The name Shangri-La immediately evokes peace and tranquillity, and it does not disappoint. Once a small village, Shangri-La has developed into a city of migrants from neighbouring Sichuan and other parts of Yunnan have flocked here in pursuit of greater opportunities. A favourite last stop for travellers journeying into Tibet, Shangri-La's historic Old Town was recently revitalised through a government scheme designed to attract investment. Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with cafes, restaurants and boutiques selling prayer flags, jewellery, 'thangka' paintings and traditional clothing from Tibet and other parts of the Himalayas.
Adjacent to the Old Town, sits Zonggu Monastery, which boasts the world's largest prayer wheel. Make sure you take a trek up to Napahai Lake that overlooks the Shangri-la grassland, which is fed by snow melt from the nearby mountains in the summer and recedes to form a lush grassland during the dry season. Each September the lake serves as a temporary paradise for flocks of migratory birds ranging from bar-headed geese to black-necked cranes, one of the rarest bird species left on earth. As well as birds it is a great place to spot the seasonal rhododendrons.
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