Shaxi is a beautiful and traditional old town in Yunnan Province, China along the ancient Tea Horse Road, also known as South Silk Road. It’s a place not frequented by tourists and retains the charm of a traditional Chinese town. If you’re looking for an authentic experience away from some of the nearby tourists traps, then Shaxi is well worth a visit. Shibaoshan (Stone Treasure Mountain) is also close to Shaxi and make a fantastic day trip if you’d like a hike to temples located amongst stunning forested and mountainous landscapes.
Shaxi ancient town
Where is Shaxi?
Shaxi is located halfway between Lijiang and Dali in Jianchuan County, Yunnan Province, western China. It is located beside a meandering river, surrounded by farmland and forested mountains.
How to get to Shaxi
Shaxi is not packed with tourists, largely as it is fairly difficult to get to. There are no trains or flights, but you can get there from Kunming, Lijiang or Dali. First you will need to take a bus to Jianchuan (剑川).
From Lijiang it takes about an hour to get to Jianchuan. Once you arrive you will need to change bus and take one to Shaxi. If there are no buses then a good alternative will be to take a Mianbao Che (minivan) for a few RMB. Shaxi is about 45 minutes from Jianchuan.
You can also hire a taxi in Dali or Lijiang to take you directly to Shaxi, but it will be more expensive. Or perhaps consider a day trip with a private guide and transport.
What is the best time of year to visit Shaxi?
This area of Yunnan has a generally mild climate throughout the year. The rainy season starts in May and usually lasts until September. Generally speaking the best months to visit are in the Autumn or Spring. March to June is an great time to visit Shaxi, when the days are sunny and warm (around 18 degrees).
Things to do in Shaxi ancient town
Wandering the narrow streets amongst the ancient buildings is a real experience, and you can easily occupy a day doing this. But some of the highlights include the following:
- The 700-year-old Theater (寺登戏台) in the main square
- Yujin Bridge (玉津桥)opposite the east gate of Shaxi Old Town
- The Xingjiao Temple (兴教寺, built in the Ming Dynasty, is the only Buddhist temple of Bai People.
- The Friday Market (星期五市集) when residents in traditionally dressed gather together along the curbside to offer a range of local items.
Where to stay in Shaxi
There are a handful of hotels and guesthouses located within the ancient town itself. However my recommendation would be to stay in the Old Theatre Inn, a quiet hotel and beautiful old building with some fantastic traditional food on offer. It’s about a 25 minute walk from here to the Old Town itself, but being set out of town you are also closer to start the hike to Shabaoshan.
Shibaoshan (Stone Treasure Mountain)
Shibao mountain is a famous sandstone landform mountain with temples, buddhist grottoes and golden monkeys. It earned its name from its turtleback-shaped cracks. If you are staying in or near Shaxi then visiting is a must-do in my opinion, and it’s even better explored by foot from Shaxi, giving you the opportunity to properly take in the beautiful scenery.
There are three main areas, these being Haiyunju Scenic area, Baoxiang Temple and Shizhongshan. Be wary of the Macaque monkeys as they are always on the lookout for food and are not afraid to approach you.
Hiking to Shibaoshan from Shaxi
Hiking is by far the best way to explore Shibaoshan. From Shaxi it will be roughly a 2 hour moderately difficult walk through forests and mountains. Add in a few more hours for exploring the old temples and scenery, and you can easily spend most the day here. You do have the option to hike back the same way you came, however I would recommend catching a taxi at the end of your hike to take you back to Shaxi. We did have some trouble trying to locate one however, but through use of a translator app we managed to make the appropriate arrangements. There are also buses that take you back to town.
Driving to Shibaoshan
It’s roughly a 25 minute drive from Shaxi to the main entrance at Shibaoshan. You’ll be able to arrange transport via your hotel or find a taxi in Shaxi old town easily enough. This will allow you plenty of time to leisurely explore the area without the worry of a fairly strenuous hike.