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How to Plan a Yuanyang Tour | Ultimate Guide for Yuanyang Rice Terraces

For a traveler, if you don’t go to Yuanyang and Yuanyang will be sad for you. The main reason to come to Yuanyang is definitely for the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, officially got acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site in 2013. As the core area of Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang is often regarded as the largest and most spectacular rice terrace in the world. Sculpted rice terraces cling to the undulating hillsides, their glittering waters dancing with the brilliant reflected sunlight. Over the past 1300 years, Hani people have been working among the rice paddies generation after generation, creating the most incredible masterpiece by their own hands. No matter you want escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern cities to indulge yourselves into the breathtaking natural wonderland, or go for shooting many pictures you never see in other places before, you can get your inspirations here!

So, how to plan a trip to Yuanyang Rice Terraces? Where to start the trip since Yuanyang is remote in the southern Yunnan? Check this ultimate Yuanyang trip planning guide for everything you need to know about Yuanyang, including best time to visit, how to get to Yuanyang, best attractions to see and recommended things to do, how long to spend and itineraries suggestions, where to stay and more for your Yuanyang trip. Get inspired now!

Yuanyang Weather & Best Time to Visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang, in the south of Yunnan Province, belongs to subtropical mountain monsoon climate. The average annual temperature of the whole Yuanyang county is about 24.4℃. Yuanyang Rice Terraces are surrounded by Ailao Mountains, ranging from 144 meters along Red River to 2939.6 meters above sea level in the Ailao Mountain. The scenery in each rice terrace varies according to different seasons and even changes a lot during a day. The local Hani People normally begin to plant rice seedlings from May, while the harvest time usually comes in September. During Late November to next April, the entire rice field will be irrigated with water from the forest above to rejuvenate and getting prepared for the next season. For travelers who want to take many awesome pictures, the best time to visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces is from late November to next April.

Yuanyang Rice Terrace Visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces in Winter Time
Best Time Reason to Come Scenery to Enjoy
Late November to April Water season for terraces that best for photography and sightseeing The bare fields full of water reflecting the beautiful and colorful sky and sunlight above. Best time to shoot sunrise, sunset and mist Hani villages.
May Planting time Local Hani People dressed in their iconic minority clothes will plant rice seedlings in the fields. See green rice terraces in summer time.
September Golden harvest time The mountains will be a yellowish-brown sea of ripe rice and locals are going to do their yearly harvest. See golden rice terraces in Autumn time.

(Note: Different seasons of Yuanyang Rice Terraces show you different scenery. You are suggested to choose your time to meet the most beautiful rice terraces.)

Learn more about: Yuanyang Weather, Temperature & Best Time to Visit

Which is the Best Gateway to Start a Yuanyang Tour?

Kunming is served as the best gateway for a Yuanyang Rice Terrace tour. There is no airport and railway station in Yuanyang County and travelers should first get to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province with convenient flights and high speed train connecting, and then make a transfer from Kunming to Yuanyang. So, you should plan at least 3 days for your Yuanyang trip from Kunming.

5 Days Kunming, Jianshui & Yuanyang Rice Terraces Tour (Kunming / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming)

How to Get to Yuanyang? How to Explore around Yuanyang Rice Terraces?

For there is no flights or trains to Yuanyang, the best way to get to Yuanyang is by driving (with China Discovery’s private car or local long distance bus). It is about 320 kilometers between Kunming and Yuanyang. If you go directly to Yuanyang from Kunming, it needs about 5.5~6 hours without stopping. Many travelers choose to make a stop and explore some stunning attractions along the way, such as Stone Forest, Jianshui Old Town.

Kunming to Yuanyang (320km, 5.5-6 hours’ driving)

For travelers who want to have a Yuanyang tour, they will first land in Kunming. Kunming is the most popular gateway to Yuanyang. It is about 320 kilometers between. If you take our private car, it needs about 5.5~6 hours. And if you go with long distance bus, it needs about 7 hours. There is one or two schedules running from Kunming South Bus Station to Yuanyang Xinjie Bus Station (one in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon).

Learn more about: Kunming Yuanyang Detailed Transportation Plan

Jianshui to Yuanyang (116km, about 3 hours’ driving)

If you want to make a visit to Jianshui Old Town on the way, you can first take a high speed train or private car from Kunming to Jianshui. And then take our private car or the long distance bus from Jianshui to Yuanyang. The driving distance between Jianshui and Yuanyang Rice Terraces is about 116km, which needs about 3 hours around. Many long distance buses are available from Jianshui Bus Station to Yuanyang Xinjie Town or Nansha Town. It takes about 4 hours.

Stone Forest to Yuanyang (293km, 4-4.5 hours’ driving)

Stone Forest is about 78 kilometers in the east of Kunming City. Part of travelers would like to have a tour to Stone Forest first and then get to Yuanyang Rice Terrace. It is about 293 Kilometers from Shilin County to Yuanyang County. No long distance bus connects between. The best way to transfer from Shilin to Yuanyang is taking our private car service which includes Kunming - Stone Forest - Yuanyang transportation with your personal driver and experienced tour guide. If you go with us, it takes about 4-4.5 hours from Shilin to Yuanyang Xinjie Town.

Getting around Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Inside the Yuanyang Rice Terraces Scenic Area, there is no taxi for you to get around. Most of the scenic spots are 8-10km apart from each other, and you can go between villages for CNY 5-15 by minivan. The minivans are provided by locals who know little about English or sometimes even mandarin. It is suggested to use our private car for a worry free transfer.

Learn more about: How to Get to Yuanyang & around Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Kunming to Yuanyang Transportation Map Kunming to Yuanyang Transportation
Yuanyang Rice Terraces Map Yuanyang Rice Terraces Map
Minivan in Yuanyang County

Best Rice Terraces to See in Yuanyang

The UNESCO Yuanyang Rice Terraces are very large and separated, covering 17,000 hectares with changeable sightseeing of layers of curving terraced fields in green, blue, red, etc. in four seasons. To visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces, it means you’ll visit its some small scenic spots either for panoramic view, sunrise, sunset or misty village scene.

Duoyishu Rice Terrace - Best Site for Sunrise

If you come to Yuanyang, you should never miss Duoyishu Rice Terraces for the amazing sunrise which makes you never want to leave. Duoyishu Rice Terrace has 650 hectare which is composed of Huangcaoling, Duoyishu, Aichun, Dawazhe, etc. This rice terrace is surrounded by high mountains in three sides and stretching to the valley in one side, like a great bay area. There are many mushroom-like houses dotted aside the rice paddies, just like the sailboat moving into the sea. When the sun rises over the surrounded mountains, the rice terraces change its color into golden, shining brilliantly. The mysterious sea of clouds, special mushroom houses and beautiful rice paddies and working Hani people are very harmony. Learn details about Duoyishu Rice Terrace >>

  • Altitude: 1,900 meters
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 2-3 hours
  • Transfer from Yuanyang Xinjie Town: about 1 hour by car (27km)
  • Sunrise Time: The sun rises up during 06:00~07:30 and usually around 07:00 in the spring time.
Yuanyang Duoyishi Rice Terraces Sunrise & Morning Scene Yuanyang Duoyishi Rice Terraces Sunrise & Morning Scene

Bada Rice Terraces - Best Site for Sunset & Panorama View

Every traveler come to Yuanyang for the Hani Rice Terraces and come to Bada Rice Terraces for the magnificent SUNSET. The 950-hectare Bada Rice Terraces is like the ladders to the heaven with over 3700 levels, rising up from 800 meters to 2000 meters. The words “Vast”, “Magnificent”, “Beautiful Curved Lines” and “Stereoscopic” can be used to describe Bada Rice Terraces. There are some villages including Quanfuzhuang, Malizhai, Bada, Shangmadian surrounded by the rice terraces and travelers can have panoramic view. In the winter time after autumn harvest, the rice terraces are filled with water and when sunset glow shines upon the paddies, the 3700-level terraces first turns pink, then rosy and later dark red, pink, golden and white….The sea of clouds over Bada Rice Terraces add more mysterious feel and when standing on the top of the rice paddies and looking down and around, you only have to say “This is the most spectacular rice paddies I have ever seen”. Learn details about Bada Rice Terraces >>

  • Altitude: 800 meters ~ 2,000 meters
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 2-3 hours
  • Transfer from Yuanyang Xinjie Town: about 0.5 hour by car (16km)
  • Sunset Time: The sun goes down during 18:00~20:00. In the spring time, it is usually during 19:10~19:50, in summer at 19:25~19:57, in autumn at 18:20~19:26 and in winter at 18:20~19:11.
Bada Rice Terraces in Yuanyang Bada Rice Terrace

Longshuba (Dragon Tree Dam) Rice Terrace - Floating Red Duckweed Terrace

Longshuba Rice Terrace, also called Dragon Tree Dam Rice Terrace, is located in the west of Yuanyang Xinjie Town, about 3.5 kilometers away. Its fame cannot be compared with Duoyi Rice Terrace and Bada Rice Terrace. BUT, it is unique and worth your time to explore for it has vast floating red duckweed upon the rice paddies. The beautiful colors (red, yellow and green) of Longshuba makes it very sublime and gorgeous. The reason why Longshuba has the red rice terrace is that its water has different oxygen composition. During winter season, Longshuba has the most floating red duckweed with most beautiful scenery.

  • Altitude: 1,400 meters
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 2-3 hours
  • Transfer from Yuanyang Xinjie Town: about 15-20 mins by car (3.5km)
  • Best Time: In the late afternoon during sunset time
Longshuba Rice Terrace in Yuanyang Hani People Working in the Fields of Longshuba

Azheke Village - the Most Primitive Hani Village with Mushroom Houses

Azheke Village is close to Aichun and Duoyishu. In Hani language, Azheke means a place with many bamboos. Till now, Azheke Village is the most primitive Hani Village and 51 mushroom houses are listed into the protective mushroom houses in Yuanyang. It belongs to one of the five Hani villages listed into the UNESCO site. Azheke Village is the best example of harmony living between humankind and nature, fully presenting Forest - Village - River - Clouds fused together. It is recommended to take a hiking tour from Duoyishu to Azheke that you can closely view the rice terrace scenery and shoot many amazing pictures before getting to Azheke. In Azheke Village, you can have better exploration about the traditional mushroom houses and pay a visit to one of the local Hani families to know about their real life and even taste some food made by them.

  • Altitude: 1,920 meters
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 2-3 hours
  • Transfer from Yuanyang Xinjie Town: about 1-1.5 hours by car (39km)

▶ Learn more about: Yuanyang Rice Terraces | Top Attractions in Yuanyang

Yuanyang Azheke Village Yuanyang Azheke Village's Mushroom Houses

Recommended Things to Do in Yuanyang

Exciting Hiking Experience among the Rice Paddies

If weather and your time permits, it is highly recommended to spend several hours or half day hiking among the rice paddies to fully appreciate the stunning terrace scenery and meet local Hani people on the way. Usually, you’ll hike from one village to another village. It is a good chance to shoot the either green or golden rice terrace scene while walking, Hani people working in the field, ox, ducks...when get to the featured Hani village with traditional mushroom-like houses, you can visit one of their home to know their real daily life and other ethnic customs...There are three routes we recommended for most travelers and you can choose the one based on your likes.

Route 1 - Trek Close to Blue Rice Terraces and Azheke Village: This route is about 5 kilometers’ walking from Duoyishu Rice Terrace to Azheke Village. On the way, you’ll pass by Aichun Blue Rice Terrace. In Azheke Village, you can feel the most primitive flavor of Hani ethnic group and pay a visit to one of their home to taste some local food. It takes about 2-4 hours for the whole hiking and visiting.

3 Days Yuanyang Rice Terrace Hiking Tour for Hani Culture Exploration

Route 2 - Trekking with Opportunity to Enjoy Sunrise in Duoyishu and Multiple-color Terrace in Laoyingzui: Start in the early morning in Duoyishu Rice Terrace for the amazing sunrise putting on the sky and hike via Shengcun Village to Malizhai Village and finally get to Laoyingzui Rice Terrace where is famous for the multiple-color terraces with layers upon layers stretching from the hill to the river valley. This whole length is about 9.5 kilometers, taking about 4 to 6 hours for hiking.

Route 3 - Hiking from Luomadian via Bada to Quanfuzhuang Rice Terrace for Magnificent Sunset: This route is very suitable to do in the afternoon for the famous Bada Rice Terrace is the best location for sunset. The whole length is about 3.5 kilometers, taking about 1-1.5 hours for hiking. What attracts travelers most is that this route provides the best opportunity to view the panoramic rice terraces at good locations. You can have a good look at the thousand layers of terraces cascading down from the mountains to the valley with huge height difference.

No matter which route you are interested in, please feel free to let us know and we are here glad to customize your own hiking route for your Yuanyang tour.

Aichun Rice Terrace in Yuanyang Aichun Rice Terrace in Yuanyang
Yuanyang Rice Terraces Trekking Hike among Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Yuanyang Laoyingzui Rice Terrace Hike to Yuanyang Laoyingzui Rice Terrace

Photography - Capture the Most Beautiful Rice Terraces with your Camera

Many photographers said “For a traveler, if you don’t go to Yuanyang and Yuanyang will be sad for you; for a photographer, if you don’t go to Yuanyang and God will be sad for you”. No matter you are professional photographers or amateurs, you can shoot the most beautiful Yuanyang Rice Terraces with different subjects.

Best Time for Photography: The best time to come to Yuanyang is during November to next April when the rice terraces are full of water reflecting the beautiful and colorful sky and sunlight above. When the sun shining upon the rice terraces in different locations and levels, the rice terraces show in different colors. Some are colorful, some are in blue, some are in red, some are in green and some are in yellow...

Shoot Subjects: There are A LOT for you to shoot, natural and cultural. Come to Duoyishu Rice Terrace for sunrise, misty Hani village, sea of clouds; Bada Rice Terrace for sunset and panoramic view; Aichun Rice Terrace for blue terrace; Azheke Village for the Hani local culture and mushroom houses; Shengcun Village for daily ethnic market; Longshuba Rice Terrace for red floating duckweed; Laoyingzui Rice Terrace for seven-color terrace...

Photography Tips: 1. 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. 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.

Laohuzui Rice Terrace Sunset Shoot Laohuzui Rice Terrace Sunset
Hani People in Yuanyang Hani People at Their Mushroom Houses

How Many Days to Spend in Yuanyang? Recommended Itineraries for Yuanyang Travel

A Yuanyang Rice Terraces tour usually starts from Kunming. And about 3 days are best choice, which has turned out to be perfect by most visitors. Considering the relative long and tough car journey along the mountain road to Yuanyang, the first night is for your good rest. And on the morning of next day, you can wake up early to capture the stunning sunrise view at Duoyishu, and then make a transfer to Bada for the sunset. During the way, make some stops at some lovely villages. Before heading back to Kunming, do not forget to leave yourself half day or so for some leisure trekking!

If you have 3 days, you can go as following:

Travel Plan Itinerary Features Recommended Tour
Plan A Day 1: Drive from Kunming to Yuanyang, visit Longshuba Rice Terrace and see mushroom-shaped houses;
Day 2: Duoyishu Rice Terrace, Shengcun ethnic market; Bada Rice Terrace;
Day 3: Other Hani village visiting; drive back to Kunming.
Classic Discovery of Yuanyang Rice Terraces 3 Days Yuanyang Rice Terraces & Hani Culture Discovery Tour
Plan B Day 1: Drive from Kunming to Yuanyang, visit Longshuba Rice Terrace and see mushroom-shaped houses;
Day 2: Duoyishu Rice Terrace, Shengcun ethnic market; hiking to Azheke Village; Bada Rice Terrace;
Day 3: Other Hani village visiting and Xingmeng Village; drive back to Kunming.
Short Amazing Hiking Experience 3 Days Yuanyang Rice Terrace Hiking Tour for Hani Culture Exploration

If you have 4 or 5 days, you can go like this:

Travel Plan Itinerary Features Recommended Tour
4 Days' Plan Day 1: Drive from Kunming to Shilin, Stone Forest and Nuohei Village;
Day 2: Drive from Shilin to Yuanyang, visit Longshuba Rice Terrace;
Day 3: Duoyishu Rice Terrace, Shengcun ethnic market; Qingkou Hani Ethnic Village; Bada Rice Terrace;
Day 4: Drive back to Kunming.
In-depth Trip with Photography Experience 4 Days Yuanyang Rice Terrace Awesome Photography Tour
5 Days' Plan Day 1: Drive from Kunming to Shilin, Stone Forest and Nuohei Village;
Day 2: Drive from Shilin to Yuanyang, visit Longshuba Rice Terrace;
Day 3: Duoyishu Rice Terrace, Shengcun ethnic market; Qingkou Hani Ethnic Village; Bada Rice Terrace;
Day 4: Drive from Yuanyang to Jianshui; visit Jianshui Ancient Town, Chaoyang Tower, Confucius Temple, Zhu Family Garden;
Day 5: Double Dragon Bridge and Tuanshan Village; drive to Kunming.
Yuanyang Rice Terrace Tour with Jianshui Exploration 5 Days Kunming, Jianshui & Yuanyang Rice Terraces Tour

▶ Learn more about: All Itineraries & Recommended Tours in Yuanyang

Where to Stay in Yuanyang? Is it Convenient to See Sunrise or Sunset?

The best place to stay for a Yuanyang Rice Terraces tour, of course, should be inside the scenic area. And then you will have more opportunities to be ahead of the queue for sunrise. Besides, you will go to bed earlier after exhausted hiking for sunset.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces offers a selection of good hotels and hostels for you to stay. Most of them are in basic, but has good bed and hot water. If you have plans to capture the sunrise at Duoyishu on the next morning, you are suggested to stay at Huangcaoling Village where you can admire the sunrise and terraces view just from your hotel terrace or window. While, Pulaogaozhai Village is another favored area mainly offering guest houses and inns. Shengcuo Village(胜村) is also recommended, situated in the middle, surrounded by the major spots. Shengcun Village is quite convenient to enter various terraces spots there, including Bada Rice Terraces 2 kilometers away, Duoyishu Rice Terraces 4.5 kilometers away, etc.

Accommodation in Yuanyang County Yuanyang Shengcun Yunti Hotel

Learn more about: Where to Stay at Yuanyang Rice Terraces | Recommended Hotels in Yuanyang

Extend your Yuanyang Tour

To Jianshui for 1 or 2 Days

As a connection between Yuanyang and Kunming, Jianshui is a little old town with interesting historical architectures and relics. Travelers can spend 1 to 2 days here exploring Zhu Family’s Garden, Confucius Temple and Tuanshan, etc.

4 Days Kunming Jianshui Tour by High Speed Train (Kunming / Jianshui)

5 Days Kunming, Jianshui & Yuanyang Rice Terraces Tour (Kunming / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming)

To More Destinations in Yunnan

In fact, most visitors prefer to travel to Yuanyang Rice Terrace in a longer Yunnan tour. To enrich your travel experience, you are highly recommended to do as the others to enjoy a classic week long vacation in Yunnan. Since most travelers would land in Kunming first and it is a good idea to spend one or two days there visiting the incredible Stone Forest, overlooking Dian Lake from Dragon Gate of Western Hill, viewing local people’s daily life at Green Lake Park...then with a high speed train to Dali for about 1.5 days’ exploration to catch all the essences of Dali. Transfer to Lijiang to meet the famous Lijiang Old Town and learn the mysterious Dongba culture within 2 days. Following the exciting Tiger Leaping Gorge hiking, enjoy another 2 days in Shangri-La to immerse into the earthly paradise with nice visiting of the holy monasteries and lovely landscapes.

Besides, you can extend from Kunming to Yuanyang to marvel at the unbelievable magnificent Yuanyang Rice Terraces, to Puzhehei to relax at the pleasant wonderland of lotus blossoms, to Luoping to be fond of the golden sea of rapeseed flowers, to Xishuangbanna to feel the enthusiastic Dai ethnic people and the lush tropical forest, etc.

Most Popular Yuanyang Yunnan Tour Package:

11 Days Amazing Yunnan Tour (Kunming / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La)

8 Days Dongchuan, Yuanyang & Jianshui Photography Tour ( (Kunming / Dongchuan / Shilin / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming)

Jianshui Old Town (Chaoyang Tower) Jianshui Old Town (Chaoyang Tower)
Kunming Stone Forest Kunming Stone Forest

To More Destinations in China

Only a Yunnan tour is not complete for your visiting in China. It is a great idea to cover Yunnan with more places around China to savor more amazing landscape, culture, history, ethnic minority customs, food, etc. in one go, such as Guilin with Karst landform wonders, Guizhou with wonderful ethnic beauties, Chengdu with adorable giant pandas, Beijing with profound ancient royal Forbidden City, Shanghai with modern cityscape, Xian with impressing Terracotta Warriors, Zhangjiajie with incredible Avatar Mountains, and more like Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Yangtze River, Lhasa, etc. If you have any idea about planning your Dali China trip, please feel free to contact us for help!

Guilin Li River Guilin Li River

Travel with China Discovery

China Discovery has been the leading online travel agency for over 10 years and we are specialized in offering different tours in diverse Yunnan, including Kunming tours, Lijiang tours, Dali tours, Shangri-La tours, Yuanyang Rice Terraces tours, Dongchuan Red Land tours, Xishuangbanna tours...

No matter you want to put one simple destination into your trip or cover several destinations together or even extend your Yunnan tour all over China, China Discovery can provide you best tour guides and experienced drivers with comfortable private cars in any of the destinations. Our English-speaking tour guide will accompany you all the way, showing you the best traveling route and telling beautiful stories of the colorful Yunnan. The tour can be tailor-made according to your group size, time, physical condition, plan, interests, budget and other special need. Please feel free to contact us if you need any help or customize the tour with free quotation!

Recommended Yuanyang Tours

Top 3 Yuanyang tours chosen by most customers to explore Yuanyang in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.

Local Hani Children in Yuanyang County
3 Days Yuanyang Rice Terraces & Hani Culture Discovery Tour

Kunming / Yuanyang / Kunming

Bada Rice Terrace
5 Days Kunming, Jianshui & Yuanyang Rice Terraces Tour

Kunming / Stone Forest / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming

Black Dragon Pool Park
11 Days Amazing Yunnan Tour

Kunming / Stone Forest / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La

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