Yunnan means literally Clouds south, and it is an appropriate name as warm tropical air from the south is funneled up the narrow steep valleys giving them rich and exotic vegetation in the mist laden air. Yunnan remains a popular tourist destination that is somewhat off the beaten track.
Yunnan’s position on the mountain borders of Vietnam; Laos and Burma (Myanmar) have made it the refuge of many different tribes of people including Hui, Tibetan, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Yao, Bai, Hani, Jinuo, Nu and Dai (among others) all with their own languages and traditions. They hold their own festivals too: March Fair of the Bai people; Water-splashing Festival of the Dai people and the Torch Festival of the Yi people.
Popular Cities: Kunming, Lijiang, Dali, Shangri-La, Xishuangbanna, Yuxi
Average temperature: 8ºC to 17ºC (46.4°F to 62.6°F) in January, 11ºC to 29ºC (51.8°F to 84.2°F) in July.
Places to visit
1. The Old Town of Lijiang, a well-preserved old city, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. In December 1997, the old town appeared on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List. It dates back more than 800 years and blends together the elements of ethnic minorities. It was once a confluence for trade and the political, cultural and educational center in the region.
2. Zhongdian in northern Yunnan has renamed itself ‘Shangrila’ to reflect an association with James Hilton’s famous novel about a paradise hidden in the mountains. However, the more likely setting for the fabled city of Shangrila is the mountain Kawagarbo 6,740 meters on the Tibetan border near Deqin and sacred to Tibetan Buddhists.
3. In the far south of Yunnan is Xishuang Banna, a nature reserve containing China’s only tropical rain forest. For thousands of years there have been a variety of mountain people living in the luxuriant forest. The steep mountain sides have protected the area from cultivation (except for a few rubber plantations). Many exotic and rare plants grow here together with a range of different species of monkey and also elephants.
4. Lake Dianchi which lies south of the City of Kunming, covering an area of 340 square kilometers. The lake is formed by a fault in the crust. The Lake is surrounded by the hills whose reflections are mirrored in the water. Boating on the Lake and looking after over the rippling waves, one is enchanted by the picturesque scenery. The magnificence of the Lake has won it the name “sea”, as called by local inhabitants.
5. The Black Dragon Pool is situated at the foot of the Dragon Pool Hill on the north outskirts of Kunming. The Black Dragon Pool is a spring and its water is dark. The Pool is surrounded by green pines and bamboo and is reined by tranquility. The scenery is beautiful and picturesque. In Black Dragon Temple near the Pool one will see the three famous trees- the Tang Dynasty Plum, the Song Dynasty Cypress and Ming Dynasty Camellia.
6. Dali is located in the northwestern part of Yunnan province. Picturesque surroundings, unique cultural heritage created by 25 ethnic minorities living in the city make it a must for tourists. Dali Ancient City dating back to the year 1382, witness the city’s historical changes. Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple is considered as the landmark of Dali. The main pagoda, Qianxun Pagoda, contains many Buddha sculptures made of gold, silver or wood and Buddhist readings. They have stood for more than 1,800 years and chart the development of Buddhism in the city.
7. Anning Hot Spring is situated at the foot of Yuquan Hill in Anning County southwest of Kunming, being one of most renowned hot springs In Yunnan. The temperature of the spring water is above 40C. Since the water is green in color, the spring is also called “Green Jade Spring”. The spring has good purifying effects and is effective in curing ailments such as arthritis and skin disease.
8. The Stone Forest covers an area 27,000 hectares, of which the scenic area occupies over 80 hectares. Here thousands of stone peaks thrusting into the sky present a magnificent view, which has been famed as the “most spectacular view in China” rarely found elsewhere. The stone peaks in various shapes call to mind vivid imagination. Outstanding in their scenic splendor are such places as Sword Peak Pond, Lotus Peak, the Pavilion Overlooking the Peaks, the Jade Lake in the Stone Forest, the Great Folding Waterfall, etc. Just like entering a fairy world.