In Shangri-La, you will feel like you’re in Tibet rather than in China. The city is also called Zhongdian and is located high in the mountains between Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet. Shangri-La is situated in a beautiful area surrounded by a few beautiful Tibetan monasteries.
Shangri-La, or Zhongdian, was an unknown city until logging was banned in 1998. The government came up with a plan to attract tourists to this town and rebuilt the city. A fortune was spent to transform this Tibetan-oriented city into an old traditional town. Traditional houses, cobblestone streets, religious monuments, cafés, accommodations and bars were built. But frankly this is not why you come here.
The reason to come to Shangri-La is the impressive nature, the friendly locals, and Tibetan Buddhism, with the monasteries as the highlight. You can also take beautiful walks through nature here. It is at an altitude of 3,000 meters (9842 feet), so take it easy if you just came from the lowlands.
The city actually only became known when the British writer James Hilton included it in his book Lost Horizon in 1939. It described Shangri-La as a place that “is too beautiful to exist on earth.” Although that is not the case, the environment in which it is located is very impressive. You will find continuous snowy mountain tops, endless grasslands, large steep gorges, azure blue lakes, rural villages, and Tibetan monasteries. The combination of nature and culture make it a beautiful region to visit.
How do you get there?
The city lies at an altitude of around 3,000 meters (about 9842 feet), making it difficult to reach. There are no trains just like there is no airport. You can, therefore, only get there by car/bus. From Kunming you travel to Lijiang to take the long-distance bus to Shangri-La from there. It is approximately 175 kilometers (about 108 miles) from Lijiang to Shangri-La and on the way you can see the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge. Please note that it can be very cold between October and March.
Location of Shangri-La
Click the image to view the location in Google Maps!