We start our journey through Yunnan and the Kham region in the old town of Lijiang (pronounce: Li-djang). It reminded me of venice actually: a lot of little canals and bridges all around. You get lost very easily in the small streets 😉
Good to know about Lijiang
This town is Unesco World Heritage, but that being said, I heard multiple people talk about places like this. They say after the World Heritage declaration, a lot of new buildings have appeared. And I must admit I also don’t think they were building lanes full of touristy shops and restaurants hundreds of years ago 😉
Well don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Lijiang! It’s just good to know what you’re coming for. Look at the buildings around you, enjoy the atmosphere, but take it all with a grain of salt.
If you want to dodge the crowds, make sure to wake up early morning. Most Chinese tourists will arrive in the evening (why? no idea!), so the earlier you wake up the lonelier you’ll be.
Things to do
The Black Dragon Pool is a must see. It’s said to be one of of the most beautiful views in the country. Definitely worth a picture! Also great for a calming walk around.
On the other side of the lake is Elephant Hill. You can hike up and enjoy the view over the city, old and new parts. It’s a nice climb and a good view, definitely worth your time! There will be stairs all along the path, so it’s not too rough.
Note you have to register at the foot of the hill, and climb up in a little group. There has been irregularities before with solo travelers getting harassed. If you go in a little group, there’s nothing to worry about.
A bit more of a hidden gem is the White Horse Dragon Pool. This is where the locals wash their clothes and veggies. There is a monastery connected to the pool, which was one of the most quiet places we found in the entire town.
If you feel you’ve seen enough of the old town, it’s easy to rent a bike and explore the villages in the surrounding hills. We didn’t do this ourselves, but we spoke to people exploring the area this way who were really enthusiastic about it. It’s definitely a way to dodge of the crowds also!
The old town is scattered with restaurants, so don’t worry you’ll starve here!
I personally liked the big market you’ll find in the middle of the old town. It’s basically a big hall with tables, surrounded by venders selling all kinds of food. You can look around, choose whatever you want, wait for them to prepare it and bring it to one of the big tables. There is a lot of choice, from big bowls of noodle soup to insects to steam buns…. you name it!
An other place worth mentioning is Lamu’s House of Tibet.
You sit on the first floor, watching over the street. The food is good, the atmosphere even better! Note that it’s hard to find something using google maps in this town. Google maps is not accurate in China, and in this old town you’ll just find yourself running in circles 😉
Just ask directions from the people in the shops. They might know best.
As for restaurants, there is also a lot of choice when it comes to hotels and hostels.
You can sleep just outside of the old town (a bit cheaper) or right in the middle, go cheap or extremely expensive, just as you wish!
We slept in Zen Garden Hotel. It’s in the middle of the old town, which is very convenient. The common room is beautiful, and you have a nice little view from the balcony. Also the people are friendly and they have amazing cookies here! I loved them, ate them way too much 😉
The room itself is nothing spectaculair. Maybe a bit overpriced even, if it would have been on an other location. But with the other things combined, I still left very happy in the end.
NOTE: There are 2 Zen Garden Hotels, from the same owner. Don’t get confused there 😉
How to get there
We arrived in Shangri-La by airplane from Chengdu.
You can grab the bus just outside of the airport, which will bring you to the busstation. From here you can take a taxi to the old town. Or, if they try to overcharge you like they did with us, you can hike up there. It’s around 20 minutes walk to the old town.
Note you’ll also need to find your hotel in the old town, which also might be quite a hike. Mainly because it’s hard to find direction (as said before). You can ask your hotel if they can pick you up at a certain time. You won’t have to get around with your bags for too long.
We visited this place, making videos for our Youtube channel.
Watch the whole playlist, right here!