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Yunnan Travel Guide

Yunnan location in China mapYunnan's location in China map

Yunnan, literally meaning "South of the Clouds", attracts a large number of visitors with its diverse cultures, rich history, and spectacular landscapes.

Where Yunnan Is

Yunnan Province is in central south China, bordering Sichuan Province to the north, Guizhou Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the east, Vietnam to the southeast, Laos to the south, Myanmar to the west, and Tibet to the northwest.

Why You Might Want to Visit Yunnan

  • Yunnan enjoys a pleasant climate that is mild in winter and cool in summer. It is a good all-year-round vacation destination.
  • Yunnan boasts a variety of natural wonders: deep gorges, towering karst mountains, splendid snow-capped mountains, and the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • Yunnan, home to 25 ethnic minorities, is a place to experience the unique cultures of China’s ethnic minority groups.
  • Yunnan has well-preserved ancient towns and villages, with ancient buildings, worn blue stone streets, and traditional cultures.

The Most Popular Tourist Cities in Yunnan

Lijiang Ancient TownLijiang Ancient Town

Yunnan Province is endowed with abundant tourist attractions, and its regions attract visitors with their unique features:

  • Kunming: the capital of Yunnan Province; praised as the Spring City, with a year-round mild climate — see minorities, the Stone Forest...
  • Lijiang: a backpackers Mecca that blends historical sites, snow-capped mountains, lakes, and ethnic minority cultures — see the ancient town, Tiger Leaping Gorge...
  • Dali: famous for its beautiful natural scenery and well-preserved Bai minority customs and culture — see the Three Pagodas, Erhai Lake...
  • Shangri-La: a place with continuous snowy mountains and Tibetan culture — see Meili Snow Mountain, Songzanlin Lamasery...

The Must-See Attractions in Yunnan

Yunnan is home to rich historical sites, various ethnic groups, and diverse landscapes. Its major attractions are:

  • The Stone Forest: the spikiest karst landscape in the world with thousands of stone peaks, towers, spires, and oddly shaped monoliths.
  • Lijiang Ancient Town: China's best-preserved minority ancient city, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge: one of the deepest canyons in the world and part of a UNESCO natural preservation area.
  • Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: Near Tiger Leaping Gorge, it has good hiking, a glacier park and high-altitude meadows.
  • Dian Lake: Hailed as "a Pearl on the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau", it is the largest lake in Yunnan Province and the sixth largest freshwater lake in China.
  • Yuanyang Terraced Rice Fields: With more than 10,000 hectares of terraced rice fields and quaint ethnic Hani villages, it is an ideal place for photography.

When to Visit Yunnan

Dongchuan Red LandDongchuan Red Land

The weather of Yunnan Province is as varied as its terrain, with a temperate/mountainous zone to the north/west, a tropical zone to the south, and a subtropical zone in between.

Generally speaking, the weather in most areas of Yunnan is mild in winter and cool in summer. It is suitable to visit Yunnan all year round.

The time to visit Yunnan largely depends on what you want to see, and which part you want to go to. Spring and early summer are the best times to see the flora and fauna. Fall and winter are the best times to see snowcapped mountains and peaks.

Colorful Minority Cultures

There are 25 different ethnic minorities represented in the province.

The most prominent are the Yi (their most distinctive celebration is the Torch Festival) and the Bai (the March Fair being their main celebration), and the Dai (the Water Splashing Festival, a.k.a. Spring Festival, being their main celebration).

The Naxi, with their unique Dongba culture, recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage, inhabit the area in and around the city of Lijiangespecially.

Things You Should Know

Respect local customs and traditions. Many inhabitants of Yunnan are minority peoples with a wide variety of beliefs and traditional rules. In order to respect the traditions and customs of the local people, please remember the customs listed below.

Naxi minority people in Lijiang, YunnanNaxi minority people in Lijiang, Yunnan


  • Do not enter the bedroom of the host.
  • Do not enter the room of a pregnant woman.
  • Foreign pregnant women are not allowed to enter a bridal chamber, and cannot attend a wedding ceremony.

In Tibetan areas:

  • Do not touch the head of a monk.
  • Do not stand on the threshold when visiting a Tibetan family.
  • Wearing short trousers is regarded as a sign of disrespect.

In Yi areas:

  • Do not walk over or stand astride the fire pit when visiting a family of Yi nationality.

In Dai areas:

  • Take off your shoes when visiting temples or Dai nationality bamboo buildings.

In Jingpo Minority areas:

  • Do not touch the cattle bones that are hung up in a Jingpo village.

The Most Popular Yunnan Tours

China Highlights ClientsTravel with China Highlights to enjoy a comfortable tour

Want to discover Yunnan — the most ethnically diverse province in China, with awesome scenery? Tell us your interests and requirements, and we will help you to tailor-make a Yunnan tour.

Here are our most popular tours, for inspiration: