Yunnan is the most southwest region of China bordering the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. Yunnan encompasses 394,000 square kilometers (152,084 square miles) and has a population of more than 42 million people. Within these borders, Yunnan has a diverse topography that ranges from alpine mountain ranges to tropical rainforests and the greatest number of plant species in China (more than 18,000) as well as an incredible array of animals, including the Asian elephant and the protected Yunnan golden monkey. There is even a rainforest in the area known as Xishuangbanna where you will find many rare and endangered species of plants and animals.
Because of its mild climate, breathtaking beautiful scenery, colorful ethnic minorities, quaint towns, and rugged mountains, Yunnan has become one of China’s top tourist destinations. When travel in Yunnan, all the tour routes are centered on Kunming, which is the transportation hub. After visiting the “Spring City” of Kunming and relaxing in Dali, you can venture into the heartland to see the region’s various ethnic minorities in their rural villages. The most popular Yunnan tour route is the north route which highlights all of the famous cities including Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La.
Kunming: Stone Forest, West Hill, Dragon Gate, Bamboo Temple
Dali: Daili Ancient Town, Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountain, Three Pagodas, Xizhou Village
Lijiang: Lijiang Ancient Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Black Dragon Pool Park, Lugu Lake, Tiger Leaping Gorge
Shangri-La: Bita Lake, Songzanlin Monastery, White Water Terraces, Meili Snow Mountain
This is Top9 Must-see Attractions:
Known in China as the City of Eternal Spring, Kunming is at an almost-tropical latitude but 2000 m (6600 ft) altitude which gives it a very temperate climate. The air is also quite clean compared to other Chinese cities, even though the traffic congested streets still emit more than their fair share of pollution. However temperate it may be, in winter it has been known to snow, so if visiting in December-February, pack warm. When it rains – it’s cold. In addition to its own charms it serves as a hub from which to explore Yunnan province. If you do not have a lot of patience with miscommunications then it’s best to have a translator. The city has a population of around 3 million, the prefecture near 6 million. Both are growing fairly rapidly; the prefecture is predicted to hit 10 million by 2010.
Another fascinating aspect of the city are the many different cultures and nationalities thriving here. Various cultural and religious activities are practiced by the people here and add to the vibrancy and color of Kunming city life. These different minority groups produce a wealth of cuisine and entertainment- inspirational to the weary China traveler.
Tourism is now one of the major incomes here. The recent 1999 Kunming International Horticulture Exposition gave the city a major face lift, making it an even more attractive spot to be based for travel in Yunnan.
2. Dali Ancient City
Dali Ancient Town is about 13km away from Xiaguan in Dali City and is one of Dali’s Three Ancients-ancient city, ancient pagoda and ancient steles. History of Dali can be dates back to 1382 during the Ming Dynasty and it has been listed among the top historic cities of China.
Unlike any other Chinese town, the traditional Bai ethnic folk houses give the town distinctive feel. The town’s layout was uniform, with five main streets from south to north and eight main streets from east to west, while marketplaces were neatly arranged within the town, which has remained unchanged to this date. Besides the Bai houses, the houses with gray-green roof tiles, peculiar workshops, temples, schools and churches with antique flavor are scattered. Traditional marble artworks, like pencil vases, striped screen, and a variety of woven handicrafts of fine straw are laid chockablock on both sides of the street to be appreciated and purchased. Its grand city wall, traditional Bai houses and marvelous scenery have been attracted many visitors.
3.Lijiang Old Town
The Old Town of Lijiang, also known as Dayan Town in Lijiangba, was included in the UNESCO world heritage list in 1997. It was first built in the Southern Song Dynasty and in 1253, Kublai (the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty) was stationed here on his march into the south. In Ming and Qing dynasties, it became much larger.
This ancient town is surrounded by the Lion Mountain in the west, and by Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the north. These mountains in the northwest shelter it from the cold wind. In the southeast, there are fertile fields. The city is favored with plentiful sunlight, an east wind and clear spring water flowing to each family.
The streets are paved with the local stone slabs, not getting muddy in the rainy season and being free of dust in the dry season. Many stone bridges and arches in the city were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Shangri-La is the “Eden in dream”. Since it first appeared in British novelist James Hilton’s Lost Horizon in the 1939, it has been associated with the mystique of a place which could not possibly exist here on Earth. In Tibetan,Shangri-La means the “sun and moon in heart”, an ideal home only found in heaven.There the lofty and continuous snowy mountains, endless grasslands, steep and grand gorges, azure lakes and the bucolic villages always leave a deep impression on visitors.
Located at point where Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan all meet, Shangri-La County is administered by Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. In the past, it was called Zhongdian or “Jiantang” in Tibetan. In ancient times, it together with Batang (in Tibet) and Litang (in Sichuan) was the fiefdom of the three sons of a Tibetan King. In 2002, Zhongdian changed its name to Shangri-La.
5. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The Jade Dragon Snow Mountains (玉龙雪山) are a small group of peaks close to the city of Lijiang. The nearest slope is only about 30 kilometers north of the Dayan Ancient City District, and the mountain can be clearly seen from the Black Dragon Pool next to the ancient district. The group of mountains is notable because they contain good hiking along Tiger Leaping Gorge, great scenic views, and a 15,000 foot mountain with a specially built stairway and path to make climbing to the summit easy. If you’d like to climb to the top of a high mountain, that might be one to try. There is no sliding on steep paths or climbing with your hands, the distance from the tram is short, and oxygen tanks can be rented for a little more than 4 dollars USD. But the view is excellent! The tallest peak called Shanzidou has only been climbed once by two Americans who say it is extremely dangerous. The Yangtze River runs through Tiger Leaping Gorge in the valley below. The mountains are a place to go to in Yunnan for fun in the snow in the winter and for hiking and enjoying the natural scenery the rest of the year.
6. Lugu Lake
Lugu Lake lies 200 kilometers (approximately 124 miles) from the center of Lijiang City, on the border between Ninglang County in Yunnan Province and Yanyuan County in Sichuan Province. It is like a beautiful pearl shining among the hills of the northwest plateau in Yunnan.
The lake is in the shape of a horse’s hoof – long from north to south, and narrower from east to west. The vista of the lake changes constantly throughout the day. The morning mist mixed with the light of the rising sun gives it an orange glow covered by mist. When the light of sun causes the hills to throw their shadows onto the water, the lake has a jade green color. The lake is calm and dark green in the evening when the sun sinks, and is peaceful when night comes. Gentle wind blows and water ripples.
On the lake there are five islands. They are different sizes and are like green boats floating on the water. Heiwawu Island, Liwubi Island, and Lige Island are most notable. Heiwawu Island is in the center and has a variety of birds living on it. The smallest is Nixi Island – an oblong rock covered with shrubs and moss. Besides the five islands, there are also three peninsulas and an island which is linked to a seawall on the shore by a path paved with small stones.
Xishuangbanna is a Dai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China. The climate is pleasant all of a year here. Due to its location near the ocean, it rains a lot and many forests grow here. It is the reason why Xishuangbanna has a reputation of “the Kingdom of Plants. In 1993, Xishuangbanna is regarded as an international biosphere protection area. On seeing the map of the world, the places that have the same latitude with Xishuangbanna are almost desert, and only Xishuangbanna is just like a beryl on the earth. It has a lot of minorities here, such as Dai minority, Ha ni minority, Wa minority, etc. Xishuangbanna borders on Laos and Burma.
8. Erhai Lake
Er Lake is an alpine fault lake in Yunnan province, China. Its name means “Ear-shaped Sea”, due to its shape as seen by locals and travellers. Er Lake was also known as Yeyuze or Kunming Lake in ancient times. A commonly-seen mistranslation is Erhai Lake.
Erhai is situated at 1,972 metres (6,470 ft) above sea level. In size, the North-South length of the lake is 40 kilometres (25 mi) and the East-West width is roughly 7–8 kilometres (4.3–5.0 mi). Its area is 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi), making it the second largest highland lake of China, after Dianchi Lake. Its circumference reaches 116 kilometres (72 mi), its average depth is of 11 metres (36 ft) and the total storage capacity of 2.5 billion cubic metres (2,000,000 acre·ft).
The lake is sandwiched between the Cangshan Mountains to the West and Dali City. It starts at Dengchuan at its northern extremity and finishes at Xiaguan city in the South, receiving water from the Miju and Mici Rivers (in the North), the Bolou River (in the East) and smallers streams from the Cangshan Mountains. Yangbi River is the lake’s outlet in the South and eventually flows into the Lancang River (Mekong River)
The lakeshore can be explored by hiking. Highlights include Erhai Lake Park and the Butterfly Springs on the Western bank. Islands on the lake – including Guanyin Ge, Jinsuo Island (金梭岛, “Golden Shuttle Island”), Nanzhao Folklore Island (南诏风情岛) and Xiaoputuo Island – are also available for visits.
9. Stone Forest
The Stone Forest lies about 80 miles to the southeast of Kunming. It has long been one of the most famous scenic spots in China (at least since the Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644 A.D.) A geological phenomenon, the Stone Forest was a vast expanse of sea during the Paleozoic era–some 270 million years ago. Later, the movement of tectonic plates altered the earth’s crust, causing the sea to recede and its limestone bottom to appear, thereby forming land. Due to the constant seeping of rain through the cracks in the limestone, some of the stone formation dissolved and the fissures broadened, producing a group of great sculptures of different shapes, all molded by nature.
In the midst of the forest, there is a huge rock screen on which two words–Stone Forest–are engraved in official script (in a calligraphic style typical of the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.-220 A.D.). Among the scenic sights is the “Sword Peak Pond” with jadeite-colored water so clear that one can see the bottom of the pond. Other astonishing sights include “Figure of Ashima,” “Shi Ba Xiang Song” (its name originating in the Chinese love story, “Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai”), and “Lotus Peak.”