The Ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail

The Tea Trail Caravan

Sustainable and adventure merged into a peak touring performance of immaculate beauty


Discover the sheer beauty on offer around China’s real Shangri-La, located on the fringes of Tibet and Yunnan Province. The area has natural treasures in abundance, including the rugged but spectacular terrain of the Aboudje Mountains.

The area once formed an important part of the ancient Tea Horse Road trade route, a path which is still trodden to this day by visitors looking to admire the stunning Aboudje Lake – an azure oasis that is sat at 4,200 metres above sea level among the steep granite ridges of the mountains.

During this 7-day trail, following in the footsteps of ancient tea traders and caravans, it is the awe-inspiring nature of Yunnan that takes centre stage. Using tented accommodation for the majority of the journey, it is a step back in time and experience how these trails once were the domain of slow-moving traffic, moving from east to west.


Day 1 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 1

Arrival Shangri-La – Shangri-La                                                                                 [-]

Guests are warmly welcomed at either Shangri-La’s Diqing Airport or at the local railway station before being comfortably transferred to your booked accommodation in downtown Shangri-La. The short ride from your disembarkation point will be the first introduction to one of China’s most alluring and breathtaking region.

Bathe in nature’s breath-taking beauty as we arrive in the majestic mountain paradise of Shangri-La. The rest of the day is free to relax at the resort, or start some exploration of our new surroundings. It is a good thing to take it easy on this first day; due to the height of Shangri-La – 3300 metres above sea level – a bit of acclimatisation may be needed before embarking onto the Tea Trail. No lunch included

Shangri-La sits on a high plateau at an altitude of 3,200 metres. Shangri-La is a Tibetan word meaning ‘land of sacredness and peace’ and visitors will find striking mountain scenes, with dense forests, alpine lakes and deep gorges. The area is home to over 20 ethnic groups. Originally it was a logging town, but after the 1998 ban on deforestation, the provincial government renamed it Shangri-La after the Buddhist paradise in James Hilton’s 1930s novel Lost Horizon to try to stimulate a tourist boom. Lunch and dinner are at leisure. Today’s relaxed vibe offers the perfect opportunity to soak up Shangri-La’s majestic beauty.

No dinner included

Overnight at your booked accommodation in Shangri-La.

Day 2 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 2

Shangri-La                                                                                                                        [B, L]

Breakfast is included at your booked hotel.

After breakfast, we hit the road for a short, 5-minute drive to the impressive Songzanlin Monastery. Constructed in 1679, the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province and is one of the most significant – if not the most – in southwest China. Although much of it was damaged during the Cultural Revolution, it was rebuilt in 1983. Belonging to the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism, in its heyday it was home to some 2,000 monks but today it houses approximately 700; its expansive grounds house a main hall for 1,500 people. The complex includes a number of buildings with the focal point being the Main Hall, which features scriptures, a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha and paintings. Two main temple buildings, Zhacang and Jikang, sit at the complex’s highest point of 3,380 metres and this elevation provides a spectacular vista.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we have the afternoon free to enjoy a stroll through the village. Along the way, we will meet locals and get a glimpse into daily life in this remote region.
Dinner is at leisure.

Overnight at your booked accommodation in Shangri-La.

Day 3 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 3

Shangri-La – Tea Caravan                                                                                                       [B, D]

Breakfast is included at your booked hotel.

You have the morning at leisure in Shangri-La Old Town. Get an authentic feel of local life at Shangri-La Old Town where you will see residents going about their daily business. Mainly spread over just a few streets where everyone knows each other, the majority of the homes date back to the Qing era, while some go as far back as the Ming dynasty. Most of these are courtyard-style houses in which are inhabited and passed down from generation to generation, with the local government proactively taking measures to help preserve them. Look out for the giant prayer wheel when around for a blessing!

No lunch included.

An early afternoon pick-up by your guide welcomes the hiking part of this tea trail venture as we hit the ancient tea horse route. A car will collect us from the hotel and drive us through more striking mountain terrain to Dabosi village. We will meet our trekking companions in this location and start a walk along an ancient trail that crosses the hills and rivers of Hengduan mountain range and across the ‘rooftop of the world’. We follow in the footsteps of numerous traders that have used this commerce route through Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet for thousands of years to barter tea. Our three-hour walk crosses lush Ringha Valley and we ascend to a 3,700-metre pass that provides incredible views of snowy peaks.

We set up camp on the vast pastures of Monk Grassland and enjoy dinner, ahead of an evening spent under the stars at a mountain peak campsite. Dive into nature at its finest on today’s adventure.

Dinner is included at the camp

Overnight is included at the campsite

Day 4 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 4

Tea Caravan                                                                                                                     [B, L, D]

There is actually no need to set an alarm. With the arrival of the first sunrays and slowly hearing nature waking up, it is also your time to leave the comfort of your tent and head out into Mother Nature. Part of the experience is experiencing the old tea trails through the eyes of ancient traders. A simple breakfast is included at the camp site.

We then hit today’s 15 km trail that sees us hike two passes that teeter between 3,900 and 4,000 metres above sea level. Along the way we can soak up incredible vistas of the area’s major peaks. This is the definition of discovering the sheer beauty on offer around China’s real Shangri-La, located on the fringes of Tibet and Yunnan Province. The area has natural treasures in abundance, including the rugged but spectacular terrain of the Aboudje Mountains. The area once formed an important part of the ancient Tea Horse Road trade route, a path which is still trodden to this day.

Lunch is included

These include the Kawakarpo and Yading mountain ranges and the Aboudje Mountains. The landscape then drastically changes as our trek passes through dense forests of larch, fir and rhododendron. We continue until we reach our overnight camp located at Muet Grassland, 3,750 metres above sea level. Located in the Tibetan Mountains, the area is often used as a base or a stop-off for trekking tours before continuing the next day to nearby attractions. From the grasslands you can see a panoramic view over the whole area and get to experience how local Tibetan life is led here.

After dinner, we enjoy another night in canvas under the stars. Today’s trail continues our connection with sublime nature.

Dinner is included at the camp

Overnight is included at the campsite

Day 5 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 5

Tea Caravan                                                                                                                        [B, L]

We once again awake to the call of nature and emerge from our tents to absorb a view of sprawling pastures, ahead of an early breakfast. Today is all about marvelling at more of nature’s majestic beauty on a 20 km circular walk that takes in stunning Aboudje sacred lake.

We then set off on today’s eight-hour trekking adventure that takes us through vast meadows, dense forests and along trails that follow the rise and fall of two passes that rise 4,000 metres, with unrivalled views of mountain ranges piercing the sky.

A picnic lunch is included en route

Prepare to have your breath blown away when we get our first glimpse of the striking azure lake flanked by the rise and fall of rolling hills. The area has natural treasures in abundance, none less than the stunning Aboudje Lake – an azure oasis located amongst steep granite ridges that lies on the ancient Tea Horse Road. Given its eerie tranquillity and its remote location at 4,200 metres above sea level, it is easy to see why the lake is considered to be a sacred place and it can be accessed by a multiple-day trek through some of Yunnan’s rugged but spectacular mountainous terrain.

We get the chance to soak up our stunning surroundings with a lakeside picnic before we return to our overnight camp for dinner under a star-studded sky. Today’s trek unveils more of the region’s simply magnificent natural landscapes.

Dinner is included at the camp

Overnight is included at the campsite

Day 6 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 6

Tea Caravan – Shangri-La                                                                                              [B, L]

Aside from bringing the flavours of Yunnan to your daily breakfast, it is the location with its impeccable views across mountain ranges and valleys that capture the essence of the original tea trail in the early morning. A simple selection of local favourites is at your disposal early in the morning before another day at this adventurous paradise, only for the chosen few, takes off.

A breath-taking return to the Ringha Valley is the highlight of today’s inspirational tour. This valley is home to traditional rural Tibetan communities, with six local villages in this location and our excursion has been designed to give visitors a chance to immerse themselves in authentic surroundings. Perhaps best known for Dabaosi Monastery, discover your inner self here among the peacefulness of the temple which is a Buddhist site located in the pastoral idyll of Hongpo village, close to Shangri-La. Perched at an altitude of 3,300 metres and with the surrounding pine trees and prayer flags fluttering in the fresh mountain air, it is easy to understand why this sacred place was chosen to be one of the first Tibetan Buddhist temples built around Shangri-La.

A picnic lunch is included en route

As we complete our journey through meandering paths, the final hiking hours of this Tea Trail ends with our return to Dabosi village. A car will be waiting in this destination to convey us back to Shangri-La Old Town and the conclusion of this excellent outdoors adventure.

No dinner included

Overnight at your booked accommodation in Shangri-La.

Day 7 | 7 Days The Tea Trail Caravan

Day 7

Shangri-La – Departure Shangri-La                                                                          [B]

Breakfast is included at your booked hotel.

Today sees us bid a fond farewell to the magical landscapes we have explored as our unforgettable seven-day adventure draws to a close. Depending on the time of our departure and after breakfast at the hotel, there may be some free time to relax, or squeeze in some last-minute sightseeing before it is time to check-out and drive to the airport for the onward flight.

We will leave full of ever-lasting memories of our journey along the ancient tea horse route that snakes through Zhongdian County’s 470 snow-capped mountains. We have hiked through a breath-taking scenery of striking mountains, deep valleys, vast grassland and plateaus, spectacular lakes and dense rainforests. We have also immersed ourselves in this remote part of the world’s pristine nature, sleeping in tents beneath the stars in sprawling meadows.




  • Tours with licenced English-speaking guiding services / assistance. Other languages are on request and are subject to availability
  • Accommodation in sharing twin/double at in Shangri-La
  • Accommodation in shared tents during the Tea Trails
  • Transportation for transfers by air-conditioned vehicle in Shangri-La, unless otherwise stated
  • All entrance fees for visits as mentioned in the program
  • All applicable taxes and service charges
  • All meals as indicated in the program (food only)


  • Personal expenses such as other meals, drinks, tips and gratuities, shopping, portage fees and optional tours/ visits, unless otherwise stated
  • Hotel accommodation in the destination of commencement
  • Any domestic / international airline tickets, airport taxes, visa fees, specific camera / video fees, additional transportation cost from and to the general pick-up / drop-off regions (such as airports, out-of-town resorts, ports, harbours and accommodation in surrounding towns)
  • Any accommodation expenses of a personal nature. This includes (compulsory festive) meals and drinks, mini-bar consumption, laundry, room service, any telephone or other communication cost not mentioned in the program
  • International travel and medical insurance coverage for customers


  • The tented accommodation used during this tour is simple accommodation with basic amenities. This includes no air-conditioning or fan, lack of Wi-Fi and/or warm water. Due to the location of our overnight address and aligned with the concept of this adventure experience.
  • This tour includes driving over uneven paths, surfaces and off-road bumpy roads, unsuitable for pregnant women, people with neck and back problems and those with limited mobility.
  • Guests traveling over and during local holidays may experience longer waiting times than normal, may see certain sites being closed down, and this program may be subject to supplementary charges
  • We will do all possible to comply with any dietary requirements during this excursion; it may not always be possible to confirm your wishes in advance based on the choice of local meals
  • As we trek through pristine parts of the rainforest, we are obliged to inform you in advance that there are no sanitary facilities en route to your final destination available.
  • Due to the absence of ATM machines and credit cards payment portals, particularly on islands and inside nature reserves, we highly recommend to bring sufficient cash with you
  • Natural elements of any kind have a destructive effect on electronic equipment. It the customer’s own responsibility to ensure that any camera, mobile telephone or other device is properly wrapped and protected against these elements. We cannot be held responsible in any way for negligence and/or not following suggestions for any damage related to this
  • We reserve the right to make necessary changes to the tour in case of unfavourable weather conditions or situations where we are forced to make alterations to guarantee the safety of our guests
  • Tours and excursions often include obstacles of various kinds that may not make this excursion suitable for wheelchair users or guests with limited mobility
  • The protection of the country’s flora, fauna and its historical and cultural treasures is of immense importance for us. We will not pursue any activities that are not in line with our animal, wildlife and environment protection principles
  • Please ensure that you bring sunglasses, a hat /cap and sunblock with a high SPF factor when traveling with us. Even when it is cloudy, the sun still has an immense power
  • We recommend bringing a light jacket / sweater with you on this tour as part of this excursion brings customers high up in the mountains, where the average temperatures can drop to lower levels.
  • It is recommended to bring a rain coat, good walking shoes, insect repellent and a water bottle with you.
  • All mentioned times, durations and stops are based on approximations and may change due to unforeseen circumstances, weather and traffic conditions beyond our control
  • This tour is not recommended for families with children under the age of 12 years old.


Start typing and press Enter to search