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Yunnan and Tibet by SUV – 13 Days, 12Nights

Kunming - Dali - Lijiang - Shangri-La - Deqin - Mengkang - Basium - Bomi - Linzhi - Lhasa

Traveling by airplane into Lhasa is one thing, ascending to altitudes over 5,000 meters above sea level, crossing majestic mountains of Yunnan and Tibet in a 4 x 4 SUV is quite another!  Tibet by SUV is an extraordinary tour. Driving up through high mountain passes, dropping down to lush green valleys, gushing gorges, deep canyons, ancient glaciers, picturesque landscape, encountering the most distinct local cultures; this trip is a travel adventure for the senses and a photographer’s wonderland.

The Yunnan/Tibet SUV tour is classified as a semi-adventure tour. It is not a typical China tour. A reasonable level of fitness is recommended for this trip as some walking and light hiking is involved. During some days, altitudes as high as 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) will be reached. At these heights, oxygen level decreases and therefore breathing will be more strenuous. You will however become acclimatize to the environment shortly. Individuals with high blood pressure and heart conditions should consult a doctor before taking such a trip. Acquiring travel insurance before the trip is recommended.

Whether you are a single person, a couple, or a group, you'll have your own guide and driver for all airport pickups, drop offs, and daily excursions. 
Choose Your Own Dates! This is not a fixed-departure-date tour. Just let us know the dates that work best for you and we will arrange everything.
Customizable! Need more time? Less time? Want to see or do something that isn't included? Just let us know, and we will arrange it for you and let you know the change in costs.
Click here to read what our clients have told us after they return.

Trip Highlights

  • Kunming's Stone Forest
  • Chair lift ride through Yak Meadow
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Ming Yong Glacier
  • Extraordinary natural scenery of Tibet and China


Day 1:  Arrive Kunming
Upon arrival you will be greeted and transferred to your hotel. In the evening, enjoy a show of ethnic minority song and dance over a delicious dinner of Yunnan local cuisine. Overnight in Kunming. (Special Dinner

Day 2:  Kunming to Lijiang

Today, you will visit Kunming’s most famous site - The Stone Forest; an extremely rare geological phenomenon dating back to 270 million years ago. It is a collection of gray limestone formations of all sizes, split by rain water and eroded to their present fanciful forms. Visit a minority village of Yi in the afternoon. In the evening, you will take a flight to Lijiang. Overnight in Lijiang. (All meals)

Day 3:  Lijiang

Your day starts with a visit to Yak Meadow, a plateau of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain where you will ride a chair-lift and soak in a panoramic view of the snow capped mountains. Visit the Baisha Fresco, dating back to the Ming Dynasty and the Yuhu Village, which to some extent resembles the past Lijiang. Enjoy the Naxi Classical Music Show in the evening. Overnight in Lijiang. (All meals)

Day 4:  Lijiang to Shangri-La

After breakfast at your hotel, begin your journey by car through forest reserves alongside the extreme upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Arrive in Shangri-La, a peaceful and quite land situated at 3,200 meters above sea level. You will visit Shigu Town, the First Bend of the Yangtze River, and Tiger Leaping Gorge along the way. Driving time is approximately 5 hours. Overnight in Shangri-La. (All meals)

Day 5:  Shangri-La to Deqin

After breakfast, begin the 5-hour drive to Deqin. On the way, visit Napahai Lake, 3270 m above sea level. It is approximately 8 kilometers northwest of Shangri-La; a valley surrounded on three sides by mountains which are covered in snow during winter and spring time. In the afternoon, visit Dongzhulin Monastery and enjoy the sunset at Meili Snow Mountain - a mountain still unconquered by mountaineers. Overnight in Dequin. (All meals)

Day 6:  Deqin to Mengkang
For the avid photographer, have your cameras ready and experience a spectacular sunrise over Meili Snow Mountain. It has 13 peaks whose average height is 6,000 meters above sea level, named Taizi Shisan Feng, which means 13 princes peaks. Among them, Kagebo is the highest peak in Yunnan Province, 6,740 meters above sea level. 

After breakfast, visit Feilai Temple and then drive to Ming Yong glacier. Ming Yong Glacier sits at the foot of Kagebo Peak and looks like a long piece of white silk. Running from 5,500 meters down to 2,700 meters, only 800 meters above Lan Cang River, Ming Yong is one of the few low altitude glaciers in the world. There is a 40km ride between Deqin and Ming Yong Village, and then you can walk or rent a horse to get to the glacier.

Departing Ming Yong Glacier, travel along the north of the Mekong River valley into Tibet. On a clear day you may be able to see the peaks of Kawagebo mountain range. Once into Tibet, stop first in the town of Yanjing, meaning “salt well.” We will visit the salt fields and visit the one and only Catholic church (known as “Yerkalo”), in the whole of the Buddhism dominated Tibet Autonomous Region. Upper Yanjing has a population of 900 villagers, 600 of whom are Catholics. When Catholics from other areas are included, the church boasts 740 parishioners, compared to 342 when the church was first founded over 100 years ago.

The next stop is at the hot springs, where you can pick your own natural hot bath overlooking the Mekong. Total driving length of about 223km will be covered in 7-9 hours. Overnight in Mengkang. (All meals)

Day 7:  Mengkang to Basium
From Mengkang to Basium, you will cross two high passes in this section of the drive, one at around 3,900m (12,795ft), the other at 5,008m (16,430ft). Enjoy the scenery as you pass by local Tibetan houses scattered round the feet of snow-capped peaks. Continue driving along the deep valleys of the Nujiang River (or the Salween River) to Ranwu.

The river passes through deep gorges and is often called China's Grand Canyon. The Salween is navigable for only 89 kilometers from its mouth, and then only in the summer rainy season. It is home to over 7,000 species of plants and 80 rare or endangered animals and fish. UNESCO said this region "may be the most biologically diverse temperate ecosystem in the world" and designated it a World Heritage Site in 2003. The Nu people, one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, are named after this river. The 380km traveling distance today will take around 8-10 hours. Overnight in Basium. (All meals)

Day 8:  Basium to Ranwu to Bomi

In the morning, travel along the deep valleys of the Nu River (the Salween River) to Ranwu. Ranwu Lake is a spectacularly crystal blue lake cupped by snow peaks. Continue along the Poto-chu Valley at Tramog (2,743 m/8999 ft), located deep in the thickly forested Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon with glacial waterfalls streaming from the mountainsides. You will go down several hundred meters in altitude as you reach the lowland jungle settlement of Tang-me where the Tsangpo and Yarlung Tsangpo rivers meet. Today’s destination is Bomi; a county of the Nyingchi Prefecture in the south-east of the Tibet Autonomous Region which is around 237km in length and takes about 6-7 hours drive. Overnight in Bomi. (All meals)

Day 9:  Bomi to Linzhi (Bayi)

Today’s drive is long, yet scenic. Travel through the lush green forest along the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Weather permits, you will have an unobstructed view of the majestic NamJiabawa peak. Namcha Barwa is located in the Nyingchi Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. It sits inside the "Great Bend" of the Tsangpo River, the main river of southeastern Tibet. This is a very obscure region, rarely visited by outsiders. Its sister peak Gyala Peri (also over 7000m) lies across the Tsangpo to the north.

In addition to its role as the eastern anchor of the Himalayas, Namcha Barwa is notable for its great local relief. It towers over the Tsangpo gorge, which curves from the west, through the north, and then to the east side of the mountain. For example, the drop from the summit to the river on the east side is 6800m in about 30km.

Also, between 1976 and its first ascent in 1992, Namcha Barwa was the highest unclimbed independent mountain in the world. After 6-7 hours drive over 240km, you will arrive in Bayi in Linzhi Prefecture, the largest Tibetan town we you'll have reached at this point. Overnight in Linzhi (Bayi). (All meals)

Day 10:  Linzhi to Lhasa
Today, we will drive 420km to visit the Lamaling monastery then to Lhasa with a stop along the way at the first Gelupa Monastery “Garden Monastery." Driving time will be around 7-8 hours. Overnight in Lhasa. (All meals)

Day 11:  Lhasa

Your tours in this “Sacred Place of Buddha” start with the golden-roofed Jokhang Monastery – one of Tibet’s holiest shrines. It is a four-story building in the Tang style, but also incorporates features of Nepalese and Indian architecture. Then stroll around the Barkhor Street, the traditional lifestyle and commercial centre in appearance of Lhasa’s old city district. It preserved with the stone houses, man-laid roads.

In the afternoon visit the Potala Palace, once the center of the Tibetan government and winter residence of the Dalai Lama as well as the most imposing attraction of Lhasa. It was built on the Red Mountain in the centre of the Lhasa valley, at an altitude of 3,700 meters. The splendid Potala Palace is a great achievement of Tibetan architectural art which also amalgamates the skills of artisans of the Han, Mongolian and Manchu nationalities. Overnight in Lhasa. (All meals).

Day 12:  Lhasa
Your tour today includes Norbulingka that used to be the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, the Drepung Monastery – the largest in the world, and the Sera Monastery, a typical of Tibetan architecture. It lies at the foot of a mountain on the northern outskirts of Lhasa. Covering an area of 114,964 square meters, the structure is composing, picturesque in disorder, and splendid in green and gold. Overnight in Lhasa. (All meals)

Day 13:  Departure

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (Breakfast)

Inclusions and Exclusions

Our Package Rates Include

  • Private airport transfers
  • Daily accommodation with breakfast
  • Private vehicle transportation for all excursions per itinerary
  • Meals as listed in above itinerary
  • Services of a local, English-speaking guide for all visits and excursions
  • All tours and activities mentioned in the itinerary, including entrance fees
  • Internal flight for Kunming to Lijiang
  • Tibet Entry Permit

Rates Do Not Include

  • International airfare
  • China visa application fee
  • Travel Insurance
  • Tips for drivers and guides
  • Expenses of a personal nature

To Book This Tour

Please call us toll free at 1-877-362-2793 and let us know that you are interested in this tour. To prepare a proposal, we'll ask questions about how many people are traveling, your preferred travel dates, standard and types of accommodation, and any special interests that we may be able to accommodate.

Once we have finalized a customized price quote for you, your agent will inform you a per-person non-refundable deposit to initiate reservations (typically 20% of tour cost). Final payment is due 75 days prior to departure.

If your reservation is made less than 75 days prior to departure, the non-refundable deposit will allow us to initiate reservations. Full payment will be due immediately upon confirmation of all hotels and transportation services. If the services quoted cannot be confirmed, alternate accommodation or transportation will be arranged and the price will be adjusted accordingly.

Payments can be made by personal check, bank wire transfer, or credit card. Upon receipt of your deposit, we will initiate your reservations and send you a statement showing your payment. Approximately 2 weeks prior to your departure, we will send you a final confirmation containing your itinerary and detailed information on the logistics of your trip.
Please review our complete terms and conditions:
Booking Terms and Conditions

Cancellation/Refund Policies

- Cancel more than 60 days prior to departure - forfeit your deposit.
- Cancel between 30 and 60 days prior to departure - forfeit 50% of the tour cost.
- Cancel less than 30 days prior to departure - NO REFUND of tour cost.
- Cancellations must be made in writing and sent via mail, fax, or email to Red Lantern Journeys.
- Refunds will be processed within 30 days of receipt of your written request.
- No refunds are available for unused services or tours during your trip.

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