Shangri-La has a different feel than other cities in Yunnan because it is mainly inhabited by Tibetans. There are three Buddhist temples near the old town and all are amazing to visit. Plan a hiking trip through a local guide agency to thousand-pond-mountain, which is a beautiful hike not too far from town. After dusk, visit the large square in the old town to watch Tibetan dances. It isn't unusual to see tourists or expats joining in.
|The dancing square in Old Town|
Wander the shops in old town for beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry, paintings, prayer flags, and clothes from India. In the new town, you'll also find stores that sell Tibetan jackets and silver teapots.
|Tibetan prayer flags|
Shangri-La is a Tibetan area, so the food is quite different than other places in Yunnan. An adventurous traveler must try yak butter tea -- a tea made of churned yak butter mixed with black tea. Drink it before it cools down otherwise it will turn into an unappetizing sludge -- trust me! I love hot yak butter tea, especially after a long hike; however, not everyone shares the same taste as me. During my fieldwork days, I drank some of my colleague's butter tea to prevent him from loosing face while nobody was looking!
Head to Bashkar’s Kitchen, right outside of the old town square, to taste some delicious Tibetan and Nepali cuisine. Outside of old town, you can find staples such as fried rice, noodles, hot pot, and dumplings.
It is easy to find a place to stay in Shangri-La and most rooms come with heated blankets (necessary!). Houses aren't heated in Yunnan, so having a space heater or heated blankets is necessary as the elevation causes it to be very cold.
|A Tibetan village outside of Shangri-La|
Tips: Shangri-La is very cold -- even in the summer; bring extra layers. Shangri-La is at a high elevation, thus time should be spent at cities, such as Dali or Lijiang, before heading to Shangri-La, especially if you typically struggle with altitude sickness. In the parking lot at the entrance to old town, you will be bombarded by drivers asking if you need a ride somewhere. They will ALWAYS charge exorbitant amounts of money, so bargain with them!
|Great hiking with Euphorbia in the foreground|
|Stupa against a blue summer sky|
Have you been to Shangri-La?