Stone Forest

Yunnan Ethnic Minorities Tour

KM-4: 6-Day Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang Highlights Tour
From: $1589
Photography NatureCulture

This tour includes the essential attractions in the three main tourist cities of Yunnan — Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang. You will enjoy the elegant scenery, discover Yunnan’s history, and experience the minorities’ unique customs. Our no shopping policy ensures you will have a memorable trip in China.


  • Lose your way in the maze-like karst landscape of the Stone Forest
  • Bounce across the waves on Er’hai Lake to enjoy a photogenic view
  • Find out the vanishing Chinese charm in Shaxi Ancient Town
  • Visit the legendary Dr. Ho in Baisha Village
  • Take a cable car up to the holy Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
  • Check out how the tiger leaped over the sensational Tiger-Leaping Gorge

What's Included

  • Entrance to the attractions listed in the itinerary
  • Meals mentioned in the itinerary
  • Private transfers between the airport, attractions, and hotels
  • Private local English-speaking tour guide and driver service (except for voluntary tips)
  • Hotel accommodation with breakfast and service fee
  • Specified boat ride on Er’hai Lake
  • Specified round-trip cable car at the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
  • Specified flights

Price Per Person in US Dollars

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 Kunming Arrival

When you walk out of the luggage claim area, you will find your private guide waiting for you outside the gate, holding a welcome sign on which your name is clearly written. A professionally-chauffeured vehicle will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you check-in and make sure everything at the hotel is satisfactory. Relax for the rest of the day.

Good to know:
If you arrive early in the morning and have some time to kill, you may consider enriching your day by visiting Yunnan Minority Village, which gives a very quick view of the various minorities in Yunnan and their cultures, costumes, and customs. If you are interested in the history of the American Flying Tigers during World War II, Kunming Museum is recommended.

Kunming New Era Hotel (superior class)/Green Lake Hotel (deluxe class).

Day 2Stone Forest and Xishan Dragon Gate Tour

After a 1½-hour drive, visit the magical karst landform of the Stone Forest. You will see that nature is the most powerful artist. This area used to be a vast sea, and the Stone Forest was formed over millions of years, created by the movement of the Earth. The peculiar-shaped gray stones tower there and show you the changes. Enjoy a Chinese-style lunch.

In the afternoon, transfer back to Kunming and walk pass the Dragon Gate on Xishan (Western Hills) to get prosperity in the future. You will have a bird’s-eye view of the Dianchi Lake and appreciate the groups of Taoist sculptures in the grottoes on the cliff in this scenic area.

After the tour, your guide and driver will escort you back to your hotel for a good rest.

Good to know:
As the Stone Forest is a very popular must-see attraction, the countless tourist groups there during the peak season rank among travelers’ pet peeves. Due to the gigantic size of the park, your guide will help you find less visited and more remote areas to avoid the crowds, especially in the winter months.

Stone Forest and Dragon Gate
Day 3 Kunming to Dali Flight and Dali Ancient Town Tour

You will be transferred to your morning flight to arrive in Dali within one hour. Upon arrival, your Dali guide will be waiting to start a colorful day with you. The area around Er’hai Lake is blessed with a mild climate and stunning scenery. Taking a boat to cruise on the lake is a popular way of sightseeing. Visit the houses of the Bai minority people in Xizhou Town. Xizhou is not only a famous historic city, but also a typical commercial town of the Bai people. You will see typical Bai traditions and dresses. Some buildings are old and have typical ancient architectures, and are the ‘real local’ houses. On the outside walls of each house, there are numerous exquisite paintings, displaying the importance of art in this area. Have lunch at a popular local restaurant.

Located at the foot of the Cangshan Mountains is Dali Ancient Town, where clear springs flow and local minority people live. The local people are keen gardeners, showcasing flowers in their gardens around clear streams, with finely decorated traditional houses. Stay overnight in the ancient town and relax.

Good to know:
The Three Pagodas between the Cangshan Mountain and Er'hai Lake are considered the landmark of Dali. Towering aloft in a triangle shape, the Three Pagodas were built more than 1,000 years ago. It's recommended if you have extra time or interested in landmark photography.

Dali Landscape Hotel (superior class)/Gurong Hotel (deluxe class).

Er'hai and Dali
Day 4Dali to Lijiang Transfer and Lijiang Ancient Town Tour

Your personal guide and driver will transfer you directly from Dali to Lijiang. Enjoy lunch and start the tour in Lijiang. Lijiang Ancient Town is the best-preserved minority ancient city. Most of the people living there belong to the Naxi minority, some of whom still make a living by making handicrafts of silver, leather, textiles, and some local snacks. Enjoy the quaint city scenery and see plenty of handicrafts in a distinctive style only found in this area of China. You can climb up to Lion Hill to have a bird’s-eye view of the whole town.

Then pay a visit to the Black Dragon Pool Park, where the view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is one of the most famous postcard-perfect sceneries in southwest China. Stay overnight in Lijiang Ancient Town.

Good to know:
Lijiang Ancient Town attracts more tourists than the Forbidden City in Beijing during peak season. Here are some tips to escape the hordes of tourists:
1. Stay overnight in Lijiang Ancient Town and start early: 80% of the tourists will be in 20% of the places. Get up early and find the best spots with the help of your guide.
2. Stay overnight in Shuhe Ancient Town: 20-minutes away from Lijiang by car, Shuhe is less touristic and quieter, featuring a nice temple complex.

Lijiang Wangfu Hotel (superior class)/InterContinental Lijiang Ancient Town Resort (deluxe class).

Day 5Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Baisha Murals Tour

The Baisha Murals in Baisha Village were painted hundreds of years ago, and the paintings took about 300 years to complete. By appreciating these unique murals, you will learn about the cultures of central China, the Naxi Minority, and Tibet, as well as the stories of Tibetan Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. A visit to Dr. Ho’s Clinic (a professional doctor who practices traditional Chinese medicine) is included. Enjoy lunch and have a short rest.

The Spruce Meadow is a vast meadow at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, with an altitude of 3,240 meters. Besides appreciating the elegant natural landscapes and view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, you will unlock the romantic legends with the help of your guide. If you are interested in photography, you will find it a perfect destination. After the tour, transfer back to Lijiang for another peaceful night.

Spruce Meadow and Baisha
Day 6Tiger Leaping Gorge Tour and Lijiang to Shangri-La Transfer

The Stone Drum Town stands at the base of the mountain flanking the First Bend on the Yangtze River, deriving its name from a white marble carved monument in the shape of a drum. In this town, your guide will show you the best position from which to view the first bent of the Yangtze River, which is famous for its V-shaped bay caused by three grand running rivers.

After lunch, explore the Tiger Leaping Gorge to see China’s deepest gorge and to enjoy the scenery consisting of precipitous cliffs and rapids.

In the afternoon, your guide and driver will escort you back to Lijiang to catch the flight to Kunming and end this colorful tour.

Good to know:
Apart from Kunming, you can fly from Lijiang to Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Lhasa. If you prefer to end your tour in other cities, please inform your trip advisor and we will check the best price for you.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Trip Notes

1. Tour Map (click to enlarge)

Map of yunnan

2. Tailoring Your Tour

This tour is very flexible. You can alter the itinerary, and extend or shorten it to suit your price, interest, and schedule. Feel free to tell us your requirements, and we will be happy to help you arrange a tour using our professional knowledge and experience. We promise a "No Shopping Policy".

3. Getting There and Traveling Away

Kunming is a convenient transportation hub. There are domestic flights to most of China's major cities, such as Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Chengdu and Shanghai. International routes include flights between Kunming and Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Rangoon and Singapore.

4. Hotel

Standard hotels with a convenient location and good reviews are recommended in the itinerary. If you prefer other hotel options (boutique hotels, economical choices, or Chinese-style hotels) or would like to book the hotels on your own, please feel free to inform us and we will be happy to adjust the details. Here are some alternatives for your reference:


Luxury and Special




Silver Chest Hotel

Kunming Quanji Hotel


The One Resort

Linden Center in Xizhou

Fairyland Hotel


Banyan Tree Lijiang

Manxin Hotels and Resorts

Note: The boutique hotels in Yunnan offer good value for money: a decent environment, local-style decoration, and a convenient location, but most of them only have 10–20 rooms. Early booking is highly recommended.

5. Optional Extension:

If you are interested in Tibetan Culture and natural scenery, you can further extend the tour to Shangri-La after Lijiang. Check the Shangri-La Exploration Tour here.

Show and Entertainment
The following shows are recommended to enrich your tour. It is recommended to book with your guide a day before, or on the day, to allow flexibility.
Dynamic Yunnan in Kunming is a large-scale song and dance performance featuring the remarkable and diverse local ethnic culture. It is another masterpiece from the famous Chinese dancer Yangliping who directs and heads the cast.
Lijiang Impressions Show was directed by the world famous director Zhang Yimou, and performed by more than 500 locals of the 10 ethnic groups. Take the enchanting scenery of Jade Dragon Mountain as a natural background, the show aims to provide an insight into the lives of the region's ethnic groups through song and dance.

Dali Er'hai Lake Cycling
If you are athletic enough, cycling is also an exciting way to explore Er’hai Lake. You can spend either one day to encircle the lake with a mountain bike or half a day to cover only the west shore or the east shore.
Loop Riding: 120 kilometers (75 miles), 8 hours.
West Shore: 50 kilometers (31 miles), 3½ hours. Some parts of the biking trail are not very close to the lakeshore, but you can visit several local villages and markets.
East Shore: 70 kilometers (44 miles), 4½ hours. Most of the biking trail is just beside the lakeshore. This trail focuses on beautiful natural scenery.

Shaxi Ancient Town
Shaxi Ancient Town is listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world's 100 most endangered sites but is a place where you can breathe in fresh air around-the-clock. This time-warp of an ancient town was once a crucial node on the tea-horse roads and has not yet been invaded by hordes of tourists. The Xinjiao Temple on Sideng Street is the only Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) Bai Buddhist temple. You can visit it during the transfer from Dali to Lijiang.

6. Booking Procedure:

Step 1: Submit your name, email address and traveling dates for the tour. The price may vary according to the location of your hotel.
Step 2: Choose to make payment via PayPal and your request will be listed as our top priority. We guarantee a 100% refund if you are not satisfied.
Step 3: Receive a reply within 24 hours. The tour will be tailor-made to meet your requirements and the booking confirmed.
Step 4: Enjoy the tour!

7. Payment Methods:

We now offer three payment methods: PayPal, credit card authorization via fax, and wire transfer. PayPal is recommended for its safety and efficiency. You can pay with USA dollars, Australian dollars, European dollars, and British pounds directly with your credit card or debit card if you do not have a PayPal account.

8. Cancellation Policy:

In the event of cancellation, we will refund any payment made to China Highlights (unless any cancellation fee is applicable) within 14 days of our receipt of your written cancellation request. Visit here for more details.

9. Travel Insurance:

Travel insurance is not included. We carefully selected some insurance providers from your region that give you the best value for money. Click here to go to the travel insurance page.