At the doors of Tibet, the majestic Tiger Leaping Gorge meanders for 16kms. With 3.900m from the Jinsha River to the summit of Haba Mountain, it's one of the deepest canyon in the planet. We've hiked during two days in that splendid landscape. Story.
Yunnan's Tiger Leaping Gorge is a wild, remote corner of China -but still pretty simple to reach from Lijiang. The river flows between two mountains: Yulong Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. The story says that a tiger once leaped from one mountain to the other by jumping on a big stone. Hence the name of the gorge.
We spent two days across this spectacular nature, hiking along rice terraces, waterfalls and rivers, crossing wild goats and meeting fascinating people, surrounded by the most scenic views.
Qiaotou: where the adventure begins
From Lijiang to Qiaotou 57.5 miles // 92.5 km // 2.5h from Lijiang Bus Station
Early wake-up, heavy breakfast, backpack, and off we go to Lijiang bus station. The staff of our hotel helps us to book the direct bus to Qiaotou, so we won't get lost today -yay! After a ride on Yunnan's scenic roads, we get off at Qiaotou, a small mountain town in the valley, the starting point of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek.
The trail begins with a slightly uphill track through villages and farms taking us up to the edge of the mountains with splendid views. Then we begin to climb up, walking up to the Naxi Family for a delicious lunch with a view on the snow capped mountains.
THE GREATLY FEARED 28 BENDS
When you think it's steep and then realize it's flat compare to what you see ahead, you're probably at the 28 hairpin turns up the gorge, the most difficult part of the trek. We knew they would come. So steep. Sooo long. Smart, the local people have numbered each bends, so if we lose motivation, they arrive with the key: a quick ride to the top, on a donkey -in exchange of a few RMB. This series are steep indeed, but I have to reckon, it's not as bad as they say, provided that you pace yourself and remember to stop for water.
It is tough to conquer, but we managed well to the top -without the help of any donkey. The outstanding views make it all worthwhile. We have a perfect clear sky, and a bird's eye view on the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Sunset on the mountains, yak cheese and good night.
After this lovely day on the trails, we finally reach the Tea Horse Guesthouse, our home for the night. We've got the best view we could dream of from our room. The Yulong Snow Mountain is majestic, even when the sun is down.
The evening goes fast, we only have time to stretch, take a hot shower followed by a Tiger Balm massage, grab a slap-up meal and a Dali beer to toast to our first successful day, and it's already time to sleep.
A morning close to perfection
We wake up before all the other hikers, grab our bags and hit the trail before the sun rises. The landscape is even more spectacular at dawn. A long hour later, we arrive in Bendiwan village. We stop at the Halfway Guesthouse for a breakfast* on the Inspiration Terrace, with the most impressive views on the mountains. *Banana pancake and chocolate Tibetan bread!
The terrace is sat on the edge of the mountain with spectacular views on the gorge below. So beautiful that it's hard to leave. But we have to get back on the trail, as there are still a few kilometers left. From now on, we are only going down, with the sun up nicely heating us, all the way to the final point: Tina's guesthouse. If only we could stop the time! The sights are stunning. I'm ecstatic, feeling an immense sense of luck to be walking here, in this remote part of China.
We continue our wilderness adventure among these incredible sceneries -until we get back to civilization. We grab a quick naxi lunch at Tina's, leave our bags and hike down to get a closer eye over the river.
Where is that Tiger?
No tiger left, but some impressive swirling whirlpool rapids with a gorgeous turquoise color. A beautiful end to a remarkable journey. Trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge was an experience! Probably one of the best thing to do in Yunnan.