Yunnan Highlights Motorcycle Tour2024-01-06T10:52:13+01:00

Yunnan Highlights Motorcycle Tour

Adventure through China´s Southwest

The Yunnan Highlights tour is one of our most popular China motorcycle tours. This ride takes us through previously untraveled regions, including the greatest highlights and motorcycling routes of China’s southwestern regions. In Yunnan, you can still get a feel for the authentic China as it was before the transformation of recent decades. The landscapes on this motorcycle tour through Yunnan are so varied that it’s like a continent to itself. Yunnan is the northern neighbour of Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, a region of towering mountains, gorges and rice terraces. The Himalayan foothills, the mighty Yangtze and Mekong rivers, subtropical landscapes and the peoples and ethnic groups that have preserved their own cultures, religions and languages over the centuries all come together as a rich tapestry. The top of the holy Tibetan mountain Kawa Karpo is Yunnan’s highest point at 6,740 meters, the lowest point is on the banks of the Mekong at only 470 meters. In between, you can experience twisty mountain roads, cultural treasures and ancient towns, amazing Chinese food, and of course plenty of adrenaline on the ride.

The stunning scenery of Yunnan, the wealth of natural diversity and the pulse-quickening panoramic roads not only made a deep impression on us and prompted us to open our first motorcycle tour base in Shangri-La, where this tour will start, nearly ten years ago.

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The legendary town Shangri-La belongs to the Tibetan regions of southwest China. Shangri-La lies in a broad, high valley, surrounded by grassland with grazing yaks and mountain ranges that mark the beginning of the Himalayas. From here, we enter Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest in the world, flanked by towering cliffs and a majestic 5,500-meter mountain range. We follow the Yangtze to the west and take a lonely mountain road to a stone village that was built on a clifftop perch to protect its inhabitants from the notorious Yangtze river pirates. After crossing a pass at almost 4,000 meters, we arrive at the azure blue Lugu Lake. Its shores and the surrounding mountains are the home of the Mosu people.

We’ll take plenty of time to visit the old town of Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as other beautiful sights in this high valley, at an altitude of 2,600 meters. Our ride then takes us back to the Yangtze, which we follow down into the subtropics. As the temperature rises, wheat fields soon give way to small plots of banana trees and tea plantations. Continuing along the Yangtze, we reach Dali, a former kingdom on the Tea Horse Road, an ancient trade route from China to Burma and India. Dali is nestled between the 42 kilometer long Erhai Lake and the 4,000-meter Cangshan Mountains, which we are going to tackle tomorrow. We then reach the Mekong, a river that rises in a remote corner of the Himalayas and flows down into southeast Asia. Following the river as it snakes northward, we reach the provicial border of Tibet province. From there, we ride deep into the Himalayas. Forbidding, virtually lunar landscapes and canyons await us in this region, which is inhabited by ethnic Tibetans. We’ll come across a green oasis hidden in a side valley and spend the night in a traditional farmhouse belonging to a local Tibetan family, where we can experience the life and culture of the Tibetans first-hand. The next day, we’ll explore the course of the Mekong and discover Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan in a nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We’re approaching the literal high point of our tour – riding on tracks and through gorges, we have awe-inspiring views of the sacred 6,740-meter Kawa Karpo mountain and soon reach the Mingyong glacier that flows down from its summit. We’ll stay overnight at the foot of the mountain, at the “flying temple”, and witness the spectacle of the snow-covered peak at sunset and sunrise. On our last day in the saddle on the way back to Shangri-La, we’ll have one final opportunity to enjoy the full splendour of the Himalayas. Over hundreds of bends, we’ll tackle the Pass of the White Horse, the highest of the tour at 4,292 meters, and wind our way down to Shangri-La, bringing us back to the alleys of the quaint, entirely wooden old town of Dukezong.

If you want to experience the authentic Middle Kingdom and its spectacular landscapes, far from the crowded cities and postcard sights, this tour is for you – join us and explore China in a way that only few have done before.

I had …

… a lot of fun on the tour. We got along well within the group and the guides were also very nice. The tour was very well organized.

Anton P.

Motorcycle Tour

A beautiful tour through deep gorges and over huge mountains. The tour offered a breathtaking view which I will remember for a long time. The roads were very well paved and were great to ride.

Hannah E.

5 Stars

It is truly a discovery tour. There was something new every day and we never got bored on the tour. Thanks to Tibetmoto for the good organization.

Alfred H.

Yunnan Highlights

  • The entirely wooden historical center of Shangri-La, featuring the world’s largest Tibetan prayer wheel
  • The Lugu alpine mountain lake and the lands of the Lisu, Mosu and Yi peoples
  • An ancient cliff village deep in the gorges of the Yangtze
  • The 4,292-meter Pass of the White Horse
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge – one of the world’s deepest, flanked by cliffs soaring to more than 3,000 meters
  • The majestic headwaters of the Mekong and the sacred 6,740-meter Kawa Karpo mountain
  • The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang and its 5,500-meter Jade Dragon Snow Mountain massif
  • The Tea Horse Road and the old town of Shaxi and the Stone Treasure Mountain
  • The Tibetan regions of northern Yunnan in the Himalayas
  • The Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan– a nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing the Yangtze, Salween and Mekong rivers
  • Spending the night with a local Tibetan family in a small village on the Mekong

On Request

Shineray X5 400: 2,250 US$ / 14,380 CNY
BMW F 800 GS:
2,790 US$ / 17.880 CNY
BMW G 310 GS:
2,580 US$ / 16,480 CNY
Pillion: 1,500 US$ / 9,580 CNY
Single Room: +250 US$ / +1,600 CNY

9 days / 8 nights / 7 riding days

Accommodation in mid-range hotels and guest houses.

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Media Library

Tibetmoto Tours …

… has put together a very nice tour with a lot of variety, huge gorges and wide mountain views. The tour was a lot of fun in the group and I’m already looking forward to the next tour with Tibetmoto!

Mark B.

The bikes …

… were very easy to ride on the tour. The winding roads in the gorge and on the mountains were easy for an experienced driver like me and were a lot of fun. For that alone I would book the tour again.

Winfired W.

It’s been …

… a long time since I found such a well-organized tour as this one. The many highlights, such as the city of Lijiang or the deep Tiger Leaping Gorge, were just as worth seeing as the biggest prayer wheel in the world in Shangri-La. But my personal highlight was spending the night with a Tibetan family. Excellent!

Hagen F.

 Yunnan Highlights Motorcycle Tour – Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Shangri-La

Our China motorcycle tour starts in Shangri-La, in Yunnan’s southeastern foothills of the Tibetan Himalayas at an altitude of 3,300 meters. The name Shangri-La alludes to the ancient Tibetan legend of a place in the Himalayas where there is no aging, no illness, no death – and thus no suffering – where people live together in peace and harmony, a kind of heaven on earth. The English novelist James Hilton introduced the idea to the western imagination with his 1933 bestseller, Lost Horizon. You can easily get to Shangri-La on domestic flights from Chengdu, Kunming and other Chinese cities. A new express train also runs from Kunming directly to Shangri-La, treating its passengers to views of spectacular landscapes. Today we’ll explore the ancient Tibetan town of Dukezong, which was built entirely of wood almost 1,000 years ago.

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Shangri-La, which lies in a broad valley surrounded by mountains, was once an important trading town at the crossroads of the Tea Horse Road linking China, Burma and India, and the Silk Road through central Asia.  A Buddhist temple and the world’s largest prayer wheel with a height of 21 meters stand atop the small “turtle mountain” in the old city. It takes eight strong men and women to set the prayer wheel in motion – and good karma is your reward!

We’ll pick you up from the airport in Shangri-La and bring you to the hotel near the old town. If you arrive at Lijiang airport, we will arrange a private transfer to Shangri-La free of charge (2.5 hours transfer time). Contact us for info on how to get to Shangri-La – we’ll also be happy to help you with your domestic travel arrangements.

After a short rest at the hotel, we’ll get acquainted over dinner in a traditional Tibetan restaurant – our first opportunity to sample the regional specialities and good local beer.

Day 2: Into one of the world’s deepest gorge

From Shangri-La, the road winds its way through grasslands with grazing yaks and evergreen forests and crests a 3,700-meter pass. We’ll ride through the land of the Naxi and Lisu ethnic minorities, who often live in very simple wooden huts. The unbelievable twisty road with its numerous switchbacks takes us through valleys and over several small passes. We then reach the foothills of the 5,396-meter Haba, a snow-covered mountain which can be sometimes seen from the road, and descend into Tiger Leaping Gorge. The lower we go, the warmer it gets, and here, deep in the Yangtze gorge at an altitude of “only” 1,900 meters, we’ll ride past banana trees and cacti – we’ve reached the subtropics in only one day.

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Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world’s deepest. With the 5,500-meter Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range towering over it and sheer cliffs of up to 3,000 meters plunging to the bottom of the gorge, it’s no less than 3,790 meters from the summit to the deepest point. The road, which is not secured by crash barriers, winds its way through numerous bends on the way to the highest point of the canyon and the viewing platform.

After arriving at the guesthouse, we’ll hike down into the gorge to Tiger Leaping Stone in the early afternoon. A wooden suspension bridge crosses over to the rock, which stands amid the raging whitewater of the Yangtze. We’ll then return to the road and guesthouse via steep ladders. The hike into the gorge is optional, of course, and nothing speaks against simply spending the afternoon with your your feet up and a cool beer by your side.

We’ll spend the night in the guesthouse in the gorge.

Distance: approx. 190 km

Day 3: To the beautiful alpine Lugu Lake

We continue to follow the Yangtze, one of Asia’s longest rivers and ride across a beautiful mountain road to Lugu Lake. At the end of the day we’ll reach Lugu Lake, which lies at 2,700 meters and is surrounded by dense evergreen forest, and spend the night near the shore with a view of the lake. Rowboats are available if you’re inclined to explore the islands in the lake. This is the land of the Mosu people, one of the last matriarchal societies in the world. Small Buddhist temples and a number of short sandy beaches line the shore.

Distance: approx. 220 km

Day 4: The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We’ll ride through the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain National Park and get a close up look of the 5,500 mountain range and the Blue Moon Valley. Our destination is Lijiang old town, the UNESCO World Heritage site where we can spend the afternoon and evening exploring narrow, winding alleys, visiting the Black Dragon Pool – a landmark of southwestern China – and seeing further highlights of the town. Small bars offer ample opportunity for relaxation in the evening. The traditional houses are built in a rich style that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

Distance: approx. 220 km

Day 5: The Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali

We’ll kick off the day with a ride across the vast Lijiang plateau. Soon, the road will take us down to the banks of the Yangtze. Back roads with little traffic that wind their way through the small banana and tea plantations of the local farmers are guaranteed to put a grin on your face. Later in the day, we’ll reach an old town near the 42 km long Erhai Lake, or “ear lake” – seen from above and with a lot of imagination, it’s roughly the shape of an ear. You may want to join us for an optional excursion to Dali, the old capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom, in the afternoon. The town is on the lakeshore at an altitude of 2,200 meters and surrounded by the eleven rugged 4,100-meter peaks of the Cangshan Mountains. We’ll visit the Buddhist temple complex of the Chongsheng Three Pagodas that dates back 1,200 years, a testimony to the region’s rich history. Afterwards, the charming alleys of Dali old town are waiting to be explored.

Distance: approx. 250 km

Day 6: Riding the Tea Horse Road to Shaxi

Shaxi is an ancient town on the Tea Horse Road, a former trade route that once ran from China to Burma and India. The Chinese produced silk, while the Burmese and Indians had tea to offer, and so horse caravans wound their way over the high mountain ranges. Much is still reminiscent of that time: the old town built entirely of wood, and the arched stone bridge over the river and the village square with its wooden theater stage have seen a lot of history. We’ll take a walk through the old town and have a closer look at a traditional courtyard house dating back to the Qing Dynasty. The mountain road to Shaxi is remote and twisty, taking us through tiny villages and past colorful fields of rice and grain. At Shibaoshan – the “stone treasure mountain” – we’ll see the oldest stonemasonry works of southern China, and get an impression of how wealthy, well-connected and significant this place was already 1,200 years ago. There are also impressive Taoist temples carved into the rock face on the mountainside.

Distance: approx. 150 km

Day 7: Visiting a Tibetan family

Today we’ll tackle a 3,870-meter, nameless pass that links the Salween with the Mekong gorge. The region of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan – Yangtze, Salween and Mekong – is a nature conservation area and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This road is brand-new – it’s not completely paved and can be quite adventurous. The ride down from the pass is breathtaking with its views of snow-covered Himalayan peaks. The other side of the pass brings us to the fascinating gorges of the upper Mekong. A Tibetan family awaits us in their traditional farmhouse in a small village, nestled in a green oasis with ancient walnut trees.

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Tonight’s dinner will include homemade wheat brandy and red wine. From roof, we can look out to the 6,740-meter peak of Kawa Karpo. A small saddle above the hamlet offers a spectacular view of the Mekong. Thanks to our Tibetan family, we can gain insights into the lives of the local people and their culture that you simply can’t get elsewhere.

Distance: approx. 350 km

Day 8: The Mekong and Kawa Karpo – the king of the eastern Himalayas

We’re fast approaching the climax of our journey – riding on tracks and through gorges, we have fantastic views of the 6,740-meter Kawa Karpo mountain and soon reach the Mingyong glacier that flows down from its summit. You can count on our team to know the best, largely uncharted routes in the region. We’ll spend the night at 3,400 meters at the foot of the mountain, near a viewing platform and the “flying temple”, and enjoy the spectacle of the snowy peak at sunset and sunrise. Kawa Karpo is one of three mountains the Tibetans consider sacred – on special years, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims circumambulate it on an arduous, week-long trek.

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On our last day in the saddle on the way back to Shangri-La, we’ll have one last opportunity to witness the full splendor of the Himalayas. We’ll wind our way through hundreds of bends up the Pass of the White Horse, the highest of the tour at 4,292 meters, and down to the banks of the Yangtze, where we’ll visit a remote Buddhist monastery. Our journey ends in Shangri-La, back in the alleys of the picturesque, entirely wooden old town of Dukezong.

Distance: approx. 220 km

Day 9: Goodbye – we hope to see you again soon!

Transfer to the airport in Shangri-La or Lijiang and end of the tour.

Your Most Unforgettable Motorcycle Adventure is just a Click away

Book your Tour now! Yunnan Highlights Motorcycle Tour

Since our tours get filled up fast, please book the Yunnan Highlights Motorcycle Tour now to avoid disappointment.

Our Next available tours are as follows:

On Request

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Included Services

  • all overnight stays in mid-range hotels and guesthouses
  • motorcycle of your choice, including fuel, including third-party, fire, and theft insurance coverage with a deductible
  • motor oil, spares, mechanic service
  • breakfast, lunch, dinner, mineral water during the whole tour (in the support vehicle)
  • entrance fees
  • support vehicle for luggage and passengers
  • English speaking tour guide on own motorcycle
  • all transfers to and from the airport

Excluded Services

  • international flights
  • drinks
  • travel cancellation and medical insurance

Questions & Answers

Will every tour take place exactly as described in the tour itinerary?2021-01-08T23:13:47+01:00

All our itineraries give you a good overview what you will experience and discover when booking with tibetmoto. The itineraries are nevertheless best understood if they are seen as a suggestion rather than as a 100% planned and a thousand times done way of traveling. We like to keep every tour, every adventure, every trip unique and special. We are proud to say that we have never done a trip two times exactly the same way. Our team does not like to offer mainstream tourism tours, and we believe that people enjoy their time best when they have freedom and possibilities to choose from. Freedom and flexibility are very good ingredients to cook an exceptional discovery or adventure, to meet unusual people and visit off-the-beaten-track places.

How does camp life look like on expeditions?2020-11-12T18:02:03+01:00

After arriving at the camp ground we pitch up the tents, our team will set up the mobile kitchen, the electricity generator is being started and we can think of having a cold beer. All supplies and the luggage is carried by our supply truck. We do not have always pre-chosen camp grounds which are always frequented by us, since every expedition is different. Depending on the time in the afternoon we start looking for “the perfect spot”. Perfect spots have a water source such as a river or a lake and a flat piece of land for the tents. Some spots we use more frequently since they are so perfect that the location is hard to beat. Camping together with nomads offers an opportunity to experience their way of live, culture and habits. Sitting in the evening together in a nomad tent somewhere on the Tibetan grassland and listening to Tibetan nomads` songs is a truly genuine experience.

Dinner is being served in a large dining tent where we have tables and chairs to comfortably sit together, eat and drink. The separate, smaller, sleeping tents are designed to accommodate each two people, but if you choose the “single room” option (you will find that option below each expedition itinerary) you will have your own tent. Our tents are army tents where you can almost stand upright. The sleeping “hard wear” is a foldable army field bed, which puts your body about knee height away from the ground. We provide you with the entire hard wear, plus blankets and insulation mats. The only item you should bring along is your personal sleeping bag. If you don´t want to bring your sleeping bag all the way to China we can provide you with a new sleeping bag for a reasonable price.

Which documents do I need?2020-11-11T22:35:03+01:00

You will need your passport, a pass picture, national driving license, international driving license and flight ticket. Please be sure to make photocopies of all of your important travel documents and carry them separately. They can be invaluable in an emergency.

We also need a scan of the Chinese visa six weeks before the tour starts.

All scanned documents should be sent to us on an A4 sheet of original size

What can I expect from an overnight stay with a tibetan host family?2020-11-12T18:01:15+01:00

A home stay is an opportunity to get access into another culture by joining the host family for dinner and breakfast and sleep under their roof, as their guest. Most families live together in a several generation house, from children to old grandparents. A lot of home stays are semi-farms with at least a few cattle such as chicken and cows around the house. Often are fields attached where family member go to work after breakfast. Here, local family and work life can be experienced as it is instead of “only” observing it from the outside.
We believe that joining a home stay is on of the best ways to get in touch which what surrounds you in a foreign country.

How well do I have to be able to ride a motorcycle?2020-11-11T21:59:51+01:00

You should be able to ride a motorcycle safely, especially on winding mountain roads. An uncertainty is common, but you quickly get used to the local traffic. Our tour guide will give the group useful and good tips on riding in China. Before the start of the Tibet and China Motorcycle Tour, there will be an introduction to road traffic behavior.

Do I need a driving license?2020-11-11T21:57:31+01:00

For the Tibet and China motorcycle tour you need a valid national and international driver’s license.

What is the currency in China?2020-11-11T21:56:01+01:00

In China, the currency is the CNY (Chinese Renminbi). The exchange rate is around 1€ to 7.56 CNY (as of 05/2020). The CNY is not a freely convertible currency, so you cannot get it at every bank in Europe. The exchange rate, which is determined by the Bank of China, can be observed under the following link:

However, we recommend withdrawing a larger amount of CNY from an ATM with all major credit cards or debit cards after arriving in China. Our on-site tour guide is happy to help. Due to the often very poor exchange rate for the CNY in Europe, it is not worthwhile to exchange significant amounts of CNY in Europe. There are also many ATMs in Lhasa where you can withdraw money. Our experience shows that the majority of our participants spend around 20€ a day.

What about my luggage? Where can I transport it?2020-11-11T21:51:45+01:00

The luggage will be transported in the support vehicle. Don’t forget that on domestic flights, the pastries usually cannot exceed 20 kg!

What clothes should I pack?2020-11-11T22:26:29+01:00

For a motorcycle tour you should bring motorcycle clothing including a helmet. Of course you also should pack warm clothing (as layers or as undersuit). It can get cold! You should also bring gloves and a rain suit.

How is the Road Condition?2020-11-11T21:45:13+01:00

The roads on the motorcycle tour are mostly paved (with a few exceptions). Due to the new asphalting of road sections, it can temporarily lead to a poor condition of the road. The paved roads are mostly in good condition. However, there may be isolated potholes or gravel lying on the ground. The route on the motorcycle tour also includes sections with new asphalt, on which you can enjoy European standards or even better. These routes are wonderful to ride! Due to moisture and the difficult to see oil or diesel traces, however, extreme caution is always required!

What is the deposit for renting a motorcycle?2020-11-11T21:42:45+01:00

Deposit for a rental motorcycle (partial cover):

The following cash deposits are required:

Shineray X5 400: EUR 500
BMW G 310 GS: EUR 1,000
BMW F 800 GS: EUR 1,500

If the participant/motorcyclist causes damage during the Tibet motorcycle tour, the deposit is the maximum amount.

Do I need a chinese visa?2020-11-11T21:39:18+01:00


All participants in the Tibet and China motorcycle tours require a visa to enter China. The passport must be valid for another six months. You have to apply for the visa yourself at a service center, the Chinese embassy or on behalf of an agency. Due to frequent changes in the application procedure, we recommend that you use an agency. This is slightly more expensive than filing your own application, but it saves you a lot of work and time.

We will apply for all of the necessary Tibet permits for the motorcycle tour.

Tour Concept by RC Hendrik

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