Visit China's Tiger Leaping Gorge on a trip departing from Kunming.

Experience the breathtaking natural scenery, historical attractions and rural lifestyles for which the Yunnan province is renowned for on this active trip through Tiger Leaping Gorge. One of Asia's finest geological wonders, the gorge is best beheld from the winding hiking trails high above the Yangzi River – so prepare for some trekking! Staggering panoramas of mist-draped mountain peaks, deep ravines and gushing river gorges await those willing to raise their heartbeats a little, while some time in the chilled-out towns of Dali, Shaxi and Lijiang offer an excellent opportunity to mingle with locals.

Kunming, China
Kunming, China
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
266kg pp per trip


  • Experience the legendary Tiger Leaping Gorge in depth, with two days of guided hiking
  • A delightful snapshot of the past, Lijang is a must-see destination in China. Enjoy a guided walking tour of its cobblestoned old village, then visit Wangu Pagoda where excellent views over town await
  • Travel like a local, on buses and sleeper trains. It's the perfect opportunity to interact with people and take in the charming provincial scenery
  • In Shaxi, you'll see an older, slower side of China. Stay in a friendly, family-run guesthouse and sample some authentic local cuisine


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these ready to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, go for a stroll and get acquainted with this pleasant 'eternal spring city', so called for its temperate nature. Perhaps head to Green Lake Park where you can see locals spending their leisure time on all kinds of activities and games. Check out The Loft, a disused factory area west of the city centre, home to many small galleries and cafes. Or perhaps visit Yuantong Temple, the grandest Buddhist temple in the Yunnan province.
Embark on a long day of travel (approximately 10 hours). There will be three changes of buses to get to your destination – the intriguing, reclusive Nuodeng village. This place has sat hidden in the mountains for over a thousand years. While the journey there is long, the views of the lovely countryside, and the friendly locals you will get to interact with along the way, make it worthwhile. On arrival, check into your comfortable guesthouse and enjoy some local cuisine for dinner.
A key trading village on the ancient salt trading routes, Nuodeng has been through a long, varied history and remains authentic and unique among the villages in Yunnan. Today you will take a guided tour of this gorgeous ancient village, stopping to visit some local temples and museums along the way. The remainder of the day is yours to explore as you please. There's much to like about the slow pace of life here. You can sit in the sun and chat with elderly locals, explore the local museums and temples on your own, or perhaps learn more about the town's history of salt production, the longtime lifeblood of the community.
Travel by public bus to your next destination, Dali (approximately 3–4 hours). For many years this spot has been a favourite destination for foreign travellers and backpackers, thanks to its laid-back atmosphere and spectacular surroundings. There are snow-capped mountains on one side and the vast Erhai Lake on the other, making for an impressive sight. This afternoon you will take a guided walk around Dali's ancient town with your leader. Present-day Dali is a city that combines history with modern convenience. It is divided into two areas: the Ancient City and the New District (widely known as Xiaguan). After your tour, enjoy a free evening to make your own discoveries in this picturesque town. Perhaps circle back to the famous Foreigner Street in the Ancient City, where handicrafts and local culinary delights rightly attract many visitors.
Take a private bus to Xizhou, around 23 kilometres north of Dali. Xizhou is famous for its Butterfly Spring and Bai architecture. Your leader will give you a guided tour of Xizhou town and the local markets – a great chance to learn more about Bai architecture and experience the relaxed atmosphere of the township. Interact with some local families living in the traditional courtyards to get a feel for local life. Be sure to try some tasty local snacks such as baba (fried rice cake). Upon returning to Dali you can enjoy some free time. There is much to see in this ancient village – perhaps take a boat trip on Erhai Lake, go for a short walk down to the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, or simply explore the many cobblestone alleyways in town.
Travel by public bus to Jianchuan, then by private van to Shaxi (approximately 3–4 hours). Much of Shaxi's charm lies in the fact it has been restored rather than rebuilt, and being off the main highways it hasn't seen the rapid development of the tourist industry that other places like Lijiang and Dali have. Here you can still find the Yi and Bai ethnic minorities living their traditional lives, farmhouses lining the country roads, and the original walled town gates and market square that prove Shaxi was once an important stop on the old Tea Horse Trail. It's common in Shaxi to just sit on a bench all day, taking in the peace and quiet and watching village life go by. Here you will stay in a local family-run guesthouse in twin, triple or multi-share rooms. The accommodation is very simple and bathroom facilities are basic and shared, but the warm hospitality makes for a memorable experience. Most travellers choose to eat their meals at the family guesthouse, which offers a great range of regional cuisine; it's also a great chance to further interact with your hosts.
Today you will stroll through the stunning mountain trails with a local guide. Your destination is Shizong Temple (approximately 4–5 hours return). It's a good idea to pack a lunch to enjoy along the way, as the beautiful 'danxia' landscape will make a nice backdrop for a picnic. Be sure to bring your camera too so you can snap a few pictures of these gorgeous surrounds. Feel free to ask your leader more about this part of China. In the evening, take the opportunity to mix with the locals out on the town square. Here you'll likely encounter dancing, singing and various traditional games. Perhaps try your hand at some of them yourself.
Travel by public bus to Qiaotou (approximately 3 hours), the starting point for your trek through the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge. This is one of the deepest and most spectacular gorges in the world. The entire canyon is 16 km long and rises up to 3,900 metres above the waters of the famous Yangzi River. Though the gorge has become very popular in recent years, and the area is rapidly developing, it's still an incredibly rewarding travel experience which many cite as a highlight of their trip to China. Prepare a day pack (your larger luggage will be stored for two nights) and embark on your hike. There will be regular stops to relax and get a snack. The first part of the trek is quite arduous – this is not flat terrain by any means. After a slow and steady climb you will reach the 24 bends (the most challenging part of the trek), a steep and twisting path where you'll really gain some altitude. After stopping for a break, continue along the flatter section of the gorge to your accommodation. This is a simple but comfortable guesthouse with shared facilities (upgrades to private facilities may be possible, depending on availability).

Notes: Trekking in the gorge area can be hard going for some. For more experienced hikers it will pose no problem. You can expect to walk about 4–6 hours on the first day, tackling some long, steep sections, and about 4 hours the next. You'll be in the hands of an experienced local guide. The route and duration of walks will vary depending on the weather and the fitness of the group. This part of the trip definitely requires a good level of fitness.

The area is subject to dramatic changes in weather. There are scheduled departures for this trip in the more stable seasons, but it's still possible that conditions may make travelling through the gorge dangerous. In this case an extra night each will be spent in Shaxi and Lijiang. Should the weather be deemed by your leader and guide as too rainy or foggy to safely complete the trek once in the gorge area, an alternative walking route will be taken or a minivan will be used for transport between stops.
Your second day of trekking starts with a nice, easy flat section that has spectacular views. There are only a few uphill battles, and one last downhill stretch which is long and slippery, before you reach your destination for the night – Walnut Grove. Those with the energy can enjoy further hikes to some excellent lookout points from here. Otherwise, this a tranquil place to simply sit back, relax, enjoy the scenery and rest your weary legs.
Travel by public transport to Lijiang (approximately 4 hours). This World Heritage-listed town is home to the Naxi people, a matrilineal society, the descendents of Tibetan nomads. You can still see Naxi folk around town in their distinct blue clothing, especially at the morning markets. Today you will enjoy a guided walking tour around Lijiang and visit the Wangu Pogada. The pagoda is situated at Lion Hill in a small park and has amazing views over Lijiang. In town, during the day, you'll see the traditional side of Lijiang: cobbled streets, tiny alleyways and quaint wooden bridges that run over the canals. This is what attracts many (mostly Chinese) tourists every year to the Old Town. By night, flashing lights and kareoke bars spring to life, turning this idyllic town into something very different. It's a fascinating transformation to watch.
Today is a free day for you to explore Lijiang. Later in the afternoon, you'll take an overnight sleeper train to Kunming (approximately 8 hours). First, though, you might like to explore Mu Palace, enjoy a traditional Naxi music culture show, or wander around the old town and make a wish like the locals do – by sending a candle down a canal on a flower-shaped boat. A Naxi Orchestra performance is highly recommended, famous around the world for its unique instruments and sounds. A day trip to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is another great option, though travellers on a budget might like to view the peak from afar to avoid the expensive cable car fees. This town is also great for cycling – jump on a bike and head to Baisha or Shuhe, two pretty local villages.

Notes: Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious, but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face-to-face with the country and its people. It's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet. Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (these are not provided in cabins). Bathrooms are basic, and as toilet paper isn't always available it's best to carry some of your own. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
Your train arrives in Kunming early in the morning, and you'll take a taxi from the station back to the hotel. The whole day is free for you to spend as you wish before meeting up in the evening for an optional final dinner out on the town with the group. Despite Kunming's size, it is in fact quite laid-back, so take the time to soak up the atmosphere and relax. The 1,000-year-old Yuantong temple is definitely worth a visit. Or you might like to treat yourself to a haircut from one of the outdoor barbers offering their services around the Tang Pagodas.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Public bus
Guesthouse (2 nights), Hostel (4 nights), Hotel (5 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Informal Chinese language lesson
  • Nuodeng - Nuodeng Museum
  • Nuodeng - Nuodeng Temple (Yuhuangge)
  • Dali - Walking Tour, Ancient Town
  • Xizhou Town / Market Tour
  • Shaxi - Shibaoshan trek
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge - Guided Trek
  • Lijiang - Ancient Town Walking Tour
  • Lijiang - Wangu Pagoda


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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. A scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport is required at time of booking in order for us to purchase your train tickets.
3. Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class, which are six beds in a compartment. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths.
4. Parts of this trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude. A Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip.
5. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
It’s important to let your family and friends know that you might not be able to stay in touch over your usual methods, be it – social media or email. Or let them know if you have set up a new email address in which you can access in mainland China.
The Chinese Government control and restrict certain websites. Websites on the blocked list could change at any time, any site could be restricted at any moment. Here are some of the most popular websites around the world that are blocked in China: Google, Dropbox, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, WordPress, LinkedIn,Yahoo Hong Kong, Yahoo Taiwan, Wikipedia and many more.
6. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Beijing office can be reached on Tel: +861064067328
7. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes


Our Tiger Leaping Gorge trips score an average of 4.92 out of 5 based on 12 reviews in the last year.

Tiger Leaping Gorge , September 2016

Tiger Leaping Gorge , September 2016