Shangri-La Travel Guide: Location, Attractions & Tips

Pronounced as Xiang Ge Li la in Mandarin or known fondly as Zhongdian among the locals, Shangri-La is one of earth’s best kept secret. This paradise is located in the Yunnan province of southern China. Almost like it’s God’s well thought out plan, this restful town is embedded in the seam of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet - areas brimming with religions and spiritual traditions, azure lakes, eminent alps and verdant grasslands.

Read also: Du Fu Thatched Cottage, Chengdu

    Shangri-La yunnan china
    Shangri-La Travel Guide: Location, Attractions & Tips

    Shangri-La Travel Guide: Location, Attractions & Tips

    Meaning of Shangri-La

    Shangri-La was described in James Hilton's Lost Horizon as an other-worldly place of mystique, while the Tibetans refer to it as "sun and moon in heart", which makes it a divine and ideal home in heaven. Here, the locals walk tall and proudly, their skin bearing an enduring shade of bronze due to the unabating exposure to UV radiation.

    In the past, it was known as Jiantang. Together with Batang in Tibet and Litang in Sichuan, these areas were ruled by the three sons of a Tibetan King. It wasn’t until 2002 that it received the name Shangri-La.

    You will find beautiful stupas erected across Shangri-La or Xianggelila inYunnan, China

    Top Attractions in Shangri-La, China

    Land of Wonder As unique as its name, Shangri-La is home to earth’s rawest, most bountiful resources. Plants grow freely and animals such as musk deer, golden monkeys and yaks roam unrestrictedly across the plateaus. Mineral deposits are rich and inexhaustible, and its ethnic inhabitants - mostly Tibetans, live ever harmoniously in accordance to the values and traditions passed down to them for centuries.

    Be ready to be swept off your feet, as you are invited to a feast for your senses with unique, unfamiliar architectures and a landscape too beautiful and surreal.

    shangri-la city
    Shangri-La is a dreamy village located in Yunnan, China
    Tibetans living in Shangri-La, China

    Traditional Tibetan Yak Butter Tea

    A drink loved across the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and India, butter tea or Pho Cha is traditionally brewed using fragrant tea leaves, rich yak butter, water and salt. The consumption of butter tea has become a necessity in this part of the world due to colder climate and higher altitudes, as it is able to provide high caloric energy while keeping the body warm for a longer period of time.

    The taste? It literally felt like I was sipping melted butter that has been diluted with hot water. Oily, possibly rancid and carrying the perfect concentration, I would say the drink is practical rather than tasty. Nevertheless, sampling this exotic tea passed down from the 7th century is a must, because it can rarely be found outside of the region and it does a fantastic job warming both bodies and souls.

    Tibetan Yak Butter Tea
    Tibetan Yak Butter Tea in Shangri-la, China

    Yak Momo: Tibetan Traditional Food

    Let’s me just start by saying that I love dumplings, and momo definitely ranks among the top in my list of favorites.

    Momo is a traditional delicacy native to South Asia, notably Tibet, Nepal, North India, and Bhutan. Although highly similar to the dumplings from East Asia, they are distinguished through the embodiment of Indian influences, such as the use of herbs and spices. It is believed to have originated from Tibet, and was spread to Nepal thanks to the merchants of the Newar community. Momos in Shangri-La and Tibet are unique because they are stuffed with yak meat. Chicken and pork momo varieties are more commonly found outside of this region.

    Tibetan yak momo
    Tibetan yak momo in Yunnan, China

    Giant Prayer Wheel, Guishan Park

    Closely located to the old town, the 10-meter giant Tibetan prayer wheel is a sight not to be missed (technically you won't be able to miss it either, because it's huuuuge). To get there, you'd need to climb the stairs and be sure to join in the fun and spin the wheel (clockwise and in odd numbers) for an unforgettable experience! In the evening, the park will come to life with music and dances by a merry crowd made up mostly of beautiful, pink-cheeked women and children.

    Giant Prayer Wheel Guishan Park
    Giant Prayer Wheel, Guishan Park

    Tibetan Songzanlin Monastery

    Songzanlin is the biggest Tibetan Buddhism monastery in Yunnan, spanning across 30 hectares and located on a mountain 5km from the town centre. Similar to the architecture of Lhasa's famed Potala Palace, this breathtaking complex consists of Tibetan watchtowers soaring five levels above ground storey and is home to over 700 lamas and monks. Visitors need to climb 146 steps at 3,300m above sea level before arriving at the main prayer hall - the very same pilgrimage route taken by generations of pious Buddhists.

    Songzanlin Monastery at Shangri-La, China
    Songzanlin Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in Shangri-La, China
    Songzanlin Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, China.

    Other noteworthy attractions in Shangri-La include Lake Bita, Baishuitai, Yubeng Village and the sacred Meili Snow Mountains, but getting to them might take some time and effort and they are scattered faraway from another.

    Best Time to Visit Shangri-La

    The ideal period to visit Shangri-La is between March to August, where flowers are in full bloom in perfect spring weather.

    Colorful details decorating the temples in Shangri-La, China
    The streets of Shangri-La, decorated with colorful prayer flags.

    Traveling Tips in Shangri-La Yunnan

    Prepare to be exposed to strong UV radiation and the ever-changing weather. Even if you are not hiking, be sure to pack along sunscreen and long-sleeve shirts for protection. Altitude sickness is common, and its symptoms are shortness of breath, light-headedness and tightness in the chest area. Make sure to get enough rest once you arrive and bring along medication if necessary.

    Shangri-La is fondly called Zhongdian among the locals

    Heading to Yunnan? Read this article to help you plan your journey!

    Don't forget to share your travel & dining moments with us on Instagram by tagging @rollinggrace or #RollingGrace. Happy travelling!


    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. pernah pergi ke Kunming dulu tak silap tu pun part of Yunnan. memang menarik culture dan tempat tempat dia. alahai rindu pula nak travel! tq for sharing maybe boleh ke sini nanti

    3. rindunya nak travel, seriusly tak pernah lagi sampai ke negara China, tengok tempat ni memang teringin nak pergi sebab view yang cantik, dan boleh kenali budaya mereka juga. Nice sharing

    4. Wow, i didn’t there’s such unique place like this in China. Cantik2 tempat dia adn so colorful!

    5. Cantiknya pemandangan Shangri-La nie. Mesti rasa aman dan tenang bila berada di sana kan. But takut juga jika kena altitude sickness kan.

    6. wow! awesome view.
      dan dpt tgk binaan / ukiran / gaya hidup tradisi org di sana.
      aida suka gini. kita boleh tambah pengalaman hidup dgn berada di negara org.
      pemandangan cantik sgt :)

    7. Structure bangunan dia sangat cantek. Suka tgk.. seronok jalan tgk budaya negara org

    8. Halla .. rindu giler nak jenjalan tau. Asyik keje je ni..naik tepu dah. Harap lepas reda semuanya dapat la jalan² oversea

    9. Cantiknyaaa , sebelum covid 19 serang 1 dunia memang ada rancangan nak travel ke China tapi belum ada rezeki lagi nampaknya. DApat baca pengalaman orang pun dah syok sangat. Suka tengok budaya dan keindahan di negara orang.

    10. Never been to China before! The pandemic stopped my dream last year to travel for the very first time with my family outside of Malaysia bah.. will definitely put this in my list too.. very interesting especially the butter tea.. kinda know how it taste tho.. unique..

    11. Terus rasa nak masuk wishlist nak ke China plak, kalau You tak share macam ni, semua orang pun tak tau bestnya ke Shangri-La ni haa.. kalau atuk Cina Sis ya, habis dah saru negera China dia pusingnya..

    12. I always wanted to travel and visit this part of China. Been watching documentary of it. Looking at the yak making me want to go there more

    13. Belum pernah sampai China tapi memang dalam wishlist nak jejak kaki kat sana. Sejak sekolah cikgu dok kata, belajar lah sampai ke negara China. Doakan kita sampai nanti eh...


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