Heading to Lijiang or Shangri-la in Yunnan, China? Why not go further north and explore the sacred Meili snow mountain? Many tourists stop at Shangri-la, but the most beautiful part of this route lies further ahead. The trek to Yubeng village, within the Meili snow mountain range, is one of the most beautiful treks you can do in Yunnan province.
Depending on the time you have, you can get in and out of Yubeng village in one to five days. As there is no road into Yubeng village, the only way in is by trekking or by renting a mule. This is what makes Yubeng village so special. It is an isolated village that is beautifully preserved by the lack of transportation.
To help you with the trekking routes around Yubeng village, here is a four-day trekking route that you can consider. For this multi-day trek, you do not need to bring any camping equipment as you can find accommodation and food in Yubeng village.
Day 0: Feilaisi
Take a bus from Shangri-la or Lijiang to Deqin. The route from Lijiang to Deqin is especially scenic. You will pass by multiple snow mountain ranges and jaw-dropping cliffs. If you visit in late May or early June, you will also see beautiful multi-coloured wild azaleas all along the way.
After you have reached the Deqin bus station, you can pay your driver a small token to take you to Feilaisi, which is 10km further down the highway. Alternatively, there are many shared minivans at Deqin that will take you there. Feilaisi town is the place to embark on your trekking adventure.
Day 1: Feilaisi to Yubeng village
Wake up early to catch sunrise. Feilaisi is famous for admiring the Meili snow mountain range at sunrise. For less than 60 days a year, the orange rays of the sun will be reflected off the snow-capped peaks of the mountains. Seeing this phenomenon is rare, but definitely worth waking up earlier to try your luck.
Have breakfast and head out to the main road. There are many shared minivans that leave for Xidang Hot Springs at 8am. Xidang Hot Springs is the last area along the way to Yubeng village that is accessible by motor vehicles. This will also be the starting point of your trek to Yubeng village.
The trek to Yubeng village starts with a 12km ascent until you reach a mountain pass followed by a 6km descent into the village. The trek takes 4 – 8 hours depending on your physical fitness. Also, as this is a high-altitude area, it may be a more challenging climb than usual. If you are unable to trek, you can always rent a mule to Yubeng village.
Along the way you will pass by a few teahouses where you can warm yourself up, or have overpriced cup noodles or tea. I suggest that you pack rations instead so that you can eat anytime along the way. You can stock up while in Shangri-la or Lijiang.
The first village you see after completing your hike is Upper Yubeng village. Yubeng village is split into two, Upper and Lower, and they are a 45-minute trek apart. Stay in Upper Yubeng village for the first night. Most guesthouses serve hot meals, so you do not have to worry about dinner.
Day 2: Upper Yubeng village to Ice Lake and Nisai Glacier
From Upper Yubeng village, start your hike to the Ice Lake. A round-trip will take 5 to 8 hours, so leave early in the morning. The entire way is marked by green trashcans and passes through beautiful forests and mountain ranges. After climbing to the mountain pass, you will pass a viewpoint where you can see an entire snow mountain range. From there, it is a downhill walk to the Base Camp where you can have your overpriced cup noodles or get warm for free. From the Base Camp, it is a mostly uphill trek until you reach the Ice Lake.
Optional: Nisai Glacier
If you are fast, look out for the first rest point on your way back. It is basically two wooden huts about 3-4km from the starting point. As you approach the huts, instead of turning left back to Upper Yubeng village, turn right. You will see a sign that suggests “no entry”. This is the route to the beautiful Nisai glacier. Follow the unmarked trail and you will pass through virgin forests and streams.
You will reach a wooden bridge across a stream. Do not cross the bridge. Instead, turn right and look for an unmarked trail along the stream. Keep walking until you approach the ice glacier. This is the Nisai glacier! Cross the glacier and continue towards the snow mountains. The Nisai glacier is amazing; it is surrounded by towering snow mountains on one end and beautiful pine forests on the other. Under it lays a gushing river with amazingly tasty water.
When you are done playing with the snow and ice, walk downhill on the glacier and head towards the right bank. On the right bank, there is an unmarked trail that leads you all the way back to Upper Yubeng village.
For this night, you can choose to stay in either Upper or Lower Yubeng village.
Day 3: Lower Yubeng village to Sacred Lake
Move to Lower Yubeng village if you have not done so. Look out for a white stupa in the village. Cross the bridge to the left of the stupa and turn right into the forest. The trail is again marked by green trashcans and is easy to follow. A round-trip to the Sacred Lake takes 8 to 12 hours and is mostly uphill on the way there. The trek passes through beautiful pine forests and extremely scenic views of the various peaks.
The Sacred Lake is 4500m in altitude and you can see the highest peak of the Meili snow mountain range. Due to its high altitude, it is usually covered in thick snow and the way may not be obvious after a heavy snowfall. Do go in a group if you would like to visit the Sacred Lake.
Day 4: Lower Yubeng village to Sacred Waterfall
At the white stupa, turn right and follow the trail marked by green trashcans. There are various shelters and also a teahouse along the way. You will pass through a glacier and a temple on the way up. The way is flat for the first 2 to 3 kilometres before it becomes an uphill climb until the waterfall. Plan about 4 to 6 hours for a round-trip.
The waterfall is sacred for the Tibetans, who would walk clockwise around it for an odd number of times. Many would also collect the water from the waterfall (which tastes really good too).
Day 5: Lower Yubeng village to Ninong village
Make arrangements with your guesthouse for someone to pick you up at Ninong village. Alternatively, you can reach Ninong village and wait for a shared minivan to fill up before sending you back to Deqin or Feilaisi.
The hike from Lower Yubeng village to Ninong village will take about 4 to 6 hours. This is one of the most scenic routes and the easiest of all five days. The hike out to Ninong village is mostly downhill. Cross the bridge at the white stupa and turn left. After walking past isolated houses and farmland, you will walk alongside a gushing river.
When you pass by a teahouse, it signifies that you have 7km more to go. You will walk beside a valley before walking on a path etched out of a bare mountain face. The gushing river you were once beside will now be a kilometre below you. From this trail, you can see the entire valley and the surrounding mountains. Although this is a bone-chilling walk along a seemingly bottomless cliff, it definitely is a picturesque and memorable one.
Your hike ends at an open space a distance away from Ninong village. Many shared minivans wait here to bring trekkers back to Deqin or Feilaisi. Start your hike out in the morning so that you stand a greater chance of a ride back.
In and out of Yubeng in 1 day
This is possible if you lack time but would still like to have a glimpse of this magical place. If you are fast enough, you can reach Yubeng village by 2pm or 3pm. From Upper Yubeng village, there is a trail that leads to Ninong village, which will take 4 hours. You should only attempt this in summer when sunset is after 8pm.
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