Yubeng: The Outdoor Playground of China
January 1, 1970
If you love mountains – particularly the taller ones with snow caps, trekking, Tibetan culture, and the wilderness, then you need to get over to Yubeng, China now! However, keep in mind this hike is at a higher altitude (up to 3,864m) so make sure you take it slow if you haven’t adjusted well yet!
Getting to YuBeng
Although this village is not part of the main tourist route when visiting Yunnan, it’s really easy to get to!
Shangri-La to Deqin Feilai Temple
The gateway to Yubeng is from Shangri-La (香格里拉市)! You can take a taxi (15 RMB) from the Ancient Town to the bus station (香格里拉汽车客运站). From there, you’ll need to purchase a bus ticket to Déqīn Feilai Temple (德钦, 飞来寺) for 58 RMB one way. This is a 4 hour, 164 KM ride, so the buses don’t run very late. The buses depart at 8:20, 9:20, 10:30, 12:00, 14:30 each day.
Most of the time, bus drivers will stop at the main terminal station of Deqin (德钦), the town, and you’ll need to transfer to another bus using your same bus ticket (so don’t lose it) and that second bus will take you to Feilai Temple (飞来寺). This second part of the ride is quite fast, within 1 hour, because you are already in Deqin. There are some local shops where you can get snacks. If you tend to snack on trails, you should stock up here because it’s just going to get more expensive the further you go!
Deqin Feilai Temple to the Trail Head
When you finally arrive at Deqin Feilai Temple, you’ll most likely need to stay a night at one of the hostels on the bare looking construction surrounded streets. I stayed at the YHA Hostel just down the road from the bus stop..well down the road and up a small hill. There are barely any places to eat other than expensive noodle shops or hotpot restaurants. The hostel does serve hotpot as well.
When you arrive, it’s crucial that you find a group of people to share a minivan to go to the trailhead with you the next morning! It’s approx. 150 RMB for a one-way minivan that fits 8 people. You can book this through any hostel there.
Although there are two trails that go to YuBeng village, most people take the more scenic route where they start at Xidangcun (西当村). It’s approximately a 2-hour ride from Feilai Temple to Xidangcun so make sure you start early! Just before the trailhead, you’ll see a ticket booth selling tickets for 80 RMB!
Hiking to Upper Yubeng
The village has two sections, Upper Yubeng and Lower Yubeng, due to the expansion of hostels to host hikers. You’ll hike to Upper Yubeng on the first day and most people will stay there for two nights before they make their way to Lower Yubeng.
This is normally a 4-8 hour hike. It took me 5 hours to arrive while hiking in the rain, then snow, then hail. This was in early April, so it was freezing still. When you pass through the highest point on this trail (3,729m), you’re almost there!
There are a lot of hostels for you to choose from. They are all run by Han Chinese even though this is advertised as a Tibetan Village. However, the good thing is since there is no actual drive-in road, there are WAY fewer tourists! I chose to stay at the YHA hostel just because all the other ones were completely deserted during this time of the year.
I was super soaked from the rain and snow earlier and everyone was huddling around the fire that night cause there’s no heating in this part of the province. There were electric blankets in the rooms though so that helped! Snacks and drinks are way more expensive here. A 1L bottle of Nongfu water was 10 RMB!
Sunrise in Upper Yubeng
The best thing to do other than trekking is to wake up early for the sunrise here!!! You can view it really easily from your hostel balcony.
Upper Yubeng to Holy Glacier Lake
The highest in altitude you’ll reach is 3,864 m and it’s approximately 4-7 hours round trip! If you want to hike through snow, you need to start your hike latest at 9 am or else by the time you reach the last ascent to the Holy Glacier Lake, you’ll be hiking in slush. All huts and shops will be closed at basecamp (Xiaonong Pasture) during the off-season. After your hike, you can choose to stay at Upper Yubeng again or move to Lower Yubeng because your trek the next day will begin at Lower Yubeng. It’s approximately 30 minutes – 1 hour to trek from Upper to Lower Yubeng.
Upper/Lower Yubeng to Yubeng Waterfall
This trail is A LOT easier and a lot more touristy! Unfortunately, the waterfall was a little disappointing so we ended up turning our backs to it and looked out at the mountains instead! It took me 4 hours to get there from Upper Yubeng, 3 hours to get up and 1 hour to get down. There are also NO huts along the way to be sure to pack lots of snacks!
From Lower Yubeng to NiNong
To get out, You need to make sure there is a minivan waiting for you at Ninong (尼农) first or else you’ll be stranded in the middle-of-no-where in the smallest village with large dug-out construction grounds. You can book this ride through any of the hostels in Upper or Lower Yubeng, but it’s also good to talk to other trekkers to see if you can just hitch a ride with them. Most people will go back to Deqin bus station after.
This part of the trail is ALL downhill and you’ll pass by actual Tibetan dwellings! The entire hike took me 4 hours. The last bit is very torturous- a never-ending section of stripped-bare mountains until you finally reach a dirt path with a black painted arrow that will bring you down to Ninong. It’s very easy to miss so refer to the picture below! If you keep going, you’ll end up going back to Xidangcun!