Western Sichuan In-depth Driving Tour – 16 Days
Western Sichuan In-depth Driving Tour – 16 Days
This is a two-week long adventure tour into the far most regions of western Sichuan including the snow-capped Mount Siguniang peaks, farming Tibetans of Danba Village, nomads people on the vast grassland, Holy shrine of Yarchen Gar Buddhist School, the remote paradise of Xinlu Lake, Holy center of Dege, the Khampa Litang and Kangding. This is a guided private trip starts and ends in Chengdu.
Day 01 Chengdu – Kangding
Today to start by 9am and it is a full driving day with stops at places worth to take photos. The road is the main access from traditional China to traditional Tibet. It is called national highway 318, which is used by many travelers today to go further west to Tibet. We will pass Erlangshan Road Pass and enter into Luding, the former town that is famed by being one of the major stops made by red army during Long March in 1930s led by Mao. After Duda River, we will enter into Kangding, a half Chinese half Tibetan town with the largest population of any Tibetan town here. Wander the street of the town and join the public dance at the central square by 7pm if time allows.
National Highway 318: The main road from traditional China to Tibet, following the ancient tea-horse road. It is considered to be the most beautiful, also dangerous road in China due to its connection of different and important locations.
Kangding: Kangding is the frontier town between traditional China and Tibet. It is located 300km west to capital city Chengdu of Sichuan Province. Kangding is the capital city of Ganzi Tibetan Prefecture. Kangding is one of the biggest cities in traditional Tibetan area. Historically it was an important business centre between China and Tibet on the Tea-horse-road. Datseto is the former name of Kangding. Kangding is the center of Kham Tibet, a religious, economy center of this part of Sichuan.
Day 02 Kangding – Minya Konka
Start by 8am and you can have a morning walk in the town of Kangding to experience local Khampa Tibetans and the modernization of this town before drive over Zheduo Pass at 4300 meters. Have a quick stop by the pass if weather is good and continue driving to the village west to Minya Konka at Shangmuju. The drive takes about 6 hours in total. After arrival, check in and rest for the next day’s walk.
Day 03 Minya Konka Hiking
Hiking to Rejie Lake full day. Start by 9 am and walk for 4-5 hours from the village and reach the alpine lake at 4500 meters at elevation. The lake is at the west of Minya Konka Range and its color is blue. You can have view of the whole west face of Minya Konka from the lake. After some photo time and resting by the lake, go back the same way and arrive by around 5pm.
Minya Konka: Mount Gongga is also called Minya Konka, Gonggashan. It is a 7556-meter high mountain in western Sichuan, the highest mountain in Sichuan Province and the easternmost 7000-er in the world. It is located in Daxue Shan Range in Hengduan Shan Range 300km west to the capital city of Chengdu and 20kms south to Kangding, the Tibetan frontier town.
Day 04 Minya Konka – Yajiang
Today will be a driving day. You will start by around 9am from Shangmuju and drive via Xinduqiao and stops for photos. Today you will arrive your hotel by around 5 am.
Day 05 Yajiang – Yading
Today to start by 8am and drive for one full day. Today you will pass one of the highest towns in the world: Litang. You will arrive in hotel at Yading in the small town called Shangri-La, formerly known as Riwa Town. It is the north entrance of Yading park. After arrival check into your hotel.
Litang: Litang, or Lithang, is small town in western Sichuan in the Tibetan Kham region. It boasts for its high altitude which is over 4000 meters, making it one of the highest town in the world. It is a beautiful place and home to many Tibetan Buddhists. It is reputed as "Pearl on the Grassland", "Shrine of the Snowland" and "Highest city in China".
Haizi Shan: Haizi Shan is a complex of highland lakes located north to the Daocheng county on way to Litang county. There are total over 1000 lakes scattering on the plateau with snow-capped mountains in the distance providing spectacular views.
Day 06 Yading Hiking
Today start from your hotel and use the public bus by the entrance of the Yading Nature Reserve. Arrive and walk to Luorong Yak Ranch and walk to Niunai Lake (Milk Lake). Elevation climbs to over 4000 meters. Here you have splendid views of the two of the sacred mountains of Yading: Xianuoduoji and Yangmaiyong. These mountains are about 6000 meters’ tall and this place is well protected to remain its original looking. After Milk Lake you can keep walking to Wuse Lake, a bigger lake that is 100 meters higher than Milk Lake. And if you are a fit walker, you can even walk to the Songduo Pass, which is by the end of the valley and the highest place of the park at 4500 meters. Walking time is around 2-4 hours single way. A horse-riding is available if you get there early. An electricity car ride is involved during your visit before walking. After the walk, come back the same way back to Shangri-La town. Overnight in Shangri-La town.
Yading Park: Yading used to be a small village, but now it is more famous as a tourist site which is also honored as “the last pure land on this blue star”. Its elevations rise from 2900m (Gongga River) to 6032m (Mount Chenrezig). Mount Chenrezig, with Jampayang (5958m) and Chenadorje (5958m), are three snow mountain in Yading, are the best landscape in Yading. They are legendarily seen as the Buddha Avalokiteshvara, Buddha Manjusri and Buddha Vajrapani. Furthermore, you can also explore the Echushan, Niunaihai Lake, Wusehai Lake and Yingou Valley. All these sites together form the spectacular landform and stunning scenery in Yading. So far, Yading is the most complete and best-preserved natural ecological system.
Day 07 Yading – Daocheng
Today start from your hotel and use the public bus again by the entrance of the Yading Nature Reserve. Today you don’t have to use horse nor electricity car. The visit is to Pearl Lake by Chonggu Temple after your tourist bus ride. The Pearl Lake is by the foot of Xiannairi. It is a stunning lake with beautiful reflection of mountains around it. Xiannairi is considered by local people a Buddha with significance of religious sacredness. The walk is around half an hour to get there. After your photo and walking around there, come back the same way and ride to Daocheng. Overnight in Daocheng.
Chenrezig, indicating Buddha Avalokitesvara in Tibetan Buddhism, has an altitude of 6032 making itself the highest of the three sacred peaks, the highest in Daocheng County. Its outlook resembles Avalokitesvara sitting on a lotus hathpace, holding a water botlle and gazing down at the world according to local pilgrims. Icefalls turn into waterfalls in summer time at the foot of Chenrezig. These waterfalls and meadows, forests and lakes around providing spectacular views first to the devotional pilgrims and then the tourists.
Chenadorje, the Vajrapani, protector of Buddha, rising to 5958 meters high, is believed to be good-looking, brave and vigorous. This sacred mountain is crystal-like.
Jampayang, the Manjushri, the most significant bodhisattva in Mohayana Buddhism, is also 5958 meters high. Jampayyang is believed a beautiful, translucent and decent female in the belief. It is steep and has beautiful curve.
Day 08 Daocheng – Xinlong
Today is another driving day on the road. For the first half you will be retracing the road back to Litang and then drive to Xinlong. On the half stop to have a visit to Cuoka Lake en route. Cuoka Lake is small but quite turquoise lake hidden in the mountains. After the short visit, drive to Xinlong and check in hotel.
Day 09 Xinlong – Yarchen Gar
Today drive from Xinlong to Yarchen Gar via Ganzi Xian. The drive takes about 6 to 7 hours. It will go over several big mountain passes via Luoguo Pass and Zhuodala Pass with views of Kawalori and the Gangga Range mountains. Yarchen Gar is a small village with thousands of Tibetan nuns. Yarchen Gar is also called Yaqing Temple, the biggest nunnery in the whole Tibet.
Yarchen Gar: Yarchen Gar is also called Yaqing Si (Yachen Monastery). It was built in 1985. Yarchen Gar is located in Acha Village in Baiyu Xian, Garze Prefecture of western Sichuan Province. It is 122km east to Baiyu Xian and 120km west to Ganzi Xian. There are about 20,000 Nuns live here. Nuns in Tibetan are called Juemu. Yarchen Gar is famed by its huge numbers of red houses and cubes built by the Juemus. The “Island” is its iconic presence to the outside world. The houses on the island are the dormitories of the nuns here. The river is called Changqu River. It is listed along with Larung Gar (Sertar Buddhist School) as the biggest Tibetan Buddhist Schools in whole Tibet.
Day10 Yarchen Gar – Baiyu
Today the drive will take shorter time. You will have the full morning exploring Yarchen Gar to see the local Buddhists and its temples and houses and take photos. After lunch you will drive to Baiyu, a small town at the border with the TAR. And after arrival, a short walk to see the Baiyu Temple over the mountain side.
Baiyu Temple: Baiyu Temple is one of the three biggest Nymmapa Sect Temples in Tibet. It is built on the mountain overseeing the whole Baiyu Town. Started in the 7th Century Baiyu Temple has accumulated more houses and constructions as well as monks and reputation.
Day 11 Baiyu – Ganzi Xian
Today an early visit to Baiyu Monastery. The Baiyu Monastery is built on the side of the mountain, overlooking the whole town of Baiyu.starts from Baiyu. After the visit, you drive to Ganzi passing the relatively higher land and arrive in Ganzi again. Overnight in Ganzi.
Chola Mountain: Chola Mountain, Trola Mountain, Chola Shan, Que'er Mountain, Que'er Shan are all its name. Rongmai Angzha, its Tibetan name indicates this is a mountain that the eagles can not fly over. Highest peak soars 6168 meters into the sky. The Chola Mountain road pass is 5050 meters high and is covered with snow all year round.
Xinlu Lake: It is more widely known as Yihun Lhatso, is the turquoise lake north to the Chola Mountain. Elevation 4040 meters with three sides surrounded by snow mountains and the north by the side of national highway of 317. Wild flowers blooming by the side of the lake, stones carved with om mani padme hum, forest stretching to the distance to the foot of the snow mountains: Yihun Lhatso provides a beautiful Tibetan alpine view in the deep mountains in western Sichuan of Kham.
Day 12 Ganzi Xian – Tagong
Today is a long day drive from Ganzi to Tagong. As the former days the landscape is also beautiful and with a nomadic touch. The drive will take full day with stops along the way to take photos, etc. After arrive in Tagong, check in hotel.
Tagong: Tagong is located 110 kms northwest to Kangding near the airport. It is rather a pasture of rolling land than a flat plain. Grassland and yaks, monasteries and Lamas, anthentic Tibetan lifestyle can be witnessed on the pasture. Greens, clear sky and snow-capped Yala mountain sum up the natural highlights. As a people of religion, local Tibetans always delightedly say "Tagong" having the significance of "a place that The Bodhisattva favours". It is easy to find the reasons when walking on the 700 sqaure meters' grassland. The pasture goes gradual ups and downs until it reaches the Yala mountain where on the top, glaciers are not melted even in Summer. Unknown flowers embellish the meadow everywhere. Rivers meandering through nurtured not only the creatures dwelling here but the spirit that rest in the om mani padme hum. The Peace Prayer is a big ritual for locals or even pilgrims from far away. Another picture of this pasture is its local life. Nomads' black tents dot the grassland. In the morning, after several cups of buttered tea, cowboys come out of their tents to milk and set the animals free for grazing towards further land. Many cowboys are talented singers. They usually sing when they are out herding. Life here is less impacted by the world outside but visitors beir more. It is a relatively remote place in terms of accommodation facilities and transportation accessibility.
Tagong Monastery: Tagong monastery was built in 600s AD when princes Wencheng start her journey to Lhasa, earlier than many monasteries in Tibet. It is a widely-worshiped Sakya sect monastery across Kham. It has a taste of ancient Chinese style, located at the end of Tagong Xiang(Town). Three temples and a yard of stupas behind composed this complex. One in the middle is the main temple where the Sakya sect Saram Konkalhinpo statue is worshiped. The one on the left has the Dorje Kasung. A copy of a 12-year-old life-size Sakyamuni statue is in the temple on the right. Other parts of this monastery are temple of stupas (stupas of merits and virtues), monks' dormitory, temple of Padmasambhava and statue of the thousandhand Avalokitesvara. Surrounded are big prayer wheels inscribed with the six-word martra hanging on the enclosure spinned by pilgrims clockwise for realizing enlightment and purifying bad karma. From morning to afternoon, people sipinning the wheels and chanting the "om mani padme hum" to stabilize their minds.
Day 13 Tagong – Danba
An optional hiking on the Tagong Grassland. Start the walking from a Nunnery and view the beautiful Zhara Latse, a 5800 meters’ holy mountain in Tagong and visit ancient Tagong Monastery. After worth continue drive to Danba and check in hotel.
Danba Tibetan Village: Jiaju, Zhonglu are the two representatives of the Tibetan villages in Danba. They are authentic and traditional Tibetan villages. People there work in the farm and orchards. Their houses are unique and beautiful. The villages are located on the sunny slope and composed of over decades of families. The village bends into the shape of the mountain side: some lower and some higher. Green orchards and colorful houses made the villages here very attractive. Jiaju Village is more popular because it has more houses in numbers whilst Zhonglu is more secluded as fewer travelers go there.
Day 14 Danba – Mt. Siguniang
Today the trip starts (8am) by walking in the traditional Tibetan village of Jiaju, a very beautiful village considered one of the most attractive traditional villages in China. The Jiaju Village has unique watchtowers and their distinctive Jiarong houses. Spend two hours wondering in the village, then drive about 2 hours to enjoy a leisure natural sightseeing in Shuangqiao Valley where you can see peaks, primitive forest. Shuangqiao is one of the three opened valleys of Mount Siguniang. It is over 30km long and a valley that you can see lots of snow mountains. Tourist buses are used for visiting this valley. The valley is with a series of “scenic spots”, which are the places where you get off the bus and take photos. A road was built in the valley however one can still choose to walk between the bus stops. The buses are running like public buses: you can get off and get on at the bus stops. After the visit to Shuangqiao, drive to Rilong for accommodation.
Shuangqiao Valley of Mt. Siguniang: Shuangqiaogou Valley is a zigzagged, deep and quiet valley stretching over 35km in which there are more than 70 small attractions. Far away from your sight are the bright snow mountains, while surrounding you may be blooming flowers, flourish and colorful trees, or pure streams flowing from unknown place.
Day 15 Mt. Siguniangshan Hiking
Today, you will hike into Changping Valley with a 10-minute riding of bus to get to the starting point and walk on wooden planks in the bushes and forest. Total walking time is up to 7-8 hours and up to 20kms with flexibility. The walking trail is not steep and the first 4 km is well-paved boardwalk. Walking for around 12km into the valley one can reach Muluozi, the foot of Mt. Views of Mt. Siguniang from its west are totally different from that of the south. It shows you the big steep wall of this big mountain. Although the walking is quite challenging for some but it can be replaced by a horse ride. After today’s walk, go back to the same hotel.
Changping Valley of Mt. Siguniang: Along this 29-kilometer-long green corridor, there are 21 amazing attraction for you to explore. Once entering the valley, you will be met by a peaceful Tibetan village with unique Tibetan decoration style. Exploring deeper, you will see Tibetan monastery, ancient path, wild forest, red stones, etc.
Day 16 Mt. Siguniangshan – Chengdu
Depart Mount Siguniang via Balangshan Pass en route visit Dujiangyan Irrigation System, a 2000-year old human construction and a display of ancient Chinese wisdom. After the visit drive back to Chengdu.
Wolong Panda Base: Before Wenchuan Strong Earthquake in 2008, Wolong used to be the largest base of Giant Panda with more than 70 pandas. The earquake caused tremendous damage to the base, and forced Wolong to move pandas to Bifengxia Panda Base. After nearly 8 years preparation and reconstruction with the sponsirship of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the new base open officially to public finally. In the future, the base will keep developing, and become an important center for breeding, reproduction, wildness trainings and scientific studies of giant pandas.
Dujiangyan Irrigation System: Built by of the governor of Shu state, Li Bing, the irrigation system on the River was to prevent flooding. After a lengthy study and years’ hard work by the local people, the great Dujiangyan Irrigation Project was completed. Nowadays, the project still plays a crucial role in draining off floodwater, irrigating farms and providing water resources for more than 50 cities in Sichuan province.
Attractions Visited in This Tour
- Minya Konka (Mt. Gongga)
- Yading Daocheng in Kham
- Danba Tibetan Fortressed Village
- Mt.Siguniang( four girls)
- Dujiangyan Irrigation System