As home to 26 officially-recognized ethnic minority groups, Yunnan is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and diverse ethnic culture. But, where should you start your trip in Yunnan? How many days are needed to explore Yunnan's top attractions? This article will help you plan a great trip in Yunnan.
- How Many Days in Yunnan
- An 8-Day Classic Yunnan Tour
- A 6-Day Yunnan Adventure Tour
- A 6-Day Terraced Fields Tour
How Many Days to Spend in Yunnan
To deeply appreciate and experience all that Yunnan has to offer, it's recommended to spend at least 7 days to explore its different regions and discover its many unique charms.
However, if you have limited time, 3 to 5 days can give you a quick overview of Yunnan's highlights, such as the UNESCO-listed Lijiang Old Town, Dali Old Town, and Yuanyang Rice Terraces, and Tiger Leaping Gorge and the majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Ultimately, the ideal duration of your stay in Yunnan will depend on your interests, budget, and schedule, but with its wealth of attractions, this beautiful province is definitely worth exploring. The following are some of the sample tour Itineraries.
1. An 8-Day Classic Yunnan Highlights Tour (Most Chosen)
If you are visiting Yunnan for the first time, then Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La should be on your list. In this 8-day tour itinerary, you would see the iconic limestone "forest" formations, one of the world's deepest canyons, UNESCO-listed ancient towns, beautiful snowy mountains, and colorful minority cultures. With the help of our guide, you would get some real interaction with the local cultures and peoples.
Days 1–2: Kunming
When in Kunming, visiting the spectacular Stone Forest is a must. It is a natural wonder listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You would see various spectacular limestone shapes formed wholly by natural processes. Yunnan cuisine is known for its unique flavors and ingredients. Make sure to try some of the local dishes while you are in Kunming, such as Yunnan hot pot, across-the-bridge noodles, and steam pot chicken.
Days 3–4: Dali
In Dali, the top attractions are the Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountains and Dali Old Town. To help you get a deeper experience of Dali, our guide would take you to visit local houses of the Bai minority people in Xizhou Village, where you would see typical Bai traditions and try on their traditional clothes for memorable photos. Then hop in a horse-drawn carriage to enjoy a relaxing tour along the Erhai lakeshore, which is blessed with a mild climate and stunning scenery.
Days 5–6: Lijiang
Lijiang Old Town is a must-visited attraction in Lijiang. Follow our guide to explore the well-preserved Naxi minority city, meet local Naxi people, and see many of them still making a living by making handicrafts of silver, leather, textiles, and local snacks.
Another top attraction in Lijiang is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Take a cable car up to overlook stunning and varied natural beauty, including spruces, meadows, pines, and clouds seen from above. To help you get a close encounter with local life, our guide would accompany you to visit a local Naxi family, where you would make your own Naxi pancake (Naxi baba) as the main dish for your lunch.
Lijiang Tour with Alice
My husband and I arrived in Lijiang after Dali. We met Alice, our new tour guide for the next two days. Alice is a compassionate person with a heart full of love and care. She makes sure we dress warmly before taking our tours to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.Alice is well-spoken about the culture of local people in Lijiang. During our visit to the Naxi ethnic community, we learned how to make and sample the Naxi pancake and tea with Yak butter. We felt it was a rewarding experience to learn about the livelihood of people as we tour.Many thanks to China Highlights for arranging our traveling itinerary in Lijiang.more
Nov 2023, AL
Our trip to Yunnan
Alice is very personable, warm, friendly and shared with us many of their cultures and stories. Pema is very energetic and accompany us for the half day hike in the tiger leaping gorge.We would definitely recommend China Highlights to anyone for their holiday in China!more
Nov 2023, TAN YIDA
Our trip to Li Jiang and Shaxi Yunnan
We arrived at Lijiang on 9/8. We enjoyed the time in Lijiang a lot with good hotel selection and a well planned program. We went onto Shaxi for the local singing festival of the local minority groups. It was a fantastic experience. What makes the trip most memorable is our guide Alice. She took excellent care of us, anticipating our every need. She was personable, warm and very knowledgeable. We shared many laughters and traded stories. She brought smiles to us during the entire trip. We will specifically ask for her again when we come back to Yunnan. Five star service.more
Sep 2023, Consumer
Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-la
We would like to thank China Highlights Travel for planning and organizing our China hiking trip. Roger Li (Trip Planner) was really prompt in all correspondences and helped us to fine tune our travel details. We are a party of 4 and had multiple hiking destinations in mind in the beginning. Roger gave us details of each option and we finally decided to go hiking in the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge. In addition, Roger helped us to add itinerary in Lijiang and Shangri-la after the hiking. Really looking forward to our China hiking trip in October!more
Sep 2023, Joyce Lee
We love China
From the beginning we had a trustfull knowlegeable base of communication, started with Lukas the tour advisor and guide around Guilin and continued with the other guides in the other locations. Shanghai FU, Zhangjiajie Emili, Xián Juanli, Kunmimg Nen ,Lijiang Luzhuoying, Chongqing ??, Yangtze, Haikou ?? and Beijing Chengang. We were totaly positivly impressed about the overall service during our time in China. We felt save and wellcomed at any time. We had every day our individual highlight. For example, breathless nature, extraordinary hotels, historical buildings and places, well tasting food and social contacts on the streets. All our tour guides and drivers made a professional customer orientated job and supported us in the best possible way. Even if we want to make changes on short notice they made it happen. We spent a remarkable and unforgetable time in China and been very thankful to China Highlights to create this moments in time for us.more
Jun 2023, Karlheinz Potuznik
Jack Li , our tour guide at LiJiang, took great care of us when we climbed Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and suffered high altitude issues. At Dali, our tour guide Nancy Li doubled up as our photographer and speaks excellent English and entertained us with her rich knowledge of Chinese history. We had a wonderful time.more
Apr 2023, April Lee
Thank you for such a wonderful traveling experience!
We have Jack Lee in our Lijiang trip he was such a considerate and kind tour guide. He is very knowledgeable and he accommodated all our requirement. We were fortunate to have such a nice local tour guide. I had altitude sickness and he really cared. Our private driver Mr Tang is very safe and patient. He is compliant and cares for our safety all the time. He is very humorous and gave us so much laughter. He was also very caring towards me.more
Apr 2023, Hazel T
Cultural and scenic beauty second to none!
I would highly recommend this tour to Lugu Lake to everyone and anyone! The tour guide Jack taught me more in two days about minority cultures, Chinese history, and the amazing natural history and geography of Yunnan and the Lijiang area. As well, the drive to Lugu Lake requires an expert - and Mr Wang is an expert! (From someone who has crossed the Rockies at least 20 times) As a single woman travel who still doesn’t have great Chinese it was a flawless experience - from the communications, accommodation and breathtaking scenery and cultural experiences. Please book and go!more
Feb 2023, Connie VH
We have been travelling around Yunnan…
We have been travelling around Yunnan Province for 8 days and it’s been amazing. The culture, the food, the people’s kindness, all these things made our trip unforgettable. Especially our guide Nancy! The most helpful and friendly guide we could have. We really appreciate her knowledge about the local history and the culture. She’s really amazing and we strongly recommend her services.more
Mar 2022, Danielle Toledo
Awesome Yunnan trip with Nancy
We had a 6-day tour with guide Nancy around Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La in Yunnan. She’s very professional and experienced guide that made our tour far exceed expectations. It was a pleasure to have her as our tour guide. We strongly recommend her. Thank you!more
Mar 2022, Rodrigo
One of the best things I’ve done in China
One of the best things I’ve done in China. Being that I am pretty well traveled in China this Experience was so different from the others. Each city provided a different aspect of the culture, local traditions and beauty that China has to offer. Our Tour guide Nancy was amazing as she made our itinerary very well constructed and organized. She was there to make sure we were comfortable and happy. Her hyper energy and cheerfulness made us feel enthusiastic for the day. We are very satisfied with this trip and Nancy’s services that we will be sure to book again.more
Feb 2022, RoshR
Lijiang Trip July 2021
Kudos to Alisa Liu from the agency who I must say was on hand almost 24/7 for requests and queries. Even though our trip was marred with the onset of the Typhoon In Fa with various flight and train cancellations but Alisa was quick to arrange for alternative solutions under the circumstances and made the most effort to make our journey as comfortable as possible whilst we made our way back to Shanghai. As for the itinerary, Alisa understands her clientele’s different needs very well and for the most part my expectations were met. I love private tours with a very relaxed itinerary and comfortable accommodation and some of us prefer more exclusive accommodation vs a packed itinerary trying to go to a hundred location type of tour.more
Aug 2021, Ida Suriani
Summer holiday in Yunnan
After spending 5 nights in Dali visiting sights in our own time, Alice who was very friendly and helpful, accompanied us on our drive from Dali to Lijiang. She shared interesting facts about the local area and the things we had done. In Lijiang, we met our guide Peter. Peter did an amazing job taking care of us and showing us the beautiful sights for our 3 days. He was so kind, providing us with snacks each morning and always ensuring the food met my dietary requirements. He even picked up our last minute NAT results that we did before our departure late at night! His passion and dedication to his job was very impressive, and we would highly recommend him to our friends.more
Aug 2021, O6866ZGlaurag
Amazing experience in Yunnan
Please bear in mind that booking tickets and actually getting to the sightseeing point is very challenging, especially during peak season. But with the help of our guides everything went smooth and silky. Thank you, China Highlights, for making our first trip to Yunnan an unforgettable and carefree adventure. It was a true relaxation without any headache or stress. We had nothing to worry about, except enjoying breathtaking beauty of Yunnan.more
Jul 2021, olya84
Natural landscapes are everything
I visited Lijiang during the Spring Festival and I thought it was gonna be packed with people but my guide always knew were to take me to avoid crowds. I had a great time, my guide was very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions with gusto. I’m very happy with my trip. --lunarcicles，Buenos Aires, Argentinamore
Feb 2019, lunarcicles
Days 7–8: Shangri-La
Shangri-La is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and holy religious atmosphere full of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Visit Songzanlin Lamasery, which houses lots of Buddhist statues and many precious cultural treasures. With the help of our guide, you would be able to talk with lamas in their study room to learn more about their lifestyle, religious beliefs, and disciplines. Other top attractions in Shangri-La include Pudacuo National Park, which is a well-preserved ecosystem with the virgin forests, Lake Bita, and Lake Shudu.
2. A 6-Day Lijiang to Shangri-La Adventure Tour (Good for Hiking Lovers)
If you want to experience the atmosphere of adventure that the great explorer Joseph Rock pioneered, this itinerary would be good for you. You would have the chance to see awesome landscapes and old and mysterious cultures, which make up the stuff of adventures for most travelers.
Days 1–3: Lijiang
In Lijiang, besides the Ancient Town, our guide would arrange a hike of about 12.5 km (8 miles) through the mountainside bushes, where you would wade across a little stream and enjoy exclusive views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that only hikers can. You would see the traditional stone houses of the Naxi people and villagers in their traditional dress on their way to their farms or fields. Pay a visit to Rock's former residence and listen to his adventure stories.
Days 4–6: Shangri-La Adventure
On the way to Shangri-La, you would journey through Tiger Leaping Gorge and discover a best-kept secret of Haba Snow Mountain, where you would take a 2-hour hike on an alpine meadow, which offers exclusive views of Haba Snow Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Spend a day visiting the largest Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery in Yunnan — Songzanlin, and visit the dormitory of a lama. With the help of our guide, you would talk face to face with the lama about their lifestyle, religious beliefs, practices, and discipline. If you are interested in ethnic life, then visit Nixi Tibetan village and a Tibetan family's house. Sit and chat with the host and enjoy some traditional Tibetan snacks.
3. A 6-Day Yuanyang Terraced Fields Tour (Good for Countryside Views and Rice Terrace Vistas)
On this itinerary, you can admire classic Ming-era (14th-century) buildings in Jianshui and view the spectacular sight of the sprawling Yuanyang Rice Terraces.
- Day 1: Kunming (visit the Stone Forest)
- Days 2–3: Jianshui (visit the Confucian Temple and Zhu Family Garden)
- Days 4–6: The Yuanyang Rice Terraces
The Confucian Temple is a must in Jianshui, where you can explore the various courtyards, halls, and gardens and gain insight into Confucian thought and philosophy.
Zhu Family Garden (a UNESCO World Heritage site), also in Jianshui, contains the residence of the wealthy Zhu family, which was built in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) and features ornate architecture. You should be impressed by this abode, which is truly a work of art!
In Yuanyang, the terraced fields are an attraction tht draws photographers from far and wide. Our private guide would take you to Duoyishu Village, where you can get awesome views of the rice terraces and then climb to Tiger Mouth Pass to overlook an extensive panorama of tiered fields. There you can experience the folk culture of Qingkou Hani Ethnic group.
4. A 7-Day Yunnan Winter Tour (Good for Christmas and New Year Vacations)
If you are planning a trip to Yunnan in winter, this itinerary would be worth considering. You would find a relatively warm winter in Yunnan with sub-tropical sunshine, clear dry-season skies, and moderate temperatures. It is definitely recommended if you are planning a tour for the Christmas or New Year holiday.
- Days 1: Kunming (visit the Stone Forest)
- Days 2–4: Dali (Dali Ancient Town, Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountain) and Shaxi
- Days 5–7: Lijiang (Ancient Town, Jade Dragon Mountain)
Visit Dali and Shaxi Old Town, which was an important stop on the Tea-Horse Road. Attractions in Shaxi include Xingjiao Temple, Square Street, the ancient stage, and Yujing Bridge. To help you get a basic knowledge of the ancient Tea Horse Road, we would arrange a walking tour on the 14-centuries-old Tea Horse Road from Shaxi to a neighboring village, which is 4 km (2.5 miles). In Lijiang, you would explore the old town of Lijiang and have a walk around the Black Dragon Pool. Then visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the Baisha Murals, and a shaman's home.
5. 10-Day Yunnan Side Trip to Tibet (good for a Tibet bucket-list trip)
If Tibet is on your bucket list, then this itinerary could be good for you. We have added Lhasa to this Yunnan tour to fulfill your Tibet dreams.
- Days 1–2: Kunming (visit the Stone Forest)
- Days 3–4: Dali (Old Town, Cangshan, Erhai Lake)
- Days 5–6: Lijiang (Old Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain)
- Days 7–8: Shangri-La (Lamasery, national parks)
- Days 9–10: Lhasa
In Lhasa, the Potala Place is a must-visit attraction. To help you find the best angles to take photos and have the best experience avoiding the crowds, our guide would use his experience to choose the best way for you to explore the Potala Palace.
Walk around Barkhor Street to explore its local market, admire traditional Tibetan architecture, and to see pilgrims doing their prostrating obeisance and Buddhists making a kora (sacred circuit) by turning the prayer wheels.
In the afternoon, enjoy your afternoon tea in peaceful Ani Tsangkhung Nunnery. Spend the final day visiting Lhasa's numerous temples, including Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery, to experience how Tibetan Buddhist culture influences local people's lives.
6. 10-Day Yunnan Side Trip to Chengdu (Good for Panda Lovers)
If seeing a many cute pandas in their hometown is something you really want to do, then this itinerary could be good for you. We have added two days a Yunnan itinerary to explore the hometown of Pandas — Chengdu.
- Days 1–2: Kunming (the Stone Forest)
- Days 3–4: Dali (Old Town, Cangshan, Erhai Lake)
- Days 5–6: Lijiang (Ancient Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain)
- Days 7–8: Shangri-La (Lamasery, national parks)
- Days 9–10: Chengdu
In Chengdu, we would arrange a one-day Panda Keeper Program tour to enable you to get a close encounter with these adorable animals in Chengdu Panda Reserve. In the program, with the help of our guide, you would have the chance to clean the panda enclosures, make their favorite cakes, and see how they are fed. It is the best way available to learn about these cute animals up-close.
For the other day, you are free to choose what else you would like to do in Chengdu. Maybe do some shopping at Jinli Street and taste delicious Sichuan cuisine (hot pot). If you are interested in Chinese cooking, we can arrange a food tour or cooking class in Chengdu to help you learn some basic skills and knowledge.
Tour China With Us
All our tours are customized to your needs, interests, travel length, and other requirements. Our private tours are designed to be the most convenient and fulfilling option for your trip to Yunnan. We would create an itinerary according to your flight times, interests, and anything else you might need.