Top 10 Things to Do in Lijiang

Written by Sally Guo Updated Sep. 26, 2022

Lijiang lies in the northwest of Yunnan Province. It is listed as one of the four best-preserved ancient cities in China. There are twelve minority ethnic groups living in Lijiang, presenting unique charms of colorful multi-ethnic culture and long history.

This is a place filled with all kinds of imagination, snow mountains, ancient towns, people coming and going... Countless stories rise and fall again.

Don’t miss the following 10 things if you’re about to explore this mysterious ancient city.

1. Go on a Hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge

With a maximum depth of 3,900 meters from the river to mountain peaks, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest river canyons in the world. Trekking along the gorge, travelers can see the fabulous views of the gorge, roaring water, and snow mountains.

The gorge is formed by the narrowing of the fast-flowing Jinsha River (the upper stretches of the Yangtze River) as it is forced between the 5,596-meter Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the 5,396-meter Haba Snow Mountain.

A story goes that a fierce tiger could easily leap the gorge while being hunted down the mountain and thus the name - Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike Guide>>

2. Climb Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is the southernmost snow mountain in the Northern Hemisphere. The continuous 13 peaks make the mountain look like a giant jade dragon.

The views of the mountain vary with seasons and different weather. Some days the snow-capped peaks peep out of the clouds like a shy young lady while on clear sunny days they shine like a dazzling crystal.

Travel tips:

3. Leisurely Tour Around the Pretty Lugu Lake

Lugu Lake
Lugu Lake

Lugu Lake, known as the mother lake by the local Mosuo People, is surrounded by mountains and high hills and can expect snow for three months of the year.

It is a rare unpolluted lake in the country: hardly touched surroundings, crystal clear water, clean air, fresh breeze, and charming scenery- making the area a real wonderland.

The lake goes with an interesting “Kingdom of Women” culture because the mysterious Mosuo people formed a matriarchal society here in ancient times.

Today the “Walking Marriage Bridge” on the lake becomes an important symbol of this unique custom.

4. Walk Around Lijiang Old Town Day and Night

Night View of Lijiang Old Town
Night View of Lijiang Old Town

Lijiang Old Town (also called Dayan Ancient Town), included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List, is an ancient district of Lijiang City. The town is full of old wooden houses and criss-cross antique stone alleys, against a stunning backdrop of mountains and plateau.

What makes the place unique, however, is its local ethnic culture. It gathers a variety of ethnic customs and entertainment activities, including Naxi Ancient Music, Dongba Ceremony, Divination Culture, and Naxi Torch Festival.

The best time to walk around the old town is during weekdays mornings when it is quiet and not crowded. Don’t miss the landmark here, Mufu Palace (木府), which was the official residence of the Lijiang ruler in ancient times.

Regarded as the mini Forbidden City, it is a large complex mansion integrating the architectural style of the Han, Bai, and Naxi people in the 13th century.

5. Relax at Shuhe Ancient Town

Shuhe Ancient Town
Shuhe Ancient Town

Some may love the well-developed Dayan and enjoy a bustling night there, while some prefer the quiet Shuhe and its slow life. Shuhe is smaller but quainter than Lijiang (Dayan) Old Town, but compared with Baisha, it may be more touristy.

You can casually stroll around the rock pavements, hit or miss an obscure café and try some local snacks at a small restaurant. Read more on Shuhe Ancient Town

6. See Lijiang Murals in Baisha Ancient Town

Baisha Ancient Town
Baisha Ancient Town

Baisha Ancient Town was the earliest settlement for the Naxi people in Lijiang. It's the original hometown of the Mu family, who later moved to Lijiang Old Town. And then it became rulers of Lijiang during the 13th to 18th centuries.

Retaining to the original Naxi culture, Baisha is the oldest and most primitive preserved in the three ancient towns of Lijiang (the other two are the aforementioned Dayan and Shuhe).

Today you can still see the real Naxi people wearing their own ethnic costumes and leisurely living in the small town, selling their handmade artifacts. The murals in Baisha, remarkable for their distinctive painting style and historic value, are another highlight of the ancient town.

7. Enjoy Lijiang Impression Show with Snow-Capped Mountains

Lijiang Impression Show
Lijiang Impression Show

Lijiang Impression Show is performed in an open-air theatre in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain scenic area. It was designed by the acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou, and the main director and staff are from the same group that presents the Impression Sanjie Liu in Yangshuo.

The show is presented during the daytime, with beautiful snow-capped mountains in the background and an altitude of over 3100 meters (10,170 ft).

All 500 actors in the show are drawn from local villages. They represent 10 ethnic minorities with their unique and colorful costumes and depict the Lijiang way of life.

8. Experience a Horse Ride in Lashihai Wetland Park

Lashihai Wetland Park
Lashihai Wetland Park

With fresh air, beautiful scenery, and rich natural resources, Lashihai Wetland Park is a place where many animals like to live.

The natural environment here is excellent. December to February of the second year is a good season for bird watching here, with thousands of birds gathering here.

Nearby Lashihai Wetland Park, there are many Naxi Minority villages with ethnic customs. These villages close to the lake, have horse farms. So when you travel to Lashihai Wetland Park, you can watch birds; you can ride horses; you can also row boats; it is very fun!

9. Explore the LandMark of Lijiang - Mufu Mansion

Mufu Mansion
Mufu Mansion

The building is a landmark of the ancient city, combining the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty with the craftsmanship of the Bai and Naxi ethnic groups.

After centuries of glory, most of it was destroyed by war, and the remaining part was badly damaged in the 1996 earthquake, and most of it is now rebuilt.

It is the "Grand View Garden" of the Old Town of Lijiang. If you come to Lijiang and don't see Mufu Mansion, you almost don't come to Lijiang.

10. Take the Best Picture in Black Dragon Pool

Black Dragon Pool
Black Dragon Pool

Black Dragon Pool is originally a Dragon King Temple in Lijiang. There are many springs beside the temple, which form pools of water. It can reflect Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, also known as "Jade Spring Park".

It is not only the water source of the old town of Lijiang but also the most concentrated place of national protected cultural relics in Lijiang.

Black Dragon Pool is the best place to take photos of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It is best to take photos in the morning and evening when the snow mountain has the best light.

Back to Lijiang Travel Guide

Create My Trip

Need Help?

Request a custom itinerary today and get one step closer to your personalized trip

Create Your Trip