Asia,  🇨🇳 China

Sichuan, China: through Xiangcheng and Daocheng towards the Yading National Reserve

How many times stereotypes influence your life and choices? I’ve always thought to China as a Country of huge companies and polluted cities; the country of dragons and the Great Wall. I’ve never thought to China for its great nature and it is very likely for this reason that it was an amazing surprise getting lost in its landscape. 

We leave the Yunnan region where we visited the marvelous Tibetan monastery in Shangri-La (it’s very similar to the Potala Palace in Lhasa-Tibet) and the Pudacuo National Park and address to Xiangcheng in the close Sichuan region. We are in the heart of the Kham Tibet area, a place with strong roots in the Tibetan culture and traditions (if you are interested in visiting this area see this website). We need about 9 hours travel to reach our destination, even if we have to drive only 270 kilometers. After a few chilometres on narrow paved roads our 4×4 drives slowly on dirt tracks, across the rugged terrain. Trucks coming from the nearby mines crossing over another. Only a few centimeters separate them. 

Due to the many landslides we have to face with, we need to drive on newly opened pathways along which our  4×4 plod. It’s right in this difficult moment of our voyage that I start enjoying being here. I’m no more labelled as a tourist, I’m not in a mass tourist destination. My voyage starts here, where nature and tradition melt in an almost religious sacredness. It’s right in this difficult moment of our voyage that I start enjoying being here.

Our lunch in a small village and our arrival in Xiangcheng

 We stop for lunch in a “famous gourmet restaurant“. I’m joking of course.  The place is very simple and I’m very afraid my stomach will strike today. On the contrary the food is very tasty and I enjoy it very much! Chilly peppers with yak meat, rice, eggs and tomatoes abound on our table.

We leave again direction Xiangcheng. Small white and pure towers, the local houses, adorned with brown, orange and red  colours, sprinkle the green landscape around us. Car washing is needed and while our car is professionally cleaned up from dust, Maurizio and I enjoy a Mahjong match!

Defining Xiangcheng a city is a bit excessive as it consists in a unique street with a few tiny cross streets. Sad grey palaces  are very close one to another and I look forward our departure of the following day. 

Toward Daocheng

We leave very early in the morning as we have to drive 220 km, most of them on unpaved roads, before reaching Yading. The landscape turns in a bright green colour, roads and signage are suddenly perfectly mantained. I have the impression to find myself in the Swiss Alps, were it not for the fact my attention is fully captured by an impressive pure white and gold building. This is the Daocheng stupa, a sacre monument dedicated to the Shakyamuni Buddha. A reliquary around which believers walk even all the day long ceaselessly reciting their mantra.

We leave our car in Daocheng and get in the bus driving us to Yading, where we spend the night. The following morning we are finally ready for our 11 km trek in the nature!  

Yading National Reserve

Close to the Yading National Reserve entrance the wooden walkway is very well kept and I enjoy the stunning view of the mountains all around us. The 3 mountains are sacre and represent wisdom, power and compassion.

We walk from the Luorong Grassland to the Milky Lake. It’s quite cold outside but we are quite well-equipped.

Luorong Grassland

We take an herbal natural medicine bought some days before, however Maurizio starts suffering from the altitude side effects, as we are over 4000 metres.  We walk slowly and dose our breath. Some tourists buy an oxygen bottle in Yading Village before starting their adventure, some other avail themselves of a donkey taxi service offered by local people. Prayer flags are everywhere as to remind the strong connection with the Buddhist culture. 

The landscape all around is enchanting and I’m astonished with the beauty of this quiet place. 

The Milky Lake and the Five Colors Lake

The Milky Lake water (at an altitude of 4600 metres) is motionless. No ripple on its surface. The surrounding mountains embrace the lake and reflect on the clear mirror. No foreign tourist is there and I cannot push away the idea of being observed. Exactly! A local boy and two girls move closer and closer. He finally asks to take a picture with me while his brazen friends chat up my husband. 

After a proteinaceous pic nic with boiled eggs, eggs and eggs again and again, we walk for our last 20 minutes uphill till the Five color lakes. The snow mountains seems to be origami decorating the cool water. My heart is filled with gratitude and my eyes get flooded by such a beauty. Downhill will not be so hard as the the climb to the top. Now there is nothing left but to enjoy the view.

Pic nic with boiled eggs


  • As road signs are almost always in Chinese and most of the local people don’t speak English (end even not Chinese sometimes) it is highly recommended to contact a local driver/guide
  • Bring some cash with you. ATM are available in big cities only and distances in China are great
  • As distances in China are great it is very important that you always have some water and food with you
  • The Daocheng area is easily reachable from Chengdu by bus or flight. Before hiking in the Yading area it is highly recommended to acclimatize 
  • Bring sunscreen and some  heavy clothes with you
  • Camping in the Luorong Grassland and in the area close to the Yading National Reserve is not allowed
Lucia Busato

From the trolley to the stroller. Life changes, passion for traveling remains the same. I love to call myself a rational daydreamer. Sometimes I have my head screwed on, sometimes in the clouds. I start traveling much before packing, with my mind of course. My trips are always so intense that I’m rarely well rested once back home. English breakfast and Dulce de Leche are an authentic heritage to me. What I find exciting? The roar of a Ducati motorbike, the Dolomites and why not, a nice pair of high-heeled shoes.

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