The UNESCO Three Parallel Rivers protected area is one of the most spectacular regions on the planet. Located on the edge of Tibet, it is home to dozens of ethnic minority groups, incredible biological diversity and uniquely dramatic land formations. If you like jaw-dropping scenery, thrilling cycling and local culture up close then Magical Shangrila is a must-do!
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Day 1: Arrive Shangri-LaLunch
This is arrival day and you’ll be met by your Bike Asia leader in the evening to go over the trip ahead. For those arriving early, (not a bad idea in order to acclimatise to the altitude) the old Tibetan town of Zhongdian, Gyalthang in Tibetan (recently renamed Shangri La), is worth exploring. The town still retains its Tibetan feel and old world charm. After our meeting we’ll indulge in a traditional Tibetan feast. The next two night’s accommodation is in a comfortable Tibetan style hotel.
Day 2: Warm up ride Shangri-LaLunch 40 km
Today we head out for a ride to Tian Sheng hot springs on the outskirts of Shangri-La. A great warm up for the cycling ahead, taking in the beautiful architecture of Tibetan homes, lush alpine forest, pasture land and diverse wildflowers, we’ll have time for a soak in the outdoor springs with its natural amphitheater and natural rock bridge. For those up to it there’s an option to do a little mountain biking on the way back. The rest of the afternoon is set aside to acclimatise or to head out to Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Songzanlin), South West China’s most important monastery. We’ll dine local style in the old town in the evening.
Day 3: Cycle to BenzilanLunch 100 km
Today we head to the Tibetan town, Benzilan, wedged in the Jinsha (Yangzi) River Valley. The ride starts with a loop around Napa lake, famed for it’s wetland migratory water birds, followed by a nice 5 km climb to our first pass before we head down fast to the beautiful village of Nixi for a traditional local lunch. This village is famous for its distinctive handmade black pottery. We head uphill to our second minor pass before hitting a 25km descent to the Yangzi River. The views are incredibly dramatic and the roads, whilst excellent, are an engineering wonder in themselves. Dotted among the deep ravines and precipitous cliffs are Tibetan villages irrigated with terraces and channels from snow melt and springs above. We follow the stunning Yangzi river valley along undulating roads to the picturesque town of Benzilan where we stay in a local guesthouse. The accommodation here is basic as this is a remote little travelled region.
Day 4: Cycle to Dongzhulin MonasteryLunch 32 km
After our big descent the day before, we head up, up, up to Dongzhulin Monastery on the shoulder of Bai Ma Snow Mountain in the Parallel Rivers Unesco Protected Area. As it’s such a huge ascent (65km from the Yangze to the to of White Horse Mountain pass), we’ve broken the climb into two days allowing time to enjoy this incredible area and further acclimatise. Dongzhulin monastery, built in 1667, is right next not far from our local style Tibetan guesthouse so there will be time to explore the mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism, meet some monks and explore the area in a less visited working monastery. We cycle on past the monastery to stay in a local guesthouse popular with Chinese cyclists making their way to Lhasa. There are some interesting walks in the area.
Day 5: Cycle to DeqenLunch 75 km
An early morning wake up on the mountain and its back on the bikes for a 35km climb (or ride in the van as you wish!) up to our highest point at 4200m with spectacular views of Bai Ma Snow Mountain and Kawakarpo in the distance. After a short break to soak it all up, we head downhill into Deqin county through dozens of switchbacks. The views are amazing but we cover ground quickly before arriving at our home-stay nestled on a ridge overlooking Meili Snow Mountain, or Kawakarpo in Tibetan, the region’s most holy mountain and an important Tibetan pilgrimage site. Tonight’s accommodation is in a quiet Traditional style Hotel with views of the mountains.
Day 6: Rest Day Deqen - Glacier HikeBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Today we say goodbye to the bikes and jump in the van for a drive into Meili Snow Mountain (Kawakarpo) National Park. After crossing the Mekong River by car, we’ll be carrying day packs for a two day hike to Yubeng, a spectacular Tibetan village only accessible on foot. The hike takes around 5 hours and we’ll be staying in a local family run guesthouse. The views here are among the most spectacular of the trip with views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks, Tibetan villages and farmland. Tonight we stay in a local Tibetan guesthouse.
Day 7: Cycle to CizhongLunch 100 km
Setting off on foot once again, we’ll make our way back down to the impressive Mekong River (Lancang River). It’s a spectacular hike through ravines and along rushing rivers with views of the surrounding Snow Mountains hanging above as we recross the river and meet the van. It’s a one and a half hour drive to Cizhong village on the banks of the Mekong river. Cizhong has a century old Catholic church built by French missionaries and is remarkable for it’s unique mix of eastern and western architecture and religious iconography. We’ll have the opportunity to witness an evening mass and a traditional meal with a glass or two of the local wine – a truly unique experience in China! The next two night’s accommodation is in local Naxi style guesthouse.
Day 8: Cycle/ Transfer to TachengLunch 70 km
Today is a free day to rest and explore the area. We’ll visit the local church and meet the priest who still maintains the Catholic Church and religious services. If there is a mass in the evening we are likely to be invited and see how the religious iconography and hymn singing has been adapted to local styles. Also worth seeing is the local wine making. The local people in the area area still practice wine making, a practice first introduced by missionaries over a century ago.
Day 9: Cycle to JinjiangzhenLunch 81 km
On the bikes again and we tend downward toward the small village of Tongle. Today sees us pass through several gorges and we witness the widening of the Mekong Valley. More villages cling to the mountainsides and rice becomes more prevalent. It’s not all easy downhill cycling though as we take a side trip up into the little travelled Lisu wooden village of Tongle. This side-trip represent the fascinating mix of cultures and people that peacefully co-inhabit this region. The ride up to Tongle and back is 14km. Options are to hike part the way instead. Once we finished exploring the village we jump into the van for a drive to our hotel in Weixi. This is a hub for all the farmers in the area and is a vibrant bustling town – a stark contrast to the tiny villages we have encountered so far. We’ll spend a night in a 3 star hotel and eat out on the street to soak up the atmosphere.
Day 10: Cycle/ Transfer to Tiger Leaping GorgeLunch 70 km
We start the day with a big climb to lunch through picturesque villages of Naxi and Lisu minority groups. After lunch we have yet another long descent to the town of Tacheng, the jumping off point to the Golden Haired Monkey (or Snub Nosed Monkey) reserve, one of China’s three most endangered species. Today’s ride is one of the most picturesque on the tour. Once we arrive there’ll be time for walks through the village and surrounding farmland. Our night is spent in a small local hotel.
Day 11: Afternoon Cycle to DaxuLunch 65 km
A trip to see the golden hair monkeys is a highlight in the morning. These creatures are one of China’s rarest and the reserve is one of China’s better conservation efforts with limited and controlled contact with humans. You’ll be able to see these intriguing creatures going about their daily routine and by visiting you’ll contribute to the funds needed to keep this project going. We’ll have the morning to visit the preservation centre before heading back on the bikes for a fast and flat ride to the riverside town of Jinjiang. This is a long ride but a flat one through farmland and along the banks of the Yangzi River. Tonight we spend the night in a local hotel.
Day 12: Cycle to LijiangLunch 45 km
We continue our ride on flat and fast sealed roads along the Yangzi River once more. We’ll make our way to our ride finish point in Shigu and “the first bend” in the Yangze River where this huge river changes course and makes it’s way deeper into China. Shigu is also famous for being a crossing point on the “Long March” and features some interesting temples and back streets. We’ll grab some lunch and after a tour of the town we’ll transfer to nearby Lijiang where we’ll celebrate the end of the tour with a Naxi feast and perhaps a beer or two! Tonight we stay in a comfortable Chinese style hotel.
Day 13: Departure dayLunch 590 km
– You are free to leave at any time.
Can we change the itinerary or customise the tour?
Not for publicly listed dates, but if you have your own group or date in mind, Yes. If you want to make a private booking we can help design a tour that suits you. You may have ideas based on any of our tours or something in mind that you can't find on our website. Just get in contact with us and let us know what you have in mind and we'll try our best to make it happen!
Do you cater for vegetarians?
Yes we do! If you have any dietery requirements just let us know when you book in the space provided (Additional Requests). For any severe alergies or other conditions it is best that you let us know in advance so that we can prepare and/ or advise you on what we can provide or what you might need to bring so that are well catered for.
What about Covid 19?
Covid restrictions have passed for most countries and it is now possible to obtain tourist visas for China. For China you may need to provide a personal Covid test within taken 24 hours before your departure, these are only checked randomly, and can also be taken on arrival.
During all our tours we take care to avoid any transferring of any viruses, such as Covid, through providing hand sanitisers and minimising exposure. As with any illness, all care will be made for the participants well being during the tour and we will help with any arrangements that need to be made if the participant needs to leave the tour (this will be at the cost of the participant). Costs for unused segments of tours cannot be refunded, for any reason, as all tour costs are paid in advance.
How to I make a booking and payment?
Simply go to the "Dates" section of the tour page and click on the "book now" button, or click on "book" on the website header and select your preferred tour and departure date. If you are booking onto an on demand tour and have your own dates in mind there will be an facility for you book here too.
Before you book, we recommend that you read through the tour details and our booking terms and conditions. You can contact us about the trip if you have any questions at email@example.com or set up a time to chat about the tour.
Upon completion of your booking form we’ll send you an acknowledgement email and invoice for a deposit. All long trips (7 days or more) require a deposit of 300USD to guarantee your place. Trips departing within 60 days at booking will require full payment. Once your deposit is received, we’ll also send you a pre-trip information pack that will give you added information about the tour, the region you’ll be travelling through, a checklist of things to prepare, suggestions for packing, training tips and more. For shorter trips and day tours we require full payment 30 days prior to the commencement of the tour or as soon as convenient if booking within 30 days of departure.
Payments can be made on credit card via Paypal or through a direct bank transfer in most currencies. Information on payments will be present on your initial deposit invoice. Paypal payments will incur a 4% fee.
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- 13 days
- Cycling Tour
- 504 km
- 4 - 12 People
- 2695 USD
- 465 USD (single supplement)
- Shangri-La and Lijiang old towns
- Unesco Three Parallel Rivers Protected Area
- Tibetan, Naxi, Bai, Yi and Lisu minority cultures
- White Horse and Kawakarpo Snow Mountains
- Outdoor hot springs and sumptuous local food
- Big climbs, long descents; epic cycling and hiking
- Ancient Tea Horse Caravan route
- Christian churches, Buddhist monasteries and village markets
- Stunning, wild scenery: forest, gorges, wildflowers
- Golden haired monkeys, yaks and birdlife
- 12 nights accommodation (6 nights in comfortable hotels or guesthouses with twin share rooms, private bathrooms facilities etc, 2 nights in basic local hotels and 4 nights in local home stays)
- All transport from the start point to the finish point
- Meals; Breakfasts (12), Lunch (11), Dinner (12)
- All water and snack food whilst cycling
- All entry tickets as described in the itinerary
- Bike Asia tour leader
- Local cycling guide/ mechanic and driver
- Quality well-maintained mountain bike
- Bike tools and spare parts
- Support vehicle(s)
- Bike Asia T-shirt
What's Not Included?
- Airport transfers
- International airfares
- Tips, gratuities and personal expenses
- Single supplement. Accommodation is based on a twin share basis. Single travellers will be paired with someone else of the same gender. If you would like a your own room this can be arranged for an extra charge. Just let us know when booking
- Helmet or cycling clothing