One of the most scenic regions in China, the Yunnan Province provides the visitor with a stunning natural landscape, offering a contrast to the huge, vibrant metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai. As well as mountain ranges, glaciers, virgin forests, lakes, hot springs and valleys, visitors can also explore: the UNESCO World Heritage city of Lijiang; the dramatic mountain scenery and cobble-stoned streets of Dali; the tropical rainforests of Xishuangbanna; Tiger Leaping Gorge & the first bend of the Yangtze; Zhongdian, the mythical Shangri-La. With 25 ethnic minority tribes inhabiting the area, the Yunnan Province also offers the visitor a chance to discover a rich cultural heritage too.
As well as being the capital of the Yunnan Province, Kunming is also described as the “City of Eternal Spring”, due to its mild year round climate. Having traded with Tibet, Burma and India for nearly 2,500 years, Kunming is a fascinating city to explore.
The most popular attraction in Kunming lies 120kms to the city’s South-East. The Stone Forest is a massive collection of grey limestone pillars that have been eroded by wind and rain, over the millennia. With the tallest pillars reaching over 30m, this is a unique example of the power of Mother Nature.
Tang Dynasty Pagodas
Located 500m apart, sit two Tang Dynasty Pagodas called West Pagoda and East Pagoda. West Pagoda is the more interesting complex as locals gather in its compound to play mahjong and chat.
Yunnan Provincial Museum
The Yunnan Provincial Museum houses a vast array of Buddhist art, bronze artifacts and relics of ethnic minorities.
Built in 1999 for the World Horticultural Expo, the gardens are fascinating for their topiary and expo exhibits.
Located between a lake to the east and a mountain range to the west, the picturesque town of Dali allows the visitor to experience the China of old. Surrounded by Ming Dynasty city walls, cobbled streets and stone houses, the town centre, just 4 square kilometers in size, is perfectly designed for exploring at leisure.
Three Pagodas of Chongshen Temple
Occupying a scenic location at the foot of Mt. Cangshan and facing Erhai Lake, the Three Pagodas has a history of over 1,800 years. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas are made up of three ancient independent pagodas that form a symmetrical triangle, with the tallest one being over 70m high. As well as being embellished with fine marble figures and Buddhist ornaments, they were built to please the gods and gain protection from natural disasters.
Located immediately west of Dali, Mt Changshan’s highest summit Malong, is over 4000m high. However, the mountain includes another 18 peaks all over 3,500m high and it is noted for its very rich and diverse flora.
Erhai Lake, meaning sea shaped like an ear, is located 3kms outside of Dali. A tour of the lake includes visits to small temples, traditional villages and imperial summer retreats. Visitors can even watch the local cormorant fishermen training their birds to catch fish for them.
The Dali Museum is a small museum that showcases a collection of artifacts relating to the Bai Minority Tribe.
Once you’ve visited the Dali Musuem, you can compare the museum’s Bai artifacts with the real thing in Xizhou. This ancient town has very well preserved Bai architecture.
Zhonge Temple sits in the Cang Shan mountain range and has excellent views of Erhai Lake. A chairlift takes travellers to the top of Zhonge Shan.
Lijiang Old Town
With a stunning mountain backdrop, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Lijiang is home to wooden houses, narrow alley-ways and canals. Visit the old part of Lijiang, Dayan, and watch the local Naxi minority tribe congregate to play cards or explore the small workshops of the traditional craftsmen.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Also known as Yulong Snow Mountain, this area just outside of Lijiang is home to picturesque rivers, ethnic minority villages, pagodas and magnificent mountain ranges.
Long Quan Naxi Ethnic Village
The Long Quan Naxi Ethnic Village showcases the culture of the Naxi Minority Tribe, who have inhabited the Yunnan Province for many centuries.
Black Dragon Pool Park
Located just to the north of Lijiang, Black Dragon Pool is a famous pond located in the scenic Jade Spring Park. It was built in 1737 during the Qing Dynasty and offers a spectacular view on the region’s tallest mountain, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, over its white marble bridge. The park also features several smaller temples and pavilions.
Museum of Naxi Culture
The Museum of Naxi Culture highlights the benefits that the Naxi people have brought to the Lijiang area. The traditional Naxi religion combined elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Islam.
Mu Family Mansion
The Mu Family Mansion is the former abode of a Naxi Chief and has beautiful gardens that are popular to wander around.
Shangri La (Zhongdian)
Shangri La, also known as Zhongdian, is the closest travellers will get to Tibet, without actually going there. It is primarily a Tibetan town and is one of the most northern places in Yunnan. It is also well known for its mountain scenery.
Dukezong is a Tibetan town located near Shangri-La, which offers sanctuary to all those seeking refuge from the busy city life. Dukezong’s authentic Tibetan dwellings, gilded prayer halls and pagodas are the main attractions.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Named after a mythical tiger that escaped hunters by jumping across the gorge, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of China’s deepest gorges. With the peaks of the mountains averaging around 4,000 metres, the walk along the gorge is one of the most stunning in the world, passing through beautiful countryside and secluded villages that have been unchanged for centuries.
Xishuangbanna is an autonomous prefecture in southern Yunnan Province meaning “Twelve Thousand Rice Fields”. Xishuangbanna harbors much of the biodiversity of the Yunnan Province due to its tropical climate and its remoteness. In addition to an abundance of plants, Xishuangbanna is also home to the last few Asian elephants still in China.
Jinghong is the capital of Xishuangbanna but it feels more like a village in comparison to the majority of Chinese provincial capitals.
The Dai People
The Dai Minority Tribe number over 250,000 which make up around a third of the population of the Xishuangbanna prefecture. They are Hinayana Buddhists who are believed to have settled in this region for over 1000 years.
Tropical Flower Garden
The Tropical Flower & Plants Garden is one of Jinghong’s main attractions and features over 1000 different species of plant life.
Sanchahe Nature Reserve
Sanchahe Nature Preserve area is famous for its unique tropical virgin forest landscape and the large herds of wild Asia elephants.
Located 30kms from Jinghong, Mengyang’s main attraction is a, got to see it to believe it, elephant-shaped Banyan Tree.
Menghan, or Ganlanba, is a delightful little town with a Dai Minority Park, where travellers can spend the night in a villager’s house.