Botanical Explorer: Western China

Botanical Expedition | Western China

17 days | From USD 5250 pp

­­** Please note that the best month for this expedition is June.**
We have now completed three pioneering botanical adventures into the most prolific temperate biosphere on the planet. Once again, for any interested parties, our plan will be to traverse the northern Gaoligong mountains that straddle the borders of Tibet, Burma and Yunnan and divide the upper reaches of the mighty Nujiang and Dulong River Valleys. Covered in large swaths of rhododendron and old-growth forest, the jagged peaks and lush glacial valleys are a treasure trove of biodiversity and the epicentre for plant endemism in the region with over 300 plant species found nowhere else on earth. And so, every year, this pristine wilderness holds out the enticing prospect of new and rare botanical discoveries.
 The terrain, while spectacular, is challenging and very difficult in parts. En route, particularly before we break out at higher altitudes into sub-alpine forests and meadows, we will follow seldom-used Lisu hunting tracks through thick forest covered in greybeard lichen. We will also need to scramble over the sprawling root systems of giant evergreens, wade through small rivers and cross a number of slippery log bridges and snow fields. To be clear, this is an intrepid expedition into remote territory and is not a trek for armchair enthusiasts. You need to be physically and emotionally prepared for a formidable adventure in the spirit of George Forrest and Frank Kingdon Ward.
Please note that you can also view additional images from our previous botanical expeditions in our Adventure Diary.

Why This Trip?

Take part in an extraordinary adventure and discover a region few­ outsiders have ever seen.­
Experience a wild botanical wonderland and unique melting pot of minority cultures. ­
Pioneered by Whistling Arrow this is a unique trip you just won't find anywhere else.­
Drung lady with full facial tattoo, Yunnan, China
The trip is not just about flowers. The Dulong Valley is also home to the Drung, some of whose older women have full facial tattoos.­

Expedition Plan

This is a proprietary and exploratory route so flexibility and spontaneity will be required. The following is only an outline daily plan.



Fly to Baoshan via Kunming. Transfer to our hotel. Enjoy introductory team dinner & drinks.­


Scenic 5 hour drive up the Nujiang Valley. Visit local market & overnight at hotel in Fugong. ­


A beautiful 6 hour drive along the Nujiang Valley to Bingzhongluo. Overnight in lodge.


A day in Bingzhongluo to explore the upper Nujiang River valley, meet our porters and make final expedition preparations.


Trek for 7 hours up through a beautiful forested valley to 'Da Chan Da' meadow, carpeted in primulas and other wild flowers.­


Trek 3 hours up to 'Ox meadow' - which is again covered with flowers, particularly wild primulas. Spend the afternoon exploring. ­


Trek 6 hours over the 3900m 'De Lui Za' Pass before descending through riotous rhododendrons to camp by a small river.­


Trek 7 hours up through challenging terrain to a small high altitude (3800m) lake surrounded by rhododendron neriflora. ­


Trek 6 hours up over a second high altitude pass (4100m) and traverse high above a valley to our next campsite.­


Trek for 7 hours to cross the final high pass en route (4200m) and descend to our meadow campsite high in the Dulong Valley.­


Trek for 3 hours to our next campsite to explore previously undiscovered valleys high above the Dulong River. ­


A steep 7 hour descent down to the Dulong River through dense forest. Overnight in a basic farmhouse lodge.­


Spectacular 6 hour drive back to Bingzhonglou to overnight in the same lodge as earlier in the trip.­


Another spectacular 6 hour drive over Bilou Snow Mountain to the Mekong River Valley. Overnight in Deqin town.­


A final 6 hour drive down the Yangste River Valley to Shangrila, stopping at the Dongzhuling Tibetan Monastery on the way. ­


This is our spare day to be used at any point during the trip to allow for the added flexibility we may need.­


Transfer to Shangrila airport and fly home - via Kunming or Chengdu. ­

Nujiang Valley Trekking | Whistling arrow

Our trailhead in the upper reaches of the Nujiang River Valley approximately ten kilometres from the Yunnan/Tibet border.­

Expedition Location

Practical Information

Rest assured we will be here to advise you on all aspects of preparing for, and participating in, this trip. Here are a few obvious places to start.


Accomodation ­

Will be in good quality local hotels and lodges (and possibly rustic farmhouses) and camping in tents on the expedition itself.­


The maximum altitude will be approximately 4000m when crossing two high mountain passes en route.­


On the trek there will be no phone signal but we carry a two-way satellite email and texting device for emergency communication.­


The trip will be challenging and sometimes unpredicatable so you need to be physically fit and mentally strong.­

Equipment ­

All camping equipment will be provided including thermarests. Please refer to our typical kit list for a guide on what to bring.­

First Aid ­

We carry a comprehensive medical kit, including Diamox, but the trek is remote and relatively high risk.­

Food ­

Mainly Chinese/Asian prepared by our expedition cook although we do try to include some pasta, cheese, yogurt etc.­

Flights ­

The trip begins in Baoshan (IATA: BSD) and ends in Shangrila (IATA: DIG). All guests to arrive in Baoshan by the evening of day 1.


All guests must have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes emergency medical evacuation.

Self-reliance ­

All team members need to be relatively self-reliant and willing to chip in with some basic tent work. ­

Support ­

Your large rucksacks will be carried by porters so you only need to carry your day pack while trekking. ­


Typically range between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius during the day but can fall to freezing at night.

Toilets & Washing­

We will be wilderness camping so nipping behind a bush is usually the best option. Washing will be in streams and rivers.­


To join this trip you will require a valid China Visa. Whistling Arrow will send you an 'invite letter' in due course to include with your application.­
Price from USD 5250 PP
All inclusive, except local tips and flights. To confirm a booking we require a 30% deposit with the final balance payable 30 days before the departure date. 
Availability: Upon Request
  The group size for this exploratory adventure is typically limited to just 6 guests due to the complex logistics required to safely manage the trip.
Payment & Preparations
We will provide all the information you need to book and prepare for the trip including payment instructions, advice on flights, what to bring and all safety considerations.

A Word From A Fellow Enthusiast

I joined Whistling Arrow's first Botanical Explorer trek in 2015 and found it be be extremely well organised and managed. We discovered very remote parts not explored since the great plant explorers were in this area in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
The pristine plants were just fantastic! Whistling Arrow prepared an exceptionally well laid plan for this adventure with everything you could think of - good tents, good food, good people and good times.


* Gordon Bailey is a previous New Zealand Rhododendron Association President and the Chairman of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust.