Emerald Pagoda Lake

Lake in Shangri-la

Also known as Pǔdácuò (普达错), a Mandarinised-version of its Tibetan name, Emerald Pagoda lake is 25km east of Shangri-la. The bus to Sānbà can drop you along the highway. From there, it's 8km down a trail (a half-hour by pony), and while the ticket price is laughably steep, there are other (free) trails to the lake. A bike is useful for finding them; taxis will drop you at the ticket office.

Pony trips can be arranged at the lake. An intriguing sight in summer are the comatose fish that float unconscious for several minutes in the lake after feasting on azalea petals.

The whopping entrance fee is also due to the inclusion of Shǔdū Hú, another lake approximately 10km to the north. The name means ‘Place Where Milk is Found’ in Tibetan because its pastures are reputedly the most fertile in northwestern Yúnnán.

Getting to the lake(s) is tricky. The easiest way is to go on a tour arranged by your hostel. Otherwise, catch the bus to Sānbà, get off at the turn-off and hitch. Getting back you can wait (sometimes interminably) for a bus or hike to one of the entrances or main road and look out for taxis – but there may be none. A taxi will cost around ¥300 to ¥400 for the return trip, including Shǔdū Hú.

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