Astonishing archaeological sites, photogenic giant pandas, forested nature parks, and a famed cuisine are part of the enchantment of Sichuan, while neighboring Yunnan is home to a rich ethnic mix amid the magnificent mountains of the Tibetan highlands. With veteran Asia explorer and Trip Leader Roger Williams, we explore these two realms to their fullest, visiting five World Heritage Sites along the way. We’ll meet Sichuan’s iconic pandas in two separate conservation centers, walk in the pine forests of Wanglang Nature Reserve, and explore incredible “outdoor museums,” including the fantastic Thousand-Buddha Cliffs at Jiajiang and the rock-cut Buddhist cave temples at Dazu. Yunnan Province welcomes us at Lijiang, an ancient city that was once a hub on the tea caravan trail. Here we’ll meet Lijiang’s Naxi people, with their unique language and dress, then head to Yunnan's Tibetan mountain highlands for hikes in Tacheng National Park, where golden monkeys roam, and Pudacuo National Park, a surreal high-altitude realm of cobalt lakes, grazing yaks, and rich biodiversity. Join us for an amazing cultural and natural history adventure!
Days 1-4, Jun 9-12, 2017
Chengdu / Pandas / Sichuan Opera / Sanxingdui
In Sichuan's bustling capital, we meet the charismatic giant pandas at Chengdu Panda Research Base, get a glimpse into Sichuan's colorful history at the Sichuan Provincial Museum, and take in a performance of Sichuan opera. We also visit the Bronze Age site at Sanxingdui and stroll through People's Park, where the locals gather to play mahjong.
Days 5-8, Jun 13-16, 2017
Bao'en Temple / Wanglang and Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserves
We explore the Ming-era Bao'en Temple, one of the best preserved Buddhist monasteries in China, and hike forested trails in Wanglang Natuare Reserve, habitat for giant pandas and red pandas, as well as the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site dotted with Tibetan villages and lakes.
Days 9-12, Jun 17-20, 2017
Wuhou Temple / Jinsha / Dujiangyan Pandas / Leshan Giant Buddha / Mount Emai
Wuhou Temple is a fascinating shrine to the Shu Kingdom, and at the Jinsha archaeological site, we view recently unearthed gold and jade treasures from the Shu Kingdom. At Dujiangyan, a World Heritage Site, we'll learn about the remarkable 2,000-year-old irrigation system that still waters the vast Chengdu plains today, then visit the local panda research base to see and learn about these fascinating animals. The cliffside figures on the Jiajiang Thousand Buddha Cliff are amazing, and we'll also visit the 200-foot-tall Leshan Giant Buddha, the world's largest stone-carved Buddha, and take a cable car to the misty summit of Mount Emai, one of China's four sacred mountains.
Days 13-15, Jun 21-23, 2017
Anyue Stone Carvings / Dazu Grottoes / Baodingshan
Anyue County's rich display of ancient Buddhist caves includes exquisite Pilu Cave, a hidden gem, and we visit Dazu County's spectacular Buddhist rock grottoes full of Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian rock sculptures. Baodingshan (Mount Baoding) alone has more than 10,000 figures carved into a cliff and is a World Heritage Site.
Days 16-18, Jun 24-26, 2017
Yunnan Province / Lijiang / Naxi Village / Puji Temple / Joseph Rock Residence
In beautiful Lijiang, we visit a village of the Naxi ethnic group, hike up to the 18th century Puji Temple, a Buddhist monastery, and visit the residence of the famed Austrian-American "plant hunter" and explorer Joseph Rock, who lived here in the 1920s.
Days 19-24, Jun 27-Jul 2, 2017
First Bend of the Yangtse River / Tachen Nationa Park / Golden Monkey
We feast our eyes on the First Bend of the Yangtse River, where this great river makes a spectacular 90-degree turn east, and continue into the Tibetan highlands for hikes in Tacheng National Park (9,000') and a chance to see the endangered golden monkeys that live in the park's forests. Moving higher still to the region of upper Yunnan known as Shangri La (10,800'), we visit a Buddhist monastery built in 1679 and hike in the surreal landscape of Pudacuo National Park, with its majestic lakes and towering mountains. Depart via Kunming on Day 24.