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CHINA TOUR: 23 day Tibetan Sichuan and Yunnan in your own Toyota Landcruiser - GROUP TOUR

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Maximum number of participants: twelve (six cars)

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Photo credits: Peter Ottens, Gert Kramer, Liang Bing

A very special adventure with Ultimate Tracks. 

A 23-day journey through Tibetan Sichuan en Yunnan, in your very own Landcruiser.

Also, you are going to get your very own Chinese drivers license, which will impress friends and neighbours no end.

Tibetan Sichuan, the areas called 'Kham' and 'Amdo' by the Tibetans after the former kingdoms, was until recently considered a 'sensitive area' and was therefor inaccessible for travellers - even Chinese travellers.

It has now been opened up by the recent construction of two roads - and it is changing fast.
If you want to experience it as it (still) is, you should come with us NOW, otherwise mass tourism will have wreaked havoc and unique scenic areas will forever be spoilt by casino's and highways.
After this journey, you can boast that you have witnessed some of the last remnants of the 'old' China and and seen the dawn of a completely new era.

DATES (from Amsterdam to Amsterdam)

departure: Sunday 3 September 2023

return: Monday 25 September 2023

Depart Amsterdam for Chengdu on a Sunday evening 3 September 2023 return Amsterdam on  Monday afternoon 25 September 2023.


Begins and ends in Chengdu, once the capital of China.
We will get aquinted with this relaxed city, which, with a mere eleven million inhabitants, is the seventh largest city of China. On Monday morning, we go to the Peoples Hospital No.2 in Pixian for the medical test (a formality) for our Chinese drivers' license. After having picked up our driving licence sat the Traffic Police Headquartes, we get our cars.
On Tuesday morning, we begin our tour, which over the next thirteen days will bring us in a counterclockwise loop via Dujiangyan - Danba - Jiaju- Tagong- Gantse - Manigange - Derge - Baiyu- Xinlong- Xiangcheng - Ranwu - Shangri-La- to Lijiang. We do not just peer over dashboards: every day, we walk/trek, sometimes considerable distances and sometimes with lots of stairs. Bring walking boots and small daypacks.  There are two rest days on which we do not drive (alternative activities are planned).


We will be accompanied by an English speaking Chinese guide, who is familiar with the ins-and-outs of the route.
He / she carries our 'special area permits', which are not easy to obtain (and which come at a price).
We must be 'controllable' for authorities, which is why we must remain more-or-less together (within reasonable distance, up to a few miles). We have VHF radios on board for communication

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Is a northern offshoot of the Himalayas. A high, steep, young mountain area that was until recently hardly accessible.
With the construction of two spectacular passroads in 2015 the area, which is the size of California, was opened up.
Spectacular mountainscapes, a friendly, open people, eternal snow, valleys that are tens of kilometers long, traditional clothing, buddhist monasteries, a unique flora and fauna - and no Starbucks -(yet)

Is the province of the cultural and ethnic minorities. 25 different peoples live here, all with their own language and customs. Lush mountains and wonderful rivers and lakes make up the landscape.

Just a few highlights of this tour: 

  • you will visit Shangri-La (NOT a figment of James Hiltons' or Hollywood imagination, it actually exists)
  • you will dine in one of the outrageous 'hotpot' restaurants in Chengdu;
  • you will obtain a a Chinese driver's license (now, let your flashy brother-in-law beat THAT ...)
  • you will get aquinted with Kung Pao chicken in all its varieties, from very simple to five-star variants.
  • you will drive some of the highest roads and mountain passes of the world; (highest point of this tour: the Cho-La, 5.050 m. / 16.568 ft. altitude) 
  • you will walk some of the highest mountain tracks of the world;
  • you will meet panda's, the hallmark of Chengdu;
  • you will visit the ancient town of Lijiang;
  • you will eat 'yak jerky';
  • you will awake on the shore of romantic Lake Lugu;
  • you will see unique and traditional Chinese theatre (Chengdu school);
  • you will walk along Tiger Leaping Gorge;
  • you will visit Mount Four Sisters (see above);



Average. Mountain driving, passroads, gravel, some bumpy tracks. Roads are usually very well-maintained. We drive three hours (real driving time, that is ) per day on average, not counting, traffic jams, lunch stops, toilet stops, photo stops. There are two rest days in the driving program.
Altitude: no serious effects of altitude are to be expected. We consistently sleep at a lower altitude then where we were by day and we increase our altitude gradually.
On this tour, it is unlikely that you see many other 'white faces'.  English speakers are few and far between (but: there is wifi).
Largest conceivable risk on this tour: YOU. You have to remain awake and alert behind the wheel one hundred percent of the time. Switch drivers regularly!


4.750,= Euro per participant, when in a team of two participants.  

Passengers, regardless of age, who do not drive, pay 2.090,= Euro

Single drivers: in our experience, driving this tour single-handed is difficult. Unless you are used to sitting long hours alone behind a steering wheel, we suggest that you bring someone to keep you alert at all times - and to take over the wheel every now and then. 

Single driver supplement: 550,= Euro


  • One twenty-three day tour in China as per description, conforming to ANVR/SGR/ CalamityFund/ Greenseat norms and standards;
  • Two direct, non-stop intercontinental flights (economy class) Amsterdam-Chengdu vice versa.
  • All hotel- / homestay accommodation underway.
  • All meals (only breakfast in Chengdu, Shangri-La and Lijiang)
  • Welcome dinner in Chengdu, first day.
  • Farewell dinner in Chengdu, last day.
  • One soft drink OR bottle of beer per meal (more drinks on your own account)
  • Mineral water on board of your car during the entire journey.  
  • Use of a Toyota Landcruiser 150 vehicle during the tour (gasoline/automatic);
  • The services of a professional, English speaking guide during the entire tour;
  • Transport and formalities in obtaining a Chinese drivers license;
  • Inland traffic/travel/accident insurance; (but DO have your own travel insurance from the US);
  • Traditional theatre show in Chengdu;
  • City tour Chengdu;
  • Entrance to panda zoo;
  • All necessary shuttlebus transportation (airport/hotel/ traffic license bureau, city tour, theatre, Mount Four Sisters)
  • All 'red tape': (group licenses, area permits, translations, visa forms)
  • Entrance to National Parks and sights;
  • Compensation CO2-emissions (via Greenseats)

Photo credits: Peter Ottens, Gert Kramer, Liang Bing


  • Beverages (other then the drinks with meals)
  • Personal expenses.
  • Fuel: (average 0,98 US $ / ltr., 97 octane) (estimate: 220,= US $ for entire tour)
  • Highway toll ( estimate: 30,= US $)
  • Tips, souvenirs, entertainment outside of this program.
  • Travel insurance (preferably to incude repatriation to the US in case of any serious mishap)
  • Visa

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  • are in good physical shape;
  • can function in a small travel group;
  • keep smiling during mishaps or adverse conditions, varying from power-outs and two days without coffee, to landslides and day-long traffic jams at 3.700 metres altitude. (welcome to China).
  • have comprehensive travel insurance, that covers repatriation to your home country in case of accident.

You need a visa for China. You can apply for a visa as of three months before the journey. We will send you the necessary paperwork from China.
Your passport must be valid until at least six months after the date on which you leave China.
You will need four 'Chinese' passport photos, one for your visa, three to be taken along to China - these passport photos must comply with Chinese rules: see here

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First day of the 23 day tour.
In order to 'synchronize' with our Chinese collegues, we start this itinerary on our first day in China
Depart Amsterdam on Sunday evening KLM flightno. KL 891 20:55 h.
Arrive Chengdu 13:45 h.local time.

Day 1
Arrive Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport 13.45 local time, transfer to hotel
Welcome dinner in the evening, experience local cuisine of Chengdu.

Day 2
Transfer to Traffic Police Administration Bureau - Chengdu.
Obtain Chinese temporary drivers license.
Free time in Chengdu in the afternoon. (Afternoon tea in Wenshu Temple.)
Late afternoon / evening: collection and preparation of cars.

Day 3

200 km.
Start of tour. Visit ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system, drive into to the mountains, over Balangshan pass(4481m) to Four sisters mountain
by way of an old gravel back road.

Day 4
115 km. 
Trek in Shuangqiao valley, one of the most beautiful valleys of Mt. Four sisters National Park.
Afternoon: drive to Jiaju Tibetan village.

Day 5
120 km. alt. 
Drive through Tagong grasslands.
Explore Tagong monastery and Mani river valley an Muya village.

Day 6
268 km. alt. 
Contribute to the building of gigantic stupa's.
On the way to Gartze, stunning natural scenery, getting more wild and remote.

Day 7
205 km. 
Offroad driving over ChorLa Mountain Pass(5.050 m.), descend to a deep/narrow canyon to reach Derge, the westernmost sacred city of Kham Tibet region.

Day 8
100 km. 
Visit Derge Sutra printing monastery in the morning, drive to Baiyu along the Jinsha riverthe border of Sichuan and Tibet.
Visit Baiyu monastery in the afternoon.

Day 9
310 km. 
Drive over Jiaodeke mountain pass, with stunning views over most of the snow-capped peaks of Sichuan, including the highest peak, Minya Konka (7.556m).
Visit Yarchen monastery to see the dwellings of well over 20.000 resident Tibetan Buddhist nuns that live, study and meditate here

Day 10
360 km. 
'Big driving day' to Xiangcheng, visit several Tibet villages on the way, especially Qingde village, famous for its Tibetan white houses.

Day 11
220 km. 
Drive through Daxueshan and Xiaoxueshan mountain passes to Shangri-la.
Rough mountain tracks for 120 km. enter Yunnan province.

Day 12
0 km. alt. 
Relaxed day in Shangri La ancient city.
Dance with local Tibetan people in the evening.

Day 13
185 km. 
Visit Baishuitai water Terrace then drive to Tiger leaping Gorge.
Overnight stay in a local hotel in Bendiwan, high above Tiger leaping gorge.

Day 14
80 km. 
Hike along Tiger leaping gorge, visit to the Hutio Xia rapids, then drive to Lijiang ancient city by way of the Yangtze viewpoint (first bend of the Yangtse)
to Lijiang, amongst the four best preserved ancient cities of China.

Day 15
200 km. 
Stunning gorges on the road to 'the most romantic Lake of China'.

Day 16

Visit Lugu Lake in the morning. Drive to Xichang. 

Day 17
240 km. 
Difficult backroads. Visit the cliff village featured in the famous documentary about the school children who had to go to school by scaling vine ladders over vertical rockfaces. 

Day 18
220 km.
Visit Mahu Lake and the Bamboo Sea of Muchuan; drive through the 'green tunnels' of the bamboo forest.

Day 19
190 km. 
Board a boat on the confluence of the mighty Dadu, Quingyi and Min Jiang rivers, to admire the truly enormous Buddha of Leshan, the largest stone Buddha in the world and the largest stone statue in the world. 
After lunch in Leshan, we head for a more contemporary treat: the glass cliff walkway of Lupingshan.
Return to Chengdu, where we unload and return our cars.

Day 20
0 km.
pandas, Wenshu temple, tea garden. Evening: Sichuan opera. Lots of walking.

Day 21
0 km
Your day. Visit the Global Mall (biggest building in the world), sleep in, go to the Peoples park to drink tea, dance and sing, go to the Shu Brocade Museum, the Jinsha Site Museum - up to you. You can go by yourself,
or form a small group.

Day 22
Monday.  Check-in Shuangliu International Airport Chengdu 12:30 h. local time. KLM flightno. KL 892, departure time 15:30  Day flight, same day arrival 19:20 Amsterdam local time.

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