The word Shangri-La originates from the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. He introduced the fictitious Himalayan paradise to the world, capturing people's imagination while stirring up their inner desires for peace and tranquility. While not quite the mythical Himalayan utopia Hilton portrayed it as, Tibet’s current Shangri-La is a "heaven on earth" in its own right, a happy land, isolated from the troubles of the outside world while seemingly insulated from the passing of time. Beautiful lakes, majestic Tibetan monasteries and sacred mountains are common throughout Shangri-La.
In recent years, the Chinese government has officially declared Gyalthang as Shangri-La; invested money to improve infrastructure (roads, airport, hotels, etc.) and promoted it extensively for tourism. Today, the town of Shangri-La has divided into two parts: a well-preserved and polished old town and a new town with growing residential and commercial activities. If you are looking to experience Tibetan cultural in an easy and comfortable way, old town Shangri-La and its surrounding areas is an ideal place to go for 5-10 days. You can fly directly from Kunming, stay in a nice Tibetan resort lodge; eat delicious meals and wake-up with morning espresso. Later visit monasteries, local communities and take beautiful hikes (1-3 days). You can always fly to Lhasa directly from here for few days or travel to other parts of Tibet for a more adventurous experience. The best time to visit is Apr-Jun and Sep-Oct.