Erhai Lake

Erhai is a crystal-clear, ear-shaped lake adjacent to Dali Ancient Town. It is the second largest highland lake of China, after Dianchi Lake in Kunming.

The lake is not only blessed with magnificent natural scenery, but also has rich cultural attractions, such as historical temples and traditional fishing villages. Boating and cycling are two fantastic ways to tour the lake.

  • Chinese: 洱海 Ěrhǎi /errh-high/ 'Ear Sea'
  • Area: 250 sq km (97 sq mi)
  • Size: circumference 116 km (72 mi); average depth 11 m (36 ft)
  • Popular activities: cycling, boating
  • Suited to: anyone
Erhai LakeErhai Lake

What to See Around the Lake

Apart from the beautiful lake, with a backdrop of the Cang Mountains, the islands, villages, and temples around the lake are also worth a visit.

Little Putuo Island

Little Putuo Island (小普陀岛 Xiao Putuo Dao) is the smallest island in Erhai Lake. On this island, you will see Little Putuo Temple, which was built in the 15th century, and originally devoted to Bodhisattva Kwanyin (the female Chinese Bodhisattva of compassion, Guanyin).

You can climb up the temple to have a bird’s eye view of the lake.

The best time to visit the island is in the morning, when the island is shrouded in mist. If you visit in winter, you will see a vast number of seagulls.

Golden Shuttle Island

Golden Shuttle Island (金梭岛 Jinsuo Dao) is shaped like a weaving shuttle. It is a great place to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Erhai Lake and experience the Bai culture.

The Bai peopleThe Bai people

There are 200 Bai households living on the island. You can walk through Bai minority houses and taste local food. You can find many caverns on the island, like Jade Dragon Palace.

Cai Village

Cai Village (才村 Cai Cun) is a pleasant fishing village on the western bank of Erhai Lake. It is inhabited by the Bai people. Its beautiful scenery and rich minority culture makes it one of the most famous villages in Dali, offering more than 100 guesthouses and over 20 restaurants.

Xizhou Ancient Town

Xizhou Ancient Town (喜洲古镇 Xizhou Guzhen 'Joyful Island Ancient Town') is located about 1 km east of Erhai Lake. It is a great place to see well-preserved Bai architecture, like Yan Family's Courtyard (严家大院 Yan Jia Dayuan), and taste local food like erkuai (饵块 'pastry pieces').

Two Popular Ways to Tour the Lake

Taking a Boat Cruise

Erhai Lake Erhai Lake

Taking a cruise is an enjoyable way to immerse yourself in the beauty of Erhai Lake. There are three piers around the lake, Xiaguan Pier, Taoyuan Pier, and Longkan Pier.

The cruising routes usually start from one pier and end at another pier, taking guests to visit Little Putuo Island and Nanzhao Folk Island. The duration is 3–4 hours. The cost is about 200 yuan.

Cycling

If you are not short of time and energy, cycling around the lake is great option. You can tour at your pace, stopping to visit the villages and take photos for as long as you want.

The best section for cycling is the west bank of the lake considering its scenery and road condition.

Route One: Cycle the west bank of Erhai Lake, 46 km, 1 day

Dali Ancient Town – Three Pagodas – Xizhou Town – Zhoucheng Village, and back to Dali Ancient Town via the same route.

Route Two: a circuit of Erhai Lake, 128 km, 2 days

Day 1: Dali Old Town – Three Pagodas – Xizhou Town – Zhoucheng Village – Taoyuan Dock – Shangguan Town – Shuanglang Village (Nanzhao Island). (Around 50 km, 4 hours)

Day 2: Shuanglang Village – Wase Town (Little Putuo Island) – Haidong Village – Jinsuo Island – Huanhai Road – Airport Road – Erhai Dock – Haixi Village Highway – Caicun Dock – Dali Old Town. (Around 80 km, 6 hours)

Cycling around Erhai LakeCycling around Erhai Lake

You can rent a bike in Dali Ancient Town. The cost is about 30 yuan per day.

How to Get There

It is a 50 minute walk, a 15-minute bus ride or a 10 minute downhill zip on a bike from Dali Ancient Town. If taking a bus, take bus C2 from the South Gate of the Town and get off at Caicun Dock. Then walk for 10 minutes to the lake.

Nearby Attractions

  • Dali Ancient Town is one of the most famous ancient towns in China, full of historic sites and traditional culture.
  • The Cang Mountains is a great place to enjoy a bird's eye view of Erhai and Dali.
  • The Three Pagodas are considered the landmark of Dali. Built more than 1,000 years ago, they are one of China’s best preserved ancient Buddhist structures.

Touring Erhai Lake with China Highlights

Cruise on Erhai LakeCruise on Erhai Lake

Your Dali tour is incomplete without a visit to Erhai Lake. Take a tour to Erhai Lake to enjoy enchanting scenery and have a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Bai minority people.

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

Our tours are very flexible. You can modify the itinerary based on your requirements and interests.