China Travel: Fascinating Yunnan Province
The comprehensive Journey throughout the Yunnan ProvinceMap
Travel the Yunnan Province: From Kunming to Yunnan Yi and the Flying Tigers
This trip, rich in variety, begins in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in south-west China. Kunming, with a population of 7 million, is 1,900 meters above sea level on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. Because of the pleasant, all year round spring climate, the city of Kunming is also called the “city of eternal spring of China”.
From Kunming, your journey through Yunnan goes west on the highway to Yunnan Yi.
During the Second World War Yunnan Yi played a significant role when the Allied forces based their aircraft here.
For a while the airbase in Yunnan Yi it also served as a base for the now legendary “Flying Tigers”. These were a group of American volunteer pilots who have become legendary due to their heroic and successful air battles against the Japanese forces. Amongst other deeds, the Flying Tigers were deployed as escorts for the transport aircraft on the “hump route”. This route was, after the Japanese occupation of Burma, an air bridge of the allied forces delivering supplies to the Kuomintang in China from Assam in India over the Himalayas to Kunming.
In Yunnan Yi, you visit the small museum commemorating the Flying Tigers founded by the parents of an American pilot who lost his live when his plane crashed nearby. Yunnan Yi was also an important trading place on the old Tea and Horse Road for goods on their way from southern Yunnan to Tibet. From Yunnan Yi, your journey through Yunnan continues further west to Weishan.
Weishan Old Town and Dali
The picturesque town of Weishan is situated 52 km south of Dali, and was, during the time of the Nanzhao Kingdom of the 8th and 9th centuries, a prosperous trading post.
The Weishan area is regarded as the birthplace of Xinulou, the founder of the Nanzhao Kingdom. In its heyday, the Nanzhao Kingdom extended as far as Tibet, Burma, and the northern part of Thailand. The capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom was the city of Dali, a little to the north.
On a trip to Weishan you will still find the old, traditional China with busy narrow streets, old wooden houses, and a watchtower from the time of the Ming Dynasty. Weibaoshan, with its many temples and pavilions which originated during the Tang Dynasty, is just a short distance from Weishan.
On your trip from Weishan to Dali you make a stop in Donglianhua. Here you will discover the inhabitants of Donglianhua, descendants of Muslim soldiers who captured Yunnan Province in the 13th century for the Mongol armies of Kublai Khan. To this day most citizens of Donglianhua belong to the Hui, the biggest Muslim ethnic group in China. After the Ming took power from the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in 1386 many of the soldiers remained in Yunnan Province. The former horsemen gradually became peasants and traders and Donglianhua grew to become an important trading base on the Tea and Horse Road, and later the Burma Road for goods from Burma.
On a tour through Donglianhua you visit the former home of Ma Ruji, who made a name for himself by trading in horses. When the Communists took power in China in 1949 the family of Ma Ruji had to flee to Thailand. Ma Ruji’s house is today a museum.
Your journey continues to Dali. The well-known old town of Dali is on the western bank of Lake Erhai in the shadow of the Cang Range, 4,000 meters high. In the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) Dali served as the capital of Nanzhao and later the Dali Kingdom.
The fate of the Dali Kingdom was sealed in 1253 when captured by troops belonging to Kublai Khan.
Travel from the historic Old Town Dali to Shaxi village near Jianchuan
On your journey from Dali to Shaxi you make a stop at Shibaoshan, whose main attraction is Shizhong Temple, with its more than 1,500 years old Buddhist stone sculptures from the Tang Dynasty. The sculptures at Shizhong Temple date from the 10th century, when Buddhism began to spread in the region around Shaxi. From Shizhong Temple you it is an easy hike along the path of the former Tea and Horse Road and to Shaxi village.
The idyllic Shaxi village was once a prosperous trading station on the “Tea and Horse Road”. The Tea and Horse Road was an extensive network of tradde routes joining the important tea plantation areas in Yunnan and Sichuan with the highlands of Tibet. On the Yunnan section of the “Tea and Horse Road” mainly tea was transported from the southern part of Yunnan to Tibet, and in exchange salt and horses brought back to Yunnan (hence the name Tea and Horse Road).
In the 1990’s Shaxi was restored with the help of the Swiss government, and today it once more shines with its former glory.
Three Parallel River National Park in Yunnan Province
From Shaxi your journey throughout the Yunnan Province continues along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River to Liming, the starting point for the Laojunshan National Park.
The wonderful Laojunshan National Park is a part of the “Three Parallel Rivers National Park”, which is under the protection of UNESCO. The enormous area of the “Three Parallel Rivers National Park” is located within the north-western part of Yunnan Province. There, for about 300 km, the three rivers Yangtze (Jin Jiang), Salween (Nu Jiang) and Mekong (Lancang Jiang) flow through deep valleys and untouched landscapes, flowing from Tibet parallel to each other in a southerly direction, until the Yangtze does a loop of 180 degrees and flows north at Shigu.
Drive to the Laojunshan Park. The main attractions of the Laojunshan National Park are the gigantic red Danxia sandstone rocks that are among the most beautiful and spectacular of their kind in China.
By cable car you travel up Qiangui Mountain. On the peak, erosion over thousands of years has left behind a fascinating landscape that looks like the shell of a turtle. From the top of the mountain you enjoy beautiful views over the Three-Parallel-Rivers National Park.
An easy walk (about 1 horus) brings you back to the village of Liming where you spend the night.
Zhongdian (Shangri La): A glimpse of Tibet
You travel through the spectacular mountain landscape along the upper reaches of the Yangtze to Zhongdian. The colourful prayer flags, the Buddhist monasteries and the grazing yak herds are unmistakable signs that you are now on Tibetan soil.
A few years ago, the government of Yunnan Province officially renamed the town of Zhongdian to Shangri La, a reference to the “Shangri La” described by James Hilton in his novel The Lost Horizon.
The town Zhongdian, or rather Shangri La, is situated 3,300 meters above sea level on the eastern end of the Tibetan Plateau.
A visit to the Songtsam Monastery is a must when visiting Zhongdian. The monastery is a little outside Zhongdian and is the biggest Tibetan monastery in the area. Songtsam Monastery was built in the middle of the 18th century and after its completion was inaugurated by the 5th Dalai Lama in person.
Another main attraction of Zhongdian is the Pudacuo National Park. Pudacuo National Park is 20 km east of Zhongdian and people like to call it the first national park in China. The name "Pudacuo" is derived from the Tibetan word for the divine support for a safe passage by boat across the numerous lakes in this area. Two of those lakes are Lake Bita and Lake Shudu, both of which mesmerize visitors with their deep blue crystal-clear water and the magnificent surroundings. Especially in spring, when the rhododendron bushes and the azaleas are blooming, and in late summer, when the park presents itself in its marvelous autumn colors, a visit to Pudacuo is particularly spectacular.
Travel from Zhongdian (Shangri La) to the Lijiang Old Town
On your way from Zhongdian to the tranquil historic Old Town of Lijang you make a detour to one of the world’s deepest gorge, the Tiger Leaping Gorge. At the narrowest point the rocky walls of Haba Range in the west and the Jade Dragon Mountain in the east are only a mere 30 meters apart. According to local legend, a tiger once leapt over the gorge to escape from its hunters. Hence the name “Tiger Leaping Gorge”.
From the impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge your Yunnan trip continues to Lijang. The pleasant Old Town of Lijang lies in a fertile valley 2,400 meters above sea level, in the shadow of the Jade Dragon Mountain.
The old town of Lijang is one of the most popular and best-known tourist destinations for Chinese tourists. It is therefore advisable to visit early in the morning before the invasion of Chinese tourist groups. The entrance to the old town of Lijiang is free of charge.
If the Old Town of of Lijang is too touristy for you, you can spend the night in the quieter Shuhe village, 8 km to the north of Lijiang.
"...we enjoyed the stay at the beautiful lodge in Tacheng..."
Maya from Germany
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Frank from the United States
Day 1: YUNNAN TRAVEL: KUNMING - YUNNAN YI - WEISHAN
Your Yunnan Journey begins in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan Province. Pick u at your hotel in the morning. Drive via highway 85 to Weishan. Along the way you stop at Yunnan Yi.
The picturesque village of Yunnan Yi played an important role during WW II when the Allied Forces where operating an Air Base nearby. It also served as a base for the Flying Tigers. Visit the small Flying Tiger Museum.
Yunnan Yi was also an important trading post on the "Tea and Horse Road" for tea on the way from Southern Yunnan to Tibet.
Drive to Weishan. The charming town of Weishan is located 50km south of Dali in beautiful surroundings. You take a walking tour around the charming old town.
Overnight accommodation is near the Old Town Weishan.
Day 2: TRAVEL FROM HISTORIC WEISHAN TO DALI OLD TOWN
In the morning we make an excursion to Weibao Shan (Weibao Mountain).
Weibao Shan is is considered as one of the 14 sacred Taoist Mountains in China. Visit the most important temples in the area and take a 2 hr walk through pine tree forest and magnificent views over the valley below.
Drive from Weishan to Dali. The old town of Dali is situated on the western shores of the stunning Erhai Lake at the foot of the 4000m high Cang Shan mountain range and is mainly inhabited by people of the Bai ethnic group.
Visit the 3 Pagodas of the San Ta Si Monastery from the 9th centurywith its distinctive three towers.
You stay overnight at a hotel within walking distance from Dali Old Town.
Day 3: TRAVEL FROM OLD TOWN DALI TO CHARMING SHAXI VILLAGE
You leave Dali and continue your Yunnan journey towards Shaxi village.
The charming Bai village of Shaxi (Sideng) is located in the stunning surroundings of the Shaxi Valley. Shaxi was formerly an important pivotal stop on the Tea and Horse trail from Yunnan to Tibet. The village has been renovated with the help of the Swiss government.
You visit Shibao Mountain. The impressive rock carvings of Shibao Mountain are over 1300 years old and are testimony of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism in the region. You can either walk back to Shaxi (2 hrs) or take the car back to the hotel.
Take a walking tour around the picturesque Shaxi village.Time to relax or to explore the charming old town on your own.
Stay overnight in a rustic guesthouse/hotel near the old market sqare in Shaxi village.
Day 4: TRAVEL FROM SHAXI TO LIMING AND LAOJUN SHAN NATIONAL PARK ALONG THE YANGTZE RIVER
Drive to Liming, the gateway for the magnificent Laojun Shan National Park. Along the way we make a stop at Shigu village, to see the famous "First Bend", where the Yangtze River is making an abrupt 180 degree turn and flows for several kilometers, parallel to itself towards the north again.
Shigu village plays an important role in Chinas history books, as parts of the Red Army crossed the Yangtze River at Shigu during the Long March.
Located within the UNESCO protected Three Parallel Rivers National Park in the north-western Part of the Yunnan Province, Laojun Shan offers some of the most spectacular red/purple sandstone formations in China.
A short cable car ride brings you to the top of Mount Qiangui, where millions of years of erosion left behind a magnificent landscape resembling a tortoise shell.
On a clear day, Mount Qiangui also offers spectacular views of the surrounding red cliffs and the Huang Mountains in the distance.
Day 5: YUNNAN TOURS: DRIVE FROM LIMING TO TACHENG
You leave the beautiful scenery of the Three Parallel Rivers National Park and follow the Yangtze River in northern direction towards Tacheng.
The Yangtze River is the 3rd longest river in the world. It has the source in the Tangula Mountains in Tibet and empties after 6200km into the South China Sea.
The idyllic Tacheng village is located in a quiet side valley of the Yangtze River. We check in at the idyllic Tacheng Lodge.
After Lunch you can either undertake a stroll to the nearby village or you can relax and enjoy a cup of barley tea while taking in the beautiful scenery from the comfort of the balcony of your room.
You stay overnight either in the comfort of a 4 star boutique hotel or in a 3 Sttar accommodation in nearby Tacheng town.
Day 6: YUNNAN TOURS: TACHENG TO ZHONGDIAN (SHANGRI-LA)
Along today's journey to Zhongdian (Shangri-La) you make a stop at the Tacheng Nature Reserve. The Tacheng Nature Reserve is home to the Yunnan Snub Nosed Golden Monkeys. These Monkeys live in the secluded areas of Southwest China and Northern Myanmar only. Some of the monkeys do not seem to be disturbed by the presence of humans which offers a good chance to observe these endangered animals from a close distance.
You follow the Yangtze Valley through the spectacular landscape of the Yangtze Valley. Here the Yangtze River is still called the Jin Sha Jiang (Golden Sand River).
You leave the Yangtze Valley and head up towards Nixi. Nixi is famous for its black pottery.
Upon arrival in Zhongdian check In at your hotel. In the afternoon there is time for a stroll around the picturesque old town of Zhongdian.
Day 7: ZHONGDIAN - PUDACUO NATIONAL PARK IN YUNNAN PROVINCE
Zhongdian is situated amongst a stunning landscape on the eastern Tibetan plateau at about 3200 meters above sea level.
Zhongdian recently changed its name and is now called "Shangri-La", after the Shangri-La that the British writer James Hilton described in his Novel "The Lost Horizon".
Visit Pudacuo National Park, which is located about 20km to the north-east of Zhongdian. The stunning Pudacuo National Park covers an area of 300km2 and includes the two crystal clear lakes of Bita and Shudu.
You visit Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300 year old impressive Tibetan Monastery. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the Ganden Sumpseling Gompa is now again one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the area.
Day 8: TRAVEL FROM ZHONGDIAN VIA THE TIGER LEAPING GORGE TO LIJIANG
We leave the eastern Tibetan Plateau and drive through a magnificent landscape towards Lijiang.
Half way you take a left turn into the impressive “Tiger Leaping Gorge”, where the Yangtze waters are squeezed through a narrow, at some places only 15 meter wide gorge.
Wedged between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Haba Mountain, the impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge is reputedly the world’s deepest canyon! It is the most spectacular during the summer months when the water levels of the Yangtze River are the highest.
Continue your journey toward Lijiang old town. The lovely old town of Lijiang is located in a fertile valley at the foot of the imposing Jade Dragon Mountain.
You spend the night in a lovely guesthouse/hotel in the old town of Lijiang.
Day 9: STROLL THE ALLEYS OF LIJIANG OLD TOWN IN YUNNAN PROVINCE, CHINA
First thing in the morning you take a first stroll through the apparently countless narrow lanes and canals crisscrossing the old town. You also learn more about the secrets of the mystic Naxi Dongba culture.
An earthquake destroyed most of the city in 1996, and after its reconstruction, part of the old town of Lijiang was listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Visit the wonderful "Black Dragon Pool" Park with stunning views of the "Jade Dragon Mountain" (Yu Long Shan). We also pay a visit to the Naxi Dongba Museum.
The rest of the afternoon is at your disposal for the exploration of the old town Lijiang.
Day 10: LIJIANG - DEPARTURE
At the end of your tour throughout the Yunnan Province you can either book one of our connecting tours or we bring you to the Lijiang airport or railway station. From Lijiang you can travel by express train in about 3 hours to Kunming.