The Heavenly Meili Mountains

songtsam meili honeymoonAs close as you can get to Tibet without a separate visa, Meili mountain range feels like a piece of the heavens. Though we traveled three days deep into Deqing, China get here, Meili’s beauty is so accessible it felt too good to be true. Mountains like this usually don’t come without porters and oxygen tanks and they definitely don’t come with luxury hotels at their base…unless they are Sontgsam Meili. Sitting at 12,000 feet in a rural Tibetan village, the hotel (that speck in the deep valley above) faces the virgin Meili mountains, slashing through the sky with peaks above 22,000 feet. Our stay here let us into the remote world of Tibetan life and snow-capped beauty that only the Annapurnas can rival.


yunnan mountain tripsThe roads seemed to twist into knots all the way from Benzilan to Meili but the surreal mountain views made the roller coaster well worth it.


diqing homesOn the small road leading up to the hotel, we passed the neighboring Tibetan farmhouses, trimmed in a rainbow of color. With huge racks of drying straw and yaks milling about the yard, each home seemed out of a storybook.


tibetan farmers of yunnanNot wanting to waste a moment of daylight, we dropped off our bags and we quickly went back out to explore the neighborhood. We didn’t have to walk far before a farmer and father of one of the Meili staff invited us over. He was milking his dzo, a cattle-yak hybrid, and before you know it Mike was too (video coming soon).


 tibetan home visitsAfter tending to the animals, we were invited inside for a pot of yak butter tea and fried flatbread. Unlike any house we’d ever been in, the ground floor was actually the barn for the animals and the second a huge open kitchen and simple living space. Watching the lady of the house cook in her wood-powered kitchen, lined with copper pots and hand-thrown ceramics, felt like a window into another world.


songtsam meili hotel suitesWe made it back to our room just before sunset and it took our breath away. The sky was getting dark but the snowy peaks stood brightly on the horizon. With two walls of windows, the peaks felt like they were inside with us.


best hikes in yunnanNone of the mountains in the Meili range have ever been summited do to their sheer verticality, holy status, and likelihood for death falls…so we opted to hike the foothills. Views to the snowy mountains were bound to be incredible but the colors and textures of the trail impressed us just as much. Traces of landslides from the rocky peaks cut through fall’s red and yellow shrubs keeping us in awe and on our toes.


tibetan yunnan prayer flags I love that in Tibetan Buddhism it seems that the hardest-to-reach cliffs with the most jaw-dropping views are the places for worship. At the top of the hardest hill we stumbled upon this stupa in a tangled mess of prayer flags whipping in the chilly breeze. rtw travelWe made it to the top for lunch and soaked up the pure peace of this place.


coffee with mountain viewsThe next morning we were exhausted from our 25k hike and decided to take in the mountain from the comforts of our window seat. (We’ve often trekked for days to get to views like this during our trip, but this time we just had to roll out of bed and pour some french press.)


dechin yunnan stupasBefore catching our bus back to Shangri-la, we motivated to leave the remote and beautiful Songtsam Meili to check out the nearby town of Dechin. You know your getting close when white stupas line the mountain pass.


tibetan marketIn town we grabbed lunch at the local market and found an exotic salad bar that still stands as one our favorite food stalls of our trip. Bamboo shoots, lotus root, glass noodles, shitake mushrooms, and loads of mysterious goodies mixed with a chili soy sauce was a spicy sensation in all senses of the word! See the slideshow for more scenes from this rugged Yunnanese market. (To the vegetarians and the faint of heart, you may want to skip the butcher section.)


china mountain pagodaBetween the Tibetan culture and the 20,000 foot mountains, the Meili mountains was our favorite place in Yunnan, if not all of China. It’s as far-flung as it gets but worth every bump in the road to get there.


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27 thoughts on “The Heavenly Meili Mountains

  1. Yup, it’s clear: if we ever go back to China, we clearly need to spend some serious time in Yunnan province! That view from your hotel window reminds me of the view we had when visiting the Longsheng Rice Terraces in Guangxi province. It was one of those views where you stand and just laugh because you can’t believe you somehow got so lucky!

    1. We totally know what you mean about places that are pinch-yourself good. We are actually in northern Laos right now and oddly enough only 10km from the border to Yunnan and if it wasn’t for the $140 visa we would go back right now! Hope you get the chance to explore a bit more of the province!

  2. Just love all of your photos ESP the mountain photos ,just breathtaking

  3. You are traveling to places many people do not know exist. Amazing! The photos are incredible as always 🙂

    1. and places WE didn’t even know existed until we tried to find a bus to get us there..or a pick up truck, or a shared mini-van…lol….it has been amazing, you have that one right mom!

  4. Beautiful post guys, this place looks stunning. 25km?? In one day?? That’s a great effort! But oh my that heavenly room would have been nice to return too 🙂

    1. 25km in one day but when the mountains are that big and beautiful, we motivate! Songtsam was amazing– they always find amazing locations where no hotels would ever think to be.

  5. Well, this is now on our ‘list’! These photos are great guys; I really want to go and see this all for myself now!

    1. So glad to hear…we really loved the interior of China, as the trains take you everwhere (mostly overnight too, which rocks), and there is such beauty in the mountains and rice fields of China, and the people were great. One to thing to be wary of is that the Chinese destroyed much of their history in the cultural revolution so many of their temples and artifacts are sadly reproductions.

  6. Omg! All your Tibet pictures look so awesome. All the places you have been to are so natural.
    Have you really taken these pictures of yourself?
    If yes then you are really a good vision of taking photos.
    Travelling Tibet with Photography !! Just Awesome!! Keep posting I just love your blog.

    1. Wow….thank you SO much for your praise guys. Yes we do take all of our pictures ourselves (if we ever use a friends photos we mention that). This Yunnan region of China was quite fantastic!!!! thanks for reading along. if you want we post different things over on Facebook if you want to LIKE us over there

  7. What a view from your hotel! Speaking of mountains, Japan seems similar in the respect that there are many shrines built in hard-to-reach places in the mountains. Our web admin has made it to some of the shrines on Mt. Hakusan and Mt. Tateyama on her hikes. Gorgeous photos, and what a market, too!

    1. Japan definitely does! We loved our time up in the mountains near Kaga and climbing up Mount Iwaki. Thanks for the tips on Mt. Hakusan and Mt. Tateyama…we’ll be back to Japan someday so maybe next time!

  8. Insanely beautiful!

  9. Thanks for the amazing features on all these places.

  10. perfect collection of photos.. i like most..
    you have done great job ANNE. just keep continue…

    1. Thanks so much Ajay… did you find out about our HoneyTrek? nice to meet you.

  11. What is the name of that hotel? That view is amazing!

    1. Abby the hotel was called Songstam Meli, and if you think that view was great in photos you need to go there yourself and watch one of the coolest sunsets in the world….you could reach out and touch those mountains! Oh and if you want more info, or are thinking of going email this guy he speaks perfect english and was super helpful.

      1. Thank you! I am looking into booking it now. I’m studying in Chengdu over the summer and then I’ll travel around for a few weeks afterward. Spent about a month in Yunnan in ’10, but did not make it to the Meili mountains.

        1. Oh you totally should @disqus_OqiPd8GD2R:disqus did you email Ling Li? He is great and will totally take care of you. Tell him you are friends with Mike & Anne from HoneyTrek and maybe he will give you a free upgrade to a room with a view….maybe….drop our name though 🙂

          1. We emailed Ling, and have arranged to stay at the Shangri-La, Benzilan, and Meili lodges! Can’t wait! Thank you for your tips! 🙂 PS: my husband and I did a 10 month around the world honeymoon trip in ’09-’10 😉 Enjoy your time!!

        2. Also, make sure you do the full day trek behind the hotel, it was one of the coolest things we did there, such a neat forest! bring a picnic and bottle of wine.

  12. […] calligraphy, seals, jade, and this colorful ethnic minority costumes exhibit. Having come from the far reaches of Yunnan it was cool to recognize some of the […]

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