What images come to mind when you think of Yunnan? China above clouds, charming ancient towns & remote villages or sublime landscapes stretching to the asure sky? For in the know travers, Yunnan has so many more things to see and explore. Destination experts of Yunnan Discovery list top 18 things to do in Yunnan. Therefore, whether you’re planning a family trip to Yunnan with kids, looking for intrepid adventures or photo expedition in Yunnan, there’s something for you.
Lijiang Old Town – Discover a UNESCO World Heritage and More
For devotees of history, the Lijiang Old Town is more than 800 years old with Yunnan’s Forbidden City (Mufu Mansion) and chaces of Chinese tusi (native chieftain) system. For Chinese culture aficionados, here you can find a wealth of cultural heritages, sites of Dongba culture and Naxi cultural traditions. And if you are nature lovers, Lijiang’s natural beauty will take your breath away.
Stone Forest – Get Inspired by Natural Wonder of Karst Formation (UNESCO)
What does the earth look like 270 million years ago? Go visit Stone Forest (Shilin) in Kunming, with the essence, the earliest and most diverse formations of World Karst Landform. Enjoy a trip in the stone forest to wonder at pinnacle peaks, stone pagodas, natural bridges, wateralls…
>> Take a 9 days highlights of Yunnan tour to see Stone Forest and Lijiang
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain – Marvel at Yunna’s Holy Snow Moutnain
One of the must-visit attractions in Lijiang, Yunnan, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain has 13 snow-capped peaks like silver dragons flyig on air. When asending the mountain from the bottom to top by car and cable ride, you will experience a diversity of weather and landscapes, from meadows, valleys, lakes, virgin forests to glaciers. The Impression Lijiang Show on JDSM is a highlight, with beautiful music and dance, and paying homage to Naxi culture, history of Yunnan and the great nature.
Tiger Leaping Gorge – Hike on one of World’s Most Stunning Gorges
Few people can capture the real beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge with photos. You have to check it out in person and then you will understand why it is one of the most beautiful grand canyons in the world and how difficult for the ancient tea & horse caravans to trade in Yunnan. Walk on winding mountain roads, through the jungles, waterfalls, rivers, primitive villages… and experience the authenticity of Yunnan, China
.>> Highly recommended 10 days Yunnan Hiking Tour including Tiger Leaping Gorge
Yuanyang Rice Terraces – Walk amidst the Endless Colorful Terraced Fields (UNESCO)
The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in Yuanyang is a cultural landscape and an agriculture masterpiece created from the mountain slops to the river banks by local Hani people for generations. Known as the “the most amazing sculpture carved from the earth”, Yuanyang Rice Terrace is one of the best places in China for photography.
>> Highly recommended 5 days Jianshui & Yuanyang Rice Terraces Photography Tour
Dali Ancient Town – Experience an Idyllic Life with Beautiful Countryside
Embraced by Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, the Old Town of Dali is one of the most beautiful ancient towns in China. Inside the old town, there are classical Bai architectures to see, busy shopping streets with souvenirs to buy, various street foods and specialty dishes to taste, as well as stylish cafes and pubs for leisure. If getting off the old town, let yourself to fit in the laid-back rural lifestyle.
Shaxi Ancient Town – Travel back in time to visit a City on Ancient Tea Horse Road
The old town of Shaxi is like a treasure house, not because of jewels or classics, but for its ancient architectures, cobbled alleys and the lifestyle from a long-gone era. Stay in Shaxi for days to discover relics on Sideng Street, enjoy sunshine under big ancient trees, meet and chat people, and find peace of mind under a starry sky.
Erhai Lake – Take a Cruise with Islet Excursion or Enjoy a Bike Ride
To enjoy the natural beauty of Dali, you have to get close to Erhai Lake, a pearl on the highlands of Southwest China and with many little fishing villages on the banks. Shuanglang Fishing Village is one of the pretties. Boat cruise and biking are considered the best ways to explore Erhai Lake, and allow much relaxation, sightseeing and real life experience.
Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple – Marvel at China’s Buddhist Architecture Gems
A must-visit attraction in Dali, Yunnan, the Chongsheng Temple and Three Pagodas have been standing for over 1000 years and become a local landmark. The architectures themselves are remarkable, while the collections inside them are treasures of ancient Dali Kingdom and Chinese Buddhist culture.
Cangshan Mountain – Enjoy Cable Car Ride and Hiking (UNESCO Global Geopark)
The majestic mountain range of Cangshan consists of 19 peaks, with altitude between 3500m and 4122m, and can be reached by three cable cars. The everlasting snow on the top of Cangshan Mountain is one of the “four wonders” of Dali. If planning a trip to Cangshan Mountain, you’re suggested to hike on the Jade Belt Road to be embraced by lush vegetation and various flowers (during the season of bloom). For tea lovers, there is a vast tea plantation on Cangshan Mountain, where you can savor local teas, and even pick tea leaves and make tea.
Dongchuan Red Land – Have a Photo Tour through China’s Reddest Land
A photographers’ paradise, Dongchuan Red Land features brightly beautiful colors including red, green, yellow, white, orange… filtering down onto the pieces of fields. September to February is the best time for Dongchuan Red Land photography.
>> Take 8 days NE Yunnan photo tour to Dongchuan and other unusual photography destinations
Black Dragon Pool – Catch JDSM Reflected on Water
Located at the foot of Xiangshan Mountain, it is an artificial park built in 1727 and an accomplishment of Ancient Chinese landscape art. What to see inside Black Dragon Pool include the arch bridge, pavilions and the beautiful Jade Dragon Snow Mountain reflected in water between blue sky and green trees. Besides, there is a Dongba Museum to learn Lijiang Naxi people’s history and culture.
Lugu Lake – Live in a Matriarchal Society and a Fairyland
The primitive Mosuo tribes of Lugu Lake is gradually civilized, nevertheless, many of their traditions and secret customs are kept. The lake itself is utterly gorgeous with clear blue water and quint islets embraced by lush mountains. To travel around Lugu Lake, you can take a boat, ride a bike or horse, or rent a car for lake-round visit.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery – Explore the “Mini Patala Palace” in Yunnan
A must-visit attraction in Shangri-La, the grand architecture of Sumtseling Monastery looks like a Tibetan style castle and is a significant contrast against the pristine surroundings. There are numerous historical Buddhist treasures collected in the monastery, including Buddha statues, Buddhist classics, tangka, golden jewelry…
>> Highly recommended 7 Days Exclusive Lijiang & Shangri-La Discovery
Jianshui Old Town – Visit “Yunnan’s Museum of Ancient Architectures”
The more than 1200-year old Jianshui Ancient Town possesses 50+ historic architectures, among which the Zhu's Family Garden and Confucius Temple are the most remarkable. The Double Dragon Bridge, 5km west of the old town is also a must-visit sight. Jianshui is also a famous gastronomic city with a selection of thousand year-old historic dishes and snacks. Make sure JIanshui is on your itinerary if planning a food tour to Yunnan.
Shuhe Old Town – Trace the Origin of Lijiang
The earliest habitation of Lijiang Naxi people, Shuhe is the place to discover the primitive look of Lijiang and to research how its agricultural civilization transitioned to the commercial civilization – mostly because of the trading on Ancient Tea Horse Road.
Meili Snow Mountain – Set Food on One the World’s Most Beautiful Snow Mountains
In Deqin, Shangri-La, Meili Snow Mountain connects Yunnan with Tibet, and is the highest mountain in Yunnan and a holy mountain for local Tibetans. 13 peaks of Meili are above 6000m and still unconquered. The snow-capped peaks, cirque and glaciers are stunning and rarely seen.
>> Highly recommended 9 Days Shangri-La, Meili & Lijiang Adventure