Yunnan: In the footsteps of the Plant Hunters

15 Days

From £3995pp

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  • Plant hunting at Gang Ho Ba National park

  • Botanising flowers atop Cashang Mountain

  • Spectacular views from the Shika Shan cable car

  • Stunning golden rooftops of Songzam Monastery

In 1904, a 31 year-old herbarium assistant called George Forrest set off from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for a great adventure to the other side of the world – the remote, mountainous region of Yunnan, south-west China. 

For this intrepid Scot, his first journey would start his love affair with the tough, challenging existence of a plant hunter, and with the landscape of Yunnan. For British gardens, this trip and Forrest’s subsequent expeditions would mean a wealth of scientific discoveries and new botanical gems. Now, over a hundred years later, travel to China is not as daunting as it was in Forrest’s day, and we are delighted to announce the opportunity to travel to Yunnan and follow a most stimulating itinerary where our group will experience a wonderful botanical and cultural exploration. 

Yunnan is a vast land with towering mountains and roaring rivers, home to the fabled and beautiful lands of Shangri-La. Thanks to its unique topography Yunnan has not only glaciers and stunning snow-capped mountains with high altitude plants, but also sub-tropical basins - hot valleys which are home to lush tropical vegetation. For this reason it is clear why Yunnan has for generations been known as ‘the kingdom of flora and fauna’.  Rhododendrons abound – out of the 530 species of Rhododendron in China 200 are found in Yunnan. Among China’s 300 species of Primula, 100 can be seen in the region. Gentiana, Cermanthodium and Corydalis - the list goes on and on.

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Day 1

Depart from London on our scheduled overnight flight to Kunming. Regional flight connections, flight upgrades and overnight accommodation before or after the tour available on request – please ask for a quotation.

Day 2

On arrival in Kunming we will be met by our English-speaking Chinese Agent and will transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day will be free to relax and recover from our long flight.  

Dinner will be served in a local restaurant in the evening.

Day 3

Following breakfast, we have a full day visit to an area called The Stone Forest. The Stone Forest is an amazing geological feature of limestone formations and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking through the site, you will discover a landscape of labyrinthine vistas. The stones appear in various formations, and animals, plants, and even human figures can be found. Some are elegant, some are rugged, but each is lifelike with its own distinguishing characteristics. Lunch is included and will be served in the local restaurant near the scenic spot.

We return to Kunming where dinner will be served in the hotel this evening.

Day 4

This morning after breakfast, we check out of our hotel and take a short flight from Kunming to Dali. On arrival we travel on to Xizhou – famous for Bai culture. The well preserved folk houses here include carved wooden arts, clay and marble sculptures and paintings.

We also visit the famous Three Pagodas and monastery — visible from miles away, they are a national treasure in China. Their elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China’s ancient Buddhist architecture, making them a must-see attraction.

Lunch is included today.

We continue to our hotel in Dali. Dinner will be served in a local restaurant.  

Day 5

This morning, following breakfast, we shall take the cable car up to the top of Cangshan Mountain to botanise the flowers. The mountain is next to the crystalline Lake Erhai; and is noted for its very rich and diverse flora, of which there are more than 3,000 kinds of plants. It is also home to numerous springs, ponds and waterfalls, and tremendous views of lakes and the city of Dali.

Lunch is included today in a local restaurant.  The afternoon will be free to explore the city of Dali at leisure.

Dinner will be served in the evening.

Day 6

This morning after breakfast, we check out of our hotel and travel out into the countryside. Our coach transfer will take approximately 4 hours, travelling northwards to the town of Lijiang. There will be several stops en route to view rice fields and sites of botanical interest along the way. Lunch is included at a local restaurant on arrival in Lijiang. The city is like something from a fairytale – a tranquil landscape edged by clear streams and captivating snowy mountains.

We shall continue to our accommodation; and dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Day 7

Following an early breakfast, we depart for a full day plant-hunting at Gang Ho Ba National Park and the area around Bai Shui. Set in the Jade Dragon Mountains above the city of Lijiang the unique geology of the Gang Ho Ba provides a wide range of habitats which makes for a rich array of flora that inhabits its misty corners.  Bai Shui comprises two lakes, one with a natural terrace formed from deposited minerals.  A picnic lunch will be included.

We return to our hotel.  Dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Day 8

Following breakfast, we enjoy another full day plant-hunting in the Gang Ho Ba lower pass. A picnic lunch will be included, allowing us the opportunity to stop and let the landscape wash over us as we eat. 

We return to our hotel.  Dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Day 9

Today, following breakfast, we visit the village of Yuhu – where the Austrian American explorer and botanist, Joseph Rock, lived for 25 years. At his former home we view many of his old photographs. We also visit Yufeng Monastery with its 500 year old Camellia and the Lijiang area’s most iconic tourist destination – The Black Dragon Pool Park - with stunning views to the high mountains. Lunch is included in a local restaurant. The afternoon is yours to enjoy at leisure. 

Dinner will be served in a local restaurant.  Following dinner this evening we will be treated to a Naxi music performance in the old town before returning to our hotel.

Day 10

We check out of our hotel this morning and travel from Lijiang to Zhongdian (Shangri-La). En route we visit the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge – reputed to be the deepest gorge in the world. Lunch is included in a local restaurant.

There will be more opportunity to botanise on the way north to Zhongdian closer to the China – Tibet border, where we will notice quite a cultural change.  Zhongdian was renamed Shangri-La in 2001 after the fictional land of Shangri-La in the 1933 James Hilton novel, Lost Horizon, in an effort to promote tourism in the area. 

We continue to our accommodation. Dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Day 11

Following breakfast, we visit the Songzam Monastery also known as the little Potala Palace. It is set on a hill in a dominating position overlooking the village and surrounding area making it a most impressive complex with its golden roofs.   A picnic lunch will be included.

Later we will botanise at the Napa Lake Meadow – a paradise for many species of birds. We also view the Alpine Garden of Fang Zhendong. Designed by a local botanist, it is China’s first not-for-profit Botanical garden. We return to our hotel.  Dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Day 12

Following breakfast, we will have a full and exciting day’s botanising, via the Shika Shan cable car. We weave through a rhododendron forest and a wonderful range of habitats that are home to masses of flowers. Today definitely has the potential to be the botanical highlight of the tour. You have the option of taking the cable car up and returning on foot over the next 6 or 7 hours, or going up and down by cable car. A picnic lunch will be included here today.

We return to our hotel.  Dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Day 13

This morning after breakfast we transfer to Zhongdian airport for our flight to Kunming. On arrival we visit the Dragon Gate – the temple is made up of a group of grottoes, sculptures, corridors and pavilions that were hacked from the cliff between 1781 and 1835. We also visit the Huating Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple in the Western Mountains. Afterwards, you can choose to visit either the Birds and Flower Market or the Kunming Botanical Garden. A picnic lunch will be included.

We shall return to our hotel and dinner will be served in a local restaurant.

Day 14

This morning after breakfast you can enjoy some final free time for last minute shopping, and exploration before our transfer to Kunming Airport for our afternoon flight home.

Day 15

We arrive back is in London today. The group will disperse or make onward connections.

What's Included

  • 12 nights: 3 in Kunming, 2 in Dali, 4 in Lijiang & 3 nights in Zhongdian – all meals included
  • Internal flights from Kunming to Dali and from Zhongdian to Kunming
  • Chinese Tourist Visa
  • Services of John Mitchell of RBGE as tour manager

Supplements Per Person

  • Single room supplement: £480.00
  • Insurance: on request

2018 Insurance Prices

As part of our booking conditions, our travellers must have adequate insurance protection for any holidays overseas but we strongly recommend that you are covered for any of our tours. Our travellers are welcome to take out their own insurance policy, providing that we have the details of this before departure. Alternatively, we can provide our own recommended single-trip travel insurance for all holidays, please see the most upto date prices below: 

UK Tours:
Under 65, from £18.00 | 65-74, from £35.00 | 75 and over, from £52.00

EU Tours:
Under 65, from £32.00 | 65-74, from £64.00 | 75 and over, from £96.00

Worldwide Tours:
Prices on application

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