Erhai Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in China, and it is the second largest freshwater lake in Yunnan Province. The people of Dali consider Erhai Lake to be their “mother lake”. Erhai Lake is important to their lives.
Erhai Lake is in the shape of an ear, hence its name Erhai (‘Ear Sea’). This plateau lake is like a deep blue gem set in the green land. When the breeze blows, its surface is billowed into wavelets, sparkling in the sunlight.
Erhai Lake and the Cangshan Mountains make majestic scenery. The mountain peaks are often mirrored in the lake, along with the sun and moon.
What to See at Erhai Lake
Lining Erhai Lake’s banks are fishing villages, Bai farming villages, ancient temples, historic towns, and the ancient city of Dali. You can watch the people living their daily lives in a traditional way.
Shuanglang town is located on the northeast shore of Erhai Lake. With bluestone wall, stone roads, and narrow alleys, Shuanglang Town is full of shops with a lively vibe. Yuji Island and Nanzhao Folk Island are the main attractions, where you can capture a beautiful sunset.
Xizhou Town is on the west shore of Erhai Lake. It is 17 kilometers (11 miles) from Dali Old Town to Xizhou Town by bike. You could see the traditional Bai houses in Xizhou Town. Compared with Dali Old Town, it is quieter. You could also explore some local snacks such as Xizhou baba (Dali-style pancakes) and look for some souvenirs.
Wase Village is located on the east shore of Erhai Lake. It is a beautiful small fishing village.
Wase Village retains lots of Bai-style ancient gate towers. These gate towers were built in the late Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) and early Republic of China era (1912–1949) by local people.
There are many hotels near the lake. If you prefer a quiet vibe and a lake view room, staying in Wase Town is an ideal choice.
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Small Putuo Island
Small Putuo Island is a tiny island by the east shore of Erhai Lake. Legend has it that this island is a seal sent by Guanyin (the Buddhist goddess of mercy) to control the wind and waves and to protect fishermen. Therefore, fishermen built Guanyin Pavilion on the island to thank Guanyin.
Every winter, it is one of the best places to watch black-headed gulls from Siberia fly in to spend the winter.
Haidong is a small town of the Bai ethnicity. The villagers make their living from fishing. Along Haidong’s 19-km (12-mile) southeast lake shoreline are three shallow bays and two islands. Jinsuo Island, the largest island on Erhai Lake, and the Luoquan Peninsula are in Haidong’s north bay. They enjoy an excellent location for views of Erhai Lake and Cangshan.
Cycling — the Best Way to Explore Erhai Lake
Erhai Lake is a long and narrow lake that is about 41 kilometers (25 miles) long. Its width varies between 3 and 9 kilometers (2 and 6 miles). A bike ride around Erhai Lake is about 120 kilometers (75 miles).
Cycling around Erhai Lake is a relaxing and pleased thing. Ride a bike along the winding shoreline of the lake, under the blue sky and white clouds and in the warm breeze, enjoying the beautiful scenery of Erhai Lake.
Recommended Biking Routes — Two Recommended
There are two cycle routes around Erhai Lake: Haixi (on Erhai’s west shore) and Haidong (on Erhai’s east shore).
For the Haixi cycling route, we suggest you start from Cai Village (才村) which is near Dali Old Town and cycle as far as ‘Little Forest’ (Xiaoshulin 小树林) in Xiaguan District. The one-way journey is about 13 km (8 miles).
Peaceful Erhai Lake will be on your left-hand side. You will also see the elegant white houses of Bai ethnic minority villages. It is more suitable for young or inexperienced riders because motor vehicles are not allowed on the cycle path.
Biking on the east side of Erhai Lake will let you view the Cangshan mountains and Erhai Lake at the same time. The best section is from Wase village to Wenbi village, which is quiet and has panoramic views. The one-way trip is also about 13 km (8 miles). It is suggested to bike this road in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset.
- Note: Bikeways of this route are under construction, but it is also accessible. Pay attention to vehicles when riding.
We can arrange mountain bikes with helmets for you or you can also use a shared bike (no helmet available) if you have the app on your cellphone. Contact us for a bike trip round Erhai Lake.
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Erhai Lake Cruise
A cruise around the lake and its islands is another way to explore Erhai Lake. If it is hard for you to cycle, or you would rather a boat ride, you should consider taking a cruise.
Erhai Lake cruises have several routes. You could start a cruise from Xiaguan Pier in Erhai Park, Longkan Pier near Dali Old Town, or Taoyuan Pier. These cruises will pass islands, such as Nanzhao Folk Island and Small Putuo Island, and Luoquan Peninsula.
Cruise ships can be crowded, and you might have limited time to visit the islands. If you want to travel Erhai Lake more freely, you could also consider hiring a car to tour around it.
The Best Times to Visit Erhai Lake
The best times to visit Erhai Lake are spring and fall, March to May and September to October, with wonderful sunlight and soft breezes.
If you want to watch those cute seagulls, winter is recommended. Daytimes are mild/cool and it’s generally dry, but it will be a bit cold in the early morning and after 5:30pm.
There are occasional downpours in summer in Dali. If you are lucky to avoid a rainy day, summer is also a nice choice. Be sure to protect yourself from the sun during the summer. Dali has very strong ultraviolet rays.
See more on Dali Weather>>>
Tour Erhai Lake with Us
If you would like to include Erhai Lake in your Dali tour, feel free to contact us. Our tours are customizable, and we are ready to create a trip based on your requirements and interests. Here are our most popular Dali tour plans, for your reference: