Yunnan

Yunnan Province is one of the most delightful regions of China. From the snow-capped foothills of the Himalayas, the land drops down through valleys and rice fields to tropical Southeast Asia. And it is not just the geography that is diverse. Yunnan is home to a wide range of ethnic groups from Tibetans in the north to the Dai in the south.

Stone Forest

Visit the remarkable Stone Forest (Shilin) where strangely eroded pinnacles form surreal shapes and images. Here the stone columns protrude skyward surrounded by trees and small sparkling pools in a striking area recognised by UNESCO World Heritage as part of the South China Karst. As is common in China, many of the natural features are given fanciful names such as Beautiful Maiden Ascending from the Water and Rhinocerous Looking at the Moon. You'll have to use your imagination to recognise the shapes! This region is also known for its ethnic minority groups and you are likely to encounter local people in traditional costume as you walk around.

The Stone Forest can be accessed as a day tour from Kunming, which is the provincial capital of Yunnan and is known as the City of Eternal Spring.

Lijiang

Lijiang is the cultural and historical treasure of Yunnan Province and is set in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. The city’s atmospheric Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features cobbled streets, small waterways and traditional buildings. The pretty gardens and temples at Black Dragon Pool possess a beauty that is unsurpassed.

A truly spectacular aspect of the local scenery is Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest and most dramatic gorges in the world. This breath-taking landscape can be experienced with a trek along local trails. Another natural highlight is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain whose snowy peak is the backdrop to Lijiang. Take a cable car to one of the high meadows to experience the fresh mountain air and enjoy the fabulous views.

Dali

Delightful Dali is a relaxing town where you can stroll through the Ancient Quarter and take a boat ride on Erhai Lake. Visit the famous Three Pagodas, a beautiful sight with the cream coloured pagodas set against a dark mountainous backdrop and mirrored in the reflection pool. For a greater insight into the traditions of the region visit the historical and charming Bai village of Xizhou.

Zhongdian

Zhongdian, also known as Shangri-La, has a very strong Tibetan influence. Notable is the Songzanlin Monastery which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan and is filled with precious religious artefacts. Also take a day tour to see the natural beauty of the Baishui Terrace. These limestone pools have been created by the deposition of minerals from mountain streams over the millennia.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang in southern Yunnan has some of the most spectacular rice terraces in the world and is home to the Hani minority group. The fields have been cultivated over a period of 1,300 years to create what is known locally as Land Sculpture. The area is popular with those who want to learn about the people of the region and photographers who capture the reflections in the curving water-filled paddies.

Xishuangbanna

In the far south of Yunnan, Xishuangbanna prefecture is geographically and ethnically similar to Southeast Asia. The region is home to the Dai ethnic group and their traditional villages feature bamboo houses raised above the ground on stilts. The tropical climate supports enormous biodiversity which can be seen at the Botanical Garden in Menglun which displays many rare and unusual plants.

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