The Tibetan Overland Route from Shangri La to Chengdu

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Bus View Tibet Overland Shangri La To Chengdu
The view out of the bus window cruising thought ancient Tibet.

Glaciated peaks soar high above the landscape, winding gravel roads meander through pine forests on the edges of great cliffs. Mountain passes up to 4700m lead you into the alpine plateaus of ancient Tibet. Villages locked in

a forgotten time exist in traditional Buddhist ideals. Yaks wander the roads freely with wild pigs scampering between their legs.

Sprawling Buddhist monasteries climb up the sides of mountains, flapping prayer flags strewn across the terrain. This is the world of the historic Tibetan Kham province.

The overland route between Shangri La and Chengdu is a journey unlike any other in South West China. Here is a chance to experience Tibetan life without expensive and difficult-to-attain permits.

A region where Buddhist monks can walk the streets in their flowing robes with far less fear of being prejudiced by the military. Maps still draw lines where the old border was, and this area is deeply inside it.

Even today the region can be closed without warning to foreign visitors if there is any protests or sensitive issues the government wants to hide. For all intents and purposes, this is Tibet, not China.

Nomads HorsesTibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
A nomad herds her horses in the Kham province.

After the phenomenal trekking in Tiger Leaping Gorge, we decided to try and tackle this route, even though our timing would put us on the end of winter.

We had no idea if the roads would be open, and in the end it did end up snowing quite a lot during our time in Tibet. This did little to damper our intuitive minds as we explored the fascinating culture that comes in this gorgeous environment.

The Overland Route From Shangri La To Chengdu

The overland route from Shangri La to Chengdu will go on to be one of our favourite travel memories of China, we are sure.

The route we took can be shortened or lengthened, and obviously the more time spent in each place would allow you to truly experience the best that Tibetan Buddhism has to offer.

This really is the closest you can get to experience Tibetan culture in a free environment.

Ladakh is a great place to learn more even though it’s in India, and the Tibetan Autonomous Region offers a great insight, even though it is heavily controlled and suppressed.

Honestly, if you want to visit Tibet, this is the route you need to do!

Road View Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Typical views on the overland route from Shangri La to Chengdu.

Shangri La (Zhongdian)

The town of Zhongdian was renamed to Shangri La in 2003 and marketed to be the fabled lost city from James Hilton’s 1933 novel, ‘Lost Horizon’. It is not the first city to claim to be Shangri La, and to be honest others have a better stake to the claim, but nevertheless we were quite impressed with this city.

Our first proper experience into the Tibetan culture, Shangri La is filled with captivating temples and monasteries, prayer flags flapping in the wind and well-dressed people smiling at every corner.

Home to the largest prayer wheel in the world (and it is BIG) at the Golden Temple, the city has a uniquely spiritual ambiance, which is obviously appreciated by the locals who try to capitalize on it with Buddhist trinkets for sale at every corner.

Unfortunately a huge fire in 2013 destroyed most of the old city, and as such many of the streets have been changed. It is easy to get lost here, as even locals have no idea where anything is anymore.

The Songzanlin Monastery is the biggest attraction in the area, and in our opinion ghastly overpriced. At 115RMB per person, this monastery even has its own visitor’s centre – a dead giveaway that the authenticity would be lost.

Everywhere we looked were monks playing on iPhones, and at one temple we saw five monks counting literal mountains of cash.

The grounds are sprawling and somewhat beautiful, but if you are planning on going further into Tibet, give this one a miss. Instead check out the Chicken Temple up on a hill, and some of the stupas on the outskirts.

World's Largest Prayer Wheel Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Spinning the world’s largest prayer wheel in Shangri La.

Where We Stayed

N’s Kitchen And Guest House

We got hopelessly lost trying to find it on account of no locals knowing where anything is after the fire, but finally we got a hold of the owner and he came and met us. (For your information, it is across the road from the Dragon Cloud Guest House.) From then on it was a splendid experience.

The place is very comfortable and we felt like we were part of the family. It has a great location right in the centre of the old (now new) city, fantastic food and quality rooms. We would happily stay here again, and again, and again.

Double Room With Ensuite – 130RMB

Book it on Hostelworld

Walking Prayer Flags Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Walking past prayer flags in Shangri La.

Xiangcheng

We hate to judge towns on their first impressions, but that’s what we did for this one. The drive in was absolutely sensational, but the town itself was just a dusty, concrete mess.

We were accosted by plenty of touts, hotel ladies who lured us into their buildings with the promise of cheap prices only then to announce once we agreed that the price was ‘per person’, and lots of people eyeing us off suspiciously.

We admittedly only stayed the one night due to this atmosphere, however we suspect there would be some beautiful hiking in the surrounding mountains.

Where We Stayed

*Chinese Characters* Hotel

Basic but clean, this hotel was everything we needed, and not a speckle more. There is a supermarket downstairs so you can stock up on supplies for the next part of the journey.

Twin Room With Ensuite – 100RMB

Shangri La To Xiangcheng Transport

Large bus – 105RMB (8.5 Hours)

Xiangcheng Views Road Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
The views along the road were beautiful, even if Xiangcheng wasn’t that great.

Litang

Ah Litang – our favourite city along the trail. After the unfriendly ambiance of Xiangcheng, we immediately felt comfortable in the larger city. Sitting at 4000m and with a Tibetan population hovering around 80%, this felt like another world altogether.

Aged men wandered the streets spinning prayer wheels, well-dressed people greeted us with a chirpy ‘tashi delek’ (the Tibetan salutation) and despite the huge police presence in town, everyone seemed to wear a smile.

Of course the real situation would much more complex for the Tibetan residents who live there, but for us as tourists, Litang was gorgeous.

Litang Monk Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
A monk shows off his gong for us in Litang.

This is a place that has been steeped in important religious history for centuries. The 3rd Dalai Lama opened the Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery in 1580, which is a beautiful relic overlooking the town filled with studious lamas and monks.

The 7th Dalai Lama was born in a simple house downtown, and today you can visit the building by asking the friendly gatekeeper – an elderly lady who lives next door – to let you in (free of charge).

The Chorten Karpo on the West end of town is a fascinating place to spend hours witnessing and learning about Buddhist practices.

In the surrounding hills, traditional and sacred sky burials take place. If you are so inclined, it is possible to experience one if you are there on the right day.

Just keep in mind that this IS NOT A TOURIST ATTRACTION. You have absolutely zero rights to be there. However if you are invited or welcomed to one by a local, show the utmost respect, take no photos of the ceremony (even if they say it is ok) and stand politely back unless told otherwise.

This is their ancient cultural ritual. Respect it in every way.

Where We Stayed

Peace Guest House

Run by the gregarious ‘Longlife’ who speaks excellent English, the Peace Guest House is like a home-away-from-home. Sitting around the living room-cum-café drinking fresh tea with Longlife’s family is a memorable experience. He has two buildings, one brand new, and great Western-style facilities in the private rooms.

Private room with ensuite – 120RMB

Xiangcheng To Litang Transport

Large Bus – 71RMB (4.5 Hours)

Monks Litang Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Lamas rushing to school in Litang.

Ganzi

Ganzi is the capital of the Ganzi Prefecture and as such is a lot busier than many of the other places along the route. Still it is not without its charms, and the markets are a wonderfully entertaining place to spend an hour or two.

The Han Temple deserves a decent amount of time exploring, but the highlight is the Garze Monastery on the outskirts of town.

This rambling institution has some captivating murals painted on the walls, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet and spend some time with the monks who live there (don’t expect any to speak English).

Where We Stayed

Mount Everest Hotel

We stayed here the second night in Ganzi, and it was a far better option than our first night. The room was cleaner, the bathroom had a Western style toilet and the wifi worked fine.

Walk across the road from the bus station towards the “Authorised For Foreigners” Hotel and turn right. You will see the Mount Everest Hotel about 50m down the road on your left.

Twin Room With Ensuite – 100RMB (We had to negotiate this)

“Authorised For Foreigners” Hotel

We don’t know the actual name, but this place is directly across from the bus station. It has a sign in English that says “Authorised For Foreigners”. Pretty straight forward. It was basic, had hot water and (sporadic) wifi.

Twin Room With Ensuite – 100RMB

Litang To Ganzi Transport

Minibus – 100RMB (estimated)

Ganzi Bridge Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
A beautiful suspension bridge in Ganzi.

Darjay Gompa

One of the largest monasteries in the whole area, the Darjay Gompa is set in stunning surroundings with snowcapped peaks all around, scatterings of temples dotted on the hills and a natural hot spring you can bathe in.

Scores of young novice monks run around and play games such as ping pong and basketball when they are not in class, and all the elder monks are friendly and welcoming.

Darjay Gompa Hot Springs Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Natural hot springs behind the Darjay Gompa.

Where We Stayed

Talam Khang Guest House

Run by three monks who speak very basic English, this simple guest house is about a 15 minute walk behind the monastery, and offers a unique accommodation option for those who wish to get out of the bigger towns you normally have to stay in.

This is a delightful chance to spend some time with the Buddhist monks and learn more about their culture. If you can, bring a Tibetan phrasebook as they don’t speak Chinese.

Set around a large courtyard, you have options of either sleeping in a dorm, a private room or camping on the grounds. The monks can provide three basic meals if you would like, at the cost of 50RMB.

Feel like a laugh? Read about how Jazza shat his pants in this monastery.

Camping – 30RMB
Dorm – 40RMB
Single Room – 100RMB
Double Room – 200RMB

How To Get To Darjay Gompa

From downtown Ganzi, opposite the Hong Fu Guest House, you can get a shared taxi for 10RMB to the Darjay Gompa.

Darjay Gompa Monastery Camping Accommodation Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Our campsite inside the Talam Khang Guest House, behind the Darjay Gompa.

Tagong

Tagong is a dusty town that itself doesn’t have a lot going for it, but in the outlying grasslands are jewels of spectacular fashion.

Tibetan nomads wander the plateaus on horseback and motorbikes, the Lhagong Monastery stands tall at the base of an imposing mountain and the neighbouring village is quaint and has a nunnery you can stay in.

Horse riding and trekking are all viable options to spend your days in Tagong, and can be organised through Khampa Café*.

*Note – We did not do any activities through Khampa Café as the prices suddenly went up by 50% when we inquired about them (120RMB per person for a night with ‘nomads’, including dinner and breakfast).

Angela the owner, who supposedly receives rave reviews, was very vague and unconvincing about the tours and couldn’t explain the expensive rise in cost. She also came across as very unfriendly.

We asked if the money all went to the nomads you stay with and they said yes, and then announced proudly that the nomads were all Angela’s husband’s family. The whole thing smacked of a money grab, so we decided to skip it.

However Max, the other owner of the café, is a lovely man and we ended up spending hours drinking tea and chatting with him. They have rooms for 100RMB (very basic with shared squat toilet – no running water at all in Winter).

Where We Stayed

Iya Drolma and Gayla’s Guest House

Basic yet traditional Tibetan-style guest house run by an affable and welcoming family.

Twin Room With Shared Bathroom – 60RMB (no running water in winter).

Ganzi To Tagong Transport

Minibus – 120RMB (estimated)

Tagong Grasslands View Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
The views on the grasslands around Tagong.

Danba

Danba usually acts as an alternative point-of-entry into the Kham province for most people from Chengdu instead of Kangding. For us, we decided to visit Danba to check out Jiaju, the Tibetan village 7km outside of town, and the famous watch towers further down the river.

Town itself wasn’t overly impressive, and the mighty river is being dredged to make way for more hydroelectric dams.

The Tibetan village was pleasant, with a tremendous view over the valley, which reminded us a bit of Tiger Leaping Gorge. It didn’t feel very authentic, but was still worth the time to get out there.

*Note – We hitch hiked our way out there as all the taxi drivers in town were trying to scam us (and Chinese tourists) by charging a fortune, or offering a free ride if you buy your entrance ticket from them.

Surprise surprise, the entrance tickets are fake. We pointed this out to one Chinese student who fell for the scam and never checked the actual date on the ticket (April 2014).

It took a little while, but we got a lift up the hill. Our ride even drove straight through the gate without stopping, meaning we never paid for our entrance ticket.

Where We Stayed

Zhaxizhoukang Hostel

This Hostelling International-associated accommodation was nice with a cheerful English-speaking manager. It is located about a 25 minute walk from the bus station. Make sure you eat some food upstairs, across the road – delicious!

Twin Room With Ensuite – 100RMB

Tagong To Danba Transport

Minibuses – Unsure of price, shouldn’t take more than 3 hours.

Views Danba Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Sensational views outside of Danba.

Kangding

We just used Kangding as a stopover on the way to Chengdu, so can’t really comment on the highlights or lowlights of the town.

We went for a big walk and found the city to be…underwhelming…however some of the hikes and trekking in the surrounding landscape are meant to be magnificent.

Perhaps if this is your first stopover after leaving Chengdu, you will be impressed on a greater scale, but having come from some of the best scenery in Western Sichuan we weren’t jumping through our skin to get out there.

Where We Stayed

We were cornered by a friendly lady who offered us a place to stay in a nondescript, unappealing building. We gave it a shot and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the room itself.

Basic, but it had TV with English channels, a sensational view of the neighbour’s concrete wall and a kettle. A tiny but functioning bathroom with squat toilet and hot water with so much pressure it almost blew holes in our skin. Still, we were happy.

Twin Room With Ensuite – 80RMB

Darjay Gompa Ganzi Monastery Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
We took no decent photos in Kangding, so instead here is one from the Darjay Gompa monastery in Ganzi. Much prettier, if you ask us.

Chengdu

It had been almost a month since we were in a proper city, the last being Kangding, and were almost giddy with excitement, although perhaps that was just because we knew we would see pandas.

Chengdu was a lot cleaner and more modern than we had expected, and despite having a population of 14 million, it didn’t seem overrun with people.

We happily spent 3 days there, although a couple of extra days probably wouldn’t have hurt. With more time we could would have looked at doing some Chengdu tours, or heading off to some of the smaller villages around the city.

Read about what we did in Chengdu.

Where We Stayed

Mix Hostel

We had seen signs and brochures for Mix Hostel everywhere in Yunnan and Sichuan, and seeing as it was going to be Jazza’s birthday, we decided to give it a go.

It was one of the nicest hostels we have stayed in. A great atmosphere, basic but clean rooms, impeccable shared bathrooms and the most reasonably priced bar and restaurant we have ever seen in a backpacker’s hostel.

$2-3 for a massive and scrumptious meal, $1 for a large beer, a free hotpot the night we had arrived and the best staff of anywhere we had been in China.

Only thing letting it down was the painfully slow wifi and the mediocre free breakfast of two slices of white bread and instant coffee. But then again it is free, so who are we to complain?

Twin Room With A/C And Shared Bathroom – 98RMB

Book Mix Hostel on Hostelworld.

Kangding To Chengdu Transport

Large Bus – 130RMB (estimated)

Chengdu Pandas Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Pandas…Too cute!

Other Towns To Visit

Dege

Literally the last town you can get to before you cross the border into Tibet proper, this town is famous for having the Dege Buddhist Scriptures Printing House. A beautiful traditional temple houses 140’000 printing blocks, a huge collection of cultural relics and a library.

Yading Nature Reserve

Unfortunately for us there was reportedly just too much snow to make trekking the famous ‘kora’ around one of the peaks possible. However Yading Nature Reserve is meant to be one of the most beautiful parks in the entire region. To get there head to Daocheng first, and then onwards.

Sertar

A huge Tibetan monastery lies in the hills above Sertar, which is the home of around 40’000 monks, lamas, nuns and Buddhist students. Larung Gar sounds like a magical place, and we are bummed we didn’t find out about it soon.

Prayer Flags Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Prayer flags are everywhere in the Tibetan Kham province.

Public Transport

Buses ply the routes between all towns. The road conditions range from perfectly paved to teeth-chattering gravel quagmires. Often times the edges of the road are not barricaded, with steep cliffs tumbling down the sides.

On more than one occasion we would close our eyes and pray that the driver wouldn’t careen us to our deaths. Luckily the dazzling scenery kept our minds off of our impeding doom.

There are no night buses, so your days will mostly be taken up with staring out the window of a bus. For your best chance at getting a ticket, buy one the day before you wish to depart.

There are also hundreds of minivan drivers willing to take you anywhere you want (don’t worry about looking for them, they will find you), should the buses be full.

Xiangcheng Road Views Bus Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Views from a bus on a road with no barricades – pretty typical in the region. This shot was taken on the way to Xiangcheng.

Hitchhiking The Route

We did a fair bit of hitchhiking in this area, with varied success, with the longest distance being about 200km. You are unlikely to be left stranded anywhere, as there are plenty of trucks and private cars on the roads.

The varying success we had came from people who would ask for money to take us where we wanted to go. This didn’t happen all the time, and most people did not expect anything in exchange for a ride, but it did happen occasionally.

On some of the more popular routes, such as Ganzi to Darjay Gompa for example, private taxis routinely charge 10RMB per person. Therefore locals charge the same.

No matter how many times we tried to explain with our phrasebook, “free ride” or “no charge”, they would not listen. We even had a monk give us a ride, only to ask for the same amount of money as the bus when we got to our destination, despite agreeing to ‘no money’ when we first set off.

Be very firm about whether you are willing to pay money before agreeing to a ride.

Hitch Hiking Ganzi Darjay Gompa Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Lesh hitchhiking out to Darjay Gompa near Ganzi.
Yaks Prayer Flags Tibet Overland Route Shangri La To Chengdu Kham Province Travel
Yaks and prayer flags – the symbols of the overland route from Shangri La to Chengdu.

About the author

Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award winning writers and photographers behind this blog, and we have been travelling the world together since 2008. Adventure travel is our passion, and through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Hello. Thanks for the informative blog, its very helpful. My boyfriend and I are in Yunnan and about to travel from Dali to Shangri-la and on to Chengdu. You mention in the blog that you were worried about some of the bus rides. Did you find the bus rides to be unsafe generally? Were they often speeding? I am a bit nervous about this. Thanks!

      Hi Zali, the roads were very sketchy. They are not well maintained. The bus drivers were fine and drove at the right speeds for the conditions. The days were long and slow sometimes. The buses are old but we thought they were fine. If you are scared of heights don’t sit on the left side of the bus. It is an adventure and the views are beautiful.

    Hi, thanks for an amazing blog post that is really helpful in planning a trip over there. I’m currently in Dali and going North bit by bit, eventually taking the same route to Chengdu. As for the time needed, I already got an idea from your responses to questions by other readers, meaning I can probably make the shortened version Shangri-La to Chengdu in 6-7 days. Though now is the deepest winter which might pose some problems. Anyway, what I was wondering is the altitude. Did you experience any difficulties related to such high places (you mention mountain passes at 4700m) and what kind of precautions did you make against potential health issues, if any? I’m kind of worried about getting the symptoms of altitude sickness somewhere up there where it might be impossible to descend right away. Thanks so much!

      Hey Jalmari Sarla
      I’m planning on doing the same route starting in about a week. Did it work out for you? (Especially with the snow/road conditions now).
      Would be great to hear from someone who did around this time! Thanks:)

      Hi Jalmari, sorry about the late reply. Hope you had a great trip. We didn’t feel any altitude sickness at all. We didn’t even take anything to prevent it. Hope you were ok.

    Hi Lesh!

    What an article, pictures and experience. I am currently in Yunnan and planning to head to Sishuan from Shangri La. I am quite concerned about the time as I only get a month here in China. How long did this itinerary take you?

      Hi Jean, this trip took us about 2 weeks. It was a stunning area to explore. From Chengdu we took an long train ride to Hong Kong to activate our second entry on our visa. Have a great time. 🙂

    Hello!
    This post is fantastic and very helpful in planning our upcoming trip to Kham.
    Quick questions: Do either of you speak Mandarin? And did you find that the language barrier hampered your experience?

    Many thanks!

      Thanks Kate. Neither of us speak a word of Mandarin. The language barrier was tough in China, but it didn’t slow us down. If you can pick up a phrase book that will help a lot.

    Hi Guys, i am an Australian teacher who leads trips to Sichuan every year with my students. What do you think about spending four days to get from Zhongdian to Ya’an city with a group of forty? We would start in Zhongdian, do the trip via Litang and Garze, then visit the two p,acrs we normally visit near and in chengdu. Thoughts? Would appreciate any feedback! Many thanks Ben

      Hey Ben. We think that is a very, very ambitious plan and might not actually be possible in 4 days. The roads are terrible and the distances are long. Plus it wouldn’t leave any time to see anything. Sorry mate.

    Hey! Your trip is just incredible! I am planning to do similar thing in June.
    Can you, please, advice me how many days did you spend on this route and would it be possible to make it in 7 days?
    Thank you!

      Definitely. Some places we stayed longer because we enjoyed the area. We did go north also. From Litang you can head straight to Chengdu. If you do have time, try to give yourself some leeway and spend some time in the places you like. You do not have to book your ticket way in advance. We just went to the bus station the day before and booked. Do get to the bus stations about 30 mins before. We did leave early than we were meant to sometimes. Have fun and enjoy the views. From Shangri La to Xiangcheng sit on the left side of the bus. Best views. Happy travels

    Hi! Great itinerary, now we’re thinking to do it next week! Can you suggest how we can shorten this route just a bit? Is there anything we can leave out somehow? Can we do it in 8 days and still enjoy it? Thanks so much!

      Definitely can be shortened. All depends what you want to do or not. We would suggest maybe missing Ganzi out. That would cut a nice chunk of time off your itinerary. Happy travels

        Hello, do you think it is possible to go from Dali to LiJiang to Shangri La to Xiangcheng to Litang OR Kanding to Chengdu in 5-6 days? W are planning on starting from Kunming and going to Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri La then taking a 20 hr train to Chengdu at this point, but it seems like a waste to skip all this beautiful countryside… any advice?

    Hi there! I wanted to thank you guys for this article! It was really a great guideline for our stay in Yunnan and Sichuan. I had it on my phone and kept on referring to it, at home and on the spot 🙂 I was so much looking forward after reading this – and what I expected became true! Love it how you talked about everything realistically, not just romances. I absolutely didn’t listen enough to you though – we did judge Litang too fast, but after exploring had a great time here. The people are amazing! Tagong and surroundings were very beautiful too, and we went to Danba even 😀

    Thank you so much for this very helpful article 🙂
    I always love it when people say they got value out of my travel vids on Youtube (this route is on there too) so just thought to let you know too. Thank you 😀 😀

      Thank you so much. It sounds like you had a blast. We are so happy it was useful to you. It is an amazing area. This is one of our overland highlights. Happy travels Grietje.

    Hi! congratulations for your blog, it is really helpful and clear!
    I have two quickly doubts if you can answer please I would really appreciate 😉
    When you travel around Yunnan, did you start from Kunming to Chengdu or from Chengdu? we are going to Yunnan province from Beijing, and we are not sure if could be better to go to Chengdu and travel around (Shangrila, etc) to Kunming (it would be perfect because we are going to Vietnam after Yunnan), or if it’s necessary to go to Kunming to explore this region. When I was reading your post I was not sure from where did you start.
    On the other hand, where did you see the pandas? it worth it to go to the Chengdu Reserve or do you recommend another place to see them?
    Thank you so much for your help and continue enjoying your life! 🙂

    Dear Nomadasaurus,

    When did you travel this route? Is the posing date the date you finished the journey?

    And how long did you take in total from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Chengdu?

    I am hoping to start this trip next week, and am wondering how much time to allow, and if all roads will be open and snow-free at this time of year (mid-March).

    Thank you for your help, great blog, super useful!

    Cheers,

    Ben

      Hi Ben, we did this trip from Shangri La to Chengdu in end of March / early April 2015. We did TLG to Chengdu in 2.5 weeks stopping in places for a couple of nights as we liked it there. I would say give yourself a couple of weeks for sure if you want to explore places. Definitely don’t miss the TLG hike, Shaxi, Litang, and Chengdu. They were our favourites. All the best.

    Hi, I really appreciate your blog! Your stories are amazing! I intended to go to Yunnan but I’m so inspired to go along this route after reading this article. Thank you for sharing the story. May I ask you something? Do you need the permission to enter Tibet autonomous area to travel on this route?

      Glad you are enjoying our blog, Tennesse. You do not need a permit to enter this region, as you never cross over the official ‘border’ into the TAR. You also have the freedom to wander around independently, and speak to the monks in the monasteries. Enjoy the journey 🙂

    Hi, thanks for the blog, it had been very useful for me, I am currently doing the route now. I just got back from a night in the valley near Tagong doing a homestay organised through Angela and the Khampa Cafe. I had a wonderful stay with her husband’s sister in a simple and tiny hut. I helped bring the baby yaks inside and got to see how the yak herder’s life is. I disagree with you that the whole thing was simply a money grab. Angela was very friendly and I think 120 yuan is a reasonable price. While accommodation and food was very basic it was a great experience, which is the whole point. At least you know the money is staying local and helping the people you meet, unlike all those very expensive entry fees that you seem to have to pay in China everywhere you go. At the end of the day it isn’t a great deal but well worth it.

      Hi Daniel, thanks for letting us know about your tour through Khampa Cafe. Perhaps we just got Angela on a bad day. Glad you had an amazing time!

    Hi guys! I leave for China, I am so excited! Can you please help me with a couple of things?

    For Ganzi, where is the Mount Everest Hotel? I assume it is walking distance from the bus station? I would also love to see that suspension bridge if you can guide me to finding it?

    Thanks so much!!

      Hey Jennifer, we have updated the post now to have the address. Walk across the road from the bus station and turn right. You will see it 🙂

        Thanks so much! I will be there tomorrow eeeeeeeeeeeee!

          Enjoy! Let us know how you go 😀

            When I first got to Ganzi, it was POURING RAIN. Like I could not see in front of my face, could not figure out how to get inside the bus station from the bus. All I saw was warped grey though my rain coated glasses. A woman came up and gestured sleep. I followed her up a staircase and was given a private room for 50 RMB above the bus station. Excellent.

            The next day I moved across the parking lot to the Golden Yak, mistakenly thinking that it would be a nice hotel because it looks like one. But it is not. The outside and the lobby look fantastic, everything else, not worth the cost.

            I am back in Ganzi right now, in the Hotel Himalaya. Being full time employed means I can splurge for things like Western toilets. Being a person who has seen the condition of these splurged Western toilets, means I am done splurging for them.

            Only five more days of Tibet for me! This has been rough. My tailbone hates me from the hours and hours of unpaved roads.

            Shame about the weather the first time, Jennifer. Did you get a chance to visit Darjay Gompa, or was the rain just too heavy?

            Thanks for the update on hotels too. Nothing wrong with wanting to splurge out for a Western toilet. We actually don’t mind the squat toilets (better for your body), as long as they are clean. Enjoy the last few days in Tibet! Happy travels 🙂

    Fantastic trip! We did kind of the “other half” of this trip- overland from Xining to Chengdu, which is the Amdo region. It was amazing- we stopped in some absolutely lovely little towns and saw the most stunning scenery! I’ll never forget the beautiful grasslands! We actually had a few spare days at the end so decided to pop down to Kangding and back (how many hours on a bus…!?) as we wanted to have been in the Kamdo region as well We actually liked Kangding. We only had one full day there (2 nights) and stayed in such a lovely hostel ( we had a gorgeous private room!) in a quiet area, up a hill and we did the cable car and some walks around the mountains. There was just something we liked about it. Maybe because it was out “last stop” in that area. Strangely enough, I later found out my colleague is from there and her family still live there, but I didn’t know when we made the last minute decision to go! Anyway, I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip. We’ve been wanting to go back and “finish the trip off” some day!

      Damn, we would love to check out the Amdo region! We will have to add it to the ever-growing list. Glad you had an awesome time in Kangding too 🙂

    Wow, this looks like it would be an incredible experience, and a great alternative to spending thousands on a guided tour. Great Photos too!

    One day! 😉

    A few years ago I did Chengdu, Kangding, Litang, Tagong, Danba, Chengdu, had a great time, loved the atmosphere in Tagong, witness a sky burial in Litang, took a lot of pictures of it, there were a few professional photographers at it. I want to go back to Larang Gar one day soon.

      It really is a beautiful area. While we don’t agree with taking photos as we feel it is a sign of disrespect, you are of course free to make your own decisions. Thanks for reading Anne.

    Nice overview guys – we did a similar journey around Sichuan Tibet – complete with buses, hitched rides, and lots of adventure 🙂 It was a highlight of our month in China!

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