Things to do and see in Yunnan
Visiting Yunnan, considered by many travelers to be the most beautiful province in China, is an unforgettable experience!
Located in the South West of China, on the border with Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Tibet, Yunnan is a province of great geographical diversity, ranging from a tropical zone in the South to the high Himalayan mountains of more than 6000m North.
Mostly mountainous, Yunnan therefore offers sublime varied landscapes, and is home to 35 of the 56 ethnic minorities present in China.
In order to plan your next trip to Yunnan, here is an overview of the different things to do and see in Yunnan .
Capital of Yunnan, Kunming is now linked to Paris by a direct flight, every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with China Eastern Airlines.
Excellent news for all travelers wishing to visit Yunnan! While at first glance a city like any other, Kunming is among the friendliest cities on this tour in China, with a temperate climate all year round.
You can stroll through the districts of Emerald Lake (Green Lake) or the flower and bird market, visit the Bamboo Temple or the Golden Temple.
If you want to get out of town, a great place to visit is West Mountain Park.
Shilin Stone Forest, located 1.5 hours or less by rapid train, is one of the most touristic sites in Yunnan, but remains interesting because of its unique geological characteristics.
Our favorite site : the activity of the locals around the emerald lake, with the discovery of the Yuantong temple not far from there.
Accommodation in Kunming
- Kunming Upland International Youth Hostel : Hostel ideally located 3 minutes walk from the Green Lake Park, it is the best choice to visit Kunming without breaking the bank! Night from 6 euros in a dormitory and 24 euros in a double room.
- Kunming JinJiang Hotel : Beautiful 4-star hotel with modern decor. It is located in the heart of the city near the South Huancheng Road metro station which serves lines 1 and 2. It is my favorite for its exceptional value for money! Double room from 45 euros per night.
- InterContinental Kunming : It is located 10 minutes by car from Yunnan Nationalities Village, a little away from the city. This is the best high end hotel in kunming. Night from 125 euros
- Silver Chest Boutique Hotel : Superb renovated residence in the heart of Kunming’s flower and bird market district, and close to shops and the lively center of the city. Double room from 130 euros
Jianshui and Yuanyang
From Kunming, you can also reach the South of Yunnan, in particular the very beautiful region of Jianshui.
If it is above all a small dynamic town, its old town is still authentic without too strong a tourist presence.
Apart from the unmissable temple of Confucius, you can reach the superb village of Tuanshan, by a small train which dates from the time of the French, and which is the only one still used, even if it is only for the transport of tourists.
Tuanshan is a step back in time, you can also discover the superb Double Dragon Bridge in the area . To continue further south, the rice terraces of Yuanyang are an unmissable visit during your stay in Yunnan!
Constituted for several centuries by the Hani minority, they are always in activity, and change with each season: in water in winter, the rice is planted in the course of spring, to give in summer superb green then yellow fields, before the autumn harvest, and winter replenishment, then so on…
The markets in the region are superb, you can still see minorities there wearing their traditional costume, whether at the Lengdun, Laomeng, Huangmaoling or Shengcun market.
Our favorite site : the village of Tuanshan, which has remained out of time.
Accommodation in Yuanyang
- Auberge Jacky’s Guest House : located in the heart of the small village of Duoyishu. Very warm welcome by the host Jacky, unpretentious address, with beautiful views of the rice fields. Night in a dormitory from 6 euros and in a double room from 19 euros.
North of Kunming, 5 hours by road, Dali is the first stage of a journey to the North of the province, the most beautiful part of Yunnan but also the busiest.
It is the capital of the Bai minority. The old town of Dali is magnificently located between the Cangshan mountain (summits over 4000m), and the great Erhai lake.
Small Bai minority villages are found around the lake, which are now increasingly populated with tourist residences and hotels, with many Chinese enjoying Dali’s setting, clean air, and quality of life.
From Dali, we advise you to reach the Weishan region .
Its old town is still very authentic, and from Weishan you can discover the Weibaoshan mountain, a set of adorable little temples scattered around the mountain. Finally, between Dali and Lijiang, don’t miss the rustic Shaxi Valley.
Our favorite site : the old town of Weishan, which can recall Dali 20 years ago.
Accommodation in Dali
- Erhai gate No1 Hotel : This is my huge crush on Dali, and even on my entire trip to China! I just wanted to settle there, I had never felt that when traveling! In addition, the rates are very reasonable: Double room from 35 euros per night.
- Sabbath Bontique Inn : If there is no more room at the Erhai, it is also an excellent choice, just a little more expensive: 55 euros per night
- Da Li Le Tu International Hostel : A funny name, but that’s not all: It’s also clean and not very expensive: perfect for a “budget” trip! Double room from 8 euros per night.
- Auberge Linden Centre : superb Bai residence located in the heart of the small village of Xizhou, close to the countryside. Great service and old world charm. Night from 120 euros.
Lijiang is the most famous city, but also the most touristic, of all Yunnan.
Like Luang Prabang in Laos, it attracts millions of Chinese tourists every year through its old streets.
If the city can be calm at the beginning of the day, it is now increasingly noisy, with many shops selling the same type of product, bars with very loud music in the evening and many hostels.
However, it remains a very beautiful city if we can ignore its negative aspects.
Lijiang is the heart of the Naxi minority region , and there are many less touristy towns around Lijiang.
If Shuhe is particularly pleasant with beautiful hotel options (The Bivou, Arro Khampa Shuhe), you can discover villages that are still typical like Baisha or Yuhu, at the foot of the Jade Dragon mountain.
From Lijiang, you can go for a hike to the Tiger Leaping Gorge, along the Yangtze, or very typical and little-known villages like Wumu or Baoshan.
Our favorite site : the villages of Wumu and Baoshan, superbly located overlooking the Yangtze, and the starting point for very beautiful hikes.
Accommodation in Lijiang
- Landscape Taoyuan Inn : Quality accommodation in a quality double room at 12 euros per night in Lijiang? It’s possible! At this price, you will be outside the old town, about 10 minutes on foot (but really quiet!)
- Lijiang Yue Tu Inn : Double room from 33 euros. My big crush in Lijiang, and the price is still very correct! If there’s no more room, try the Ling Long Xiao Zhu, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it!
- The Village Green Inn is also an excellent choice: a beautiful renovated Naxi house in a still quiet corner of the old town of Lijiang, and therefore the possibility of enjoying a stay in the heart of Lijiang without too much noise.
Tibetan land in the far north of Yunnan, Shangri La, formerly called Zhongdian, or Gyalthang in Tibetan, is one of our favorites in Yunnan.
If the new town of Shangri La is relatively ugly, and its old town which burned down in 2014 is gradually being rebuilt, the surroundings of Shangri La are superb.
At an altitude of 3300m, the small Tibetan villages in the area are quite typical, and are home to small temples with an old-fashioned atmosphere. Shangri La is also the starting point for countless hikes in the surrounding area.
You can camp on high mountain pastures around Shangri La and hike to Lake Abujee.
It is also possible to camp on the shores of the lakes of Shudu and Bita in the Pudacuo national park before continuing the trek towards the lost village of Niru, see further towards Yading, by a superb walk still little known but developed in particular by the local agency in Yunnan, Yunnan Roads, expert in this province.
For an in-depth discovery of the Tibetan areas of northern Yunnan, we advise you to reach the beautiful region of Benzilan further north, where you can discover the surprising Dongzhulin monastery, in the heart of a region where many Chinese buses pass. the Meili mountain, but where in the end few travelers stop.
Our favorite site : Lake Abujee, a little-known, yet sublime high-altitude lake.
Accommodation in Shangri La
- Dragoncloud Guesthouse : Our budget selection! Rustic, but comfortable, and friendly staff. Count 12 euros for one night in a double room.
- Bodhi Boutique Hotel : Super well located 3 minutes walk from the square of the old town of Shangri La, and some of the staff speak English. Night in a double room from 20 euros
- E-Outfitting Boutique Hostel : Located 5 minutes walk from the Dafo temple, with a nice Tibetan decoration. The hotel lobby, with its woodwork, is super beautiful! Night in a double room from 67 euros.
- Hotel Arro Khampa : Upscale hotel in the heart of the old town, with great service and fantastic, high comfort rooms, in the Tibetan style. Very good restaurant on site, and beautiful view of the old town from the hotel terrace. Our favorite! Night in a double room from 120 euros.
The Xishuangbanna region is located in the far south of Yunnan, close to the border with Laos and Burma. Here, unlike 80% of Yunnan, we are no longer at altitude, but in a tropical zone with a particular climate, with very mild winters (the mildest in China), but hot and rainy summers.
You will travel to Xishuangbanna to discover small minority villages that are modernizing, but remain typical.
The region is known for its tea, especially that of Pu’er. It is here that you can visit the artisanal tea plantations and factories, in particular those on the side of Jing Mai Shan mountain (listed by UNESCO) or Nan Nuo Shan.
For the little ones, the valley of the wild elephants will be able to reserve beautiful surprises, with an elephant show, but also elephants really left in the wild through the huge park.
Our favorite site : a local tea room, to taste the many rich beverages of the region, and all their subtlety.
During your stay in Xishuangbanna, we recommend that you stay in the city of Jinghong.
- Peacock Princess Hotel : Night in a double room from 20 euros.
- Xishuang Banna Elephant Home Yodoo Inn : Behind this complicated name hides a very nice little hotel recently redone. Double room from 39 euros.
- Yourantai : perfect for an upscale stay, it is a superb set of 4 villas located on the other side of the Mekong River, in the heart of a tropical garden well maintained by its Swiss owner.
Does this article make you want to visit Yunnan on your next trip to China?