Tribal and Sacred China: A Journey through Laos, Yunnan and Tibet15 October - 05 November, 2019

Laos and China
Trip Dates:
15 October - 05 November, 2019
Trip Price: £3980 excluding international flights
Single Room Supplement: £780
Trip Length: 22 Days days

China is made up of 55 minority groups covering 9% of the population whom over the last few generations have been marginalised into mountain and border regions. Accompanied by Dr  Charles Ramble explore these remote lands, fast disappearing under the wheels of China’s economic juggernaut.

The journey begins in a small backwater in the heart of Laos, at a confluence of the mighty Mekong River where the royal town of Luang Prabang remains one of Asia’s last unspoilt havens. Luang Prabang is described by UNESCO as the best preserved town in Southeast Asia. This magical place, the former royal capital was once part of the kingdom known as Lane Xang, Land of a Million Elephants, it is the cultural and spiritual heart of Laos. With its gentle pace and population of monks, Luang Prabang is a treasure trove of 33 glittering Buddhist temples dating from the 16th century, exquisitely gilded and frescoed, with multi-tiered roofs sweeping to the ground.


Take the beautiful northern road, through endless rice paddies and lush jungle to the misty mountains of the Hmong hill tribes whose settlements are perched precariously on high cliff faces. Here the party will enter China through a small ‘back door’ border crossing with the Himalayan foothills beyond. Yunnan Province (literally translated as ‘South of the Clouds’), is home to some of China’s most diverse variations in flora, fauna and ethnicity. The sleepy town of Jinghong resides on the banks of the Mekong and serves as a useful base from which to explore outlying Dai minority villages, ancient temples and botanical gardens. From Jinghong take a short flight direct to Dali which lies at the base of the Cangshan Mountains and is the historic home of the Bai minority. Enjoy a cruise on Erhai lake and visit the Three Pagodas of Sacred Worship. From here enjoy a wonderful drive through rolling emerald rice paddies to the village of Shaxi, which lies at the foot of Shibaoshan (Stone Treasure Mountain), an area which receives few visitors. Continue north to the beautiful town of Lijiang on the edge of the Tibetan plateau where the dominant Nakhi tribe have developed a distinctive cultural tradition centred on life in the isolated but spectacularly beautiful Lijiang Valley.


Fly to the medieval capital city of Lhasa where the sumptuous Potala Palace dominates the town and where every facet of Tibetan ritual is practised. From Lhasa begin an awe inspiring journey crossing the spectacular mountains of the Himalayas dotted with beautiful palaces and ancient monasteries to Gyantse and en route cross two giddying Himalayan Passes. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the shores of the beautiful deep blue green Yamdrok Lake. Gyantse is a town of walls within walls. Walk through the Pelkor Chode and the Kumbum, whose protective eyes look beneficently down on the pilgrims and townspeople. At Shigatse explore the huge Tashilhunpo Monastery, seat of the Panchen Lama, and once home to over 4000 monks. Here, tiers of white-washed buildings lift the eye to the red halls with their gold-sheathed roofs. Return to Lhasa before taking one of the world’s most dramatic train journeys from the Tibetan plateau across the vast country of China to Beijing on the Qinghai – Tibet railway; a quite miraculous feat of engineering and one of the world’s great train journeys. 

Maximum Party Size: 20

Trip Leader: Professor Charles Ramble

Dr Ramble is a former lecturer in Himalayan Studies at the Oriental Institute of Oxford University. He lived in the region for fifteen years, working as an anthropologist and a naturalist, and has travelled and researched extensively in the Himalayas. He is the author of some fifty articles and several books on the culture and history of the Himalayan countries and has accompanied eight very successful journeys for the alumni since 2008.

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Tribal and Sacred China: A Journey through Laos, Yunnan and Tibet Trip Comments:

‘This was an enticingly thought out and imaginative trip. First going from one extreme to the other - the lush jungle of Laos to the dizzy snow heights of Tibet was very appealing with the prospect of an exciting train journey at the end – a brilliant feature. Second going from Himayana to Mahayana Buddhism was also intriguing and informative. Third it addressed altitude acclimatisation very well in that it was gradual - so nobody to our knowledge suffered badly. Third it was good to spend two nights or so in the better places ( Luang Prabang, Dali, Lijang, and of course Lhasa) – more restful, time to get laundry done, and explore a little on one’s own.’
‘Dr Ramble was outstanding. He was empathetic, responsive to our requests and willing to share his passionate knowledge of the area and culture.’
‘It was a tour first of all very imaginatively conceived, the omission of any one of the three areas visited would have reduced the interest considerably. Many thanks for my second excellent tour with Distant Horizons.’
‘This is just a quick note to tell you how much we enjoyed our trip to China and we simply want to thank you for what was a memorable three weeks. A perhaps unintended benefit was the opportunity to totally revise our previous perception of modern China and the Chinese.’