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10 Interesting Facts You Should Know About Yunnan

Songzanlin Temple in Shangri-LaSongzanlin Temple in Shangri-La

Yunnan is an incredible area and fabulous for tourists. 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.

The size of Yunnan Province is about 390,000 km² (150,000 mi²), a littler larger than Germany, and a little smaller than California. In such a large area, there are lots of attractions to see and things to do. It is worth spending at least a week there.

2. Yunnan is home to 25 ethnic minorities.

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

The Naxi in LijiangThe Naxi people in Lijiang

So, 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. It is a mysterious ethnic group, famous for its unique Dongba religion and pictographic writing system.

The Mosuo are located mainly around Lugu Lake in Yunnan Province. They are often referred to as "China's last matrilineal society". ‘Walking marriage', for which spouses don't live together, is an important part of Mosuo culture.

3. Western Yunnan is located at high elevation.

Yunnan is generally mountainous. The northern part of the province forms part of the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau. The average elevation is 1,980 meters (6,500 ft).

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 high-altitude sickness and give yourself a couple of days to acclimatize.

4. Yunnan enjoys a mild climate.

Dianchi in KunmingDianchi Lake in Kunming

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, in the east of Yunnan, has a year-round spring-like climate. Temperatures in January range on average from 2 to 15 °C (34 to 59 °F), and in July from 17 to 24 °C (62 to 75 °F).

Dali has moderate temperatures year-round, never dropping below 4 °C (39 °F) in winter or above 25 °C (77 °F) in summer. However, the winters in Shangri-La can reach chilling lows of -10 °C (14 °F) due to its high elevation.

5. Yunnan is often on the list for travelers' 2nd trips to China.

For a first trip to China, most tourists focus on world-renowned tourist cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, 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.

6. Yunnan is a place to experience Tibetan culture.

Songzanlin Temple in Shangri-LaSongzanlin Temple in Shangri-La

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

Bordering Tibet, Shangri-La is home to China'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 ways to experience Tibetan culture without obtaining the requisite travel permit to visit Tibet itself.

7. Yunnan is a heaven for backpackers.

As the province combines ancient traditions with unforgettable terrain, ranging from snow-capped mountains to lush tropical rainforest, Yunnan is a heaven for backpackers — though most of it is accessible to a lesser extent to suitcase-pullers too!

Dali and Lijiang are famous among backpackers. 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.

Tiger Leaping GorgeTiger Leaping Gorge in Lijiang is one of China's best hikes.

8. Yunnan has 13 airports.

Yunnan currently has 13 airports, and 3 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.

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

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 road has been deserted for decades, but in Zhongdian, Lijiang, and Shaxi you can still find many well-preserved relics, including old caravanserais.

Lijiang Ancient TownLijiang Ancient Town in Yunnan

10. Yunnan is a gateway to Southeast Asia.

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 trip from Yunnan to Southeast Asian countries.

There are direct flights from Yunnan to the major cities of Southeast Asian countries, such as Bangkok in Thailand, Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, and Rangoon in Burma.

In Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, you can find 7 consulate generals, including Consulate General of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. It is easy to apply for your visa.

Touring Yunnan with China Highlights

DaliEnjoy cycling in Dali.

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

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