Baishui Tableland (White Water Terraces) Bitahai Lake Meili Snow Mountain Songzanlin Monastery

What to see/visit ?

  • Songzanlin Monastery : (5), 10Y, Bus No3 (1Y) / 5 km in the Northwest of Zhongdian. The largest Tibetan temple in Yunnan. Belongs to the Gelu religious sect. Approved by Emperor Kangxi (Qing Dynasty) in 1679. Location selected by Fifth Dalai Lama. 3 years to build. Covers area of 500 mu. A total of 13 places of worship incl. the Zhacang grand hall and 8 large Kangcangs. / Tip : There are a lot of ways to enter the complex without paying. Decide if this will bring you a good karma...

  • Small monastery in the old town, overlooking the city : (3), Y3 negotiable


Things to see:

  • Visit the old town, the museum & Sumtseling Monastery.

  • Get relaxed & adapted to high altitude. (½ day)

  • Hike in Bita Lake, visit Shudu Lake. (1 day, rent a mini bus or taxi, Y150 - Y180)

  • Visit Napa lake and nearby Tibetan villages. (1 day)

  • Visit Little Zhongdian. (1 and 2 days, rent a car)

  • Go to Niru. You can either reach there by car from Luoji, or hike to Niru from Shudu Lake.(1 or 2 days)

  • Baishuitai: Y30. A popular site. High season. One bus service between Zhongdian and Baishuitai.
    Birang Gorge (Shangri-la Gorge). Y20. (1 or 2 days trip, rent a car)

Old town and local museum

  • The local government intends to transform the old town of Zhongdian to a Lijiang style site, filling it with souvenir shops, hostels and restaurants. For the moment, it is still a local people's residential area. Many beautiful Tibetan houses and monuments have been protected from demolition. (see left photo 5 and 6). The museum displays local costumes, botanic specimens and photos of the region.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Songzanlin Si)

  • The monastery is located 5 km north of Zhongdian.(see left photo 2). It costs Y10 to visit the main gombas. Other gombas are free. However there is one gomba confined to men, women are not allowed to enter. Take  the bus no.3 for Y1 which passes in front of Yongsheng Hotel and Youth Hotel, and terminates in front of the monastery. It costs Y10 by taking a taxi.

  • My first impression of the monastery was not a favorable one. Shops, tourists, peddlers, vehicles as well as constructions make the area in front of the monastery terribly chaotic, contrary to those peaceful, and more colorful monasteries I had visited in Sichuan which had not been touched by tourism.
    Walk along the kora path, you will find a white chorten and mani piles (see left photo 3) at the east end of the monastery. From there you can admire the beautiful Tibetan farm houses (see left photo 1) scattered in a golden valley dotted with sheep and yaks, as well as the amazing blue sky. Such a blue can only be found at an altitude higher than 3000m.

Bita Lake: Y30

  • Located 25km northeast of Zhongdian, at an elevation of 3500m, surrounded by dense forests.  Best time to visit is in late October to admire the amazing autumn colors

  • The lake has three entrances: Most tourists go to the south entrance, located only 2 km to the lake and 200 meters higher than the lake. The second choice is the west entrance, 8 km to the lake. It is heard that the undeveloped trail accessing the lake from the east is 15 km long. I don't have any information for east entrance and shall appreciate it if anybody who has hiked this trail writes us about his experience.

  • The best way to enjoy the lake is to walk down to the lake from the south entrance, take a boat to the ferry near the west entrance, and hike 8 km (easy walk, around 2 hours) to the west entrance. Follow the main trail which is 2 to 3 meters wide, you would not get lost. I happened to walk the opposite way. The 200-meter-high ascent from the lake to the south entrance was fairly tough, especially after having walked for two hours from the west entrance at such a high altitude. I suffered from a terrible headache.


  1. Official price for the boat trip to the ferry near the west entrance: A motorboat: Y50 per person, takes 10 minutes. Rowing boat: Y30 per person, takes 45 minutes. (Negotiate the price, we paid Y100 for five persons.)

  2. The whole journey takes 4 hours, excluding lunch time. So when you rent a car in Zhongdian, tell the driver to send you to the south entrance and ask him to wait for you at the west entrance. The driver might charge Y20 more than if you enter and exit from the same entrance which costs from Y150 to Y180, including a further trip to Shudu Lake.

  3.  Horse trek: There are horses for rent at both west entrance and south entrance. I don't think it's necessary. From the west entrance to the lake: round trip costs Y65, single trip costs Y45. From the lake to the south entrance: Y25.

  • Shudu Lake Y15. A newly developed site. Easy to visit as the parking is close to the lake.
    Too many tourists. Worth a visit in late October.
    (see left photo 4, a photo copied from the entrance ticket).

  • Hot spring: Few hot springs in China have reliable sanitary conditions. I prefer to recommend you to discover one more beautiful Tibetan village instead of taking a bath in the local hot spring, which is not accessible by public bus.

  • Napa Lake: Y10. Located 7 km from the town. Worth a visit in May and June when the plain is covered by wild flowers. Take a Benzilan or Deqin bus to go to this lake, or go there by bike or taxi. For the return, wait for a bus along the main road. On your way to Deqin, you can get a better view on this lake while the bus climbs higer along the slope.

Where to stay ? 

A lot of dorm facilities but very few acceptably priced Sgl or Dbl and only expensive accommodations with attached bath.

  • Tibet Hotel (822 3754), 1km South of the Bus Station /Traditional architecture / Dorm 20 in nice 4 bed's room / 25 per bed in Trpl / Dble 50 / Dble with bath 180 / Good common bath & flushing toilets / HW 24 hrs // Go there to be with the other backpackers, for the services, the satellite TV (if repaired), the location next to the old town-village. / What you may not like : walking the distance to be told they are full so, on the way from the bus station, you can check the followings :

  • Jiaotong Hotel (822 3612), next to the bus station / Dorm 15 (5), 25 (4) or 30 (3) / HW 18 to 22

  • Diqing Hotel "Anch Hotel" (822 2703), turning right from Bus Station (south), on the left side / A luxury Hotel with an old building for dorms / Dorm 20 (4) in correct rooms / Acceptable showers but very hard toilets / HW 19 to 22:30

  • Ji An Jiudian, on the right side, opposite Diqing Hotel / Dbl 80 but down to 50 after negotiation / Trpl 90 / Correct showers and toilets with doors / HW 19 to 11am

  • Kangba Hotel (2126 665), on the left side / Dbl 100 / Trpl 135 / Quad 160 / HW if enough people (!)

Bus Schedules : 

Zhongdian (Shangri-La) to Lijiang 178km 27Y

7:30 8:30 9:00 10:30 12:00 12:30 13:30 14:00 14:30 15:00 16:00

Stop at Qiaotou (Entrance to Tiger Leaping Gorge

Departure time - Southeast direction:
Kunming 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00, 19:00, 19:30 660 km, 15 hours, around Y140
Lijiang from 7:00 to 17:00 11 departures
Dali (Xiaguan) from 7:00 to 19:30 15 departures
Qiaotou 15.30 Any Kunming, Lijiang or Dali bus
Jinjiang 15.00, 17:00 470 km. also called Panzhihua
Jianchuan 14:50  

To Price Type Duration Time Nb Freq.
Kunming 130 sleep 15 10,13,14,16,18 5 na
Xiaguan 45/62 ordi/sleep 7 6:30 to 12 / 19,20 9/2 var.
Lijiang 25 ordi 5 7:10,10,11:40,13,14,16 6 na
Jinjiang 98 sleep 17 10:30 1 na
Baishuitai 20 ordi 5 7:30 1 na
Deqin 27 ordi 7 6:50,8 2 na