Blue skies and bucolic serenity; sacred, snow-capped summits and gem-like lakes; wild rhododendron and spruce groves: this is a side of China most don’t expect. Far from the skyscrapers of Shanghai and the bustle of Beijing, there is a peaceful corner of Yunnan Province protected by the Himalaya, where breathtaking natural beauty meets a rich and soulful Tibetan culture. Banyan Tree Ringha is hidden within a village some 10,000 feet above sea level here, a collection of traditional farmhouses that embody the spirit and artistry of the area’s ethnic Tibetan roots.
In this high plateau region now known as Shangri-La—the name inspired by the harmonious Himalayan hideaway envisioned in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon—there are dramatic canyons, gorgeous river valleys, and historic monasteries to explore. But what brings the landscape to life is the people who inhabit it, local farmers and their families who warmly share their ancient ways of life with guests at Banyan Tree Ringha.
Tibetan architecture is something of a hallowed art form, a combination of time-tested design, local materials, and symbolism of color and craft. In an era when modern construction is the faster and sometimes cheaper choice, it is also an endangered art form. To create the authentic Tibetan farmhouses of Banyan Tree Ringha, the owners followed traditional architectural guidelines, using timber and other materials from farmhouses that date back more than 80 years. They also transplanted several original farmhouses in their entirety—and the names of the families that once lived in them are still posted beside the doorways.
Architecture is only one element of Tibetan culture that the lodge embodies. From the beautiful textiles and furnishings of the interiors to the delightful clay hot pot dinners served up by the lodge chef, to the traditional Tibetan clothing offered to guests who wish to participate in village festivities, a stay at Banyan Tree Ringha is a full and rewarding immersion in a part of the world synonymous with paradise.
Set off on a guided excursion offered exclusively to guests who book through National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. Participate in a typical Tibetan ritual at the White Stupa, and learn about local beliefs and sacred traditions like the water burial. Take in views of the beautiful Ringha Valley from atop a nearby mountain, and then stop in at a family farmhouse to visit with weavers and sample Tibetan snacks. End the outing at the Dao Bo Si, known locally as Five Wisdom Buddha, which many consider the origin of Buddhist history in this region.
When guests visit Banyan Tree Ringha they often cite the local village as a highlight of their stay. The lodge and its community are deeply intertwined, and their symbiosis makes for a richer guest experience. The majority of the lodge staff comes from the area, and villagers routinely open their homes to visitors, sharing tea and their age-old traditions.
The lodge in turn has worked to strengthen the local infrastructure by supporting the community school, building a health clinic, and organizing clean-ups at temples and along the river bank and landscaping public spaces. They also help in reforestation efforts, planting 300-400 trees every year.
Conde Nast Johansens, Luxury Spa Award, 2016 World Travel Awards, Winner, China's Leading Boutique Hotel, 2012, 2013, 2014
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