Where Is Shangri-La?

Since James Hilton imagined Shangri-La in his bestselling 1933 novel Lost Horizon, a host of Himalayan areas have laid claim to this earthly Eden.

But only one place—Zhongdian in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province—has officially gone by the name Shangri-La County since 2001.

The region covers a stunning land of snowcapped peaks and plunging parallel gorges carved by three of Asia’s mightiest rivers. UNESCO recognized Three Parallel Riversas a World Heritage site and called it “the epicenter of Chinese biodiversity.”

The Songzanlin Monastery and surrounding city is seen from a distance. (Photograph by Stephan Schwaabe, My Shot)

Despite throngs of Chinese tourists, “the area is vast, so it’s easy to get away,” says Sarah Ferguson of Kensington Tours, who recommends a hike in one of the national parks where rare birds such as the black-necked crane live. Another must, massive Songzanlin Monastery, is “a mini Potala Palace, with hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Yellow Hat sect,” she says.

Chris Dunham of Asia Transpacific Journeys plans visits during the late summer Khampa Horse Festival, three days of celebration, song, and equestrian shows. Most travelers stay in and around Shangri-La’s main city, Diqing, a former hub on the ancient tea trade route.

A clutch of new hotels slated to open in the next two years includes a low-rise city resort from— you guessed it—the Shangri-La Hotel group.

This piece, written by Ceil Miller Bouchet, appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.



  1. […] Many scholars believe that Shangri-La is Shambhala, a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which was sought byEastern and Western explorers. […]

  2. Michael Gamache
    North Clarendon, VT
    December 5, 2012, 2:32 pm

    James Hilton based his novel on the journeys of Frank Kingdon Ward, as depicted in Ward’s book, “Secrets of the Tsangpo Gorge”.

  3. Shiv
    Dharamshala Himachal
    September 12, 2012, 2:01 am

    I think it is located at point where Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan all meet. Shangri-La County is administered by Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province.

  4. Cedar jones
    September 11, 2012, 7:02 pm

    I think Shangri-la is in Sydney, Australia

  5. Cedar jones
    September 11, 2012, 7:01 pm

    I think Shangri-la is just another name for heaven.
    It could be the name of a place but that is the original meaning.

  6. Giuseppe Andriotto
    Rovigo- Italy-
    September 11, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Is a legendary place where we have an eternal happiness.It was born by a novel of.A great Hotel have this name in Hong Kong.

  7. Tashi
    September 11, 2012, 10:59 am

    I think this place is in north east india, western most part of arunachal pradesh, Tawang.

  8. Malik Sultan
    August 22, 2012, 9:49 am

    I guess its in Skardu,Pakistan close to Sadpara lake.There is a Resort also named as Shangri-la.