Lugu Lake — a Kingdom of Women

Lugu Lake, at the border between Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces and about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Lijiang city, is an alpine lake renowned for its stunning scenery and unique Mosuo culture.

Lugu is called the "mother lake" by the local Mosuo people, who comprise what is sometimes described as the last matriarchal society in the world. The Mosuo people have been living relatively isolated lives around the lake for generations, and have retained their ancient traditions and customs.

  • Chinese: 泸沽湖 Lúgū Hú /loo-goo hoo/ 
  • Altitude: 2,685 meters (8,809 feet)
  • Area: 49.5 square kilometers
  • Popular activities: enjoy a campfire party, take a boat ride on the lake, visit a Mosuo family
  • Suitable for: anyone, especially anyone interested in minority culture
  • Time needed: one or two days

The Highlights of Lugu Lake

Stunning Idyllic Scenery

Lugu LakeLugu Lake

Dotted with islets and surrounded by high mountains, Lugu Lake is an idyllic beauty spot not yet overrun by tourists. The water is clear and clean and the surroundings are peaceful and beautiful. You can just relax and slow down here.

Unique Mosuo Culture

The lake area is home to various minority groups, such as the Yi, Tibetan, and Mosuo (a subgroup of the Naxi). The most populous in the area are the Mosuo people, who are unique for their matriarchal society and "walking marriage".

Known as the "Kingdom of Women", Mosuo society is ruled by women. Mosuo women wield power in the families and control household finances. They take care of the crops, the house and children. Mosuo men take care of the livestock. Houses and property are passed down through the women.

Perhaps the strangest feature of Mosuo society is their mating habits, referred to as "walking marriage".

Most couples do not actually marry. They live instead under the roof of their extended families during the day; and at night the men walk to the houses of the women (if given permission) and return to their own homes in the morning. Women may have multiple partners over the course of their lives.

Children are raised by their mother, and the mother's brothers take on the responsibility of father. The children often don’t know who their real father is.

Top Things to Do

The best-known villages around Lugu Lake are Luoshui and Lige. Both are now well endowed with tourist facilities. Apart from guesthouses, restaurants and cafés, however, you can still experience many interesting things in the villages.

Go canoeing on Lugu LakeGo canoeing on Lugu Lake is a good choice to feel the beauty of the lake.

Take Part in a Campfire Party

In Luoshui and Lige, you may have a chance to take part in a campfire party convened by local villagers. You pay about 30 yuan to join in. Even if it’s not as authentic as it once was, it is still a good way to relate to local people and to experience their way of life.

Take a Boat Ride on the Lake

On the lake there are five islands, three peninsulas and a sea-wall islet. Boating is a good way of exploring the lake. Local boats are made from thick logs and are known as zhu cao chuan or "pig trough boats".

You can charter a boat to see the beautiful lake scenery and enjoy a leisurely morning or afternoon.

Pay a Home Visit to a Mosuo Family

If you want to have close contact with local Mosuo people, we can arrange a home visit. You can see their house, talk with the family, and even eat with them. It is a great way to get to know about their daily lives and learn about local folk culture.

The Best Times to Visit

The best times to visit Lugu Lake are when the weather is sunny and mild, from April to May, or from September to October.

The rainy season extends from June to August; you'd better avoid this period, as most recommended activities are outdoors.

The History of the Mosuo People

0A Mosuo girl with traditional clothes

It is said that the ancestors of the Mosuo were a nomadic people who lived in the Tibetan plateau. They arrived in the area around Lijiang around 3 AD and then divided into three branches.

Those who remained around Lijiang and the Tiger Leaping Gorge area are known as the Nakhi or Naxi; those who moved to the Shaxi and Dali valleys are known as the Bai; and those who moved to the Lugu Lake area are called the Mosuo.

The people around the high altitude Lugu Lake region were more isolated and retained more of their traditional customs and religion.

Travel Essentials for Planning a Tour

  • Transport information:
    1. From Lijiang:
    Most people reach Lugu Lake from Lijiang by minivan. The ride takes 6–8 hours; usually leaving Lijiang around 6am and arriving at the lake around 1pm.
    2. From Kunming: A domestic airport was built in Ninglang, a county town near Lugu Lake. So a direct flight from Kunming to the lake is available. It takes about one hour.
  • Travel Tips:
    1. You may initially experience altitude sickness, as the lake and the surrounding region are at an altitude of about 2,600 meters (8,530 feet).
    2. Be sure to check out the weather and plan to make your trip when it’s less likely to rain.
    3. Bring plenty of cash, for it’s not easy to find an ATM and most local hotels and restaurants don’t accept credit cards.

Nearby Attractions

The Ancient Town of LijiangThe Ancient Town of Lijiang
  • The Ancient Town of Lijiang is China's best-preserved ancient minority town. It is famous for its ancient architecture and orderly system of waterways.
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges on earth, and also the site of one of the best hiking routes in the Lijiang area.
  • Baisha Village is the earliest settlement of the Naxi people. It's a must-see place if you like murals, for Baisha is home to murals which combine the cultures of the Han, Tibetan, and Naxi people.

Tour Lugu Lake with China Highlights

Lugu Lake is a place full of ethnic culture. You are recommended to visit it with a professional guide. We have developed various tours in and around Lijiang. If you are interested in Lugu Lake, we can add it onto your itinerary.

Here are two Lijiang tours for your reference:

If the above tours are not quite what you are looking for, we can tailor-make a tour for you according to your preferences.