Yunnan small group holiday, China

“This 14-day small group tour covers the greatest hits of one of China’s most mountainous, ethnically diverse provinces.”


Chengdu | Street food in Lijiang | Black Dragon Pool | Tiger Leaping Gorge hike | Dali architectural walking tour | Market cheese tasting | Kunming city | Sunset and sunrise at the Yuanyang rice paddies | Tuanshan walled village | Zhu Family Garden | Stone Forest of Shilin

Description of Yunnan small group holiday, China

With a mountainous border that jags past Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Tibet, south-westerly Yunnan is home to over 50 ethnic minorities – the largest concentration in China.

The landscape is just as varied as the people. This trip hones in on the dramatic vistas of mountainous north, where UNESCO-listed villages like Lijiang sit centre stage. But you’ll also visit the famously photogenic mirrored rice paddies of Yuanyang and Kunming, the river capital with a 17th-century park surrounded by skyscrapers.

Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the highlights. You’ll stay in a local guesthouse and glimpse ice-blue rivers and rapids on a day hike along one of the deepest gorges in the world.

Best of all, this itinerary spans 14 days, giving you plenty of time to take in the grandiose scenery of Yunnan.

Travel Team

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17 Feb 2020
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09 Apr 2020
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29 Aug 2020
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19 Sep 2020
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10 Oct 2020
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Yunnan small group holiday, China

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.


Accommodation and Meals:
We spend several nights in locally owned and staffed hotels and two nights in family-owned guesthouses in Tiger Leaping Gorge. Some accommodation is in beautifully restored historic buildings in the old towns, such as in Lijiang and Dali. Yunnan is renowned for being a culinary destination, taking flavours from the neighbouring countries of Tibet, Laos, Burma and Vietnam. We’ll sample some street food on our walking tour in Lijiang and try some delicacies at the produce market in Dali where you’ll find a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. Main meals will generally be in local restaurants which serve up a selection of authentic sharing dishes made from locally sourced produce. In Yuanyang there is an included ‘farmer’s style’ lunch where the husband and wife team cook up a feast to behold!

Local Craft and Culture:
Yunnan Province is home to over fifty ethnic minorities, easily distinguishable by their different style of traditional dress or headwear – Lijiang is home to the Naxi people, Dali – the Bai people, and in Yuangyang Country we’re sure to encounter Hani and Yi minorities (particularly if your visit coincides with market day). In Black Dragon Pool Park (Lijiang), perhaps join in with the locals as they go about their morning exercise and dance classes. This holiday is packed with culture, historic and UNESCO World Heritage Sites and awe-inspiring landscapes – from Lijiang’s waterways to the walled town of Dali, the Zhu Family Garden in Tuanshan, a daywalk through Tiger Leaping Gorge, the ancient rice terraces in Yuangyang Country and intriguing rock formations of Shillin Stone Forest. For those who are interested, there is the option to attend a cultural impressionist show in Kunming, or to see a Naxi orchestra in Lijiang. There are plenty of opportunities to barter with vendors and buy crafts or traditional souvenirs. Leaders will be able to advise on where the best places to shop are and what should be avoided e.g. traditional medicine made from endangered animals.

A Fair Deal:
We work closely with our local operator and ensure that all of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise that they are paid and treated fairly. Often people can experience quite a culture shock when travelling in China, so our local guides are always keen to act as an ‘experience translator’, to help clients understand local culture better and to connect more genuinely with local communities. The leaders will give a briefing on responsible tourism issues to help you understand how you can help reduce your impact and maximise the benefits to the local community from your visit. We also hire a local guide for the Tiger leaping Gorge walk and for the walk through the rice terraces in Yuangyang Country.

Group Size:
This is a small group tour, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

UK Office:
It all starts at home where we work towards reducing our carbon footprint in our offices through energy conservation measures, recycling policies and the promotion of cycling and walking as a means for our staff to commute. Our head office has become a plastic-free zone with the use of plastic bottles being banned in our head office and we distributed reusable water bottles and tote bags to every staff member. We also support a large number of community and environmental projects in different parts of the world and try to give something back to the places we visit.

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