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Trip to West China – A trekking tour to Yunnan

When I hear people talking about trip plans, I often hear Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and other attractive Asian countries mentioned. Sure, when you are in Asia, you better take every chance you have to visit as many places as you can. But, did it ever occur to you that China has more to offer besides the Great Wall, the fabulous landscape in Yangshuo and near Guilin or the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an? Places which are not nearly as touristy? Do you know that there is a beautiful province in the southwest of China that has spring-like breezes all year round and has been described as the “lost horizon” by James Hilton?

Yes, that’s Yunnan province. It is one of the 23 provinces of the People’s Republic and it is also the place where the earliest humans in Asia lived 1.7 million years ago. Yunnan was never a center of power during the times of the different Chinese dynasties, yet it always played an important role in the development of Chinese history due to its geographical location. Bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, located next to Tibet, Guizhou and Guangxi, it boasts a unique population: 25 different ethnic minority groups, with 15 of them having originated in Yunnan Province.

So, as you can see, Yunnan has significantly more to offer than you think. In Yunnan, you will not only experience Chinese Han majority culture but also the minorities’ one, cultures such as those of the Bai, the Yi, the Naxi, the Tibetans and more. There, you will find the fascinating differences between the minority groups in daily life by visiting the towns and villages they live in. What’s more, its stunning landscape in Dali, the almost 3,800 meters’ deep Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 in Mandarin, hǔtiàoxiá in pinyin, one of the deepest and also most breathtaking river canyons on the planet) and the utopia set in a Tibetan lamasery located in a valley, now known by the sweet and poetic name of Shangri-La. The argument of where the real Shangri-La from James Hilton’s book actually is located has never been solved definitively. But visiting a mind-boggling, picturesque “utopia” should be good enough, don’t you think?

Doesn’t this sound fascinating? Well, I didn’t make this great trip up, it is actually offered by Mathieu Le Serre of Lost Horizon. Mathieu has been taking hikers from all over the world to discover isolated mountains and magnificent landscapes in West China for seven years since he decided to live for his passion rather than doing cartography engineering. He is a native French speaker, and fluent in both English and Chinese. As a Laowai himself, he knows what foreigners want in a trekking holiday (can anyone say NO CROWDS?).

Under his expert guidance, you will visit old towns and villages in the north of Yunnan province, many of them forgotten by most of the world. The market town of Shaxi, for instance, is a veritable architectural masterpiece that has been restored to its former splendor. It is said to be the most intact horse caravan town on what was the main thoroughfare and tea trade route between Yunnan, Burma, and Tibet.

Of course, along the way, you will meet residents from different minority ethic group backgrounds. Shall I give you a little bit more insight? Yes, I think I should ;). The Bai, for instance, are a minority of about 2 million people who live in the Dali region. They venerate the color white and are renowned for their tea ceremony and their local food; and the Naxi are a very interesting group, as they have religious, literary, and farming practices that are uniquely their own. Their culture received influences from both Confucianism brought by the Han Chinese, and also Tibetan culture, as the Naxi live in close proximity with Tibetan groups. They also have a famous body of musical history that is several thousand years old.

History and culture are interesting, but do you want to be more adventurous? Then Tiger Leaping Gorge will bring up your adrenaline level. The gorge is one of the world’s most famous river canyons for its breathtaking views and tricky trekking route. As experienced as Mathieu is, he would take you to the roughly 15 kilometers long gorge trip, with adults hiking along its bottom and kids riding on the backs of mules. How cool is that?!

If any of the things that I’ve mentioned piqued your interest in this amazing place in China’s Southwest, then it is time to plan to go there! Mathieu will organize a trekking tour this Spring Festival starting from January 25th, 2020 and lasting 8 days and 7 nights. You meet in the morning of January 25th in Dali, and the trip concludes in the evening of February 1st, 2020. For more itinerary details and the price, please send an email to We will be more than happy to answer all your questions and inquires.

China is a vast place with all different kinds of landscapes and culture. If you have any places in mind but don’t know how to get there, need guide services or ideas of where to visit, then feel free to contact us through our official WeChat account or WeChat: wonderland6767. Journeys & Jaunts will always be there for you.

PS: All pictures shown in the article are taken by Mathieu Le Serre and used with his permission. Any pictures used for business purpose or private reasons should be authorized by the photographer. 

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