A legendary hunter was chasing a tiger through the mountainous landscape of Yunnan in Southwestern China. Tired, desperate and yearning for his freedom the tiger came to a rocky outcrop that hung almost 4000 metres above a wild, tumultuous river. He turned his head over his shoulder and looked right into the eyes of the hunter before leaping across that gorge to his freedom. This is how the mighty canyon on the Jinsha River earned its name, Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia in Chinese).
Tiger Leaping Gorge is legendary both inside and outside China and you can find endless amounts of information on the internet about it (see link below). What I am going to give you is some of my tips for walking Tiger Leaping Gorge that I didn’t find that often in preparation for this trip.
- Lots and lots of blogs say you can do this hike if you are moderately fit, and that is true, you can. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult, so do not underestimate it as I believe we did. We are 3 women in the first half of our 30s that exercise regularly but towards the end of 9 hours of walking on day one we were desperate to arrive at Come Inn. Start walking early, that way you can have lots of breaks.
- We did the walk in 2 days and 1 night, but didn’t quite have enough time on day 2 to walk down to the water. If we had we would have missed the bus back to Lijiang. Either; spread it over 3 days and 2 nights so that you don’t have to walk 9 hours on day 1, and you’ll get to see the rapids close up. Or get up very early on day 2 and walk to Tina’s guesthouse, from where you can head down to the raging water over which the mighty tiger leaped, before heading back up to get the bus to Lijiang.
- There is a point on the walk where you can pay 10rmb to walk down to a viewpoint, do it!
- Carry cash.
- Use a lot of suntan lotion, both in the gorge and Lijiang. You are high up and the sun is powerful. At least 2 of us left with pretty sore sunburnt faces.
- Make sure you have emergency rations, including plenty of water. We had MANY peanuts and 2 snickers bars each for real emergency moments. There are some guesthouses on the way but not as many as you would expect, especially if you are used to travelling in China.
- Be prepared to eat a lot for dinner whilst in the gorge and don’t punish yourself for that, you have worked hard!
- It is COLD in the gorge and they do not have heating at the guesthouses. We stayed at Come Inn and they have electric blankets which we were extremely grateful for. We went in the beginning of March and as soon as the sun set it fell to about -1 degrees centigrade. Bring warm clothes for the evening and whilst you’re eating dinner. Remember there is NO HEATING! Put on the electric blanket before you have a shower so you can jump into bed straight away and be warm.
- Whilst you’re lying in your warm bed appreciate being cosy and listen to the wind whistling outside. When you wake up go to the window and just look at the mighty gorge right in front of you.
- Look out the window and enjoy the bus ride back to Lijiang. It is tempting to have a little nap, but for the first part of the journey as you drive through the gorge enjoy the view.
- Spend some time in Lijiang and go to the central square in the morning to join in with the dancing of the Naxi women. And visit Black Dragon Pool to see a view of Jade Dragon Snow mountain or just take in the atmosphere. We were lucky enough to see a local singing and dancing competition there.
- I leave my most important tip to the end. Make sure you stop during the hike, not just to take photos, but to try and take it all in. It’s on everyone’s list for a reason!
How to get there, the best trail to take through the canyon and where to stay can be found via this link.