Travelling in rural China is a bit different than travelling around China's major cities where it is easier to book hotels and to find locals who can speak English. This is why we have included airport or train station pickup and hotel costs within our Dali and Yunnan tour packages.
This tour is available daily and the start time can be adjusted at your request. Our tours typically start between 7am and 8:30am with your tour guide picking you up in the lobby of your hotel. At the end of the day we'll return you to your hotel.
Day 1 We'll pick you up from the airport or train station and take you to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to explore on your own.
Day 2 We'll start our day at Qiongzhu Temple, also known as Bamboo Temple, which was built during the Yuan Dynasty in the late 1200s. The temple is best known for the 500 life size painted clay arhat sculptures. These sculptures were created over a seven year period between 1883 and 1890 by an artist from Sichuan Province, Li Guangxiu and his students. These sculptures are a radical break from the tradition of fixed style Buddhist sculptures and each statue at Qiongzhu Temple have unique facial expressions and body gestures. One statue is poking his ear and another is scratching his back!
We'll have lunch before visiting the Stone forest.
The Stone Forest is a large area of limestone formations that look like petrified trees, hence the name. Within the forest are rivers, waterfalls, lakes and karst caves. It is a wonderful place to explore as a family. There are actually three separate stone forests in the area. The Greater and Lesser stone forests are a bit more commercialized and tend to be busier. The Naigu stone forest is less developed and less busy.
Day 3 Our day will begin with a flight to Dali. Once we land, we'll head to Erhai Lake which is one of the seven largest fresh water lakes in China. On a sunny day the crystal clear waters of the lake mirror the snow capped Cangshan Mountains. There are numerous islands, temples and villages along the shoreline. The shores of the lake can be easily explored on foot or by biking. We'll have lunch and then head to the Three Pagodas of Congsheng Temple.
Just north of the Ancient City are the symbols of Dali - the Three Pagodas of the Congsheng Temple. The three independent Pagodas form a symmetrical triangle and are at the foot of the tenth peak of the Cangshan Mountains on the western shore of Erhai Lake. The largest Pagado, known as Qianxun Pagoda is almost 70 meters (227 feet) high and is one of China's tallest Pagodas.
It is said that the Pagodas were built to deter a group of dragons who lived in the area and protect the city. The three Pagodas have been designated National Treasures and are visible for miles away.
Next we'll visit Dali Ancient City prior to returning you to your hotel.
Dali Ancient City was constructed during the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is located at the foot of the Cangshan Mountains. It is known as one of the most historic and cultural cities in China. The city is nestled in between Erhai lake and the Cangshan Mountains. Historical the city was a gateway to the Silk Road and was protected by a city wall 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) high and 6 meters (19.7 feet) thick. Today, only the city base remains.
Day 4 Our day will begin by travelling to Lijiang and will visit Xizhou upon our arrival.
Xizhou is located approximately 20 km north of Dali Old Town and the majority of the population consists of Bai people. Much of the traditional Bai architecture has been either preserved or restored and are now protected sites. It's exact date of construction is unknown, but the history of Xizhou dates back into the mid-500 to early 600 AD.
The morning market in Xizhou is one of the largest in the area and draws farmers and vendors from many of the neighbouring villages. Visiting the market is a great way to experience the Bai culture and have a taste of how the locals live their day to day life.
We'll have lunch and head to Zhoucheng to see the Bai tradition of tie dyeing printing flower patterns on cloth to make beautiful crafts. The process involves creating shapes by hand through pinching and creasing the cloth. The cloth is then tied together to retain the colour while another section of the same cloth is dyed.
We'l end our day with a visit to Lijiang. Lijiang Old Town is over 800 years old and is situated on a plateau with mountains on two sides of the town. Vast fertile fields lie to the southeast and beautifully clear water runs through the town.
Black Dragon pool is the town's source of water and it's water reaches every family in the town. Each household has a three well system - the first well is for drinking and cooking with, the next well is for washing vegetables and the last well is used to wash clothes. The Han, Bai, and Tibet cultures have merged into a unique Naxi style that can be seen throughout the town.
Day 5 We'll start our day in Baisha Village which is one of the oldest towns in Lijiang and is one of the earliest Naxi settlements. It is located north of Lijiang at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The frescos and murals of Baisha village were created over a three hundred year period. Dabaoji Palace at the end of Baisha Old Street contains 28 fresco groups. The frescos depict religious tales and activities from Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. The most famous of the frescos depicts Sakyamuni explaining the sutra passages to his disciples.
Next is the Old Town of Shuhe where we'll enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. In the local Naxi language, Shuhe means "a village at the foot of a peak". The old town of Shuhe lies hidden in the forest with a river and mountains surrounding it. Long Pool, also known as Dragon Pool, is a sacred spring who's overflowing water feeds the river that runs through the village.
Lastly we'll visit Tea-Horse Road Museum. The Ancient Tea Horse Road was the longest ancient trade route in the world at 10,000 km. The route was mainly through Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet. It was used from the 6th to the 20th century and Chinese people traveled it by foot and horseback with pack horses of tea that they would use to trade with Tibetan people for horses, hence it's name. On the road itself, you can still see the ruts caused by the horses over the centuries. The Tea-Horse Road Museum is dedicated to the history of the ancient trade route.
Day 6 Our day will begin by travelling to Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge will be the first site we visit.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest river canyons in the world and at it's deepest measures 3790 meters (12,434 feet). The canyon is 18 km long and is dived into three section - upper, middle and lower gorge. The Upper Gorge is the mouth of the gorge and the location of the Tiger Leaping Boulder area. In the Middle Gorge are the Mantianxing (Sky Full of Stars) Reef Area, Yixiantian, as well as rapids. You can enjoy the scenery around Daju in the Lower Gorge area. There are lots of hiking trails both along the river and high along the top of the gorge.
Near Lijiang is the "first bend of the Yangtze river" and this is the next site we'll visit. It is named so because the river makes nearly a 180 degree turn from south to east in a very short distance due to the unique geological features of the area. The Yangtze river is the third longest river in the world and is longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. The Yangtze river has played a major role in China's economy and history. Historically this area was an important crossing point for the military and also where the Tibetan people came to sell and trade goods with the locals.
In the afternoon we'll visit the Stone Forest which is a large area of limestone formations that look like petrified trees, hence the name. Within the forest are rivers, waterfalls, lakes and karst caves. It is a wonderful place to explore as a family. There are actually three separate stone forests in the area. The Greater and Lesser stone forests are a bit more commercialized and tend to be busier. The Naigu stone forest is less developed and less busy.
Day 7 We'll start our day at Songzanlin Temple which was built in 1679 and is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan. The location for the temple was chosen by the 5th Dalai Lama. It is also known as "little Potala Palace" due to the fact that it is located high upon a hilltop and constructed in the traditional Tibetan style. Those familiar with Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet will see a resemblance.
Next we'll visit Bitahai Lake. In the centre of the lake is a small island that has many rare plants and flowers. Many birds make the island their home. If you are at the lake when the azalea pedals fall into the lake, you will see the strange sight of the drunk fish. The azalea pedals are slightly poisonous and after the fish ingest them, float around the water and appear to be drunk. But don't worry, the fish recover but no one knows what the hangover is like.
The colour of the water changes throughout the day. In the morning it is dark as ink and reflects the mountain peaks that surround the lake. By mid-day the colour turns to a magnificent jade. By late day it appears that the sky and water have merged and the water is a beautiful blue.
We'll finish our day at Shudu Lake. Shudu Lake is one of the biggest lakes in Shangri-La County. The lake is surrounded by mountains and the lake covers an area of 15 square kilometers. With it's crystal clear water, the lake is full of "Shudu Schizothorax", which are golden coloured fish. There are numerous birds, cattle, sheep and other animals that make Shudu lake their home.
In spring and summer the area is in full bloom and clusters of azaleas seem to surround the entire lake. In autumn the landscape changes as the birch leaves turn to a golden yellow. In winter the mist rises from the lake creating a entirely different but beautiful scene.
Day 8 Our day will begin by flying back to Kunming. Our first stop will be the Golden Temple, which is actually made of bronze. It is the largest bronze temple in China. In the sunlight reflects a golden colour and hence it's name. Over 200 tons of bronze was used to construct it. The panels forming the temple walls were all cast and then exquisite design details were added.
To reach the temple you must climb a set of winding stairs up Mingfeng Hill, which translates to Singing Phoenix Hill. You will pass through thee Heavenly Gates on your climb up the hill.
Next we'll visit Daguan Park which translates to Grand View Park in English and is situated near Dianchi Lake and facing Taihua Mountain. The park was originally constructed in 1690 and the pavilions have been destroyed by war and nature throughout the years with the latest reconstruction of the Grand View pavilion occurring in 1883.
One of the most culturally important treasures in Yunnan is the 180 character couplet written by the scholar Sun Ranweng who lived from 1684-1763. It is thought to be the longest antithetical couplet in China. Climbing to the third floor of the Grand View pavilion provides a panoramic view of Dianchi Lake and the western hills.
We'll finish our day at the Jingxing Flower and Bird Market. Kunming is also known as "Spring City" due to it's mild climate all year long. Flowers and vegetation grow in abundance in Kunming and are in full display at the Jingxing Flower and Bird Market.
Locals sell individual flowers, bouquets, potted flowers as well as various styles of vases there. The colours and aromas are ever present. As constant background noise you'll hear the parrots, mynahs, thrushes and cuckoos, most of which are for sale. There are also many different styles of replica antiques, jewelry, ornaments and handicrafts for sale. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir from your travels.
Day 9 Your final day in Kunming has been left free for you to explore the city further and see any additional sites prior to your departure. We'll meet you back at your hotel and provide transportation to the airport or train station. For a more detailed description of the sites around Yunnan, please see our Dali and Yunnan Attractions page.
Included in tour packages:
Accommodations (standard room based on double occupancy)
English-speaking tour guide
Airfare from Kunming to Dali
Air-conditioned vehicle with a private driver
Gas, toll & parking fees
Delicious lunch at a local Chinese restaurant
All entrance tickets to the sights
Excluded in tour packages:
Air fare to join the tour in Kunming and to take you to your next destination after the tour.
Gratuity to the guide and driver
The listed prices are the total price for a nine day tour. Items included and excluded in the tour package are listed directly above.
Discounts on entrance fees for children in China are based on height.
Children below 1.2 meters in height are free of charge.
Children between 1.2 -1.4 meters in height can enjoy a 10% discount.
Children above 1.4 meters in height are the same price as adult.
The quoted prices are based on a-8 hour day. If your tour duration is more than 6 hours, it will be considered a full day.
Additional hours above 8 hours are billed at $20 USD for the guide and $20 USD for the driver.
Pease note that the itinerary is flexible and we can adjust it according to your personal interests, the weather, or any other unexpected conditions. Lunch will be at an authentic local Chinese restaurant. If you prefer a fancy restaurant, or wish to order dishes above the allocated budget, the additional cost can be covered by the individuals within the group. The tour guide will assist you to order lunch.
We conduct only private tours and will not add strangers to your group.
Our tours will not included forced shopping and we won’t take you to any factories unless you specifically request this type of experience.