Experience sublime mountain scenery and authentic Tibetan culture without the hassle of the extra permits you’d need to visit Tibet itself. Getting to this 300,000-acre slice of paradise in western Sichuan Province once required an arduous, many-day overland journey, but a new local airport (Daocheng Yading, the world’s highest at 14,470 feet) promises to cut the trip to just a two-hour drive or so when it opens this year (careful: you’ll need time to acclimate).
Target the second half of October to witness golden larch decorating the bases of three sacred, never-climbed 19,000-footers as you explore lakes and Buddhist monasteries on foot or by horseback. Camping is no longer allowed within the park, but base in Longlongba to dayhike to peak-framed, translucent-green Pearl Lake, then continue past Milk Lake (pictured) to tent up in Kasi outside the park.
Guide Backroads of China (from $900 for an 8-day tour; backroadsofchina.com)