Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
How we design our Trails
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.

We’re often asked what goes into the process of picking and designing a trail and it’s a difficult question, without a simple answer. Obviously the choices of places to visit and routes to take are myriad, but what we generally do is pick a theme, or an aim if you like. This may be to focus on and explore the minority cultures of a particular area (e.g. Where the World Meets the Sky), a particular landscape, to follow a certain interest (e.g. Four Rivers, Six Ranges: The Horse Festivals) or historical notion (e.g. Missionaries, Minorities & the Mekong), or indeed, use an area as a backdrop for a particular activity (e.g. Yading - Gods & Mountains #1 & #2), or ultimately, as could in part be said of all these trips, a combination of the above.

When working on an itinerary, such aspects as difficulty/reward ratio of trail, is relatively easily dealt with, and we try to give fair descriptions (and so fair warnings!), to those who need them. Although achieving a balance with even the more physically or experientially demanding trips is of course centrally important (as well as being an imperfect art!). Naturally it is in our nature to push the envelope; we tend to opt for experience over entertainment and we’re in a constant search for more options, more remote areas. It’s never been our purpose to merely service well-tramped routes that a local tourist board might dictate, a failing common with 99% of ‘adventure companies’. However, we strive to balance pace and interest in such a fashion that we keep tweaking your curiosity but also keep you enjoying the actuality of travelling, in such a way that each complements rather than eclipses the other (or indeed the hardships or lack there of negating each other).

So, to return to the myriad of choices we mentioned at the start, and to answer the question most often asked - why “trails”? We refer to these routes as trails because of the nature by which they crisscross the region, to get to places for a myriad of different reasons, sometimes unavoidably and with reason touching on more touristed destinations. But more often opting for the more remote, the more in depth. We hope these trips fulfil both our aims in designing them, and your aims in taking part, and ultimately, at the very least that you leave with more understanding, a faster heartbeat (but lower blood pressure) than when you arrived. To find out what these aims might be, and if these trails get you there – well there’s only one way to do that.

For more background on what we're all doing here please go to HWT - Company & Philosophy

Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
 Trail Categories

Taking the types of travel involved as our jumping off point, the routes we’re offering this year fall into 3 broad categories:

4WD Overland
Occasionally offering the option of an afternoon hike, however the focus is on travel by roads (broadly defined as!);

Treks
Self explanatory really, although often travel by road is necessary to get to the trailhead; and

4WD/Trek Combinations
Trails that involve a significant number of days trekking and seeing stuff ‘up close’ as it were, with an equal number of days in the jeeps gaining a broader overview.

Every year we run a certain number of set date trails. Or, you can charter trips as either Guided or Bare-Bones trails.

Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
 4WD Overland

The advantages of hitting the road in a 4WD are obvious, with no less than 34 minorities, upwards of 2,000,000 sq km of land, high grassland plateau, snow-capped 7000m+ mountains, the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween & Brahmaputra rivers, rice terraces & tropical rain forests. Some of the most spectacular roads in the world - and the freedom to travel them. A lot of territory and even more diversity, the only effective way to take it all in is in the back (or front) of a 4WD. In the routes below we have tried to strike a balance between landscapes and cultures to maximise the variety and depth of your experience, given the time available. These trips are designed to cover broad swathes of landscape, and to either capture as much variety as possible or to use the wheels to go deeper into a particular region than is possible by any other method.

The 4WD overland trips vary in both pace and difficulty of the roads. In general the trails are designed specifically to allow ample time to get out and wander around at will, and in many ways this is rather the point. Indeed some trails (e.g. Missionaries, Minorities & the Mekong) heavily emphasize this - comprising mostly half-day’s driving time with the rest of the day specifically allocated to time spent in a particular village, monastery, etc. On the other hand, some (e.g. Four Rivers. Six Ranges – The Horse Festivals) use the 4WDs in part to get to particular events, though of course a lot of thought is put into the ground we cover en route. And some (e.g. Four Rivers, Six Ranges - A Kham Tibet Odyssey or Riding the Frontier), conform more to the traditional notion of a “road trip”, covering large distances to gain broad overviews of a region and are based on a majority of full-day’s driving (though of course still with ample stopping time).

The difficulty of the roads varies between trips, during trips, and of course between seasons. Suffice it to say all of these trails at some point absolutely require a 4WD and most of our behind-the-scenes work over the years has gone into finding the right jeep and what we think is fair to say, some of the very best drivers in the region (see The People at Haiwei Trails, The Company and The Gear). Also in a region where roads can go up and down depending on the weather and (though to a lesser extent) political conditions, we obviously schedule our trails so as to play the odds as far as possible in our favour. Thus if you take a look at the 2003 Schedule Overview, you’ll see that our scheduled trails tend to move north in the summer months to avoid the rains in the south, and not much at all is happening in the winter, as the snow closes down most of the passes. However, it should be said that the roads in this part of the world are improving every year and it’s becoming more difficult to find (or easier to avoid, depending on your point of view) the genuinely (gnarly) honest-to-God goat trails of yesteryear. But no worries, they still exist!

A final word to the wise before setting you loose. Obviously, in the best case scenario the roads are clear, the jeeps have no problem, and everything goes just like clockwork! Although this does happen with surprising frequency, what also happens (with less surprising frequency!) are landslides that cause delays and jeeps that need occasional repairs - best to expect and accept as all part of the experience! The delays are rarely long ones though (ho,ho,ho).


The adva ntages of hitting the road in a 4WD are obvious,
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
Trail Info Pages
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.

Each trail page contains a broad introduction, a detailed itinerary, dates, pricing Information, a map & indication as to its availability as a Bare-Bones Trip. Also listed are other relevant routes that cover in part similar territory, so you can see what other trails offer a different combination containing an element you may especially like.

A quick apology if some of the descriptions seem repetitious from itinerary to itinerary – we try to honestly pitch the descriptions of roads, treks and destinations as we see them, favouring accuracy over promotion. So if two trails duplicate certain elements, then the descriptions will also be largely duplicated!

You can find all the Trail Info Pages here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Trail Lengths & Extensions:
We try to pitch most of our trails at a length of 2 weeks in recognition that this is often about as long as many people can get off work! However, we fully realise that your holidays may not conform to this, so if you need to clip days off the start or finish of an itinerary, please get in touch. Conversely, for those who do actually live in an ideal world, many of the trips have optional extensions of up to 8 days, extra legs that we feel represent great opportunities to broaden the scope of a trip and see more of the area.

Pricing (a quick note):
Prices are set according to the number of people who sign up for a trip. When booking you should indicate the minimum group size which you're willing to pay for. Obviously our interests are entirely convergent since it also benefits us to have more people in a group.

Optional Single Supplements:
The prices are based on two or more sharing accommodation. Often this is the only option available. However, if (where possible) you'd prefer a single room (or tent!) there is an optional single supplement charge on both Scheduled and Bare-Bones trips, as well as on Chartered trips.

For more information on what prices include, see below and the Booking & Payment page.
 



with no less t han 34 minorities, u pwards of 2,000,0
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
00 sq k
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
 4WD/Trek Combination

Sometimes combining the two can make for the perfectly balanced trip. Just as it says, these are trips that include time spent travelling overland by 4WD with time spent stretching the legs and slowing down for what are usually shorter treks (and vice versa).

Sometimes both are combined in a regular 2-week trail (e.g. The Dragon & the Mekong); and sometimes as an optional extra, for up to 8 days – we offer 4WD overland legs to be added to trek trips (e.g. Yading: Gods and Mountains Ext #1 & #2), or vice versa (e.g. Four rivers, Six Ranges: The Horse Festivals (Amnye Machen kora)).

It's worth noting that whereby all trekking trails (see left) involve some road time getting to and from drop-off/pick-up points, these combo trails are very different in that the 4WD and the trek times form a dual focus for the trail.

 



Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
 Final Note

When we put out an itinerary for these trails, although often as not we stick to it fairly closely, the itineraries described are best taken as a series of staging posts, rather than etched in stone. When we design the routes we’re pitching the pace without (obviously) any detailed knowledge of a group’s interests, stamina, etc. Thus we try to leave things as flexible as possible so the timing of the itinerary can be changed if it seems appropriate to the guide and in line with the group's individual feel and overall wishes. For example, two half-day’s drive could be substituted for one full day, and more time spent in a specific location. Above all this is a holiday, not the Long March!

A final, final note - Please be aware that political conditions change, roads open and close and on a trail like this nothing is fixed or guaranteed - except the adventure!


Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
 Scheduled & Bare-Bones Trails

Throughout the year we have scheduled certain dates for these trips, usually with a heavy eye on the weather! Set Dates can be found on the Trail Info Page in question or on the 2003 Schedule Overview page.

Additionally, most of these trails can be chartered for a private group, either guided or as a Bare-Bones trip. In either case, if you would like to open up a booking list to get additional members for your group, no problem. Follow these links for more details of Chartered & Bare-Bones options.

Scheduled trips (with the partial exception of The Road to Lhasa) are fully guided and include all in-country transport and accommodation costs, as well as any gate or ticket prices that form an integral part of the trip. All food while trekking is included, as are breakfasts & snacks whilst on the road. Other meals aren’t usually included, as the cost is minimal, but more because this tends to discourage a certain level of engagement. Naturally we usually eat together, and help with ordering is always available – but we’ve found that if we all have to chip in, then we all tend to take part in the process of getting to know the food, and consequently the level of enjoyment is ratcheted up a notch or two.

Bare-Bones trips typically include the same, minus the guide, meals & optional entrance fees.

T
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.

lf you have any questions or would like further information - please get in touch.

RAIL LENGTHS & EXTENSIONS
We try to pitch most of our trails at a length of 2 weeks in recognition that this is often about as long as many people can get off work! However we fully realise that your holidays may not conform to this, so if you need to clip days off the start or finish of an itinerary, please get in touch. Conversely for those who do actually live in an ideal world, many of the trips have optional extensions of up to 7 days, extra legs that we feel represent great opportunities to broaden the scope of a trip and see more of the area.
m
Travel China and Tibet - an overview of 4WD and trekking trails  throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang Tibet.
 Trekking

Kham Tibet, northern Sichuan, together with northern and north-western Yunnan cover some of the most untouched and diverse landscapes in China. For those who prefer to leave the 4WD’s behind, the mixture of natural beauty and the many minority cultures that populate the region make it highly rewarding trekking country.

We run two types of treks – the more traditional camping trips, using pack horses to take us into wilderness areas, self-supporting and generally requiring at least a day’s drive to get to the trailhead (e.g. Yading - Gods & Mountains #1 & #2). These tend to involve a fair amount of high altitude trekking and we recommend them for reasonably experienced trekkers only. On the other hand, we run treks generally somewhat gentler in pace and at lower altitudes where we overnight mostly in locals' homes, be they isolated farmhouses or villages (e.g. Where the World Meets the Sky) where the focus is as much on these homestays as on the trekking. These tend to start directly from towns such as Lijiang.

None of our treks can be considered technical - there’s no need for rope work, crampons, etc. But when considering a trek, please take note of the gradings - this is not so much because it can be dangerous not to, (though that certainly can be a factor), but largely to save yourself the type of discomfort that can lead to an unpleasant experience! Obviously judging the difficulty and your ability is an inexact art, for us and you, but please try to be honest with yourself (and us!). If you want to discuss your suitability for these trips, please feel free to get in contact.

Grade One
Gently paced hiking at altitudes of 2000+m, actual hiking time rarely exceeding 5 hours/day (not including rest periods), few extended periods of steep ascent or descent. You need to be reasonably fit, partial to the occasional hiking holiday (1+/year), and used to carrying a light pack.

Grade Two
At altitude up to but rarely exceeding 3500m, actual hiking time rarely exceeding 6 hours/day, occasional periods of steep ascent or descent, and very few creature comforts. You need to be fit and experienced in multi-day trekking and camping at altitudes of 2-3500m plus light pack.

Grade Three
High altitude trekking up to and occasionally exceeding 5000m, actual hiking time often exceeding 6 hours/day. Risk of adverse weather conditions (other than rain), frequent steep ascents and descents. You need to be experienced in high altitude and multi-day trekking (at the heights mentioned), camping, and carrying a medium weight pack.

Usually we’ll give a trek an overall rating, but please check the individual days’ ratings (where available) for a more complete picture. Having said that, as treks often vary their route and pace, depending in part on the group's abilities and desires – these day by day ratings are a little difficult to pin down – as we said, an inexact art! But as indications they’re useful.

For further info on specific treks please go to:

 



of land, high grassland plateau, snow-capped 7000m+ mountains, the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween & Brahmaputra rivers, rice terraces & tropical rain forests. Some of the most spectacular roads in the world - and the freedom to travel them. A lot of territory and even more diversity, the only effective way to take it all in is in the back (or front) of a 4WD. In the routes below we have tried to strike a balance between landscapes and cultures to maximise the variety and depth of your experience, given the time available.and these trips are designed to cover broad swathes of landscape and to either capture as much variety as possible or to use the wheels to go deeper into a particular region than is possible by any other method.

The 4WD overland trips vary in both pace and difficulty of the roads. In general the trails are designed specifically to allow ample time to get out and wander around at will, and in many ways this is rather the point. Indeed some trails (e.g. Trade Routes to Tibet I) heavily emphasize this - comprising mostly half-day’s driving time with the rest of the day specifically allocated to time spent in a particular village, monastery, etc. On the other hand, some (e.g. Four Rivers. Six Ranges – The Horse Festivals) use the 4WDs in part to get to particular events, though of course a lot of thought is put into the ground we cover en-route. And some (e.g. Four Rivers, Six Ranges - ? or - riding the Frontier, conform more to the traditional notion of a “road trip”, covering large distances to gain broad overviews of a region and are based on a majority of full-day’s driving (though of course still with ample stopping time).

The difficulty of the roads varies between trips, during trips, and of course between seasons. Suffice it to say all of these trails at some point absolutely require a 4WD and most of our behind-the-scenes work over the years has gone into finding the right jeep and what we think is fair to say, some of the very best drivers in the region (see The company the people the gear). Also in a region where roads can go up and down depending on the weather and (though to a lesser extent) political conditions, we obviously schedule our trails so as to play the odds as far as possible in our favour. Thus if you take a look at the calendar, you’ll see that our scheduled trails tend to move north in the summer months to avoid the rains in the south, and not much at all is happening in the winter, as the snow closes down most of the passes. However it should be said that the roads in this part of the world are improving every year and it’s becoming more difficult to find, or easier to avoid, (depending on your point of view) the genuinely (gnarly) honest-to-God goat trails of yesteryear. But no worries, they still exist!

A final word to the wise before setting you loose, obviously in the best case scenario, the roads are clear, the jeeps have no problem, and everything goes just like clockwork! Although this does happen with surprising frequency, what also happens (with less surprising frequency!) is that obviously depending on the type of road, landslides cause delays and the jeeps need occasional repairs - best to expect and accept as all part of the experience! The delays are rarely long ones (ho,ho,ho) ……..