SHANGRI-LA, also known as Zhongdian – or Gyalthang in Tibetan – sits on a high plateau at the borderland between Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet. When this former logging town was hit by a 1998 ban on deforestation, the provincial government renamed it Shangri-La after the Buddhist paradise of James Hilton’s 1930s novel, Lost Horizon, to try to stimulate a tourist boom. They also spent a fortune turning the dismally poor Tibetan settlement here into a fairly convincing “old town”, complete with obligatory traditional houses, cobbled streets, religous monuments, cafés, guesthouses and bars; there are also less contrived attractions in the monastery just north of town and excellent possibilities for local hiking and horseriding. Shangri-La’s altitude is over 3000m, so take it easy if you’ve arrived from the lowlands, and be aware that’s it’s very chilly between October and March.

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