Located in the Southwestern region of China, Yunnan is a province known for its beautiful scenery and diverse population of ethnic minorities. Out of the 55 officially recognized minority groups in China, 25 of them reside in Yunnan. Due to its mountainous terrain and tropical climate, Yunnan was historically less developed than the rest of China. The result of this is many beautiful sightseeing locations left untouched by humans, and well preserved ancient towns, making Yunnan a popular destination for tourists in China. 

Lijiang 丽江:

Old Town of Lijiang (丽江古城, lijianggucheng

Nearly every city in Yunnan has ancient towns where you can enjoy old traditional architecture. Many of them, like the Old town of Lijiang, are filled with homestays and various shops to attract visiting tourists. Strolling through the cobblestone walkways in the Old Town of Lijiang, you will come across many places to eat as well as buy all kinds of souvenirs. Besides clothes and various other small crafts, shops selling silver jewelry, important to local minority cultures, can be found at every corner. Additionally, you will come across many shops selling flower pastries (鲜花饼,xianhua bing) a local speciality. While exploring the Old Town, it is also very common to find people dressed in the traditional clothing of various minority cultures, taking pictures with the beautiful backdrop of the architecture. Shops that rent out the traditional clothing, as well as provide hair and makeup services, for these photoshoots can also be found throughout the town. 

Mufu Mansion, Old Town of Lijiang

For those interested in learning more about the history of the area, you can take a tour of the Mufu mansion located at the heart of the ancient town. Back in the day when it was in use, the grounds used to be the home of the chief of the local Mu clan, part of the Naxi minority group. The architecture of the buildings and layout of the grounds contain the signature features of Ming style architecture. A guided tour of the grounds is available (although only in Chinese).

Sunrise over Yulong Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山, yulongxueshan) 

Located nearby the city is Yulong Snow Mountain. A shuttle bus brings visitors up to a ski lift which goes up to an outlook post at the top of the mountain. From this outlook post, located 4680 meters above sea level, you can look down on the clouds and breathtaking valleys below. If you are willing to wake up early, the park services open as early as 6:00 am making it possible to enjoy the sunrise from on top of the mountain. After descending from the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful path in the valley nearby, where you can walk beside the glacial lakes and trees (see cover photo). The water of these lakes comes from the melted snow at the mountain tops, making them crystal clear. 

Dali 大理:

Erhai Lake(洱海, erhai

Although called a sea in Chinese (“hai”), the Erhai is a vast lake sat beside Dali. All along the lake are many places to stop, take pictures, and enjoy the crystal blue water. By the northeast corner of the lake is the Shuanglang Ancient town where you can walk along the edge of the lake and find many restaurants and shops. Halfway down on the west side of the lake, by the Caicun Arbour, is a place where you can rent bikes and ride along the shore, enjoying the stunning view of the mountains on the other side. 

Late night BBQ in the streets of Dali Ancient City

The charm of the Dali Ancient City extends even after the sun has set. Short chairs and tables equipped with a flat grill in the center can be seen stacked up on the side of restaurants during the day, but taken out and set up on the sidewalks at night. Even as midnight approaches, certain areas of the Dali Ancient City are buzzing with people enjoying a late night BBQ.

Kunming昆明 :

Stone Forest(石林, shilin

Kunming is both the capital and largest city in Yunnan. There is much to do and see in and around the so-called spring city. One famous scenic spot is the Stone Forest. Naturally worn down by rain over time, the stones have formed tall and slim peaks. From afar they look more like a cluster of trees rather than stones, hence the name the Stone Forest. Paths have been carved out between the rocks for visitors to navigate through the maze of giant stones. At the park, guided tours are available by women dressed in Yi (the largest minority group in Yunnan) traditional clothing. In addition to sharing a little bit about their culture, the tour is mainly filled with stories and superstitions about various rocks and locations throughout the forest. One thing to keep in mind is that the Stone Forest is about an hour and a half drive away from the center of Kunming, but the unique beauty of the stones are definitely worth it if you are interested in visiting.

Mixian Noodles (豆花米线, douhuamixian)at Wenming Street 

Food is always one popular reason for traveling. The flavor of Yunnan cuisine can largely be described as spicy and salty, and among the many local specialities which demonstrate this cuisine are their mushrooms, tofu, and noodles. Yunnan is known for growing a wide variety of mushrooms, and locals in Yunnan often trek out into the forests to pick their favorites. Black truffles in particular can be found at certain restaurants to be incorporated into some dishes. If you enjoy eating tofu, Baojiang Tofu (包浆豆腐, baoxiang doufu) which can be found in both street food stalls and restaurants is definitely worth a try. Additionally, there are a wide variety of noodles that can be found almost anywhere. Two types of noodles special to Yunnan are Ersi (饵丝, ersi) and Mixian (米线, mixian). If you find yourself in Kunming near Wuyi station, take a trip to Wenming Street and try some of the delicious food that Yunnan is so famous for.

When traveling to a place like Yunnan, there is much to see and experience. Before traveling I definitely recommend doing some research and seeking out advice to find and prioritize the things that interest you the most so that you can best experience the province for yourself.