If you have missed the autumn landscape in September in Xinjiang, then you shouldn’t miss the scenic spot of Daocheng, Yading in October. Every mid-October on, you will gradually enter a colorful fairy tale world from north to south of Sichuan and Chongqing area.
Without crowds of tourists, you can exclusively enjoy the beautiful autumn scenery of Daocheng, Yading. Lower price is also a big attraction. So what are you waiting for? Just go to Daocheng, Yading right now.
After the completion of Daocheng Yading Airport, it only takes us one hour to arrive there from Chengdu. Upon arrival, we can take the airport buses to Daocheng or Yading, which is very fast and convenient.
Decorated by golden forests, red prairies, open pasture and glittering lakes, Daocheng Yading has its superb landscape. Before enjoying Yading’s magnificent natural scenery, let’s wander around Daocheng first.
100-thousand-acre Poplar Forest
to the west of Daocheng County
Going west out of Daocheng, you will see a man-made poplar shelter forest with the highest elevation and the largest area in the world. Originally, the poplars were planted to improve locals’ living environment, but amazingly they have become an attractive landscape, with the leaves green in summer and golden as oil paintings. The wide poplar forest extends several kilometers. The best shooting location must be the roadside 3 kilometers away from Yading, near to Sela and Bang River.
Daocheng White Pagoda
to the north of Daocheng County
When you head south from Litang County, seeing the white pagoda means that you approach Daocheng soon. It is surrounded by 108 small pagodas and payers. With the sun setting down, Daocheng White Pagoda looks extremely serene. Heading along the Gongga Road on the main street and north out of the county and crossing a bridge, you will see Daocheng White Pagoda up the slope.
If you decide to worship in only one temple, Benpo Temple (also called Bangpu Temple) is the best choice.
With beautiful natural landscape, this temple was built leaning the mountain and the river. It is situated under Haizi Mountain, on the other side of Daocheng River near Sangdui. All the vehicles, starting from Litang County and heading south, will be driven past here. Also, you can visit it when cycling to Sangdui routes.
Since “Shangri-La” became a spiritual belief for visitors, many have to pay for it. Riwa Town, a big attraction in Yading, has changed its name to Shangri-la Town. Yading Nature Reserve has also been regarded as another Jiuzhaigou Valley because of its tickets, the large number of tourists, hotel prices during the peak season, etc. However, when surrounded by three holy snow mountains, grasslands and clear lakes, you will be amazed by Yading’s charm.
Daocheng Yading Scenic Spot
Daocheng Yading is covered by the beauty of late Autumn in mid and late October, while rhododendron will be blooming in May and June. The tourist center is located in Ren village, three kilometers away from Shangri-la Town. After buying tickets, you need to take a sightseeing bus to Yading Village and the Scenic Spot 35 km away, which totally takes you about one hour.
Niulang Holy Mountains
Circling around the mountains from the tourist center by bus, you will see the Niulang holy mountains at the summit, which are worshipped as embodiments of three Bodhisattvas. On the left seats of the sightseeing bus, you could overlook Ren Village and Yading Gorge, and have a look at snow mountains Mt. Chanadorje and Mt. Chenrezig.
Take the sightseeing bus to the destination, walk up for ten minutes, and then you will arrive at Chonggu Meadows (4020 meters above sea level). Climb along the left trail, walk through the forest and then you will come to Pearl Sea. Chonggu Temple that you pass belongs to the Gelug sect. With a golden top and surrounded by snow mountains, that looks very beautiful.
Often called Pearl Lake, the lake is located at the north side of Xiannairi. You need to walk 30 minutes from Chonggu Meadows to the lake where you will view a dreamlike reflection.
Xiannairi Holy Mountain
The north peak of the three sacred mountains is Xiannairi. At an altitude of 6032 meters, Xiannairi is considered as the highest mountain of Daocheng. The “two shoulders” of the main peak means the embodiment of Guanyin — Green Tara and White Tara. You can have a look at Xiannairi from Pearl Lake, Frog Sea, Chonggu Temple or Yading Village.
Gongga Silver River Valley
Not often used as the name, Gongga Silver River Valley means the river valley from Chonggu Meadows to Luorong Pasture, which is about 6.5km long. Most of the tourists can take electromobiles from Chonggu Meadows to Luorong Pasture. Gongga Silver River refers to the clear glacial rivers.
The landscape of the valley is really wonderful, so you’d better spend two hours walking along it one way — on the first half part of the plank road, you can walk from Chonggu Meadows to the holy watergate, Xianuoduoji being the “quide light”. While if turning around, you will see forests change into meadows. There are many rest places and photography points on the sides of the plank road, where you can see sixteen Arhats from afar.
Xianuoduoji Holy Mountain
Mount Chanadorje (also called Xianuoduoji) is the embodiment of Vajrapani Bodhisattva. At an altitude of 5,958m, the snowy mountain is like a bat who unfolds its wings and is ready to fly. The typical pyramid shape just represents the power of Vajrapani Bodhisattva. In Gongga Silver River Valley and Five Color Sea, we can appreciate the mountain from various perspectives.
Chonggu Meadows is the best officially designated photography location. On an Autumn evening, tourists can shot the beautiful sunrise on the mountain. After that, there is still time to catch a bus. Apart from Chonggu Meadows, tourists can also enjoy the beautiful sunrise on the mountain in Yading Village. The location not far from the way to Frog Sea helps us have a better view.
Yangmaiyong Holy Mountain
At an altitude of 5,958m, Mount Jambeyang (also called Yangmaiyong) is the embodiment of Manjusri Bodhisattva’s wisdom. Looking like Manjusri’s sword of wisdom, the snow peak is honored as “the world’s most wonderful snow peak” by Locke.
Within the scenic spot, the best view of Yangmaiyong belongs to the second half part of Gongga Silver River Valley. Comparatively, along the way to Milk Lake, you can take a closer look at it.
Luorong Pasture is nearly the place that you will feel most comfortable in Yading. As the terminus of electromobiles, anyone who doesn’t suffer serious altitude sickness can arrive here. Pasture is the center of the three sacred snow peaks and looks very beautiful and holy with an appropriate distance from Yangmaiyong and Xianuoduoji.
Also called Luorongcuo Lake in Tibet, Milk Lake is situated on the col between Yangmaiyong and Xiannairi. According to legend, the lake can cure deaf-mutes. The jade lake is called “Milk Lake” because the color of its shoreside is milk white.
Heading forward for almost 6km and climbing up the steep cliff, you will reach Milk Lake. On the road, which is highly visible, you may meet with fearless wild deer. (Heading upward for 1.5 to 2.5 hours) Also, you can ride a horse from Luorong Pasture to Milk Lake. (300 yuan for heading upward, but not for returning) When at the zig-zag-typed mountain slope, you need to walk for a while.
The number of horses is limited, so you must catch an early sightseeing bus or electromobile if you want to ride one. If not, you can only ride a horse at noon when horse keepers come back. Attention: Those weigh more than 85 kilograms are not received.
Five-Color Lake is located on the south slope of Xiannairi. The lake, which as the legend says is constantly changing with five colors on sunny days, can tell you the secrets about both the past and the future. Climb upward for 15 minutes more from Milk Lake, and then you will reach Five-Color Lake which lies on the inclined rear slope of Milk Lake. When going down Five-Color Lake, you’d better return to Milk Lake first, because the road to the east slope of Five-Color Lake is too steep.
Tips on hiking Yading
Yading Small Kora is highly recommended, which is a hiking route around Mount Xiannairi (Arya Avalokiteshvara). It will take you 10 to 12 hours to complete the route. You can choose to live in Yading Village, departing early and returning at dusk. Hikers need to prepare enough food and water for themselves. Also, they can drink the river water along the route, which is the glacier melt water.
Both the starting and ending point of Yading Small Kora is Chonggu Meadows. If not confident about your own physical fitness, you can take an electromobile from Chonggu Meadow to Luorong Pasture, which will help you save almost two hours. Then, set off for Milk Lake and Five-Color Lake together with other tourists. Before 12 o ‘clock, head toward the bealock at the back of Milk Lake (4750 meters). Hike through the bealock, and you will see Re Songcuo (4550 meters) at the right front, which is the direction you will go. Go along the mountain trail, and after a while you will see Kasi Hell Valley on the left. Don’t turn down at the fork road. After going by a cowshed, what you will face is the steep upward slope. This road, with its slope of nearly 70 degrees, is the toughest to hike. It will take you 40 minutes from here to arrive at the bealock (4580 meters) decorated with prayer flags. From here on, the downhill path is coming, and you will reach Pearl Sea after 1.5 hours’ journey. Join other tourists, and head toward Chonggu Meadows with them.
As mentioned above, you can turn to Kasi Hell Valley on the route of Yading Small Kora. Kasi Hell Valley is about 12 kilometers long, from which the altitude will decrease during all the way to Kasi Village. After 4-5 hours, you will arrive at the village, the entrance of this route. According to the Sutras, Kasi Hell is one of the eight cemeteries. Coming from Yading Village to Kasi Village means coming from the paradise to the man’s world.
Every two days, there is a shuttle bus from Kasi Village to Shangri-La Town. As for the chartered bus, you need to spend 600 yuan taking one. You will go by Erchu Mountain on the way and have a look at the pleasing forest landscape.
If you are a professional hiker, you can choose the very classic travel route: Yading Big Kora (3-4 days), Yading to Muli Route and Yading to Niru Route. Look for a team at doyouhike.net or 8264.com.
At an altitude of 4411 meters, Daocheng Yading Airport is located on the Haizi Mountain 50 kilometers north away from Daocheng County. So far, there have been direct flights to Daocheng from Chongqing, Kunming, Xi’an, Hangzhou, etc. But comparatively, the flight from Chengdu to Docheng can prove its stability.
There are airport shuttle buses to Daocheng at the airport (according to flight landing time; 30 yuan per person; one hour). The destination of the bus is Xiangyun Hotel, which is the north entrance of the county. Similarly, there are also airport shuttle buses to Yading at the airport (according to flight landing time; 70 yuan per person; three hours). The destination of the bus is Riwa Xiangyun Hotel.
By long-distance bus
There are shuttle buses to Docheng at the Chengdu Xinnanmen Bus Station, which starts at 10:00am and will pay you between 232 and 267 yuan. At the first night, you can live in Kangting (expenses paid by yourself). Next morning, you can start off here at 6:00 am and arrive at Daocheng at 4:00 pm. There are also shuttle buses to Daocheng from Kangting or Shangri-La Town of Yunnan Province. At Daocheng Bus Station, there are shuttle buses to Chengdu (6:00 am; 232 or 267 yuan; 18 hours), Kangting (6:30 am; 151 yuan; 9.5 hours) and Shangri-La Town (6:00 am; through Derong or snow mountains). At the peak season, there are extra buses in Chengdu or Kangting. If you go to Xiangcheng, you have to take the bus to Shangri-La Town. Get up early and buy a ticket, if possible, at the station (No vacant seats during the peak season). You can buy the tickets at www.scqcp.com or the WeChat Official Account three days in advance.
You can share a car with others from Daocheng Station to Yading (50 yuan per person; 2 hours; to Shangri-La Town or the tourist center), Litang (70 yuan per person; 3 hours) and Xiangcheng (70 yuan per person; 3 hours). You had better make an appointment with the driver one day in advance, except for Yading.
Road conditions among Litang, Daocheng and Shangri-La Town are very good. If driving toward Xiangcheng, you can turn to the Xiangcheng direction of Provincial Road 217 from Sangdui, 26 kilometers north to Daocheng, but the road condition is just so so. If driving out from Yading, you are advised to turn to the west at the place 30 kilometers north to Shangri-La Town, and then enter county highway of Mula Town (Yachi Road), with a good road condition. Driving for about 70 kilometers, you will come to Provincial Road 217, 15 kilometers south to Xiangcheng. Self-driving is not recommended through Provincial Road 216 from Shangri-La Town to Muli, because the road condition is really bad without proper protection and no signal can be received at many places along the route. Similarly, self-driving is not recommended at Luya Road, connecting with Lugu Lake, whose condition is also bad, especially the road between Er Ya Town and Wujiao Town.