Dali Travel Guide

Dali Travel Guide

By Chris QuanUpdated Oct. 1, 2021

Dali, a popular travel destination in Yunnan Province, attracts people from all over the world. Dali’s peaceful vibe and stunning views will help you forget your worries and troubles. The profound Nanzhao-Kingdom and Bai culture make Dali interesting to explore.

Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake are the two most famous attractions in Dali. In addition, Dali has many ancient towns, villages, and enjoyable outdoor activities.

The Features of Dali

Erhai Lake, Dali attractionERHAI LAKE

Dali is noted for its extraordinary natural scenery — its crystal and sparkling plateau lake, clear blue sky and white clouds, lofty and snow-capped Cangshan Mountains, the enchanting blossom, the gentle breeze that caresses the face…

Dali is the birthplace of Bai culture. In the 4th century, the ancestors of the Bai people were thriving there. It was also the medieval capital of both the Bai Nanzhao Kingdom (738–902) and the Kingdom of Dali (937–1094). Nowadays, their remains have become historical and cultural sites to explore.

Dali is a romantic and leisurely city. Many people suffering stress or sadness come to Dali, where genial sunshine, kind people, romantic scenery, and pleasant weather can cure everything.

Recommended Dali tours:

Top Attractions in Dali

Dali Old TownDALI OLD TOWN
  • Dali Old Town is widely acknowledged as a "backpackers' paradise". Foreign visitors, especially, like to stay there. Some live there for months, or even years, to observe and study the fascinating culture of the Bai nationality.
  • Erhai Lake is the most beautiful place in Dali. It is a plateau lake. The water of the lake is calm and blue. The soft and gentle wind by the lake will make you feel relaxed. In winter, don’t forget to say hello to the seagulls from Siberia.
  • Cangshan Mountain massif has 19 peaks. Seven peaks rise to more than 4,000 meters (over 13,000 feet) above sea level. The tallest peak reaches 4,122 meters (13,523 feet). Its snow-capped peaks are the highlights.
  • Xizhou Town was an important military town in the Nanzhao Kingdom. The classic and elegant folk building complex there is the symbol of Xizhou and also the soul and treasure of Bai culture.
  • The Three Pagodas face Erhai Lake in the east and Cangshan Mountain in the west. They are the landmark of Dali and a symbol of its history. The three towers stand in a triangle. The tallest one is more than 1,100 years old.
  • Shaxi Town has a long history, dating back to the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period (770–221 BC) more than 2,400 years ago. Sideng Street in the town is a relatively well-preserved ancient market once on the Ancient Tea Horse Road.

See more Attractions in Dali>>>

We can design a trip plan based on your travel dates, group members, and other requirements and interests. Just contact us.

Top Things to Do in Dali

Cycle around Erhai LakeCYCLE AROUND ERHAI LAKE
  • Wander in Dali Old Town, see ancient gate towers, temples, and Bai-style buildings. Discover local snacks and some gadgets with ethnic characteristics.
  • Cycle around Erhai Lake and capture the beauty of the landscape bathed in sunshine and breezes. You could bike on the west shore or its east shore. Whichever route you choose, you can feel the beauty of Erhai Lake.
  • Learn tie-dying in Zhoucheng — “the hometown of Bai tie-dye”. It is a good way to learn about Bai culture. Tying up the white cloth with a thread according to a pre-drawn pattern, and dying it with their natural vegetable dye, can be a great cultural connecter.

See the Best 7 Things to Do in Dali to learn of more interesting and exciting activities in Dali.

Our recommended 4-Day Essence Dali Tour will take you to meet a dynamic Dali

The Bai Minority in Dali

Dali Bai peopleBAI PEOPLE

As the 15th largest ethnic minority in China, the Bai ethnicity is mainly distributed in Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, and other provinces. Among them, the Bai minority in Yunnan Province has the largest population, and they mainly live in Dali.

Bai people are good at handicrafts, such as sculpture, painting, and tie-dying. The Bai people have their own ethnic language and written characters. The Bai language is their main communication language in their daily life.

Grand Festivals of the Bai

Month Three Street Festival is a traditional grand festival in Dali. It is held from the 15th to 21st of the third lunar month each year (in April/May). At first it was a religious activity, but later it gradually became a big fair. In addition, you will see all kinds of dances, horse races, and competitions there.

The Torch Festival is another important festival among Bai people. Every lunar month six day 25 (in July/August), the Bai people will put on their holiday costumes to celebrate the festival embracing their hopes of a good harvest and thriving future.

Features of Bai Houses

A traditional Bai houseA TRADITIONAL BAI HOUSE

A traditional Bai house has three rooms: one major room and two side wings. Facing the major room is a wall called the ‘shining wall’. When the sun sets, the sunlight shines on the wall, which reflects the dusk colors into the yard, making the whole yard bright. Hence the wall is called the "shining wall".

Extensive decoration is another characteristic feature of traditional Bai houses. They decorate the gates to their gardens and houses. They like colorful pictures, woodcarvings, marble craft objects, and traditionally dyed cloth.

If you are interested in visiting a traditional Bai house, you could travel to Xizhou Town, Dali Old Town, or Zhoucheng.

The Best Times to Visit Dali

The best time to visit Dali is from March to October. Erhai Lake and the Cang Mountains are especially beautiful in March and April when the flowers are in full bloom, and many ethnic festivals are held in these months.

Dali has a relatively temperate climate year-round, with no extremes in summer or in winter. So, no matter when you travel to Dali, you are likely to have a good experience weatherwise (or at least better than most of the rest of China).

Recommended Dali Tours

Dali Transportation

Dali has a small airport — Dali Huangcaoba Airport, usually shortened to Dali Airport. It is 29 km (18 miles) from Dali Old Town, or about 1 hour’s drive.

Several domestic cities have direct flights to Dali, such as Beijing (4 hours), Shanghai (4 hours), Guangzhou (3 hours), Chongqing (2 hours), Guiyang (2 hours), and Kunming (1 hour).

From Dali to Kunming, taking a high-speed train is usually more recommended than flight. It takes about 2–2½ hours.

From Dali to Lijiang, you could take a normal train journey, which is about 2 or 2½ hours. Booking private transport is recommended, as it would enable you to visit attractions along the way, such as Zhoucheng and Shaxi old towns.

Get Your Ideal Dali Tour Here

Dali is a land endowed with breathtaking natural scenery and colorful minority culture, which are captured expertly in these popular Yunnan itineraries:

Or contact us to create a Dali tour according to your requirements.

YOU MIGHT LIKE

We are here to help you...
start planning your tailor-made China tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip
China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
Featured on
info template feature on