It was the British writer James Hilton's novel, The Lost Horizon, some 50 years ago, that brought fame to an unknown and uncontaminated place- Shangri-La - a household name. The novel described in great detail the stunning scenery in the area: the azure sky, the breathtaking beauty and the hospitality of unsophisticated people.In Tibetan, Shangri-La means a place of good fortune and luck.
Located in the midst of three rivers, Shangri-La is a sacred scenic region blessed with majestic mountains.
Although a romantic name, Shangri-la does not actually refer to any specific place. The official name of Shangri-La is Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which includes Zhongdian County as its
capital and tourist base, Deqing County and Weixi County. The Shangri-La tour starts and ends both in Zhongdian, and this is also the transportation, cultural and commercial center.
If you are tired of all the tourist gimmicks in the tourist-packed areas, go to Zhongdian, the capital of Deqen Prefecture, nestling in mountains 705 kilometers northwest of Kunming and 3300 meters above sea level. You will find a taste of heaven in this wonderland little trodden by travelers.
The inhabitants of this region are members of the Khamba branch of the Tibetans and their lifestyle has all the characteristics of the highland Tibetan culture further west - barley cultivation, yaks, monasteries, etc.
Being so high, the plain can be cold in winter, with snowstorms possible even in late April, but more often the weather is clear at that time. The snow stays on all the lower peaks until late spring. Afterwards the rains bring the flowers, both in the mountain forests as in the plains.
Zhongdian's Tibetans are a contented people, outgoing and friendly. Rather than shy away from the strangers they often prefer to engage with them. They are thus one of the easiest people in the province to approach and befriend.
With paranoramic views and a palpable spiritual vitality, peaceful Zhongdian is an unforgettable destination for travelers in China. Renamed Shangri-La, this city boasts the stunning mountain ranges, great hiking opportunities, friendly people, and fascinating cultures its name implies.