10 Interesting Yunnan Facts for Travelers

10 Interesting Yunnan Facts for Travelers

By Sunny XieUpdated Oct. 1, 2021

Yunnan is an incredible area and fabulous for tourism. Immersed in natural beauty, this big province is brimming with history and culture.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Yunnan you should know before you visit it.

1. Yunnan is larger than Germany.

Nujiang Grand Canyon

Yunnan is generally mountainous, and located in the central west corner of China. The size of Yunnan Province is about 390,000 km² (150,000 mi²), a little larger than Germany, and a little smaller than California.

Eastern Yunnan has most of the province’s population, southern Yunnan is a tropical paradise, western Yunnan is next to Tibet and has high elevation, and northern Yunnan forms part of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

In such a large and diverse area, there are lots of attractions to see and things to do. It is worth spending at least a week there.

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2. Yunnan is home to 25 ethnic minorities.

Bai People

Yunnan is known for its ethnic diversity. It is home to 25 of the official 55 ethnic minorities of China. It has the highest concentration of Chinese ethnic minorities and over sixty languages and dialects.

If you want to experience China's minority cultures, Yunnan is a must-see destination. We would like to introduce three minorities:

The Bai people are native to Dali. Bai literally means 'white'. They hold the color white in high esteem. They favor white clothes and decorations. You can go to Dali Ancient Town to see their traditional architecture and typical clothes.

The Naxi people mainly live in Lijiang. They are a mysterious ethnic group, famous for their unique Dongba religion and pictographic writing system.

The Lisu are located in part of the Three Parallel Rivers area in Northwestern Yunnan Province. The people group is known for their long festivals and harmonious mixture of Western and local culture.

More on Chinese Ethnic Groups>>>

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3. China's last matrilineal society is located in Yunnan.

Lugu Lake

In northern Yunnan, there’s an alpine lake, called Lugu Lake, on the border of southwest Sichuan. The Mosuo have been living relatively isolated lives around the lake for generations and still keep their ancient traditions and customs.

The ‘walking marriage', for which spouses don't live together, is an important part of Mosuo culture. As China's last matrilineal society, women wield power and control the property, while Mosuo men take care of the livestock.

More on unique Mosuo culture and marriage>>>

4. Yunnan is a place to experience Tibetan culture.

Songzanlin Lamasery

If you have no chance to visit Tibet, visit Shangri-La, a famous tourist town in Yunnan with as much Tibetan culture as Tibet!

Bordering Tibet, Shangri-La is home to most of Yunnan's Tibetan ethnicity. There, you can admire Tibetan Buddhist temples such as Songzanlin Lamasery, see Tibetan people dressed in traditional clothes, and experience the Tibetan lifestyle.

Shangri-La is one of the best places to experience Tibetan culture without obtaining the requisite travel permit to visit Tibet itself.

Shangri-La, a famous tourist county in northwest Yunnan, lies at around 3,200 m (10,500 ft), where the sacred Meili Mountains rise to 6,740 meters (21,200 feet). So, prepare well for altitude sickness and give yourself a couple of days to acclimatize.

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5. Yunnan enjoys a mild climate.

Yunnan Luoping

As much of the province lies within the subtropical-highland or humid-tropical zones, Yunnan enjoys a generally mild climate with pleasant weather. It is suitable to visit most of Yunnan all year round.

However, due to its varied terrain, the weather is diverse in different regions. Kunming, capital of Yunnan, has a year-round spring-like climate with an average temperature of 15°C (59°F). Dali has moderate temperatures year-round, seldom dropping below 4°C (39°F) in winter or rising above 25°C (77°F) in summer. However, winters in Shangri-La can reach chilling lows of -10°C (14°F) due to its high elevation.

More on Yunnan Weather>>>

Below is a table of the best seasons to visit the top destinations in Yunnan (*=second best, **=best):

  Spring
(Feb.–Apr.)
Summer
(May–Aug.)
Autumn
(Sep.–Nov.)
Winter
(Dec.–Jan.)
Central Kunming ** *    
Dongchuan Red Land *   **  
Northwest Dali ** ** *  
Lijiang * ** *  
Shangri-La * ** **  
Northeast Luoping Cole Flowers **      
South Xishuangbanna **     **
Yuanyang Terraced Field       **
Puzhehei * **    
West Tengchong     ** **
Nujiang     * **
Key:
** = Best season for travel
* = Second best season for travel

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6. Yunnan is often on 2nd-trip-to-China lists.

Lijiang Black Dragon Pool

For a first trip to China, most tourists focus on world-renowned tourist cities, such as BeijingShanghai, and Xi'an. If your first trip to China was a "history and culture tour of China", you should delve into China’s natural scenery and minority culture on your second trip to China.

Yunnan offers an abundance of natural beauty (deep gorges, towering karst pillars, splendid snow-capped mountains) and diverse minority cultures that makes it a dream destination for travelers’ second trips to China.

It is a great place to escape the rookie crowds in metropolises and find a more off-the-beaten-path side of China.It is also a paradise that never disappoints hikers. Read more about the hiking in Yunnan

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7. Yunnan is a South China transport hub and a Southeast Asia gateway.

Kunming Changshui Airport

Yunnan currently has 13 airports, and three more airports are under construction. It is the province with the second most airports, after Xinjiang.

Some cities have no rail stations, but do have airports, such as Shangri-La. Though Yunnan is in Southwest China, far from the major cities in the east, it is easily accessible by air.

Yunnan shares a border of 4,060 km (2,520 mi) with Burma in the west, Laos in the south, and Vietnam in the southeast. It is convenient to extend your Yunnan trip to Southeast Asian countries.

There are direct flights from Yunnan to the major Southeast Asian cities such as Bangkok in Thailand, Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, and Rangoon in Burma (when pandemic restrictions cease).

In Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, you can find seven consulate generals of Asian countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. It is easy to apply for your visa.

More on Yunnan Transportation>>>

8. Yunnan is a heaven for leisure.

Dali Erhai Lake

Yunnan combines ancient charm with natural beauty — it is a heaven for leisure tours!

Dali and Lijiang are famous as nice areas for honeymoon couples and families with children. Wander in the ancient towns to experience the daily life of the local people, find a café to enjoy some leisure time, and stay overnight at a local inn.

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9. Yunnan was an important part of a centuries-old trade route.

Tea Horse Road

As one of the first tea-producing regions, Yunnan was an important part of the trading network of the Ancient Tea Horse Road, also sometimes referred to as the Southern Silk Road.

From around a thousand years ago, the Tea Horse Road from Yunnan led to Tibet, crossing tropical Xishuangbanna and Pu'er, where excellent tea is still produced, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La, and continuing to Nepal, Burma, and India.

The Tea-Horse Road has been deserted for decades, but in Zhongdian, Lijiang, and Shaxi you can still find many well-preserved relics, including old caravan inns and mountain horse paths.

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10. Yunnan is the kingdom of wild mushrooms.

Matsutak Mushroom

Thanks to its mild climate and unforgettable terrain, ranging from snow-capped mountains to lush tropical rainforest, Yunnan is praised as the “kingdom of wild mushrooms”.

Yunnan’s edible fungi have over 800 varieties, and the three most popular ones are matsutake mushrooms (松茸), jizong mushrooms (鸡枞菌), and penny buns (or porcini mushrooms, 牛肝菌), which can be bought from local wet markets of each city.

Touring Yunnan with China Highlights

Our tours can be customized to suit your requirements and interests. Please feel free to contact us for help.

Based on years of experience and customer feedback, we have developed many Yunnan tours. Here are some popular tour ideas for your inspiration:

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