The program includes the possibility of at least one long (one or more weeks long) tour in the middle. The tour is not covered in the fee, but its costs will be very low by Western standards, far below what even local Chinese agencies would charge.
As the said middle trip should be a common experience, among the available possibilities the Dean will decide after hearing the wishes of all participants which one is chosen. However, in case there is a variety of ages and of physical fitness among the participants while many wish to have a hard or long nature or walking trip, but only in this case, it will be possible to organize two different tours.
There are the following tour possibilities that can be realized in the available time:
1. walking tour to Yading from Lugu Hu. Yading is a very beautiful natural park with forest and impressive mountains, one of which having a nearly perfect pyramidal form. It competed for the title of ” Shangri La “. The tour goes 8 walking days through natural settings and is a medium hard one. Luggage can be carried by horse, and less fit people may choose also to go by horse though it is primarily a walking tout. Nights are spent in tents. From Yading the return is best by bus.
2. tour by bus from Lijiang to Zhongdian and from there to Deqin, with visit of the different Tibetan monastic centers (however, you must be clear about the fact that this is a tour and our program is not related at all to the Tibetan Lamaist tradition) and of the natural areas around Deqin as Mount Meili. Both Zhongdian and Deqin are Tibetan towns. The area of Deqin is panoramic and reaches high altitudes. It shares the beauty of high altitude Tibet with chortens, gompas, stupas, impressing mountain settings, etc.
3. combination of Zhongdian-Deqin with Yading (by bus, not by foot). It is possible to arrange a tour by bus to Yading from Zhongdian via Daocheng and back to Zhongdian.
4. tour to Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou and Tibetan villages and monastic centers of Amdo. This implies flying from Lijiang to Chengdu and reaching by bus what is supposed to be the most beautiful and subtle natural park of China, Jiuzhaigou, at the borders of Sichuan and Gansu. A further extension will bring us to Langmusi in the north and then to the biggest active monastic center of the Tibetan world, Xiahe. There is the possibility of visiting some nearby Tibetan areas of isolated Qinhay. From there back down to Chengdu with possible stop in Aba, with a big Bon monastery, depending on how far the visit of Qinhay went. Chengdu offers, as it is well known, too, the only big panda center of the world with lots of them.
5. tour to Chengdu and Kham (Tibetan mountain area of Sichuan). By plain from Lijiang to Chengdu, visit of the panda reservoir there, by bus to Kangding and then to Tagong, a beautiful small Tibetan town summarizing much of the stile of village one finds in that area. From there possibility of a tour to Ganzi, Manigango and Dege, and back to Tagong. All these are untouched, high mountain Tibetan towns. Then from Tagong to Litang and down to Daocheng, visit of Yading and down to Zhongdian and to Lijiang.
6. tour to the Li River. The Li River flows through an extensive area of karst (limestone) hills with incredible forms and subtle beauty, contrasts of greens, blues and reeds. It is what you are used to see in old Chinese paintings (in fact the region inspired many of them). The center of the area are the town of Guilin and even more the villages of Yangshuo and a series of minor ones that stretches well into the hills as Xinping and Baisha. This tour would bring us by plain or train from Lijiang and Kunming to Guilin, and then for a week or more to Yangshuo, from which we will do different trips among the karst formations and along the rivers.
Besides, shorter tours to the villages and spots (such as the Tiger Leaping Gorge) near to Lijiang and Lugu Hu as well as to Dali are possible at any moment as they would take only a weekend; tours in the rest of Yunnan (except for its far away tropical south) are also possible though a little more demanding.
It is very important to remember that the program and LIRSIS are no travel agency. We can only mediate with local agencies and recommend them, we can also arrange with them itineraries, schedules, etc. according to the wishes of the participants. But we are not offering a fully organized tour day by day as agencies sometimes do, nor can we take other responsibility than being mediators with them.
Alternatively, and we would prefer in fact that, the above trips can be arranged as freely as possible with all participants interested traveling together by normal public transport (which is quite OK in the area) as individuals who have accorded a common route would, not as a part of any organized trip, nor dealing with agencies. In this case an own companion could be provided by LIRSIS and local guides contracted whenever necessary during the tour. This in fact would be much cheaper and better than any organized tour, and would allow changes at will due to interest or weather.
Last, it is very important to remember, too, that the purpose of our program is not traveling and that traveling is understood only as a happy and healthy break so as to start seriously with renewed enthusiasm right afterwards; traveling may in no way eclipse or affect our goals as expressed above and anybody more interested in traveling than in these goals should rather take a tour with some travel agency than come to us.