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Kunming is not only the capital city of Yunnan Province known as City of Eternal Spring, but also the best gateway city for Yunnan discovery to the hot destinations such as Lijiang, Dali, Shangri-La, Yuanyang Rice Terrace, and Xishuangbanna.
With both natural beauty and an amazing array of ethnically diverse cultures, Kunming has many things to see and explore. Usually, travelers would like spend around 3 to 5 days in and Kunming, and they can visit many top attractions in the most livable city. Besides the recommended points of interests to see, you can enrich your experience here to witness why Kunming is called the Spring City, and capture the gorgeous pictures in the paradise of photographers! Check the 8 BEST THINGS TO DO IN KUNMING to get inspired for your Kunming trip!
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Greater Stone Forest in Spring
Yi People at Kunming Stone Forest
• Type: Points of Interest & Landmarks, Geologic Formations
• Opening Hours: 08:00-18:00
• Recommended Visiting Time: half day to one day
• Ticket: entrance fee CNY 130/pp, sightseeing bus CNY 25/pp
• Location: Shilin Town, Shilin Yi Nationality Autonomous County, Kunming City (昆明市石林彝族自治县石林镇); about 85 kilometers from Kunming downtown, which needs about 1.5 hours’ driving
Every traveler comes to Kunming would like to put Kunming Stone Forest into his/her must-see travel list. Stone Forests of Shilin, inscribed as a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 called South China Karst, are considered superlative natural phenomena with sculpted pinnacle columns and a world reference site for pinnacle karst.
Also recognized as UNESCO Geopark and won the high reputation of “the First Wonder in the World”, the Stone Forest, formed by erosion over millions of years, is comprised of many kinds of peculiar stone peaks, pillars and stalagmites rising abruptly from the ground and extending as far as the eye can see. The Stone Forest Scenic Area is very large, composed of five scenic spots - Greater Stone Forest, Lesser Stone Forest, Bushao Hill, Lizi Yuanjing, Wannian Lingzhi, and Stone Forest Geological Museum. For most travelers, they would spend about half day visiting Greater Stone Forest and Lesser Stone Forest to marvel at the incredible limestone formations either by sightseeing bus or walking.
Recommended Kunming Trips with Stone Forest:
Dragon Gate of Western Hill
Western Hill Winter Scene
• Type: Points of Interest & Landmarks
• Opening Hours: 08:30-17:30
• Recommended Visiting Time: about 2 hours
• Ticket: entrance fee CNY 40/pp, cable car CNY 25/pp
• Location: Western Hill Scenic Area, Xishan Road, Xishan District, Kunming City (昆明市西山区西山公路西山国家风景名胜区内); about 17 kilometers from Kunming downtown, which needs about 0.5 hours’ driving
There is a saying “If you do not visit Western Hill, you haven’t visited Kunming; and if you do not come to Dragon Gate, you haven’t been to Western Hills”. The main reason to visit Western Hill is for the time-honored Dragon Gate and have a panoramic view of the vast Dian Lake - the Pearl of the Plateau. Dragon Gate, or Longmen Grottoes, is a series of passages caved deep into the cliffside between f78f and f835. You can have a look at the beautiful pavilions, temples, and grottoes scattered along the mountaintop. It is a good idea to spend one leisure afternoon to visit Western Hill and Dragon Gate, as well as combine with Yunnan Ethnic Village or Yunnan Nationalities Museum into the arrangement.
Travel Tips: There are many steep steps from ticket stand to the Dragon Gate, if you try to hike, it would need about 2 hours for the single way hiking. To avoid the steps, you can take a cable car instead.
Black-headed Gulls Flying over Green Lake in Winter
Green Lake in Summer
• Type: Bodies of Water, Parks
• Opening Hours: 07:00-23:00
• Recommended Visiting Time: about 1 hour
• Ticket: free
• Location: No.67, Cuihu South Road, Wuhua District, Kunming City (昆明市五华区翠湖南路67号); about 3 kilometers from Kunming downtown, which needs about f5 minutes’ driving
Kunming Green Lake, or Cui Hu, is an emerald diamond located in the heart of Kunming downtown area, where you can enjoy the authentic local life of Kunming people.
During the warm winter from November to early March, more than ten thousand snow white black-headed gulls come to Green Park to spend the winter. It will be harmonious and happy scene to see these birds playing together on the water, flying airily over the water and fighting for the food when travelers throwing bread to them. In spring, multiple lovely tulips in different colors in full blossom. In summer, the lotus flowers are blooming over the lake, decorating the Green Lake into a very attractive lady in a colorful dress. Green Lake is worth your time for a short break. Within 10 minutes’ walking, you can reach the nearby site - Yuantong Temple to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Recommended Kunming Trips with Green Lake:
Yunnan Ethnic Village
Mosuo People at Yunnan Ethnic Village
• Type: Points of Interest & Landmarks, Cultural Site
• Opening Hours: 08:00-18:00
• Recommended Visiting Time: about 3 hours
• Ticket: entrance fee CNY 90/pp
• Location: No.1310, Dianchi Road, Xishan District, Kunming (昆明市西山区滇池路1310号); about 12 kilometers from Kunming downtown, about 30 minutes’ driving
Yunnan Ethnic Village, located close to the Dian Lake and Haigeng Park, is a splendid ethnic village and an interesting window to present 26 ethnic groups in Yunnan Province. Entering into this large village, you’ll encounter real minorities in their featured houses, including Dai, Bai, Yi, Wa, Miao, Hani, Tibetan, Zhuang, Mongolian, Bulang, Jinuo, Shui, Buyi, Dulong, Pumi, Man, Hui, Yao and more. If time is right, you can enjoy some shows prepared by the ethnic groups performed at their villages . Every show lasts about 20 minutes - dancing, singing, instrumental performance, acrobatics, painting... A visit to Yunnan Ethnic Village makes you have a full understanding about different ethnic groups’ architecture, costumes, folk customs, ethnic festivals in a very short time.
Travel Tips: If you have no planning to other destinations in Yunnan Province, it is highly recommended to visit Yunnan Ethnic Village. If you schedules covered Lijiang, Dali, Shangri-La, or Yuanyang, you can skip this spot.
Flowers and Birds Market
Flowers and Birds Market
• Type: Market, Pedestrian Street, Flea & Street Markets
• Opening Hours: 08:00-17:00
• Recommended Visiting Time: about f hour
• Ticket: free
• Location: Middle Section of Jingxin Street, Wuhua District, Kunming (昆明市五华区景星街); about 1.4 kilometers from Kunming downtown
To witness why Kunming is called the City of Eternal Spring, you can come to the Flowers and Birds Market to find the answer. The most recommended market is called Jingxing Flowers and Birds Market which is located in the downtown area of Kunming. Jingxing Market is the biggest and most attractive market place where you can catch the spring colors as well as enjoy the epitome of leisure life.
Spend about one hour walking along the street where you can see flowers, birds, fish & antiques. Hundreds of flowers, including orchids, camellias, lilies & roses bloom in profusion to soothe your eyes. At the same time singing birds like parrots, mynahs, thrushes & cuckoos will harmoniously blend for a life-time pleasure of your hearing. If you are interested to purchase curios, coins, jade articles, jewelry, porcelains & stone carvings as symbol of Chinese arts & crafts, you can get plenty in this market. Take your time to enjoy!
Recommended Kunming Trips with Flowers and Birds Market:
Play Golf in Kunming
Spring City Golf & Lake Resort Kunming
• Chinese Name: 昆明春城湖畔高尔夫度假村
• Recommended Time: about 2 days
• Location: Tangchi Town, Yiliang County, Kunming City (昆明市宜良县汤池镇昆石高速阳宗海湖畔); about 56 Kilometers from Kunming Downtown, which needs about 1-1.5 hours’ driving
Kunming is called the paradise of golfing! Known as "the City of Eternal Spring", Kunming lies at an almost-tropical latitude but its 2000 meters altitude gives it a very temperate climate with an average temperature of 15℃. Kunming is suitable for playing golf all year round. The most recommended golf course is Spring City Golf & Lake Resort Kunming - “the Golf Paradise in Asia”. This golf club is well blended with the natural environment, fully making use of the attractive mountain and lake scenery, well designed based on dramatic view changing in elevation and expansive nature of the site, creating comfortable golf experience that no other golf courses in China can be compared. In 2003 and 2005, The US Golf Digest ranked it “the No.1 Golf Course in China” while Golf Digest Hong Kong listed it among the “Top 10 Golf Courses in China and Hong Kong”.
Spring City Golf & Lake Resort Kunming is well located between Kunming downtown area and the famous site Stone Forest. Golfers can take some leisure time to visit Stone Forest to marvel at the incredible limestone formations as well as walk around the Spring City to catch more. Learn more about Kunming Golf | Best Golf Courses in Kunming >>
Recommended Kunming Trips with Golf Experience:
Dongchuan Red Land Spring Scene
Dongchuan Red Land Panoramic Sunset View
• Type: Nature Areas, Geologic Formations
• Opening Hours: all day
• Recommended Visiting Time: about 1 day to 2 days
• Location: Huashitou Village, Dongchuan District, Kunming City (昆明市东川区花石头村); about 150km to the northeast of Kunming city, about 3-3.5 hours’ driving
Dongchuan Red Land, reputed as “God’s Magic Palette”, or “Wonderful Vistas of Color”, is the most attractive and distinctive red land in the world. What makes the land spectacular is the different plants with layers of colors of red, green, yellow, purple in different seasons. Dongchuan Red Land is a little far away from Kunming city, which is located at the northeast of Kunming City, taking about 3-3.5 hours for the transfer.
Dongchuan Red Land is scattered and mainly composed of Damakan Village (best for sunrise), Qicaipo, Jinxiu Yuan, Luoxiagou (best for sunset), Yuepuao, Luosiwan and Wafangliangzi, Shuipingzi and Ancient Tree. Don’t miss the chance to shoot the sunrise scene, sunset panoramic scene...as well, you’ll meet the local people dressed in traditional ethnic costumes working on the red land. The best time to visit Dongchuan Red Land is March to May, and September to November. Want to come?
Recommended Kunming Trips with Dongchuan Red Land:
Sunset of Daba Rice Terrace
Hani Ethnic People Working on the Yuanyang Rice Terrace (Winter Scene)
• Type: Nature Areas, Rice Terrace
• Opening Hours: all day
• Recommended Visiting Time: entrance fee CNY 100/pp
• Location: Yuanyang Rice Terrace Scenic Area, Yuanyang County, Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan (云南省红河哈尼族彝族自治州元阳县元阳梯田景区); about 366 km to the northeast of Kunming city, about 5-6 hours’ driving
Yuanyang Rice Terrace, a UNESCO World Heritage inscribed as Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in 2013, is marked by spectacular rice terraces that cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Honghe River. It is a paradise for photographers who can capture amazing sunrise, sunset scene and Hani villages views. Yuanyang Rice Terrace is wildly scattered, mainly composed of Bada Scenic Spot, Duoyishu Scenic Spot and Laohuzui Scenic Spot. The best time to come to Yuanyang Rice Terrace is from December to March, especially from January to March which is after the harvest and the terraces have been irrigated.
Most travelers who want to visit Yuanyang Rice Terrace would first reach Kunming, the most important gateway city to Yuanyang. As the driving taking about 5-6 hours for single way, travelers should plan about 3 days to visit the rice terrace.
Recommended Kunming Trip with Yuanyang Rice Terrace:
3-4 day will be enough for Kunming. For most visitors, they spend 1-2 days in the city to explore the top highlights including Stone Forest, Green Lake Park, Western Hill, Yuantong Temple, Dianchi Lake, Yunnan Nationalities Museum, birds and flowers markets, etc. Dongchuan Red Land usually needs 1-2 more days to shoot the amazing agricultural colors. View All Kunming Tours >>
While, usually, visitors plan Kunming in a longer Yunnan trip to discover more natural and cultural essences in Dali, Lijiang Shangri-La, that would need about 6-8 days in total. If you are interested, you can also extend to Yuanyang to see the terrific rice terraces for another 1-2 days. We China Discovery are experienced in helping travelers planning and customizing their tours based on their needs, so please tell us your ideal destinations, interests, needs, budgets, and any other requirements to let us help you plan your own Kunming trip, Kunming Yunnan trip, or Kunming China trip!
Learn more about How to Plan a Kunming Tour >>
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[Important] Travel News for Expats: China travel is reopening now! Travel with China Discovery and learn about where to visit & requirements for each destination! Read Details >