Whether you want to enjoy hiking or minimize footing it all together, along these three routes you can enjoy many of the traditional and classic scenic attractions in Dali. Besides the wonderful landscape of Cangshan Mountain and the Erhai Lake, you can also see the water of the Butterfly Spring, experience the classical and elegant beauty and solemnity of the Three Towers in Chongsheng Temple, and have a break in a bar on Foreigners Street. You can rent a car and go to Zhou Cheng to have a look at Bai people’s Tie-Dye Technique. The Bai are one of the official 56 ethnic minorities in China. You can go to Xi Zhou to visit the old houses of the ethnic minority people and enjoy the tranquility of ancient Dali.
Cangshan Mountain is a high mountain rising above the city of Dali. It is a scenic spot and a good hiking area where hikers may bring tents. There are 18 peaks on this mountain that are all over 3,500 meters in altitude, and the highest summit named Malong is 4,122 meters (13,524 feet) high. The mountain is noted for its very rich and diverse flora, and the ecological zones are obvious. The mountain is a highlight of the Dali area with numerous springs, ponds and waterfalls, beautiful scenery, hiking trails, and scenic views of lakes and the city of Dali.
Hiking to Cangshan's Natural Highlights
Nature enthusiasts will be amply rewarded by 5 beautiful highlights of Cangshan Mountain - clouds, snow, moon, peaks and streams. From the old sector of Dali, one can simply hike up the mountain for two or three hours to reach Zhonghe temple. From there, trails branch off to the rest of the mountain. You can also rent rent horses to go up the mountain. The best time to hike on Cangshan Mountain is late summer and early autumn so as to avoid the rainy season. Since the weather is changeable, it is advisable to bring some warm clothes whenever you hike in the area.
You can go up Cangshan mountain by round trip cable car for 80 CNY. This is an easier way to see Zhonghe Temple, Helong Stream (Black Dragon Stream) and the Pond of Seven Dragons.
This is a day trip. In the morning, you can start from the Ancient City of Dali to go to Erhai Lake by taking Bus No. 2 or a taxi. If you start from the Xia Guan Dock, you can take Bus No. 6 or take a taxi. You can ride boats on the lake. Then, in order to enjoy the whole lakescape of Lake Erhai, you can climb the Pu Tuo Mountain to look at it. Lake Erhai is a long and narrow blue lake with an area of 250 square kilometers. The beauty of the moon reflecting on the lake is called a “Cangshan Beauty.”
After the tour of Erhai Lake, you can take the buses that travel the route from the West Gate of Ancient City of Dali or Bo Ai Road and arrive at the Butterfly Spring in 40 minutes. The butterflies there are fed by the staff. Going back to the Ancient City of Dali, you can walk to the Three Towers of Chong Sheng Temple in about half an hour. The oldest of these pagodas is more than a thousand years old. Later, you can wander over to the Foreigners Street and buy some specialties. Marble products are a regional speciality. Finally, you can have a break in a bar or restaurant and drink coffee or tea.
For another day trip, the destination will be Zhou Cheng and Xi Zhou. It is advisable to go with friends and rent a private vehicle or van in order to save time and to visit your own favorite scenic spots. It is 23 kilometers (14 miles) between Zhou Cheng and Dali Ancient City. This trip will cost you 100 CNY (15 USD) to go to and fro. You can rent a vehicle for the whole day to enjoy the Tie-Dye workshop in Zhou Cheng and the folk houses in Xi Zhou. There are many Tie-Dye workshops in Zhou Cheng, and the price of the goods there is about half of that in Dali. Having visited Zhou Chen, you can go forward to the town of Xi Zhou where the style of architecture is quite special. It’s a mix of the folk house style in southern China and Western houses, and they have their own unique architecture style. Besides, there usually are not many tourists there.