Xishuangbanna Travel Guide

Xishuangbanna Travel Guide

By ClaireUpdated Jul. 27, 2021

Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture (Banna for short) lies in the very south of Yunnan Province, and borders both Laos and Myanmar. It’s the home of China’s Dai ethnic minority and Pu’er tea, the only place in China with wild elephants, and it has the best tropical rainforest in China.

This paradise of animals and plants is fully filled with fun and enjoyments, and our travel guide will help you plan a trip to Xishuangbanna that savors its highlights.

Tea PlantationTea Plantation

How to Get to Xishuangbanna

Jinghong is the capital of Xishuangbanna with the best urban infrastructure in the area. Therefore, normally Jinghong is the first place travel to when visiting Xishuangbanna.

Xishuangbanna Gasa International Airport (JHG) is the only airport in Xishuangbanna, about 15 minutes’ drive southwest from Jinghong’s city center.

Giant Golden Pagodas in JinghongGiant Golden Pagodas in Jinghong

The most popular way to reach Xishuangbanna is taking a flight, as the road journey from Kunming, the nearest major city, is long. If Pu’er city, which is 150 km north of Xishuangbanna, is also on your itinerary, using Pu’er’s airport is also workable.

The newly-built Jinghong Railway Station will be put into use in 2021, so more options will be available soon.

Contact us to recommend the most conveneint transportation way from your city. 

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Gateway Cities for Xishuangbanna

Domestic Gateway Cities

If you have already arrived in China, flights connect about 46 domestic cities with Xishuangbanna to Kunming, Lijiang  and Dali in Yunnan and other popular cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guanghzou, Xian, Chengdu and Hangzhou, etc.

5 Southeast Asian Gateway Cities:

There are five cities outside of China that have flights to Jinghong: Luang Prabang in Laos, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Thailand, and Siem Reap and Sihanoukville in Cambodia.

See more on Xishuangbanna Transportation.

Want to save the fuss of getting there and transport and get the best version of your Xishuangbanna tour directly? Contact us and enjoy our one-stop service.

Hiking in Tropical Botanical GardenHiking in Tropical Botanical Garden

When to Travel to Xishuangbanna

There are only two seasons in Xishuangbanna: dry season and rainy season. The dry season (October to April) is considered the best time to travel in Xishuangbanna, but the rainy season is also okay.

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Xishuangbanna Tour Suggestions for First-time Visitors

There is so much to do and see in Xishuangbanna both day and night, including tropical jungle excitement, minority culture immersion, and Buddhist encounters. Yet, sometimes your touring time just cannot cover every one of them.

We have outlined some tour suggestions below for first time Xishuangbanna visits of different durations.

Tree House in XishuangbannaTree House in Xishuangbanna

1-Day Botanical Garden and Elephants Tour Idea

Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden is temporarily closed now because of COVID-19 [June 2021].

If this is your first time visit to Xishuangbanna, grabbing the opportunity to see the highlights is important. The Tropical Botanical Garden cannot be missed as it’s the best in China. The “elephant herding” activity in Wild Elephant Valley and feeding elephants may be the highlight of your day.

Try on Dai ethnic costumes and leisurely walk in Gaozhuang Starlight Night Market for a wonderful local experience. The Giant Golden Pagodas behind Starlight Market are a good place to taste the Buddhist culture and take beautiful pictures of the night market.

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2–3-Day Rainforest and Local Culture Tour Idea

If you have a bit more time in Xishuangbanna, spending more time in the Tropical Botanical Garden is brilliant idea, as it takes about 3 hours to tour the west part and about 5 hours are needed to cover both east and west. Wild elephant tracking and elephant feeding in Wild Elephant Valley normally takes half a day, but it also could be more.

Water-splashing activities are the most representative celebration of the Dai minority, but the Water-Splashing Festival only lasts for about 3–4 days, normally around the middle of April. Therefore, joining in the water-splashing activities that happen every day in Dai Minority Park is the best substitute.

The combination of Manting Park and Zong Buddhist Monastery is most recommended for sampling the history and lifestyle of the Dai imperial household. The glamorously ornate Zong Buddhist Monastery is right behind Manting Park, which was built for the highest chieftain alone, but now is open for everyone to worship at. 

Spending some time at night at Gaozhuang Starlight Night Market as mentioned above is still highly recommended.

Tea Mountain in XishuangbannaTea Mountain in Xishuangbanna

4–5-Day Best Rainforest and Pu’er Tea Tour Idea

Besides the sites suggested above, Wangtianshu Scenic Area is considered the best tropical rainforest in China and its corridor hung in the treetops is a must try if you are not afraid of heights. A whole day there including a night stay would be well spent, as it is about 5 hours from Jinghong.

Additionally, a Pu'er tea excursion can be surprisingly interesting. Xishuangbanna is known as the original home of Pu’er tea and it has the most ancient Pu’er tea trees. The tea plantations in Nannuoshan, Jinuo, and Hekai are the finest. Witness the most ancients tea trees, understand how Pu’er tea is made, and try the best Pu’er tea.

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Times Needed for the Main Attractions:

  • Tropical Botanical Garden: 3–5 hours (about 1 hour’s drive from Jinghong)
  • Wild Elephant Valley: 1 hour (about 1 hour’s drive from Jinghong)
  • Giant Golden Pagodas and Starlight Night Market: 1–1½ hours (after sunset)
  • Dai Minority Park: 2–3 hours (50 minutes’ drive from Jinghong; water-splashing activities start at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.)
  • Manting Park and Zong Buddhist Monastery: 2½ hours and 1 hour respectively (in Jinghong city)
  • Wangtianshu Scenic Area: 3 hours (about 2½ hours’ drive from Jinghong)
  • Nannuoshan/Jinuo/Hekai Tea Plantation: 1–3 hours (Nannuoshan and Jinuo are about 50 minutes’ drive from Jinghong, and Hekai is about 2 hours’ drive)

For introductions to the main attractions and more ideas, check out the top 18 things to do in Xishuangbanna.

Want to save the fuss of arranging attraction visits and get the best version of your Xishuangbanna tour expertly designed? Contact us and enjoy our one-stop service.

Manting ParkManting Park

3 Night Activity Choices

1) Photography in Starlight Night Market

When it comes to night activities in Xishuangbanna, Starlight Night Market always ranks top, as it’s widely considered as the prettiest night market in Yunnan, maybe even in all of China, and it’s very easy to take beautiful photos there.

The best spot for taking bird’s-eye-view photos is the stairway at the back of the Giant Golden Pagodas, which are behind the market .

Starlight Night MarketStarlight Night Market

2) A Night Tour of the Tropical Botanical Garden

Touring the best tropical garden in China at night is impressive, fun, and educational. Besides the fireflies lighting up the nightscape from late April till June, the “walking sticks” hiding in flower-de-luce, the singing frogs, and the fragrance given forth by the dragon trees are all highlights.

Our professional guide will always find a way to show you the best available in each month. Contact us if you are interested.

Tropical Botanical GardenTropical Botanical Garden

3) Have a Campfire Party at Night in Manting Park

A campfire party in Manting Park is a big interactive gathering of multiple ethnic cultures: those of Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and of cause the six minorities of China in Xishuangbanna — Dai, Jinuo, Bulong, Lahu, Yao, and Hani.

The party starts around 7pm and ends around 9:40pm. Dancing with local people around the campfire and release a floating lamp on the water. Contact us and add this memorable highlight to your trip!

3 Off-the-Beaten-Track Options

1) Ultralight Hiking in Virgin Rainforest

Of course, it’s highly recommended to visit the remarkable tropical parks in Xishuangbanna, like the Tropical Botanical Garden, Wangtianshu Scenic Area, and Primeval Forest Park. Yet, the virgin rainforest is also charming for explorers and curious hearts. We have investigated all the unexploited forests in Xishuangbanna and selected two routes that can provide you an exclusive and outstanding jungle adventure.

Want us to design you a brilliant tour of Xishuangbanna now? Contact us and enjoy our one-stop service.

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2) Explore an Isolated Village — Nuogang

Nuogang Village is on Jingmai Mountain in Lancang County, Pu’er Prefecture, about 7 hours’ drive northwest from Jinghong city or about 5 hours’ drive west from Pu’er city. As it’s remote from urban civilization, this beautiful and unspoiled village retains the most authentic Dai and Bulong ethnic lifestyles.

Locals take advantage of local natural resources to build their wooden houses. Their hidden Utopia is in a valley surrounded by mountains peaks and forests. Dressing up your youngsters (or yourself) in ethnic dress, food making, sutra chanting, and ceremonies with dancing can be enjoyed, and excellent photos can be taken especially if you bring a drone.

Dai Village in XishuangbannaDai Village in Xishuangbanna

3) Ultralight Hiking on Tea Mountain

As mentioned above, Xishuangbanna is the original home of Pu’er tea, and it’s delightful to visit one of its tea plantations like Nannuoshan, Jinuo, or Hekai. To a hiking fan, visiting Jinuo is by far the best option. Incredible and broad views, interacting with locals, and a Pu’er-tea-making experience can all be ticked off in one-stop.

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Tips for Traveling in Xishuangbanna

The Water-Splashing Festival normally is around mid-April and lasts for about 3–4 days. Banna is quite busy during the holiday as both locals and numerous visitors enthusiastically join in. If you want to avoid the crowds, come another time and experience the water-splashing as a blessing activity in Dai Minority Park.

Xishuangbanna has no winter, which means that it will have more visitors during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year in Jan./Feb.), as more Chinese people travel to escape harsher winters further north.

The first week of October, which is the National Day holiday in China, is also a time with visitor crowds. Try to avoids these holidays if possible, or contact us for less-crowded options and smart plans.

Tropical Botanical GardenTropical Botanical Garden

Xishuangbanna has been favored by travelers for a long time already, so you may find the street retailers (hawkers) in the markets or scenic areas quite aggressive when discovering the region alone. Being patient and saying no politely is the best response, or you could rely on our professional guides who are trained to help you out of awkward spots.

When visiting a temple or monastery, normally photos are not allowed inside of the shrines, where you may also need to take off your shoes. And being scantily clad is not allowed, especially for ladies.

Cannot wait to take off for Xishuangbanna? Contact us and enjoy our one-stop service for the best possible experience!

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