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How to plan a trip to Yunnan?

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Top Reasons to Visit Yunnan

Some tourists prefer scenic spots to explore the natural beauty, while some keen on cultural sites to experience the long history and rich culture. Yunnan has all of that, pure lakes, snow-capped mountains, diverse ethnic culture and large ancient towns, which combine an extraordinary Yunnan, a place to visit at least once in your lifetime. Top reasons listed below may help you make a decision on your Yunnan travel plan.

First Bend of the Yangtze River
First Bend of the Yangtze River


Amazing Landscape

Snow-capped mountains, pure clear lakes, dense tropical rainforests, nature-made stone forests and beautiful karst caves, rice terraces, with all kinds of natural landscapes for you to discover in Yunnan.

Lugu Lake in Lijiang

Pleasant Weather

With the subtropical plateau monsoon climate, the weather in Yunnan is moderate all year round. There is no distinct difference of annually temperature, but a big daily difference. You may feel the weather in Yunnan seems like spring, especially in Kunming. The weather in Yunnan Province is great for visiting no matter which season you choose to come.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Colorful Ethnic Culture

Yunnan has the largest number of minority ethnic groups in China. The unique Naxi, Bai and Tibetan culture, all these 25 ethnic minorities add richer culture to Yunnan. There is no other place like Yunnan that you can experience diversity ethnic cultures through the architecture, food, costumes and special ethnic festivals.

Village of Ethnic Culture
Village of Ethnic Culture

Charming Ancient Towns

Yunnan has many large ancient towns with traditional and specific style. Dali Ancient Town and Xizhou Ancient Town in Dali, Lijiang Ancient Town and Shuhe Ancient Town in Lijiang, Dukezong Ancient Town in Shangri-la, which all have a long history for you to explore.

Shaxi Ancient Town
Shaxi Ancient Town

Characteristic Food

Food with featured flavor in Yunnan won’t disappoint your taste buds. The “Bridge- crossing Noodles”, mashed potato in Yunnan style, the rose cakes and plateau food like highland barley and butter milk are all worth trying during your Yunnan trip.

Bridge- crossing Noodles


More information about Yunnan facts.

Top Cities to Visit in Yunnan


Kunming, well-known as the City of Spring for its moderate climate, is the political, economic and cultural center as well as the capital and the largest city of Yunnan Province. Here you can watch thousands of black-headed gulls gathering around Dianchi Lake from November to January. Or you can go around Kunming to visit the Stone Forests, watch a sea of rape flowers in Luoping, and go to the Dongchuan Red Soil which is regarded as God’s Palette.

Stone Forests

Recommended Tour:4 Days Kunming and Stone Forest Tour


Dali is a perfect combination of natural landscape and historical culture. With a profound cultural background and long history in China, Dali had been the political, economic and cultural center of Yunnan Province for more than 500 years in the ancient times, as the capital city of Dali Kingdom. You can stroll in the Dali Ancient Town to experience the long history and go to Xizhou Bai Houses to get close to the unique Bai culture, or take a boat on Erhai Lake and have a marvelous view of Mt. Cangshan.

Three Pagodas

Recommended Tour:4 Days Best Dali Tour


Lijiang, an important pathway of the ancient Southern Silk Road and the Tea-horse Ancient Road, has lots of historical sites. Here you can get close to Naxi culture in Lijiang Ancient Town, which is one of the famous historical and cultural ancient towns in China, explore Mosuo culture around Lugu Lake, take an adventure along the Tiger Leaping Gorge and feel the spectacle of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Recommended Tour:3 Days Best Lijiang Tour


Shangri-la, Pearl on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with an average altitude of nearly 3459 meters above the sea level, is a fairyland existed in reality. Shangri-la is also a kingdom of flora & fauna with a boundless stretch of grassland and varieties of flowers. Here you can have a splendid view of Meili Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, explore the natural beauty of Potatso National Park and experience Tibetan Buddhism at Songzanlin Monastery.

Potatso National Park

Recommended Tour:4 Days Best Shangri-la Tour


Xishuangbanna is famous for its magnificent tropical rainforest scenery and traditional Dai minority customs. Go to the Chunhuan Park, Wild Elephant Valley Forests Park and Jinghong Primitive Forest Park to start your adventure in Xishuangbanna. You can take part in the Water-splashing Festival of Dai Ethnic Group during April.

Chunhuan Park

Recommended Tour:4 Days Xishuangbanna Minority Tour

Read more about Yunnan Attractions.

Best Time to Go to Yunnan

Yunnan has a pleasant weather for visiting all year round, with a mild climate of no distinct changes of four seasons, which offers more choices for your Yunnan travel plan. The best time to go to Yunnan is from March to October, pick a suitable time to visit may help you get the most beautiful view of each city.

City Best Time to Visit Rainy Season
Kunming March to October May to October
Dali  March and April May to October
Lijiang April to October July to August
Shangri-la Early May to late June June to September
Xishuangbanna October to next June May to October


Better to avoid these periods since the price for hotel and transportation may be higher and it’s crowded everywhere.

  • Late Jan. or early Feb. (Chinese Spring Festival)
  • First week of May (Labor Day)
  • First week of October (National Day)

Spring of Luoping


Read more about Yunnan Climate & Weather.

How to Get to & Get around Yunnan

It’s really easy to get to Yunnan Province. There are direct flights, high speed trains, normal trains to Yunnan from some major cities in China. Top cities in Yunnan like Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-la and Xishuangbanna are all equipped with airport. You can even take flights or trains to Kunming and transfer to other cities if you find no direct flights from your destination before Yunnan Province.

By Air

  • Kunming Changshui International Airport is accessible to travel from almost 130 domestic 130 cities in China every day, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Guilin, Lhasa, Hong Kong, Macau, and international flights from more than 30 international cities, such as Bangkok, Paris and San Francisco.
  • Dali Airport has direct flights from these cities in China, such as Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Xishuangbanna. Since there are international airlines to Kunming from many countries, you could choose Kunming to be you first stop in China and then transfer to Dali by plane. For other cities, you have to transfer.
  • Lijiang Sanyi Internaitional Airport is available for flights from some main cities in China, like Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and also for international flights from Thailand, Korea and Singapore.
  • Diqing Shangri-la Airport is the only airport in Shangri-la, there are flights to Shangri-la from some cities in China, such as Kunming, Xishuangbanna, Chengdu, Lhasa, Chongqing, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. There is no train to Shanri-la so far.
  • Xishuangbanna Gasa International Airport is available for flights from most of the major cities in China, furthermore, there are international flights from Thailand and Laos.

By Train

It’s convenient to go to Yunnan by train, no matter high speed trains or normal trains. There are trains to Yunnan from many cities in China, since Kunming is a main transport hub in southwest China.

Get around Yunnan

For cities you want to visit in Yunnan Province, you can either take planes, coaches or trains. Or you can rent a car and start a self-driving travel to explore the glamour of Yunnan.

Dongchuan Red Land

More about Transportation in Yunnan.

How Many Days to Stay in Yunnan

During your planning for Yunnan trip, you’d better decide those attractions that you like the most, so as to make a decision on how many days to spend in each city. Usually 2-3 days may be enough for visiting each top city in Yunnan, since there are plenty of attractions in each place, but some travelers may stay in one place longer as they like. Generally speaking, you may plan to spend 6-10 days for all the top cities in Yunnan, all depends on how many cities and attractions you want to visit.

Most of tourists will start their Yunnan trip from Kunming to Dali, and then Lijiang and Shangri-la, because of the rising altitude for those cities. It will make your tour more comfortable and get rid of altitude sickness.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Recommended Yunnan Tours:

6 Days Lijiang Tour to Lugu Lake
10 Days Best of Yunnan
10 Days Amazing Yunnan with Tiger Leaping Gorge Trekking


Tailor-made your personal Yunnan Tour: Free Online Tailor-made Tour

Read more details about Yunnan tours.

What to Eat in Yunnan

Food in Yunnan has its special flavor which combines Han style and minority style. Influenced by Sichuan Cuisine and its geography conditions, Yunnan Cuisine carries a spicy and sour flavor, other symbolic food from ethnic groups in Yunnan are also worth trying, which gives you more reasons for a Yunnan trip.

►Try the Crossing the Bridge Noodles (Guo Qiao Mi Xian in Chinese),  Steam-pot Chicken and Rice in Bamboo Tube in Kunming.

Rice in Bamboo Tube

►Taste boiled Fish in Casserole, the Dali Spicy and Sour Fish, Rushan, Ersi and Xizhou Baba in Dali. One thing you must try in Dali is the Three-course Tea, with a Bai ethnic style.

Three-Course Tea of the Bai ethnic minority contains philosophy of life, which Bai people have for welcoming their guests. The best place to experience the Sandao Tea ceremony is Yan’Family in Xizhou town. There are three main courses during the tea ceremony.

♦The first course is bitter tea, use the local baked tea in Dali, tells people the truth that life is hard.

♦The second course is sweet tea, mixed the light tea with brown sugar and walnuts, sometimes with Rushan, implies the payback after hardworking.

♦The third course is aftertaste, put honey and Chinese red pepper into the green tea, shows the recalled memories of life, encourages people to let go disappointments and wishes the best of their life.

►Have the Black Goat Hot Pot, Cured Pork Chop, and salmon in Lijiang.

Black Goat Hot Pot

►Eat plateau food like Highland Barley, Butter Tea, Yak meat, Yogurt and Tsampa in Shangri-la.

►Enjoy you time in the Dai restaurants in Xishuangbanna.

►Challenge dishes of insects, very famous and common in Yunnan.

Where to Stay

Due to the flourishing development of tourism in Yunnan Province, there are all kinds of hotels in Yunnan, with different standards and characteristic styles, which may satisfy all your requirements for a comfortable hotel to stay in each place.

►In Kunming, you can take these areas into consideration, near Golden Horse & Jade Chicken Square if you want to be closer to the city center, or stay around Dianchi Scenic Spot, or beside Kunming train station.

►In Dali, you can choose you hotel Inside Dali Ancient Town, or in Caicun Village and Shuanglang Village if you want to stay near Erhai Lake.

Dali Ancient Town

►In Lijiang, you can pick your hotel in Lijiang Ancient Town, or Shuhe Ancient Town if you prefer a quieter place.

Lijiang Ancient Town

►In Shangri-la, you may either stay in downtown Shangri-la or in Dukezong Ancient Town, both are convenient for eating and shopping.

►In Xishuangbanna, Gaozhuangxishuangjing Area, Wanda Commercial Area and the city center near the Water-splashing Square will be good choices for your reference.

Yunnan Travel Tips

What to Prepare

  • Get ready for your Visa, and do remember your passport.
  • Prepare for your SIM card to make sure the internet use in China.
  • Take some medicine with you for emergency use, especially if you are easy to get altitude sickness.
  • Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and hats for the strong ultraviolet ray on the plateau.
  • Don’t forget your umbrella and rain gear during the rainy seasons.
  • Pack suitable clothes, windproof jacket and thick coat are suggested, outdoor clothing will be good.

What to Know

  • Read some basic information about Yunnan and China so that you could have a better experience there.
  • Respect the ethnic cultures, local customs and religious beliefs of Yunnan inhabitants.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits, drink plenty of water, it may help you to avoid altitude sickness.

Ethnic Festivals in Yunnan

Yunnan has the most numerous varieties of ethnic minorities and the largest amount of ethnic people in China, including Bai, Naxi, Dai, Yi, Miao, Yao Jingpo Tibetan and so on. There are more than 80 ethnic festivals in Yunnan, with their own ethnic features. Take part in one of those famous ethnic festivals during your Yunnan trip may offer you a great experience in Yunnan Province.

Huashan Festival of the Miao Ethnic Group

Date: 3rd-7th, Jan (Chinese Lunar Calendar)

Place: Southeast Yunnan

Activities: Rod Climbing; ethnic music and dance performances; appreciating Lusheng (Traditional ethnic instrument in China which is a reed-pipe wind instrument.)

February Eighth Festival of Naxi Nationality

Date: 8th of February (Chinese Lunar Calendar)

Place: Baishuitai in Shangri-la

Activities: grand gathering; offer sacrifice to the heaven and their God; ethnic music and dance performances

“Sanyuejie”, the Third Month Fair or March Street

Date: 15th, March (Chinese Lunar Calendar), lasts for 7 to 10 days

Place: Sanyue Street, at the foot of Mt. Cangshan

History: more than a thousand years

Activities: horse racing; dragon-boat racing; ethnic music and dance performances; selling local products from different regions


“Raosanling”, a traditional ceremony of Bai Ethnic Group

Date: 23rd to 25th of March (Chinese Lunar Calendar)

Place: the first day in Chongsheng Monastery;

           the second day in Xizhou Town;

           the third day to the north of Erhai Lake, Majiuyi Village

History: more than a thousand years

Activities: parade with singing and dancing, the journey starts from Dali Ancient Town to Xizhou Town and finally Majiuyi Village for worshiping different local gods and ancestors of Bai people.

Water-splashing Festival of the Dai Ethnic Group

Date: Around 11st of April(the Gregorian Calendar)

Place: Dehong, Xishuangbanna

Activities: Dragon-boat Racing; ethnic music and dance performances; water-splashing


Torch Festival

Date: 24th of June for Yi Ethnic Group (Chinese Lunar Calendar)

          25th of June for Bai Ethnic Group (Chinese Lunar Calendar)

         24th to 25th of June for Naxi hinese Lunar Calendar)

Place: Chuxiong, Dali, Shilin, Lijiang

History: more than a thousand years

Activities: make and play the torch; wrestling, singing and dancing performances


Horse Racing Festival

Date: 5th, May (Chinese Lunar Calendar), usually near Dragon Boat Festival, lasts for 3 days

Place: Mt. Wufeng Racecourse in Shangri-la County

Activities: Horse racing; equestrian performance; ethnic music and dance performances; campfire party; Yak Racing

Gedong Festival, a religion festival

Date: 26th to 29th of November in the Tibetan calendar

Place: Songzanlin Monastery

Activities: dance to the Tibetan God with masks of Tibetan style; Chanting scriptures

Basic Chinese You Might Need

Chinese Pinyin English
你好 Nǐhǎo Hello/Hi
再见 Zàijiàn Bye/See you
谢谢 Xièxie Thank you.
不客气  Búkèqi You’re welcome.
对不起 Duìbùqǐ Sorry
请问卫生间在哪里? Qǐngwènwèishēngjiānzàinǎlǐ? Excuse me, where is the restroom?
多少钱? Duōshǎoqián? How much?

Learn more about Survival Chinese Phrases.