We came here to hike in the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge.
After crossing the Tibetan part of Sichuan in often chaotic buses (they drive on dirt roads between 3500m and 4700m above sea level) but with breathtaking landscapes, we reached the northern part of Yunnan and the small town of Shangri-la.
This name may evoke a kind of paradise on earth, but it is not. (This is the connotation it has in literature and myths). This locality is actually called Zhongdian and has simply been renamed Shangri la to attract tourists. Nevertheless, it is an excellent base for visiting northern Yunnan. For us it was also a welcomed return to civilization (which means good food and a cozy bed) after 1-2 weeks away from everything.
Relying on the guide books is good, but with moderation is even better
There are many trekking opportunities in the region. But as usual, we can’t do everything and we decided for the tiger leaping gorges located 2 hours south of Shangri. If you read what the “bible” lonely planet says, it is the unmissable trek in southwest China and it is apparently quite difficult (there have even been deaths among foreign tourists).
So don’t be discouraged by the term “difficult” because we didn’t encounter any difficulties at all along the trail. It is probably the best signposted route we have encountered in China so far ;). On the landscape side, the lonely doesn’t lie this time… and as you will see, it is indeed worth the detour ;-).
During our time to China we mainly planned our trip with Lonely Planet China. After this first country we often travelled without a guide, but back in China it seemed really useful to us to have one and this one is really good! There are more and more resources available online about China, but it still remains a country where it is handy to have it in a book (especially for showing locals where you want to go) (And it also exists in Kindle version if you prefer not to carry it around) 😉
Come on, we’ll whet your appetite with a short video and for the moment, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel ;-)… For information on the trek, it’s lower!
The Tiger Leaping Gorge
There are two ways to cross the gorges: a path that runs along the top of the cliffs and a road (now paved) that crosses the gorges at half height. As you probably imagine, this is the first solution that has the most interest. This trail offers magnificent views of the gorges all along.
Difficult if done in one day it becomes much more accessible if you do it over 2 days. But if you are short in time (roughly if you only have one day), you can take a bus to the central point of the gorges. From there you can walk down to the riverside which is particularly impressive at this location. Of course, we strongly advise you to take the “high trail” and it is this passage that we will detail now.
Tiger Leaping Gorge: The high trail
As we already told you, this trail should not be missed by any hiking fan. We advise you to go to the village of Quiaotou at the end of the day where the entrance to the park is located. After paying the ticket (65 yuan), go spend the night at Jane’s guesthouse! It’s clean, cheap (25 yuan per person in dormitory), good wifi, free gorges cards and good food… We even came back after the trek ;). It is also a stone’s throw from the start of this famous “high trail”. If you don’t want to run, do this walk in two days! There are several nice guesthouses along the way and it’s anyway always nicer to take your time. See on Hostelworld
First trekking day in the Tiger Leaing Gorge
It takes 5-7 hours of walking depending on your pace and the guesthouse you choose to stop at. To be honest, only two of them caught our attention. The “Tea horse guesthouse” and the “Halfway guesthouse”. They are both well located (about in the middle of the trek) and very welcoming (we slept at the first and had breakfast at the next).
Most of this first day is just a climb… but I can reassure you right away, it’s quite feasible. There is about 900m of altitude difference. If you are struggling, remeber that climbing makes your butt look nicer… Might help ;).
Even “the 28 death laces” according to the lonely (okay, I exaggerate a little) are not that hard ;). But well, we were still happy to arrive at the guesthouse to eat something and spend a good evening with other hikers;).
Second day on the Tiger Leaping gorge trail
After climbing up to the heights of the gorges, it is now just about walking along them in a spectacular setting. There are rivers and waterfalls everywhere! For those who don’t know it yet, I love waterfalls 😉 ! The breathtaking cliffs overlooking the Jinsha River should also please you (but no worries, still no danger on the horizon).
We also had an unexpected encounter on this stretch… a marijuana saleswoman. Just that you know… at the tiger leaping gorges, you can get for 1 euro what would have cost you 40 in Europe ;)… #JustSayin
Arrived in the middle of the gorges, the path gently descends to the place called “Walnut garden”. This is where the “High trail” meets the asphalt road and it is also from there that it is possible to descend into the heart of the gorges.
You will have guessed it, it is also the place where you will find the mass of tourists who arrive with the buses… and who says tourists say you will have to pays! (it is the norm in China… the slightest point of view is not free!).
Going down to the Tiger Leaping Gorge
You have to pay 10 yuan to take the stairs down to the river bank. You will have to pay 10 more yuan if you want to have the best views at the bottom of the gorges. And finally you will have to take out the wallet again if you don’t want to go back the same way.
Well, notice that it would be stupid to miss this for 30 yuans (5 euros) so much the show at the bottom of the gorges is impressive! There is such a mass of water that concentrates there… I guess even rafting pros wouldn’t come and try the experience ;-)….
Talking about experience… should i mention the ladders we took to get out of the Gorge??? Have a look at the video, but I promise that this was a fair share of adrenaline…
Practical Information for the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
- Starting point: Jane’s Guesthouse
- Accomodation: several options on the way. Half Way guesthouse or the Tea Horse Guesthouse
- Total Distance: 26km
- Total elevation gain: about 2000m
- Total elevation loss: about 2000m
- Getting Back: By bus from the gorges (frequent connections)
Tiger Leaping Gorge hiking Map
Our Conclusions about the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
In the end, we really enjoyed these two days spent in the gorges! The landscapes are very varied and the “high trail” is neglected by Chinese tourists. Chinese tourists don’t really like to walk during their holidays… which is pretty nice if you ask me, because this leaves the trails more quiet.
In addition, compared to other places we have visited (Mount Emei, Mount Hua), the prices are very reasonable either for the gorges themselves (it will cost you about 100 yuan per person for entering and leaving the gorges) or for the guesthouses on the trails. And once again, don’t be impressed by what you read in the lonely planet, they really tend to overestimate the difficulty of this trail.
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