“Follow the ancient Tea Horse Trail on our 10 day Yunnan Cycling Adventure and experience Yunnan's jaw dropping scenery, diverse ethnic cultures and fascinating history.”
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Day 1: Arrival Shangri-LaDinner
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 centrally locatred hotel in the old town.
Altitude - 3160m
***As Zhongdian is at an elevation of 3160m all the activities on day two below are optional. It is not uncommon for people to feel the effects of altitude sickness on arrival at this elevation so we have allowed time in Zhongdian to acclimatize and rest for those that need to. You may wish to book some extra accommodation in Zhongdian if acclimatisation is a concern for you. There is a lot to do in Zhongdian with numerous hikes, monasteries and an old town to explore.
Day 2: Warm up ride Shangri-La - 40kmBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 40 km
In the morning we’ll set up our bikes and head out to the Napa Lake for a loop ride of the lake, surrounding farmland and keep our eyes open for the birdlife attracted to this impotant wetland. In the afternoon you'll have time to visit Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Songzanlin Si), South West China’s most important monastery. In the evening we’ll indulge in a traditional Tibetan feast.
Day 3: Cycle to Baishuitai - 65kmsBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 65 km
After breakfast we load up the bikes to transfer 35km out of the busy town centre to our ride start point. Today is an epic day with spectacular scenery making up for the hard work on the climbs. Throw in some extraordinary long and fast downhills on smooth paved roads with hardly a car in sight and the ride starts of with the bar raised high. We stop for a picnic lunch with plenty of tasty foods to keep you fueled up for the big climbs. This ride is varied and spectacular as we wind our way up through valleys and across mountain sides completely covered with wild camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and osmanthus trees and bushes…an amazing sight!
We arrive late afternoon with time to visit the spiritual heart of the Naxi Minority people: the ‘White Water Terrace’ rock formation that sits above the town of Sanba. It was created over millions of years by underground aquifers saturated with calcium carbonate and is shaped like local rice terraces with pools of clean water flowing over the white surface. Local Shaman often perform rituals in this sacred area. Tonight we stay in a local hotel, the only one in this tiny village!
Day 4: Cycle to Tiger Leaping Gorge - 73kmBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 73 km
In the morning we begin cycling with a few smaller climbs high along the side of a deep valley. We wind our way through farming terraces before a big descent brings us down to the small town of Haba for lunch. Haba has ethnic Yi people as well as Hui Muslims and also serves as a base camp for those wanting to climb Haba Mountain - a 5396m peak that rises 3500m above the Yangze as it flows through Tiger Leaping Gorge. Oppositte Haba Mountain, on the opposite side of the gorge, rises Jade Dragon Snow Mountain; a massif with several spectacular jagged peaks, the highest of which is 5596m.
After lunch we’ll get back on the bikes for a 7km climb followed by another downhill – this one is around 25km - to enter Tiger Leaping Gorge and cycle to our lodgings for the night. Riding in the gorge is a highlight for many people on this trip with its overhangs, immensly high sheer rock faces, waterfalls and impressive views of the Yangze River at one of it's narrowest points. Our lodgings are in a comfortable local guesthouse with possibly the most spectacular views in all of China!
***Travelling in the gorge does pose some risks. There are often landslides in summer, and while we pay close attention to local information regarding landslides, their occurrence is outside our control. In the event of a landslide we may have to alter the itinerary – this may take several hours or up to a whole day. We are always in communication with local contacts with regard to local conditions and are committed to keeping you informed but will always reserve the right to alter the itinerary where we see fit in order to ensure the safest possible experience.
Day 5: Tiger Leaping Gorge - Free Day or Optional HikeBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner
There is no place more fitting to spend a day of rest and relaxation than immersed in the beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge. For the energetic there are plenty of hiking opportunities; walk the plunging forest tracks to the gorge itself or venture off on the high trail to plunge yourself into a gushing waterfall. Otherwise sit back, relax and soak in the truly awe inspiring views of this remarkable natural wonder.
Day 6: Cycle through Tiger leaping Gorge - Transfer to Lijiang - 45kmBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 45 km
The views are truly breathtaking as we cycle through Tiger Leaping Gorge with the Yangtze River raging far below. Once through the gorge we meander our way along the Yangtze River passing mud brick villages on quaint tree-lined, tar-sealed roads. This area is home to many minority groups including Dai, Yi and Naxi people. Finishing our ride by the banks of the Yangze, near the ‘first bend in the Yangtze River’, we load up the bikes for a drive to Suhe Town on the outskirts of Lijiang. A change of pace for the evening, Suhe is one of the traditional Naxi villages that sees far less tourists than Lijiang, but has a bustling cosmopolitan vibe to go along with it's old world charm. Set below the soaring peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, this is a pleasing contrast to the quieter rural places of previous nights.
Day 7: Cycle to Shaxi Old Town- up to 80kmBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 80 km
We leave behind the bustle of Lijiang and head out of town to begin our ride through farmland and orchards on quiet back country roads. A big descent brings us back onto a main road for a section into Jiannchuan. We'll stop near Jianchuan for lunch before continuing along the main road for a shorter section before making our way over a series of short climbs before a final long descent into Shaxi. A perfect place to get lost in the narrow, cobblestone alleyways, get a close look at intricately carved wooden entrances and hopefully catch glimpses of the well-fenced and attractive courtyards of many of the homes in Shaxi. Sideng Square froms the centre of the old town, which was formed as part of Tea Horse route during the Tang dynasty in 618. Sahxi is UNESCO listed as it is one of the most intact tea horse trading towns left remaining in China.
Highly recommended is a visit and hike through the “Shibaoshan Shiku” Stone Treasure Buddhist Grottoes. These are old Buddhist shrines and statues carved into the mountain rock, some still carrying the last of fading pigments. These are a legacy of the trade route from Yunnan into Tibet and Burma which, although it was designed to carry tea and horses, also spread Buddhism throughout the region.
***As the day can be potentially a long ride, it is unlikely there will be time to cycle all the way and visit the grottoes too. Your guide will asses the abilities and interests of the group and advise whether it is more suitable to transfer the group part of the way, to both shorten the cycling distance and allow time to visit the grottoes, or cycle all the way to Shaxi without visiting the grottoes.
Day 8: Cycle to Eryuan Hot Springs - 106kmBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 106 km
We hit the road with a smooth run through an intimate valley, passing by quaint villages, forest and farmland. The views get progressively more expansive as we climb to the top of a pass, all the way cycling through a heavily wooded forest of pine trees. The view is spectacular but it’s a testing climb so the support vehicle will be ready for those that need it. The road down is endless hairpins on a smooth sealed road. Finally, we cycle down through a ravine into Eryuan, the location of our hotel for the night and their relaxing hot springs. We'll soothe our muscles in the naturally occuring spring water.
Day 9: Cycle to Dali Old Town - 60kmBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 60 km
Today we share our cycling with bell-laden horses and carts as we continue travelling on toward Dali. We follow a circuitous route that takes us between the huge Er Hai Lake and the towering Cangshan Mountain, skirtting the shores of this inland sea, passing through fishing villages, farming communities and ancient temples. This is a spectacular finale as we head up the hill toward the ancient walled capital, Dali. Home to the Bai people, the architecture in the old town and surrounding villages shows off these people's fine woodworking and artistry, with some of the more asthetically pleasing craftmanship you'll find in China. The old town is a haven for tourists these days as there is alot to explore in the area; and the fine weather and beautiful landscapes make it tempting to linger in Dali longer. We’ll feast and celebrate the completion of our ride with a beer or two!
Day 10: Departure DayBreakfast
Today is departure day and we say farewell! You may wish to stay on in Dali to explore further, make your way to other destinations in China or begin your journey home. Dali is serviced by an airport linking Kunming and many destinations in China. There is also a high speed rail and regular buses linking Kunming too. Let us know if you need any advice or suggestions for your onward travel.
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?
2020 has seen travel grind to a halt and the outlook going into 2021 looks to be more of the same. While we have suspended travel to most of our destinations we are operating tours in China for domestic travellers. We'll open up destinations as the stuation improves and only when travel is green lighted by the relevant health and government agencies.
Travelling during this time means adhering to mandated guidlines and practices which means having green codes enabled on your mobile phone apps, taking Covid tests, wearing masks where neccesary, and filling in contact and travel history forms. These rules and guidelines are constantly changing as situations regarding the virus change, so it is important to remain flexible. We'll inform you of the requirements when you book and leading into the tour departure date.
Given the situation as it is, please understand that cancellations are quite possible and are outside of our control. While we understand the frustrations this may present, we'll do our best to make things run as smooth as possible and keep you informed of any changes as they arise.
During this time we will only accept full payments for tours three weeks before departure. All payments, however, will be refunded in full if the tour is cancelled prior to departure, or your personal covid-related situation precludes you from commencing the tour. Please make sure when booking flights that they are aslo refundable in the event of a cancelation.
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.
*****COVID 19 Booking Terms Update*****
During this unique time we will only be accepting full payments for tours three weeks before departure. All payments, however, will be refunded in full if the tour is cancelled prior to departure, or your personal covid-related situation precludes you from commencing the tour. Please make sure when booking flights that they are aslo refundable in the event of a cancelation.
- 10 days
- Cycling Tour
- 454 km
- 2 - 12 People
- 2390 USD
- 400 USD (single supplement)
Shangrila, Lijiang, Shaxi, Dali old towns
Spectacular mountain and valley cycling
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Mighty Yangtze River
Tibetan, Naxi, Bai, Yi minorities
Tibetan highlands and meadows
Ancient Tea Horse Caravan route
Hot springs and snow-capped mountains
9 nights accommodation in comfortable hotels or guesthouses
Fully supported - support vehicle(s) and all transport en-route are included
Most meals - as per itinerary
Water and snacks whilst cycling
Entry tickets as per itinerary
Cycling guide/ mechanic and driver
Quality well-maintained mountain bike
Bike tools and spare parts
Bike Asia Jersey
What's Not Included?
International airfares, visas, insurance, tips, gratuities, personal expenses, helmet.