Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge

The Old City of Lijiang, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the perfect Chinese tourist town. With a Naxi population, quaint cobblestone streets and the gorgeous Black Dragon Pool Park, spend a couple of days in Lijiang before heading out into the countryside to hike one of Asia’s most iconic hikes! Tiger Leaping Gorge is the perfect two day hike along the Jinsha River. Take in the incredible mountain vistas of Yunnan province, as you hike along the mountain ridge. Read on for all the details on what to do in Lijiang, hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge, and where to eat and stay along the incredible Tiger Leaping Gorge. The first part of our guide to Yunnan travel.

Travel from Emei Shan to Lijiang

Leaving Emei Shan began our close relationship with Chinese buses. Two
local buses got us to the Emei train station several hours before our
scheduled night train.

We decided to wait inside the more modern bus station and played many hands of our new Chinese card game (zheng shang you).

The train arrived almost 2 hours behind schedule. It had originally left Beijing more than a day ago. When we boarded, we found our bunks had just recently been vacated.

We had no choice but to sleep on the dirty, used, second-hand sheets. This train was air-conditioned and it was freezing. Twelve hours later we got to
Panzhihua, a transport hub of sorts.

Panzhihua to Lijiang

From here we got an 8-hour bus to Lijiang. The ride was an experience, a summary follows of things we saw along the way:

  1. Mountain roads with more curves than you can count taking you up and down mountains and into valleys.
  2. Views of the hillsides planted with endless tobacco, corn, and rice; every inch of land was being used for agriculture.
  3. Small villages with huge houses.
  4. And…28 chinese people on our bus vomiting in synchrony…

Proudly, Daphna and I were the only ones who resisted. Daph said at one point, “the vomit is nauseating.”

at the Old City in Lijiang, a UNESCO Heritage Site

Lijiang

Well, we made it safely to Lijiang, to our hostel “Mama Naxi“. What a woman! We arrived after dinner but she cooked us up a few dishes that were delicious: broccoli, corn, and bok choy, all for 10 rmb. Note that there are 3 houses as part of the Mama Naxi Guest House and it is a very popular place to stay.

Lijiang Market and Old City

The next morning in Lijiang we started walking and Mama, the owner of
the hostel, ran into us on the streets of the old city. She was headed
to the market for her daily shopping and we asked her if we could tag
along.

The market was bustling. First she hit up the pork, then the
meat, tofu, veggies including tomatoes, rhubarb, peppers, and various
roots. Then she got us a little tasting of kind of rice krispy cake
made with honey.

We walked around the old city of Lijiang amongst the rest of the tourists. Lijiang is the most visited city by tourists and by the end of the day this was apparent as the Chinese tour groups swarmed around us.

Fresh produce at the Lijiang Market
Green Vegetables at the Lijiang Market

Black Dragon Pool Park

We strolled around the Black Dragon Pool Park and sat by the lake to plan our next few weeks. For some reason when we entered the park, the ticket office was vacant so we just walked in.

Later that night we found out that the entrance fee was a whopping 80
rmb. Lucky us!

On our walk back we finally did some shopping. I bought a t-shirt with Naxi writing and Daph bought a shall, bargaining with the shop owner.

We made it back to the hostel in time for the 10 rmb feast that mama cooks up every night. We met three Brits, Hamish, Will, and Kim that were hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge the next day.

It started pouring during dinner. But now, the team of five that we were,
decided to go to the gorge regardless, rain or shine.

Picturesque Black Dragon Pool Park
Black Dragon Pool Park

Tiger Leaping Gorge

We headed out the next morning and after a long 2 hour ride to the
gorge, we started walking. Our pace was nice and we stopped many times
along the trail for views, rest, pictures, and sheer awe at the peaks
opposite us.

The weather got better as the day went along and it was a delightful hike and hands down the highlight of our trip. We stopped for a nice lunch after a couple of hours and then continued on following the ups and downs of the trail.

The mountains across the gorge kept getting closer and sharper and more impressive. After our afternoon tea stop at the “Tea Horse Guest House” we picked up the pace a little to arrive at the “halfway house” where we would stay the night.

Jinsha River
Hiking Trail at Tiger Leaping Gorge
Mountains in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Evening in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Arriving at the Halfway Guest House was remarkable. It had good food, a great view, clean room and shared bath for 20 rmb/dorm.

After a whole day of walking along the gorge and getting closer and closer to snow mountain, a peak that has never been climbed, we were in a place we will always remember.

There was about an hour left of sunlight and we watched the shadows creep up along the mountain until only the red sky of the reflection of the sun was visible above the mountains. The pictures will not serve it justice but at least it will give some idea of what i am trying to describe.

We had a delicious dinner on the balcony overlooking the gorge, and for the first time had more than one beer. We started playing a British inspired card game called “shithead” and continued for several hours.

Second Day of Tiger Leaping Gorge

The next morning we continued our walk mostly downhill and caught a ride back to Qiaotou.

[Note: At the end of the hike, there is a section you can go down into the gorge from Tina’s Guest House, but it was not advisable at the time we went because of the rainy season conditions.]

Here we split up with the Englishmen and woman as we headed on to Shangri-La a.k.a. Zhongdian. Let’s say we could have gotten on the wrong bus, but we avoided disaster and arrived safely in Shangri-la and rested for the rest of the day.

Evening Shadows at Tiger Leaping Gorge
Evening Sun at Tiger Leaping Gorge
Final section Tiger Leaping Gorge waterfall

What are some of your favorite hikes? Have you hiked for multiple days in a row?

Love hiking? Here are more overnight treks: Annapurna ABC in Nepal; Torres del Paine in Chile.

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