How to Visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
If you’re in Lijiang, visiting the Jade Dragon Snow mountain is likely to be on your itinerary. Indeed, many tourists make their way to Lijiang specifically for this purpose. How do you go about visiting the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain? Let us guide you in making the most out of your trip!
Where is the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain?
Also called Mount Yulong, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is located in the Yunnan Province of China, more specifically in Yulong Naxi Autonomous County, Lijiang. At one end, it borders one side of the Jinsha River in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the most beautiful trekking routes in all of China. The mountain can be seen from Lijiang ancient town and makes for quite the picturesque scene.
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Why is the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain so popular?
The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is very easy to visit via a system of cable cars which take visitors to different parts of the mountain. The 13 peaks, home to several glaciers, are covered in snow all year round. Different altitudes give rise to changing landscapes with peaceful meadows giving way to snow-covered paths and glaciers.
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How can I get to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain?
If you’re based in Lijiang, getting to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is quite easy. You may choose to join an organised tour, but if you would like to visit the park independently, you need to take the no. 7 minivan departing from the Red Sun Square, right opposite the statue of Mao Zedong. We were charged 30 RMB (about €3.85) each for the minivan ride.
Coming from the mountain back to Lijiang involves doing the same thing. You can ask which van is headed back to Lijiang once you want to leave. The park is massive and we found the logistics rather difficult to understand, but we came across a minivan taking people back to town from the carpark, directly opposite “Impression Lijiang”.
What you need to know about visiting the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Understanding the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain can be a tad overwhelming because it’s just so large and there are so many unique areas one can freely visit within the park. There are three cable cars, taking people to different parts of the mountains with the longest ride, right up to Glacier Park, being the most expensive. This is where most people head to, seeing that it is the highest (and coldest) point of the mountain that can be accessed readily.
The first check-point which you will reach when approaching the mountain, is a ticket booth where you pay the entrance fee to the park. Our driver collected our money (130 RMB/ €16.50 each) and passports (DO NOT forget your passports!) and handled the fees himself whilst we stayed in the van. This is the official entrance to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
After driving us along the same road for a few more minutes, the driver dropped us off at the main building. Amongst the many restaurants and souvenir shops, you will find another ticket booth and this is the place to buy cable car tickets from. We got tickets to the Glacier Park for 180 RMB (€23) (2-way) plus a 20 RMB (€2.50) ticket for an obligatory bus which took us to the Glacier Park cable car terminal.
Tickets for the other cable cars cost 60 RMB (about €7.50) to the Yak Meadow and 55 RMB (about €7) to the Spruce Meadow. You may choose to visit any of these scenic areas without needing to visit the others.
Visiting Glacier Park in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
If you haven’t brought a thick jacket with you, you can rent one from the same building from where you got the cable car tickets from, for a cost of 50 RMB (about €6.50) and a deposit of 250 RMB (about €32). Basically, you hand over 300 RMB and you’re given 250RMB back once you return the jacket. The shop is well stocked with different sizes, some were even large enough to fit Nikki!
You will then be asked to join a queue for the bus. We read that the queues around the park might get really long, and that you might need to wait for hours at a time, however in our case, we got on the bus almost immediately. The bus ascends to the Glacier Park Cable Car terminal and, as it does, you will feel the air immediately getting colder.
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Once you arrive at the terminal, you will need to join another queue for the cable car. Again, we did not have to wait too long, so we were hoping that Glacier Park might be relatively empty, with some great photo opportunities, but…. wrong we were! The park was absolutely packed with people taking every kind of selfie imaginable! Well of course, with all the photo opportunities available, this was to be expected, but there were people queueing and pushing at every almost every part of fence of the viewing platform. I shudder to think what the park is like when the queues are hours long!
One temperature display showed 6°C, but we’re pretty sure that it was much colder than that, close to freezing probably. Many people seemed to be affected by the altitude, and the oxygen canisters seemed to be very handy at this point. If you haven’t brought any, you can buy some on the mountain but we noticed that they cost about five times as much as they did in Lijiang town.
Once you’ve gone round the viewing platform, you can walk up the many stairs all the way up to the highest point at 4680m. You need to be careful when doing this, as at that altitude it is more difficult than it seems. Half of the people attempting this turned back at one point or another.
Nikki turned around pretty quickly despite indulging in his canned oxygen continuously as though it were chocolate cake! I moved on, but had to turn around when I was almost at the top since I started to feel dizzy and surprisingly very hot and sweaty.
Fearing a fainting episode among the hordes of people climbing up (I had already fainted just a few days before on a Kunming train but luckily Nikki was there to help me that time), I felt that I had no choice but to make my way down. To be honest, climbing to the top seemed to be more about the challenge than about any spectacular views, so we don’t feel that we missed out too much by not making it to the very top.
After a few other photos and selfies, we decided to head back down to the terminal. This time, we waited about 30 minutes before we could get on a descending cable car.
Visiting Blue Moon Valley in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The entrance ticket to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains allows access to Blue Moon Valley. Once we got off the cable car, we immediately joined another bunch of people queued up underneath a Blue Moon Valley sign and got onto another bus which stopped us at yet another terminal. Here, people were buying tickets for an electric cart which would take them down to the Valley. Strangely enough, there were three llamas (maybe alpacas?) standing in a little field close by, observing everybody curiously.
We had actually passed by the valley with the bus and knew that it was pretty close, so we decided to walk back from where we came from by bus, and down a path leading to the valley. The walk was not longer than 10minutes, but nobody seemed to be aware that you could actually walk down.
The confusion and sheer amount of people at the Blue Moon Valley was annoying, to say the least. The banks of the river were filled with huge groups battling their way with selfie sticks, making it hard to see any of the (gorgeous) scenery behind the groups. Luckily we could enjoy some views and snap a couple of pictures ourselves after waking a few metres downstream; everybody else seemed to be collected right at the entrance.
As we walked along the river, the crowd started thinning out and we could enjoy the wonderful scenery of the Blue Moon Valley. The valley is known for its impossibly blue river originating from the snowy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, running across some very lush and fertile land. The river is divided by man-made waterfalls and pools, so it does not have a wild, natural vibe to it, but rather, looks quite manicured. Despite this, it is indeed quite stunning!
Many people seemed to be taking the electric carts back to the bus, but again, we decided to walk up. It was really not more than a 15-minute walk. We didn’t have to wait too long to get on a bus either, although this time we had no idea where we were going at all.
We really hoped that the bus would take us back to the ticket terminal, but it just stopped us at yet another point where a bunch of other people were waiting, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We just waited with them for the next 45 minutes, nodding to some of them every so often, until yet another bus picked us up. This in fact took us straight to the terminal from where we started, and from where we shared a car back to Lijiang.
Tips for visiting the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
• There’s no need to use electric cars/carts to get around. The routes along which such carts are used are very walkable.
• Take oxygen canisters with you. We bought a couple from Lijiang old town for around 18 RMB (about €2.50) each. Those at the mountain were selling for 100 RMB (around €13) each.
• Wear warm clothing in layers and take sunglasses – although it was very cold when we went up the mountain, the sun was burning fiercely!
• Sturdy shoes are a must! Trekking shoes are ideal.
• It is best to buy supplies in town. Although there were some stands selling chocolate and snacks, the items came at a premium!
• You can easily walk to the bus terminal if you’re staying in Lijiang old town (heading out of the north gate). Get on a van with people already on it. Many of the drivers will direct you to their own vans, but they won’t depart before they have attracted more passengers, and you will likely need to wait for quite a while before leaving.
• If you’re staying in Lijiang a while, try taking a look at the weather forecast in order to visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on a good day. We can’t imagine it being much fun in bad weather!
• Be sure to take your passport with you. You will not be allowed to buy your entrance ticket without it!
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The outdoor performance, including traditional songs and dance by local ethnic people selected from the villages around Lijiang, is held at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, just out of the main building, at pre-determined times. We heard great things about the show and would have loved to attend, but we felt that 190 RMB (about €24.50) was too steep for a 1-hour show, considering that visiting the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain had already stretched our budget pretty thin.
What you can expect out of a visit to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Despite the very natural beautiful scenery, on and around the mountain, we felt that the whole setup was very commercialised and there were far too many people around at one go. We were rudely pushed away from scenic spots several times, by people wanting to take selfies, we had to wait for very long to take our own pictures, because people just kept coming in front of our camera to take their own. Quite frankly, it all started feeling like one big circus after a while.
That’s not to say that we are sorry to have visited the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, but there’s no doubt that one visit was enough to last a lifetime!