Dali Old Town, first built in Ming Dynasty, is a historic town with rich culture. It is also the ancient capital of Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom. Now, it is the treasure land of Bai ethnic minority showing their traditions and culture.
Compared to Lijiang Old Town (Dayan Gucheng), Dali Old Town is less crowded and more elegant and comfortable. Travelers can make a nice walking tour through Bai ethnic architecture stopping at shop after bar after cafe after tea shop. There are some nice temples, old courtyard home-turned-hotels, cafes, shops and bars. The city gates are something to see, especially at night when lit up.
Dali Old Town is located at the north of Xiaguan Town, 15 kilometers away. This ancient city is situated between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake.
Travelers can feel free to use our private car taking to Dali Old Town from Dali Airport or Dali Railway Station. If you are independent travelers, you can take bus or go by taxi.
From Dali Airport: It is about 30 km from Dali Airport to Dali Old Town. There are airport shuttle running between the airport to Dali Old Town. The drive takes about 40 minutes. If by taxi, it may cost around 80~100 Yuan.
From Dali Railway Station: It is about 26 km from Dali Railway Station to Dali Old Town. Travelers can take No.8 bus outside of the railway station to Dali Old Town, which takes about 40 minutes. If by taxi, it may cost around 50 Yuan.
The existing Dali Old Town is formed the square-shaped structure, laid out on a typical north-south, east-west axis. There are four main city gate towers (that were once the only portals into the city through the wall) on each of the axes. In the old town, there are five north-south streets and eight east-west streets. All the streets in the old town give a feeling like chessboard.
When looking down from Cangshan Mountain, travelers can see the Wenxian Tower, South Gate, Wuhua Gate and North Gate line up, magnificently and majestically; and Bai ethnic architectures stand along the old streets, elegantly and quaintly.
The city gate towers stand each side of the old city like the soldiers protecting the old town. The six city gate towers include Wenxian Tower, South Gate, North Gate, Cangshan Gate, Erhai Gate and Wuhua Tower.
Wenxian Tower is called "The First Gate of Dali Old Town". In the reign of Kangxi in Qing Dynasty (1701), the chief commander of Yunnan Province named Piantu inscribed "A Historic Town with Rich Culture" (文献名邦) and hence the tower got the name.
South Gate is also called Double Crane Tower or Cheng'en Tower, with a history over 600 years. This gate is the oldest building of Dali Old Town and become the symbol of the ancient town. The inscription "Da Li" on the city wall was inscribed by Guo Moruo, a famous modern Chinese writers.
Wuhua Tower was first built in the year of 856 in Nanzhao for gathering and meeting. This symbolic architecture has five storeys offering a panoramic view of Dali Old Town, Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake.
The North Gate is called Anyuan Gate or Santa Gate which was first built in 1382. North Gate is the closest gate to Three Pagodas of Dali, about 1.5 kilometers away. Standing on the North Gate, travelers can have a look at Three Pagodas from afar.
Cangshan Gate is the West Gate, also called Yongzhen Tower. It is about 2 kilometers from Cangshan Gate to Tianlongbabu Film Studio and Cangshan Mountain.
Erhai Gate is the East Gate, also called Tonghai Tower. It is about 5 kilometers from Erhai Gate to Longkan Pier of Erhai Lake.
Travelers should not miss the famous "Foreigner Street", Fuxing Road and Renmen Road, etc.
The 1500-meter Fuxing Road is the main street and the busiest street in Dali Old Town, linking South Gate and North Gate. The architecture along Fuxing Road keeps Ming and Qing Dynasty style and river flows through the street. The north section of Fuxing Road is mainly for selling clothes and daily goods while the south section is mainly tourist commodities and souvenirs.
"Foreigner Street" is in the upper section of Huguo Road with a length of 185.6 meters. Travelers can see many friends from all over the world and find Chinese and Western restaurants, jewelry shops, tie-dye shops, antique shops, art galleries, bars...
The 1200-meter Renmin Road is the second Foreigner Street with many bars, hostels and restaurants. This east-west street leads to Erhai Gate.
Another OLD aspect in Dali Old Town is temples and churches. These old sites include Dali Old Town Wumiao Temple, Catholic Church located between Renmin Road and Hongjin Road, and Christian Church located in the north of the town, close to the Second Hospital.
Travelers can catch the chance to explore the museums in the town, including Dali Museum, China Dali Rural Film History Museum and Dali Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum where you can learn more history and culture of Dali and Bai Ethnic Group.
Bai people's March Fair is held from 15th to 21th of the third lunar month. March Fair is the grandest festival for the Bai people who are living in Dali, Yunnan. March Fair is also known as Guanyin Fair, hold at the foot of Cangshan Mountain and the west of Dali Old Town. Nowadays, it has developed into the largest market for commodity transaction in the west Yunnan. During the festival, businessmen and local people in and around Dali gather here to participate in the transaction. What’s more, horse-racing, folk dance and songs, Dongjing music will be presented by the Bai, Yi, Naxi, tibetan, and Hui minorities.
Cangshan Mountain (Mt. Cangshan), located west of Dali Old Town and Erhai Lake, is with nineteen peaks and eighteen streams. Travelers can take cableways to reach the top of Cangshan Mountain or explore the breathtaking scenery along Jade Cloud Road.
Erhai Lake (Ear-shaped Sea), reputed as "Pearl of Plateau", is the second largest highland lake of Yunnan. Taking a boat and cycling around the lake are fantastic ways to explore "Silver Cangshan Mountain and Jade Erhai Lake" scenery.
Three Pagodas, the symbolic building of Dali, was first built in the time of Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom in 9th and 10th century. Looking from a distance, the pagodas are like three ballpoint pens standing between the magnificent Cangshan Mountain and elegant Erhai Lake.
Dali Old Town is a very comfortable and leisure site which can be visited all year round. There is a saying going "Good Scenery is the month of March". If you want to enjoy Bai's grand festival, you can come in the beautiful spring and catch the rare chance to join in March Fair.
Dali belongs to the low altitude plateau monsoon climate and ultraviolet ray is strong. Travelers should bring usual clothes and necessities as well as sunscreen cream and sunglasses to protect yourselves.
The Tourist Center is located close to the South Gate of Dali Old Town. Travelers can buy tickets and take sightseeing bus from Dali Old Town to Three Pagodas of Dali, Tianlongbabu Film Studio, Cangshan Mountain, Zhang Family's Garden, Erhai Lake, Nanzhao Folk Island, Shuanglang, Dali Railway Station and Dali Airport, etc.
|From Dali Old Town To||Departure Time||Return Time|
|Three Pagodas of Dali||08:30~16:30||09:30~17:30|
|Tianlongbabu Film Studio||08:30~16:30||09:30~17:30|
|Cangshan Mountain Ximatan Cable Car||08:30~14:00||09:30~17:30|
|Cangshan Mountain Tonggan Cable Car||08:30~15:30||10:00~17:30|
|Erhai Lake Cruise at Longkan Pier||09:00, 09:30, 10:00, 13:30||12:30, 15:50|
|Zhang Family's Garden||09:30~16:30||10:30~17:30|
|Dali Airport||based on the actual flight schedule||07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 15:00|
|Dali Railway Station||based on the actual train schedule||07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 15:00|
Please note: all the sightseeing bus service time may adjust according to travelers practical needs. Please inquiry for the exact time when buy the tickets at the tourist center or offices.
You never need to worry about your stay in Dali Old Town. There are hotels and hostels ranging from luxury 5 star (Dali Regent Hotel recommended, located close to the East Gate), comfortable 4 star (Dali Landscape Hotel recommended, located close to Foreigner Street in the center of Dali Old Town) to budget hostels.
Travelers can taste the local snacks and food such as Rushan (Dairy Fans), Er Kuai (rice-based dish), Xizhou Baba, Sand Pot Fish, Sour and Spicy Fish, Eight Bowls of Bai People, etc.
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Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La
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