There is an actual Shangri-La in the Yunnan province of China, the location is the seat of the Dêqên Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. I’ll admit, I had no idea that it actually existed.
It’s original name was Zhongdian County (Chinese: 中甸县 Zhōngdiàn Xiàn). In 2001, in an effort to promote tourism in the area it was renamed after the fictional land of Shangri-La that author, James Hilton, wrote about in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Once again, I’ll admit, I haven’t read the book yet and had no idea.
Here are a few things I do know:
- The scenery is spectacular. The serene vistas of mountains and valleys is truly breathtakingly beautiful.
- Shangrila is elevated at 3400 meters which makes altitude sickness a big issue for some people. They do sell oxygen tanks at the first kiosk at the airport and the medical clinic at the monastery also carries a supply.
- It gets very cold and stays that way for most of the time. Our B&B room had single pane windows with no heat. When it dipped down to 5 degrees at night you definitely felt the nip and we were grateful that we all like to cuddle.
- The Yak meat is amazing. Hands down, we’ve never had any burger that was as flavourful or juicy as the Yak burger we had in Shangrila. The Yak Cheese is phenomenal as well. Actually, all the food we had was fantastic.
We hired a taxi to drive us to Nixi village which is about 30 km away from Shangri-la city. Nixi is famous for black pottery made by its local villagers. There are 148 families here totalling about 800 people, with over 50% of the village families working as black pottery makers. Our driver introduced us to one of the village families who warmly welcomed us into their traditionally built home. We had the rare opportunity to see beyond the garden walls and into someones private home and life. This family showed us around their home, offered us snacks and shared some of their pottery techniques with us. It was truly and amazing experience for all of us.