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Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 Hǔtiào Xiá) is simply awe-inspiring. Located in Yunnan, southwestern China and sandwiched between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to the south, and the vast mountains of Deqin to the north, a 3-day hike along the side of the world's deepest river gorge is an unforgettable experience. At some points the gorge is so narrow that legend says that a tiger being pursued by hunters jumped from side of the gorge to the other to save its life. This is how the gorge got its name. The hike has gone from a bit of an obscure adventure experience to a must see, however you are still unlikely to encounter many other travellers on your route. Views are heart-stopping, and stretching the trek over a number of days gives the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of guesthouse owners in traditional villages along the valley sides.
In December 2007, the Chinese Government made the welcome announcement that it had decided to scrap the Tiger Leaping Gorge Dam project, protecting the beauty of this fantastic natural feature - at least for the time being.
Note that the Gorge should not be attempted by the faint hearted, and absolutely not by anybody in bad weather - the path is only several feet wide in places, and next to a sheer drop of several thousand feet this would be a dangerous and unpleasant experience. You can check the latest gossip at one of the many cafe's in Lijiang, where you will get information on the current conditons. Most also give away hand drawn maps of the trek which are really handy and show the route, walking times and the location of guesthouses along the way.
There is a small charge to enter the section of gorge between Hutiaoxia Town and Walnut Garden, to ensure the upkeep of paths and the road. Rates at the guesthouses along the way are very reasonable, and they also serve cheap tasty dinners which are very welcome after a day of hiking!
Regular public buses pass through Hutiaoxia Town between Lijiang and Shangri-La. More expensive buses are the luxury air conditioned ones - if you take a cheaper bus to Shangri-La you'll be sharing it with smokers, spitters and livestock.
A small public bus runs along the gorge road from Hutiaoxia Town to Walnut Garden and beyond. Taking this service is essential to avoid doubling-back along the gorge.
All of the guesthouses along the way offer tasty, simple, cheap food (including Naxi specialities), water and cold beer.
Tiger Leaping Gorge has great value guesthouses, including Tea-Horse Guesthouse, Tina's Guesthouse, Sean's Guesthouse at Walnut Garden, the Packhorse Guesthouse (made famous by Michael Palin in Himalaya), Five Fingers Guesthouse and the Naxi Family Guesthouse.
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