Kunming Temple
Kunming Temple

Garden Tours

Yunnan and Tibet

23 days From £6,595

24 June 2019

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 in south-west China.

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 in the expert company of botanist and horticulturalist Duncan Coombs, who has undertaken several plant hunting trips in the hope of finding a species new to science.

In 2019, for the first time ever, we have added Tibet to our itinerary, offering a unique opportunity to visit this mysterious, mountainous region, known as the ‘Roof of the World’. Following the ancient trade route from Kunming to Lhasa, we will journey through deep gorges and towering mountains, pausing from time to time to botanise at suitable spots on the way. Many of the plants we enjoy today in our gardens originate in this region and to see them growing in the wild is a rare privilege. We can also expect to see many new and unfamiliar species, sharing the thrill of discovery known only to plant hunters.

We begin our tour in Lijiang where we combine botanising with visits to spectacular sights such as the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Songzam Monastery and the Yangtze River. We then cross a high mountain pass into Tibet and follow a long and winding road to the capital Lhasa, travelling at a leisurely pace with many opportunities for plant spotting and enjoying the breath-taking views.

What's included?

  •  Flights
  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Travel visa

Led by...

Duncan Coombs

Duncan Coombs

A lecturer in horticulture at Pershore College, Duncan Coombs is also a passionate plantsman and a plant hunter in the grand tradition, having explored remote parts of the world in search of that elusive prize - a plant species new to science!

Book Now £6,595

Deposit: £659.50 Single supplement: £900

Tour highlights:

  • Travel in the expert company of a botanist and a horticulturalist, Duncan Coombs
  • Botanise in Yunnan and Tibet
  • Visit Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest in the world
  • Ascend the Shika Snow Mountain
  • See Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, revered for its golden statue of the young Buddha

Tour details

Dates 24 June 2019 - 16 July 2019
Duration 23 days
Cost £6,595 Deposit: £659.50 Single supplement: £900 Balance due by 1 April 2019
Activity Level Challenging
Tour code BWYUN19A

Book Now or call 01334 657155 if you have any questions

24 June 2019: Itinerary

Depart from London on our scheduled overnight flight to Kunming. 

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

A welcome dinner will be served in a local restaurant this evening.

Meals include: Dinner

This morning we visit Yufeng Temple, also known as the Camellia Temple after the famous tree that grows in the northern courtyard and is reputedly more than 500 years old. Actually, it is a combination of two different breeds of camellia which were grafted into one tree and now have grown so large that the crown shades the whole courtyard. The temple itself features a mixture of architectural styles reflecting the influences of Han Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism and the local Naxi Dongba religion.

We continue to the village of Yuhu and the residence where the Austrian/American explorer and botanist, Joseph Rock, lived for approximately 25 years from 1922. In the house there are various articles and memorabilia plus many old photographs. We will also visit probably the most iconic tourist destination in the Lijiang area – The Black Dragon Pool Park - a famous pond in the scenic Jade Spring Park with stunning views to the high mountains. Lunch and dinner are included today.

All meals included

Following breakfast this morning we spend a full day botanising in the mysterious Ganghoba Valley where there is a wealth of majestic mountain scenery and diverse flora to enjoy. During our day we can expect to see cypripediums, rhododendrons, arisaemas and more. 

All meals included

This morning after breakfast, we travel by air-conditioned coach from Lijiang to Zhongdian, also known as Shangri-La (altitude 3300m). En route we will visit the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge – reputed to be one of the deepest gorges in the world with an appropriate Tiger Leaping Legend.

There will be more opportunity to botanise on the way north to Zhongdian, closer to the border between China and Tibet, 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. On arrival we visit 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. 

All meals included

Following breakfast the day will be spent botanising on Shika Snow Mountain. Ascending by cable car, we enjoy the beautiful mountain from high above. Half way up the mountain, we see the expansive Yala Green Wave Ranch, embellished with wild flowers of various colours. From the mountain’s peak, we can see the eight holy mountains nearby, including the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The road down the hill is lined by beautiful wild flowers. As we walk down to the middle station, we will catch a glimpse of the mysterious Spiritual Rhino Lake, hidden in a virgin forest. The tranquil emerald lake is surrounded by exuberant trees and azalea flowers. Lunch and dinner are included today.

All meals included

This morning after breakfast, we check out of our hotel and drive to our hotel in Deqen, stopping en route for botanising as the opportunity arises, along with a photo stop at the Bend of the Yangtze, where the mighty river makes a spectacular 180° turn from south to north. 

All meals included

Following breakfast we set out on a full day botanising on the slopes of Baima Shan mountain (4292m). We return to our lodging at Deqen.


All meals included

After breakfast this morning we enter Tibet as we drive from Deqen to Markam (3780m), where we stay overnight. On the way we will botanise on the slopes of Hung La mountain (4470m).


All meals included

This morning, following breakfast we drive from Markam to Zuogong, a particularly scenic route with jaw-dropping views from the mountain pass at Dungda La (5075m) over the Mekong River in a deep gorge. The world’s twelfth longest river, the Mekong rises here on the Tibetan plateau and runs for 4350km through Yunnan, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, draining an area of 795,000km2.

All meals included

After breakfast we return to the slopes of Dungda La for a day of gentle botanising.


All meals included

Our road trip continues after breakfast today as we drive to Baxoi, stopping for a spot of botanising at the pass at Gama La (4618m). We can expect some spell-binding views as we drive down to Baxoi, over the gorges of the Salween River, which runs through China, Myanmar and Thailand.

All meals included

We have a relatively short drive today as we continue to Ranwuzhen (3850m), with some botanising at the mountain pass on the way. 

All meals included

Following breakfast we lose a little altitude today as we drive to Bome (2750m), botanising on the lower slopes of the Galung La mountain.

We have a two-night stay here in Bome in the Nyingchi Prefecture, an area often known as the “Swiss Alps” of Tibet due to the enchanting scenery. 

All meals included

After breakfast we return to Galung La mountain, this time botanising on the higher slopes of the mountain, which rises to a height of 4400m. 

All meals included

As we drive from Bome to Bayi today we will enjoy wonderful views of the Parlung Tsangbo and Rong Chu rivers as well as the towering mass of the highest mountain in the area, the Namcha Barwa (7882m). In the afternoon we cross the pass at Serkhyem La (4600m) on our way to our hotel in Bayi, where we will stay for the next two nights.

All meals included

After breakfast we head for the hills once again and spend the day botanising on the slopes of Serkhyem La, where we can expect to see large numbers of Rheum nobile, an extraordinary species of rhubarb that can grow up to 2m tall. 

All meals included

Following breakfast we depart for Gongbo’gyamda, our final overnight stop before we reach Lhasa. On the way we will visit the beautiful lake of Basum-tso, encircled by peaks rising like walls out of the water. The lake is noted for the tiny, picturesque island at its centre which is home to Nyingma nuns and their 14th century monastery, known as Tsodzong. In the afternoon we arrive at our hotel in Gongbo’gyamda. 

All meals included

We continue after breakfast on the final leg of our ‘roof of the world’ road trip as we head for Lhasa, pausing to enjoy the plants and flowers on the mountain pass at Mi La (4850m).

In the afternoon we arrive at our hotel in Lhasa, where we will stay for the final three nights of our tour.

All meals included

After a leisurely breakfast we take in the sights of Tibet’s extraordinary capital city Lhasa, beginning with the Jokhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Tibet. Built during the reign of King Songsten Gampo in the mid-7th century, the Jokhang is surrounded by Barkhor Square and a prayer path, which teems with Tibetans and foreigners from all walks of life. The intensely beautiful chapels are alive with the hum of prayers, wreathed in clouds of incense and adorned with fantastic Buddhist paintings and statuary, including the Jowo Rinpoche, the most precious statue in Tibet.

Next is the Potala Palace, begun by the fifth Dalai Lama and the winter home of all the Dalai Lama’s until the current (14th) Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959. Unlike the Jokhang, humming with prayers and life, the Potala is a shell of its former self, a museum instead of a living monastery but well worth a visit.

In the afternoon we visit the Shera Temple, the last of three Yellow Sect monasteries built in Lhasa, dating from 1419. Every day, hundreds of red-robed monks assemble in small groups and practice their debating skills inside the shady courtyard behind the main temple.

All meals included

After breakfast the day is free to shop for souvenirs or explore Lhasa at your own pace. 

Meals include: Breakfast

This morning, following breakfast, we transfer to Lhasa Gonggar airport (one of the highest in the world) for our flight to Kunming and onward to London.

Meals include: Breakfast

On arrival in London today the group will disperse or make onward connections.

24 June 2019: Additional Info

24 June 2019: Accommodation

24 June 2019: Enquiries

Enquiry Form

Contact Us

I agree to my data being processed in accordance with the Brightwater Holidays