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14 Days | 13 Nights
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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.
4 to 14
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, pedaling 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.
495 Km 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.
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 little rest. This way you'll still get experience the adventure that this tour presents by using the support vehicle when needed.
Take an awe-inspiring cycle around the Napa Hai Lake, where the sky seems impossibly blue and tall mountains are reflected in the lake’s waters.
Pedal into the striking Tiger Leaping Gorge before taking a rest day to trek down to the powerful river or a hike on a high trail with dramatic views.
Cycle through a national park with views of the imposing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Explore the historically significant ancient town of UNESCO listed Lijiang, as well as Shaxi and Dali.
Arrive in Kunming: the capital of Yunnan Province and the 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 for an introduction to the region’s heritage. 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.
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.
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.
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 park our bikes for lunch at Haba village, a charming community situated near the peak trail for the giant Haba Snow Mountain. Its 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.
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 guest house balcony and giving your legs a day off.
We farewell our newfound friends at Walnut Grove and then pedal up through the gorge, through a tunnel and then past what "Tiger Leaping Gorge" means to the local, Chinese tourists who will be massing in large numbers at a lookout featuring an actual statue of a leaping tiger. We continue on and ride a short section through quite a busy couple of towns before we leave the traffic behind and return to the roads to which we will have become accustomed. We follow the river and as we approach our destination, we take a ferry over the river.
Shigu is a town, set in an important place for China. This is where the Yangtzee River, takes an almost 90-degree turn and instead of continuing its apparent alternative course towards southeast Asia, it brings life and agriculture to the coastal plains of China, all the way to Shanghai. The town itself is a mishmash of the ancient and the modern, but it is a small town and the locals are both engaging and usually quite amused at our lunacy on display, riding bicycles when there are perfectly good vehicles in which to travel. A modest guesthouse is our home for the evening
The famous Tea Horse Trail is the most historic element of this area and of Shigu town. This was a network of trails between Tibet, Sichuan and Bengal via Myanmar. The name comes from the fact that horses from Tibet were traded for tea from China. We ride a cobbled section of the trail and then when we have had time to appreciate the scenery and terrain, we pack up into the vans for our drive into the ancient city of 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.
Today you'll enjoy a very scenic ride. We cruise through local villages for much of the day, soaking up the 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.
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.
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.
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 travelers, who will also be delighting in exploring the Old Town and catching the evening's lantern displays.
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.
Today we depart from Dali, transferring back to our original starting 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.
No matter where we are some things don't change. Great bikes are essential to a great cycle tour. Cannondale CX 3s are the latest addition to the Grasshopper fleet, and we make use of them for our multi-day tours in China.
They are well suited to the Grasshopper touring style and terrain typically encountered here. Fast and smooth rolling 700cc wheels, lockout front suspension and a riding position that offers a good balance of upright comfort and forward-riding efficiency make cycles on varied terrain a pleasant experience for everyone.
A true do-it-all bike for touring, with a class-leading lightweight build and powerful hydraulic disc brakes, the Cannondale CX 3s are a great addition to the fleet. Additionally, all bikes are fitted with a removable handlebar bag and comfortable saddle for touring.
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 night's 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 handcrafted 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. Your guide will be looking out for your safety and comfort at all times.
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 is 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.
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 travelers. And we limit the group size to only 14 travelers so that you get all the attention you want in an intimate group.
There is no surcharge for single travelers - we will match you with another same-sex single traveler. If you want a single room there is an optional upgrade that you can book.
This new hotel in Shangri-la features excellent amenities and facilities in a convenient location.
Wake up with a breathtaking view of Tiger Leaping Gorge from your room at this rustic hotel. Plenty of outdoor seating and large windows in the comfortable rooms allow for you to take in your stunning surroundings.
This newly renovated hotel is located near the Hotspring Town and features an outdoor swimming pool and comfortable, stylish rooms.
Grasshopper's Spiritual Shangri La tour was an amazing introduction to a fascinating part of China. The scenery, food and guides were all spectacular. Biking and hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge was particularly breathtaking.
-Andrew and Ingrid
Our 14 day yunnan Shangri-La China tour was an adventure of a lifetime. Our guide Cathy was amazing. Our support team Ben and maverick were outstanding. We were well looked after and all our biking needs were met. The itinerary was superb. Yunnan province is more beautiful than I imagined.
The food, lodging and staff were excellent.
We look forward to another grasshopper adventure in the near future.
- Cheryl Coopersmith Sanderford
Follow this link for general travel information on China. Take a moment to read our blog on bike touring in China.
Multi-day Cycling Tours Frequently Asked Questions
This epic cycling journey through the Yunnan province of China challenges everything you think you know about the country. Get off the beaten track to stunning natural sights and historic towns mostly visited by the Chinese themselves. You’ll explore the natural wonders of Tiger Leaping Gorge, pedal around glassy lakes with views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and enjoy satisfying and challenging cycling throughout the whole trip. You’ll also have the chance to get an in-depth look at the culture of the Yunnan province, learning about the local Naxi tribes and spending time in small towns. This is an immersive and experiential cycling tour that will leave you with lasting memories and a new appreciation for China.
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