Travel with Wendy: 5 Days Winter Exploration of Yunnan with Family

It’s quite cold this December, colder than ever in recent 50 years in most areas of China, my family and I decided to spend a few days in a warmer place, finally we chose Yunnan as our destination.

Yunnan Province  is located in the southwest of China, with vast territory and rich in natural and cultural tourist resources, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shanri-la, Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Jianshui, Dongchuan Red Land, etc. It’s almost impossible to visit all of the highlights in Yunnan at one time, even for us Chinese travelers, it would take us quite a few holidays if we want to have a depth exploration of its beauty.

Kunming, Yuanyang and Jianshui map

Locations of Kunming, Yuanyang and Jianshui on the map of Yunnan province

It’s already been the 3rd time for me to visit Yunnan province, but it was actually my first time to visit the Kunming city.  I used to just have a quick stop in Kunming when visiting Yunnan years ago.

Dianchi Lake, as the biggest freshwater lake in Yunnan, is reputed as the Pearl of the Plateau. It is lying at the suburb of Kunming, around 1 hour’s drive from the downtown. If you want to have a panoramic view of Dian Lake, climb up to the magic Dragon Gate, West Hills. We’ve been very fortunate to see the numerous sea gulls at the beautiful lake. As the report said, there are around 40,000 sea gulls every year flying thousands of miles from the distant North Siberia and Europe to spend their winter in the water areas of the warm Kunming, like Dianchi Lake and Green Lake Park, etc.. If you come to Kunming in winter, especially in November and December, don’t miss the date with the lovely birds!

Dianchi Lake

Wendy at Dianchi Lake

Sea Gulls at Dianchi Lake

Numerous Sea Gulls at Dianchi Lake

Around 1 kilometer away from Dianchi Lake, you can get to Yunnan National Villages Museum. In China, Yunnan is the province with the most ethnic minorities where there are 26 ethnic groups in total, composed of the majority, Han people, and other 25 ethnic minorities. In order to present visitors the scenery of various ethnic groups in the shortest time, the local government built the national village, mainly showing the residences, costumes and customs of 25 ethnic minorities.

Yunnan Minority Villages Museum

Yunnan Minority Villages Museum

If you have enough time, you can pay a visit to the Stone Forest, 1.5 hours’ (85 km) away from Kunming. As a kind of rarely-seen karst landscape, it has attracted over 8 million visitors from all over the world each year.

When asked about the snacks in Yunnan, we will highly recommend Guoqiao Mixian (Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles) and Xianhua Bing (Flower Biscuit). Do not hesitate if you desire to try it!

After Kunming, we went to Jianshui, which is around 220 km from Kunming.  Wandering at Chaoyang Tower, Shuanglong Bridge, Wenmiao Temple & Zhu Family Garden, etc., you’ll witness what history has left to this ancient town.

Jianshui Ancient Town

Jianshui Ancient Town at Night

Jianshui Ancient Town

Jianshui Ancient Town

If you are a food lover, Jianshui Toufu shouldn’t be missed. The water used to make the delicious Jianshui tofu is not the tap water we usually have in our daily life, but from the ancient wells in Jianshui, among which the Banjing Old Well, 3 meters in diameter and built in the Ming Dynasty, is the most renowned.

You just need to pay RMB 5, you’ll have a chance to taste the mellow soybean milk and Toufu jelly at the Zeng’s Tofu Workshop which has been recorded in the hugely popular food documentary,A Bite of China, broadcast by CCTV. If interested, you can even learn from the locals how to make Tofu in the workshop.

Jianshui Roast Tofu

Jianshui Roast Tofu

Jianshui Banjing Old Well

650-year-old Jianshui Banjing Old Well

Jianshui Tofu Workshop

Jianshui Tofu Workshop – Workers are Making Tofu

Jianshui Tofu Workshop

Jianshui Tofu Workshop – large amount of Tofu

Keeping driving around 140 kilometers, we got to Yuanyang that is well-known for the Hani Rice Terraces. As the second largest ethnic minority in Yunnan province  and one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China, Hani owns a population of 1.63 million approximately according to the National Census conducted in 2010 in China.

Yuanyang Tourist Map

Tourist Map of Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces

The main platforms for viewing the rice terraces are Bada Scenic Area (mainly for sunset), Duoyishu Scenic Area (better for sunrise) & Laohuzui Scenic Area (the most magnificent attraction for viewing the sunset). A private car is quite necessary when visiting Yuanyang since each sightseeing platform is around 10-15 km from each other. Located not far away from the Tourist Arrival Center, Qingkou Folk-custom Village will show you the authentic rural life and find how the Hani people live their daily life.

Hani Children

Hani Children with their traditional customs

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces view in Mist

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces Covered by Water

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces view

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces in Winter

We totally spent 5 days on this trip. After the happy days, we got back home with satisfaction and the desire to explore more of Yunnan in the near future.

Goodbye Yunnan, we’ll see you next time!


If you are interested in more tours about Yunnan Province, you can head to our Yunnan Tours with different experiences. Feel free to select yours to explore the beauty of Yunan!

» 5 Days Kunming &Jianshui &Yuanyang Tour

» 6 Days Kunming, Dali & Lijiang Essence Tour

» 7 Days Yunnan Paradise Tour to Lijiang, Shangri-La & Lugu Lake

» 8 Days Classic Yunnan Tour

Want to know more about the experienced travel expert Wendy’s trip? You could just contact her directly or continue to read more about her travelogues.

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