Yǔbēng & Kawa Karpo Hikes

The principal reason to visit Déqīn is the chance to hike to the foot of Kawa Karpo. The main destination is Yǔbēng (雨崩) village from where you can make day hikes to mountain meadows, lakes and the fabulous Yǔbēng Waterfall (雨崩神瀑; Yǔbēng Shénpù).

The five-hour, 18km trek to Yǔbēng starts at the Xīdāng (西当) hot spring, about 3km past Xīdāng village. The drive from Fēilái Sì to Xīdāng takes one hour and 40 minutes. There is a ¥5 entrance fee for Yǔbēng, but when you show your receipt at your guesthouse you’ll get ¥5 off your bill.

Yǔbēng consists of two sections. You first arrive in ‘Upper Yǔbēng’, which contains most guesthouses, then the trail continues another 1km to ‘Lower Yǔbēng’. Yǔbēng is busier than it was, so booking ahead at peak periods is a good idea. Lobsang Trekker Lodge, in Upper Yǔbēng, is a popular place that offers meals, comfortable rooms and good traveller info. Also recommended is the Interval Time Guesthouse, which has knowledgable staff and decent food.

From Yǔbēng village, there are loads of treks. It’s a three- to four-hour trip on foot or horseback to the waterfall. Or, you could head south to a picturesque lake (it’s around 4350m high and not easy to find, so take a guide). Guides cost around ¥200 per day. Supplies (food and water) are pricey in Yǔbēng so stock up in Fēilái Sì.

Leaving the village, many travellers hike to Nínóng (尼农) village by the Mekong River, a five-hour downhill trek that includes a hairy one-hour section along a precarious, narrow path. If you are prone to vertigo, head back to Xīdāng instead. Vans run to Déqīn and Fēilái Sì from Nínóng for ¥25 per person or ¥200 for the whole van. If you are stuck, walk 6km to Xīdāng where there is more transport.

Then there’s the legendary Kawa Karpo kora, a 12-day pilgrim circumambulation of Méilǐ Xuěshān. However, half of it is in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, so you’ll need a permit to do it; and you’ll definitely need a guide.