BLACK PRIMULAS AND PRAYER FLAGS
From luxuriant temperate forests where Giant Pandas feast on bamboo high alpine passes emerge covered in breathtaking displays of Primulas, Omphalogramma and Meconopsis, this was the hunting ground of Ernest Wilson, an indefatigable plant hunter who scoured western Sichuan for exciting flora in the early 1900s finding the wonderful red poppywort Meconopsis punicea growing alongside yellow and blue counterparts. In fact blue poppies are really rather common with at least six species including the graceful nodding lilac bells of Meconopsis quintuplinervia. On one magical pass we can find all three colours of poppywort and even a violet hybrid!
However, it was Wilson’s rival Frank Kingdom-Ward who first found the mysterious black primula, originally far to the west, but now rediscovered in Sichuan and we’ll see this extraordinary flower alongside the inflated pouches of Cypripedium tibeticum and Cypripedium calcicola. The stunning velvety blue Grandala, surely the most beautiful of all high mountain birds, joins ten marvellous Rosefinch species, Wallcreepers, White-tailed Rubythroats and Golden Bushchats. Chunky Himalayan Marmots pose amid electric-blue Corydalis curviflora, fantastic Corydalis benecincta, pale blue Paraquilegias, red-bracted Ajuga lupulina and more than sixty species of many-hued Pedicularis.
Around twenty-five species of Primulas include the bizarre spidery red-brown Primula tangutica and swathes of vivid orange Primula cockburniana. Deepest purple Iris chrysographes blooms in grasslands with drifts of egg-shaped Lilium lophophorum and deep pink Incarvillea mariei. Paeonia veitchii and tumbling cascades of citrus-scented Clematis tangutica inhabit atmospheric woodlands along with huge Lilium sargentiae and orange Lilium davidii. Later in the tour, as we reach our highest pass at an altitude of 4800 metres, we’ll find the sensational Chionocharis hookeri flowering right beside the road, the dense domes smothered in sky-blue flowers – a quintessential alpine. In the remote western town of Dege is an old Tibetan printing press that produces many of the numerous prayer flags we’ll see. We’ll visit lamaseries and enjoy the different styles of houses that decorate the tidy pastoral landscapes coloured by fields of Anemones, Ligularias and billowing purple and yellow Thalictrum delavayi.
Dates and Prices
26th June - 12th July 2025 (17 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
Please note; dates and prices are provisional and will be confirmed by August 2024
Flowers. Also Birds, Mammals, Landscapes and Culture.
The minimum is 5 and the maximum is 10.
All flights. All transport, meals and accommodation in China. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, the Chinese visa, tips, and items of a personal nature including travel insurance, are not included.
Hotels with en suite facilities throughout. Rooms at all are essentially generic and feature two beds, shower/WC, usually a kettle, and are comfortable if lacking in any real charm. On arrival in Chengdu we’ll have one night at the Wen Jun Hotel close to the old Taoist temple. The hotel at Danba and the Qu Eer Hotel in Dege are both very pleasant, the latter has a display of streaming prayer flags covering the large car park. The hotels in Ludou, Litang and Maniganga are more basic two-star establishments. These last two are in remote towns and have the lowest standard of accommodation on the tour, although rooms are still en suite.
Easy for the most part. Much of the flora is beside the road even on the high passes so we need only walk a couple of miles a day (that’s plenty at altitude), though one can easily do more. Some steep slopes and rough ground. We adjust gradually and carefully to altitude and you won’t sleep above 3000 metres until Day 7, and the altitude of passes crossed in the daytime will increase gradually to 4800m two-thirds of the way through the tour.
UK direct return flights are from London Heathrow to Chengdu. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
This tour is to a high mountain area so we can expect a variety of conditions from strong alpine sunshine to wind, rain or hail at times. For the entire tour we are above six thousand feet so temperatures are cool to warm, never excessively hot.
Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back to us. You will receive confirmation of your place, and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.