Dec 6th 2018 at 7:06 AM

Vibrant nature, snowbound peaks extending towards Tibet, bygone trading routes, towns unchanged for centuries; there is practically nothing Han Chinese about Yunnan: a standalone province with a standalone character. As you climb ever larger along the snaking mountain roads, away from Lijiang’s cobblestone streets and towards Shangri-La, you enter an area that was when element of Tibet - in the fluttering prayer flags, to straightforward whitewashed housing, Tibetan influence is clear and the spirituality, unmistakable. Get much more details about yunnan travel

An unparalleled province in which to stroll, hike or cycle, the vista modifications with every single twist and turn. 1 afternoon you could explore a valley bathed in golden light; the next an alpine forest bursting with technicolour flowers. Tiger Leaping Gorge is a wild, rushing canyon and also a spectacular hiking trail, and after that you will find rural villages whose inhabitants abide by ancient ways of life. 21st century development has obviously begun to rear its head, which may possibly properly bring positive aspects to isolated communities, but if you are thinking of visiting Yunnan, go now, when priceless isolation remains.


Yunnan is big - it’s the third largest province in southwestern China, so travelling around can be time-consuming, especially given its topography: 94 per cent mountainous with high elevation in the northwest and low in the southeast. The main roads across Yunnan are in a much better condition than many would expect and, in typical Chinese form, development is never far away, so expressways are popping up regularly. The rail network is OK, but on an organised tour you’ll get around by road in a private vehicle, the longest stint of which is likely to be Lijiang to Shangri-La (roughly six hours). Otherwise, you’ll be walking, hiking, or cycling, so there’s plenty of fresh air thrown in too.

1. Dali
Interestingly, Dali is where the Chinese go to get away from it all. A curious blend of old China - as witnessed by the indigenous and rather bohemian Bai population who live peacefully beside Yi and Muslims - and western trappings in the form of commerce and beer gardens for backpackers, Dali’s scenery of shimmering lakes, clouded mountains and emerald-green valleys is its greatest asset.

2. Kunming
The ‘City of Eternal Spring’, Kunming’s climate is always mild, and, sat high above sea level in the Tibetan Plateau, such mildness extends to its laid back character too. On the a single hand, it’s a natural wonderland of red hills blanketed by bright yellow in spring and rich gold in autumn, and on the other, its bustling streets attract spenders from far and wide keen to shop in its lively markets.

3. Lijiang
Just 200km from Tibet, Lijian is often a sparsely populated city with an endless checklist of charming attributes - the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain; trickling streams flanked by green forest and pastoral stone bridges; snaking cobbled alleys - it has them all; sadly, this comes at a price and its cultural value has begun to be measured by the tourist dollar, but pockets of traditional heritage do remain.

4. Nuodeng Village
Built on a steep slope above salt wells, Nuodeng Village dates back more than 1,000 years. Fulfilling every single imagined picture of ‘ancient China’, it is really a wonderful snapshot of a bygone age characterised by hand-stacked cobbled steps, incredibly preserved Buddhist and Taoist temples, centuries-old residential housing made of red rammed-earth, and treasured heritage among the locals.

5. Shangri-La (formerly Zhongdian)
You can’t really be called ‘Shangri-La’ and not be pretty darn special and this Shangri-La, which translates from Tibetan (Gyalthang) to ‘land of sacredness and peace’, is exactly that. Remote and simply stunning, it can be a place of idyllic beauty: alpine lakes, dense forest, verdant grassland flecked with purple flowers, and spellbinding monasteries tucked high in the misty mountains.

6. Shaxi
With barely any tourist presence whatsoever, everything in the historical market town of Shaxi is usually a glorious slice of old-world East: the temples, houses, wells, bridges and even trees here can all be correctly prefixed by the word ‘ancient’ - even the incredible old bazaar, which was after a busy trading caravansary, remains unchanged and is an atmospheric puzzle of alleyways and village-gates.

7. Tiger Leaping Gorge
A single of China’s most spectacular hiking trails, Tiger Leaping Gorge is actually a commanding 16km-long, 3,000m deep canyon that lies high above the ceaseless roar of the Yangtze River. 1 of the deepest gorges in the world, it is a UNESCO-protected hotspot of snow-capped peaks, rushing waterfalls and foliage in every single shade of green, which (despite high altitude) offers pretty straightforward walking.

8. Yangtze River
The aquatic equivalent of China’s Great Wall, the Yangtze is usually a twisting, turning hotbed of scenery and culture that stretches from remote mountain plains through canyon gorges and into fertile regions where other lakes connect. You'll find picturesque villages nestles into deer river bends, astounding views from the cliffs it runs beneath, and riverside roads to cycle or trek.

Please to comment

sign in

Remember Me

New to IM faceplate? join free!

Lost Password? click here