The Top 9 Interesting Things to Do in Kunming

The Top 9 Interesting Things to Do in Kunming

By Sunny XieUpdated Sep. 10, 2021

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, is known as the “Spring City”.

Like any large city of China, it has the rapidly developing urban traffic and high-rise buildings. However, with its unique climate, no bitter-cold winter or scorching heat summer, flowers blooming in all seasons, and green grasses and trees all the year round, the city is more like a large urban garden.

Journey down the page to find out the nine most interesting things to do around Kunming, key travel tips and info, and recommended itineraries.

1. Explore the Startling Karst Landscape of the Stone Forest 

Stone Forest

The Stone Forest, also called the ‘Stone Forest Museum’, is the only karst stone forest in a subtropical plateau region in the world.

Both the theme-park-like Greater and Lesser Stone Forests and less-crowded Naigu Stone Forest geopark provide you countless vistas of remarkable stone formations.

The stone forest is around 80 km (50 miles) from Kunming city needing about a 1½ hours’ drive. It would be much easier to take a tour there with private transport and an expert guide to show you the best sights in a well-planned day trip.

See our 3-Day Kunming Highlights Tour for a smart way to visit the Stone Forest alongside Kunming City’s essence.

2. Feed the Elf-Like Black-Headed Gulls at Dianchi Lake

Feed the black headed gulls

Eighth largest freshwater lake in China and largest lake in Yunnan Province, Dianchi, also called Kunming Lake, is nicknamed ‘the sparkling pearl embedded in the highland’.

Since 1985, each year from November to March, tens of thousands of black-headed gulls from Lake Baikal migrate to Kunming and spend a much warmer winter there. They have become part of the beautiful and unique scenery of Kunming. Buying some bread and feeding these little elves can be a charming memory of Kunming.

You may also find black-headed gulls feeding at Green Lake Park. Having problems choosing which lake for your short stay in Kunming? Contact us for a recommendation.

Recommended tours

3. Enjoy Panoramic Views from the Dragon Gate of Xishan

Panoramic views from xishan

Xishan (‘Western Hills’) is a forest park that stretches along the west bank of Dianchi Lake, offering beautiful natural scenery.

Dragon Gate on top, is the focal point of this forest park. The steps up to Dragon Gate are uneven and narrow, and it may be advisable to take a cable car to the top for panoramic views of Dianchi Lake and Kunming city.

In addition, there are two temples there, where you can enjoy Buddhist or Taoist culture and architecture.

The Zhuang Minority Song Festival (Sanyuesan) on lunar month 3 day 3 (falling between late March and late April) is a festive time in Western Hills Scenic Area. Local people gather there to sing folk songs and perform a dragon show. You may be interested in other festivals in Yunnan.

4. Admire “God's Palette” at Dongchuan Red Land

Dongchuan Red Land

Dongchuan Red Land is praised as ‘God's Palette’. In May and June, after ploughing, the lands appear in their strongest red colors, and in September and October, the cole flowers bloom in yellow and make it even more beautiful with the red fields as a backdrop.

There’s no doubt that Dongchuan has become a newly rising hotspot for photographers.

For more inspiration on photography destinations or to arrange a trip, follow the link to our China Photography Tour page.

Recommended tours

5. Discover Land Sculptures at Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

In the same location as Dongchuan Red Land, the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, known for their large scale, are another paradise for nature lovers and photographers.

It takes around 4½ hours to drive there from Kunming, and you may choose to stay overnight at Yuanyang to shoot the stunning terraced rice fields at sunrise and sunset, or to experience more of the unique culture of the Hani people.

The best time to visit Yuanyang is from December to March.

Take our 6-Day Kunming, Jianshui, and Yuanyang Tour and you will fall in love with the “Heavenly Palette of Colors”.

6. Immerse in Ethic Culture at Yunnan Minority Village

Yunnan Minority Village

There are 25 officially-recognized ethnic groups scattered among the vast variety of mountains and rivers in Yunnan Province, which makes Yunnan the province with the largest number of ethnic minorities in China. Yunnan Minority Village is just the storefront window that displays their unique minority customs and cultures.

Inside the village, you can enjoy ethnic costume shows and performances, learn about folklore, and can appreciate 1:1 replica buildings of each minority group.

Interested in ethnic cultures of Yunnan? Take our 6-day Yunnan Ethnic Minorities Tour for a true experience.

7. Appreciate the Romantic Cherry Blossom on Yuantong Hill

Cherry blossom in Kunming

Kunming is also known as the ‘Former Cherry Blossom City’. Since the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) cherry trees have been planted, and now there are about 10,000 cherry trees in the city.

Every year from January to May, thousands of cherry flowers on Yuantong Hill in Kunming Zoo are in full bloom, pleasing noses as well as eyes with their special fragrance. The Cherry Blossom Festival in March is the peak time for blossoms. If you happen to visit Kunming at this time, do not miss a walk on romantic Yuantong Hill.

(Yuantong Temple is adjacent but separate with far fewer cherry trees.)

Make an inquiry to our travel experts and we’ll design a colorful mountain and flower tour in Kunming for you.

8. Mesmerize Yourself in the Colorful Flower and Bird Market

Kunming Flower and Bird Market

With its favorable climatic and geographical location, Kunming has become the biggest flower wholesale market in China  and hence got the name ‘Flower City’. The Flower and Bird Market is one of the most attractive places in the city for leisure. You will see shops and stalls of all sorts, especially those featuring flowers, birds, fish, and antiques.

You could have an enjoyable time strolling around the flower ocean. A bunch of fresh flowers would cheer up your stay in Kunming, and you could buy local souvenirs in the market to take home.

9. Taste Yummy Crossing-the-Bridge Noodles

Crossing the bridge noodles

Kunming’s most famous local dish ‘crossing-the-bridge noodles’ (过桥米线) has a history of over a hundred years and is well-known throughout the country.

Hot chicken soup, sliced meat, various vegetables, rice noodles, and other sauces are added step-by-step into a large bowl to make a delightful dish that will keep hot even if it has to be carried across a bridge to get to you, which is what happened in the story behind the name. 

To experience authentic Kunming life, these rice noodles are most worthy of a try. See more on Kunming Food.

Our Most Popular Kunming Tours

We have prepared some popular Kunming tour plans that offer you a unique and true experience of the Spring City:

Don’t hesitate to click and inquire if you would like to alter an itinerary or extend/shorten it to suit your price, interests, and schedule. Or just let us know your bucket list and we’ll create a unique tour for you.

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