This 11-day recommended itinerary covers the most popular destinations and World Cultural Heritage sites in China. It makes an ideal tour for first-time visitors.
You will be picked up at Kunming airport by the tour guide and delivered to the hotel in a professionally-chauffeured vehicle. Kunming is an ideal place where you can kick start your travel bug thanks to its equable climate, abundant greenery and a genial vibe of the local residents. Upon arrival, you can feel free to explore the city in your own pace and appreciate the rich history it offers apart from its modern dynamics.
You are recommended to visit the Golden Horse and Jade Phoenix Archway situated only a few steps away from the city center for a glimpse of Kunming’s ancient glory. It is a city landmark decorated with animal carvings that provide evidence for totem worship practiced by some of the ancient ethnic tribes of Yunnan province for centuries. Afterwards, you can head north and take a short stroll around the splendid Green Lake which is fondly named ‘the gem of the city’ by local people. The lakeside is also adorned by an abundance of charming teahouses and small boutiques selling handicrafts and beautiful local paintings.
Golden Horse and Jade Phoenix Archway
Green Lake Park
The highlight of today’s trip contains the marvelous Stone Forest and a venerable city named Jianshui Ancient Town. In the morning after breakfast, we’ll head towards the Stone Forest located 90 kilometers to the south of Kunming. Due to a process of weathering and erosion, nature has created an art gallery of limestone sculpture there. You’ll be amazed to discover the striking resemblance between the stones and trees, animals and even fungi. The quintessential karst landscape will make every visitor lost in wonder.
Next up, you’ll be chauffeured to Jianshui Ancient Town on a 2-hour road trip. Once served as an important stronghold and has survived the ravages of time and wars, the city still retains its ancient grandeur and hosts plenty of cultural heritages for you to explore. The Chaoyang Gateway Tower is one of the most well-preserved sections of the old town and the Jian Shui Confucian Temple has helped the city maintain its cultural heritage of treasuring education till the present day.
Jianshui Ancient Town
Not far from the Jianshui Ancient Town, there is a splendid traditional residence named Garden of Family Zhang which represents the top-notch craftsmanship in architectural design. Upon arrival after a short road trip in the morning, you will be immediately immersed in an elegant and opulent architectural surrounding that combines the architectural styles of both Han and Bai ethnic groups. The lavishly decorated interior, exquisitely engraved patterns on the windows and the intricate reliefs on the gables together offer the visitors an insight into the wealth, prosperity and aesthetic tastes enjoyed by its former owners.
Next up, you’ll be escorted to Yuanyang County where every section of the landscape is incredibly enchanting and photogenic. You’ll be dazzled by the swirling terrace of rice paddies cultivated by the Hani ethnic minority for the past 1300 years. You can fully appreciate the beauty of this region by visiting both the Duoyishu Village and Qingkou Village with each of them boasting a unique feature. Afterwards, you’ll be guided to enjoy the strikingly beautiful sight of Laohuzui (Tiger Mouth) terraced fields at dusk, a surreal moment when the setting sun casts the whole area with a pleasing golden light and ever-shifting shades.
Garden of Family Zhang
Laohuzui Terraced Fields
Established in 1988, Xingmeng Village is the only area of settlement for the Mongolian ethnic population in Yunnan province and hosts approximately 1700 households. The villagers are mainly the descendents of the Mongolian army who was deployed there by governments from Ming Dynasty and they now rely on growing agricultural produce of flue-cured tobacco, rice paddy and muskmelon for a living. You can also visit some of its well-preserved ancestral temples to learn about the unique local culture of the village.
Ancestral Temple, Xingmeng Village
You’ll embark on a new section of the journey by flying to the city of Dali, which serves as a perfect antidote to modern slump with its relaxed vibe and breathtakingly gorgeous scenery. The city is embraced by the stunning Erhai Lake to its west side and the magnificent Cangshan mountain to its east edge. Its high elevation ranging from 700 to 4300 meters makes it a perfect place for star gazing. Next, we’ll head north to visit the enchanting Xizhou Old Town after a short stopover in Dali city. Xizhou is a cozy ancient city where a cluster of traditional Bai ethnic architectures are well preserved. You’ll sample the fragrant three-course tea and explore the distinctive culture of the Bai ethnic group there. Afterwards, you’ll pay a visit to the sparkling Erhai Lake (which is actually an alpine fault lake) in a boat trip and marvel at its gleaming aquamarine water.
The Three Pagodas is another unmissable spot as a typical historical symbol of Yunnan province and one of the oldest sublime architecture in South China. After that, you’ll be escorted to visit the South Gate of the Dali Ancient Town, which is the landmark and symbol of the old city. You’ll spend the rest of the day roaming around the old city, which hosts a large collection of traditional Bai architectures. Once served as a vital gateway of cultural exchange and trade with southeastern Asian countries, the city retains its unique ancient charm despite of the constant stream of tourists it accommodates each year. The Foreigner Street is lined with an abundance of bistros and trendy restaurants serving both modern dishes and regional delicacies. You can embark on a culinary tour and gorge on the local feasting when hunger strikes.
In the morning, you’ll be transported to the Ancient City of Lijiang ('Beautiful River', a name given by Kublai Khan in 1254) where a myriad of modern hotels, restaurants and boutiques inhabiting traditional architectures in a charming manner and a maze of ancient cobbled streets are made for aimless ambling. Head to the picturesque Black Dragon Pool with the towering Jade Dragon Mountain as its backdrop, then pay a visit to Dongba Culture Museum to explore the rich Naxi minority culture.
Lijian Ancient Town
Black Dragon Pool
The spellbinding Jade Dragon Snow Mountain features a variety of landscapes given its souring height and immense range, and Ganhaizi Meadow located at the east foot of the mountain is the first stop to experience its tranquility and distinctive beauty. You’ll then ascend to a taller elevation of the mountain by chairlift and visit the splendid Baishui River, which is a glacial lake with a grayish white color. After that, you’ll be chauffeured to the charming Yufeng Lamasery situated at the south foot of the mountain. The design of the place is an artful combination of the architectural styles of Han Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism and the local Naxi Dongba Religion. By the end of the trip, you’ll visit the former residence of the Austrian-American explorer Joseph Rock, who was among those first groups of westerns that had been intoxicated by the beauty of Lijiang and had lived there for decades.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
We’ll depart from Lijiang and head north to visit the stunning view of the First Bend of the Yangtze River. It is named as such because a sudden V-shaped bend has been formed when the Yangtze River flowing by, which creates views of wonder.
As a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest river canyons in the world. The gorge has a series of rapids surging under its steep cliffs and a maximum depth of approximately 3,790 meters from the base to the mountain peak, and it holds a dramatic allure for adventures and trekkers all over the world. Despite its odd danger, it’s gorgeous almost every single step along the way.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Built in 1679, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province and is referred to as the Little Potala Palace. The monastery used to boast 2,000 monks at the peak of its past spiritual influence. Today, it houses 700 monks in 200 associated houses with a combined architectural style of both Tibetan and Han Chinese features. It retains a timeless charm and offers a fascinating insight into a unique Tibetan Buddhist culture. Being immersed in a sublime ambience and surrounded by packs of reverent monks and pilgrims, you’ll be expected to reemerge with a different perspective on life and religion. The Old Town of Zhongdian is your next destination, and a visit to the Guishan Park marks the end of today’s trip. The park offers a sweeping panoramic view of Shangri-La and hosts the world’s largest prayer wheel. Strolling through the park makes for a pleasant experience.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
a white tower, the Old Town of Zhongdian
Dragon Gate, Western Hill
Activities for city exploration can be self-arranged if your flight departs later that evening. You’ll be otherwise promptly transferred to the airport for your morning departure.
|Kaishi Boutique Hotel
|Changchunteng Holliday Hotel
Note: The hotel package price is based on two persons sharing one room. If you have odd number of travelers, you have two options: 1. one room will have three persons with an extra bed. 2. Pay single room supplement to have an extra room for the one person. That is USD288 during high season and USD250 during shoulder and low seasons.
Price may vary according to different seasons.