One of China's largest freshwater lakes, the Chinese name for Erhai Lake (Erhǎi, 洱海) literally translates to "Ear Sea," a nod to its vast size (250 sq km or 96 sq mi) and long, narrow crescent shape, said to resemble an ear—though when you're looking at a map, you may need a bit of imagination. Sitting at 1,972 m (6,470 ft) above sea level, Erhai is an alpine fault lake, and its clear jade waters are bordered by stunning scenery, with the majestic peaks of Cang Shan rising up to the west. The lake shore is easily accessible..
Erhai Park (ěrhǎi Gōngyuán, 洱海公园) sits on the southern tip of Erhai Lake on the slopes of Tuan Hill (Tuán Shān, 团山) just to the east of Xiaguan (Xiàguān, 下关—sometimes called Dali City or New Dali and not to be confused with Dali a few kilometers away). An attractive, landscaped green space featuring walkways, rockeries and shady pagodas, the Erhai Park is also home to an arboretum, playground, public swimming pool and even a zoo. Starting at the lake edge, it's a steady climb up with 270 stone steps leading..
Perched up on high in the Cang Shan mountain range, Zhonghe Temple (Zhōnghé Sì, 中和寺) is a modest temple with a panoramic view of Er Hai lake and the lowlands around it. A common stop for those hiking up Cang Shan, Zhonghe Temple is a good place to stop and get your bearings, plus there's a restaurant nearby to fuel up. It's also possible to stay the night in the temple. Yunnan guide | Dali guide | Dali attractions | Dali flights Dali hotels | Dali tours & activities | Dali on the China Travel Blog
The Ancient City of Dali (Dàlǐ Gǔchéng, 大理古城), or Dali Old Town, is another great example of ancient and modern fusing together in China. The architecture is indeed ancient with traditional Bai homes, shops and markets forming the core of the city, surrounded by a huge stone wall punctuated by four gate towers. Even the newer construction is modeled in the old-style and the result is a rather seamless combination of old and new. The small, walkable old town is a convenient base to explore the..
"To get a perfect life, pray at the Chongsheng Temple." Or so goes the ancient saying. Today, one might update "pray" with "pay." To gain entry to the official Chongsheng Temple and The Three-Pagoda Culture Tourist Area (Chóngshèng Sì Sān Tǎ, 崇圣寺三塔), you'll have to cough up a hefty RMB 120. And though a perfect life may elude you (whether you pay to pray or not), you can reasonably hope for at least a few perfect shots with the camera and a moment of peace in the midst of the touristic hubbub surrounding what are,..
The major draw of the tiny little town of Xizhou (Xǐzhōu, 喜州), propped up between Erhai Lake and the Cang Shan mountains, are the beautiful homes of the Bai minority families that prospered here for centuries, trading in marble and tea and providing safe havens for fleeing Nationalist soldiers. Xizhou is just 30 km (18.6 mi) from Xiaguan (Xiàguān, 下关) and just down the lake from Dali Old Town. It long served as a fortress and commercial center for the Bai minority, from the reign of the Nanzhao Kingdom (730-902 AD) until..
Cang Shan (Cáng Shān 苍山), also know as Diancang Shan, provides a stunning backdrop to the west of Dali Old Town. A trip out to the mountain itself is rewarded with superb views of the surrounding countryside in addition to a number of hiking trails complete with picturesque temples, rushing streams and waterfalls that transport snow run-off to Er Lake (Erhai) far below. Consisting of 19 peaks (the highest of which is Malong Peak at 4,122 m or 13,524 ft), Cang Shan is lush with vegetation and..
Butterfly Spring (Húdié Quán, 蝴蝶泉), situated about 30 km (18.5 miles) north of Dali, is a small, clear spring frequented by swarms of tourists... and, of course, butterflies. The latter are drawn to the spring's clear waters from the surrounding wooded countryside at the foot of Cang Shan, a mountain comprised of some sixteen peaks and famous for its diverse plant life. The former flock to see the spring, the butterflies, the costumed Bai women singing traditional songs and the nearby butterfly museum's 45,000-plus..