Travel the Yuanyang Rice Terraces: On this unique journey, you travel to the mostly undiscovered and still little visited south of the Yunnan province almost to the Vietnamese border. Spectacular rice terraces, ethnic minorities, colorful markets, old temples and pristine villages are the highlights of the trip. A visit to the well-known stone forest near Lunan rounds off this journey full of new experiences.

Your host, Adrian Stalder

Adrian Stalder

A Swiss National, passionate traveler and outdoor expert. He graduated from the Swiss business school of commerce and was supposed to start a banking career soon after. More out of curiosity he took an interim job as a tour guide for one of the leading tour operators in Switzerland and that is when he discovered his love and affection for foreign countries and their fascinating cultures and history. In between his assignments he shouldered his backpack and started to explore the remotest corners of the Asian continent. After one year in Thailand he then moved to neighboring Myanmar where he worked as the country manager for a German tour operator for almost 5 years.

He then decided to move on to Kunming, where he realized a long time dream by starting his own travel company, and to share with others his extensive travel experience and profound knowledge about China and South-East Asia. Chinese is just one of 5 languages he speaks fluently. In his spare time he is practicing Tai Ji and studies the Chinese history.

Tour Information

Travel the magnificent Rice Terraces of Yuanyang, Yunnan Province, China

The rice terraces of Yuanyang are without a doubt among the most beautiful rice terraces in Asia, and were placed on UNESCO’s world cultural heritage list in 2013. The rice terraces of Yuanyang were constructed bit by bit in arduous manual work from the slopes of Ailao Range in the south-east of Yunnan province. The sunrise over the rice terraces of Yuanyang is doubtless one of the highlights of this journey in Yunnan. You will undertake a glorious hike through the rice terraces of Yuanyang and observe the local people as they work the rice paddies. As well you will visit the idyllic village of Tuanshan, which will inspire you with its outstanding architecture and well-preserved woodcuts. On top of that, you will spend the night in Jianshui as they did in imperial times!

Travel the Yunnan Province: the Rice Terraces of Yuanyang

Journey to the rice terraces of Yuanyang: historic Jianshui

Jianshui (Lin An) is situated 190 km south of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

The origins of Jianshui (Lin An) can be traced back to the Jin Dynasty (256 – 420). During the Tang Dynasty Jianshui (Lin An) was part of the formerly influential Nanzhao and later of the Dali Kingdom. Under the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty) Jianshui became an important military base for the army of Kublai Khan, which resulted in a rapid development of Jianshui.

Today Jianshui presents itself as a clean, spruced-up small town with a relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere.

The Chao Yang Tower, dating from the 14th century (Ming Dynasty) is certainly the most outstanding feature of the town of Jianshui. The Chao Yang Tower was formerly the eastern gate part of a city wall, long hence disappeared, that surrounded Jianshui. Earlier two gigantic copper bells were hanging from the Chao Yang Tower; every morning they rang out during the opening of the city walls. At the moment there is a fascinating photo exhibition in the Chao Yang Tower giving information on the tumultuous history of the city of Jianshui and its surrounds.

The Confucius Temple of Wenmiao in Jianshui, Yunnan province

Visit to Confucius Temple of Jianshui, Yunnan Province, China

In the middle of Jianshui, a city that can be easily surveyed at a glance, situated in the south of Yunnan province in China, you find the idyllic Confucius Temple. Confucius was born in 551 BC in the small town of Qufu in eastern China as a noble of lower status, and is today regarded as one of China’s most influential philosophers. He bequeathed a heritage of teachings and ethical principles known throughout the world; they lead to self-enlightenment through the Five Values: decency, justice, compassion, loyalty, and wisdom. However, Confucius (Kongzi or Master Kong) saw himself not as the founder of a new teaching but as the defender of the old writings and rules.

The Confucius Temple of Jianshui was originally built in 1285, and over the centuries it was several times altered and extended. The Confucius Temple of Jianshui is the 3rd biggest Confucius temple in China. As well there is in the temple of Jianshui a beautiful lake – the “Lake of Wisdom” – which in summer is covered in lovely lotus flowers. You will take a lengthy stroll through the Confucius Temple of Jianshui and meanwhile you will visit some of the many pavilions.

Zhu Family Garden Hotel: spending the night as they did in imperial times!

The magnificent Zhu Family Garen in Jianshui, Yunnan Province, China

This property was built by relatives of the once affluent and influential Zhu family during the late Qing Dynasty more than a century ago. The mansion of the Zhu Family includes 42 interior courtyards, 214 diverse rooms, as well as a large cultivated garden. Admission to the garden and the property of the Zhu family costs RMB 50.

Today the house hosts a museum which gives information on the tumultuous history of Jianshui and of the Zhu family.

Some of the rooms were converted into hotel rooms and today offer simple 3-star comfort. Those who spend the night right in the Zhu family garden have the house almost for themselves in the evening, when the tourist groups have moved on. Directly opposite the Zhu family garden there is a fine restaurant with local specialties from Jianshui and surrounds. If you leave the Zhu family garden through the side entrance you find yourself in the middle of the town center of Jianshui.

Journey to the rice terraces of Yuanyang, Yunnan province

A scenic sunrise over the Yuanyang Rice Terraces near Honghe

Probably the most beautiful rice terraces in China are to be found about 300 km south of Kunming, high above the valley of the Red River in the Ailao Mountains near the town of Xinjie, which is also the start-off point for exploring the rice terraces of Yuanyang.

The rice terraces of Yuanyang were hacked out of the Ailao Range by local peasants over hundreds of years. In the area you come across mainly people of the Hani, Yi and Mao ethnic minorities. The best time for a visit to the Yuanyang rice terraces is during the harvest period in September/October or during the winter months (middle of November till end of February), when the rice terraces are full of water and reflect the dipping light in all possible colors.

Especially for photographers the winter months are the most interesting time for a trip to Yuanyang. Very impressive is a visit to Yuanyang in the early morning when the light of the rising sun is mirrored on the surface of the water-filled rice terraces in all imaginable colors.

In June 2013 the rice terraces of Yuanyang were placed on UNESCO’s list of world cultural heritage sites.

From the rice terraces of Yuanyang to the stone forest of Lunan

On the trip from the rice terraces of Yuanyang back to Kunming you make a break at the stone forest of Lunan. The remarkable stone forest of Lunan is one of the best known sights of Yunnan province and should definitely be a part of a journey in Yunnan.

Yunnan Travel: The Stone Forest of Lunan

The stone forest of Lunan was formed over 250 million years ago. Over the millennia rain and erosion shaped the eye-catching rock needles, up to 40 meters high, visible today. If you go a little to the side of the tourist tracks you discover on a circuit through the stone forest more and more intertwined paths and stone formations.

The stone forest of Lunan can be reached from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, by express train from the southern railroad station in a bit more than 20 minutes, or by public bus from the eastern bus station in about 1.5 hours.

Price of admission to the stone forest is RMB 175. Since the parking area is about 2 km away from the entrance to the stone forest of Lunan, it is best to take, at a cost of RMB 25, one of the regularly running electric buses.

Customer Reviews

"...our guide Mary was fantastic! She took us through beautiful paths where we often found ourselves alone gazing at the magnificent rice terraces..."
   Heather from Canada

"...the service we received from Colorful-China Tours helped make China a really wonderful experience for us..."
   Joshua from the United States

Tour Map


Tour Itinerary


Members of the Yi ethnic group enjoy lunch in Tuanshan, Yunnan Province

Pick up at your hotel and drive to Jianshui. Along the way you make a stop a Xingmeng, a village inhabited by a Mongol minority left behind by Khengis Khans army over 700 years ago.

Continue to Tonghai where you visit Mount Xiushan with an array of traditional Temples and Pavilions in various styles of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism some of which are from the late Jin Dynasty (265-420).

Upon arrival in Jianshui visit the recently renovated Confucius Temple „Wen Miao“.

Continue to  the “Eastgate” and we also pay a visit to former residence of the once wealthy Zhu family.

Overnight accommodation at Jianshui.


Travel to the magnificen rice terraces of Yuanyang in the south of the Yunnan Province

Drive to the traditional Zhuang-Village of Tuanshan with its well preserved architecture. On the way you also visit the "Twin Dragon Bridge", an ancient stone bridge from the Qing Dynasty.

On the way to Yuanyang we stop at the Swallow’s Cavern, a magnificent cave that has been dug out by the Lu River. During spring and summer hundreds of thousands of Swallows can be seen flying around inside and outside the cave.

Continue through magnificent scenery towards Xinjie, the gateway to the stunning and spectacular rice terraces of Yuanyang.  For hundreds of years, the Yuanyang rice terraces have been worked on with love by the local farmers of the Ailao Mountains.

In 2013 the Rice Terraces of Yuanyan have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Stay overnight in a tastefully furnished boutique guesthouse in the rice terrraces of Yuanyang.


A photographers Eldorado: a colorful Sunrise over the rice terraces in Yuanyang

You leave the Hotel early to witness a magnificent sunrise over the rice terraces. (Depending on weather condition; In winter the Rice terraces are often engulfed in fog).

You will visit the most beautiful viewpoints, from where you will be able to enjoy the wonderful scenery of the Yuanyang rice terraces. 

If possible you visit one of the bustling weekly local markets in the area where we can observe the local people from various ethnic groups (Hani, Yi, Zhuang, some Miao) doing their weekly shopping. Many of these ethnic minorities still wear their traditional costumes.

In the afternoon we make a hike (about 2 hours) through the magnificent rice terraces of Yuanyang to a nearby Hani village. Overnight accommodation is either at a nice boutique hotel in the middle of the Yuanyang rice terraces.


Travel the Yunnan Province: The Stone Forest of Lunan

After breakfast you leave Xinjie and the Yuanyang Rice Terraces and drive north towards Mile. The fertile land and the mild climate make this part of the Yunnan province ideal for cultivating tobacco. Apart from the cigarette production, Mile is also well known for its many hot springs.

Continue via the newly constructed highway through an ever changing landscape towards Lunan and the nearby Stone Forest of Lunan, where you arrive around lunch time.

In the afternoon you visit the Stone Forest. Years of rain and erosion left behind a bizarre and impressive landscape of limestone pillars which, with a little imagination, indeed resemble a Forrest. We have a walk through the maze of paths and walkways leading through this natural wonderland.

Drive to Kunming.


Contact Us

In order to keep your inbox clean, Colorful-China will not send you auto-generated success messages. If you hit "Submit" we will receive your message and answer your question within the next 24hrs.

Some of our tours can contain light hikes of varying legths, please choose whether you are interested.



Prices from*
  • price per person in a group of 4 persons in shared twin rooms

Rice Terraces of Yuanyang

3-5 days
China's most magnificent terraced rice fields
Tour Type:
Cultural Tours, Private Tours