Reviewed on 2 Apr 2021
Reviewed on 10 Jul 2019
With its rich cultural diversity and vivid landscape of mist-shrouded mountains and river-carved gorges, this southwestern province will delight curious travelers.
Experience China’s extraordinary cultural wealth in Yunnan, a province in the southwest that holds more than half of the country’s ethnic minorities. Villages nestled among rice-terraced valleys, sprawling grasslands and soaring mountain show a glimpse of Yunnan’s fascinating folk customs. Admire the rich tapestry of traditions in the ancient gateway to the Silk Road or relax in monastery-dotted townships. Challenging treks, cycling routes and lakeside trails make Yunnan an exciting place for adventurers.
Kunming, the provincial capital, is a long-standing hub in the region. Often regarded as the province’s cultural center, this laidback city was formerly the first port-of-call for merchants returning from Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. Stroll around the historic city center and relax by the tranquil ponds of traditional parks and gardens. Journey to the Stone Forest outside of the city to see fascinating limestone karst formations and caves or check out the architecture in Guandu Old Town. Go on a daytrip to An’ning for a soak in the thermal hotsprings.
Visit the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture to find the province’s hippie heartland. Nestled between the stunning Cangshan Mountain and the lake Erhai, the ancient walled city of Dali Old Town is perfect for a serene getaway. Learn about the local Bai people as you explore the lakeside communes. Check out the preserved Old Town in Lijiang, a small city wedged between pretty canals. This city is also a great starting point for the journey to Tiger Leaping Gorge, an awe-inspiring sight linked to exciting treks and scenic drives along the Lancang (Mekong) River.
Check out an ancient Tibetan monastery or go cycling through the verdant grasslands in Shangri-La, a place named for its mystical beauty. Continue the climbing up the mountain roads to the high-elevation village of Deqin and go trekking on the Meili Snow Mountain. If you prefer the tropical warmth, head to Jinghong and delve into the rainforest.
Yunnan is easy to reach by flying into Kunming Changshui International Airport or catching a train from south or central China. Buses and provincial trains are readily available throughout the province. Depending on your elevation, you can experience year-round tropical lushness or snow-laden winters. Wonder at China’s contrasting landscapes and breathtaking diversity in Yunnan.