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Introducing Shangri-la (Zhōngdiàn)

Shangri-la, previously known as Zhōngdiàn (also with the Tibetan name Gyalthang), is where you begin to breathe in the Tibetan world. That’s if you can breathe at all, given its altitude (3200m).

Home to one of Yúnnán’s most rewarding monasteries, Shangri-la is also the last stop in Yúnnán before a rough five- or six-day journey to Chéngdū via the Tibetan townships and rugged terrain of western Sìchuān.

Arriving at the central bus station does not give the impression that you have arrived in ‘Shangri-la’ as the modern part of town feels like a typically ugly, medium-sized Chinese city. It’s only when you take a bus to the ‘old town’ that Shangri-la reveals its charms. Tourism is growing here but its still an easy place to kick back for a few days.

Plan your visit for between April and October. During winter the city practically shuts down and transportation is often halted completely by snowstorms.

In mid- to late June, the town hosts a horse-racing festival that sees several days of dancing, singing, eating and, of course, horse racing. Accommodation is tight at this time.