Yubeng Village is situated at the foot of the Meili Snow Mountain Range. From Upper Yubeng, trekkers have access to the Base Camp, and Ice Lake hikes. From Lower Yubeng, you can find the paths to the Sacred Waterfall, and if you are a hardcore hiker, Holy Lake, which from a higher vantage point, has an unobstructed view of the Kawa Karpo Peak (6,740 meters), and most of the rest of the mountain range.
Legend has it that for centuries Yubeng Village was unknown to the outside world. One day, an old man arrived in Xidang Village near Lancang River (the Mekong River) and tried to buy highland barley from the villagers there. No one knew where he came from, so some of the villagers followed him when he left, but on the way over the mountain the old man disappeared.
Later, the old man came back to Xidang to buy food again. The villagers objected and told him “we aren’t going to sell you barley or wheat, but just some millet.” When they loaded the food for the old man, one of the villagers made small holes on the bags. After he started his journey back home, the old man was followed again. He didn’t realize that the holes in the bags had spilled the millet along the way. However, when he reached a huge rock, he disappeared. So the villagers pried up the rock and Yubeng Village was discovered.
There are four buses from Shangri-la to Deqin every day. They leave before noon from the main bus station located in the north of the new town. Buy your ticket the day before if possible (58 yuan). Thanks to a new road, it takes now 3-4 hours in good conditions. Look for the clock tower just above its entrance. Take the #1 local bus from the bus stop just in front of Wonderful Grocery Store, across the street from the Old Town parking lot.
There are also minivans at the bus station that leave when they are full (the drivers are shouting “Deqin, Deqin!” to passers by). It’s 100RMB per person. The minivans are a bit faster than the bus.
From Deqin, it is easy to get a taxi to Fei Lai Si (20 minutes) where you can find a guesthouse and make further arrangements to get to the start of the hike in Xidang Hot Spring (a bit beyond Xidang village) the next day. Sometimes, the bus from Shangri-la to Deqin will continue to Fei Lai Si for an additional 5RMB – it’s worth asking the driver. There is also a public bus From Deqin to Xidang Hot Spring which costs 30RMB and leaves at 3pm.
You can also choose to go to Ninong, one bus daily at 2pm from Dequin, (10RMB / Person) where you will find one guesthouse at the start of the trail (100RMB / night) or if you have time, walk a little up the trail where you will find an guesthouse which is a little more authentic at the start of the gorge trek to Lower Yubeng.
From Fei Lai Si, there are minivans leaving every morning for 180RMB (for a full minivan, which usually seats 7) to Xidang Hot Spring, which is the starting point of the trek to Yubeng. There is also a public bus leaving to Xidang Hot Spring at 8am from the viewing platform gate, for 20RMB per person.
Another option, if you want to have the real Tibetan pilgrim experience, is to stay the night at Xidang Hot Spring. There is one hostel there which sells food and another small cafe towards the entrance. Dorms are around 50RMB. The added benefit of this is that you can start the walk as soon as you wake up in the morning, forfeiting the journey from Fei Lai Si to Xidang Hot Spring which can take around 2 hours. Be warned there is no English spoken at the Hot Spring hostel – however if you manage to get a bed you’ll undoubtedly be spending the night with real Tibetan monks and pilgrims, as opposed to Chinese tourists in Fei Lai Si.
The walk from Xidang Hot Spring to upper Yubeng takes 4-7 hours – a climb of around 1100m to Nanzong pass, followed by a 600m descent to the village. The walking trail goes along power lines – the poles have numbers on them, 1 being at the bottom, around 100 being at the pass, and around 140 being in the village. Along the path you will also see green trash cans, which is a good indication you’re on the right trail. There are 2 shops on the trail before the pass, where you can buy refreshments and noodles- around poles 50 and 80.
A typical trek at Yubeng takes 3-7 days round trip from Deqin. It’s better to leave the majority of your luggage in Shangri-la or Deqin rather than Xidang Hot Spring, since this will leave you the option of walking out via Ninong.
For assistance in arranging private transportation from Shangri-la:
Note: the entrance fee for the Yubeng area has recently dropped to 80RMB per person. There is a student discount but only for students under the age of 25 and with a valid student card. There’s another post charging 5 yuan for overnight stay at the entrance of Yubeng village.
Mostly by foot, although there are plenty of mules for hire in different points along the trail. It’s possible to get a ride with a local on the back of a motorcycle from Xidang hot springs to Yubeng village, or get your bags delivered the same way.
As of the 20th of July 2018 the trail between Xidang hot springs and Yubeng is open for 4×4 to get you all the way to the village.
- Base Camp and Ice Lake (3850 m). Beautiful glacier fed lake above a meadow. 5-8 hour hike. The path starts after passing through upper Yubeng – locals can point you in the direction. Along the path there are green trash cans – just follow them. The first part of the trail is flat, and goes through a forest where you will cross a small stream. After, there is about a one hour ascent to the top of a mountain pass. The path up starts quite easy, but gets progressively steeper. You may have to do a bit of scrambling over rocks and trees to reach the top. After the pass, there is a small climb downhill along some rocky steps, until you reach a flat bit of woodland and a river. After crossing the river, it’s another short walk to a clearing, where you will find Base Camp, where it’s possible to buy a bowl of rice (20RMB) or refreshments. In the summer, it is also possible to stay at Base Camp – there are basic communal lodgings and bedding provided. From Upper Yubeng to Base Camp take about 3 hours. From the base camp to the lake is about another hour. The path leads towards the snow mountains, and starts off fairly easy, getting progressively steeper as you get to the top. Just before the lake, you may have scramble up some rocks for the last section of the walk, which could be a bit dangerous in winter. To reach the lake, you can scramble down the rocks to reach the bottom.
- Shenpu 雨崩神瀑 (Sacred Waterfall) (3650 m). Apparently best seen in the morning to catch rainbows. 4-5 hour hike. The path starts by crossing lower Yubeng, and turning right near the stupa. There are green trash cans along the path. There is a tea shop about 2/3 of the way to the waterfall. In the summer, the tea shops also provide basic lodgings and bedding if you want to stay overnight in the mountains.
- Holy Lake (神湖) (4500 m). A high mountain lake south of Yubeng. 10 hour hike. Begin in Lower Yubeng, crossing the bridge to the left of the stupa and then taking an immediate right up a steep trail through a wooded mountainside. This part of the hike is slippery in parts and could be difficult in wet weather. After around 3 hours the trail contours round a slope into a meadow at 4300 m which has a partial shelter. This is followed by a relatively shallow ascent over rocky (and snowy) ground to the lake. Once at the lake it’s possible to go a little further towards the peak.
- Ninong (2000 m). Follow the Yubeng river down to the Lancang river and hike to Ninong village. Some of the most stunning views and thrilling trails of the area. Hike out or in this way do not miss out.
All of the trails above are marked on Open Street Map, but there is minimal cell reception in the area so if using GPS it is necessary to download the appropriate maps prior to arrival.
The most popular way to get out is to walk from lower Yubeng to Ninong (4-6 hours), where there is a road, and catch a minivan to Deqin (150-200RMB per minivan). If you are going in the off-season, you’ll have to arrange transportation at Ninong in advance. You can walk from either Upper or Lower Yubeng. The trails will join together. Ask your guesthouse for assistance to get to the beginning of the trail. To reach the starting point of the trail, go through lower Yubeng and turn left at the stupa. After a few minutes, you’ll cross a bridge and start walking along the right bank of the Yubeng river, mostly downhill. The trail stays mostly on the right bank, crossing over to the left bank only a little before the river joins the muddy Lang Cang (Mekong) river (some guides claim this is the fourth bridge, not counting the one immediately after the village). There are two tea shops along the way where there are bathrooms, both on the right bank. After crossing to the left bank, the trail is narrow and goes along a water canal which delivers drinking water to Ninong. After the trail curves left, you can see the village and the road on the other side of the river. It’s also possible to start the hike from Upper Yubeng, walking along a narrower trail above the left bank of the river and crossing to the right bank at the first tea house.
There is a public bus from Xidang back to Deqin every morning at 8. Hiring a car is around 150RMB from Xidang.