How to Plan a Trip to Yunnan - Travel Advice and Best Travel Routes
Yunnan is located in the southwestern part of China and is known for its ethnic diversity. the variability of the Transverse mountain range crosses the whole Yunnan Province which makes the scenic spots located afar each other. It is hard to fully see Yunnan if you don’t have enough time and well-plan.
The exotic culture of Yunnan attracts travelers from all over the world. Let me show you how to plan the trip all around Yunnan.
Best Time to Visit Yunnan
The best time to visit Yunnan is from October to April, with dry and pleasant weather. The rainy season is mostly concentrated in July and August, and the hottest month in Yunnan is May, June has received 60% of its average rainfall of the year.
Summer Holiday Visit with Kids
July and August are school holidays for Chinese kids, many families choose to visit Yunnan during this time. The temperature is very comfortable and suitable for any outdoor sightseeing. Meanwhile, you can pack light for the tour.
Peak Season to Visit Yunnan is from October to November
The Autumn peak season is starting from the Chinese National Day Holiday, the weather is cool and dry and often sunny with a clear sky. The first week of October is golden week, many tourists rush to Yunnan, the price for hotels, flights & train tickets are much higher than on ordinary days. Suggest booking as early as possible.
Top Things to Do in Yunnan
Yunnan is dotted with different nature scenery that you could expect (except deserts). Mountains, lakes, grasslands, virgin forests, snow-capped mountains, plateaus, historical cultural sites, etc.
Cities You Must Visit
Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La are classical tourist cities that should be on the bucket list, especially for the first-timer.
Those classical cities are diverse in ethnic cultures, traditions, and scenery, and you can explore the way of hiking, biking, or ethnic group discovering.
Top 10 Things to do in Yunnan
- No. 1 See the blue lake and feed the lovely seagulls in Dianchi
- No. 2 See the shocking holy snow scene in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
- No. 3 See the show of "Lijiang Impression performing at the backdrop of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
- No. 4 Ride around the beautiful Erhai Lake along with the Cang Mountains for company
- No. 5 Experience the Mosuo wedding culture at Lugu Lake
- No. 6 Laid back and enjoy sunbathing at Shuhe ancient town
- No. 7 Experience the craftsmanship of Bai grandmother's tie-dye
- No. 8 Encounter the oil painting-like mountains and lakes in Pudacuo Nature Reserve
- No. 9 Shock by Tibetan culture and scenery in Shangri-La
- No. 10 Meet Thai culture and tropical rainforest in Xishuangbanna
Kunming, Dali, Lijiang & Shangri-la, How Many Days?
Spending 8 days is enough to visit the classical tourist cities of Kunming, Dali, Lijiang & Shangri-la.
Take a 2 days visit to Kunming to Stone Forest, local ethnic minorities villages; 2 days in Dali: relax and ride at Erhai Lakeside, strolling Dali Old Town; 2-3 days in Lijiang: Lijiang Ancient Town, visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and hike to Tiger Leaping Gorge; 2-3 days in Shangri-La: experience the authentic Tibetan life-style and historic relic.
How to Get to Yunnan
Visitors usually take a plane or train to the provincial capital city - Kunming and then take a plane, train or bus to other tourist destinations.
There are 15 airports in Yunnan Province, Kunming Changshui International Airport being the most important transportation hub in Yunnan, and the airports in Lijiang, Diqing, Dali, Xishuangbanna, and Tengchong being the main networks connecting cities in between.
1. Direct Flights to Kunming
There are many direct flights to Kunming from 134 domestic cities, including all municipalities and provincial capitals in China.
2. Direct Flights to Lijiang
The city of Kunming, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Guiyang, Nanjing, Yinchuan, Tianjin, Chongqing, Xi'an, Wuhan, Hefei, Lanzhou, Haikou, Hangzhou has direct flights to Lijiang.
3. Direct Flights to Dali
The city of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Kunming, Xishuangbanna, Chengdu, Chongqing, Zhengzhou, Changsha, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Xi'an, and Wuhan have direct flights to Dali.
4. Direct Flights to Xishuangbanna
Domestic cities with direct flights to Xishuangbanna are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Changsha, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Tianjin, Guiyang, Anshun, Guilin, Kunming, Lijiang, Diqing, Dali, Tengchong.
5. Direct Flight to Diqing (Shangri-La)
The cities with direct flights to Shangri-La are Kunming, Chongqing, Lhasa, Guangzhou, Xishuangbanna, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guiyang.
Good to Know
During the time of Covid-19, there are fewer flights than usual. Flights changed or canceled due to insufficient passengers at short notice, please kindly check the flight schedule before departure.
Yunnan high-speed railway was officially opened at the end of 2016, which shorten the trip from/to most cities in China. At present, the train routes basically cover most cities in the Southwest, Central, East, North, and Pearl River Delta regions. ?
Shanghai-Kunming High-Speed Railway
Connects six major cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanchang, Changsha, Guiyang, and Kunming. It takes only about 6 hours from Changsha to Kunming, 11 hours from Shanghai to Kunming, and about 13 hours from Xiamen to Kunming.
How to Get Around Yunnan
By plane: There are direct flights between Kunming, Lijiang, Dali, Xishuangbanna, and Tengchong in Yunnan, Kunming has more flights among them. The flight tickets to Kunming are relatively lower and more flexible options.
If you want to travel in an economic way, you can choose to fly to Kunming first and then transit to your travel destination. If you want to see as many places as possible in a limited time, flying directly to the terminal cities is a wise choice.
There are high-speed trains from Kunming to Dali and Lijiang. It takes about three hours from Kunming to Dali and two hours from Dali to Lijiang.
The highway network is well connected to the cities in Yunnan, but travel by bus takes a long time and is not as comfortable as flights and trains. It is only suggested when you travel on a low budget, or as an alternative choice for sometimes the train tickets have been sold out.
Travel Hours by Different Transportations between Major Tourist Cities in Yunnan
- Kunming-Dali: two hours by high-speed rail; four and a half hours by car.
- Dali-Lijiang: two hours by train; half an hour by car.
- Lijiang-Lugu Lake: four and a half hours by car.
- Lijiang-Shangri-La: three hours by car.
- Dali-Tengchong: four hours by car.
Accommodations in Yunnan
There is a large selection of hotels ranging from star-rating hotels, to world-class boutique hotels, or the low-budget guest house are all you can book through the internet.
Most hotels are located in the city's center. Some of the high-end luxury hotels like Banyan Tree Lijiang, Grand Hyatt Lijiang, and Amandayan are built near Yunnan's most famous scenic spots in the remote area with gorgeous views, and guests can enjoy a tranquil stay there.
What to Eat in Yunnan
Yunnan cuisine is also called Dian cuisine, composed of the cuisines of the Han Chinese and other ethnic minority groups in Yunnan Province. It is also influenced by halal cuisine and the flavor in southern Yunnan.
Notable Food of Yunnan that You Must Try
- 1. Kunming cuisine: cross-bridge rice noodles 过桥米线 Streamed Pot Chicken 汽锅鸡, sweet flower cake 鲜花饼
- 2. Dali cuisine: Dali three-way tea 大理三道茶, eight bowls 八大碗, Dairy Fan 乳扇, Dali Earthen Pot Fish 大理砂锅鱼, Xi Zhou Glutinous Rice Cakes 喜洲粑粑, and fresh yogurt酸奶.
- 3. Lijiang cuisine: salmon 三文鱼, Pork ribs hot pot 腊排骨火锅
- 4. Shangri-La cuisine: featured Tibetan flavor. barley wine 青稞酒, butter tea 酥油茶, and yak meat hot pot 牦牛肉火锅.
Recommended Yunnan Travel Itinerary
8-Day Classic Tours to Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La
- Day 1 Kunming Arrival
- Day 2 Kunming: Black Stone Forest(Naigu Shilin), Yuantong Temple, jump public square dancing in Green Lake Park
- Day 3 Kunming to Dali by bullet train, Ancient City of Dali, Xizhou Town, Erhai Lake
- Day 4 Dali to Lijiang by bullet train, Lijiang Ancient Town, Black Dragon Pool
- Day 5 Lijiang: Naxi Village, family visit in Naxi Village, Yunshanping on Jade Snow Mountain
- Day 6 Tiger Leaping Gorge, Our guide and driver will escort you from Lijiang to Shangri-la
- Day 7 Shangri-la: Pudacuo National Park, Visit Tibetan Family, Songzanlin Lamasery
- Day 8 Shangri la Departure