Trip Types
  • Travel Style
  • Interests and Activities
  • Tour Ideas by Month
  • Continents and Regions

China Yunnan Ethnic Minority Experience Tour

  • Off the beaten track
Yunnan, a land of natural beauty and mystery, located in the most southwest of China, has a vast territory, magnificent mountains and rivers, abundant natural resources and diverse cultures. It is known for its colorful and intriguing diversity of ethnic minority groups. We will start with Lijiang City, which enjoys a long history of over 800 years, a gathering place of Nakhi ethic group. And in t...

Yunnan, a land of natural beauty and mystery, located in the most southwest of China, has a vast territory, magnificent mountains and rivers, abundant natural resources and diverse cultures. It is known for its colorful and intriguing diversity of ethnic minority groups. We will start with Lijiang City, which enjoys a long history of over 800 years, a gathering place of Nakhi ethic group. And in the towns of Yongning and Fengke, in the villages of Zhuangzi, Liuqing and Baoshan, you’ll fully experience the dazzling diversity, as these places are a haven for the Naxi, Muosuo, Yi and Pumi etc ethnic groups. Spend enough time in Tiger Leaping Gorge - one of the most attractive area in Southwest China. Your tour will end the trip at Zhongdian or say Shangri-La for the famous Dragon Snow Mountain etc. During this trekking route, you will not only visit impressive natural sites but will reach the rarely visited villages which still maintain their traditional lifestyle from thousand years ago. 

See more
Tour itinerary includes
  • Food and drink
    Food and drink
  • Local culture
    Local culture
  • Meet locals
    Meet locals
  • Walking and trekking
    Walking and trekking
  • Sightseeing

Customizable tour itinerary

This tour idea is fully customizable

This itinerary has been crafted by our Local Agency with one idea in mind: to inspire you. Every element can be adapted to your needs and your interests, from duration to accommodation and activities.

Day 1: Arrive in Lijiang

Upon arrival in Lijiang, check in, and then take a guided stroll in the old town. Lijiang is a small mountain town of stone and tile, laced with swift canals, which has been recently listed as an UNESCO world monument. It enjoys a long history of over 800 years and unlike most of the old towns in China, there is no city wall due to a superstitious belief of the local ruler whose family name is Mu (tree 木), when encircled by walls, would be Kun (besieged 困). Wooden structures, mountains, small rivers and lanes integrate harmoniously in this mountain town. It is also an enclave of ethnic minority cultures, and especially a gathering place of rugged mountain people of Nakhi (Naxi) ethnic group.

Then, we will drive 20mins to explore aspects of Naxi daily life in Baisha Village (白沙古镇), where houses built of adobe and wooden struts and beam are usually decorated with fish designs. We’ll next learn more about the Naxi people at the Dongba Museum. The museum is built completely according to the traditional life style of the Naxi Minority. You can feel the traditional atmosphere of national culture from the layout of its yard, building facilities, tools and details of life. Later, more tours including Black Dragon Pool.

Stay in a 4 stars courtyard guesthouse in the Lijiang old town.


Day 2: Enjoy the beautiful view among the huge mountains

After breakfast, you will leave Lijiang and drive to Lugu Lake. It is a long drive for about 6.5-7 hrs. On the way, enjoy the beautiful view among the huge mountains and rivers. To avoid long time on the van, you will have some stop on the way. There is a part of the road have a very beautiful view of the Yulong Snow mountain from the other side where the normal tourists will never see at all. Also, you could stop from time to time to have a short visit of some small villages of Yi nationalities. Upon arrival, visit a typical Mosuo family near Lugu Lake and stay for a wonderful night.  

Mosuo Culture has attracted a lot of interest in recent years. The Mosuo community has been isolated for a very long time and has lived a self reliant and self-managed lifestyle. This provides very clear evidence of the validity of its culture and traditions. They don't have a written language, so their entire history is an oral history, passed down from generation to generation. The Mosuo are often referred to as China's "last matrilineal society." One of the best known, and least understood, aspects of Mosuo culture is their practice of what has been termed "walking marriage" (Zou Hun in Chinese). It means partners do not live in the same household.

Stay in a nice Mosuo guesthouse with private washroom.

LijiangLugu Lake, Mosuo

Day 3: Discover the eternal peace and stability place of Yongning

This morning we will drive along the Lugu Lake northwest to Yongning town(2,800m), which means a place of eternal peace and stability. Yongning is surrounded by mountains and like spring all year round, where many Chinese ethnic groups such as Mosuo, Pumi, Yi, Bai, Zhuang, Naxi etc live here. 

Note: From now on, Cook, porters or stablemen and horses will escort you till Baoshan Stone Town.

When we arrive in Yongning town, visit Mosuo ethnic market and Zhamei Monastery. Then, start our trekking(6-7hrs) to Zhuangzi village with original forest on the way, where we can meet Yi, Pumi and Naxi minorities villages and feel the spiritual atmosphere in those villages. There are several up-and-down parts today, we will climb over the mountain pass(Zhuangzi Pass) (about 3,620 m) and then arrive to the Yi nationality’s area. Yi is the largest population of the minority nationalities in Yunnan and is well-known for their Torch Festival, from which is believed to have the power to repel insects, ward off evils, and protect the growth of crops. Standing on the top of mountain, we will have a great view of Yongning basin and Golden Sand River Valley.

At the end of hiking, we will stay in a village named Zhuangzi and chat with Pumi families. the Pumi were influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. Pumi women often wear jackets with buttons down one side here.

Stay in Pumi guesthouse with public shower and toilet.

Mosuo, Yongning, Zhuangzi, Pumi

Day 4: Cross the Yangtse River to discover the Naxi beauty

Today we will make a 1-hour drive towards Fenglian Village. On the way, meet the first village Labo on the east shore. Fenglian Village is located in Fengke Town, where many travelers would finish their trek as landscapes of the first stage are the most breathtaking.

Today, we will take about 6 hours from Fenglian Village trek cross the Yangtse River to discover the Naxi’s country. A further descent to the next village Liuqing is a long but gentle hike. Several villages can be found along the path with wooden irrigation canals, wooden houses and terrace field as well. You will come into Naxi nationality’s residential area and meet friendly and smiling villagers on the way. Stay in Naxi village guest house at the bank of Yangtze river. 

Stay in the Naxi family guesthouse with public toilet.

Pumi, Fengke Zhen, Liuqing, Fenglian, Naxi

Day 5: Discover a village built on a huge stone

Today is a strenuous day! With beautiful forests, village, valley view along the way. In the early morning, head south. Jinsha River (Yangzi River) flows southward on your left. In 2.5 hours, you will encounter a tough ascent to the Taizi (Prince) Pass with an altitude of 2,490m, steeply-incised by Jinsha Jiang. Even horses are not able to climb up here. You will have to cross two tunnels without any illumination. Torches are essential here. The first tunnel is actual the highest point of Prince Pass. The last part of the hiking is not easy, you will descend the steep and narrow trail from 2,490m to 1,788m. But you will find it is rewarding with a fantastic view of Baoshan Stone Town setting on a huge stone along the bank of the Yangtse River!

Baoshan Stone Town is not a town made of stone as it is named, but a big village built on a huge stone. The mighty nature mother brought along a heavy stone, and the diligent Naxi People turned it into a wonderland under heaven. The Town sits there, appearing uniquely simple and unsophisticated, and exhibiting the charm of local culture at the same time. 

Stay in the local Naxi guesthouse with public toilet and shower.

Naxi, Baoshan

Day 6: Enjoy the wonderful view of Jade Dragon

Explorer near Baoshan stone town and reach the Yangyze River around 2 hours, and enjoy leisure time in the morning with different species of bushes.

Note: Here you will say good-bye to the porters who escorted us for 5 days. There will be no porters and stablemen for the next 2 days' soft trekking.

Transfer to Daju after lunch, drive about 95km about 3.5 hours by minibus. Daju, a town where is the end of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Enjoy the wonderful view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from a far. When we arrive at Daju, we will be back again to the Golden Sand River (Yangtse River).

Stay in the local village guesthouse with public toilet and shower or camping

Naxi, Baoshan, Daju

Day 7: Stunning scenery in the countryside of Lijiang

Note: Today, your big luggage will be transferred by the van to the end of the hike point next day. You can only take necessity of one-night needs in a small bag with you for the following two-day’s hiking. The rest two-day’s hiking have guesthouse or tea house along the way, we may take rest in or have lunch there.

This is a full day trekking in the countryside north of Lijiang where the scenery is stunning. The Yangtze River, still in its infancy here, passes through the Gorge with cliffs of almost 4,000 metres on both sides. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world’s deepest gorges or river canyon in the world.

After breakfast, walk down to Jinsha River; take the boat to Heika village on the other side of Yangtze River from the Daju New Ferry. Hike along the road from the Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge to the Middle Part and visit the Walnut Grove Garden Village on the way. If time permits, trek down the middle Tiger Leaping Gorge to feel the stunning view and roaring of the River running in the deep valley. Continue hike up to Tina’s guesthouse (partly by local van on the road). Then further up to Halfway Guesthouse in Bendiwan village for the overnight. Here is simple but comfortable, with private bathroom and hot shower. 

Overnight at Halfway Guesthouse (2,395m) in Bendiwan with toilet and shower.

Daju, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Bendiwan

Day 8: Visit the tea and horse house

Trek from Halfway Guesthouse to Qiaotou (桥头)(1,835m), visit the Tea and Horse House, Naxi Family Guesthouse, pass through the 28-Zig-zag rail (28 bends) on the cliff on the trekking, cool and interesting. Opposite, the beautiful view of Yulong (Jade Dragon) Mountain is always in sight. Our driver and bus is greeting us at the end of the trekking and transfer from Qiaotou to Zhongdian (also called Shangri-la). Celebrating night with Tibetan dancing! 

Stay in a nice boutique hotel in Zhongdian.

Bendiwan, Qiaotou, Zhongdian

Day 9: Discover the little potala palace

Zhongdian is the first Tibetan town in Yunnan with a sprinkling of Bai Muslim and Naxi cultural influences. It is a beautiful land characterized by snow-capped mountains, vast grasslands, idyllic lakes and religious culture. It is a "Utopia" free from stress, pollution and turmoil that plagues most of the cities where we live.

Today we’ll visit Zhongdian Old town, huge prayer wheel and local Tibetan. This area is rich with Tibetan-style architecture and dates back 1300 years! We’ll explore Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, the largest Tibetan Monastery in Yunnan. Songzanlin Monastery has another alias 'the little Potala Palace ', so named because the whole monastery is in the traditional style with mysterious atmosphere. Walk around for 2 hours.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll drive to a small hill to visit Napa Lake about 6km away. The Napa Lake Nature Reserve is the country’s largest grassland and most scene area of the plateau. We’ll enjoy the Tibetan culture and take photographs before get back to Zhongdian old town for some souvenir shopping. Upon returning to our hotel in the evening we’ll have a delicious dinner. 

Stay in a nice boutique hotel in Zhongdian.


Day 10: End of tour in China

After breakfast, transfer to Zhongdian airport for flight to next destination.


Lijiang Lugu Lake Mosuo Yongning Zhuangzi Pumi Fengke Zhen Liuqing Fenglian Naxi Baoshan Daju Tiger Leaping Gorge Bendiwan Qiaotou Zhongdian

Price details

This tour idea is fully customizable

The price reflects this specific itinerary and is designed to give you an idea of the budget required for this destination. Throughout the trip-planning process, our local agency will tailor your itinerary around your budget.

Approx. $2,230 / 10 days
Excluding international flights
2 to 3 pax4 to 5 paxSingle Supp
Price per person in double room in 3* hotel$2,540$2,230$290
Price per person in double room in 4* hotel$2,640$2,320$380

Included in price:

  • Local transportation: A private vehicle (land cruiser in the desert or other off-road area as listed in the itinerary, bus or mini-van elsewhere in the area with good road) will accompany us for the entire tour. While we are trekking, our vehicle will transfer our food and luggage to the appointed site or hostel and wait or meet us at the end of the trekking tour
  • Equipment as required: Horse to carry the luggage, water (4 liters per person per day), 2-way radios, compass , first aid kit, GPS
  • Leader: Experienced English-speaking tour leader and one or more service persons along the trip as needed
  • Tips to guide and all the working staff(horsemen, driver, etc.)
  • Entrance fees: All first-entrance tickets to the tourist spots mentioned in the itinerary
  • Accommodation: 3 or 4-star hotels in the big cities, twin and tri-share clean hostel in the small counties or villages, occasionally private home if indicated, and tents in the desert and at certain unique camping spots mentioned in the itinerary
  • Meals: All meals as indicated in the itinerary, with some simple picnic lunches while trekking
  • Common carrier tickets: All domestic airfares and train tickets (soft sleeper) as listed in the itinerary, if applicable
  • Extra supplier of staff (only needed when the area we will trek to is non-residential and not accessible for any vehicles): horse or camel or yak and porter to carry food and all supporting equipments, and cook to prepare fresh food for the group when necessary(usually for a group more than 8 persons only)
  • Travel agency liability insurance

Not included in price:

  • Personal gear required: if camping, a sleeping bag sufficiently warm to protect against minus 20°C (-4°F) in Jan-March, against -10°C or -5°C (14°F- 23°F) in April and May, against 0-5°C (32°-41°F) in June. Also: hiking boots; It may different from the area, we will provide you the exact information when you confirm a tour. Raincoat; cap; camera; sun-cream; sun-glasses; pocket knife; day-pack, etc
  • Expenses of a personal nature: favorite snacks, soft drinks, laundry , local or long-distance calls, etc
  • Tips to tour guide and driver, and other service staff like cook, horsemen(recommended USD10-15/guest/day )
  • Tourist accident insurance. NB - you are strongly suggested to buy travel and health insurance before you start out from your home country
  • Any service persons to carry personal belonging while trekking (although this can be arranged, it should be unnecessary - participants should find that trekking with a single day-pack for personal items should suffice)
  • Single supplement costs (for those who want accommodation on a single basis)
  • Visa to China
  • Domestic and international flights and related airport taxes not listed in the itinerary
  • Supplementary trips, entrance fees and services not mentioned, and extra costs due to unforeseen circumstances

Itinerary not quite right for you?

Create your custom-made trip Browse all tour ideas in China (18)

Other tour ideas

Tour ideas by activity, interest, or seasonality