One of China's most mysterious regions and diverse provinces, Yunnan has some of the world's best unknown travel destinations, as well as some popular tourist cities in China like Kunming and Lijiang.
Yunnan is both geographically and culturally diverse, and offers a lot to explore – natural wonders, charming ancient towns, UNESCO heritage sites, remote villages, subtropical forests, Ancient Tea & Horse Road sites, beautiful wildness... Most importantly, there are unspoiled nature and eco-system, and thousand-year-old cultures that haven't been modernized. For people living in the big cities, it is an original, uncontaminated land always in your dreams.
>> Recommended 9 days Kunming-Dali-Lijiang-Shangri-La Tour
Kunming – China's Spring City and Yunnan's Capital City
In southwest China, Kunming is never as important as Beijing or Xian, or as prosperous as Shanghai or Hong Kong. In nowadays, it is a modern cultural city of delightful, laid-back atmosphere, and always reminds people of the comfortable spring sunshine and a green world full of flowers. So it is a heaven for both winter holidays and summer vacations.
A gateway city of Yunnan tours, Kunming is usually the first stop. From here, people make extension trips to nearby Dongchuan Red Land, idyllic Puzhehei, Luoping for endless fields of rape flowers and Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture (traces of Yuanmou People), or travel further to other destinations in Yunnan.
Kunming cuisine is part of Yunnan cuisine, with a wide variety of dishes and snacks. It is definitely worthwhile to take a Yunnan food tour to Kunming.
Top attractions in Kunming include: Stone Forest, Dianchi Lake, Green Lake Park, West Hill, Yuantong Temple, flower markets, Jinma Biji Historic Site
Lijiang – the Best-preserved Ancient Town in China
China Lijiang is now a trending research for world travelers, and a must-visit place in Yunnan and China, providing your interest lies in minority culture and old towns. A UNESCO Cultural and Natural World Heritage site, the beauty of Lijiang consists in its breathtaking surrounding, with Himalayan as its horizon, crystal blue-sky above the town, and rivers and lakes embracing all around.
A center of Naxi people, Lijiang Ancient Town is the place where the complete Dongba Culture has been handed down through a thousand years. Visitors should not miss experiencing the local ethnic customs and activities.
Top attractions in Lijiang include: the Old Town of Lijiang, Black Dragon Pond Park, Baisha Ancient Town, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Mufu Mansion, Yufeng Temple, Lashi Lake, Blue Moon Valley
Lugu Lake Lijiang – "Kingdom of Female in Orient"
Bordering Sichuan, Lugu Lake is Yunnan Province's highest lake in elevation (at 2690.75m). Here Mosuo people, Mongolian people, Yi people, Pumi people and other three ethnic people live together harmoniously. The Mosuo people still retain the matriarchy family form – mother is the authority of family, and women have a high status in society.
The unique "Ah Xia" marriage, primitive folk customs, beautiful natural scenery will make you forget the outside world.
>> Recommended 6 days Lijiang & Lugu Lake Tour with Tiger Leaping Gorge
Dali – a Romantic Ancient Town, Ideal for Relaxation and Honeymoon Tour
Dali is a cultural cradle of Yunnan. Bai ethnic people have been living here since the 4th century. In 1382, the old town of Dali was built. And 500 years ago, it became the economic, political and cultural center of Yunnan. Therefore a wealth of cultural and historical sites can be discovered in Dali, let alone the well-kept old town itself.
In nowadays, Dali Old Town is an intriguing place, where locals live in a simple, slow-paced life, far away for world. People from big cities come all the way here to seek for tranquility and peace, while at the same time the ambitions and desires gradually fade away.
About 2 hours' drive from Dali, the 2400-year-old Shaxi Ancient Town is even more authentic, with almost all primitive structures. The Shaxi Sideng Street was a busy market on Ancient Tea Horse Road. From here the caravans traveled to Southeast Asian countries and India.
Top attractions in Dali include: the Ancient Town of Dali, Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountain, Chongsheng Three Pagodas, Xizhou Town, Zhoucheng Village, Shuanglang Fishing Village, Nanzhao Amorous Island
Tiger Leaping Gorge – One of the Deepest Valleys and One of the Best Treks in the World
It is 96 kilometers from Shangri-La and 80 kilometers from Lijiang.
Being precipitous and magnificent, Tiger Leaping Gorge cuts through the crack of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, with the highest peak of 5596m. Due to the collapse of the fault of the mountain, countless stone beams have fallen down, forming jagged rocks and dangerous shoals in the river, as well as a constellation of waterfalls.
Hiking on Tiger Leaping Gorge of extremely narrow or pretty bumpy paths, can be very difficult and challengeable, but the returns will be huge. You will see the sunlight flitter through the snow-covered peaks and cliffs, and the roaring Jinsha River down 3900m (the vertical elevation difference), looking like a giant dragon.
Shangri-La – A Pure, Mystical Land, Inspiring James Hilton to Write Lost Horizon
Located in Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Northwest Yunnan, Shangri-La is 3280 meters above sea level and one of the best places to visit in Yunnan, China. It is home to world's most spectacular and rarest modern glaciers. The 6,740-meters-high Kawagarbo ranks first among the nine sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism and still a virgin peak that hasn't been conquered by human being.
Surrounded by snow mountains are meadows, valleys and haizi (lakes), local Tibetan people live in perfect harmony with nature. They are very simple, friendly, always with a charming smile on face. The holy monasteries standing still, despite the baptism of centuries of years, guard the dream land of Shangri-La, and silently watch.
Top attractions in Shangri-La include: Gandan Sumtseling Monastery (the lesser Potala Palace), Dukezong Ancient Town, White-Water Terraces (Baishuitai), Shika Snow Mountains, Nixi Tangdui Black Pottery Village, Shangri-La Zhongxin Town Church, Lanyue Mountain Valley
Deqin & Meili Snow Mountain (Kawa Karpo)
Travel from Shangri-La to Deqin (5 hours' drive, Deqin is neighboring Tibet), a blessed land with natural reserve. Explore Meili Snow Mountain (Kawa Karpo), Yubeng Village (and the sacred waterfall), Cizhong Church, and more holy sites, amazing snow mountains, remarkable hiking trails and old folklores in hidden villages. For most travelers, you can also experience "a taste of Tibet" in Deqin (at 3400m), without suffering from severe altitude sickness.
>> Recommended 9 days Shangri-La, Meili & Lijiang Adventure
Yuanyang Rice Terraces – One of the Most Spectacular Terraced Fields on Earth
In South Yunnan, the rice terraces in Yuanyang are not all about the harvest. It is also the excellent example of artificial wetland, and creates superior visual enjoyment.The Hani people of Honghe Prefecture have tilled this land for over 1300 years. At the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee, Yuanyang Rice Terraces, together with the terraced fields in Honghe, Jinping and Lvchun was listed as a UNESCO world heritage.
The 125-sq-km Yuanyang Rice Terrace is a heaven for photographers and painters. The artists are so obsessed with the sunlight and shade when the sun rises and sets. Apart from the terraced fields, the local Hani villages, dotted with "mushroom houses", are also worth a visit.
Jianshui Ancient Town – Pack with Ancient Buildings, Temples, Bridge
sIn South Yunnan, Jianshui is an enticing old town with a history of around 1200 years. Here Hani, Yi, Miao and other ethnic people live together in a harmonious way, and create colorful minority cultures and customs. Today, there are more than 50 well-kept ancient architectures in Jianshui, making it the "museum of ancient architecture" and "museum of folk houses".
Jianshui Ancient Town is 3 hours' drive from Yuanyang Rice Terrace. So these two destinations are often combined together in a South Yunnan tour.
The must-visit sights in Jianshui include: Zhu's Family Garden, Zhang's Family Garden, Double Dragon Bridge, Confucius' Temple (the best of Yunnan), Chaoyang Tower
>> Recommended 5 days Yuanyang & Jianshui Photo Tour
Xishuangbanna (Jinghong) – Sunshine, Tropical Forests & Colorful Dai Culture
Located In Southwest Yunnan - Myanmar and Laos borders, Banna (short of Xishuangbanna) is "a magical and promised land" and known as a "mini Thailand" in China. Local Dai people have been living here since the ancient age and created a brilliant culture, with Dai calendar, Dai language, Dai bamboo dwellings, Dai music, Dai dance style, and numerous Dai classics. The annual water-splashing festival is held on April 13-15 and praised as the "Oriental carnival".
Banna has China's only tropical forest nature reserve, which is home to many rare birds, animals, such as Asian elephants, hornbills, black crested gibbon, and a wealth of endemic plants, therefore a paradise for both tourists and science researchers.
Top attractions in Xishuangbanna include: Tropical Nature reserve, Gajah Liar Valley, Manting Park, Jinuo Mountain, Mengle Dafo Temple
>> Recommended 15 Days Yunnan Tour including Xishuangbanna and tea culture experience