A province on China’s southwestern frontier, Yunnan’s incredible scope of history, landscapes and people is unmatched. The perfect place to explore China’s great outdoors you can also meet the colourful collectives of ethnic minorities who reside here.
Nicknamed the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ thanks to its temperate climate, Kunming is considered by many to be China’s most charming city. The city is the capital of and gateway to the wonders of Yunnan province, and exudes a delightfully laidback air which makes it a pleasurable place to be. At the heart of the fertile Yunnan plateau, the food here is fantastic and the nightlife vibrant. There are also some great markets and a good museum…the perfect place to base yourself to begin your Yunnan adventure.
Lijiang nestles amongst the abundant fields and forests that spread out from the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. As well as its magnificent setting this former capital of the Naxi Kingdom has an 800 year history much of which can be glimpsed in the labyrinthine, UNESCO-listed old town. Wander a bygone world on streets flanked by trickling streams, trailing willows and rustic stone bridges before escaping out into the delightfully picturesque surroundings to explore the countryside dotted with villages and temples.
Dali has earned itself a reputation, with its pretty old houses and scenic location sandwiched between lakes, lush valleys and peaks, as the place to see old China. A charming and relaxed place, the old quarter, where you’ll run into members of the indigenous Bai community, is a delight to explore whilst the villages strung along the lake shore offer a taste of true local character. For the most picturesque view in town visit the magnificent Three Pagodas which stand proudly against the cloud wrapped peaks of the Cang Shan range.
High on a plateau and encircled by lakes, lush meadows and snowy peaks, it isn’t hard to mistake Zhongdian (also known as Shangri-La) for a paradise on earth. At the heart of an area that is almost wholly Tibetan, the town is particularly fascinating due to its blend of Tibetan and Han Chinese culture. Visit the Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan, which is filled with precious religious artefacts.
Covering over 300 square kilometres the towering karst pinnacles of the Stone Forest create a fascinating illusion of woodland. The formations you see today have been formed over 270 million years by erosion and seismic activity – as you wander amongst the eerily beautiful shapes it isn’t difficult to see why there are so many legends associated with it. Just an hour and a half outside of Kunming, spend a thoroughly unique day exploring its caves, waterfalls and lakes.
Carved from rolling hillsides over centuries by the Hani people for farming, these spectacular terraces have turned the mountainous terrain of southern Yunnan into what can only be described as land sculpture. Whether the terraces are just pools reflecting the attitudes of the weather or full of the vivid green of millions of rice plants the views are always breath-taking. The area is also dotted with the rustic villages of ethnic minority people who you will generally see in traditional dress – trekking between villages is the very best way to experience both.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain dominates the skyline over the old town of Lijiang which nestles just 25 kilometres from its foot. Made up of 13 peaks, the highest of which reaches 5,596 metres, the mountain has many Naxi legends attached to it. Enjoy the Lijiang Impressions show that tells the story of local ethnic minorities; take a cable car up to one of the high meadows to hike and enjoy the views; or head up even higher to the Glacier Park at around 4,500 metres (weather dependent). The Ming Dynasty frescoes at Baisha make a great side trip en route from Lijiang.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is ones of the world’s deepest gorges, where the Jinsha River, the name for the upper reaches of the Yangtze, is channelled ferociously for 16 kilometres between two towering mountain massifs. Arguably China’s most spectacular natural sight, the gorge is over 3,000 metres deep but at one point just 30 metres wide – it was here that the legendary tiger, chased by a hunter, leapt. As easy day trip from Lijiang, just 70 kilometres away, you are also able to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge – it’s two days walking with guesthouse accommodation en route. You’ll need to have a good level of fitness and a good camera.
Banyan Tree Ringha is nestled within the Shangri-La valley below snow-capped mountains near to the town of Zhongdian. Stay in a suite in an authentic Tibetan farmhouse that has been meticulously reconstructed and fitted out with modern comforts. At the Banyan Tree Ringha, the feeling of exotic isolation converges with all the comforts of a pampering resort stay.
Located in the Old Town, this historical hotel oozes local ambiance. The accommodation is built to a traditional Chinese design with rooms located around a pretty courtyard. In contrast the comfortable guest rooms are French in style. Although facilities are limited and based on local standards, this charming hotel has a character all of its own.
The Lux Tea Horse Road offers a local and traditional experience at the heart of the old town of Lijiang. Capturing the essence of the local Naxi culture and giving it a luxury spin, this boutique hotel replicates a courtyard residence that is typical of the area and provides all of the modern comforts.
An oasis of tranquility, the Banyan Tree Lijiang is designed as a reinterpretation of traditional Naxi architecture with a sumptuous twist. Relax with spectacular views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as you indulge yourself in this luxurious property.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.