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Dali Ancient City

Dali Ancient Town is one of the most famous ancient towns in China. As a major stop on the Ancient Tea Horse Road, or Southwest Silk Road, it is a town full of historic sites and traditional culture.

Compared to the Old Town of Lijiang, Dali Ancient Town is smaller, but less crowded and more elegant.

You can spend a few hours leisurely wandering the paved streets, admiring the traditional architecture of the Bai ethnic minority, trying their local food and snacks, and buying some souvenirs.

Dali Ancient TownDali Ancient Town

The History of Dali

  • In 738, the Nanzhao Kingdom was established with Dali as its capital.
  • In 937, the Kingdom of Dali emerged.
  • By 1000, Dali was one of the 13 largest cities in the world.
  • In 1253, the Mongols conquered the city and ended the Kingdom of Dali.
  • In the early 1400s, the old Dali City was rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and it still stands in a similar layout today.

The Highlights of Dali Ancient Town

Laid out in a grid format, Dali Old Town is easy to navigate. It is about 3 square kilometers (1 square mile), small enough to explore fully on foot.

There are four city gates facing four directions. Two gates are worth a visit:

  • The South Gate: With a history of over 600 years, this is the oldest building in the old town. It is a landmark of the town.
  • The North Gate: It is a well-preserved palace building, built in the Ming Dynasty.
The Three Pagodas in DaliThe Three Pagodas

There are five north-south streets and eight east-west streets. Among them, these two streets are the most famous:

  • Yangren Street (Westerner's Street): The street is lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. Enjoy your time at a bar or buy some souvenirs to take home.
  • Fuxing Street: This is the most prosperous street with architectures built in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1912).

If you are interested in ancient temples and churches, you can pay these a visit:

  • The Three Pagodas: About 1.5 km (0.9 mi) north of Dali Old Town, they are unique Buddhist towers with a history of over 1,800 years. They have long been a symbol of Dali City.
  • A Chinese-style Catholic church is located between Renmin Road and Hongjin Road. It was built in 1927.

If you want to know more about the history and culture of the ancient town, don't miss this museum…

Dali Municipal Museum houses exhibitions of archaeological findings from the region, paintings, and Buddhist sculptures.

A Chinese-style Catholic church in Dali Ancient TownA Chinese-style Catholic church in Dali Ancient Town

The Traditional Bai Architecture

The traditional Bai ethnic minority folk houses make this ancient town different from other ancient towns.

The Bai architecture is characterized by three buildings forming a U, a fourth wall forming a screen, and a courtyard in the middle. The houses are usually built out of brick and wood.

Extensive decoration is another feature of the traditional Bai houses. The houses are decorated with black tile paintings, woodcarvings, and crafted marble objects.

How to Get to Dali Ancient Town

From Xiaguan

Xiaguan is the modern district of Dali City, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the ancient district. You can take bus 4 or 8 from Xiaguan to Dali Ancient City in about 40 minutes.

You can also take a taxi at a cost of about 50 yuan.

From the Airport

It is about 30 km (19 mi) from Dali Airport to Dali Ancient Town. Airport shuttle buses are available, taking about 40 minutes. It costs 80–100 yuan by taxi.

From the Train Station

It is about 18 km (11 mi) from Dali Railway Station to Dali Ancient Town. You can take bus 8 from the station to the ancient town. It costs about 50 yuan by taxi.

Cruise on the Erhai LakeCruise on the Erhai Lake

Nearby Attractions

  • Erhai Lake: Blessed with a mild climate and stunning scenery, the lake is a perfect place to take a boat ride, or a bike ride. It takes about 50 minutes by foot, or 15 minutes by bus from Dali Ancient Town.
  • Cang Mountain (Cangshan) is a great scenic hiking area, and a nature reserve. It is the best place to enjoy a bird's eye view of Erhai and Dali Ancient Town. It is about 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the ancient town.

Touring Dali Ancient Town with China Highlights

Here are our most popular tours including Dali Ancient Town, for your reference:

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