Shangri-La Travel Guide
Name: Shangrila (香格里拉; Xiānggélǐlā; formerly Zhongdian)
Location: Northwest of the Yunnan province
Population: more than 300,000
Nationalities: Zhuang, Lisu, Han, Naxi, Bai, Hui and Yi etc
Overview: Zhongdian is a small, primarily Tibetan town in north-west Yunnan province.
What does Shangri-la Mean
The word "Shangri-la" first appeared in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon; the story of three American pilots who, while flying over the Sino-Indian air route during World War II, crash-land in the midst of Paradise. This place of tranquility and peace is described as having "snow-covered mountains, grasslands, and red soil plateaus, populated by Tibetan people, with three rivers traversing the landscape". A half a century of research has determined that the beautiful "Shangri-la" described in "Lost Horizon" is, in fact, the city of Zhongdian, located in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (also known as Diqing) of Yunnan Province. What a coincidence that "Shangri-la" means "Sun and Moon in the Hear" in the Tibetan Language while in the hearts of the Tibetan people, Zhongdian is Paradise. Degen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is situated in the northwest Yunnan Province, with Tibet to the west and Sichuan to the east.
It was the British writer James Hilton's novel "The Lost Horizon" that has brought fame to an unknown and incontaminated place Shangri-La and made it a household word since its publication 50 years ago. And from then on this fascinating place has become the dreamland for many tourists and adventure lovers. According to the novel, the incontaminated nature and folklore of Shangri-La would never fail to impress a special emotion into these who encounter it : the clear air, the nearer white clouds in the blue sky, the breathtaking beauty of landscape and the warm heart of the honest and unsophisticated local people would certainly soothe the body and allow the mind to rest.
Dozens of years witnessed the failure of efforts to seek out and locate for certain this dreamland. However, with the passing of time, people's believe that it must be somewhere in the southeast tip of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the hightest plateau in the world, became firmer with more and more evidences as a result of persistent search and research. At last, a few years ago, the government of Yunnan Province declared the discovery of Shangri-La. It is in "Diqing", now a prefecture in Yunnan Province, China.
It is ture Diqing, deep in contact with nature, is the right place where one can rest at ease in the green shelter provided by the woods, relax next to the crystal clear waters of the alpine lakes or let the eyes wander towards the impressive snowcapped peaks surrounding the area. The area of Shangri-La provides the possibility to enjoy unforgettable moments without any stress and confusion but excitement while enveloped in a natural environment which is remarkable charming and overwhelmed in an aura of honesty and hospitality of the local ethnic group which is unforgettably touching.
Located at point where Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan all meet, Shangri-La County is administered by Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. In the past, Shangri-La was called Zhongdian or "Jiantang" in Tibetan. In ancient times, it together with Batang (in Tibet) and Litang (in Sichuan) was the fiefdom of the three sons of a Tibetan King. In 2002, Zhongdian changed its name to Shangri-La.
At an average altitude of more than 3,000 meters (about 9,843 feet), Shangri-La is very difficult to reach. Without railways leading there, the chief means of transportation is motor vehicles. To get there, tourists will typically begin their journey in Kunming, traveling first to Lijiang and then taking the long-distance bus in Lijiang to Shangri-La. It's about 175 kilometers (108.74 miles) from Lijiang to Shangri-La. On this way, the Tiger Leaping Gorge can be seen.
Shangri-La is inhabited by many different ethnic groups, with the Tibetans comprising the majority of the population. There you will have an opportunity to experience Tibetan life and learn about their lifestyle, religion and cuisine. The unique scenery, highlighted by plateaus, together with the fascinating ethnic culture makes Shangri-La very attractive and charming to visit.
Shangri-La is also a paradise for mountaineers. There are nearly one hundred snowcapped peaks which are a constant challenge irresistible to mountain climbers. Among these peaks, the Thirteen Princes are all over 6000 meters high and among the most mysterious and precipitous. The Kagebo Peak, known as "Chief of the Eight Sacred Peaks", soars up as high as 6,740 meters and towers its surrounding mountains. In the 20th century, mankind has set foot on top of Everest for many times but has failed to conquer the Kagebo Peak.
For long in the heart of those who have been eager to encounter it, Shangri-La has been a wonder worked by nature and a place "full of sunshine and moonlight". It plays as the meeting point of the sun and the moon, time and again embraces beautiful flowers, white clouds, snowcapped mountains, untouched forests and mirror tranquil alpine lakes. Spotted over its vast green grassland are villages inhabited mainly by Tibetan, Naxi, Lisu ethnic groups. The grassland has been divided magically into eight pieces like eight petals of a lotus flower by crisscross rivers and has provided a wonderful habitat for both animals and human beings. Yaks and sheep are easily seen grazing themselves and playing on the grassland; tree-shaded villages of white houses are scattered over the prairie; the fragrance of buttered tea blended with the fresh air exerts a temptation on those who encounter it; the melodious pastoral songs by headsmen in colourful costumes can be heard here and there - all these create a charming and unparallel mosaic and possibly drive one into an ecstasy of enjoyment.
One hundred million years ago, the area of Shangri-La began to come out of waters along with the rising of the Himalayas from the bottom of the sea, which was brought about by the collision of the Eurasian Plate and the Indian Plate. This unique geographical and natural environment has formulated the different tradition and culture of the residents. Shangri-La features the simple but peaceful life, the friendly and honest interpersonal relationship, the friendly and honest interpersonal relationship, the pious and persistent religious believe, the kind, uninhibited and unsophisticated characters of the local people.
The rainy season in Shangri-la is from May to July and September to October. When it is rainy, the road condition is not good and it is not an ideal time to go out. In winter, due to the high altitude, the temperature will be dropping to minus seven degrees Celsius, and some hotels are without heating facilities. Mountain paths are difficult to go after snowfall and very slippery, also the icy road that local van driver may reluctant to take you to go to your destination. Therefore, the best time to visit Shangri-la is spring. Bring adequate clothes with you during cold seasons, i.e. autumn and winter. In sunny days, the air will be quite dry and the ultraviolet rays will be so strong, to avoid tanned, sunglasses, sun hat, sunscreen cream are stuffs that must be in your baggage.
The high altitude in Shangri-la can make some travelers ill, to avoid sickness, do not do strenuous exercise, do not drink alcoholic drinks, eat more vegetables and fruits and have enough rest. Bring enough chocolate bars or some other snacks that provide adequate calories. Some hotels have oxygen flasks provided for five RMB each with bottle deposit 20 RMB.
You can go to Shangri-la by driving from Dali northwards about 315 kilometers along the Yunnan-Tibetan Expressway. You can reach the travelers' paradise by air, at Zhong Dian Airport (中甸飞机场), take a 50 minutes flight from Kunming, ticket 620 RMB. Now there are direct flights from Chengdu and Lhasa, too.
By coach, it may takes about 12 hours to reach your destination. You can start at Kunming Coach Station, at 8:20AM local time, fare is 171 RMB. There are also coaches from Lijiang and Dali.
Suolima Wine is something like beer. The taste is fresh and cool, but do not drink too much in such a high altitude. Tibetan cakes that mostly made from wheat flour and ghee are the best food made by local people.
Buttered Tea (or Ghee Tea) is an important drink for local Tibetans. The making of this special tea is quite simple, first put tea into a pot, add ghee, salt and herbs, and then stir it many times to make it becomes creamy, and it can be served. For local families, they drink this tea at least three times a day. This is to add calorie to body, that is to make you strong enough to brave the cold in high altitude area.
Tibetan Yoghurt ("Shuo" in local language) is made from milk, it helps your digestion and provides you longevity!
Tsampa (roasted barley) is so nutritious, often eaten with buttered tea. It is a traditional staple food for Tibetan pilgrims.
Tibetan mutton is traditionally for men after a hard day of hunting in the countryside. When a man has killed animals and brought them home, his wife will prepare a mutton dish with egg yolk, white sugar, wine, vegetable oil and butter. The mutton dish is delicious and sweet.
Local style hot pot does not originate solely from Tibetan but a kind of mixed stuff from many local ethnic minorities. Wild Tibetan vegetables, yam, pig stomach, bean curd, cooked hams and agaric are mostly used ingredients for the hot pot dish.
Best time to visit
Spring and summer are two best seasons because flowers are blossoming throughout the region with the comfortable climate. Besides spring and summer, the period after mid-autumn is a very nice time for tourists to enjoy the fantastic plateau scenes of Diqing.