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How to Plan a Trip to Yunnan 2024

Written by Chris Quan Updated Mar. 5, 2024

Yunnan Province, in southwest China, is rich in incredible landscapes, ethnic cultures, and historical sites. It is on many visitors' second-trip-to-China lists and is one of China's top places for photography, hiking, and mountaineering.

Use this page for inspiration and to get prepared for your Yunnan tour.

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Things to Do in Yunnan

If it is your first time traveling Yunnan, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La are always top of the Yunnan list. Discover the large-scale Stone Forest near Kunming, relax in the ancient towns of Dali and Lijiang, listen to the roaring of Tiger Leaping Gorge, and experience Tibetan culture in Shangri-La.

Yunnan is also a paradise for hiking and mountaineering. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain are popular choices for amateur mountaineers, Tiger Leaping Gorge is celebrated as one of the world's most classic hiking trails, and Yubeng Village is more diversified with snow mountains, lakes, forests, and waterfalls.

Hiking in Jade Dragon Snow MountainHiking in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

If you are a photographer, the amazing sunrises and sunsets at the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, "God's Palette" — Dongchuan Red Land, and the holy snow-capped Meili Snow Mountains cannot be missed.

If you would like to discover less-traveled roads, travel to Northwest Yunnan. The lands along the Nujiang (Salween River) enjoy the reputation of being "the paradise where God and humans live together".

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How Long to Spend in Yunnan

For a first-time visit to Yunnan, you will need at least one week for a trip to Kunming, Lijiang, Dali, and Shangri-La. You could refer to our 8-Day Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Tour for inspiration.

Each city will need one to two days to explore. Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La are worth more time to explore, as you could have more opportunities there to experience ethnic culture such as learning to tie-dye and do some outdoors such as biking and hiking. See our 9-Day Yunnan Family Tour

If you want to experience the tropical scenery and Dai culture, then you could spend about a week exploring Xishuangbanna and Pu 'er. See 6-Day Xishuangbanna and Pu'er Tour. They are also good choices for a warm Christmas/New Year celebration.

There are also some off-the-beaten destinations in Yunnan. If you have more time, or if this is your second visit to Yunnan and you want to explore more deeply, you could go to Nujiang, Deqing, and Yuanyang. Each may need about 2 to 3 days.

Best Times to Visit Yunnan

The weather and topography in Yunnan Province are diverse over its different regions, but they generally enjoy mild climates with lots of pleasant weather. Though Yunnan is suitable for travel all year round, its regional destinations have different best times to visit and seasonal attractions.

  • Spring (March to May) in Yunnan is the season for oceans of flowers. We recommend a visit to Kunming, Dali, Luoping, and Xishuangbanna. See the 5-Day Spring Tour to Kunming, Luoping, and Wanfenglin
  • Summer (June to September) in Yunnan is a good season to escape China's heat. We recommend Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, and Puzhehei.
  • Autumn (October to November) in Yunnan is busy with golden harvests and it's a season to enjoy clear blue skies. We recommend Dongchuan, Shangri-La, and Tengchong.
  • Winter (December to February) in Yunnan is the best season to admire snow-capped mountains, rainforests, or mirror-like rice terraces. We recommend Xishuangbanna, Yuanyang, Tengchong, and Nujiang. See 7-Day Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang Winter Tour

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The budget depends on where, when, how many people, how many days, hotel class, private or group tour, transport, and other requirements you may have.

You could get the approximate price from our 6-Day Yunnan Tour (based on 2 people for a private tour) for reference. The price of 6 days would be about USD 1000 per person, including private transfers in Yunnan, meals, admission fees, guiding, hotels, etc.

Getting to Yunnan

Due to its proximity to Southeast Asia, international flights directly to Yunnan usually originate from Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Kunming serves as the primary destination city for these international flights.

If you are coming from European or American countries, typically, you would need to fly first to Beijing or Shanghai and then connect to Kunming, Dali, or Lijiang.

Bullet trains are also available from big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Yunnan's neighboring provinces (Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi) to Kunming, but train rides take 6–12 hours or more. Flying would be faster.

Traveling Around Yunnan

Bullet trains are running around Yunnan, like Kunming to Dali and Dali to Lijiang.

Our private tours will manage all the transport in Yunnan (or in China) including airport pickups, private transfers, and city-to-city connections.

Further reading: How to Plan a Trip to Yunnan and Tibet

Tour Yunnan with China Highlights

We can help you maximize your Yunnan travel experience by suggesting less-commercialized attractions, traditional cultural experiences, authentic local cuisine, and locally-themed boutique accommodation.

Here are our most popular Yunnan tours and all these tours can be customized.

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

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