4000m into the clouds: a Porsche adventure to Shangri-La
In search of a true paradise of earth
Chinese temple by a lake, mountain massif in the background
Amid the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 4,000m, lies the legendary Shangri-La. Once a place accessible only to daring adventurers, participants in the Porsche Travel Experience can get there more comfortably, but no less spectacularly
Driving along the roof of the worldUp here, in the Himalayan mountains of southwestern China, you are literally on top of the world. The mountain passes here are challenging, but the trade-off for participants is huge. It is a place of breathtaking landscapes that pass ancient Buddhist monasteries that have remained near enough a secret for centuries. Venture off the main routes on your Porsche adventure, and you gather unforgettable memories of this earthly paradise, as James Hilton famously described it in Lost Horizon. It was this great novel, first published in 1937, that introduced us to the term ‘Shangri-La’ – a paradise on earth. This utopian place seems very close indeed when you take the cable car to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains and the impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge, before you descend into the basin and the valley of the Yangtze River. The river has carved its way into the rock over millions of years, creating what is now one of the deepest canyons in the world. From here there are spectacular views of wildly jagged rocks and mountain peaks, several of which are covered with snow.
Leaping stone tiger seen against a mountain range
The majestic Himalayas: Tiger Leaping Gorge, Jade Dragon Snow Mountains
One of the prime challenges for drivers – and their cars – is the altitude. Driving from 1,800m up to 4,150m takes some getting used to. Equally challenging are the spectacular mountain roads that lead from the Yangtze in stunning curves back up to the shimmering Lake Lugu. At an altitude of 2,500 metres, surrounded by 3,500-metre-high snow-capped Himalayan peaks, this is a special place. This is a challenging drive with spectacular views. As they make their way to the mysterious, enigmatic Shangri-La, people are fascinated by the endless expanse that greets them at the summit. The vehicles also cope with the thinner air on a route that was once an important part of the southern section of the ancient Silk Road. On the path up to the clouds, there are still plenty of hidden idylls waiting to be discovered.
View of a lake, nestled between forests and mountains
Some 2,685m up, the surface of Lake Lugu in Yunnan province is magical and crystal clear
The home of the Mosuo people – where women rule the roost Scattered around Lake Lugu lie the villages of a unique culture – what is probably one of the last matriarchal societies in the world. Around 50,000 members of the Mosuo tribe live a relatively secluded life in accordance with their ancient traditions. Here the women rule the roost as the guardians of property and finances. They reveal their typical customs to visitors over a shared meal. The mystical atmosphere makes you feel like you’re in another world – although you are still about a half-day’s journey from the legendary Shangri-La on this Porsche adventure.The most strenuous part of the journey lies ahead of the participants in the Porsche Travel Experience Shangri-La. Paradise doesn’t reveal its riches too readily, preferring to reveal them slowly. The Tibetan influences and the glimpses of the surroundings gradually become clearer until the first firm indications of this legendary place hove into view as a magnificent pagoda greets the drivers. We have finally arrived.
Wood-panelled hotel lobby in a traditional Tibetan style
The Songtsam Retreat in Shangri-La, not far from the famous monastery of Songzanlin | Photo: Songtsam
Porsche adventure to Shangri-La – the home of happiness The Songtsam Retreat serves as an exclusive address for participants in the Porsche Travel Experience. A distant oasis of peace and calm, far from frenetic world events – a true Shangri-La. A traditional tea ceremony when we arrive provides a chance to relax a little after the intensity of the journey through the fascinating mountain world. This boutique hotel is furnished in a Tibetan style and offers views of the surrounding landscape and the legendary Songzanlin Monastery, bathed in the atmospheric evening sun. It is a Porsche adventure like no other.
Songzanlin monastery by the evening light
Songzanlin monastery is at the centre of a World Heritage site described as “the epicentre of Chinese biodiversity”
It is an ideal retreat – it certainly wastes no time in casting its spell over us. You have to climb 146 steps to reach the fortress-like monastery and wonder at the rare treasures of ancient dynasties. The line between reality and fiction begins to blur for us, just as it did for the lead character from James Hilton’s novel. Hardly surprising in a place where you almost feel like you’re touching the sky. This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.
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