Why Go: The little centuries-old storybook town of Lijiang and the landscapes surrounding it are considered among China’s most scenic locations. Cue droves of tourists descending on Lijiang and its delicate pagodas, 354 arched bridges, and cobblestone streets. So many visitors—and a devastating earthquake in 1996—have changed some of the town’s authenticity. But nonetheless, the people come. At 7,845 feet above sea level, Lijiang enjoys springlike weather conditions year-round. Visitors escape the tourist traps to see local natural attractions including Tiger Leaping Gorge, the migrating birds around Lashi Lake, and wildflower-filled meadows with the jagged Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a backdrop.
What to Expect: A destination in and of itself, Amandayan hosts guests high on a hillside within sight of Old Town Lijiang and the majestic mountains. Traditional Sino-Tibetan–style buildings made of Yunnan pine from Shangri-La County house 35 suites (from $800) arranged in groups around central courtyards. Custom elm furnishings and local Dongba wood carvings of flowers and birds decorate the uncomplicated spaces. Guests can enjoy Old Town away from the crowds at Amandayan’s Tea House, which has one of the best vantages over Lijiang. Local dishes are featured on the menu at Man Yi Xuan, serving Yunnan and Cantonese cuisine and a selection of dim sum. The six-treatment-room spa incorporates traditional Chinese medicine in its services. Guests who venture to Old Town after dark can buy a flower-shaped boat, light the candle it carries, and make a wish before sending it down one of the town’s seemingly endless canals or waterways.
How to Get There: Direct flights to Lijiang Sanyi Airport are available from Bangkok and most major cities in China. The car ride up to Amandayan from the airport takes about 45 minutes. (amanresorts.com)