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Shangri-la Travel Guide

Shangri-la Overview

Shangri-La, formerly known as Zhongdian County, is the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province in southern China. Shangri-la is a Tibetan word meaning 'a land of sacredness and peace'.

Shangri-La is unique for its Tibetan culture and alpine landscapes including sacred snow-capped mountains and spectacular gorges.

Where is Shangri-La

Shangri-La is located in the northwest of Yunnan Province, with Tibet to its west and Sichuan to its east.

It is about 660 kilometers (410 miles) from Kunming, and 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Lijiang. It takes about 1 hour by air from Kunming, and about 3½ hours by car from Lijiang.

The Features of Shangri-La

Shangri-La is a mountain paradise, with dense forests, alpine lakes, grasslands, and gorges distributed among the meadows and plains.

Shangri-La is home to more than 20 ethnic groups, with the Tibetans comprising the majority of the population. It is a great place to experience the Tibetan lifestyle and religion, especially if you have no chance to visit Tibet.

Shangri-la Facts
Shangri-la Climate & Weather
Best Time for Shangri-la Travel

Area Code: 0887

Zip Code: 674400

Area: 220,000 sq. km

Geography: Many travelers use the county town as a gateway into Tibet, either travelling many days overland by Jeep to Lhasa, or by flying from the city's airport.

Population: Thirteen ethnic groups including Tibetan, Lisu, Han Chinese, Naxi, Yi, Bai and Hui are living in Shangri-la. Different ethnic groups have different lifestyles, costumes, architecture and wedding customs.

Administrative Division: In 1996, the government of Yunnan Province of China set up an investigation group to do a research on the Shangri-la topic. They had a conclusion after a year of hard work. Shangri-la is located Di Qing  in Yunnan Province, and the mystery of Shangri-la became known.

Shangri-la is about 3300 meters above sea level and has a plateau humid climate. The climate alters little between the four seasons, but the temperature varies a lot between day and night. The temperature can soar above 30 Celsius on sunny days; however, during the morning and at night, people may feel a wintery chill. So, when tourists visit Shangri-la, they should bring overcoats with them.

Four Fantastic Seasons in Shangri-la

From April to July you can see the blossoming of more than 160 types of rhododendrons, competing with each other in a sea of brilliant colours, reds, yellows, white, purples of every hue. It is the best period to experience the bio-diversity of the landscape in Shangri-la.

From May to September is the best season to enjoy the colourful meadows in Shangri-la; to appreciate the flower covered mountains and fields and to come in touch with this fairyland shared between humans, animals and nature. As it is said in a Chinese proverb: “…to enjoy the scene of the prairies blown with a gentle wind while watching the cattle and sheep striding...”

From September to October is high season to view Shangri-la when it is painted by golden Autumn; to be intoxicated with the alpine Autumn scenery, in particular the Longflower Stringbush, or alpine red flower in full blossom against the blue sky and drifting white clouds, knitting a fabulous Autumn scene.

From November to the following April is Winter season, but Shangri-la varies from place to place abounding with natural change; the Mingyong Glacier winds its way high and low, Kawagebo Peak glitters against the dawn light, primeval forests wears a plain silver outfit, the prairies turn silver white, easily leading one into a meditation of the world described in the Winter’s Fairy Tale.

Climate Data Table for Shangri-la

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
16.8 17.8 20.4 23.4 26.2 25.6 26.6 25.7 24.2 22.3 19.1 16.7
3.4 5.1 7.8 10.7 13.8 17.2 17.6 16.5 15.6 12.1 7.6 3.7
Rainfall (mm) 20.8 28.1 42.1 25.4 61.9 164.9 185.8 209.1 168.6 96.8 41.2 11.1
Days of rainfall 0.7 0.9 1.3 0.8 2.1 2.8 7.1 6.6 5.8 3.2 1.3 0.3


For packing
Because of the plateau climate, the weather of Shangri-La is always varied and unsettled. Even in August, you can find a snow flake dropping from the sky. So no matter when you go, you should be prepared with some warm clothes. And the ultraviolet radiation here is very strong so wear a sunhat and sunglasses. Ladies, especially, shouldn't forget to use sun block.

After arriving in Shangri-La, you may experience altitude stress; with shortness of breath, chest tightness and dizziness. So for the first day, you must not do strenuous exercise or drink alcohol but should have a good rest and keep warm.

Try to Avoid domestic travel seasons
Try to plan your Shangri-La tour to avoid the peak holidays. Because they are popular with Chinese tourists, these attractions become more crowded in these periods.

The most crowded seasons in China are Chinese Spring Festival (usually in late Jan or early Feb.), International Labor Day (May 01 to 03) and National Day (Oct 01-07). Spring Festival and the National Day golden week are the most crowded time for travelling.

The best time to visit Shangri-La is March to October. The mountain weather in Shangri-La is very changeable. So remember to pack a jacket even if you travel in summer as early morning and evening can get quite cool.

We advise that you avoid winter, because the city practically shuts down and transportation is often halted by snow storms.