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Yunnan

Travel Guide Asia China Yunnan

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Introduction

Morning smoke

Morning smoke

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Yunnan (云南) is one of the most popular destinations for tourists when going to China. It is one of the few places in China that almost has a Southeast Asia feel with lots of guesthouses and restaurants aimed at foreigners. This makes traveling in Yunnan relatively more familiar then traveling in other parts of China. There is an easy loop to do from Vietnam, via Guangxi province, up to Kunming then around Yunnan and down south to Laos.

The reason why so many travelers go to Yunnan is because it’s amazing! Of the 56 recognized minorities, 25 live in Yunnan. The biodiversity in Yunnan is stunning, going from the Himalayan Mountains to low lying jungle valleys. The province with only 4% of China’s land is home to about half of China’s wild birds and mammals. Including wild elephants!

There is something for everybody in Yunnan. From shopping in Kunming to the remote Tibetan areas of Northern Yunnan, a traveller can spend an entire vacation in Yunnan alone. Just be prepared for lots of Chinese tourists during the high season because Yunnan is a popular domestic destination.

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Brief History

Yunnan has historically been at the edge of almost all Chinese Dynasties. As dynasties started to decline Yunnan would be one of the first areas to break away from China. Because of this there is a long history of different kingdoms ruling the area between different dynasties. Today Yunnan is under Beijing's control, although the strength of the government's control may be questioned since a new minority group was discovered as late as the 1970s!

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Geography

Yunnan is tucked away in the far southwest corner of China and its geography is extremely diverse and stunning. The highest point is over 6,700 metres while the lowest point is only 76 metres. Most of the province is mountainous with deep river valleys from the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Pearl and Red Rivers. Because of this, it is hard to generalize about the geography of the province. Yunnan has domestic borders with Tibet, Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. Yunnan also has international borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

One of the locals!

One of the locals!

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Cities

Central

  • Kunming is the capital of the province and the city of eternal spring.

North

  • Dali is considered one of the most beautiful places in China.
  • Lijiang has one of the best preserved old towns in China.
  • Shangri-la (Gyalthang/Zhongdian) is a nice Tibetan town.
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge is considered one of the best hikes in the world.

Southwest

  • Baoshan
  • Tengchong
  • Heshun
  • Yunfeng Shan is a nice Taoist mountain.
  • Mangshi
  • Ruili is the border town with Myanmar.

Xishuangbanna

  • Jinghong is the capital of Xishuangbanna and has an excellent public garden.
  • Menglun
  • Mengla is the gateway to Laos
  • Damenglong
  • Menghai
  • Jingzhen

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Sights and Activities

Lijiang

The world famous Old Town of Lijiang is located in Lijiang City. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town has a history going back more than 800 years and was once a confluence for trade along the old tea horse road. The Lijiang old town is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges.

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Events and Festivals

A dancer in the street

A dancer in the street

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There are many festival celebrated by the different minority groups in Yunnan. The water sprinkling festival is one of the more famous festivals in Jinghong but there are plenty of other great festivals to experience in Yunnan. There is even a fire festival in Dali.

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Weather

Weather depends greatly on where and when a traveller is in Yunnan. In the wintertime (late November to March) the south can be very mild while the north, up by Tibet, can be brutally cold. With that being said the weather in Yunnan is not that bad during that period and mostly dry. In general Yunnan is known for having some of the best weather year round, when compared to the rest of China. Just remember that it is a large province with a diverse topography, which results in huge differences within Yunnan at any given moment.

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Getting There

By Plane

The major and only international airport is currently in Kunming. The Kunming Wujiaba International Airport (KMG) has flights to most major cities in China (including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi'an), as well as to other parts of Asia. International connections include Yangon, Bangkok, Dhaka, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Mandalay, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Kaohsiung and Hanoi. Some of the major local airlines servicing this airport are Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. There are several foreign airlines flying into Kunming, which include Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air, Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines.

There are also smaller domestic airports in Jinghong, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la. These airports have several flights a day to Kunming and to several major cities around China.

By Train

The train station in Kunming has direct trains to almost all the major cities in China. There is also a smaller train station in Dali. The Chinese part of the railroad between Kunming and Hanoi has been closed since 2005. It is best to take a bus to Hekou, cross the border to Vietnam and continue by train from there if you prefer this.

By Bus

The bus is very useful if in northern Yunnan when trying to get to and from Sichuan province.

By Boat

Golden Peacock Shipping company runs a boat three times a week on the Mekong river between Jinghong in southern Yunnan and Chiang Saen (Thailand).

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Getting Around

By Plane

Plane tickets should be booked far in advance during the busy times of the year. Kunming to Jinghong, Dali, Shangri-La or Lijang are the most popular and useful routes.

By Train

There is an overnight sleeper train between Kunming and Xiaguan (Dali New Town), which is the only connection of interest to travellers.

By Bus

The best way to get around Yunnan is by bus. There are major airports in most the major tourist centers and a railroad line all the way to Dali but buses are the easiest to use. There are several nice highways linking all the major cities. Remember that in the mountains landslides can happen making a bus trip much longer then expected.

By Boat

There used to be boat rides out of Jinghong but that has pretty much died due to the speed and price of buses on new highways.

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Eat

Due to the diversity in the province the food changes greatly depending on where you are. One thing Yunnan is known for is having amazing tea. A trip to Yunnan is not complete unless you have a glass of tea.

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Shaxi Horse Pen 46 GuesthouseNo 46 Sideng Streethostel98
Yuanyang International Youth HostelYuanyang County DuoyishuHostel-
Lijiang Senior Leader Youth HostelNo.40 Wenlin Xiang Yishang StreetHostel-

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 29.123120
  • Longitude: 110.146920

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This is version 26. Last edited at 1:55 on May 24, 13 by sleepBot. 19 articles link to this page.

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