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Traversing the Ancient Tea Horse Road with Jeff Fuchs

The world drinks over 2 billion cups of tea every day. But beyond our obsession and the fine china, how much do you know about the beverage’s 3,000 years of history? Follow the trail back to its roots on this journey, led by tea expert Jeff Fuchs, along tea’s most ancient trade roads. Hike through the forests of the first tea trees and step into the homes of descendants of the first tea cultivators on this thirst-quenching National Geographic ‘Tour of a Lifetime’. Learn more about this ancient trade route during our Conversation with Lisa See, author of “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane”.

Jeff Fuchs is an explorer, author, and tea expert who was recently voted one of Canada’s ‘Greatest Explorers’ by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. Fuchs was the first documented westerner to have travelled the legendary Tea Horse Road, the nomadic Route of Salt ‘Tsa-Lam’, and the ‘Hor-Lam’, the Route of Pashmina through Ladakh. He has led or been a part of over 30 expeditions in the Himalayas, chronicling both the fading oral narratives and the declining ‘Himalayan Water Towers’, the glaciers. Fuchs is the author of The Ancient Tea Horse Road, a chronicle of his journey along the Himalayan trade route and he’s the inspiration for, and host of, the recent award-winning documentary ‘The Tea Explorer’.

Fall: 15th – 24th OCT 2021

Cultural Immersion, Expeditions

  • Sit down to a pot of tea with the descendants of the first tea cultivators
  • Hike through Aini minority areas and into the Ancient Tea Tree Forests
  • Follow the narrow, winding lanes of Shangri-La Old Town and join the locals for a cup of Tibetan butter tea
Day 1
Arrival Xishuangbanna

Upon arriving in Jinghong, your guide will meet you at the arrival hall of the airport with your private vehicle on standby. Check into your hotel and rest up for a refreshing welcome dinner. After dinner, spend the remainder of the evening at your leisure.

Day 2
Xishuangbanna (B)

In the morning, start your day off with a relaxing breakfast while Jeff gives you an introduction to the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road. Pass by waving coconut palms and banana trees as you drive along the mighty Mekong River to the stilted bamboo houses and Buddhist pagodas of Ganlanba. Trek to a Dai minority village and local monastery hidden in the hills. Enjoy a sizzling barbecue dinner at a local restaurant in the countryside.

Day 3
Xishuangbanna (B)

Spend your second morning at bustling Menghai Market, where you’ll find everything from high-quality Pu’erh tea to lively eels. Meet the descendants of the first tea cultivators and challenge your taste buds during a ‘pickled tea’ tasting. Drive past sugarcane fields and verdant tea plantations to reach the ancient tea tree forest of Nannuo Mountain. Take a load off and enjoy a warming cup of tea made with leaves from the age-old trees. Enjoy a local fresh dinner before driving back to the hotel for a rest.

Day 4
Xishuangbanna to Shaxi via Dali (B)

In the morning, our team will transfer you to the airport for your flight to Dali. Upon arriving in Dali, head to the city’s picturesque old town – home to colorful Bai minority communities – for a light lunch before continuing to Shaxi. Arrive at Shaxi Old Town, a lively border town which connected Tibet and Eastern China during the era of the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road. Enjoy a traditional Bai dinner at a local restaurant before retiring for the evening.

Day 5
Shaxi (B)

Spend the day following the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road through Shaxi’s sloping valleys, brushing past golden barley and canola fields. After your full day of exploration, enjoy a filling Bai royal feast before retiring for the evening.

Day 6
Shaxi to Lijiang (B)

Admire Shibaoshan Grottoes’ ancient stone-carved Buddhist figurines and learn about the dissemination of Mahayana Buddhism from Tibet to Yunnan province along the Tea and Horse Road. Travel to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Lijiang. Check in at the Amandayan and enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 7
Lijiang to Shangri-La (B)

Explore the small paths and canals that weave through Lijiang Old Town and come across Naxi people, another cultural minority integral to the trade route. Pass by the mythical First Bend of the Yangtze River as you continue along the trade route to fabled Shangri-La. Upon arrival, check in and relax before a Tibetan welcome dinner.

Day 8
Shangri-La (B)

Wander through the gilded pillars and incense-filled rooms of Songzanlin, Yunnan’s largest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Follow the narrow, winding lanes of Shangri-La Old Town and join the locals for a cup of Tibetan butter tea. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure, exploring at your own pace.

Day 9
Shangri-La (B)

Reach the fringes of Tibet as you continue along the Tea and Horse Caravan Road to ephemeral Napahai Lake, which recedes into green grassland during dry season, only to be revived by fresh snowmelt in the summer. Pay a visit to a nearby artisan village and watch local craftsmen knead, fashion, and fire their famous black clay products. Partake in a festive Tibetan-style farewell dinner (and maybe swap your cup of tea for a glass of local whiskey).

Day 10
Depart Shangri-La

In the morning, our team will transfer you to the airport for your departure flight home, bringing your journey to an end.

  • Meet and greet on arrival at Airport.
  • Accommodation and meals as indicated in the itinerary (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner).
  • Entrance fees where applicable.
  • Tours as indicated in the itinerary.
  • Professional English-speaking guide/driver guide.
  • Transfers
  • Travel Protection is offered on all packages at an additional cost.