Yunnan Travel Guide

Yunnan Travel Guide

By Sunny XieUpdated Oct. 1, 2021

Yunnan, literally meaning "South of the Clouds", attracts a large number of visitors with its diverse cultures, rich history, and spectacular landscapes.

Lijiang Ancient TownLijiang Ancient Town

Location of Yunnan

Yunnan Province is in central south China, bordering Sichuan Province to the north, Guizhou Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the east, Vietnam to the southeast, Laos to the south, Myanmar to the west, and Tibet to the northwest.

Top Reasons to Visit Yunnan

  • Yunnan enjoys a pleasant climate that is mild in winter and cool in summer. It is a good all-year-round vacation destination.
  • Yunnan boasts a variety of natural wonders: deep gorges, towering karst formations, rainforest, rice terraces, lovely lakes, and splendid snow-capped mountains in the foothills of the Tibetan plateau.
  • Yunnan, home to 25 ethnic minorities, is a place to experience the unique cultures of China 's ethnic minority groups.
  • Yunnan has well-preserved old towns and villages, with ancient buildings, well-worn blue-stone streets, and rich histories.
Visiting Local Minority Family in LijiangVisiting Local Minority Family in Lijiang

Cannot wait to visit Yunnan. Follow the link to our Yunnan tours to find out what might interest you.

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The Most Popular Tourist Cities in Yunnan

Yunnan Province is endowed with abundant tourist attractions, and its regions attract visitors with their unique features.

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, is praised as The Spring City for its climate that avoids extremes and most resembles the season of spring.

Must-See Attractions in Kunming:

  • The Stone Forest: the spikiest karst landscape in the world with thousands of stone peaks, towers, spires, and oddly-shaped monoliths.
  • Dian Lake: Hailed as “a pearl on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau”, it is the largest lake in Yunnan Province and the sixth largest freshwater lake in China.
  • Yuanyang Terraced Rice Fields: With more than 10,000 hectares of terraced rice fields and quaint ethnic Hani villages, it is an ideal place for photography.

More on attractions in Kunming>>>

Lijiang is a relaxing place that blends historical sites, snow-capped mountains, gorges, and ethnic minority cultures.

Must-See Attractions in Lijiang:

  • Lijiang Ancient Town: China's best-preserved minority ancient city, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest canyons in the world and part of a UNESCO natural preservation area.
  • Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: Near Tiger Leaping Gorge, it has good hiking, a glacier park, and high-altitude meadows.

More on attractions in Lijiang>>>

Dali is famous for its beautiful natural scenery and well-preserved Bai minority customs and culture.

Must-See Attractions in Dali:

  • The Three Pagodas are the landmark of Dali, towering majestically for centuries in an iconic triangle.
  • Erhai Lake is the second largest lake in Yunnan Province. Its surrounding area is blessed with a moderate climate, a beautiful mountain range, and historically important towns and villages with eye-catching architecture.

More on attractions in Dali>>>

Shangri-La: a place with a venerated range of snowy mountains and Tibetan culture.

ATV Experience in DaliATV Experience in Dali

Must-See Attractions in Shangri-La:

  • Songzanlin Lamasery is praised as "the Little Potala Palace", a great place to experience Tibetan Culture.
  • The Meili Snow Mountains are holy to Tibetans. The golden sunrise on the dramatic snow-capped peaks is a must-see.

More on attractions in Shangri-La>>>

Yunnan has plenty of choices for those who wish to take an off-the-beaten-track tour, and Yunnan is also a paradise for photographing, hiking, and mountaineering of different levels. Read more on top things to do in Yunnan and choose the ones that might attract you most or contact our Yunnan expert for advice and a customized tour.    

Yunnan Weather

The weather of Yunnan Province is as varied as its terrain, with a temperate mountainous zone in the west, a tropical zone to the south, and a subtropical zone in between.

Generally speaking, the weather in most areas of Yunnan is relatively mild in winter and cool in summer. It is suitable to visit Yunnan all year round.

The time to visit Yunnan largely depends on what you want to see, and which parts you want to go to.

  • Spring and early summer are the best times to see the flora and fauna.
  • Fall and winter are the best times to see snowcapped mountains and peaks.

More on Yunnan Weather and things to do by season>>>

Xizhou Town in DaliXizhou Town in Dali

Colorful Minority Cultures

There are 25 different ethnic minorities represented in the province.

The most prominent are the Yi (their most distinctive celebration is the Torch Festival), the Bai (the March Fair being their main celebration), and the Dai (the Water Splashing Festival, a.k.a. Spring Festival, is their main celebration). More on festivals in Yunnan>>>

The Naxi, with their unique Dongba culture, recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage, inhabit the area in and around the city of Lijiang especially.

The Mosuo, known as the world’s last matriarchal society, live around picturesque Lugu Lake near Lijiang.

More on Chinese Ethnic Groups >>>

Recommended Minority Culture tours in Yunnan:

Yunnan Taboos You Should Know

Respect local customs and traditions. Many inhabitants of Yunnan are minority peoples with a wide variety of beliefs and traditional rules. In order to respect the traditions and customs of the local people, please remember the customs listed below or contact us for updated travel information.

Generally:

  • Do not enter the bedroom of the host.
  • Do not enter the room of a pregnant woman.
  • Foreign pregnant women are not allowed to enter a bridal chamber and cannot attend a wedding ceremony.

In Tibetan areas:

  • Do not touch the head of a monk.
  • Do not stand on the threshold when visiting a Tibetan family.
  • Wearing short trousers is regarded as a sign of disrespect.
Tibetan People in Shangri-laTibetan People in Shangri-la

In Yi areas:

  • Do not walk over or stand astride the fire pit when visiting a family of Yi nationality.

In Dai areas:

  • Take off your shoes when visiting temples or Dai nationality bamboo buildings.

In Jingpo Minority areas:

  • Do not touch the cattle bones that are hung up in a Jingpo village.

Our Most Popular Yunnan Tours

Want to discover Yunnan — the most ethnically diverse province in China, which also has awesome scenery? Tell us your interests and requirements, and we will help you to tailor-make a Yunnan tour.

Here are our most popular tours, for inspiration:

See more Yunnan tours, which cover the highlights in Yunnan and also include exclusive programs to give a unique experience.

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