The reason to stop in Songpan is to spend a few days horse-trekking through the surrounding hills, which harbour hot springs and waterfalls, grassland plateaus and permanently icy mountains. Shunjiang Horse Treks (0837 17231161 or 0139 09043513), on the main road between the bus station and the north gate, charge ¥220 a person per day, including everything except entry fees to reserves. Accommodation is in tents, and the guides are generally attentive, though may not speak much English. Prepare for extreme cold and tasteless food; some groups have bought and slaughtered a goat (¥400) to bolster rations. Note that the friendly veneer of the company’s staff disappears rapidly if they’re presented with a complaint, so be sure to agree beforehand on exactly what your money is buying.

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