Amandayan’s setting – Jade Dragon Snow Mountain – is the stuff of legend. We reckon the hotel is set to be the same, thanks to its serene spa, romantic rooms and elegant restaurant, which delivers an edible education in Nahki culture (expect steaming hotpots a-go-go). Immerse yourself in your heritage-rich setting: take tea in the Tea House (the cocktails are pretty reviving, too); try cupping or a warm-bamboo massage; learn tai chi or calligraphy; watch a guzheng performance in the Lounge. There’s even a carefully preserved palace...
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. You can check out before 6pm for an extra cost (50 per cent of one night). Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £525.66 (CNY4,715), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (pick from Continental, American and à la carte). Little Smiths aged between 12 and six are charged around £17 daily for breakfast (free for under-6s).
How many hotels have a carefully preserved palace? This one does: Wenchang Palace occupies a traditional courtyard that dates back to 1725. If only we could all age this gracefully...
At the hotel
Grounds and gardens; a preserved palace set in an 18th-century courtyard; traditional teahouse; private cinema; library; Pilates studio; gym; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, desk, minibar, Amphora Aromatics bath products.
Our favourite rooms
If, like us, you’re a sucker for a mountain-spying terrace, opt for one of the top-floor Deluxe Suites (some survey the new town, some survey the Old Town; make your preference known when you book).
Had one too many dumplings? Notch up some laps in the spa’s tranquil 20-metre heated pool.
The Chinese have been acing wellness for more than 2,500 years; experience Tao healing rituals for yourself at Amandayan’s whisper-quiet spa, where nimble-knuckled masseuses wield warm bamboo like an extension of their own skilled limbs. Treatments include cupping, scrubs and rubs with Aman’s essential oils; we also like the sound of the herbal compress massage, which uses prai root, ginger, turmeric and lemongrass in its anti-inflammatory compresses.
Bring an appetite for mushrooms: Shangri-La’s forests are famed for their funghi. Try matsutake: a truffle-rivalling ’shroom that’s charged at exorbitant prices in Tokyo restaurants. In fact, just come equipped with your culinary curiosity: local delicacies include glacier ice-water fish, fried cream fans, ba ba buns and more...
Amandayan has a well-stocked trophy cabinet, having nabbed a couple of industry awards in China, including ‘Best New Resort’ and ‘Best Boutique Hotel’.
Little Smiths can come too, but don’t expect bells and whistles for them. (They’ll love the private cinema, though.) Man Yi Xuan restaurant has a tot-tailored menu, plus on-loan highchairs. A sofa bed can be added to rooms (free for under-12s).
Take a window seat with views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Be inspired by the locals: model indigo-blue, alizarin-red or jasmine-yellow accents. A hint of feather, bamboo or wood will also stand you in good stead...
Discover modern Chinese cuisine informed by Nahki influences at the serene, mountain-spying Man Yi Zuan, which has an elegant main room and four private-dining rooms. Don’t go home without trying a traditional hotpot, cooked with plenty of at-your-table theatrics: a simmering pot of rich, organic chicken stock is placed at the centre of your table, to be embellished with your choice of condiments and ingredients (Yunnan mushrooms, cured spare ribs or yak beef, perhaps). Breakfast and drinks are offered in the library’s Lounge area; Amandayan also has a traditional Tea House, serving tea (and cocktails), plus dim sum, sandwiches, cakes and pastries. If the weather’s in your favour, ask the hotel to pack you a picnic…
The Lounge bar occupies Amandayan’s peaceful library, so you can read up on Nahki folklore and traditions while you sip an Amantini: a zingy muddle of Belvedere, lemon bitters and dry vermouth.
Dinner and drinks are served at Man Yi Xuan until 10pm; enjoy snacks and tipples in the Tea House until 7pm.
Order in-room treats between 7am and 11pm. The all-day menu includes Western options – sandwiches, burgers, pasta, poached trout – alongside set Chinese dishes: soup, salads, rice and vegetable or meat mains.
Amandayan sits on a hilltop in Unesco-listed Lijiang, in the northwest of the Yunnan Province. The hotel overlooks the Old Town on one side, the new town on the other.
The closest airport is Lijiang Sanyi, 30 kilometres away (a 40-minute drive from the hotel). You’ll need to fly into Shanghai or Kunming first, then pick up a connecting flight. Hotel transfers are around £95 a car, for a single trip.
Lijiang Railway Station is a half-hour drive from the hotel, with services connecting to Kunming, Dali and Qujing; transfers can be arranged (around £53 a car, one way).
Lijiang is a five-minute drive away from the hotel; there’s a free on-site car park when you arrive.
Worth getting out of bed for
Try one of the hotel’s free yoga or Pilates sessions, held every day in the fitness centre. You can also request a private session, or be taught tai chi. Catch a flick at Amandayan’s cinema, which has a 42.5sq m screen and 32 bottom-pleasing leather seats. Each day at 4pm, there’s a film screening for all guests; you can also book the cinema exclusively for private showings. Stroll through the grounds and gardens, admiring the peaceful courtyards and their blooms, which include magnolia, crabapple, Japanese camellia and more. Learn to write the Dong-ba (local alphabet) with a calligraphy class at the hotel; watch a guzheng (zither) performance on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Immerse yourself in local culture with the help of a show: Impression Lijiang Ethnic Show is an outdoor performance of song and dance, staged by the famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou. Pick from a morning or afternoon show; Jade Snow Mountain provides a breathtaking backdrop to both. Similarly, Lijiang Qian Gu Qing Show is an entertaining celebration of Nahki culture; performances take place outside, on Yuxin West Road, in Yulong. Perfect your swing at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf at Ganhaizi. Read up on Nahki culture in Amandayan’s peaceful Lounge and tick off different brews in the Tea House. Explore Lijiang’s Unesco-listed Old Town, paying a visit to the Wangu Pavilion: a masterpiece of Qing Dynasty Architecture, decorated with more than 10,000 dragon carvings.
Try local hotpots, rice noodles, baba roti bread and more at Li Shui Hui on J-Life Street, Lijiang. LaMu’s House of Tibethas a menu that’s broader than its name suggests: tick off Tibetan classics as well as Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French and American dishes at its dining room on Jishan Lane in Lijiang. If you’re keen to sample the famous local mushrooms, pay a trip to Restaurant One, aka Yi Restaurant, which is tucked away on Renli Road, the quietest street in Shuhe Old Town.
I knew nothing about Lijiang before checking into the Amandayan.
I didn’t know that the crisp mountain breeze rolls through the meticulously preserved Old Town in the most pleasant way possible. I didn’t realize that the elevation makes even the most innocent Tsingtao feel like a late night out with friends. I didn’t realize that you’re a stone’s throw away from some of the most stunning natural gems of China (Tiger’s Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Mountain to name a couple).
And I definitely didn’t realize the loving and lasting memories made during my time at Amandayan would be the best souvenirs acquired during my Far East excursion.
But let’s talk details. My love language is definitely gifts. (Side note: If you know Mr Smith, kindly remind him of that for me.) I just love presents. I like giving them and receiving them. I met my match at Amandayan.
There were surprises at every turn. Boxes of homemade rice flour cakes on the first afternoon (delicious). That evening, I found an oxhorn comb that I could have sworn I was just eyeing in a shop in town earlier that day. The second night? A Buddhist prayer bracelet for meditation. Later I was greeted by green-tea almond cakes I now constantly crave.
Even the way they wrap the chargers into tight little wired balls felt like a special gift just for me. This gracious quality of gift-giving extended throughout the entire property. It’s in their DNA; an extension of their impeccable service. When I casually said that I adored the flower tea served at the spa, I left with 10 sachets.
There’s a gracefulness to the hotel, too. The staff make you feel like every interaction was curated just for you. They’re there when you need them but when you just want to sit and stare at the bright, blue sky – as I often found myself doing – there’s not a soul or sound around.
If you’re looking for a hotel with a young and lively vibe or a place to have a buzzy post-dinner cocktail, this isn’t your resort. Amandayan is secluded and quiet with a very discreet staff. Sometimes too discreet, but then again, I’m a bit of a wild American. However, once I’d settled into my surroundings, I took full advantage of the temple-like environment. It felt like my own private estate, with Richie Rich moments at every turn.
A highlight? The pool and spa are set in a courtyard tucked away from the main lobby building. After a few smoggy days in Beijing and Chengdu, sunny Lijiang felt like a tropical paradise. I jumped into my swimsuit and ran to relax pool-side.
‘Let me fix the bed for you and I’ll make the tea’ said May who worked at the spa. 12 words of absolute bliss: Let Me Fix The Bed For You And I’ll Make The Tea.
From your chair, you can see a dance of grey tiled roofs. The soundtrack is birdsong – most likely singing about how flapping happy they are to be flitting about this fabled eighth level of heaven, I imagined. I treated myself that afternoon at the pool, having a decadent lunch, an indulgent nap and finishing my day of ultimate relaxation with a heated bamboo massage. I couldn’t stop smiling like an idiot as I stumbled back to my room, drunk in love.
The maze-like Dayan Old Town – one of whose many entrances are within a stone’s throw from the hotel – plays a siren song of live music and local chants after dark. I resisted the temptation to explore the first night, but fell prey the second. I hiked down to the town to see candles floating on the small canals weaving through the town where people shopped and sipped and sang and danced. It was electric and fun. Returning to complete zen at Amandayan, however, made the experience of sneaking out after dark all the more enticing.
Reluctant to leave this little slice of paradise, I was delighted to learn that my flight to Beijing was delayed. I took the opportunity to walk the property in full – something I normally do when I arrive to any hotel, but I was so charmed by my room, that I didn’t explore much beyond it at the time.
There are so many pathways and public spaces. Make sure to walk down to the tiny pagoda that juts out over Old Town. The view was beautiful and I closed my eyes to listen to those final, straining notes of the Naxi women singing below. Further along, a small café and bar with a sunny patio begged me to stay for one final silly drink. What treasures to find right as I’m leaving. But all the more reason to return, I thought.