A lot of people believe that Zhongdian (中甸) was renamed into Shangri-la in order to boost tourism. The truth is Shangri-la is just a figment of imagination of a writer, but nevertheless, Zhongdian or Shangri-la is just as mystical as the mythical place in the book. It features Old Town, which highlights the fun Tibetan culture that involves group dancing and singing in the square. Everyone is encouraged to participate. As one of the progressive areas in the Yunnan Province, various restaurants offer some of the best Tibetan dishes including barley wine and yak butter tea. There’s a special area where you can buy culturally inclined trinkets and other items. Even when you’re in Old Town, you can already catch a glimpse of the old and sacred Songzanlin Lamasery. It’s also a starting point for many adventurers who can rent horses more easily.
Within Shangri-la are two notable attractions. The Haba Snow Mountains is host to the Baishu Terraces, also referred to as White Terraces. The vast deposits of calcium carbonate create multiple hierarchical layers—like terraces. Spring water then flows among the layers, creating a magnificent cascade. Making it even more beautiful is its natural surroundings that turn multicolor during spring and summer.
It’s also in Shangri-la where you can find the Bitahai Nature Reserve and the famous lake. Its serenity, calmness, and cleanliness make it an excellent quick getaway for travelers. In the middle of the lake is a small island that resembles a floating boat. It spans no more than 30 meters, but it’s filled with plenty of plant varieties. Birds also love to stay here because of easy access in water.
In Shangri-la, you can hop on a bike to Napa Lake, ski in Shika Mountains, or linger in typical Tibetan homes.
Address: Zhongdian, Yunnan
Admission Fees: CNY 30 (Bitahai Nature Reserve), CNY 30 (Baishu Terraces)
Operating Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Bitahai Nature Reserve), 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Baishu Terraces)
How to Get There: Take a bus from Daocheng, Dali, Lijiang, or Deqin.