Dian Lake (Diānchí, 滇池) is the sixth largest lake in China at 300 sq km (116 sq mi) and dominates the landscape southwest of Kunming. The lake is surrounded by mountains, flatlands and some industrial sites, and its shore is dotted with small villages, parks and fishing endeavors. The best views of the lake are from above, either from the mountains or Daguan Tower (Dàguān Tǎ, 大观塔). Western Hills Park provides access to the water and facilities for renting paddle boats and the like. Out on the lake..
Like an elegant jade ornament gracing a handsome personage who, under pressure from all the harrying demands of modern life, is a little worse for wear, Green Lake Park (Cuìhú Gōngyuán, 翠湖公园) instantly reminds one of the essential beauty that persists beneath the occasional grime of modernity as Kunming barrels, along with the rest of urban China, deeper into the 21st century. With a history than stretches back to the 17th century, the present lake is a remnant of the Kunming region's much larger and more..
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
One hundred kilometers north of Lijiang, Baoshan Stone Village (Bǎoshān Shítou Chéng, 宝山石头城) sits atop a massive rock in Jinsha River Valley (Jīnshā Jiāng Pàn, 金沙江畔). Surrounded by cliffs, the only connection to the outside world is a narrow path. The Jinsha River (Jīnshā Jiāng, 金沙江) runs next to the village providing a source of water to an otherwise completely isolated location.
The Spruce Meadow (Yúnshān Píng, 云杉坪) is a large patch of grassland situated in the midst of virgin spruce forest on the eastern side of Yulong Xue Shan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain). Among the local Naxi, the grasslands have a long-held reputation as a trysting spot for young lovers. With the decline of arranged marriages and development of the site into an officially designated tourist spot linked by chairlift to the outside world, it's lost a bit of its allure as a romantic getaway though it remains a sublimely beautiful..
The Dragon Gate (Lóngmén, 龙门) actually refers to a collection of grottoes and sculptures in the stone corridor of Western Hills Park. A series of narrow caves, just wide enough for two thin people in some places, exposes a plethora of ancient inscriptions, drawings and figures. The nooks and crannies inside these caves have incense burners, vases and other historic relics paying homage to the artists of the cave and the rest of the Northern Wei Dynasty of the 5th century.
Juixiang Scenic Area (Kūnmíng Jiǔxiàng Fēngjǐngqū, 昆明九乡风景区) is perhaps most famous for its extensive series of caves, loaded with ancient Yi minority myths (hire a local tour guide to hear some of the stories) and featuring an underground waterfall. Local villages and an impressive view of a scenic gorge round out the highlights of this area which lies 80 km (50 mi) from Kunming. There is a lot to see, so don't hesitate to spend an entire day taking in the countryside. Yunnan guide | Kunming guide | Kunming..
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..
Built during the Tang Dynasty, the Bamboo Temple (Qióngzhú Sì, 筇竹寺) is best known for housing a large collection of arhat (luóhàn, 罗汉, in Chinese), which are like Buddhist saint sculptures. These life-size clay figures were sculpted over seven years by Li Guangxiu and his craftsmen and each represents some aspect of the human experience. It is a delighfully realistic (or surrealistic) collection of statues with perfectly fixed expressions seemingly frozen in time. The architecture of the temple is worth..
"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,..