8 Days Dongchuan, Yuanyang & Jianshui Photography Tour

Superlative Visual Feast in Yunnan

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Have you got the most beautiful color in your mind? If not, the top 3 photography destinations in Yunnan, including Dongchuan Red Land, Yuanyang Rice Terraces and Jianshui Old Town, will present the most colorful land, the most harmonious relationship between human and nature.

The land in Dongchuan and the terraced rice paddies in Yuanyang are the masterpieces cultivated by the industrious ethic groups in the long river of time. The beauties are breathtaking, gorgeous and magnificent! In this superlative visual feast photography tour, you’ll lose yourselves in the peerless scenery and sepcial folk customs. 

This Yunnan photography tour can be customized depending on what photos you want to take, and on the weather condition when you go. Feel free to tell your interests and ideas to your personal travel consultants!


Recent news: Due to the collapse caused by the sudden mud-rock flow and heavy rain in Yuanyang, the Tiger Mouth Rice Terraces is temporarily closed. At present, Duoyishu scenic area and Bada scenic area are still opening to the public. We will update the news once we get the official notice of the reopening of the Tiger Mouth Rice Terraces.

Basic Photography Info

Travel Route: Kunming / Dongchuan / Shilin / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming

Travel Length: 8 Days

Tour Code: CD-PTDYJ-08

Tour Type: Customizable Private Tour

Departure: You Choose (you may plan it according to the best season and time.)

Itinerary Details Day by Day

Day 1 Kunming Arrival

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Welcome to Kunming, the Spring City of China! Upon arrival at the Kunming airport/train station, the local tour guide and driver will meet you in the arrival hall and escort you to your hotel.

After a short rest, stroll in the most picturesque park in Kunming urban area - the Green Lake Park. Here you can share the happiness of local people’s doing tai chi, performing local opera, and other vibrant activities. If you visit the park in November or December, you will see the grandeur of huge flocks of red-beaked gulls that migrate there from Siberia.

Green Lake Winter Scene
Day 2 Kunming - Dongchuan Red Land (B)

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In this morning, your guide and driver will pick you up at hotel. Then, transfer to Dongchuan with 3 hours’ drive (about 180 kilometers northeast of Kunming). Dongchuan Red Land is the most typical and featured red land in the world, located at 1800~2600 meters above the sea level. Azure sky, white clouds, unpredictable light and the red land form the dazzling colors and spectacular scenery.

In this afternoon, you will first enjoy a trip to Shuipingzi. It features endless layers of rice terraces, stretching itself to the horizon. In spring, you can shoot the irrigation scenery of the paddy fields, while autumn is great time to shoot the golden paddy fields. Then, have a close look at the thousand-year-old Ancient Tree which is regarded as the holy tree by local people. Later, head to Luoxiagou Valley to enjoy magnificent view onto the villages and farmlands surrounded by red land. The sunset atmosphere in the late afternoon turns the splendid views to an even more remarkable event, offering almost endless opportunities to photographers. Shoot the amazing sunset view at a good location at Luoxiagou Valley. 

Dongchuan Red Land
Day 3 Dongchuan Red Land - Kunming (B)

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On this day, you will get up early to take awesome pictures of the sunrise at Damakan. In the early morning, smoke curling up from the chimney, the rosy sunglow spreading all over the sky, it takes you into a dreamland. Standing on the highway and you can overlook the red land and the beautiful sunrise. (Please note: you’d better get up early and reach there before 06:30. The sunrise may stretch out the horizon around 07:00.)

After that, continue your trip for photography. You will reach Jinxiu Garden, a vast expanse of many rolling hills with red fields. Then, get to Qicai Slope, a place gets its name from seven fields with seven different colors. It is a great site to shoot the colorful Dongchuan Red Land. Later, pay a visit to Yuepuao. You won’t miss the breathtaking view of Yuepuao with elegant lines just like musical notation. Several hundred meters away Yuepuao, it is Luoshiwan (River Snail Bay) and Wafangliangzi (Tiled House Bridge) where you could capture the complete view of Yuepuao and folk houses on the land.

After the tour, drive back to Kunming and transfer to your hotel.

Dongchuan Ancient Tree View
Day 4 Kunming - Stone Forest (B)

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Later, drive 85 km to the typical Karst landform - Stone Forest. Walk into the Greater Stone Forest, marvel at groups of gray-black stone peaks and climb up a pavilion to have a panoramic view of the intricate stone forest. Visit the Lesser Stone Forest and listen to the legendary story of “Ashima”. It will be a real treat to visit the extraordinary natural stone forest.

If time permits, drive about 40 minutes to visit Nuohei Village which is a typical Yi minority village with more than 600 years history in Shilin County and reputed as “the most famous stony village with Karst landscape”. You’ll totally indulge in this featured village of stone - stone houses, stone walls, stone paved roads, stone squares and stone mills…and have a wonderful time to explore local customs. (Note: You can follow the locals and have in-depth experience to learn how to play Yi musical instrument, make Yi’s local food - Baba, or learn Yi embroidery, you should pay extra expense. Please tell your likes to your travel consultant or tour guide.)

Stay overnight in Shilin County.

Ashima Featured Limestone RockKunming Nuohei Village
Day 5 Stone Forest - Yuanyang (B)

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After breakfast, drive about 6 hours to Yuanyang. On the way, you have chance to stop to see some ethnic minority villages.

After arriving in Yuanyang, you’ll catch the perfect time to watch sunset at Laohuzui Rice Terrace. Laohuzui, also called Tiger Mouth Rice Terraces after its shape, is the steepest, the grandest, the most magnificent Rice Terrace among all the rice terraces of Yuanyang. You can stand at the higher viewing deck to have a panoramic view of the whole Laohuzui Rice Terrace, also by getting down to the lower viewing deck to shoot many amazing photos - sometimes like two horses galloping quickly, sometimes like millions of snakes wriggling, sometimes like a white flower blooming…

Stay overnight in Yuanyang.

Laohuzui Rice Terrace
Day 6 Yuanyang (B)

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In early morning, you'll drive to Duoyishu Village and shoot the beautiful view of Duoyishu Rice Terrace Fields, especially when the sun appears above the eastern horizon and rice terraces change its color into golden, shining brilliantly. If the weather permits, you will see the scenery of the terraced fields from the top of the mountains to the bottom. They are all farmlands under the sunshine and cloud and mist. The landscape is spectacular and harmonious.

Later, you'll attend the Ethnic Market & Bazaar in Yuanyang, a place for local people trading daily supplies, including fresh vegetable, fruits, meats, and many kinds of food and daily necessities. It is a great opportunity for getting close to Hani people’s living conditions.

And then, you will visit Qingkou Hani Ethnic Village shrouded in luxuriant forest and rice terraces and the local Hani people for generations inhabit with Mushroom-shaped Houses. Setting foot on Qingkou, you will impressed by the featured houses and have a great understanding about Hani culture which is showcased in Hani Culture Museum. Lastly, have a nice shoot in the spectacular Bada Hani Rice Terrace. At dusk, when the sun shines on the 950 hectares rice paddies rising from 800 meters to 2000 meters, the magnificent scene forms, like the latters toward heaven. Hold your breath when sunset glow shining upon the paddies and you'll see the 3700 level terraces first turns pink, then rosy and later dark red, pink, golden and white…

Stay overnight in Yuanyang.

Duoyishu Rice TerraceMushroom Houses
Day 7 Yuanyang - Jianshui (B)

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In this morning, you will head to Jianshui County, about 3.5 hours’ driving. After arriving in Jianshui, you’ll pay a visit to Jianshui Ancient Town which is reputed as “Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses” with a history of about 1200 years. Stroll along the old street and see kinds of old wells to witness how water pays an important role in making the famous Jianshui stinky Tofu. Reach Chaoyang Tower to see this imposing Ming edifice which is modeled on the Yellow Crane Town in Wuhan and Yueyang Tower in Hunan and bears more than a passing resemblance to Tian’anmen in Beijing.

Then you’ll visit Confucius Temple, the third largest Confucius temple in China. The temple has operated as a school for 750 years and was so successful that over half of all Yunnan’s successful candidates in imperial examinations during this period came from Jianshui.

Lastly, have a nice walk to Zhu Family Garden, a spacious 20,000-square-meter residential complex built in Qing Dynasty comprising ancestral buildings, family homes, ponds and lovely gardens.

Confucius TempleZhu Family Garden
Day 8 Jianshui - Kunming Departure (B)

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With fresh air in the morning, go for the Double Dragon Bridge which is a Seventeen-Arch Bridge with 148 meters long and 3 meters wide. It crosses above the injunction of Lu River and Tachong River which looks like two Chinese dragons, hence the name Shuanglong Bridge.

Later, transfer to Tuanshan Village. Built in Ming Dynasty, Tuanshan Village is regarded as the Gem of Chinese Civil Houses and the most beautiful village where the architectural style of the 19th century and beyond remains intact and the distinctive way of people's life is preserved, fully showcasing China's indigenous cultural characteristics. Have a wonderful stroll in this old village and explore the distinctive buildings, unique lifestyle and folkways of Tuanshan Villagers.

After that, you'll be driven back to Kunming. After arriving in Kunming, transfer to airport or train station to catch your flight/train (after 18:00) to next destination or back home.

Twin Dragon Bridge
8 Days Dongchuan, Yuanyang & Jianshui Photography Tour Map

Customize your own China Photography Tour

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In this Yunnan superlative visual feast photography tour, you’ll photograph in three great destinations, including Dongchuan Red Land, Yuanyang Rice Terrace and Jianhsui Old Town. Please take some time and check the photography guide one by one and you are sure on the way to get the most gorgeous pictures in those places.

Dongchuan Red Land Photography Guide

I should say Dongchuan is not only a tourist site, but also a photographers’ paradise. Reputed as “God’s Magic Platte”, Dongchuan Red Land is famous for the incredible bursting colors and someone think it is even more beautiful than that in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For travelers, you’ll capture breathtaking scenery - the reddish earth, the beautiful and contrasting hues, the farmland, the surrounding mountains, the villagers working in the colorful fields...

The splendid Dongchuan will keep you busy with your camera. You should arrange enough time and find best sites to capture sunrise, sunset, thousand-year-old tree, and other village view...

Best Sites for Photography

Damakan Village: for Sunrise

It is the best site to capture sunrise. The village is located in the middle of the hill and suitable for down shot. In the early morning, smoke curling up from the chimney, the rosy sunglow spreading all over the sky, it takes you into a dreamland. You’d better get up early and reach there before 06:30. The sunrise may stretch out the horizon around 07:00.

Luoxiagou (Sunset Valley): for Sunset

It is the best site to capture sunset. Luoxiagou is a low land encircled by hills with the most subtle shades around here. Stand on a high location and use sidelight to shoot sunset view. It is better to reach there before 15:30. The best time to view sunset at Luoxiagou during 16:30-17:30.

Qicaipo (Seven-Color Slope) & Jinxiu Yuan (Embroidery Garden)

Qicaipo gets its name from seven fields with seven different colors, hence is the a great site to shoot the colorful Dongchuan Red Land. Not far from Qicaipo, Jinxiuyuan has a vast expanse of many rolling hills with red fields. It is another place to shoot the colorful fields.

Yuepuao (Music Hollow)

You won’t miss the breathtaking view of Yuepuao with elegant lines just like musical notation. Several hundred miles near Yuepuao, it is Luoshiwan (River Snail Bay) and Wafangliangzi (Tiled House Bridge) where you could capture the complete view of Yuepuao and folk houses on the land. Photographers also could capture sunset with Dongchuan Red Land in Wafangliangzi or Luoshiwan.

Ancient Tree

This thousand-year-old tree stands in a hill alone and is regarded as the holy tree by local people. It is said that the tree withered up for three years and after that the leaves grow on the tree. Until now, it is the watchman and protect the whole village. It is suitable to shoot the old tree from a distance.

Shuipingzi Terrace

It features endless layers of rice terraces, among which one resembles one Pipa (an ancient music instrument). It is suitable to use back light in the afternoon.

Best Season for Photography

September to December and April to June are the best seasons to visit Dongchuan Red Land. September to December should be the best time to photography. At this time, Dongchuan Red Land presents the most beautiful side - the land carpeted with rape, potatoes and buckwheat, especially in the morning, it is misty showing the mysterious side of Dongchuan Red Land. April to June is another best time for photography. It is the flowering period and harvest season for Brassica napus and wheat. The land at this time shows you green, purple red, light yellow and golden yellow. The third day after the rain, Dongchuan Red Land will show the most red side. It is very suitable for photography.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Photographic equipment

Bring wide angle lens, ultra wide angle lens and tripod to capture sunrise in Damakan and sunset in Luoxiagou, Luoshiwan or Wafangliangzi.

2. High angle shot

Dongchuan Red Land at an altitude of 1800m-2600m, is good for high angle shot. Pay attention to the line and color of Dongchuan Red Land.

3. Transportation Info

Travelers could take bus from Kunming Dongju Bus Station and Nanjiao Bus Station. The buses run during 07:00-19:00. It is better to take Dongchuan-Fazhe bus and stop at Huashitou.

4. Accommodation Advice

The hotels and hostels are very basic but comfortable. To enjoy the sunrise and sunset of Dongchuan Red Land, you could stay in a convenient location.

For more photography advice in Dongchuan, you could feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

Yuanyang Rice Terrace Photography Guide

Yuanyang Rice Terrace is located in Yuanyang County, south of Ailao mountain range at an elevation of around 1570 meters. Yuanyang Rice Terraces is regarded as one of the top 3 rice terraces in China and reputed as the “most beautiful curvy lines of the world”. It is a popular destination with photographers due to the vast areas of the terraced rice paddies cultivated by the Hani people. The vast majority of the Hani ethnic minority women in Yuanyang county still wear traditional clothes as their daily attire. Hence, there are two kinds of subjects should shoot for your photography tour in Yuanyang - rice terrace scenery and Hani folk customs.

To photograph the rice terraces, you should not miss the most famous scenic areas like Xinjie Rice Terrace, Duoyishu Rice Terrace, Bada Rice Terrace, Laohuzui Rice Terrace. To shoot the Hani folk customs, you could meet Hani people in Xinjie, ethnic villages, local markets and the rice paddy fields, etc.

Best Sites for Photography

The weather of Yuanyang Rice Terraces changes a lot during a day. It is better for travelers to arrange 2 or 3 days in Yuanyang to capture the spectacular sunrise, sunset and other terrace scenery. The ideal spots to photograph the terraces at different time are scatter as below.

Duoyishu Scenic Area: for Sunrise

It is the best place to capture sunglow and sunrise, usually around 07:00. Duoyishu is about 25 km from Xinjie and 5 km from Shengcun. To catch the sunrise, it is better to stay overnight in Duoyishu. The main attractions in Duoyishu include sunrise at Huangcaoling, Pugaolaozhai Terraced fields and villages, Duoyishu Rice Terrace, etc. There are viewing decks offered and it is better to shoot the sunrise at a high location for the panorama view of Duoyishu. If time permits, you could get down to Pugaolaozhai and shoot the partial terrace at a close-up shot. The weather is changeable in Duoyishu and you’d better ask more advice from your photography guide. And also try to get up early and find a good location to wait for the sunrise.

Bada Scenic Area: for Sunset

It is a good place to shoot the sunset, usually around 18:00. Bada is with 950 hectares and 17 villages, over 3700 level terraces look like the ladder reaching to the sky. The main attraction of Bada include Quanfuzhuang Rice Terrace, Bada Rice Terrace, Malizhai Rice Terrace, Shangmadian Rice Terrace, etc. There are two viewing decks at similar heights but different lateral perspectives. You’d better to arrive 30 minutes earlier before sunset and you could decide which viewing deck you are going to use and how to photograph by using telephoto lens and zoom lens.

Laohuzui Rice Terrace: for Sunset

It is the best place for sunset, usually around 18:00. In Laohuzui, you could shoot the most magnificent and spectacular terraces. Overlooking the rice terrace at the Tiger Mouth, you’ll capture the rice terrace is like a huge white flowers. When the sun is getting down slowly, the light is getting low, the color temperature is rising, the rice terrace is turning blue, then golden, pink and red. During the short time, you could capture the changeable Laohuzui Rice Terrace. It is located 20km from Xinjie and if you take private car and the weather condition is good, it is suggested to head to Laohuzui Rice Terrace to catch the sunglow and sunset.

Xinjie Scenic Area: for Daytime Photography

Xinjie is the old county of Yuanyang with an elevation of 1500 meters. In Xinjie, photographers could enjoy sea of clouds, sunrise and the ethnic groups. About 8km from Xinjie, it is the Jingkou Hani Folk Village. There are about 160 mushroom houses situated in the middle of the hills. It is good to shoot the Hani Folk Village around 08:00. At this time, the village is standing in the mist, smoke is curling up from the chimney, the sun is gently shining over the house, the kids are playing happily...the joyful moments will be kept in your pictures.

Best Season for Photography

Different seasons present different Yuanyang Rice Terrace. The best season to shoot Yuanyang Rice Terrace is from November to the next April, especially in January and February. At this time, there is no plants in the flooded paddy fields and every layer of level terraces is bright with perfect effect of light, colors and shadow. For photographers who want to shoot the green rice terraces, it is good to visit in mid-April to mid-July. For those who want to shoot the golden rice terraces, it is good to visit in September and October. In autumn, the day is sunny and photographer could enjoy the sea of clouds over the golden rice paddies.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Photographic equipment

To capture the magnificent Yuanyang Rice Terrace, it is good to use wide angle (20mm and above) and telephoto lenses (200mm and above). A tripod and lens hood will make your pictures perfect when shooting sunrise and sunset over the rice paddies. Also, polarizer and gradual change grey color lenses will help you get better terrace pictures. The weather of Yuanyang changes a lot and it is good to take waterproofing and damp proofing measure.

2. Photographic skills

Observe and pay attention to the shape of terraced rice paddies and their lines. It is good to use back light, Rembrandt light and side light when shoot the terraces. To shoot the magnificent rice terraces, you could get on a high location and use high angle shot.

3. Hike experience

If your physical condition permits, you could hike along the rice paddies and capture the Hani ethnic people working in the field, kids playing, water buffaloes and horses grazing...

4. Hani Folk Culture

To capture the most of Hani culture and customs, photographers could come to enjoy the October New Year of Hani (last for 13 days), Long Dragon Feast (the last day of October New Year), Kuzaza Festival of Hani (in lunar June).

For more photography advice in Yuanyang, you could feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

Jianshui Photography Guide

Jianshui Photography Tour Jianshui Photography Tour Jianshui Photography Tour

Jianshui, with a history over 1200 years, enjoys a reputation as “Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses”. Photographers who head to Yuanyang Rice Terraces choose Jianshui as a stop for 1 or 2 days. They could shoot both in Jianshui Old Town and in the countryside out of town. Jianshui Old Town is full of ancient architecture with over 100 ancient sites. The typical sites like Zhu Family Garden, Chaoyang Tower, Confucius Temple are within walk distance. Out of Jianshui, it is good to catch the best scenery of Twin Dragon Bridge, Tuanshan Zhang Family Garden. The main subject is about Jianshui local cultural customs and ancient architecture in those places.

Best Sites for Photography

Zhu Family Garden

It is good to visit in the morning or at dusk. Built in Qing Dynasty, Zhu Family Garden have a “three vertical and four horizontal” layout. Photographers could shoot the ancestral hall, courtyards, ponds, theater pavilion, intricate painted ceiling, antithetical couplet, carved door, etc.

Jianshui Confucius Temple

The second largest Confucius Temple with over 700 years’ history. There are many ancient buildings follow a central-axis structure.

Chaoyang Tower

Called the “Little Tiananmen Square”. Climb up Chaoyang Tower in the morning, for an overall view of Jianshui and embrace of gentle sunshine.

Twin Dragon Bridge

It is good to shoot “the Seventeen-Arch Bridge” on one side of the river.

Tuanshan Folk Residence

Tuanshan has preserved a great number of ancient and traditional architectures. Among them, the most famous one is Zhang Family Garden.

Best Season for Photography

Jianshui is a place suitable for photography all the year around.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Photographic equipment

It is good to use a tripod for shooting the ancient architectures. Bring wide angle lens for shooting architectures’ interior details and use telephoto lens to capture from long distance.

2. Shoot details

When visiting the ancient architectures like Zhu Family Garden, Confucius Temple, it is good to shoot many architecture details.

3. Transport Info

Trains and long-distance bus are well connected Jianshui with Kunming. Every day, there are four trains between Kunming and Jianshui, taking about 3.5 hours. It also takes 3-4 hours by long distance bus. The road between Yuanyang and Jianshui is zigzag and it takes about 4.5 hours to Yuanyang county.

For more photography advice in Jianshui, you could feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

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