail, or decide to embark on a multi-day trek, hiking in Tiger Leaping Gorge is an adventure that will leave you in awe of its natural beauty. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and get ready to explore one of the most majestic gorges in the world.


Accommodation Options in Tiger Leaping Gorge

As you embark on your adventure in Tiger Leaping Gorge, you’ll find several accommodation options to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to more luxurious mountain lodges. Here are some of the popular choices for lodging in the area:




There are numerous guesthouses dotted along the hiking trail in Tiger Leaping Gorge. These guesthouses offer basic but comfortable accommodations, with private or shared rooms available. Staying at a guesthouse allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture, as the guesthouse owners are often friendly and welcoming, providing valuable insights into the area. Some well-known guesthouses include Halfway Guesthouse, Tea Horse Guesthouse, and Naxi Family Guesthouse.


Mountain Lodges:


If you’re seeking a more luxurious experience, there are a few mountain lodges available in Tiger Leaping Gorge. These lodges provide modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the gorge. Some popular mountain lodges include Jane’s Tibetan Guesthouse and Sean’s Spring Guesthouse.




For those who prefer to immerse themselves fully in nature, camping is also an option in Tiger Leaping Gorge. There are designated camping areas along the hiking trail where you can pitch a tent and spend the night under the starry sky. Keep in mind that camping facilities may be basic, so it’s important to bring your own camping gear and supplies.


It’s recommended to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak seasons when the number of visitors is high. Many guesthouses and lodges can be contacted directly for reservations or can be booked through travel agencies and online platforms.


During your stay, you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy delicious local food. Most guesthouses and lodges offer homemade meals featuring regional specialties such as Yak meat dishes, Naxi cuisine, and local teas.


Regardless of where you choose to stay, waking up to the serene beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge and the majestic mountains is an experience you won’t soon forget. So, decide what type of accommodation suits your preferences and get ready to rest and recharge in the midst of this breathtaking natural wonder.


Transportation from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La

After immersing yourself in the beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge, it’s time to venture to the mystical land of Shangri La. Fortunately, there are several transportation options available to make your journey convenient and enjoyable.




The most common way to travel from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La is by bus. Buses depart from the town of Qiaotou, which is the exit point of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The journey to Shangri La takes around 4-5 hours, depending on road conditions and stops along the way. Buses are comfortable and equipped with air conditioning, providing a pleasant ride through the picturesque landscape.


Shared Minivans:


If you prefer a faster and more direct option, you can opt for a shared minivan. These minivans operate from Qiaotou and offer a quicker journey to Shangri La compared to the bus. Shared minivans can be a bit more expensive than the bus, but they provide a more comfortable and efficient mode of transportation.


Taxi or Private Car:


If you value convenience and privacy, you can hire a taxi or a private car to take you directly from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La. This option gives you the flexibility to make stops along the way and enjoy the scenic views at your own pace. However, keep in mind that it is important to negotiate the price with the driver beforehand.


Arrange Transportation through Accommodation:


Another option is to arrange transportation through your accommodation in Tiger Leaping Gorge or Shangri La. Guesthouses and lodges often offer transportation services for their guests, either through their own vehicles or by organizing shared rides with other travelers. This can be a convenient option as they are familiar with the route and can provide valuable recommendations and insights.


It’s recommended to book your transportation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. This ensures that you secure a seat or a spot in a shared vehicle and avoid any last-minute hassles.


As you travel from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La, keep your camera ready, as the journey offers scenic vistas of mountains, valleys, and rural villages. Once you arrive in Shangri La, get ready to explore its enchanting beauty, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant markets.


With the transportation options available, reaching Shangri La from Tiger Leaping Gorge is a seamless and enjoyable experience that adds to the overall adventure of your trip in this inspiring part of China.


Sightseeing in Shangri La

Once you arrive in Shangri La, get ready to be captivated by its enchanting beauty and immerse yourself in its rich cultural heritage. This mythical land offers a plethora of sights and attractions to explore, each one more awe-inspiring than the last.


Songzanlin Monastery:


One of the most iconic landmarks in Shangri La is the Songzanlin Monastery, also known as the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. This stunning Tibetan Buddhist monastery is a place of spiritual significance and grandeur. Marvel at its elaborate architecture, intricate murals, and serene courtyards as you immerse yourself in the tranquility and peace that surrounds this sacred place.


Pudacuo National Park:


Embark on a nature-filled adventure at Pudacuo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This pristine park is home to breathtaking landscapes, including azure lakes, rolling hills, and dense forests. Explore the various hiking trails, visit the tranquil Shudu Lake and Bita Lake, and encounter unique flora and fauna, including endangered species such as the black-necked crane and Yunnan snub-nosed monkey.


Dukezong Ancient Town:


Step back in time as you wander through the ancient streets of Dukezong Ancient Town. This historical town is known for its well-preserved traditional Tibetan architecture, intricate alleyways, and charming market stalls. Discover the local culture, visit ancient temples, try traditional Tibetan cuisine, and shop for handmade crafts, vibrant textiles, and Buddhist artifacts.


Tiger Leaping Gorge:


If you haven’t had enough of Tiger Leaping Gorge, take the opportunity to explore the Shangri La side of this majestic natural wonder. Experience the awe-inspiring views as the roaring Jinsha River winds through the deep canyon, and marvel at the towering cliffs that surround you. Hike along the trails, visit the famous Tiger Leaping Rock, and capture stunning photographs of the gorge’s rugged beauty.


Napa Lake:


For a peaceful and scenic retreat, visit Napa Lake, also known as Napahai Nature Reserve. This vast highland lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush grasslands. Take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk, observe migratory birds, spot yaks grazing in the distance, and relish the tranquility of this serene natural setting.


Shangri La Old Town:


Immerse yourself in the charm of Shangri La Old Town, also known as Dukezong Ancient Town. Wander through its narrow cobbled streets, admire the traditional Tibetan architecture, and explore the unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to visit the impressive prayer wheel and enjoy panoramic views of the town and surrounding landscapes.


These are just a few highlights of the many sights and attractions that await you in Shangri La. Remember to take your time, embrace the peaceful atmosphere, and delve into the rich cultural tapestry that makes this place truly mystical. With its breathtaking scenery and captivating heritage, Shangri La is a destination that will leave you with lifelong memories.


Accommodation Options in Shangri La

When it comes to accommodations in Shangri La, you’ll find a range of options to suit every budget and preference. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious retreat, a cozy guesthouse, or a traditional Tibetan homestay, Shangri La has something for everyone.


Luxury Hotels and Resorts:


If you’re looking for the ultimate indulgence, Shangri La is home to several luxury hotels and resorts. These establishments offer a combination of modern amenities, exquisite decor, and impeccable service. Some of the luxury options include Songtsam Retreat, Banyan Tree Ringha, and Arro Khampa Boutique Hotel.


Boutique and Heritage Hotels:


For a unique and intimate experience, consider staying in one of the boutique hotels or heritage properties in Shangri La. These accommodations often feature locally-inspired designs, traditional Tibetan elements, and a cozy ambiance. Some popular choices include Tibetan Antique Inn, Moonlight City Plaza Hotel, and The Garden Lodge.


Guesthouses and Homestays:


For a more immersive cultural experience, opt for a guesthouse or homestay in Shangri La. These accommodations provide the opportunity to stay with local families, experience their hospitality, and learn more about the local culture. You’ll find comfortable rooms, shared spaces, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Some guesthouses to consider are N’s Kitchen & Lodge, Xiaozhong Hostel, and Gesar Chenggong Guesthouse.


Budget Hotels and Hostels:


If you’re traveling on a budget, Shangri La also has a range of budget hotels and hostels that offer affordable accommodations without compromising on comfort. These establishments provide clean rooms, shared facilities, and a friendly atmosphere. Some popular options include Backpackers’ Inn, Camellia Hotel, and Shangri Youth Hostel.


When choosing your accommodation in Shangri La, consider factors such as location, amenities, reviews, and the type of experience you’re seeking. It’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to ensure availability.


Whichever option you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the unique beauty of Shangri La and enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals. As you rest and recharge in your chosen accommodation, you’ll be ready to explore the enchanting sights, immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, and create unforgettable memories in this mystical destination.


Local Cuisine in Shangri La

When it comes to culinary delights, Shangri La offers a rich and diverse selection of local cuisine that reflects the flavors of the region and its Tibetan heritage. From hearty meat dishes to delicious dairy-based treats, here are some of the must-try dishes in Shangri La:


Tibetan Yak Meat:


Yak meat is a staple in Tibetan cuisine, and trying it in Shangri La is a must. Whether it’s as delicious Yak momos (dumplings), Yak soup, or Yak meat stir-fry, you’ll be treated to the rich, tender, and flavorful meat that is often enjoyed with locally grown herbs and spices.




Thukpa is a traditional Tibetan noodle soup that will warm your heart and soul. Made with hand-pulled noodles, meat or vegetables, and a flavorful broth, this hearty dish is perfect for cold Shangri La evenings.


Butter Tea:


Butter tea is a distinctive Tibetan drink that is made by churning tea leaves with yak butter. This hearty and savory beverage provides warmth and energy, and it is often served in small wooden bowls. Be prepared for a uniquely strong and slightly salty flavor.




Khapse are traditional Tibetan deep-fried cookies that are commonly made during festive occasions. These crunchy and sweet treats come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are often served with Tibetan butter tea.


Yak Cheese:


Yak cheese is a popular dairy product in Shangri La and is often enjoyed in various forms. Whether it’s yak cheese pancakes, yak cheese momos, or yak cheese fondue, you’ll get a taste of this flavorful and slightly smoky cheese that adds a unique twist to many dishes.




Tsampa is a roasted barley flour that plays an important role in Tibetan cuisine. It is often used as a staple food and can be enjoyed as a porridge or mixed with butter tea to create a hearty and nourishing meal.


Local Tibetan Hot Pot:


One of the popular dining experiences in Shangri La is indulging in a local Tibetan hot pot. This communal meal involves cooking a variety of meats, vegetables, and handmade noodles in a bubbling pot of flavorful broth, creating a delightful and interactive dining experience.


While exploring Shangri La, be sure to venture into local restaurants and street stalls to experience the authentic flavors of the region. Whether you’re a meat lover, a tea enthusiast, or have a sweet tooth, Shangri La’s local cuisine is sure to satisfy your cravings and leave you with a deeper appreciation for Tibetan culinary traditions.



As you come to the end of your journey from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La, you are filled with memories of awe-inspiring landscapes, fascinating cultures, and unforgettable experiences. From the rugged beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge to the mystical charm of Shangri La, this part of China has left an indelible mark on your heart.


Tiger Leaping Gorge took your breath away with its towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and captivating hiking trails. The Upper and Lower routes offered different perspectives of the gorge, allowing you to feel the raw power of the Yangtze River or witness the grandeur of the landscape from high above. The local guesthouses and lodges provided a comfortable and welcoming base, allowing you to rest and rejuvenate amidst the stunning natural surroundings.


Shangri La enchanted you with its serene beauty, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant markets. The Songzanlin Monastery transported you to a place of spiritual significance, while the Pudacuo National Park immersed you in pristine nature. Exploring Dukezong Ancient Town gave you a glimpse into the traditional Tibetan way of life, and the surrounding landscapes left you in awe of their majesty.


In Shangri La, you indulged in the local cuisine, savoring dishes such as yak meat, thukpa, butter tea, and yak cheese. Each bite was a journey into the unique flavors and culinary traditions of the region, leaving you with a newfound appreciation for Tibetan gastronomy.


Throughout your journey, you encountered warm hospitality from the locals, whether it was the guesthouse owners in Tiger Leaping Gorge or the friendly faces you met in Shangri La. This human touch added an extra layer of magic to your experience, making you feel welcome and connected to the people and the land.


As your journey comes to an end, you reflect on the beauty, cultural richness, and natural wonders that you were fortunate enough to witness in this part of China. The memories and experiences will stay with you forever, reminding you of the awe-inspiring landscapes, the warm hospitality, and the sense of wonder that can only be found in a place like Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri La.


So, as you bid farewell to these enchanting destinations, you carry with you the spirit of adventure, the love for nature, and the appreciation for diverse cultures. Until we meet again, may the magic of Tiger Leaping Gorge and the allure of Shangri La continue to inspire and captivate your soul.