Shangri-La Travel Guide

Gateway to Tibet, self-declared Shangri-La is the perfect place to explore that world-famous culture without actually crossing into the Tibet Autonomous Zone. Visitors come for the large Tibetan monastery as well as the chance to explore the rugged backcountry.

While it’s hard for Shangri-La to prove it was the fictional site of a novel from the 1930s, there’s no question that this is one of the most idyllic settings in this part of China. The city itself (Zhongdian) has all the trappings of a mythical Tibetan village, while the mountainous countryside with its lakes and snowy peaks is perfect for trekking and horseback riding.

Clinging to a hillside on the fringes of town is a large Tibetan monastery that was built by the 5th Dalai Lama. The best time to visit is during the annual horseracing festival (June), when local cuisine and cultural performances are at their best. Hotels usually book up during this season, so it’s important to book early.

Getting There & Away

Most visitors arrive in the region through the international airport in Kunming. From here it’s possible to catch a short connecting flight (a little over an hour) to the small airport in Shangri-La. Taking the bus is a more practical (albeit much longer) alternative for those planning stops along the way in Lijiang and Dali.

Shangri-La is the last place to rest for travelers embarking on an increasingly popular (and rugged) six-day route to Chengdu. The next stop is Litang.

Things to Do

Shangri-la Attractions

Songzanlin Monastery

Built in the 18th century, this well-preserved monastery is a must-see for anyone in shangri-la.

Side trips from Shangri-La


There are many lakes in the shangri-la countryside, highlighted by bitahai and napa lakes. some of the best are only accessible on foot or by horseback.


Horseracing festival

Every june, shangri-la hosts this popular event accompanied by traditional dances, singing and plenty of great food.