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Explore Yunnan

Yunnan Province, referred to as "Yun" or "Dian", is a provincial administrative region of the People's Republic of China, whose capital city is Kunming. It is located in the southwest of China, bordering Guizhou and Guangxi in the east, Sichuan in the north, Tibet in the northwest, Myanmar to the west, Laos and Vietnam to the south, covering an area of 394,000 square kilometers. Yunnan has long been known as the "south of colorful clouds, the land of ten thousand miles of greens". Its magnificent, beautiful natural scenery, the southernmost snow-topped mountains in northern hemisphere, the lush primeval forest, steep and deep canyons, typical karst landform, making Yunnan a museum of nature. Besides, numerous historical sites in Yunnan, colorful folk customs, mysterious religious culture, adding its infinite charm. Yunnan worth your coming again and again!

*Yunnan Tour Packages

We are often asked by visitors traveling to Yunnan for the first time that how to make a comprehensive Yunnan tour schedule? In fact this is an unrealistic idea, even if you have time to spend two or three months to spend in Yunnan, it is very difficult to complete all scenic spots here. China Panda Tour's following recommended routes and Yunnan travel guide hopefully can do some help for you. Yunnan's tourism is various (snow mountains, rain forests, fresh water lakes, ethnic groups, ancient cities, karst caves and other characteristics). To sum up, it is simple and clear to be three directions and four routes. The so-called three directions: western Yunnan, southern Yunnan, east Yunnan. While the four essential routes are: Kunming - Dali - Lijiang - Shangri-la (most classic one); Kunming, Dali, Tengchong, Mangshi, Ruili; Kunming, Yuxi, Pu'er, Xishuangbanna; Kunming, Stone Forest, Jianshui, Yuanyang.

Eternal Classic Lijiang & Shangri-la - 3 Days

 

Lijiang to Shangri-la, the most classic tour route in Yunnan Province that shows unique plateau landform including snow mountains, meadows, forests,is extremely beautiful and magnificent. If you go to Yunnan for the first time, this tour package is highly recommended. 

Ancient Lijiang & Romantic Dali - 3 Days

Lijiang and Dali both are famous ancient cities in Yunnan, even in China. Come for this tour to feel the difference of these two cities! 

Classic Kunming, Dali, Lijiang & Shangri-la - 7 Days

 

If you have limited time for your travel, perhaps this classic itinerary from Kunming, Dali, to Lijiang and finally Shangri-la is the best choice. This line also fits for those who want to enter Tibet from Shangri-la, or go through to Daocheng and Yading in west Sichuan region. Go on a trip by this essence-condensed route, you can touch the perfect relaxation.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Trekking Tour - 2 Days

Go for a trekking along the world-famous big canyon, feeling the heartbeat with running Jinsha River! 

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*China Tour Packages with Yunnan

*Yunnan Maps

 

*Yunnan Highlights

Lijiang is a prefecture-level city, where the world famous old town of Lijiang located in. Lijiang region owns a year-round pleasant climate and a wide variety of tourist resources in the 20,600 square kilometers area. Lijiang Ancient Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site, ranking as one of the four best-preserved old towns of China. It is situated in the middle area of the county, which is more than 2400 meters high above the sea level. The town has a history going back for more than 800 years and was once a confluence for trade along the old tea horse road. Lijiang Old Town is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges. Lijiang differs from other ancient Chinese cities in architecture, history and the culture of its traditional residents, the Nakhi culture. It is very rare in China that such well-preserved minority ancient city still exists. The old town is quite busy in the afternoon and evening with an active atmosphere of the lights and crowd. Although many locals fear that due to much of the development, the old town of Lijiang will lose its pure appeal, tourism also boomed here that travellers from around the world flooded into Lijiang Ancient Town, including Dayan, Baisha and Shuhe.

LIJIANG

 

Dali City is the capital city of Dali Bai Nationality Autonomous Prefecture, which is located in central Yunnan Province. As the ancient capital of both the Bai kingdom Nanzhao, which flourished in the area during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Kingdom of Dali, which reigned from 937-1253, Dali was also the center of the Panthay Rebellion from 1856-1863. Dali City is now a major tourist destination, along with Lijiang, for both domestic and international tourists. Dali Bai Nationality Autonomous Prefecture is about 338 kms away from Kunming City, with an area of 29459 square kilometers and a total population of more than 3.47 million people. Dali is famous for the many types of marble it produces, which are used primarily in construction and for decorative objects. In fact, Dali is so famous for the stone that the name of marble in Chinese is literally "Dali Stone".

DALI

Shangri-la the county was formerly called Zhongdian County but was renamed in 2001 after the fictional land of Shangri-La in James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon. The local Tibetan population previously referred to it by the name Gyalthang, which is the Tibetan name for Jiantang Town, the county seat. Originally, Shangri-La was a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia, a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In this novel, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. In 2001, Zhongdian, a small Tibetan autonomous county officially changed its name to Shangri-la after a local man read the British novel Lost Horizon and discovered that the mythical realm of Shangri-la depicted in the novel bore a strong resemblance to Zhongdian.

SHANGRI-LA

Kunming is the capital city of Yunnan Province, southwestern China. Because of its year-round temperate climate, Kunming is often called the "Spring City" or "City of Eternal Spring". Kunming is the focal point of Yunnan minority culture. Twenty five ethnic minorities live within Yunnan. This is nearly half of the total number of ethnic minorities of China, and ethnic minorities make up about a third of the total provincial population. With a total area of 21473 square kilometers, Kunming owns a population of more than 7.26 million people. It is the political, economic, cultural, scientific center of Yunnan Province, also taken as China's important tourism trade city. Its economic importance derives from its geographical position. Positioned near the border with Southeastern Asian countries, serving as a transportation hub in Southwest China, linking by rail to Vietnam and by road to Burma and Laos. Though having a nearly 2,400 year history, its modern prosperity dates only from 1910, when the railroad from Hanoi was built. The city has continued to develop rapidly under China's modernization efforts. Kunming's streets have widened while office buildings and housing projects develop at a fast pace. Kunming has been designated a special tourism center and as such sports a proliferation of high-rises and luxury hotels.

KUNMING

Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture is located in the southwest of Yunnan Province. Xishuangbanna, meaning "ideal and magical land", is with mysterious tropical rain forest natural landscape and minority amorous feelings. Xishuangbanna is rich in nature, historical and cultural resources, noted for its folklore, rain forests, rare plants and wildlife. The prefecture has an area of 19,700 square km. Xishuangbanna is the home of the Dai people that the Water Sprinkling Festival hold in mid April every year is the most well-known and popular festival of Dai people in Xishuangbanna area. Xishuangbanna harbors much of the biodiversity of Yunnan Province, which harbors much of the biodiversity of China. In addition to an abundance of plants, Xishuangbanna is home to the last few Asian elephants still in China; the species roamed over a large part of the country even as late as a few hundred years ago. Jinghong is the capital city of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, it is the largest settlement in this region and one that straddles the Mekong River, called Lancang River.

XISHUANGBANNA

HONGHE

Honghe is short for Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture locates in southeast part of Yunnan Province. With Kunming in the north, Wenshan Prefecture in the east, Yuxi City in the west, and the socialist republic of Vietnam to the south, Honghe is a frontier minority autonomous prefecture where many ethnic groups live in compact communities. Jianshui Ancient Town and Yuanyang Hani Rice Terrace Field are two shining pearls in Honghe. In Jianshui, there are well-preserved and large-scale Confucian Temple, Chaoyang Building, Shuanglong Bridge, Zhilin Temple, Zhujia Garden and a large number of ancient buildings as well as dwellings, which can be called "Ancient Architecture Museum". The 190,000 hectares of rice terrace fields in Yuanyang County, showing both magnificent scenery and profound farming culture of the Hani minority, are deemed as the unique scene of human being rice-farming civilization. From an artistic point of view, Yuanyang's terraced fields have undoubtedly formed a new community of the plastic arts. 

*Main Attractions of Lijiang

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a snow capped mountain located 15 kilometers north of the Lijiang Ancient City. With an altitude of 5,596 meters above the sea level, this snow mountain is famous for its perilous, beautiful and grotesque landscapes, including the spruce platform (Yunshanping), white water river, sweet lake, primitive forest, etc. The thirteen peaks standing from south to north look just like a flying giant dragon with overwhelming momentum and show off beauty and charming attitude like crystal-made. The scenery varies unpredictably with seasons and sunlight. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a sanctuary for rare animals and wild plants. In fact, one fourth of all plant species in China can be found here and 20 primeval forest communities shelter a big family of 400 types of trees and 30 kinds of animals. These species live in different temperature levels and create different kinds of views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The 13 peaks, which have the altitudes of at least 4,000 meters, are covered by snow all year round; the mountain is called the "Natural Glacier Museum" for it has all types of glacier.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Sifang Street is located in the Central Square of Lijiang Ancient Town, covering an area of about 6 acres. Originally a square developed on the basis of a former country market, Sifang Street is now the center for business and other activities in Lijiang. Lined with shops on all sides, it bustles with activity all day long. The shape of the Square is much like a big square official seal. That's why it was named Sifang Street by the then chieftain, getting its meaning of "conquest of the neighborhood". There is also another saying that, it got its name because of its roads leading to all directions, making it the terminal for clusters of people and traffic. Sifang Street embodies many bazaars; the buildings there today are mostly of the Ming and Qing Dynasty architectural styles.

Sifang Street

Black Dragon Pool is a famous pond in the scenic Jade Spring Park (Yu Quan Park) located at the foot of Elephant Hill, a short walk north of the Lijiang Ancient Town. It was built in 1737 during the Qing Dynasty and offers a spectacular view on the region's tallest mountain, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, over its white marble bridge. The park features several smaller temples and pavilions including Moon-Embracing Pavilion (Deyue Pavillion), Dragon God Temple (Longshen Temple) and threefold overlap Five-Phoenix Tower (Wufeng Tower). Moon-Embracing Pavilion, whose current structure is a reproduction from 1963 after a fire in 1950, was originally built in the late Ming Dynasty. Dragon God Temple was constructed by local Nakhi people in 1737 and is located to the east of the park. It was given the name Dragon God of Jade Spring by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty in the same year. Five-Phoenix Tower was built during the Ming Dynasty, and today located at the north end of the park. The tower was originally situated at the Fuguo Temple, which is 30 kilometers to the west, but was moved to Jade Spring Park in 1979. Furthermore, Black Dragon Pool Park is also home to the Dongba Culture Research Institute and the Dongba Culture Museum.

Black Dragon Pool

Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest and most marvelous gorges in the world, is located in Hutiaoxia Town, about 100kms northwest of Lijiang. A hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge is simultaneously awe-inspiring and tranquil. Fresh winds, looming mountain peaks, donkey bells and produce fields set a magnificent scene. Along the hiking tourists will have the chance to visit guest houses and experience local hospitality of both Tibetan and Nakhi people. With its glorious view of the rapids, torrential current of the Jinsha River, Tiger Leaping Gorge is created through constant erosion by the waters between the Jade Dragon Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. About 17 kilometres long, the gorge drops is around 300 metres in a series of 18 rapids. The water surface is about 1,800 metres above sea level and the Snow Mountains on both sides soar as high as 5,600 metres. Its trail is naturally divided into three sections: the Upper Gorge, the Middle Gorge and the Lower Gorge. The first section, which is the narrowest and uppermost section, is the mouth of the fast flowing Yangtze River. In the midst of the river's mouth is a large rock that is positioned at the gorge's narrowest section, which is only 30 meters wide. An ancient legend says that tiger used this rock as its stepping stone so it could leap across from one side of the gorge to the other, which is how the gorge got its name.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Both the hill and the wooden structure called Wangu Tower provide good views of the whole Old Town and the surrounding countryside. Wangu Tower is the landmark building of Lijiang Ancient Town located on the top of Lion Hill. This is the best-preserved pure wood building in the world, which is 33 meters high. This tower is an exquisite example of wooden architecture art in ancient China, with sets of brackets on top of the columns supporting the beams inside and the roof eaves outside. It has five stories and five tiers of eaves. The top storey has 13 angles, representing the 13 peaks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains. Painted inside the tower are 2,300 auspicious patterns, standing for the harmony and unity of the 23 ethnic groups living in Lijiang region. The colorful murals in the tower are redolent of the traditional Dongba culture of the Nakhi minority.

Lion Hill

Baisha village is one of the Nakhi Minority villages in Lijiang. It is more special because of the collection of murals in this village. Painted over a thousand years ago, they display the life stories of the Tibetan Buddhism, Confucian and Taoism. The unique artistic style and precious historical content of the murals attract visitors from home and abroad. Baisha frescos, as they were painted by a variety of talented Han, Tibetan and Nakhi artists, incorporate the different religious cultures and arts from Buddhism, Lamaism, Daoism, ect. Sakyamuni Preaching the Sermon, the largest fresco among the murals of Baisha Village, covers an area of 140 square meters. There tourists can enjoy the graceful brushwork, and easy smooth lines done by the artists. In these frescos, the vivid figures and their rich facial expressions, who are hunting, fishing, cutting firewood, or riding horses, are still clear after hundreds of years.

Baisha Village & its Mural

With an area of 5,330 hectares, Lashihai Lake is about 9.3 km long from south to north and 8.2 km wide from east to west. It is located in the basin in Hengduan Mountain Range, 10 kilometers away from the Lijiang Old Town, being the largest lake in Lijiang County. Surrounded by the mountains, the catchment of Lashihai is about 256.6 square meters. This grassy marshland on the embankment often gathers lots of water that forms the best place for plants, fishes, shellfish and river snails. Lashihai Lake provides a nice habitat for wetland animals and plants. In early winter, lots of wild birds come here from cold northern places. They rest in the grass and look for food in streams. The warm climate makes it possible for them to pass the long winter safely. When next spring comes and flowers bloom, the birds will leave to the north for reproductions.

Lashihai Lake

Mu's Mansion, or Mufu, situated to the southwest of Lijiang Ancient City, enjoys the status of a splendid architectural heritage. It is actually Lijiang's ruler Mu's official residence. Mu received his officials in this palace and although it was basically a personal residence, it also served as the center of politics, power and wealth in ancient Nakhi minority. Mu's Mansion is a supreme instance of Nakhi brilliant architectural and artistic skills. During the glory days of Tusi Mu, Mu's Mansion covered a sprawling area of over 16 acres and consisted of almost one hundred buildings. Designed as a miniature Forbidden City, this magnificent residence suffered considerable damages during warfare in the Qing Dynasty. Today, Mu's Mansion covers an area of about 8 acres and spans a length of 369 meters. Situated against the backdrop of Lion Hill, it faces east in the direction of sunrise. The decorative work in Mu's Mansion including the intricate carvings and elaborate paintings of buildings, are similar in style to those in the palace of Ming. The decorations in Mu's Mansion have been purposely kept simple but sublime to reflect the stateliness of the ruler.

Mu's Mansion

Lugu Lake is located in the North West Yunnan plateau in the centre of Ningliang Yi Autonomous County, Lijiang. The middle of the lake forms the border between the Ninglang County of Yunnan Province and the Yanyuan County of Sichuan province. The formation of the lake is thought to have occurred in a geological fault belonging to the geological age of the Late Cenozoic. It is an alpine lake at an elevation of 2,685 metres and is the highest lake in the Yunnan Province. The lake is surrounded by mountains and has five islands, four peninsulas, fourteen bays and seventeen beaches. Lugu Lake's shores are inhabited by many minority ethnic groups, such as the Mosuo, Norzu, Yi, Pumi and Tibetan. The most numerous of these are the Mosuo people (also spelt "Moso"), said to be a sub clan of the Nakhi People with ancient family structure considered as "a live fossil for researching the marital development history of Human beings" and "the last quaint Realm of Matriarchy." Lugu Lake is also well-knownas the region of “the Kingdom of Women” and “Home of the Matriarchal Tribe”, which highlights the dominant role of the Mosuo women in their society. The marriage rites of the Mosuo people are known as “Azhu marriage” ceremony and this unique aspect of their social culture has given the title “exotic land of daughters” to the area.

Lugu Lake

Stone Drum Town(Shigu Town) of Lijiang City stands in the base of the mountain flanking First Bend on the Yangtze River. Yangtze River, considered the mother river of China, flows majestically through the center of China and is the third longest river in the world. Starting from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yangtze River surges southeastward until it meets the Hengduan Mountain Range. About 30km outside of Lijiang Ancient City, unusual geological phenomenons force the Yangtze to make a sudden U-shaped bend and flow to the northeast. This extraordinary turn, nearly 180-degrees, creates beautiful and marvelous views that startle the imagination. Here, the river is wide and the water flows in a gentle, slow pace. The whole sight is like a wonderful landscape painting that never ends. Stone Drum Town, which derives its name from a white marble carved monument in the shape of a drum, was always a significant and vitally strategic military area where many famous historical events have been taken place.  There are memorials here honoring the people whose histories are entwined with the Stone Drum Town.

The First Bend of Yangtze River
 

*Main Attractions of Dali

The Ancient City of Dali is 13 kilometers away from Xiaguan, Dali City, and is located at the foot of Cangshan Mountain. The Ancient City of Dali was built in the year Hongwu 15 of Ming Dynasty (1382AD). In the Ancient City run clear springs, and live simple and unsophisticated local Bai people. Whether rich or poor, local people are used to planting trees and growing flowers in the yard. So there is a saying in the Ancient City of Dali: “there runs a spring in every family and grow flowers in every yard.”

Dali Ancient City

the Houses of Bai people in Xizhou is located in the Xizhou Town which is 16 kilometers away from the Ancient City of Dali. Xizhou is not only a famous historic city, but also a typical commercial town of Bai people. It is one of the cradles of National capitalism of Bai people, and a famous hometown to overseas Chinese in Yunnan. Here visitors will see Bai minority typical traditions as well as dresses there. Some buildings are old and typical ancient architectures, which are the real local house. On the outside walls of each house, there are numerous exquisite paintings showing the art atmosphere.

Houses of Bai People in Xizhou

Cangshan is a mountain range immediately west of Dali City. Its highest summit, Malong, is 4,122 meters above the sea level. And the mountain includes another 18 peaks all over 3,500 m altitude. The mountain is noted for its very rich, diverse flora, first scientifically documented by Pierre Jean Marie Delavay in 1882. In 1991, construction began on a paved walkway running north and south from the top chairlift station near ancient Dali. This walkway passes several waterfalls, and overlooks Erhai Lake and the ancient city itself. This walkway is named "Jade Cloud Road" after the cold formations that appear over the Cangshan peaks.

Cangshan Mountain

Erhai Lake which is one of the most fascinating parts of a Dali visit is situated at 1,972 m above the sea level, sandwiched between the Cangshan Mountains to the West and Dali City. Its area is 250 square km, making it the second largest highland lake of China. Tourists are pleasant to enjoy the crystal waters of Erhai Lake and the snow mantled Cangshan radiating with each other. This scene is commonly described as "Silver Cangshan and Jade Erhai". The lakeshore can be explored by hiking. Islands on the lake include Guanyin Ge ("Avalokitesvara Pavillion"), Jinsuo Island ("Golden Shuttle Island"), Nanzhao Folklore Island (The lake used to be a royal deer ranch for the Nanzhao Kingdom) and Xiaoputuo Island. In addition, Erhai Lake is an important food source for the local people (Bais), who are famous for their fishing method: their trained cormorants catch fish and return them to fishmongers. The birds are prevented from swallowing their fish by rings fixed around their neck.

Erhai Lake

Three Pagodas standing inside Chongsheng Temple are an ensemble of three independent pagodas arranged on the corners of a equilateral triangle, near the ancient city of Dali, dating from the time of the Nanzhao kingdom and Kingdom of Dali. Chongsheng Temple is located at the east foot of the tenth peak of the massive Cangshan Mountains and face the west shore of the Erhai Lake of the ancient Dali town. The Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. As its name implies, the Three Pagodas comprise three independent pagodas forming a symmetric triangle. The elegant, balanced and stately style is unique in China’s ancient Buddhist architectures, which makes it a must-see in the tour of Dali. The Three Pagodas, visible from miles away, has been a landmark of Dali City and selected as a national treasure meriting preservation in China. The main pagoda, known as Qianxun Pagoda, reportedly built during 823-840 AD by king Quan Fengyou of the Nanzhao state, is 69.6 meters high and is one of the tallest pagodas in China’s history. The central pagoda is square shaped and composed of sixteen stories; each story has multiple tiers of upturned eaves. There is a carved shrine containing a white marble sitting Buddha statue at the center of each façade of every story. The body of the pagoda is hollow from the first to the eighth story, surrounded with 3.3 meters thick walls. In 1978, more than 700 Buddhist antiques, including sculptures made of gold, silver, wood or crystal and documents, were found in the body during a major repairing work. The designers of the pagoda are supposed to have come from Xi’an, the capital of Tang Dynasty at that time and the location of another pagoda, Small Wild Goose Pagoda, which shares the similar style but is one hundred years older. The other two sibling pagodas, built about one hundred years later, stand to the northwest and southwest of Qianxun Pagoda. They are 42.19 meters high. Different from Qianxun Pagoda, they are solid and octagonal with ten stories. The center of each side of every story is decorated with a shrine containing a Buddha statue. There is a lake named Juying Chi (Reflection pond) behind them, the pond is known to be able to reflect images of the Three Pagodas.

Chongsheng Temple & its Three Pagodas

Situated at the foot of Mount Shenmo, the first of the peaks of Mount Cangshan, the spring rises to form a square shaped pool that is shaded by the dense foliage that lines its banks. The pool is some 50 square meters overall and above it, is an ancient decumbent tree. This is the famous "Butterfly Tree", so called as in the short interval as spring turns to summer, its fragrant blossom attracts thousands of butterflies. These small multi-colored creatures fly around the pool and settle on the tree in great clusters as they sip the nectar from its blooms. The vast numbers of butterflies are hardly distinguishable from the flowers as the whole tree pulsates with every color of the rainbow. This spectacular sight has given rise to a local festival when the Bai people gather at the tree on April 15th for the "Butterfly Meet". The romantic spectacle of the butterflies as they feed and mate in such abundance has become a symbol of courtship and each Bai youth will seek to engage with the love of his life by joining in with the traditional antiphonal singing. Bai people also refer to the spring as the "Allegiance Spring" as it is here that true and lasting love may be found.

Butterfly Spring
 

Podacuo National Park covers a total area of nearly 2,000 square kilometers in Shangri-la region. This park has an average altitude of 3,500 meters and retains a well-preserved ecosystem within the virgin forests. The must-see scenery in this park includes Bita Lake and Shudu Lake. “Bita” means “a place with a dense oak forest” in Tibetan. Bita Lake is a quiet lake surrounded by mountains covered with ancient pines, oaks and rhododendrons, and appears like an emerald in the heart of the mountain. Shudu Lake is located in northeast of Shangri-la and it is one of the largest fresh water lakes on the Diqing plateau. This lake is surrounded by a forest of fir, spruce and silver birch, and is home to lots of wild animals such as bears, golden cats, deer and pheasants.

Pudacuo National Park

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, also known as Songzanlin Monastery, is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery situated 5 kilometres from Gyalthang Town at an elevation of 3,380 metres. Occupying an area of 33.3 hectares, Songzanlin Monastery represents the Tibetan culture, the statue of Buddhists and many precious cultural treasures. Built in 1679, the monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province and is sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace. Located in the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is also the most important monastery in southwest China. Ganden Sumtseling Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelukpa order. Its architecture is a fusion of the Tibetan and Han Chinese. At its peak, the monastery contained accommodation for 2000 monks; it currently accommodates in its rebuilt structures 700 monks in 200 associated houses.

Ganden Sumtseling Monastery / Songzanlin Temple

Meili Snow Mountains, or Mainri Snow Mountains, are a mountain range in Shangri-la area, Yunnan Province. They lie close to the northwestern boundary of the province and are bounded by the Salween River on the west and the Mekong on the east. The crest of the range rises to over 6,000 metres above the sea level, making for impressive prominence over the river valleys to the east and west, which are between 1,500 metres and 1,900 metres in elevation. The highest peak is Kawa Garbo, or Khawa Karpo, which rises to 6,740 metres. Kawagarbo is one of the most sacred mountains for Tibetan Buddhism as the spiritual home of a warrior god of the same name. It is visited by 20,000 pilgrims each year from throughout the Tibetan world; many pilgrims circumambulate the peak, an arduous 240 km trek. Although it is important throughout Tibetan Buddhism, it is the local Tibetans that are the day-to-day guardians and stewards of Kawagarbo, both the deity and the mountain. Other significant peaks include Mianzimu, Peak 6509 and Jiariren-an. Because of restrictions and dangerous conditions, none of the major peaks in the range have ever been summited.

Meili Snow Mountains

Feilai Temple is located around 10 kilometers away from Deqin Town, Shangri-la region. There is a legend that the monastery was built by a Sakyamuni Buddha who flew here from Tibet. It is a place for Tibetans to pay homage to the sacred mountains. The monastery also serves as a center for many of the activities and festivals held by local Buddhist. Feilai Temple is one of only two places in Deqin County where tourists can view the sacred mountains and because of the convenient accommodations and pleasant environment is certainly the most popular. Travelers who wake up early will be greeted with the dazzling scenery of sunrise over the Snow Mountains. It is a sight well-worth getting up for.

Feilai Temple

Napa Lake, or the Napa Lake Nature Reserve, is located in the northwest of Shangri-la County, 8 km from the county seat. In Tibetan, Napa refers to a lake behind forests. The reserve covers an area of 31.25 square km and is 3,266 meters above the sea level. Being flat, Napa Lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains at three sides. In spring and summer, the thawing water finds its way into Napa Lake via Naqu River and Naizi River. As a seasonal plateau lake, Napa Lake will expand in late summer and early autumn and shrink in late autumn and next summer. In October, migrating birds such as black-necked cranes, white cranes, bar-headed geese, yellow ducks, and sheldrakes etc can be seen looking for food in marshlands near the lake. Napa Lake has become one of the favorite habitats of black-necked cranes.

Napa Lake

Baimaxueshan and Snub-nosed Monkey: Baimaxueshan, literally the "White Horse Snow Mountain", is one of over twenty 5000m plus peaks in Sahngri-la area. It is believed that it was White Horse Snow Mountain region that inspired James Hilton's classic utopian narrative of Shangri-la and his novel Lost Horizon. Here snow-capped mountains tower over the plateau in the north, feeding the Jinsha (Golden Sand), Lancang (Mekong), and Yangtze Rivers that carve their way through the plateau, which is still covered by large tracts of pristine montane forest and alpine meadows. The upland temperate forests found here and elsewhere in southwest China are the most bio-diverse in the world, with thousands of endemic plant and animal species.  In May and June each year, plenty of plateau cuckoos covered lower altitude areas of Baimaxueshan. Snub-nosed monkeys, or known as the golden monkeys in China, have faces that resemble human beings. Their nostrils are turned upward and they have red lips. Living all year in the coniferous forest near the snow line, they are the primate species that live at the highest altitude in China. Set up in 1983, Yunnan Baimaxueshan National Nature Reserve is a core area of biodiversity protection in northwest Yunnan. The Reserve is home to over 60% of the world's golden monkeys and the number of the golden monkeys there has increased from about 500 in 1983 to 1300 at present.

Baimaxueshan Snow Mountain and Snub-nosed Monkey

Baishuitai (White Water Terrace) is located 3-hour driving distance from Zhongdian, while being famous for the ortinal birth place of Dongba culture. Baishuitai in Nakhi means "growing flower". Amid the Haba Snow Mountain, there is a stretch of crystal terrace, the largest area of sinter terrace in China. Spring water flows down from the mountain, leaving crystallized sodium carbonate along its slopes, giving the impression of a marble sculpture. Among the green mountains, it forms a startling white contrast. A spring gushes down from the mountain summit, and flows downward, and local people call it "a field left by fairies." Baishuitai is perfectly reasonable that a special kind of religion can be born in this area. That is why the Naxis have the Dongba Religion, kernel of the Naxi culture. According to Nakhi people who believe in the Dongba creeds, any men without any experience of visit to the Baishuitai cannot be a true believer. Tradition has it that the first saint of Dongba, Dingba Shiluo, was deeply attracted by the scenery of this place on his way back from Tibet. Without hesitation, he settled down and began his missionary work here. From then on, White Water Terrace is widely accepted as the Holy Land of the Dongba Religion.

Baishuitai (White Water Terrace)

Dhon-Drupling Gompa, or Dongzhulin Temple, is located in Shusong Village, Benzilan Town, about 105km away from the seat of Zhongdian County. The Yunnan-Tibet Road passes behind the temple and vehicles can get straight to this temple. Dhon-Drupling Gompa was built in 1667, whose original name was "Chongchongcuogang Temple", meaning "the temple by the crane lake". It was renamed as "Gedandongzhulin Temple" after a combination of seven small temples, meaning "benefit others and oneself". It is also one of the thirteen most well-known monasteries, and can hold 2,000 monks sitting and chanting scriptures. The present temple was rebuilt in 1985. The main building is a four storied structure. In the first floor is the place where the Lamas chant scriptures. In the front stand the statues of the Three Saints. On the second floor stands a statue of Qiangba Buddha. There is a statue of Sakyamuni in the Sakyamuni Hall, whose Buddhist crown and the pearls and gems inlaid on the front are gifts from the Sera Temple in Lhasa. Every year a grand Buddhist celebration ceremony is held in the monastery and it has became a Buddhist holy land where people go on a pilgrimage.

Dhon-Drupling Gompa / Dongzhulin Temple

Benzilan is a small town in Shangri-la area. It lies along a stretch of the Jinsha River (a major headwater stream of the Yangtze River) that forms the border with Sichuan Province. This laid-back Tibetan village makes an excellent base to explore the wonderful Dhon-Drupling Gompa (Dongzhulin Temple), 22 km heading northwesterly along the main road from Zhongdian. The abundance of fresh produce was what James Hilton described when he talked about the mystical world of Shangri-la, an abundance that the local fruit and vegetable market in Gyalthang displays proudly. Visiting the market is a colorful experience in itself that prepares everyone well for sampling popular Tibetan dishes and delicacies. Offerings vary according to the season, so everything is completely fresh. The typical farmhouse in Benzilan is a large wooden structure with space for the animals on the ground floor, the family quarters on the second floor and a loft for storage.

Benzilan

Haba Snow Mountain is a mountain rising above the northwest side of Tiger Leaping Gorge, standing 120 kilometres to the southeast of Zhongdian County. It is opposite to the higher Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and towers 3,500 metres above the river. Haba Snow Mountain's highest peak is 5,396 metres in height. Haba Snow Mountain covers an area of 21,908 hectares, with a vertical distribution of virgin forests, it is rich in wildlife and plant resources. The attraction of the Sanba Tourist Area is attributed to the towering peaks of the Haba Mountain and its alpine morainal lake, endless tracks of azalea flowers, and cluster of waterfalls cascading down snow-covered cliffs. About half of the 13,000 kinds of plants in Yunnan, the Kingdom of Plants, could be found in here. The primeval forest serves as the valuable scientific research base. In addition, there are more than 900 varieties of rare medicinal materials, more than 25 species of protect animals at the national grade and about 50 kinds of azalea. The glacier on the Haba Snow Mountain is one of the southmost glaciers in China.

Haba Snow Mountain

*Main Attractions of Shangri-la

 

Cuihu Park (Green Lake Park) is one of Kunming's major park and is predominately a lake surrounded by greenery. It has a large and elaborate network of waterways and winding paths, with broad, lotus-covered pools and overhanging willows. Located in the west side of the park is the statue of one of Yunnan's most famous patriots - Nie Er, the composer of China's national anthem. It was established in the 17th century on the west side of the Wuhua Mountain and is sometimes described as a "Jade in Kunming". Brightly painted pavilions on the islands inside the park, tree-lined walks, flowers, and the local populace enjoying themselves by exercising in various specialist groups all add to the appeal of the park.

Cuihu Park

Stone Forest is a fantastic natural phenomena and a complete range of karst forms located 90 km southeast of Kunming. The various shapes of karst landscape was formed due to the millions years movement of Earth. Stone Forest area is the home of the Sani people, their folk customs has become one spectacular scene, the colorful embroidery and minority dances combine with the natural sceneries, which will surely leave tourists a deep impression. The tall rocks seem to emanate from the ground in the manner of stalagmites, with many looking like petrified trees thereby creating the illusion of a forest made of stone. Since 2007, two parts of the site, the Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the South China Karst.

Stone Forest

Dianchi Lake, also known as the Kunming Lake, is the largest lake on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. Its nickname is "Sparkling Pearl Embedded in a Highland," and it was the model for the Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace in Beijing. At Dragon Gate of the Western Hills, there is a panoramic view of the lake. Dianchi Lake is the eighth largest lake of China and the largest one of Yunnan Province, with 370 square kilometers in area, 44 meters deep and 1,885 meters in elevation. It is a highland lake, much treasured both in the light of Kunming's perennial spring weather and the splendid scenic beauty of the Lake District. Surrounded by hills and crisscrossed by streams, the lake basin is spread with thousands of acres of fertile fields reaching as far as the eye can see. Its shores are dotted with scenes of rich scenic beauty and areas of historical significance. Around the lake are a fair number of interesting tourist attractions, such as several smaller parks, resorts and the Yunnan Nationalities Village.

Dianchi Lake

Western Hills, lying in the western suburbs of Kunming, are also called the "Sleeping Buddha Hills" for looked at from a distance, they have the appearance of a giant sleeping Buddha. They have also been given another name "Sleeping Beauty Hills" for the hills when viewed together look like a beautiful young lady laying beside Dianchi Lake with her face upward and her hair trailing into water. Western Hills boasts an excellent environment with flourishing flowers and dense forest, providing tourists an excellent environment to enjoy the tranquility and marvelous scenery. No wonder that the place has gained a reputation as "having the most pleasant environment in the world". In Western Hills, there are wonderful scenic spots such as Huating Temple, Taihua Temple, Sanqing Pavilion, and Dragon Gate. Huating Temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Yunnan Province. It had been destroyed and rebuilt several times most recently in 1923.

Western Hills

Daguan Park lies on Dianchi Lake in Kunming's southwestern limits. Originally laid out by the energetic seventeenth-century Qing emperor Kangxi, it has been modified over the years to include a noisy funfair, food stalls and emporiums, and is a favourite haunt of Kunming's youth. Today many locals come to sit, drink tea, fly kites, and go boating. Among shady walks and pools, Daguan's focal point is Daguan Ge, a square, three-storeyed pavilion built to better Kangxi's enjoyment of the distant Western Hills and now a storehouse of calligraphy extolling the area's charms. The most famous poem here is a 118-character verse, carved into the gateposts by the Qing scholar Sun Ran, reputed to be the longest set of rhyming couplets in China. The park is set on Daguan Stream, which flows south into Dianchi Lake, and there are frequent hour-long cruises down the waterway, lined with willows, to points along Dianchi Lake's northern shore.

Daguan Park

Yuantong Temple is northern Yunnan's major Buddhist temple and an active place of pilgrimage. It is Kunming's largest and most famous temple with the original structure being first constructed more than 1,200 years ago during the Tang Dynasty. The temple sits on the southern slopes of Yuantong Park. In the 1950s, it hosted a grand ceremony to greet and send on the sacred teeth of the Buddha and so became important in Southeast Asia. This old temple is noted for its unusual structure which is high at the front and low at the back. From the front archway named "Yuantong Shengjing" (Wonderland), one can behold the entire garden.

Yuantong Temple

Qiongzhu Temple, or Bamboo Temple, is a Buddhist temple situated on Yu'an Mountain to the northwest of Kunming. The name of the temple "Qiongzhu" refers to a type of bamboo (genus Qiongzhuea). The Bamboo Temple was established during the Yuan Dynasty as the first temple dedicated to Zen Buddhism in Yunnan. It has since been burned down and reconstructed several times. The present structure mostly dates from the late Qing Dynasty. The temple is most renowned for the painted clay sculptures of the 500 Buddhist arhats. The sculptures which are known as the "Sculptured pearls in the oriental treasure-house" were created during reign of the Qing Emperor Guangxu's (1875–1909), when the temple was undergoing major repairs. Li Guangxiu, a folk clay artist from Sichuan Province, took his students to Kunming where they spent seven years (1883–1890) to create the sculptures.

Qiongzhu Temple

Dongchuan Red Land is located to the east of Kunming City, about 250 kilometers by car from Kunming to the center of the scenic spots. The main scenic spots of Dongchuan Red Land are between 1,800 and 2,600 above the sea level. The red soil developed under the high temperature and heavy rain in Dongchuan is sticky, containing more iron and aluminum, with strong acidity and less organic matter. It is the most concentrated, typical and characteristic red land on the plateau of Yunnan. In Yunnan's warm, humid environment, iron is slowly oxidized and deposited in the soil, gradually forming a dazzling color. Dongchuan Red Land refers to a place named "huashitou", more than 40 kilometers southwest of Dongchuan District. Every year from September to December, part of the red earth is rooted to be planted, while the other part of the red earth has been planted with green barley or wheat and other crops. From a distance, it looks like the color block daubed by god, with gorgeous colors, blue sky, white clouds and the unpredictable beams of light, constituting a spectacular scenery of the red earth.

Dongchuan Red Earth

*Main Attractions of Kunming