Yunnan is one of the most culturally diverse places in China, with the highest number of ethnic groups. About half of China’s ethnic minorities reside in Yunnan, and account for about 38% of the population of Yunnan. The Yunnan landscape is equally diverse, its geography peppered with mountain ranges, and swaths of water bodies.
With so many things to see and do in Yunnan, one might feel somewhat overwhelmed. But not to worry, we’re here to help!
The capital and largest city of Yunnan province is also most likely the first city you’ll visit. Equipped with an airport and railway station, this city would be your gateway to other places such as Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la
One of the most popular places around Kunming is the Stone Forest. Large protruding stone ‘trees’ cover the Stone Forest, giving visitors a sense of grandeur and mystery.
If you prefer the serenity of water, then Dian Lake would be the place to go. Also known as the Kunming Lake, this beautiful freshwater lake was the model for another ‘Kunming Lake’ in the Summer Palace in Beijing.
You can’t visit Yunnan without making a trip to the Yunnan Minority Village, a place where the traditions and culture of Yunnan ethic groups are celebrated.
Nearby Kunming lies the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, one of the most beautiful rice terraces in the world. In fact, the local community have been granted the title of ‘Skillful Sculptor’ by the Ming Dynasty emperor and the terraced fields have been officially recognised as a UNESCO site.
Jianshui Ancient Town is one of the more famous historic and cultural towns of Yunnan. Well known as a ‘museum of ancient buildings and residential houses’, this town retains the traditional style of the original town from the Ming Dynasty.
Dongchuan Red Earth is about 40km away from Kunming, and is a beautiful and unique sight to behold, even within Yunnan. The red earth and green pastures seem to be taken from a painting.
A city where new and old live in harmony. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Yunnan, there’s much to do and see here.
The Three Pagodas of Chongsheng compromise of one of the tallest pagodas in China’s history. Arranged in an equilateral triangle, this magnificent trio have withstood great disasters for over 1000 years.
Erhai Lake is a serene lake that adds to the pristine beauty of Dali. Created via an alpine fault, the lake rests 1972m above sea level. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the famous tradition of local fishermen catching fish with the help of trained cormorant birds!
If you appreciate architecture and aesthetics, then the ancient Xizhou Town is a place you must visit! With a rich and thriving place in the history of Yunnan, many buildings in Xizhou are beautifully crafted and are protected heritage sites.
Weather in Lijiang can swing widely through the year. Its high elevation and closer proximity to the equator brings about cold dry winters and warm wet summers. Nonetheless, Lijiang is still a place of incredible beauty, somewhere you’ll want to add into your travel list.
Perhaps the most famous place in Lijiang is the Lijiang Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site. An important historical centre of Lijiang, this ancient town comes alive every day with bustling crowds. There’s much to see, do and eat here in Lijiang Old Town.
The Lijiang Impressions show is probably one of the most amazing outdoor performances you’ll ever watch! Directed by Zhang Yimou and using the snow-capped Jade Snow Mountain as a backdrop, this singing and dancing performance features the traditions and lifestyle of local ethnic tribes in Yunnan.
The Yangtze River is about 6380km long, making it the longest river in Asia. In Lijang, the river makes its first 180 degrees bend, earning the place its name – First Bend of the Yangtze River. Many legends and historical milestones have taken place in this magnificent destination.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge one of the deepest and most breathtaking river canyons in the world. Situated between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Haba Snow Mountain, this gorge is named after the legend of a tiger which jumped across the river to escape its pursers.
The name Shangri-la invokes feelings of wonder, in no small part due to the descriptions of a novel by author James Hilton. While the real source of James Hilton’s Shangri-la might never be known, it’s no doubt that Yunnan’s Shangri-la possess great magnificence and beauty of its own.
An impressive Tibetan Buddhist monastery complex stands 3380m above sea level, and is said to be the most important monastery in Southwest China. The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is truly a sight to behold. Be sure not to get lost within!
Although it only compromises of 0.7% of China’s land area, the Potatso National Park is home to more than 20% of China’s plant species, and about 33% of its mammal and bird species.
If you’re feeling adventurous, go for a trek up the peak of Shika Snow Mountains. Located 4500m above sea level, you can take a cable car and reward yourself with a spectacular view from the mountain top after a short trek.
Venture deeper into Shangri-la and you will get to Cizhong Catholic Church, one of the most important Catholic Churches in Yunnan. The church has seen a violent past, with wars waged by people of opposing ideologies. Wine making has become a culture in the village, so don’t forget to get some local wine before you leave.
You may also visit Tacheng City, an important centre of trade in ancient Western China. Many products, especially tea, exchanged hands between the Chinese and Russians in this city. With lush open landscapes and beautiful architecture, Tacheng is a place to behold.
The large biodiversity and cultural diversity of Yunnan complements its exquisite landscape perfectly. Its allure lies in its harmonious blend of mystery and majesty.
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