Cycle tour China's stunning Yunnan province
Bike the Yunnan province of China, touring from mystical Shangri-La through the breathtaking Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang. Cycle through captivating ancient towns of the bygone era of the Tea Horse Trail. This is both a spectacular ride and an unforgettable journey in the true spirit of a Grasshopper Adventures tour.
This bike tour of southwest China runs in Yunnan province, from Shangri-La to Kunming.
Bike tour China's spectacular southwestern province of Yunnan, exploring the opposite side of the country far from the hustle and bustle of the megacities of Shanghai and Beijing. This is a cycle trip that will push your adventurous spirit while still maintaining the quality and reliability of Grasshopper Adventures' service throughout.
Your incredible fourteen-day bike adventure begins in the foothills bordering Tibet, with the ever-present dramatic backdrop of Yunnan Province, China. This is a land of mysticism, spirituality and jaw-dropping landscapes where ancient cultures meet the modern world. The magical land of Yunnan also has some of the best cycle touring China has to offer.
Ride from China's alpine utopia of Shangri-La, cycling through the stunning landscape of Tiger Leaping Gorge, to the ancient Bai Kingdom city of Dali. We tour through the highest gorge in the world, carved out over millennia by the awesome Yangtze River, surrounded by the dramatic Jade Dragon and Haba Snow Mountains. Along the way, we encounter villages with their captivating rituals and traditions, seemingly unchanged by the test of time.
Join us on this unforgettable journey by bicycle through China's most diverse and beautiful province.
14 days duration
510 km distance
Trip Features & Tour Inclusions
What makes Grasshopper so special?
Find out how your next cycle tour goes the extra mile.
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No matter where we are some things don't change. Great bikes are essential to a great cycle tour. All the bikes we use are current, UCC or Giant, hardtail mountain bikes, with appropriate tires, lockout front suspension, hydraulic disc brakes and optional handlebar bag. Sizes available to suit all heights.
Grasshopper have always focused on quality riding and experiences. Accommodation and cuisine play a large part in this, and our focus on these elements is intended to deepen the richness of your experiences, staying, wherever possible, in comfortable, unique places that reward you after a big days ride. Due to the more remote nature of this tour, sometimes high standard accommodation options do not exist and for the sake of an incredible day's ride, we stay in the only places possible, which may be simple but will afford you a good nights sleep. Food is equally important, we understand the importance of a quality meal after a ride, but we also like to make it part of the experience. So along the bike tour we'll open your culinary horizons with delicious and exciting local fare. From mouth-watering snacks presented mid-ride to the adventurous tasting of local delicacies, you will never go hungry!
This tour has been hand crafted by Grasshopper's Expedition Engineers. This team brings with them a wealth of knowledge on all things Asian, and all are experienced in the delivery of outstanding expeditions. In addition to a Grasshopper representative joining you, you will be supported by a well informed, English speaking local guide who can provide unique insights on the local customs, cultures and landscapes.
Pioneering tours have the same Grasshopper support systems as our regular tours. Groups of 4-8 guests will be accompanied by our expert local guide and our expedition leader. For groups of 8 or more, we will be joined by a cycle mechanic. Our support crew are always on hand to help tired riders whenever needed.
Full vehicle support follows riders at every step of the tour. The vehicles carry your luggage and bikes when not in use and there is always a comfortable seat when needed.
This is one of the few tours where we work with partners. In the remotest parts of Asia, we have worked very hard to seek out the finest partner businesses to work alongside us to create tours that are unique to Grasshopper. These businesses share the same attention to details and customer centred focus, working together to bring you the best possible cycle tour. Importantly, each tour is comprehensively researched in advance by the Expedition Leader.
Take It Home
A beautiful souvenir Grasshopper cycling jersey is yours to wear and take home. We also provide a Grasshopper drink bottle as an extra memento.
Being pioneers doesn't stop us doing what we do best! The Grasshopper attention to details and quality service is ever present throughout all of our tours. From the time you arrive to the time you leave the details are taken care of. There are no additional (hidden) costs to our tours.
4 to 14
This tour is guaranteed for a minimum of 4 travellers. And we limit the group size to only 14 travellers so that you get all the attention you want in an intimate group.
There is no surcharge for single travellers - we will match you with another same sex single traveller. If you want a single room there is a an optional upgrade that you can book.
for the Spiritual Shangri-La bike tour
Arrive at Kunming, Fly to Zhongdian
Arrive in Kunming: the capital of Yunnan Province and city of “eternal spring”. After meeting the team, we're onto a plane and cruising our way to Shangri-La: the jumping off point for your epic bike tour. Once there you'll visit the world's largest prayer wheel and the stunning Songzanlin Monastery. Make sure to bring your camera along for the first of many picture-perfect moments along this adventure. Later this evening we'll enjoy a cultural welcome dinner and get to know your fellow riders.
Cycle Napa Lake
After breakfast and a bike fitting, you will spend the day exploring the mythical utopia of Shangri-La and its beautiful surroundings by bicycle. It's truly breathtaking, and not just due to the altitude! Following our local guide we take a circular ride to Napa Hai Lake (the lake behind the forest), a picturesque area flanked by mountains. Depending on the time of year, the “lake” (more like a seasonal wetland) can go from a glassy mirror reflecting the crisp blue sky, to a fairytale-like grassland valley. Today's ride is a short distance to warm up the legs a bit and help us adapt to the bikes and the environment.
Cycle to Bai Shui Tai
Today's bike ride is 100km of scenery you'll never forget! Lush green valleys and snow-capped peaks marching off into the distance will be our canvas today. Following our first solid ride of the tour, you'll take a well-earned rest at the other-worldly mineral terraces of Bai Shui Tai. There, mineral-rich water cascades down the mountainside, creating beautiful bleach white terraced pools that stand out in stark contrast to the valley's green backdrop.
Cycle to Tiger Leaping Gorge
On the bikes today we'll be following the mythical tiger’s route down to the famous and aptly named Tiger Leaping Gorge. We first stop for lunch at Haba village, a charming community situated near the peak trail for the giant Haba Snow Mountain. It's picture postcard setting offers yet another unreal vista, and you'll be rapidly shedding any previous misconceptions you may have had of bike touring China.
Rolling into Tiger Leaping Gorge, with its dramatic towering walls, we'll follow the flow of the mighty Yangtze as it turbulently thunders below, winding its way through the mountain landscape. We arrive at our next stop, Walnut Grove: a quaint village in the middle of the gorge. Rest your legs in this peaceful haven located on a breath-taking escarpment.
Rest Day in Tiger Leaping Gorge
Today we take a rest from the bikes and take advantage of our ideal location to explore Tiger Leaping Gorge: one of the deepest gorges in the world. This impressive work of nature measures 16km long and a giddy 3900m at its high points, from the waters of Jinsha River below to the snow-capped mountaintops of Haba Mountain to the west and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to the east. You can spend today how you please; enjoying the morning trekking down to where the river comes crashing through the rocky gorge, taking a walk to the high trail or just enjoying the breathtaking view from the guesthouse balcony and giving your legs a day off
Cycle and Ferry to Daju
After biking our way to the other end of the gorge, we'll need to do a bit of backtracking- not ideal for a bike tour but for this kind of scenery, it's certainly worth it! After exiting the gorge, we walk down to the Jinsha River, where a small ferry awaits to take us and our bikes across to the far bank. You'll then find yourself in the peaceful little town of Daju on a dead end road for vehicles due to the absence of a bridge. This is our kind of off-the-beaten-track spot! Tonight you'll stay in a simple village guesthouse with a welcoming host. We are now on the side of the river that sits in the shadow of the Yulong or Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Cycle Through National Park to Lijiang
Today we face a more challenging ride, but your efforts are well rewarded with the views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. We'll cycle our way through the national park today; a significant attraction for domestic tourists who are as much in awe of their own natural riches as you will be. The vistas here are just amazing, with a fresh perspective offered at every turn. After a satisfying double climb, you'll enjoy a breezy descent down a silky smooth road into Lijiang: a world heritage listed ancient stone town that will take you back to a time of feudal dynasties.
Rest Day in Lijiang
Today is our second well-deserved rest day from the bicycles. After a local breakfast of Naxi Papa you are free to explore the picturesque back streets of LiJiang. The old town is a wonderful place to wander around in both the day, but explore in the evening to see gardens and establishments are artfully lit, making it feel like you're on a movie set.
Lijiang is also the perfect setting to learn about the local Naxi culture, with its strong matriarchal society and fascinating Dongba faith. If you are keen to do a bit of touring of Lijiang's surrounds by bike today you can cycle the 12-15km out to the quaint Bai Sha village. Alternatively, you can let the legs recharge for the day relaxing in the hotel's jacuzzi or indulging in a treatment. You've earned it.
Cycle Through Villages to Jian Chuan
Today you'll enjoy a very scenic ride. We cruise through local villages for much of the day, soaking up everyday life of the people who call this area home, before ending our ride at the town of Jian Chuan. Here you can walk around the atmospheric old town with its quaint canals and bridges. Stop for a taste of the famous stinky tofu if you dare; a local specialty you'll smell before you see. Wandering around will also give you the chance to admire the intricately crafted stone and wood carvings that have been created here for the last 1500 years.
Cycle to the Historic Town of Shaxi
You'll have a shorter ride today as we make our way to the beautiful town of Shaxi; another trip back in time. Wandering the old paved street you'll have time to absorb the history of this ancient village with its many temples and old houses, some of which were built in the age of the Ming dynasty and the Tea Horse Road, more than 1000 years ago! The Tea Horse Road made Yunnan very prosperous at the time as one of the first tea producing provinces in China. Tea was transported from Yunnan villages overland to Calcutta and beyond by sea. Bike touring in the footsteps of these ancient traders and exploring the historical townships that acted as rest stations along the journey is a cultural experience you'll never forget.
Challenging Cycle to Er Yuan
Today's ride is an epic one, taking you to Er Yuan via the picturesque small west lake. Along the way, you'll cycle through farmland, seemingly unchanged for a thousand years. Farmers there use traditional techniques and animals to work the land. We then ramp-up the cadence a little as we pedal high over the mountain pass before enjoying a lovely descent for the rest of the ride and roll into our target for today. Reward yourself after a memorable day of bike touring with a therapeutic dip in the natural thermal springs of Er Yuan.
Cycle to Dali Old Town
As we ride the picturesque lakeside route, we'll pass through many small villages along the Er Hai Lake: a truly beautiful route to tour by bicycle. It's a reasonable 65 km's of riding to reach today's checkpoint, where we finish in Dali new city. Dali is a popular destination for domestic travellers, who will also be delighting in exploring the Old Town and catching the evening's lantern displays.
Rest Day in Dali
Our riding comes to an end today, but that doesn't put a stop to the discovery! Dali is a fascinating location to explore, and today you'll learn about the city's glorious past and its diverse cultural history that has left traces all over town. Discover the iconic Wuhua Tower and many additional temples, including the three pagodas of Chong Sheng. Explore the beautiful old town which was rebuilt by the Ming dynasty, and admire the beautiful marble carvings that Dali is famous for.
Departure Day in Kunming
Today we depart from Dali, transferring back to our original start point: the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming. We should arrive in the city around midday and from here it's time to say farewell to the Grasshopper Adventures team and close the book on an unforgettable bike tour adventure of China. From here we can drop you at your hotel or, for those flying out today, we'll transfer you to the airport.
What's the Riding Like?
9 days riding
The terrain on this bike tour is a mixture of sealed & unsealed secondary roads and tracks. We rarely cycle on main roads or highways and if we do it's only for a few kilometres to get to the next turn off. The majority of the ride is on small roads through villages with minimal traffic.
The road surface can at times be rough and broken, depending on seasonal conditions. In most cases, there is a comfortable line through the puddles or potholes and we find it makes for more interesting bike touring than a perfect road.
This is North West Yunnan Province, at the foothills of the Tibetan Himalayas. We do not expect anyone to be affected by altitude sickness at this height, but it does make for slightly harder riding at the start as your body acclimatises to the conditions. The terrain also means there are some hills involved in this tour, but most of the hill riding is undulating so where there's an up there is always a rewarding descent.
At points during the bike tour we will find ourselves at altitudes just over 3000m. We make sure that at these times we never over-exert ourselves. The gradient does not exceed 12% at any time. There is one day's riding of 100km in distance. The mixture of adventurous cycling and travel in relatively high and remote areas, makes this a slightly more challenging tour, but there is always a support vehicle on hand for riders who might need a litttle rest. This way you'll still get experience the adventure that this tour presents by using the support vehicle when needed.
What our guests tell us...
Just a selection of reviews from some of our tours.
Thang (our guide) and his team were top class: professional, organised, helpful, passionate, knowledgable, and made everything run like clockwork. It is impossible to put into words just how outstanding this tour is. We experienced authentic Vietnam...
Every day was a new adventure! The riding was challenging but very fun, especially downhill! I had an amazing trip surrounded by amazing people! Any problem we faced got worked out. Even though some things
didn't go as planned, it all went pretty smooth.
Excellent adventure with very high standards of hotels, food, crew, company and knowledge of two thousand years of history.
What a fantastic experience! I understand this trip is relatively new but was executed flawlessly by Thang, a professional guide who is able to connect on a personal level. The route was well thought out and ordered, the regions were diverse and special places to visit, and I have pretty much only good things to say about the trip at the end of it. Highly recommended.
This was an outstanding trip. Thang was a great guide, the bike and equipment were first rate, and the experience was excellent in every way.
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