Deqin is a small city with an 80% Tibetan population, located at an altitude of 3550 meters in the north of Yunnan Province in China. It lies in a small valley adjoining the Mekong River Gorge and the surrounding mountains offer some of the most beautiful scenery and best trekking in all of China. Despite that, the area gets very few visitors due mainly to its altitude and its remote location at the end of the road from Kunming through Dali, Lijiang and Shangrila; once you get to Deqin, the next stop is the Tibetan border, meaning you have no choice but return the same way you arrived, as the government does not allow foreigners to enter Tibet via this route.
Best Time to Go
Due to its high altitude, Deqin never really gets hot. The summers are warm and get a lot of rain, while the winters are very cold and very dry. Despite the cold, winter is actually the best time for trekking, due to the lack of rain. March is the worst month; this is when the rainy season starts, but due to the cold it will usually snow which can cause road closures. The rains generally continue until September.
Getting to Deqin
The only way into Deqin is by bus or minivan from the south, usually Shangrila, Lijiang, Dali or Kunming. If you are planning on staying near the Feilai Temple outside of town (recommended, as it is much nicer), see if the driver will take you there. Usually, the minivans do. If not, you’ll have to get a taxi; they will quote some incredible prices, so you’ll have to bargain. 5 RMB would be a reasonable price, but I’d be happy with 10, as they know you don’t have any other options.
Taxis, minivans and your own two feet are the only options here.
While you’ll find some hotels in the city itself, the best options are located a few kilometers farther down the road near the Feilai Temple. Lying above the city, the views from here are spectacular and you have several Chinese hotels, some guesthouses and one hostel, the Feilai Temple Youth Hostel, to choose from.
There’s no need to book ahead, just show up and talk to a few places until you find one you like. Prices are generally very low, with the cheapest rooms going for under 30 Yuan and dorm beds costing 10 (you’ll likely need some decent Chinese language and excellent bargaining skills to get them this low).
Personally, I’d stay away from the hostel, as it seemed quite overpriced given the conditions. It was a nice place to hang out in the evenings, though and the communal meal they served wasn’t bad (a little expensive perhaps), but when it comes to rooms, you’ll find much better quality at much better prices at some of the Chinese hotels along the main road, especially the ones that can’t speak any English.
That said, if you prefer to have a room lined up ahead of time, the Feilai Temple Youth Hostel is the only place in town with an online presence, apart from the much more expensive Once Upon A Time in Meili Hotel.
Eating & Drinking
As long as you avoid the one or two touristy cafes, you’ll get good food for the standard prices pretty much anywhere in Deqin. The hostel and some of the hotels offer communal meals, which can be a nice way try various dishes and meet other travelers at the same time. They likely only offer these when the town has enough visitors.
Things to Do
- Feilai Temple: located on the road above town, the views from here are spectacular; this is also where many of the hotels and guesthouses are located
- Yubeng Village: a Tibetan village not accessible by any vehicles; take a minibus from Feilai Temple to Xidang Hot Springs and hike from there (or take a horse or mule); you’ll find basic accommodation in Yubeng and staying for a few days is recommended, as there are numerous great treks in the area; you’ll have to pay 80 Yuan as a scenic area entrance fee
- Meilixue Mountain Nature Reserve (aka Snow Mountain): another great trekking area where you can hike to the Taizi Temple and the Minyong Glacier among other things
- Other Trekking: the trekking options around Deqin are endless, but there are not many organized treks yet; your hotel will likely have some information and if they don’t, other hotels will and the hostel can definitely help you out when it comes to trekking