Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve Hike: Itineraries, Where to stay etc. (2019)

You probably land on this page because you have heard someone talking about Daocheng Yading and you are interested. Indeed, Daocheng Yading is breathtakingly beautiful… so much so that words just can’t do it justice. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.

For some reasons this place remains largely unknown to the western world but it’s getting popular among Asian and domestic tourist.

Anyhow.. my only advice to you is: visit Daocheng Yading as soon as you can before it’s too late.

Read on as I share about everything you need to know about visiting Daocheng Yading nature reserve.

First thing first

Note that Daocheng and Yading are not entirely the same.

Daocheng (稻城) is a county of western Sichuan province, located at the eastern Hengduan mountain (横断山脉).

Yading (亚丁)is the name of a natural reserve in Daocheng county, about 108km away from Daocheng town. It’s the main attraction of Daocheng. 

How to get to Daocheng Yading from Chengdu

By air

There are several flights from Chengdu to Daocheng Yading airport per day, with the journey taking about 1 hour. The list of airlines include:

Air China
Sichuan Airlines
Shenzhen Airlines
Chengdu Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
China Southern Airlines

To check the flight schedule and make a reservation in English, refer to Trip.com

Most of the flights depart in the morning. Depending on the season, a return ticket could cost you from $300 to $1000 (USD).

It’s a great option for those who are pressed for time. However, I’d strongly advise you to reconsider your option. The altitude of Chengdu airport is 495m. Located at an altitude of 4411 meters, Yading Airport is the highest civilian airport in the world. If you don’t give your body enough time to adjust to the altitude change, you could very well suffer from high altitude sickness!

In fact, many tourists who arrive Daocheng by plane are forced to return home without really seeing the countryside because of the extreme discomfort caused by altitude sickness.

A better alternative would be: getting to Daocheng by bus and leave by the plane. At the end of the article, you will find my itinerary suggestions.

By bus

Option #1: Chengdu – Kangding – Daocheng town

At 10:00 am, the bus leaves from Chengdu New Nanmen station to Kangding. The journey is about 8 hours. Passengers are expected to put a night at Kanding. The bus fare is 115RMB

In Kangding, I recommend you to stay at Kangding Konka International Youth Hostel, which is a cozy lodging within walking distance from the bus terminal.

In the next morning at 6:30 am the bus leaves from Kangding to Daocheng town. The journey takes 5-7 hours. The bus fare is 125 RMB.

From Daocheng town, you need to take bus or minivan to the ticket office at Shangri-la (not the Shangri-la at Yunnan) before going to heading to the scenic area. The bus fare is about RMB 110. The journey takes about 1.5 hours.

[Note: in my opinion, this is the best option as it allows your body to go through acclimatization slowly and gradually.]

Option #2: Chengdu – Daocheng Town

At 6:20 am, the bus leaves from Chengu New Nanmen station directly to Daocheng town. The journey is estimated to be 14 hours. The bus fare is 270 RMB.

Tickets can be booked online at https://www.tz12306.com (in Chinese only).

Where to stay

Most of the guesthouses and hotels are located at Daocheng town, Shangri-La (香格里拉镇, formerly known as Riwa 日瓦, but not to be mistaken with Shangri-La city in Yunnan) and Yading village.

Daocheng town: 90 km away from Yading scenic area. Lodgings are available near the bus terminal.

Shangri-La town: it’s 15km away from Yading scenic area, at an altitude of 2900 meters. The ticket office of Yading scenic area and tourist office are located here. Tourists are required to gather at the office before they hop on the sightseeing buses leaving to Yading scenic area (~one hour, with two stopovers at Yading village).

Yading village: several guesthouses are located in Yading village near to the scenic area. However, most are hosted by local Tibetans who speak very little English, and the amenities are limited. The fees may also be a bit on the expensive side. On the bright side, you will be saving a ton of time as compared to those who stay in Daocheng or Shangri-la towns, if you plan to explore Yading nature reserve for at least two days.

Suggested Route

Yading scenic area is a massive area to explore, and there are two notable path for hikers: the long route and the short route. I would advise you to take the short route before you attempt longer trek the following days.

Short Route
Entrance of scenic area – Zhaguanbeng (扎灌崩)  — Conggu Temple (冲古寺) –  Pearl Lake ( 珍珠海 )

Photo credit: Wanlinlo01

From Shangri-la town, take the sightseeing bus and get off at Zhaguanbeng (扎灌崩). In Tibetan language, Zhaguanbeng means “the end of the cliff rock”. If you are feeling lazy, you can hire a horse.

Photo credit: qqniki

From Zhaguanbeng, the trail passes through Chonggu temple. The monastery is a hidden gem in an exquisite mountain setting, overlooking a wide valley under the blue and cloudless sky.

Photo credit: Old Cat

Continue to follow the path, and you will arrive at Pearl Lake after 40 minutes brisk walk. The water reflection resembles the color of jade.

Long Route
Zhaguanbeng (扎灌崩)  – Luoron Niuchang (洛绒牛场) – Milk Sea (NiunaiHai牛奶海) – Five Color Sea (Wuse Hai五色海)

Photo credit: Sophia Hao

Luorong Niuchang sits on flat and richly green meadows, and it’s surrounded by three snow-capped holy mountains.

Luorong is equipped with walkways. Stepping on grasslands is prohibited. In addition, there’s a resting place for tourists.

The trail from Luorong to Milk Sea (Niunai Hai) begins with a flat, 1km walkway leading to a challenging off-road route. You can also hire a horse to continue the journey (300 RMB). Don’t expect to ride the whole journey though, as you are expected to get off at the steep hillside.

Milk Sea is an epic glacial lake at foot of the holly Mountain Jampayang. The best part of Milk Sea (and beyond) is the isolation: it’s only accessible via difficult hike which keeps most of the visitors away.  

Photo credit: Gordon Tsang

Five color sea scenic area sits on an area of 0.7 acres, set amid the snowy peaks of two holly mountains. This location would be the end of the hiking trail.


Entrance Tickets:150 RMB valid for three days (2 visits)
Sightseeing bus ticket: 120 RMB (first visit) , 60RMB (second visit)

Note: all visitors must take the sightseeing bus to enter the Yading scenic area.

The best time to visit Daocheng Yading

Autumn (September/November) and spring (April/May). These are also peak tourist seasons of Daocheng Yading, so you will want to plan ahead.

Important notes

#1. Daocheng Yading sits on high altitude. Please listen to your body. Take it easy and really take time to adjust to altitude change. If you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, I strongly advise you to seek the opinions of your doctors first.

#2. Bring enough water (at least three liters) before your big adventure. Always keep yourself hydrated.

#3. Remember to protect yourself against the UV rays.

#4. Be respectful to the local culture. Before entering a temple, dress modestly and check if you should take off your shoes. Do not touch the prayer flags and the Buddha statue.

#5. Camping is not allowed in Yading nature reserve.

#6. The temperature in Yading nature serve can change drastically throughout the day.

Itinerary Suggestions

8 Days itinerary by bus

Day 1: Chengdu – Kangding
Day 2: Kangding – Daocheng town
Day 3: Visit attractions surrounding Daocheng town
Day 4: Daocheng town – Yading short route
Day 5: Yading long route
Day 6: Yading – Daocheng Town; chill at Daocheng town
Day 7: Daocheng town – Kangding
Day 8 : Kangding – Chengdu

5 Days itinerary

Day 1: Chengdu (bus) – Kangding
Day 2: Kangding – Daocheng town
Day 3: Yading Short route
Day 4: Yading Long route)
Day 5: Yaging (flight) – Chengdu

3 Days itinerary

Day 1: Chengdu (flight) – Yading; Rest at Shagri-la or Daocheng town
Day 2: Yading long/short route  
Day 3 : Yading (flight) – Chengdu

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