Top 10 Things to Do in Yunnan

How do you think of Yunnan – the place south of the colorful clouds?

Have you ever dreamed to step into the paradise near to Tibet, Sichuan, Chongqing and Guizhou?

Here, I should say YUNNAN is a land of various ethnic groups, landscapes, natural beauty, creatures where one could taste the most aspects of our planet. According to Chinese culture, a perfect place should consist of both the waterscape and the mountain. And Yunnan is the place with superb mountains and rivers.

Below we carefully select the TOP 10 things to do in Yunnan. That means you’ll enter the hot destinations (you may know Kunming, Lijiang, Dali, Shangri-La before), visit the must-see travel highlights and do as the locals. Come with me now!

Top 1: The Heaven like Scenes – Lijiang Old Town

In a book “The Forgotten Kingdom” by a Russian named Peter Ku, “Lijiang is rarely known to the outside world. It is the ancient Naxi Kingdom in South China which is almost forgotten…” This is an ancient, picturesque land. This is a land everyone admires. This is the heaven like scene – Lijiang Old Town.

The ancient town of Lijiang has a history of over 800 years. It is well-known to the world because “each of the household is built by the stream and surrounded by willow trees.” Hence, it got the name the “Oriental Venice” and “Suzhou on the Plateau”. It is a fantastic place to appreciate the Naxi Culture with visits to Baisha Murals Painting in Baisha Village, Naxi Dongba Culture Museum and Yuhu Naxi Village.

Highly Recommended Lijiang City Tour: 4 Days Lijiang Natural & Cultural Tour

Lijiang Old Town

Top 2: Hike along the Deepest Gorge – Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is believed to be the deepest gorge in the world. It is also believed to the best gorge to hike. From the top of the gorge, you could look down the steeply angled (70-90 degrees) mountains sides to the rushing Jinsha River with 18 its 18 frothing rapids more than 200 meters (above 700 feet) below.

Actually, Tiger Leaping Gorge is divided into three sections – Upper, Middle and Lower Leaping Gorge. At the narrowest spot the river is only 30 meter wide. The recommended hiking route for 2 days is day 1 hike from Qiaotou to halfway Guesthouse, and on day 2 hike from Halfway Guesthouse to Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Top 3: First Wonder of the World – Stone Forest

Stone Forest, also called Shilin, located 90 km away from Kunming, has been the First Wonder of the World since the time of the Ming Dynasty. An old local saying goes “If you have visited Kunming without seeing the stone forest, you have wasted your time.” Truly, the Stone Forest is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan.

Walking through the Stone Forest, visitors marvel at the natural stone masterpieces and are bewitched by the intricate formations. The magnificent, strange and steep landscape creates countless labyrinthine vistas, including: Major Stone Forest, Minor Stone Forest and Naigu Stone Forest, all of which feature stones in various formations. Animals, plants, and even human figures can be found here. Some are elegant, some are rugged, and each is lifelike with its own distinguishing characteristics.

Highly Recommended Yunnan Stone Forest Tour: 3 Days Kunming Tour to Stone Forest & Jiuxiang Cave

Yunnan Stone Forest

Top 4: An Oil Painting – Dongchuan Red Land

Dongchuan, with 3-3.5 hours’ drive from Kunming, is a rural area in the northeast of Kunming. It is believed to hold the world’s most imposing red earth, even more magnificent than that in Rip De Janeiro, Brazil. It is the most massive red land with typical features of Yunnan Plateau. Photo genetic, breathtaking, wonderful are not big words to describe this land. Those strong colors of red, white, yellow, green, gold, and blue, remind people of Van Gough’s oil paintings. Now it is favored by backpackers, hikers and photographers.

Highly Recommended Dongchuan Red Land Tour: 4 Days Kunming & Dongchuan Red Land Photography Tour

Dongchuan Red Land

Top 5: Tibetan Buddhist Monastery – Songzanlin Monastery

Garden Sumtsaling Monastery, also known as Sungtseling and Guihua Si, is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery situated 5 km from Shangri-La at elevation of 3,380 meters. Built in 1679, the monastery is not only the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, but also the most important monastery in southwest China. Sometimes it is referred to as the Little Potala Palace.

Songzanlin Monastery

Top 6: The most Beautiful Rice Terrace – Yuanyang Rice Terrace

Located in Honghe Prefecture, about 6-7 hours’ drive from Kunming, Yuanyang is well known for its spectacular rice-paddy terracing.

The Hani and Yi, the creators of the monumental rice terraced mountains which have made Yuanyang famous, are the original inhabitants of these regions. Photographers and nature lovers flock in drovers to watch sunrises and sunsets turn the terraces into pools of gold, red and silver. The best time to visit here is from October to March during the winter season. But the other seasons are also breathtaking.

Highly Recommended Rice Terrace Tour: 5 Days Kunming, Jianshui & Yuanyang Rice Terrace Tour

Yuanyang Rice Terrace

Top 7: The Historic and Cultural City – Jianshui

The age-old history, splendid culture and glorious tradition have produced many historic sites in Jianshui. With more than 100 ancient temples, 50 ancient bridges and 56 state-protection cultural relics, Jianshui enjoys the fame “the Museum of Ancient Constructions”, which highlights the ancient Chinese culture and art.

The most visited attractions in Jianshui are Zhu Family Garden, Zhang Family Garden, Jianshiui Confucius Temple, The Chaoyang Gateway Arch and Shuanglong Bridge etc.

Zhu Family Garden

Top 8: The First National Park in China – Pudacuo National Park

Pudacuo National Park in Shanrgi-La is located in the center of “Three Parallel Rivers” world natural heritage area. This national park mainly consists of two parts – Bita Lake and Shudu Lake.

Shudu Lake is a famous pasture in every spring and summer, herds of yak and goat grazing beside the lake the shepherd’s shelters dots on the grassland. People can hear the sound of flute comes from afar. Staying beside the lake, you can deeply feel the quiet and leisurely life of high-land people.

Bitahai Lake, regarded as a pearl of the Plateau, is an intact natural attraction with outstanding landscapes. In the nature reserve the plants are flourishing and the lake water is crystal clear. In May every year an azalea forest on the lakeshore is in full blossom, stretching several kilometers.

Highly Recommended Shangri-La (Zhongdian) Tour: 4 Days Best Shangri-La Tour

Shudu Lake

Top 9: Symbol of Dali – Three Pagodas of Chongshengsi

The Three Pagodas, located between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, at the northwest of Dali Ancient Town. In fact, Chongshengsi was the largest monastery in this area and the Three Pagodas were only a part of it. Now, the monastery has long disappeared and only the Three Pagodas remain.

Dali Three Pagodas

Top 10: The Scared Mountain – Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain or Yulong Snow Mountain, the sacred mountain for local Naxi People, is the southern section of the Hengduan Mountains, as well the southernmost glacier in the northern Hemisphere.

Jade Snow Mountain has 13 peaks covered with perpetual snow and extends for 15 kilometers. Looking from Lijiang Ancient Town, the snow-covered and fog-enlaced mountain resembles a jade dragon laying in the clouds, hence, giving the name of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

All in all, Yunnan has many destinations, too numerous to mention, which makes visitors keep coming back. It is a province unique in China for its ethnic minority culture, and ancient cities. It is a truly inspiring place that has been drawing visitors for centuries. To seeing is to believe! Come and find your top 10 things to do in Yunnan. Do it right now!

>> 6 Days Best of Yunnan Tour (Lijiang / Shangri-La / Kunming)
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