Yunnan Travel, The Rice Terraces of Yuanyang
3-5 days

Yunnan Travel: The Rice Terraces of Yuanyang

Explore China's most magnificent Rice Terraces in Yuanyang

Cultural Tours
Private Tours

The Yuanyang Rice Terraces rank amongst the top travel destinations in Yunnan Province. During a sunrise over the Yuanyang rice terraces the light of the rising sun is reflected on the surface of the water-filled paddy fields in all imaginable colors. Spectacular rice terraces, ethnic minorities, colorful markets, old temples and pristine villages are the highlights your journey to Yuanyang. A visit to the well-known Stone Forest near Lunan rounds off this journey throughout southern Yunnan.

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 mountain range in the south-east of Yunnan province in China.  To witness the sunrise over the rice terraces of Yuanyang is an unforgettable experience and one of the highlights of this journey in Yunnan. You will undertake a magnificent 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 with its outstanding architecture and well-preserved woodcarvings.

Journey to the rice terraces of Yuanyang: historic Jianshui

Travel the Yunnan Province: the Rice Terraces of Yuanyang

Jianshui (Lin An) is situated 190 km south of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in South-West China.

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 once 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, charming 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 of a city wall that once 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 gates. Currently there is an interesting photo exhibition in the Chao Yang Tower giving information on the tumultuous history of the city of Jianshui and its surrounds.

Jianshui, Yunnan: The Confucius Temple Wenmiao in Jianshui, Yunnan Province in China

Visit to Confucius Temple of Jianshui, Yunnan Province, China

The town of Jianshui can easily be explored on foot. Right in the center of town you find the idyllic Confucius Temple or Wenmiao. 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 left behind a world-famous legacy of teachings and ethical principles that leads to self-enlightenment through the Five Values: Decency, justice, mercy, loyalty and wisdom. However, Confucius (Kongzi or Master Kong) did not see himself as the inventor of a new doctrine, but as the guardian of the old scriptures 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. There is also a beautiful lake in the temple of Jianshui - the "Lake of Wisdom" - which is covered with beautiful lotus flowers in summer. You will take a stroll through the Confucius Temple of Jianshui and visit some of the many pavilions.

The magnificent mansion of Zhu Family Garden in Jianshui, Yunnan

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

This stunning property was built by members of the once wealthy and influential Zhu family during the late Qing Dynasty over 100 years ago. It comprises 42 courtyards, 214 different rooms and a large, well-kept garden. Entrance to the garden and the Zhu family estate costs RMB 35.

Today Zhu Family Garden houses a museum which gives information about the eventful history of Jianshui and the Zhu family.

Directly opposite the Zhu family garden there is a fine restaurant with local specialties from Jianshui.

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 magnificent Rice Terraces of Yuanyang, Yunnan Province

Travel to probably the most beautiful rice terraces in China: The Yuanyang rice terraces 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 can serve the start-off point for exploring the rice terraces of Yuanyang. However, you can also stay in hotels and guesthouses in the various village dotted around the terraces rice fields of Yuanyang.

A scenic sunrise over the Yuanyang Rice Terraces near Honghe

The rice terraces of Yuanyang were hacked out of the Ailao mountain range by local peasants over hundreds of years. In the area you will meet people of the Hani, Yi and Miao ethnic groups.

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 light of the rising sun 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 travel to the Stone Forest of Lunan

On the journey from the rice terraces of Yuanyang back to Kunming you make a stop at the famous Stone Forest of Lunan. The remarkable Stone Forest of Lunan is one of the most popular sightseeing spots of Yunnan province and should definitely be a part of a tour in Yunnan.

Yunnan Travel: The Stone Forest of Lunan, China

The Stone Forest of Lunan was formed over 250 million years ago. Over the time rain and erosion shaped the distinctive rock needles visible today, some of which up to 40 meters high.

If you walk a little off the main walkways, you will constantly discover new narrow passage ways and rock formations. On rainy days the paths can be quite slippery in places and good walking shoes are required. 

The stone forest of Lunan can be reached from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, by express train from the main railway 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 130. Since the parking area is about 2 km away from the entrance to the stone forest of Lunan, it is best to take one of the regularly running electric buses at a cost of an additional 25 RMB.

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  also pay a visit to former residence of the once wealthy Zhu family.

Overnight accommodation at Jianshui.


Travel to the magnificent 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 you 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.

From the Swallow Caves it is a scenic drive towards the spectacular Yuanyang Rice Terraces.  For hundreds of years, the Yuanyang rice terraces have been hacked out from the slopes of the Ailao Mountains by the local farmers.

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

Witness a magnificent sunrise over the rice terraces.

You will visit the most beautiful viewpoints, from where you will be able to enjoy the spectacular 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 you hike (about 2 hours) through the magnificent rice terraces of Yuanyang to a nearby Hani village. Overnight accommodation is at Yuanyang.


Travel the Yunnan Province: The Stone Forest of Lunan

You leave 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 through an ever changing landscape towards Lunan and the nearby Stone Forest, 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 Forest. You have a walk through the maze of paths and walkways leading through this natural wonderland.

Drive to Kunming. Stay overnight at Kunming or connecting program.

"...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

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