Travel South-West China: Inside the Yunnan Province
6 days in-depth travel experience in the Yunnan Province in southwest ChinaMap
Journey to Kunming, city of eternal spring of China
Hardly any other city in China offers such a comfortable standard of living as the city of Kunming in southwest China. Located at 1900 meters above sea level, the 7 million city has a very balanced climate throughout the year, which has earned the city the name "City of Eternal Spring in China". While many other cities of this size are plagued by smog, the air in Kunming is comparatively clean.
The "heart" of Kunming is Green Lake Park, where you can watch many elderly people dancing, playing card or practice Tai Chi in the mornings. On weekends, Kunming's Green Lake Park is also a popular destination for families.
Thanks to its numerous universities, Kunming is a "young" city with an exciting and varied nightlife. Recently, many new bars, clubs, microbreweries and pubs have emerged. Also "Foodies" and food lovers will get their money's worth in Kunming.
The considerable number of ethnic minorities in Yunnan also has a great influence on the culinary diversity in Kunming. Colorful-China Tours offers special "Foodie Tours" in Kunming especially for culinary aficionados. Ask us!
We recommend an excursion to the Western Mountains for those who prefer things a little quieter. The western mountains are the "lungs" of Kunming and are also a popular recreation area for the population of Kunming. The western mountains (Western Mountains or Xi Shan) are about 30 minutes west of Kunming and are very easy to reach by public transport. The Kunming Metro Line 3 also goes to the Western Mountains.
Kunming – flight to Shangri La / Zhongdian / Dukezong
From Kunming your Yunnan journey continues with a one-hour flight to Zhongdian or Shangri La on the Tibetan plateau at 3'300 meters above sea level. Everywhere the prayer wheels turn and the wind constantly carries the wishes and prayers on the colorful prayer flags into the deep blue sky of Zhongdian.
Not least for tourist reasons, the government of Yunnan Province allowed the city of Zhongdian to be officially renamed Shangri La a few years ago, probably in reference to the Shangri La, which James Hilton described in his novel "The Lost Horizon".
When travelling to Shangri La / Zhongdian you should not miss to visit Songtsam Monastery. The imposing Tibetan Songtsam Monastery is located about 9km outside the city of Zhongdian and can be easily reached by public bus. Songtsam Monastery in Zhongdian was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but today it is once again one of the most important yellow hat monasteries in the area. Songtsam Monastery of Zhongdian was built in the middle of the 18th century and was personally inaugurated after completion by the 5th Dalai Lama.
Also worth a visit is Dukezong, the Tibetan name of the old town of Zhongdian/Shangrila. In 2014, the old town of Dukezong was severely affected by a fire. Meanwhile Dukezong was rebuilt and shines again in its old glory.
Journey via the Tiger Leaping Gorge to the old town of Lijiang, Yunnan
On your journey from Zhongdian to Lijiang you will pass the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Squeezed between the Haba Mountain on one side and the Jade Dragon Mountain on the other, the water masses of the here still young Yangtze River squeeze through a gorge, in some places only 15m wide. This is a particularly impressive spectacle, especially during the summer months.
In Lijiang you get to know the ethnic group of the Naxi. On a walk through the winding streets and alleys of the old town of Lijiang you will also learn more about the mystical Dongba culture, which is still practiced by many older Naxi people.
The twelve snow-capped peaks of Jade Dragon Mountain rise almost majestically in the distance, giving the old town of Lijiang a relaxed, almost "alpine" flair.
Journey to relaxed Dali on Erhai Lake
Your Yunnan journey continues through beautiful countryside to the former royal town of Dali near the shores of idyllic Erhai Lake.
A short walk takes you to a peninsula that extends far into Lake Erhai. Here you can enjoy the good air and the wonderful view of Lake Erhai in the afternoon sun.
You will also take a walk through the village of Xizhou before continuing to the old town of Dali.
The old town of Dali is located in a fertile plain between Lake Erhai and the Cang Mountains, up to 4000m high. The pleasant climate and the numerous street cafés and bars give the old town of Dali a relaxed, Mediterranean ambience, which tempt to stay a bit longer. From Dali you can travel either by bus or by plane to Kunming. Or you can travel by the express train, which takes you to Kunming in about 2 hours.
"...thank you for a wonderful tour...the food in Yunnan is so much different of what we are used to..."
Tom from the United States
"...the Yunnan Province left us so many good memories, we would love to come back tomorrow..."
Irene from Germany
Day 1: KUNMING – STONE FOREST OF LUNAN – WESTERN MOUNTAINS
Drive to the Stone Forest of Lunan where rain and erosion have left behind a unique, impressive natural landscape over millions of years.
The narrow, bizarrely shaped rock needles, up to 30 meters high, are among China's most remarkable natural phenomena. During an extended walk you will also learn more about the living habits of the Sani ethnic group, a subgroup of the Yi ethnic minority.
Return to Kunming to the western mountains. The ascent to the Dragon Gate leads past countless smaller temples and pavilions and offers unique views of Kunming and Lake Dianchi.
Overnight stay in Kunming.
Day 2: FLIGHT FROM KUNMING TO ZHONGDIAN / SHANGRI LA
Transfer to Kunming airport and flight to Zhongdian. The city of Zhongdian, recently also called "Shangri La", lies at 3200m amid an enchanting landscape on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau.
You will be picked up at the airport by your guide. Transfer to the old town of Zhongdian, also called Dukezong in Tibetan. Time to explore the picturesque old town. You will also climb the "Turtle Hill" overlooking Dukezong.
Take the public bus to Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, a 300-year-old Tibetan monastery of historical importance, which was personally inaugurated in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama. It was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and is now once again one of the largest and most influential monasteries in the area.
Travel back to Dukezong. Time at leisure to explore the old town on your own.
Day 3: TRAVEL PAST TIGER LEAPING GORGE FROM ZHONGDIAN TO LIJIANG
You leave the eastern Tibetan plateau and drive through a wonderful, constantly changing landscape towards Lijiang. Halfway we make a detour into the impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hu Tiao Xia), where the water masses of the Yangtze River are pressed through a gorge, in some places only 15 meters wide.
Especially during the summer months this is a spectacle not to be missed.
You follow the Yangtze Valley to Shigu, where the Yangtze River makes a 180 degrees turn and flows north again in a virtually parallel direction. The Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world. The River has it source in the Tangula Mountains in Tibet and flows into the South-China Sea.
Continue to Lijiang, where you arrive in the evening. Check-in at your hotel.
Day 4: WALKING TOUR IN LIJIANG OLD TOWN
In the morning, before the big tourist influx, you make a first tour around the wonderful old town with its countless narrow alleys and canals.
Visit the romantic park "Pond of the Black Dragon", from where you have a beautiful view of the "Jade Dragon Mountain" (Yu Long Shan). On a clear day the views are fantastic.
Drive to Baisha, the former capital of the Naxi Kingdom. You will visit the Liuli Temple, where you can still admire well-preserved mural paintings from the late Ming Dynasty, which survived the Cultural Revolution almost unscathed.
Drive to Yu Hu, a romantic village where the famous Austrian/American botanist Joseph Rock lived from 1922 to 1949.
Drive back to Lijiang. Time at leisure to explore the old town on your own.
Day 5: LIJIANG – XIZHOU – DALI
You leave Lijiang and travel south to Dali. On the way you make a stop in the village of Xizhou.
The village of Xizhou is still known today for its well-preserved Bai architecture. The village of Xizhou came to considerable prosperity when wealthy businessmen settled here at the end of the 19th century. Many of these residences are still silent witnesses of Xizhou's former wealth.
Continue your journey to Dali. Dali is located on the western shore of the idyllic Erhai Lake at the foot of the impressive, up to 4000m high Cang mountain range.
Check-in at the hotel. Afterwards time for a stroll through the old town. Overnight stay in Dali.
Day 6: DALI – DEPARTURE
Time at leisure until your departure.
If time permits (optional), you can visit the 3 Pagoda Temple (San Ta Si) from the 9th century. The Chongsheng Temple with its striking 3 towers, the "San Ta Si", is not far from the old town of Dali and the complex can be easily reached by taxi.
The 3 stone towers of Chongsheng Temple date from the 10th century and were once part of a huge temple complex, which has not survived the passage of time. Meanwhile the towers have become the landmark of Dali.
From Dali Airport there are flights to Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming. Or you take the fast train to Kunming.