Yading Nature Reserve is one of the most breathtaking hiking and scenic areas of China. Here we’ll help you get to know and prepare for a journey through the region’s stunning landscape.
Nestled in the south of Sichuan Province, high up on the Tibetan Plateau, Yading Nature Reserve is a destination for the true China explorer. The region has a wide range of majestic snowcapped peaks and arduous hiking trails for you to see and enjoy. Even Travelled Paths online magazine named Yading on their list of their “Amazing Hikes to Do Before You Die”. Here’s our quick guide to what you must know to make the most of this naturally beautiful reserve.
1) No Beaten Path
The phrase ‘off-the-beaten path’ is well applied to Yading Nature Reserve. Still less traveled by conventional tourists and with no nearby airport or train station, this reserve retains its wild heart.
The city of Chengdu is the nearest entry point to reach Yading. Nevertheless, the only way to arrive to the exact area is by public bus or private transport. If you travel with WildChina, your private local guide and driver will take you to the reserve in comfort and ease.
Once inside the reserve you’ll mostly get around by horseback or on your own two feet. You’ll be making your mark on these roads less traveled and experiencing the unkempt wilderness.
2) The Chong Gu Monastery
Yading is full of sacred Buddhist sites and we’d recommend lacing up your boots and making the pilgrimage to these spiritual attractions. Standing at the foot of Mt Chenresig, the Chong Gu Monastery has its own fantastic tale. It was built by a dedicated and pious monk during a time of great struggle for the local people.
This monk is said to have prayed all night and day for the redemption of the people; while they were spared disease and death, the monk himself was struck down. The monastery now serves to worship the sacred mountains as well as his selfless deeds.
3) Three Holy Mountains
In the traditional Tibetan language of the region, the names of the three sacred mountains in Yading are “Wisdom” (Jampelyang), “Power / Energy” (Chana Dorje) and “Compassion” (Chenresig). The three mountains represent the three necessary components to achieve enlightenment. Together they are ranked as the eleventh most sacred mountains in Tibetan Buddhism.
They were said to be blessed in the 8th century when Buddha Padmasambhava named the three peaks after three well-known bodhisattvas. Today, Buddhists are known to make spiritual pilgrimages to these mountains.
Nowadays, even the secularly minded can feel awe-inspired by these mountain peaks. The most popular route to trek takes you around the wonders of Daocheng County’s highest peak – Mt Chenresig.
4) Three Lakes
The nomadic Tibetan people rent their horses to escort travelers the 5 kilometers through the lush Lurong grasslands to Milk Lake. The water on the edge of the lake has a milky white color, hence the name. Folklore tells that visitors may see their future in the water, through quiet reflection.
To reach the next lake, the horses will have to be left behind, and the short ascent must be taken by foot. You’ll reach the base of the south side of the most prominent, Mt. Chenresig; and arguably the most picturesque lake of the region, the Five Color Lake. When sunlight dapples the lake, five colors are said to shimmer in the ripples of the water.
On the north side of Mt Chenresig is Pearl Lake. The deep crystal blue water is like a radiant pearl resting at the foot of the water. Here the pathway becomes a wooden bridge which then turns to steps leading you back down to The Chong Gu Monastery. The route around and over the mountain will take you some time but untapped natural scenery will surround you as you descend.
5) The Real Shangri-La?
Despite an area in northwest Yunnan being famously claimed and renamed as ‘Shangri-La’, the true identity of the beautiful landscape described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel is still contested. Many point out the proximity between Dr Joseph Rock publishing the photography from his journey through the before un-seen Yading in a 1931 issue of National Geographic and the publishing of Lost Horizon. It is possible that James Hilton used the Yading photos to inspire his novel about a mythical land of Shangri-La.
The small hillside town ‘Riwa’ at the entry point to Yading Nature Reserve has emboldened the claim by also becoming reborn as ‘Shangri-La.’ Those who have been to Yading and nearby Riwa village say that traveling here is like stepping straight into the pages of James Hilton’s novel.
The WildChina journey On the Trail of Pilgrims will take you deep into the landscape around Yading Nature Reserve by horseback where a trio of sacred peaks cast their shadow over aquamarine lakes and Tibetan traditions still endure. You’ll visit isolated mountain temples, lamaseries and Tibetan towns in this little-visited region locals know as “heaven on Earth.”