Originally known as Zhongdian (Zhōngdiàn Xiàn, 中甸县), the Chinese government renamed the city to Shangri-La (Xiānggélǐlā, 香格里拉) in 2001 in a effort to boost tourism. A gateway for travelers into Tibet, the cobblestone-lined old town offers a charming look into Tibetan life without having to jump through all of the hoops required to enter the Tibetan Autononomous Region (TAR) itself. It's a beautiful ride from Zhongdian through the mountains to Deqin to the northeast, and beyond that, the massive range of snow-and-ice-capped mountains on the border with Tibet proper known as Meili Xue Shan. It is also possible to visit Tiger Leaping Gorge, Pudacuo National Park, Napa Lake (Nàpà Hǎi, 纳帕海), Xiagei Hot Springs (Xià Gěi, 下给) and Haba Snow Mountain (Hǎba Xuě Shān, 哈巴雪山) from Zhongdian/Shangri-La by bus, motorcycle or hired car.
It might look like a mere four-hour drive from Lijiang and six from Dali on the map, but the road to Shangri-La is long and hard. When you get there though, it will be worth it. One of the major sites in the area is the 300 year-old Songzanlin Monastery, located on the other side of a sloping hill on the outskirts of town. Random trails through the wide open grasslands around Shangri-La are a chance to meet monks and horsemen and also to climb hills and look out across the plateau. You can (and should) marvel at the bright blue, cloud-rich Tibetan sky from any vantage point in the area.
Despite the rustic, mountain-town atmosphere, Shangri-La has a small but growing number of cafes and bars that cater to foreign visitors.
The perennial snow-capped Baimang Snow Mountain (Báimáng Xuěshān, 白茫雪山) is located in the midst of the Hengdgun Mountain range between deep canyons..
Sitting at 3,270 m (10,728 ft) above sea level, the Napahai Nature Reserve (Nàpàhǎi Zìrán Bǎohùqū, 纳帕海自然保护区) is home to a wide range of indigenous wildlife,..