At the foot of the Haba Snow Mountains, the White Water Terraces (Baishuitai) is an otherworldly landscape of crystallized limestone terraces. One of the most popular day trips from Shangri-La, the scenic White Water Terraces is also an important cultural site, as it's the birthplace of the Dongba culture of the Naxi minority group.
Carved into the side of a mountain at about 7,808 feet (2,380 meters), the terraces cover an area of around 741 acres (300 hectares). They were formed by the deposit of calcium carbonate from springwater over hundreds of thousands of years. Visitors come for the beautiful and unusual landscape, which is particularly stunning in the sunlight. Artificial terraces have been added in recent years, but you can still find the natural terraces at the top.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning views.
- Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes to walk over uneven surfaces.
- Visitors should be reasonably fit to climb several hundred steps to the very top of the terrace; horses are available to take visitors part of the way for a fee.
- There are restaurants down the hill from White Water Terraces, and bed-and-breakfasts in Baidi village.
How to Get There
The White Water Terraces are located about 64 miles (103 kilometers) southeast of Shangri-La. Buses run from Shangri-La twice daily and take three to four hours to reach White Water Terraces. A bus ride from Tiger Leaping Gorge also takes three to four hours. Taxis are also available, but will be significantly more expensive than the bus.
When to Get There
The White Water Terraces can be visited year-round. Most visitors spend at least two hours here. The weather is the most pleasant in the spring and fall. Summer is the rainy season, and the roads may become impassable due to landslides and falling rocks.
Founding of Dongba Culture
Legend has it that the founder of the Dongba religion was fascinated by the unusual scenery of the White Water Terraces on his way back from Tibet, and decided to settle here to preach Buddhist sutras. Every year, on the eighth day of the second lunar month, the Naxi tribe gather here to sing and dance, and to celebrate the founding of the Dongba culture.