Shrouded in mist and myth, explorers have long sought to find the paradise rumoured to be hidden deep within the Snow Mountains of northwestern Yunnan in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Now, modern-day seekers can journey there to discover their own interpretation of paradise, with the new HYLANDIA by Shangri-La as their gateway to one of China’s most captivating regions.
Owned and operated by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, the 166-room hotel will open on 3 August in Shangri-La City with an introductory rate of RMB 850 plus tax and service charges. Located at an altitude of 3,260m (10,695ft), Hylandia will be the first international full-service hotel in the city, offering every convenience and comfort a traveller journeying to this remote land could want.
The hotel is a modern, high-altitude interpretation of the caravansaries once found along the Silk Road, with exotic courtyards, gardens, lounges and restaurants. Its architecture and design is an eclectic blend of Yunnan and Tibetan styles, featuring extensive use of local pine, limestone and other native organic materials. At Hylandia, hospitality has been re-imagined as a simpler elegance that complements the humbling beauty of the land and its people, who live in harmony with nature and each other.
Diqing is renowned for mystical snow-capped mountains, deep gorges, shimmering lakes and vast grasslands. It is the only Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Yunnan and is as equally rich in culture as it is in natural resources, with 13 distinct ethnic groups including Tibetan, Han, Naxi, Bai, Lisu and Yi living there. Diqing has long been a strategic passageway to Tibet and its capital, Shangri-La City, was a pivotal point on the Ancient Tea Horse Trail.
The majority of Hylandia’s staff are from Diqing, and as local ‘ambassadors’ their role is to help create unforgettable moments and memories for guest in a naturally hospitable and authentic fashion. They will personally guide some of Hylandia’s signature guest experiences as their responsibilities and job descriptions are more fluid, allowing for more interaction with guests.
Signature experiences range from cycling in the nearby 1,000-year-old Dukezong Old Town and then hiking to a local temple; to horseback riding and picnicking in the Pudacuo National Park; to making black pottery in an artisan’s workshop in Nixi black pottery village, where the craft has been handed down for generations.
“Travellers are searching for unique and individual experiences, for something beyond the ordinary,” said Shangri-La President and CEO Greg Dogan. “Diqing is an incredible and special destination. We saw a natural opportunity to move beyond the traditional description of hospitality and create a guest experience at Hylandia that is truly immersive and genuine.”
From Hylandia’s architecture, to the way it is staffed and operated, the hotel is designed as a window through which guests can learn and ultimately experience everything that Diqing has to offer. The hotel was envisioned to be more like a cluster of pavilions, courtyards and gardens instead of a traditional hotel, with paths and plazas for guests to explore and discover.
The Hylandia experience begins the moment guests arrive at the airport, where the airport greeter and driver offers them a Kata (white scarf), a Tibetan custom that symbolizes well wishes and welcome.
The hotel is located in the centre of Shangri-La City, just a 10-minute drive from the airport. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a bellman in a handsome Khampa uniform and escorted along colonnades, past a tranquil water pond dotted with copper lotus flowers and into a double-height lobby vestibule. The play of light from the skylight above a second interior water feature dazzles, creating positive and negative space as light dances through etched ceiling panels and decorative pillars framing the main lobby ahead.
On the right is the Wisdom Room, a library where guests can enjoy complimentary buttermilk tea and mountain walnuts dipped in local organic honey while they are being checked into the hotel. The salon has both the exoticism of a lamasery and the inviting feel of a private library, with coffee table and reference books and games to play.
Flanking the lobby vestibule on the opposite side is the Aroma Room, where an assortment of teas are served, including the famous Yunnan black tea once traded on the Ancient Tea Horse Trail. It is a cozy salon, with a cast bronze fire pit in the centre lit by layered butter oil lamps that shimmer under a hand-hammered copper hood. The room is anchored by a tea table with a giant stone tray on top that sits against decorative wooden doors from Nepal. The doors are carved with the eight auspicious symbols said to bring happiness and harmony, and the lobby’s timber floors are invitingly dressed with woven carpets made by Indian craftsmen.
Hylandia’s 166 guestrooms have all the trappings of modern convenience and comfort – free Wi-Fi, pillow menu, tea brewer, etc. – and the design borrows elements from regions along the Great Silk Road. Rooms are decorated in warm blues, greens, reds and ochres and ornamented with elements such as turquoise, coral and lacquer. In particular, the rooms celebrate woven works as weaving is one of the main means of expression and craft in Yunnan.
The main lobby lounge, Lodger’s Lounge, is spacious and open, aglow with candles and butter oil lamps. Welcoming drinks are served all day to in-house guests, who can relax as they overlook the hotel’s inner courtyard garden and eye-catching “Fountain of Life” water feature dotted with lotus.
From the hotel’s Rooftop Garden, the Snow Mountains glisten in the distance and the city unfolds beneath. At twilight, guests can gather around fire pit in the main garden to enjoy the warmth and stargaze through a telescope. The Roof Garden also has a separate area with a barbecue pit seating 8 located next to the Chef’s Garden. A traditional nomadic Tibetan tent is anchored to the roof and can be reserved for private dinners.
The hotel’s restaurants include Ani’s Kitchen, which is the only restaurant of its kind in Shangri-La City. It serves a wide variety of cuisines – from Chinese to International – at sleek buffet stations. Designed to cater to local residents as well as guests, Ani’s Kitchen has a casual, welcoming ambiance. Contemporary furniture is artfully mixed with rustic elements such as timber panelling and locally hand-painted Tibetan chests. Guests’ photos and nature sketches will be displayed on one of the restaurant’s walls.
Hylandia’s Hotspot restaurant serves authentic Yunnan and Sichuan specialties and hotpot for lunch and dinner. Inspired by Tibetan architecture, it incorporates a large stone walled fireplace and other textural elements associated with the province into its modern design. Each guest enjoys his or her own hot pot with individual induction plates built into the table tops. There is a “Market Place” where guests can select from a variety of local and imported meat then sliced to order, as well as poultry, vegetable and seafood options. There is a semi-open Yakitori style grill and condiment bar, where a chef creates house and signature hotpot sauces.
Hylandia offers a variety of roof spaces and ground level terraces for guest and community functions, some shaded by verandas. One of the largest expanses is called Little Moon & Sun Square, which is located outside of Ani’s Kitchen. (Shangri-La means “sun and moon in one’s heart” in Tibetan.) The public square has a Tibetan pavilion with an eternally lit Tibetan drum flanked by copper prayer wheels.
The hotel also has the city’s largest ballroom as well as four other meeting rooms. A stunning Winter Garden enclosed in Plexiglas can be used as a pre-function area year-round. Rounding out the hotel’s full-service facilities are the city’s only indoor pool and fully equipped gym with men and women’s Jacuzzis and changing rooms.
Debuting on 3 August, Hylandia by Shangri-La is Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’ 92nd property. With its opening, the group will operate 45 hotels in mainland China in 34 destinations.
Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (www.shangri-la.com), one of the world’s premier hotel companies, currently owns and/or manages 92 hotels under the Shangri-La brand with a room inventory of over 38,000. Over four decades the group has established its brand hallmark of ‘hospitality from the heart.’ The group has a substantial development pipeline with upcoming projects in mainland China, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Philippines, Qatar and Sri Lanka.