Western Hills (Xishan) is a forest park blending beautiful natural scenery, Taoist temples, and grottoes. Stretching along the bank of Dianchi Lake, this mountain range looks like a “sleeping beauty” lying on the lake with her hair flowing on the water.
- Chinese: 西山 Xīshān 'Western Hills'
- Height: 2,350 meters
- Area: 889 hectares
- Popular activities: enjoy the panoramic view of Dianchi Lake, visit the Dragon Gate
- Must-see attractions: the Dragon Gate Grottoes, Tuating Temple
- Suited to: people with good physical health, especially history and nature lovers
- Time needed: half a day
Highlights of Western Hills Forest Park
Spectacular Panoramic Views
The Western Hills are 2,350 meters above sea level on the shore of Dianchi Lake. The deep blue sky, limpid lake water, and grand mountain peak create a magnificent picture. Standing on top of the mountain, you will enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Dianchi Lake and Kunming City.
The tranquil surroundings, lush vegetation, clear streams, and numerous historic sites make it a wonderful place for local people and tourists to go.
The Dragon Gate Grottoes
The Dragon Gate (Longmen) Grottoes are the most important part of Western Hills Forest Park. The grottoes were carved out of the steep cliffs, featuring danger, tranquility, and uniqueness. The construction spanned 72 years during the Qing Dynasty, more than 200 years ago.
You can hike up to Dragon Gate using the flight of steps. There is quite a lot to see as you climb uphill, such as grottoes, sculptures, corridors, and pavilions, as well as a good view of the lake and Kunming City.
The steps to the Dragon Gate are uneven and narrow. You are recommended to wear comfortable shoes. The plank road leading to the Dragon Gate only allows two people walking abreast so be careful when there are too many tourists.
Alternatively, to save time and energy, you can take a chairlift up to the top of the mountain (20–30 minutes) and walk down the Dragon Gate plank road (1–2 hours).
Huating Temple: Located at the middle of the Western Hills, this 900-year-old temple is one of the largest temples in Yunnan Province. It is famous for its colorful statues that combine styles of both Buddhism and Taoism. In the temple you will see Buddha figures with kindly expressions and vivid lifelike arhats, which are different from the solemn Buddha figures in other temples.
Taihua Temple: This temple is located on Taihua Hill, the highest hill in the scenic area. It is the oldest temple in Western Hills and known for its architecture, tranquil setting, and rare species of flowers. Spring is the best season for visitors who love flowers.
Sanqing Pavilion: Perched on the cliff of Luohan Hill, Sanqing Pavilion is a Taoist temple with unique architecture. From there, you can hike up to the Dragon Gate and enjoy the panoramic view of Dianchi Lake.
The Best Time for a Visit
It is suitable for travel from March to October when the weather is pleasant and the mountain is covered by verdant forests and blooming flowers.
March 3rd is a festive time in the Western Hills. Local people flock to climb the mountains, and gather there to sing folk songs and perform a dragon show. It is a good opportunity to admire the beautiful scenery and experience the local culture; but be prepared to experience the huge crowds.
- Location: the west suburb, approximately 15 kilometers from Kunming city center.
- Open: 8am to 6pm
- Entrance fees: 40 yuan for the Dragon Gate Grottoes, 25 yuan (one-way) for the Dragon Gate cableway, 20 yuan for Huating Temple and Taihua Temple.
- Transport information: take bus 6, 17, 18, 21, 51, or 94 and get off at Gao Yao Station
What to Bring
- Pack a snack for your walk as the shops in the forest park are limited and food is expensive.
- The daily temperature gap in Kunming is big, especially on the mountain, so do not forget to take your jumper or coat on the trip.
- Dianchi Lake: This is the largest lake in Yunnan, and is like a "Sparkling Pearl Embedded in a Highland".
- Yunnan Minority Village: This village displays the colorful folklore and architecture of 25 ethnic groups residing in Yunnan Province.
- The Stone Forest: Reputed as the "Stone Forest Museum", it is the only karst stone forest in a subtropical plateau region in the world.
Tour Western Hills Forest Park with China Highlights
The Western Hills Forest Park is huge, without any clear route signs. It is advisable to have a professional guide who will show you the highlights in the park and show you the best positions to take pictures from. Please contact us if you need any assistance on your Kunming tour. We are more than happy to create a unique tour for you.
Here are our most popular Kunming tours:
- 3-Day Kunming Highlights Tour — including the Dragon Gate on Western Hills and Naigu Stone Forest
- 8-Day Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Highlights Tour — taking you to visit the legendary Shangri-La and experience remote minority cultures