Yunnan has a number of destinations that have been attracting an increasing number of visitors from China and abroad (pre-COVID; now relatively COVID-free domestic Yunnan travel continues with restrictions): Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, tropical Xishuangbanna, the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, etc. This has led to many developments in transportation: larger airports, bullet trains, better highways, etc.
Kunming, the capital of the province, functions as a transport hub connecting Yunnan with the rest of China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Most travelers get to Yunnan via Kunming. From Kunming, it is convenient to get around Yunnan to its major destinations by air, train, coach, or private transfers.
- Kunming Changshui International Airport is the largest airport in Yunnan and sixth busiest in China, serving many domestic and international flights. It offers around 120 direct flights to and from major cities in Yunnan (including those below) and large cities of China such as Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Shanghai, Hong Kong, as well as over 45 international flight routes (pre-COVID) to South and Southeast Asia and Europe: Moscow, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Osaka, Bangkok, Haiphong, etc.
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- Lijiang Sanyi International Airport connects with over 40 cities in China, including large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, and Hangzhou and some tourist cities like Lhasa and Shiyan (Mt. Wudang).
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- Dali Airport offers nonstop flights to several large cities and Lhasa, with a connection to around 18 cities in China.
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- Diqing Shangri-La Airport offers flights to/from 7 cities: Lhasa, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Guangzhou.
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- Xishuangbanna Airport has over 44 airline routes to/from large cities including those mentioned above and popular tourist cities Guilin, Jinan, and Lanzhou. International flights to and from Sihanoukville and Siem Reap in Cambodia are also available (COVID restrictions permitting).
More on Xishuangbanna transportation>>
It is possible to get to Yunnan by train, usually via Kunming, though it is not as convenient as travelling by air.
Bullet trains from Beijing, Shanghai, Jinan, Nanjing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou are available to Kunming, but the journeys are long (6–12 hours for the quickest trains). It takes 20+ hours for inter-province sleeper trains to Yunnan.
Yunnan Province is also expanding its provincial rail network to neighboring Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Myanmar.
Travelling by train is a better option if you travel between Yunnan and neighboring provinces Sichuan, Guizhou (Guiyang–Kunming now 2½ hours!), and Guangxi.
Within Yunnan Province, Kunming–Dali bullet trains taking 2 hours are recommended, but there are no trains to Shangri-La or Xishuangbanna. See our train search and ticket booking service.
Bullet trains are not available between Dali and Lijiang and only one normal train (K9627/K9628) is running which takes over 2½ hours. The scenery on the way is worth stopping to see, and we highly recommend a private transfer between Dali and Lijiang with stops at some of the important old towns of the ancient Tea Horse Road.
- See this tour with ancient Tea Horse Road stops for inspiration: 7-Day Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang Winter Tour
With Kunming city as its center, Yunnan has a developed highway network stretching to the major cities in Yunnan, neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi, and Tibet, and neighboring countries of Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.
It is convenient to take a coach between these tourist destinations in Yunnan:
- Kunming to Dali: about 5 hours
- Dali to Lijiang: about 2½ hours
- Lijiang to Shangri-La: about 3½ hours
By Private Transfer
The best way to travel around Yunnan Province is with a private car and driver, especially when traveling the off-the-beaten-track routes where planes and trains are not available.
Yunnan’s less-discovered places include the Yunnan Three Parallel Rivers National Park in Nujiang Prefecture, the photography paradises of Yuanyang, Dongchuan Red Land, Luoping, and Baoshan Stone Village, and the holy Tibetan land of Deqin north of Shangri-La. Direct public coaches are not available, and it is not advisable to self-drive due to the unfamiliar, steep, and narrow mountain roads. Taking private transfers makes these places much easier to reach.
Contact our Yunnan experts for private transfer service in Yunnan.
For recommended private tours to these remote areas, see below:
- 4-Day Yubeng Village Hiking Tour
- 6-Day Jianshui and Yuanyang Tour
- 6-Day Shangri-La, Deqin and Tacheng Adventure Tour
- 8-Day Yunnan Tour of the Nu River and Tengchong
Tour Yunnan with China Highlights
With rich experience in designing and arranging Yunnan tours, our travel experts can help you with professional suggestions in selecting means of transportation to make your trip smooth and comfortable. You are welcome to contact us if you need any assistance arranging your trip.
Here are our popular Yunnan tours for your inspiration:
- 4-Day Shangri-La Exploration Tour
- 6-Day Shangri-La, Deqin and Tacheng Adventure Tour
- 8-Day Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Tour
We have more Yunnan tours, which cover the highlights in Yunnan and also include exclusive programs to give you a unique experience.