Vira Natura

China Silk Road Explorer

24 June - 11 July 2022
From €6,250.00 per person

An incredible botanical and scenic journey across north-west China, crossing many flower-rich passes, vast grasslands and high lakes under the constant gaze of majestic shans. Beginning in Chengdu our journey continues north-west across the Qinghai to the vast lake of Qinghai Hu within touching distance of the old Silk Road. 

An 18 day tour with Chris Gardner

Day 1    Arrive Chengdu (24 June)

Upon arrival in the huge metropolis we’ll transfer to a comfortable hotel.

Day 2    To Wolong

Heading west we reach the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and climb into very verdant valleys swathed in forests and harbouring roses, lilies and some choice corydalis. Overnight Wolong. 

Day 3    Wolong area

The day will spent at modest altitudes as we acclimatise. Stands of Cardiocrinum giganteum, Pedicularis rex, primulas and valleys with dainty ice-blue Corydalis flexuosa. Overnight Wolong.

Day 4    Jianjin Shan

Our first higher pass, reach via some interesting painted houses. The prize here is the purple-black Meconopsis balangensis var. atrata growing with Corydalis darjingensis and lower down fine stands of Rhododendron prattii mixed with R. roxieanum, rubiginosum and nitidulum alongside Primula gemmifera and P. sikimimensis. Overnight Rilong.

Day 5    Balang Shan

A quite superb high pass which heaves with Cypripedium tibeticum, Omphalogramma viola-grandis, Primula melanops, P. sikkimensis, Meconopsis integrifolia and a multitude of alpine plants. Overnight Rilong.

Day 6    Xiling Xue Shan

An exciting new high pass was visited in 2019, where we encountered some fascinating new primulas, as well as both Saussurea medusa and S. quercifolia, Androsace brachystegia, Potentilla biflora, incredible displays of Meconopsis integrifolia and much more. An area to be explored more fully. Overnight Rilong.

Day 7    To Huanglong

Descending to the Min River we follow it north to where thousands of Lilium regale hang from the cliffs with hopefully some accessible specimens. Big drifts of various louseworts appear with Pedicularis cranolopha and kansuensis. Overnight Huanglong.

Day 8    Huanglong

A combination of fabulous natural wonders and fine flora. The travertine terraces of Huanglong are filled with turquoise water and waterfalls tumble through dense forest with many Cypripedium flavum, Fritillaria unibracteata and Primula palmata. The high pass nearby has yellow, red and purple meconopsis mixed together, mats of Androsace selago, golden Trollius farreri and electric blue Corydalis pachycentra. Overnight Huanglong. 

Day 9    High grasslands

We deviate across a vast swathe of flower-rich grasslands where stands of spidery Cremanthodium brunneopilosum rub shoulders with nodding C. campanulatum and drifts of asters, Pedicularis cheiranthifolia, Lilium lophophorum and cerise trumpets of Incarvillea mairie.  Overnight Langmusi.

Day 10    To Juizhi

Our route crosses large areas of flowery grassland and rock outcrops with Paraquilegia microphylla, alliums, spiny pink Caragana jubata, abundant asters, purple and white Hedysarum sikkimensis and the crinkled rosettes of Phlomis rotata. Large gold-toppled monasteries rise from the landscape, flanked by huge displays of prayer flags. Overnight Juizhi.

Day 11    Stone Mountain

A ten kilometre return walk across undulating grasslands will takes us to the foot of Stone Mountain, a rugged granite peak that rises abruptly from the surrounding grasslands. Tucked under boulders are Primula limbata, tucked in boulder crevices is Paraquilegia anemonoides, whilst turf has huge bowls of pure Meconopsis lancifolia bristling with anthers. Stands of sapphire-blue Anemone demissa mingle with, fritillaries, deep pink Primula woodwardii and with luck a few trumpets of Gentiana algida. The landscape all around is tremendous. Overnight Juizhi.

Days 12-13    Southern Anyemaqen Shan

A roller coaster route of several passes and wonderful landscapes with abundant Meconopsis integrifolia, blue M. horridula, orange saxifrages, Cremanthodium brunneopilosum, tumbling masses of egg-yolk yellow Clematis tangutica, whorls of lilac Iris farreri and much more. Overnight Dawu or Dari.

Day 14-15    Northern Annemaqen Shan

A fabulous flora day. A new road quickly gets us to fascinating alpine tundra with hummocks of Androsace tangulashanica, diminutive Iris potananii slopes pink with Incarvillea compacta, the balloon flowers of Saussurea obvallata and then a wonderful area of mountain turf with Meconopsis horrida and moraines snaking down from Maqen Kangri peak with the seldom seen Desideria baoigoinensis, as well as star-like Saussurea wellbyi and S. medusa. On the far side of the pass are bushes of golden Corydalis stricta. We will also visit other passes nearby to see the lovely multicoloured form of Corydalis trachycarpus and wine red Pedicularis olivieri. Overnight Maqen.

Day 16    To Gonhe 

The landscape fluctuates between deep valleys to some impressive badlands as we wend our way north and the climate becomes drier. Bushy plants of magenta Hedysarum multijugum line the roadside, whilst steppe areas have lilac Oxytropis falcata. Overnight Gonhe.

Day 17    Qinghai Hu

An immense disc of blue water nestles between green slopes and is fringed by marshy flats with abundant Primula nutans, Gentiana heleonasta and various louseworts. This great lake sits just to the south of the main Silk Road. We’ll visit the southern shore of the lake before moving onto Xining. Overnight Xining or Chengdu**.

Day 18  Flights (11 July)

Return flights to home from Xining or Chengdu.

Please note: There are many options for arriving and departing on this tour. We are aware there are convenient direct flights to/from Europe and Chengdu departing early afternoon. Anyone preferring to use return international flights from Chengdu would be advised to take an evening flight from Xining to Chengdu and overnight there.
For anyone wishing to fly from Xining to connect with their international flights from other Chinese airports, you would overnight in Xining before continuing the next day.
Either way any internal flight needs to be purchased by you and the flight needs to fit into the tour program. We can assist with this if necessary.


21 June - 8 July 2022 

Days: 18


Per person (twin share): 6250 euros

Deposit tba euros

Single supplement: tba euros


  • 17 nights accommodation (including either Chengdu or Xining on 8 July)
  • All food
  • Ground transport
  • Guide services

Not included:
  • All flights (to Chengdu/from Chengdu/Xining)
  • Travel/Medical Insurance
  • Alcoholic and soft drinks
  • Personal expenses (including visas)


Minimum number of participants 5; maximum 13.

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