The World Heritage Site of Lijiang Town is one of the Mekong’s crown jewels and a must see. A stay in the old town for a couple days allows one to enjoy the unique architecture of the Naxi people, one of the indigenous people of Yunnan Province. Many visitors to Lijiang also include in their trip a hike to Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is perhaps one of the most popular hikes in the region. However, for those interested in getting off the beaten path, away from the crowds and would prefer to participate in an authentic community-based ecotourism program, then Wenhai trekking is an excellent alternative to Tiger Leaping Gorge!
I recently did the 2-day trek to Wenhai through a community-based tourism company called Xintuo Ecotourism, a company that is jointly owned by 23 families from the Lashihai watershed area. We were led by a village guide from Wenhai village, who met us at the start of the trail just 40 minutes from Lijiang town. The landscape of the trek was breath-taking, with views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (5500) for the better part of both days and Wenhai and Lashi lakes on both days. We visited Naxi and Yi village along the way. We stayed overnight in a lodge owned and managed by members of the community. The lodge had private rooms that far exceeded my expectations of a remote, village-operated lodge. The food was excellent and vegetarian friendly, and our hosts provided us with more than we could every step of the way.
For those interested in bird watching, Wenhai Lake is an excellent place for birdwatching. It is best visited in the winter months, with possible sightings of black-necked crane, whooper swan and black stork. We saw hundreds of ducks on Wenhai Lake when we arrived in the afternoon.
Tips for Low Impact Trekking
Please help keep Wenhai clean and free of the negative impacts from tourism.
- Bring your own water bottles and fill up along the way. Bring a water filter if you can, or just fill up with boiled water or tea in the villages.
- Pack out all of your rubbish. Bring a plastic bag to keep your rubbish so that you can pack it out.
- Don’t throw anything on the trail, especially cigarette butts since the area is highly prone to forest fires.
- Bring a translation app that can work offline and uses voice (some older people do not read). This will allow you to better communicate with your hosts and create better relations and understanding between trekkers and locals.