Its name precedes its reputation, evoking the image of Oriental exoticism. But the city was actually renamed in 2001 from Zhongdian County after the fictional destination in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon described a Tibetan utopia much like this “earthly paradise”. In real life, the region marks the start of the Tibetan world, 3,200m high in northwestern Yunnan where you can be fully immersed in an intriguing blend of Tibetan and Han culture. Though it has a modern district, the real attractions lie at the edge of town where, in the old quarter, wooden houses and cobbled alleys that survived a devastating fire in 2014 have been joined by new ‘old’ buildings and lanes that imitate them. It’s also where Ganden Sumtseling, one of Yunnan’s most ancient and resplendent monasteries — and the largest in the province — is found; as well as the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge and Dukezong Ancient City.