服务热线(仅收市话费) 400-0000-830
Tea Horse Road - Yunnan to Tibet 2019
For Booking and Inquiry, please contact Ms. Bella at guoshuangyan@songtsam.com

Notes: This photography trip is in terms of famous National Geographic Magazine Photographer Michael Yamashita’s schedule, start from Shangri-La of Yunnan Province on November 14, 2019 (includes airport transfer), end in Lhasa on November 24 (includes airport transfer). It’s the exclusive trip for traveling and learning from master photographer, staying in luxury boutique Songtsam Lodges and using LandRover SUV, it's the first time open for foreigners, we offer a special big sale tour cost.  This tour cost includes all Tibet permit along the way, three meals per day, only welcoming dinner on November 14 and hotel breakfast on November 24.

We use LandRover Discovery 5 for the all trip and every three participants share one van. The whole trip Michael Yamashita would be the instructor, and his assistant, and a Songtsam staff as local guide, and Songtsam Tibetan driver. The whole program was arranged and operated by Songtsam Boutique Retreats & Tours. Itinerary may be subject to change.  Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history event, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Songtsam Boutique Retreats & Tours. Highly recommend participants buy your own travel insurance and other insurance.


Tibetan Autonomous Area is located in southwest of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, covers 1/8 size of China with population of 3.5 million. Its 4,000 km borderline neighbored with Nepal, India, Bhutan, Cambodia and Kashmir.  It was called “The third Pole” besides North Pole and South Pole. Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is also the highest plateau in the world. There are 10 of the 14 mountains over 8,000 meters above sea level was located in T.A.R, so called “the Roof of the World”.  Here also more than 1,500 lakes, and most of them are salty lakes.

Tibetan history was known by outside mainly since Tubo Dynasty which its prime time (618-842 AD). The 32nd local King Songtsen Gampo united all local Tibetan tribes and set up the Tubo Dynasty. He allied with strong Tang Dynasty government and Nepali government by married the Tang Dynasty Wencheng Princess and Nepali Princess. During Tubo Dynasty, Tibetan character and language was Standardized. Political and laws was setting up. And Tibetan Buddhism was developed, first Tibetan Buddhism monastery - Samye Monastery was built in 775 AD.

Tibetan Buddhism was Buddhism merged with Tibetan original local religion – Bonism, and develops a sect of Buddhism by involves strong Tibetan local culture with geographical feather. Tibetan Buddhism, Han Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism are three main sects of Buddhism. Since 775 AD, Tibetan Buddhism develops into different sects in 11th century, and finally formed till 15th century when Gulug Order (yellow hat sect) appeared. Now here are the four major sects: Gulug Order (yellow hat sect), Nyingma Order (red sect) and Sakya Order (stripe hat sect) and Kagyu Bkargyud Order (means oral tradition lineage).

Part of this trip we travel along the legendary Tea Horse Road, which originally started in 1,500 years ago by covering southwest China and eastern Tibet. Today, mainly means Chinese merchants started trading tea form Sichuan and Yunnan Province to Tibetans in exchange for horses since Tang Dynasty. Over 3,000 km network of trail and mountain pass, remote ethnic groups traded goods on mountain trails that led to Tibetan plateau, it’s not just for exchange of tea and horse, but also for cultural exchange.

The weather is not predictable and could appear two to three seasons in 24 hours. Mid-late November is beginning of winter in this area, hailing and snowing over the high mountain pass is very common, and highest elevation would be Dongda Pass 5,130 meters above sea level, the highest overnight Ranwu lodge is 4,200 meters above sea level. Given the hazards, all mountain passes in Tibetan area are hanging with prayer’s wind and horse flag for safety blessing. Traffic can be blocked anytime for road constructions, and especially the checkpoints etc.

The whole trip, the lodge would be Songtsam series boutique lodge, which located in the best location with million-dollar view. With most of local villagers as serving staffs, we try to provide you cozy accommodation. Generally speaking, hot shower and electricity is available in all the lodges, however as the remote location, they might power off in a couple of nights occasionally. The food would be local Yunnan and Tibetan style cuisine.

Besides the snow-mountains and beautiful lakes, we also have opportunity to photograph Piles or town of inscribed prayer stones, Tibetan Monastery, white pagoda, Tibetan pilgrim kowtowing, Tibetan Buddhism activities, etc. As the less visited area even for Mainland Chinese, the plantation and wildlife is well preserved. With luck, hopefully, we would photograph wildlife like precious pheasants and raptors, Tibet Gazelle, Tibetan Wild donkey, etc. Also please aware that Tibetan area is still under strict governed from authorities, we might not enter some places we plan to and would be flexible to itinerary changes. 

On this trip, we would have 4 photo reviews hosted by Michael Yamashita, includes the welcoming dinner and farewell dinner. Participants select 2-3 photos for each photo review, the welcoming dinner would be also welcoming for any of your previous photos to review on November 14, and please better select the photos from this trip for rest of 3 photo reviews. Welcome submitting a lot of group photos and photos of participants shot each other on farewell dinner on November 23.

Michael Yamashita

Michael has been shooting for the National Geographic magazine for over three decades, combining his dual passions of photography and travel. His particular specialty is in retracing the paths of famous travelers, resulting in stories on Marco Polo, the Japanese poet Basho, and the Chinese explorer Zheng He.

Michael has been photographing this area since 1996 for National Geographic. Recently he has written and taken photographs for a book about this area entitled Shangri-La: Along the Tea Road to Lhasa

He has received numerous industry awards, including those from the Pictures of the Year, Photo District News, the New York Art Directors Club, and the Asian-American Journalists Association. Major exhibits of his work have opened throughout Asia, in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Taipei, and Singapore, as well as in Rome, Venice, Frankfurt, and Perpignan, France. His work has been exhibited at galleries in Los Angeles and at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

Michael has published nine books (most inspired by his thirty National Geographic stories): The Great Wall From Beginning to End; New York: Flying High, an aerial portrait of Manhattan; Zheng He: Tracing the Epic Voyages of China’s Greatest Explorer; Japan: The Soul of a Nation; Marco Polo, A Photographer’s Journey; Mekong: A Journey on the Mother of Waters; In the Japanese Garden; A Pictorial Tribute to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy; Lakes, Peaks and Prairies: Discovering the U.S. Canadian Border.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1: November 14, 2019 Thursday    Shangri-La
Arrive at Shangri-La Airport, met lodge driver and transfer to our hotel. Meet at hotel Restaurant at 5 pm for orientation meeting and welcome group dinner. If you arrive in Shangri-La one or two days earlier to rest and acclimatize the high elevation – 3,300 meters, you could easily visit this unique Tibetan town by walking around Ganden Sumtseling Monastery and old town.

Shangri-La is located in the northwest of Yunnan Province, the border with Tibet and Sichuan Province. It’s also the main area for three rivers parallel area. The three rivers are Jinsha River, Nu River and Lancang River. Jinsha River is the upper section of Yangtze River. Nu River flows through Myanmar into Indian Ocean. Lancang River flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and is called Mekong River. Geographically, Shangri-La is on the Tibetan Plateau, and has the deepest gorges in China – Tiger Leaping Gorge, and lots of snow mountains like Bama Snow Mountain. The elevation is from 1,503 meters to 5,309 meters above sea level.


The major population of Shangri-La is Tibetan people, also Han people, Naxi People, Yi People, and Bai People. It saying that Tibet King has three sons, they all have their own territory. Shangri-La was called as Gyalthang. Shangri-La means “Sun and Moon in the heart” in Tibetan. In 1933, James Hilton’s novel <The Lost Horizon> described a pilot fell down with his aircraft and survived in a peaceful Tibetan area in middle of snow-mountains in the east, once the pilot was rescued, he never could find this area back – his paradise! Gyalthang or Zhongdian was renamed as Shangri-La on December 17 2001.

Songtsam Linka Shangri-La (Welcome D)


Day 2: Shangri-La to Meili

After breakfast we will drive to Napa Lake, which is the biggest nomad pasture around Shangri-La. Flocks of yaks and horses graze happily in the surrounding area and Holy birds, Black Necked Cranes will be arrived to spend their winter season.


Afterwards we will head to Songtsam Benzilan Lodge for lunch. Compared with Shangri-La, Songtsam Benzilan sits in a remote and quiet village and was a very important stop on the Ancient Tea Horse Road.


In the afternoon we will visit Dongzhulin Monastery, an important destination for local Tibetans with very few tourists. The monastery was built in 1671 making it older than the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery in Shangri-La. It has several “living” Buddhas and each year the mask dancing ceremony attracts thousands of followers.


Finally we will arrive at Meili in the late afternoon and enjoy the magnificent sunset over the mountains.

Songtsam Meili (B, L, D)


Day 3: Meili to Markam

We photograph Mt. Kawakarpo at sunrise, the highest and the most beautiful snow mountain in Yunnan Province at an elevation of 6,740 meters above sea level. Kawakarpo, Tibetan means “Majestically beautiful snow mountain peaks along steep river valley.” Here three great Rivers (Jinsha River – Yangtze River, Lancang River – Mekong River and Nu River – Salween River) parallels within the narrowed 66.3 km. This area is not only the geographic wonder, but also the high mountain garden for the diversity of fauna and flora. It’s one of the most sacred mountains for Tibetan people, attracts more than 100,000 pilgrim prayers from Kham Tibetan area and Nepal. No mountaineers ever climbed up this sacred mountain as the active glaciers, local villagers and believers’ against, and government stop climbing since the mountaineering disaster in 1991. Later autumn’s clear weather, hopefully we photograph Kawakarpo peak hit by first morning golden light. 


We will drive to Yanjing, the first stop in Tibet and famous for it’s salt wells. After thousands of years, Yanjing’s ancient salt-making methods still remain one of the most unique processes in the world. We will have lunch at a local restaurant to taste Jiajia Noodles and watch the staff calculate using stones. In the afternoon we will drive to Markam, passing by Hongla Mountain and Lawu Mountain, and will arrive in Rumei Town.


Markam became a local politics, economy and culture center, a transport hub along ancient tea horse road since Tang Dynasty, while Songtsen Gampo united Tibet and set up Tupo Kingdom. Since then, Tibetan people are the main resident here by mixture with local tribes. As located in the border with Sichuan Province, Yunnan Province and Tibet, Markam is a strategic military post for thousand years.

Songtsam Markam Rumei (B, L, D)

Day 4: Markam to Ranwo

This is the longest driving day of the whole trip. We will drive 7-8 hours over the mountains and down to the valleys (approximately 5,000m to 2,000m) through Dongda Snow Mountains, Banda Grassland and Nujiang 72th Turns, we photograph the landscape through passes. For those worried about the altitude, Songtsam Ranwo Lodge has oxygen concentrators inside the rooms and in the public areas.


Ranwo, is famous for the Ranwo Lake, a barrier lake since more than 200 years ago. This lake is very clean and quiet without fallen branches or leaves. In late autumn or early winter, the lake is very colorful with reflection of pasture, forest and snow mountain, like a mirror.

Songtsam Ranwo (B, L, D)

Day 5: Ranwo

We photograph Ranwo Lake at early morning light. Afterwards, we venture into a half-day hike to Duosongtso lake, which is a holy and secret lake and not open to the public. Tonight, we will have a photo review.


After lunch at hotel, we will visit Laigu Glacier in the late afternoon. Here we will have the chance to see the blue ice that has formed for more than thousand years. Laigu Glacier is the water source of Ranwo Lake and Parlung Tsangpo River, the largest glacier in Tibet. One of the glacier tongues lasts 12 km from the snow mountain peak over 6,606 meters to the lake over 4,000 meters above sea level. Laigu means an uncovered beautiful village. Laigu village still keep the original half nomad and half agriculture lifestyle, more than 70 families situated separately in this beautiful area along Ranwo Lake.

Songtsam Ranwo (B, L, D)

Day 6: Ranwo to Bome

After breakfast we will drive to Bome along the Parlung Tsangpo River. Arrive Songtsam Linka Bome for lunch. Enjoy the village life by Guxiang lake in the afternoon.


Bome is the Tibet barn, famous for the wheat, barley, canola flower, high altitude tea, and precious high plateau mushroom like morel and pine mushrooms. As the relatively low elevation at 2,700 meters, the warm and humid weather makes subtropical alpine forest. Some Firs and spruces grow 70-80 meters tall with over 180 years old in primary forest.

Songtsam Linka Bome (B, L, D)

Day 7: Bome

We will head out to Zhuxi Glacier and visit Purlong Temple after breakfast. Here we will take a leisurely walk along the Parlung Tsangpo River and have afternoon tea outside. We would see the unique landscape that glacier tongue lasts from snow mountain peak into the primary forest as the low elevation. Tonight, we will have a photo review.

Songtsam Linka Bome (B, L, D)

Day 8: Bome to Nyingchi

On our way to Nyingchi we will pass the Tangmai Natural Barrier, which was one of the most dangerous roads in Tibet. Lulang is surrounded by forests and famous for its alpine scenery, which is often compared to that of Switzerland.


We will make our way over Mt. Sekyim la Pass to experience the majestic view of Mt. Namcha Barwa, this 7,782 meters mountain is not only the most beautiful snow mountain in China, but also the nature museum of the world. Especially in the south side of mountain, from low to high, there are tropical rain forest, subtropical evergreen broadleaved forest, temperate coniferous forest, frigid coniferous forest, frigid alpine meadow, and ice and snow zone above 4,700 meters above sea level. As the warm air from Indian Ocean, the great Mt. Namcha Barwa was hiding inside the mist for 80-90% of the time. Hopefully, we have good chance to photograph it in the clear days after raining season in late November. We will arrive at Nyingchi in the late afternoon.


Nyingchi , the forest coverage rate is over 46% and 80% of forest in Tibet is here. Yarlung Tsangpo River flows from west Tibet over 1,000 km, meets Mt. Namcha Barwa. The altitude difference makes 9 vertical natural zones, from alpine ice and snow zone to subtropical rain forest zone. This wide area also provides diverse ecosystems for naturalist to study, most of them are still undiscovered to outside world. 

Nyingchi Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 9: Nyingchi
to Lhasa

After breakfast, we drive to Lhasa by highway. On the way we will stop off and visit Baksum Lake. The water here is so pure and green that the surrounding trees are perfectly reflected on the lake’s surface (Baksum literally translates to ‘green water’ in Tibetan, hence the name). Finally we will arrive in Lhasa during the late afternoon or evening. We will go to the plaza to take a night view of Potala Palace. For those worried about the altitude, Songtsam Linka Lhasa has oxygen concentrators inside the rooms and in the public areas.


Lhasa, the holy capital of Tibet, still maintains its spirituality and mystique despite the growing population of Han Chinese and rapid development of the city in recent years. You are certain to notice the contrast among its inhabitants; however, Pilgrims kowtowing at Jokhang Temple and hip youngsters in discos boogieing to Celine Dion exemplify the duality of Lhasa. The early morning is the best time to appreciate the spiritual face of Lhasa.


At an altitude of 3,650 meters, Lhasa is the heart of this Buddhist land hidden away amongst the mightiest mountain range in the world – the Himalayas. Lhasa literally means “Holy Land”, the city is spiritual anchor of Tibet. With many holy sites, Lhasa is an important pilgrimage place for people from all over Tibetan area (west Sichuan, Qinghai, south Gansu, northwest Yunnan, Tibet) and the world. Over 1,300 years old, Lhasa dates back to 7th century AD when King Songtsen Gampo built his palace in Lhasa. In 1645, the 5th Dalai Lama also made Lhasa his capital and rebuilt Potala Palace.

Songtsam Linka Lhasa (B, L, D)

Day 10: Lhasa

In the morning, we visit OR photograph the most well known landmark of Tibet, the Potala Palace. Its red and white buildings sit nobly on a rocky hill, commanding the attention of the entire Kyichu (Lhasa River) Valley. As the political center of Tibet, and the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetans come from miles around to pray to its majestic walls. The approach to the Potala is not easy, and requires climbing many steep steps, so we take it slowly and allow ourselves to leisurely enjoy the Palace and its surroundings. Once inside, we visit one room after another, admiring the many beautiful murals and sculptures.


Each day, a stream of chanting pilgrims files through this religious maze to offer khata (ceremonial scarves) or yak butter at the innumerable chapels and shrines. The 50 years construction of this 13-story architecture began in 1645 during the reign of the 5th Dalai.


Here we would be divided into two groups that for some people would like to go inside the Potala Palace to visit. And another group would go around Potala to photograph the holy palace from all angles. We would meet west of square around noon.


After lunch, we take a short drive to the outskirts of Lhasa, where Sera Monastery sits at the foot of the mountains. One of the three main Gelupka Order monasteries in Lhasa, Sera is an important spiritual center for Buddhist monks. Inside the monastery, we stroll among the vast temples and college complexes, and mingle freely with monks going about their daily duties. We then proceed to the debating courtyard, where we watch nearly a hundred monks hone their debating skills in an elaborate clapping ceremony.


In late afternoon, join the many pilgrims flocking to Jokhang Monastery, to visit the spiritual center of Tibet. Said-to-be-built over the heart of an evil goddess, the Jokhang is the hub of concentric circles of monasteries emanating out of Lhasa. It was built to commemorate the marriage of the Tang princess Wencheng to King Songtsen Gampo, and houses a pure gold statue of Buddha Sakyamuni brought to Tibet by the princess. As we make the inner circuit around the courtyard, spinning numerous prayer wheels as we go, we are swept up in the energy of the devout.  


Barkhor Street: is essentially a pilgrim circuit (kora) that proceeds clockwise around the periphery of the Jokhang Monastery. It is also a hive of market activity, an astounding pilgrim jamboree.


Afterwards, we head back to hotel for farewell dinner and our last photo review.


Another program option for those has free time in Lhasa by their own:


We will visit Drak Yerpa Monastery, which is one of the holiest cave retreats in northern Tibet. Among the many ascetics who have sojourned here are Guru Rinpoche and Atisha (Jowo-je), the Bengali Buddhist who spend 12 years proselytizing in Tibet . King Songtsen Gampo also meditated in a cave here, after his Tibetan wife established the first of Yerpa's chapels. The site is deeply peaceful and has stunning views, also good to hike about 1-2 hours.


After lunch, we take a short drive to the outskirts of Lhasa, where Sera Monastery sits at the foot of the mountains. One of the three main Gelupka Order monasteries in Lhasa, Sera is an important spiritual center for Buddhist monks. Inside the monastery, we stroll among the vast temples and college complexes, and mingle freely with monks going about their daily duties. We then proceed to the debating courtyard, where we watch nearly a hundred monks hone their debating skills in an elaborate clapping ceremony.


Following on we’ll head back to the hotel for a farewell dinner.


After dinner, Technical Lecture at book lounge

Songtsam Linka Lhasa (B, L, D)

Day 11: November 24, 2019 Sunday    Fly home

Fly home. Trip ends at Lhasa Airport (transferred by lodge van). (B)


Please note:  Itinerary may be subject to change.  Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history event, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by our local guide.

About Songtsam

Songtsam is a luxury boutique hotel group currently with eleven properties consisting of four Linka hotels and seven lodges located in Tibet and Yunnan province in China. Founded in 2001 by Mr Pema Dorjee, Songtsam is the only collection of luxury Tibetan-style retreats that can be found across the Tibetan Plateau, offering guests sophisticated elegance, refined design, modern amenities, and unobtrusive service in places of natural beauty and cultural interest.


By combining stays at different hotels and lodges, Songtsam Tours are designed for intrepid travellers to discover the region’s diverse culture, rich biodiversity, incredible scenic landscapes, and unique living heritage through comfort, authenticity, and an enlightened spirit of adventure. Songtsam currently offer two signatures routes: the Songtsam Yunnan Circuit, which explores the "Three Parallel Rivers" area (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the new Songtsam Yunnan- Tibet Route, which merges the Ancient Tea Horse Road, G214 (Yunnan-Tibet highway), G318 (Sichuan-Tibet highway), and the Tibetan Plateau road tour into one, adding unprecedented comfort to the Tibetan travel experience.

Songtsam’s  Mission

For over 20 years, Songtsam has taken "pursuing the source of happiness" as its core value. During this time the company has been continuously exploring and sincerely preserving the essence of Tibetan culture, whilst also committing to support economic development, local communities, environmental conservation, and sustainability within Tibet and Yunnan.


Via the Songtsam platform, Mr Pema Dorjee reveals that the charm of Tibetan culture is to be in harmony with nature and the local people; and when combined with authentic accommodation, warm-hearted service, and unique travel experiences, it will bring you closer to “Shangri-La”. His wish is for guests to be inspired by the ethnic groups and cultures of the region, and most importantly to understand how the local people pursue and understand happiness. Therefore Songtsam aspires to provide the key enabling travellers to open up the gateway to hidden destinations of Shambhala.

For Booking and Inquiry, please contact Ms. Bella at guoshuangyan@songtsam.com
在线咨询 专业顾问为您解答