Located in the midst of three rivers, Shangri-La is a sacred scenic region blessed with majestic mountains. It’s official name was changed from Zhongdian in Xianggelila in 2002. In Tibetan Shangri-La means the “sun and moon in heart”, an ideal home only found in heaven. The lofty and continuous snowy mountains, endless grasslands, steep and grand gorges, azure lakes and the pastoral villages in this area always leave a deep impression on visitors.
At an average altitude of more than 3,000m Shangri-La is very difficult to reach. Without railways leading there, most tourists will take the long-distance bus from Lijiang to Shangri-La.
Shangri-La is inhabited by many different ethnic groups, with the Tibetans comprising the majority of the population. Like this it is a great opportunity to experience Tibetan life, religion and cuisine, if you cannot make it to Tibet.
What to see
The Songzanlin Monastery is a large, sprawling and well-preserved lamasery built in the 1700s by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Its temples and buildings have ornate carvings and gilded highlights. Here you can experience the mystical sounds of chanting monks and clinging bells.
As the highest lake in Yunnan at an elevation of 3500m, 40km east of Zhongdian, lies the Bitahai Lake. The legend says that a goddess dropped her mirror carelessly to the earth when she was making up. The mirror was broken into pieces which became lakes on the plateau. Among these pieces, the most beautiful with green jade turned into Bitahai Lake.
100 southeast of Zhongdian, the Baishuitai Terraces are located. The continual deposition of calcium carbonate that is contained in the spring water built an amazing white terraced structure. Also recognized as the birthplace of Dongba culture of the Naxi Minority Group, each year on the 8th day of the second lunar month, the Naxi people will gather here to celebrate their traditional festival with singing and dancing.
Especially during the night it can be quite cold in Zhongdian, also in the summer. And the altitude lets you easily get sunburned without knowing it at that time, so better wear sunscreen and a hat.