The Ancient Horse Tea Trail in Yunnan, small group

“Follow in the footsteps of ancient caravans on the Tea Horse Road on this 15 day small group adventure, where breathtaking scenery and fascinating cultural encounters are a daily occurrence.”


Kunming | Jinghong | Menglun Tropical Botanical Gardens | Tea Horse Road | Yuanyang Rice Terraces | Jianshui – Kunming | Overnight train to Dali | Shibao Shan | Shaxi | Lijiang | Naxi | Tiger Leaping Gorge | Shangri-La

Description of The Ancient Horse Tea Trail in Yunnan, small group

On this small group tour, you’ll discover the ancient routes of the Tea Horse Road, in the Chinese province of Yunnan. The Tea Horse Road may have achieved less international fame than the Silk Road, but at one point it was a serious contender for the world’s greatest trading highway. For more than a thousand years it carried people, tea and other goods across thousands of miles of southwest China and Tibet – some of the most dangerous terrain in the world at that time.

On this incredible adventure though Yunnan’s diverse and dramatic landscapes, you’ll get to discover some of this long forgotten history. Travelling into the heart of southwest China, you’ll meet communities that have held on to their traditions for hundreds of years, including some of the region’s minority tribes, visiting remote villages and historic towns that are steeped in the myth and memories of former glory.

Exploring the region’s beautiful landscapes is also firmly on the agenda, and you’ll travel through the lush rice terraces of Yuanyang and the dramatic canyons of Tiger Leaping Gorge, among other highlights.

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Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

We have a strict environmental policy to make sure that the environments we visit are not damaged in any way. Our “Leave No Trace” ethic is applied to each one of our trips, and as a responsible tour operator, it is something we are careful and steadfast about promoting. Each one of our guides are trained to uphold, promote and put into practice such responsible behaviour, especially in wilderness areas or whilst traveling to UNESCO heritage sites, which this China trip does do.

We attempt to reduce plastic bottle use wherever possible by promoting use of reusable bottles and we have partnered with Water-To-Go to have our very own bottles which we provide to customers at a discounted price. For the remainder of 2018 we will continue to include and supply water on all of our group tours, however to further demonstrate our commitment to reducing the plastic we have taken the decision to stop this practice from 2019. Water will still be easily available on tours, however it will be an additional cost. Rather like charging for plastic bags at the supermarket, we hope this new policy will help encourage more travellers to bring their own reusable bottle.

By keeping the group size to a maximum of 12, we can also minimise the human impact on the fragile sites and ecosystems we visit.

On this particular trip, we travel by overnight train. China has an excellent railway system and promoting the use of more environmentally friendly means of transport not only contributes to the upkeep of such transport but also reduces greenhouse emissions to the country we are visiting. We will embark on a train journey from Kunming to Dali, in addition to private minibuses. Using local transport systems also contributes to the economy of China.

We are promoting the natural beauty and ancient heritage of China through visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Lijiang. UNESCO Sites are chosen by the UNESCO committee and must "bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to civilisation", "an important interchange of human values" or be outstanding examples of major stages of Earth's history or ecological and biological processes in evolution. Visiting such sites helps sustain the ancient traditions and natural ecosystems of China.

The Impacts of this Trip

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that we have been committed to since our conception. It is part of our core sets of beliefs that these words are not simply scattered nonchalantly into our literature and on our website but moreover that they are central to each and every trip. Our adventures are therefore carefully curated celebrating all that is local from the people, to the culture. We believe that a successful trip delivers a unique and authentic journey for our clients, but furthermore benefits the people whose land we have the privilege of encountering.

On each group tour we use local ground handlers. This means that all operational costs go directly into the local economy and help improve employment opportunities in remote regions. Such support can also be seen in our incorporation of homestays, locally owned hotels, family run restaurants and the services of local guides and drivers into our itineraries, which ensures that the money you spend with us goes directly into the local economy and local community.

Day 3 we will visit a local farmer and be invited into his house to see how tea is processed. Tea in the area has been cultivated for over 800 years thanks to the fertile soils of Mount Nannuo. An excursion like this ensures an understanding of the cultural importance of tea to the people here and contributes to the local economy here.

On Day 11 we will walk to our accommodation in a locally owned mountain guesthouse during our Tiger Leaping Gorge trek, contributing to sustainable tourism through a low carbon footprint and putting money into the local economy.


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