10 Best Places to Visit in Yunnan | Where to Go in Yunnan, China
With enviable diverse landscapes and colorful ethnic minority cultures, Yunnan, the “Colored Clouds in the South”, is always ready to welcome worldwide travelers with endless tourist treasures like time-honored ancient towns, other-worldly stone forests, majestic gorges, stunning rice terraces, sacred snow-capped mountains and monasteries, mazy tropical forests… Whatever drives you to Yunnan, you're sure to leave with something far more than that!
Are you thinking of visiting Yunnan and wondering what to do in Yunnan? Or maybe you are looking for inspiration for the best places to visit? Read on and keep scrolling!
Let’s explore the Top 10 Places to Visit in Yunnan together:
Quick Jump to:
- Top 1: Lijiang and Its Exceptional Ancient Town
- Top 2: Kunming - the Spring City & Vital Gateway of Yunnan
- Top 3: Beautiful Shangri-La, Our Ideal Home
- Top 4: Welcome to Dali, the Romantic Place with Bai Culture
- Top 5: Tiger Leaping Gorge and Its World-class Hiking
- Top 6: Yuanyang - Dream Site for Rice Terrace
- Top 7: Xishuangbanna, the Kingdom of Animals and Plants
- Top 8: Luoping and Its Magnificent Sea of Rapeseed Blossom
- Top 9: Jianshui - Museum of Ancient Architecture and Folk Houses
- Top 10: Puzhehei - the Newfound Idyllic World
Lijiang Old Town
Blue Moon Valley
Lijiang is located in the northwest part of Yunnan Province, at an altitude of about 2,418m. Its iconic Lijiang Old Town, a sacred UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Four Best-preserved Ancient Cities in China, is somewhat always one of the big reasons driving us to Lijiang and even Yunnan. The ink black housetops stretching to the horizon are calling when we see them in photos, and it seems we just can’t help but to obey and follow their calls! With more legends of Ancient Southern Silk Road happed there we know, our desires of getting up close to this amazing place become stronger!
Lijiang tops our list for myriad reasons beyond the Lijiang Old Town. The holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, in particular, is another notable site of Lijiang, which will please your eyes with the emerald waterscape at Blue Moon Valley loved by Joseph Rock and give you a close look of ice glacier! Besides, the unique Matriarchal Culture of Mosuo People living at Lugu Lake, mysterious Dongba Culture and Naxi Ethnic Culture also have helped to catapult Lijiang to the forefront of tourism.
- Location: northwest part of Yunnan, China; about 517km (3~3.5 hours’ bullet train ride or 1 hour’s flight) from Yunnan’s capital Kunming.
- Altitude: 2,418m
- Highlights: Lijiang Old Town, Black Dragon Pool, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lugu Lake, Tiger leaping gorge…
- Best Time to Visit: Spring from March to May and autumn from October to November.
- Recommended Trip Length: 2~3 days
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Kunming Stone Forest
Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, is usually the landing city for a Yunnan tour. With a super convenient transportation net, Kunming offers frequent flights and high speed trains to/ from other destinations of China and also to/from the rest of the province!
Besides, with an equable pleasant climate, Kunming is also an ideal place to discover the beauty of spring at any time as you want, and thus this city is also enjoys a reputation of “Spring City”. Abundant sunshine and various colorful blooming flowers decorate the city all year around! Every November to March of next year, Red-billed Seagulls from Siberia will gather at the lakes in Kunming to avoid the cold winter. Green Lake and Dian Lake are their favorites. So never be surprised if you find many “beautiful white and red” when you visit there.
Never skip the Stone Forest and Jiuxiang Cave, or you may miss the most unique karst landform in the world! If you are looking for the best explanation for the beautiful colors in Kunming, head to Dongchuan Red Land and then you will be get the “God’s Magic Palette” with bright scarlet, orange, green, white and purple…
- Altitude: 1,895m
- Highlights: Stone Forest, West Hill and Dragon Gate, Green Lake, Yuantong Temple, Dongchuan Red Land…
- Best Time to Visit: all year around (The best time to visit Dongchuan Red Land is from May to June and September to December.)
- Recommended Trip Length: 2~3 days
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Pudacuo National Park
Shangri-La, at an altitude of 3,450m, is located in the seat of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest of Yunnan Province. Enjoying the reputation of “the Lost Paradise”, Shangri-La is a place rich in natural resource and also unspoiled historical relics. Once you stepping on this fairytale land, you will be surprised by the mirror-like Lake, the pure meadow decorated with beautiful grass and crystal water, the wetland blazed with blooming flowers, the Gorge with raging rapids, the wild birds and beasts, and the sounds of monks' chanting linger in your ears, as if Shangri-La is trying to prove to you that paradise really exists on earth.
Among the countless scenic spots of Shangri-La, Songzanlin Monastery, the Little Potala Palace, is the most recommended. Built in 1679, the monastery is not only the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, but also the most important monastery in southwest China. In addition to the monasteries, Pudacuo National Park is a pollution free fairy tale world worthy your visit! The park is also an UNESCO World Natural Heritage as the important part of the “Three Parallel Rivers”!
- Location: northwest part of Yunnan, China; about 659km (1.5 hours’ flight) from Yunnan’s capital Kunming.
- Altitude: 3,450m
- Highlights: Songzanlin Monastery, Pudacuo National Park, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, Tiger leaping gorge…
- Best Time to Visit: May to July and September to October
- Recommended Trip Length: 2~3 days
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Wuhualou inside Dali Ancient City
Dali Three Pagodas
Dali is the capital of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Yunnan Province, served as the connection between Kunming and Lijiang.
"How about going straight west to Dali”, at the crux of a song in China, the singer sings. The city of Dali is nearly every traveler's dream: The historically rich Dali Old Town offers exquisite pavilions and paved streets with traditional Bai houses and lovely inner courtyards. If you are going to visit Dali with your sweetheart, you can vow your everlasting love to her or him with the witness of Erhai Lake and Mount Cangshan. If you're single, maybe it’s the time to have a romantic appointment with spring and encounter with your true love along the way.
Bai culture is another feature of Dali. In the historical vicissitudes in Yunnan, Bai nationality has sucked up different well-developed cultures and finally forms their own culture and folk industrial arts with unique features. Leave yourself half day or so to explore Xizhou Village, and then you will get the most authentic flavor of Bai by following the crowds to the morning markets, savoring Three-Course Tea or making a tie-dye by yourself… Want a more primitive and less crowded culture exploring experience? It will be a good idea to visit Shaxi Ancient Town, where you will find the Last Market of The Ancient Tea Horse Road!
- Location: northwest part of Yunnan, China; about 260km (2~2.5 hours’ bullet train ride) northwest of Yunnan’s capital Kunming.
- Altitude: 2,090m
- Highlights: Chongsheng Temple and Three Pagodas, Dali Ancient City, Cangshan Mountain, Erhai Lake, Xizhou Village, Shaxi Ancient Town…
- Best Time to Visit: from March to November
- Recommended Trip Length: 3 days around
More Useful Dali Travel Articles:
Hot Dali tour:
- 3 Days Dali Classic Tour
- 4 Days Dali Leisure Vacation for Nature & Culture Savory (Dali / Shaxi Ancient Town)
Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking
Tiger Leaping Gorges, or called Hutiaoxia, is situated at where Shangri-La meets Lijiang, with its south part belongs to Lijiang and the north part belongs to Shangri-La! Such a unique location makes Tiger Leaping Gorge a hot middle choice during a Lijiang Shangri-La tour!
The great location aside, Tiger Leaping Gorge itself also enjoys great reputations among backpackers from all over the world. Jinsha River runs roaring at the bottle, while Haba Snow Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain rise up from the two banks. Such precipitous terrain and rapid flow create numerous world-class hiking trails. During the hiking trip there, you will make turns rising steeply to the upper areas of the mountain, wade through comely waterfalls, wander shaky bridges, climb up and down thrilling straight ladders, and trek along the cliffs… Though Tiger Leaping Gorge is hidden in the mountainous area, you should never worry much about language barrier there! Compared with Chinese hikers, you will encounter with more English-speaking friends along the way. And there are many English-friendly hostels settled along the trails!
- Location: where Lijiang meets Shangri-La, Yunnan; about 103 kilometers south of Shangri-La and 78 kilometers north of Lijiang.
- Altitude: 1,600m and 2,650m (the summit of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on the south bank reaches up to 5,596m and Haba Snow Mountain on the north bank reaches up to 5,386m)
- Highlights: Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge and Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge
- Best Time to Visit: April, May, June, September and October
- Recommended Trip Length: 1~3 days
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Bada Rice Terraces
Duoyishi Rice Terraces Sunrise
Located in the south of Yunnan province, Yuanyang is famous for its picturesque rice terraces carved by Hani people from generation to generation. It is also the core of Honghe Hani Rice Terrace, which was inscribed into the World Heritage List in 2013.
Yuanyang is full of mountains, and all the terraces are built on the hillside. The highest level of terraces is as high as 3000 meters, which is extremely hard to see in the terraced landscape around the world. Imaging strolling into this wonderland, relaxing your body and nerves, and heading to the highest area where you are able to appreciate the panorama of the terraces, you will be shocked by the great intelligence and perseverance of the laboring Hani people.
The sunrise in Duoyishu Rice Terraces and the sunset in Bada Rice Terraces are two of the best highlights of this region. Besides that, trekking the rice terraces and villages dotted in between is a must!
- Location: southeast part of Yunnan, China; about 320km and 5.5~6 hours south of Yunnan’s capital Kunming
- Altitude: 144m-2,939m
- Highlights: Duoyishu Rice Terraces, Bada Rice Terraces, Akezhe Minority Village, Shengcun Market…
- Best Time to Visit: from November to April
- Recommended Trip Length: 3 days around
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Water Splashing Festival at Dai Minority Park in Xishuangbanna
Gaozhuang Night Market
Xishuangbanna is located in the southernmost of Yunnan province, neighbors Laos and Myanmar to its south. It is famous for its Rich Species of Animals and Plants and the Exotic South East Asian Flavor.
Known as the "Kingdom of Plants", Xishuangbanna enjoys a wide variety of plant resources, which has aroused great interest from tourists and researchers. Tropic forests, gardens and parks spread the city, allowing you to get a tropic feel of every moment there. Besides, being the “Kingdom of Animals”, Xishuangbanna is also the home to elephants, peacock and many other adorable animals. And you can have a close date with the animals at Wild Elephant Valley, Peacock Garden, etc.
Thanks to the close distance to Southeast Asia, everything about Xishuangbanna, from the palm tree-lined streets of Jinghong and the jungle-covered hills, to spicy Dai cuisine, is more redolent of a taste of being in somewhere Thailand, and thus giving Xishuangbanna a nickname of “Little Thailand in China”. The Water-splashing Festival is the prime example of the trans-cultural, so don’t miss it if you there! The official Water-splashing Festival will be held every April, while Dai Minority Park in Jinggong City will celebrate almost every day.
- Location: the most southwest part of Yunnan, China; about 360km (1 hour by flight) southwest of Yunnan’s capital Kunming
- Altitude: 580m
- Highlights: Manting Park, Tropical Botanical Garden, Dai Minority Park, Tropical Flower Garden, Gaozhuang Night Market, Wild Elephant Valley, Wangtianshu Scenic Area
- Best Time to Visit: from November to April of next year
- Recommended Trip Length: 3~4 days
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Luoping Rapeseed Flowers
Luoping is the “East Door” of Yunnan Province. In the early spring of every year, thousands of tourists, especially photography lovers, will gather at Luoping to capture the magnificent endless golden rapeseed blossom. Hiking up to the Jinfeng Peak, you will be reward with a golden flowers sea! Typical Karst hills also doted between the farmlands. When gentle wind blows, mysterious flowing mist will go over the farmland and the foot of the hills, and then a natural-made oil-like painting create! Large scale of flat fields aside, there are also screws-like terraces, with lays of lovely circles. What an amazing world!
Driving further northwest for about 25km from Luoping County, you will also find the No.4 waterfall among the Top 6 Waterfalls in China by Chinese National Geographic - Jiulong Waterfall.
- Location: the easternmost part of Yunnan, China; about 213 km (3~3.5 hours’ car ride) from Yunnan’s capital Kunming
- Altitude: 1,491m
- Highlights: Jinji Peak, Niujie Luosi Field, Hundreds of Thousands of Mountains, Duoyi River
- Best Time to Visit: During late January to early April
- Recommended Trip Length: 2~3 days
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Double Dragon Bridge
Jianshui Meter-gauge Sightseeing Train
On the middle way driving from Kunming to Yuanyang Rice Terraces, you will find a well-preserved ancient town named Jianshui Old Town. Built in Tang Dynasty, Jianshui is a famous cultural city with a history of more than 1,200 years. It retains more than 50 well-kept and exquisite ancient houses, including the second largest Confucian Temple in the world, a traditional Examination House and also a large Zhujia Garden in the styles of Suzhou Gardens!
Outside the town, there is Double Dragon Bridge, which is praised as the “No.1 Bridge in Yunnan” and “One of the most Beautiful Bridges in China”. Near the bridge runs the Slowest Train in China, which will take you travel though China's First Private Railway with most complete sovereignty!
- Location: southeast part of Yunnan, China; about 320km (2~2.5 hours’ bullet train ride or 2.5~3 hours’ car ride) south of Yunnan’s capital Kunming
- Altitude: 1,227m~2,136m
- Highlights: Zhujia Garden, Confucian Temple, Double Dragon Bridge, Jianshui Little Train…
- Best Time to Visit: from June to September
- Recommended Trip Length: one day around
Puzhehei Scenic Area
Though with a relatively far distance for about 286km away from Kunming, it only takes one hour around from Kunming to Puzhehei by high speed train.
Has been chosen as the shooting place of two hit dramas of china, Puzhehei, the shield idyllic world, gradually appears in public view during those years. Rivers and lakes are gathering here, surrounded by meandering waterways in vast Castle Peak. Countless lotus flowers permeated the whole lake in every summer, like a fairy place from Jin Yong's novels, hidden deeply in the mountains and the far end of the narrow water.
Another attraction is the water war over the boats swaying in the sea of lotus flowers. Voice, laughter, singing, and playing sound filled the lake. The memorable experience will please both the body and mind of you.
- Location: southeast part of Yunnan, China; about 275km (1 hour’s bullet train ride or 5 hours’ car ride) from Yunnan’s capital Kunming
- Altitude: 1,494m~2,500m
- Highlights: Puzhehei Scenic Area, Qinglong Mountain, Swan Lake…
- Best Time to Visit: From June to September
- Recommended Trip Length: 2~3 days
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How to Plan a Yunnan Tour
Yunnan has a reputation of the Most Colorful Province in China, which has been proved a lot by its diverse ethnic minority cultures and customs! No matter where you are going to visit in Yunnan, you will certainly be amazed by its brilliant ethnic flavor. The wonderful culture aside, Yunnan also gains its title of “colorful” for its rich kinds of natural landscapes, such as stone forest, Snow Mountains, gorges, lakes, rice terraces, meadows, national parks… There are so many places worthy your visit in Yunnan, like Kunming, Lijiang, Shangri-La, Dali, Yuanyang, Luoping, Xishuangbanna, etc.
A Yunnan tour usually starts from Kunming, the capital and transportation hub of Yunnan Province. Some may also choose to get to Lijiang first, because they prefer to visit the famous Lijiang Old Town as their first stop. Most visitors spend 6~8 days to take a classic Yunnan tour to visit Kunming, Lijiang and Dali (or Shangri-La).
>> 6 Days Best of Yunnan Tour (Lijiang / Shangri-La / Kunming)
>> 6 Days Yunnan Essence Tour (Kunming / Dali / Lijiang)
If you want an in-depth Yunnan tour, you are suggested to spend 10~12 days there for more surprises. Have no idea? Check the following tour packages for your reference. All of them are chosen by our customers! Also, you can get more ideas of How to Plan a Yunnan Tour if you are interested!
>> 8 Days Classic Yunnan Tour (Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La)
>> 11 Days Amazing Yunnan Tour (Kunming/Yuanyang/Jianshui/Dali/Lijiang/Shangri-La)
Travel Yunnan with China Discovery
Have your own ideas of where to go and what to do in Yunnan? Customize your personal Yunnan tour right now! The tour can be tailor-made according to your group size, time, physical condition, plan, interests, budget and any other special need!
If you travel with us, our experienced local driver and guide will tack care of everything for you. Our professional driver will await you at the entrance gate and then escort you to your next destination directly in ease and convenience. Besides, our English-speaking guide will accompany you all the way and give you warm insider tips of avoiding offending local custom taboos. If you are interested, please feel free to let us know!
Recommended Travel Guide & Articles
- Yunnan Travel Guide
- Lijiang Travel Guide
- Kunming Travel Guide
- Shangri-La Travel Guide
- Dali Travel Guide
- Yuanyang Travel Guide
- Xishuangbanna Travel Guide
- Luoping Travel Guide
- Tengchong Travel Guide
- Kunming to Dali
- Kunming to Lijiang
- Kunming to Yuanyang
- Lijiang to Dali
- Lijiang to Shangri-La
Useful Articles of Yunnan Top Attractions
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