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Yunnan Adventure: 12-day
Yunnnan classic Tour with Yuanyang Rice Terrace



• This tour will take you to the best natural and cultural wonders that Yunnan has to offer, including Tiger Leaping Gorge, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang Old Town, and the Songzanlin Monastery
• You’ll also be taken to the Yuanyang rice terraces, and are perhaps China’s most sensational rice terrace. The rice terrace is the home of the Hani nationality and it plays a vital part in the life of the Hani since ancient times, and is still the fabric of the Hani people’s existence
• You’ll visit the towns of Lijiang, Dali, and Shangri-La, and at each place you’ll be immersed in the local culture, of the ethnic minorities, giving you great insight into Yunnan’s colorful and intriguing diversity

B=(Breakfast) L=(lunch) D=(dinner)  DEPARTURE: Daily



Tour code:
Day 1: arrive in Kunming

You will fly to Kunming, and upon arrival at Kunming International Airport you will be met by your English-speaking guide. Kunming is the capital of southwest China's Yunnan province, a primarily agricultural province of 45 million. Kunming has a population of five million and is located in one of the world's most geographically, ethnically, biologically and linguistically diverse regions. Situated at 1,900 meters (6,233ft) above sea level and 25° north of the Equator it has a rather unique and pleasant climate for a Chinese city. Kunming is also well known as the Spring City because of its nice climate all year round.

After checking in to your hotel you will have the night to yourself. You might want to take a stroll along Green Lake, Green Lake (Cuihu) is Kunming's answer to Central Park in New York. Lined with willows, the lake is gorgeous, crisscrossed by small arched bridges in imitation of Hangzhou's more famous West Lake. The best season is winter, when days are warm and sunny and the large flocks of "Laughing Gulls" with their cackling cries as they arrive from their breeding grounds in Siberia. The gulls enjoy the legendary "eternal spring" weather in Kunming.

Day 2: Kunming-Stone Forest-Jianshui (B, L, D)

After breakfast in the hotel we’ll move drive 90km to the southeast of Kunming, where we will see the Stone Forest. Being one of the National Scenic Resorts in China, the Stone Forest Scenic Resort has a complete range of karst formations. Among the most wonderful attractions in this area are the following eight scenic spots: Large & Small Stone Forests, Naigu Stone Forests, Large & Small Zhiyun Caves, Qingfeng Cave, Long Lake, Moon Lake, Fairy Lake, Feilong Falls. Standing upright in the Stone Forest are innumerable cliffs and peaks, lofty and majestic, steep and precipitous, charming and enchanting. From afar, it really looks like a dense forest but as you walk closer, you will find "trees" are all slender stone pinnacles. The sight is vast covering some 350 kilometers. The Yi and Sani ethnic group who live there are hardworking and good at singing and dancing. Their folklore and culture are colorful and multifarious, backed up by a long history.

After touring the Stone Forest we’ll drive to Jianshui, a town that contains some epic history. Once an important center of Yunnan and an obligatory stop on route from Kunming to Vietnam, the Dai kingdom of Xishuangbanna and the edge of the Chinese empire. Jianshui grew on the profits of its lucrative position as a center of trade. The town's extensive architectural legacy bears witness to this former glory, and charms those few visitors it does receive. Though it has a history dating back to the Hàn dynasty, Jiànshui garnered more recent historical attention when a brief rebellion was staged here during the 1911 Revolution and it became the base for the Southern Army garrison.

Once we arrive in Jianshui we’ll take a stroll around in the old part of Jianshui Town, seeing ancient wells that have been used by local residents for centuries and admire the grand Chaoyang Gateway Arch built in 1389, which is now the landmark of this city. We will also encounter the Double-dragon Bridge, at over 200 years old, it’s a combination of science and art, and ranks first in Yunnan Province in terms of size and artistic value. We’ll then visit the town’s Confucius Temple (which is over 700 years old), as it is the biggest one in Yunnan and the second biggest in all of China.

We’ll stay in Jianshui for the evening, and our lodging will be in the Garden of Zhu Family, a charming guesthouse that is actually an authentic Qing courtyard home!

Day 3:
Jianshui-Yuanyang (B, L, D)

When you wake up today you may go for a relaxing walk in the Garden of Zhu Family, a grand complex constructed 100 years ago by a local rich family surnamed Zhu. The Garden contains well-arranged yards, well-furnished rooms and halls, spellbinding lanes and passages, various ornamental plants and flowers, it enjoys the moniker ''the Grand View Garden at a Border Town".

After taking in breakfast we’ll depart for the nearby town of Tuanshan. Tuanshan Village is the only intact village of the Qing Dynasty that includes the continued habitation of the Yi ethnic minority in history. In Tuanshan Village, there are residential complexes built 600 years ago, which have preserved the characteristics and social and humanistic environment of the Southern Yunnan villages in the 19th century. In the village there are 26 preserved traditional folk houses and ancient buildings of the late Qing Dynasty, for which the village is reputed as "Loulan Ancient City in Yunnan". The extant old architectures consist of traditional Han Chinese courtyards built of grey bricks, tuzhangfang (earth-rammed house) of Yi ethnic group and the tuzhangfang with tile eaves of combined Han and Yi style.

And then, we’ll visit the Swallow Cave. It is named that because there are more than ten thousand swallows living in the cave; once they fly up, the scene just looks like a swallow river. You can even try some food made of swallow nest! You might also get the chance to see how people climb up to get the nest.

We will then move on to Yuanyang. Yuanyang is a little village inhabited by Hani, Yi, Yao, Zhuang and other ethnic groups. Before reaching Yuanyang we’ll visit some minority ethnic villages and bazaars along the way.

Yuanyang is renowned for its rice terraces crafted out, no sculpted by bare hands by the Hani people one thousand years ago, transforming a barren valley into a humid Eden; perfect for rice crops. The 1000m of mountain slopes of terraces is still in use today, claiming to be the world's most spectacular and extensive terraces. The terraced fields in Yuanyang are the home of the Hani nationality and have a vital part of the life of the Hani since ancient times and are still the fabric of the Hani people’s existence. In the evening you will witness the spectacular sunset over the rice terraces. If we’re lucky we’ll have some clouds at dusk on a sunny day, which will make the scene even more perfect. For the evening we’ll stay in a guesthouse in Yuanyang.

Day 4: Yuanyang-Doyishu-Qingkou (B, L, D)

Following breakfast we’ll go to Duoyishu, and it is a 50 minutes drive from Yuyuan. It is considered the best place to take the pictures of sunrise on the terraces. In order to reach Duoyishu at dawn, we will depart Yuanyang at 6am, when it was still quite cold and windy. The rice terraces cultivated here are a product of the Hani people, and they have been cultivated over generations. The rice terraces here are so revered by the locals that in southern Yunnan it is revered as the “Sculpture on Mother Earth.” The terraces go along the hillside up to the sky. You will see the scenery of the terraced fields from the top of the mountains to the bottom.

On the way back to Yuanyang we will visit the village of Qingkou, where the primary inhabitants are members of the Hani ethnic minority group. You can meet with local villagers and take a walk through the village bazaar. We’ll then arrive back at Yuanyang for the evening.

Day 5: Yuanyang-Kunming (B, L, D)

We'll wake up early in the morning in order to see the sunrise over the rice terraces, and the scene before your eyes will be magnificent. We'll then get started on our drive back to Kunming, and along the way we'll stop at the town if Ximeng.

Ximeng is only place in Yunnan where people Mongolian nationality reside. The people who reside here are the descendants of Mongolian soldiers who came on expedition at the beginning of Yuan Dynasty, approximately 750 year ago, when China was under reign of Genghis khan and his cavalries. We’ll walk around the village and visit with some local villagers, learning about how their life is getting on after getting off horseback!

We'll then return to Kunming, and you'll be able to spend the evening at your own leisure.

Day 6:
 Lijiang-Jade Yuanyang-Kunming-Dali (B, L, D)

From Kunming you’ll fly on to Dali (the closest airport is in the city of Xiaguan, and then you’ll be driven to Dali), which is also in Yunnan province.

After reaching Dali we’ll set out for the Erhai Lake area, and the whole region is full of interesting and beautiful sites. Lining its banks in the valley are fishing villages, Bai farming villages, ancient temples, historic towns and the ancient city of Dali. You can watch the people live their daily lives in a traditional way. That is an interesting backdrop for the scenery. The local people feel that this big lake with its clear water and its reflections of land and sky as well as the entire region are unusually beautiful, and is another highlight of a visit to Yunnan Province.

At the lake we will visit several villages, temples, and Jinsuo Island. Jinsuo Island (Golden Shuttle Island), and the nearby fishing community of Bai Minority do really deserve a visit with its attractive Bai culture and lifestyle, and because of the rare beauty of the lake and its surrounding scenery.

After Erhai Lake we will go on to Dali’s most distinctive attraction, the Three Pagodas. The Three Pagodas of Dali are famous in China for their size, beauty, and antiquity, and for their preservation. The central one is more than 1,100 years old and is one of the tallest pagodas ever built in China. These pagodas are situated between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, about 1.5 kilometers (.9 of a mile) northwest from the ancient city of Dali. The Three Pagodas are cream-colored, delicate-looking pagodas. They are situated in the shape of a triangle. The tallest and oldest of the three was built during the reign of a king of the Nanzhao Kingdom about 1,150 years ago. The other two were built about 100 years later, probably by the Kingdom of Dali. They are made of brick. They stand at the foot of one of the high peaks of nearby Cangshan Mountain named Yinglo Peak. The tallest pagoda is one of China's best-preserved buildings from the time of the Tang Dynasty, and the smaller two pagodas differ in style.

For the evening we will walk around Dali’s Old Town. The Old Town of Dali is one of Yunnan's most popular tourist destinations. When visiting the area you can see temples and architecture 1000 years old, buy beautiful souvenirs and objects of art, and learn about the history of the area and of the native peoples.

Day 7: Dali-Lijiang (B, L, D)

Before we drive to Lijiang, you’ll have the chance to add some color to your life with some tie-dying at Zhoucheng, the biggest town of Bai people in Dali. There in the Town live altogether more than 1,500 Bai families. In the town you can see typical houses of Bai people with close courtyards, "three rooms and a shining wall", and "four rows of houses and five dooryards".

For some of the houses, one family makes one courtyard; while others have several courtyards in one family. These houses have a plane of a square. The roof contains two layers of eaves made from green tiles, and is designed in the shape of the Chinese character . There are three to five major rooms which are facing east or south. They are built with bricks and stones with the wooden frame. The wooden frame is assembled through tenons. One courtyard, and sometimes several courtyards, connect with each other and make a whole. The walls outside are washed with lime upside and fine mud downside.

Then we will drive on to Lijiang, an enclave of ethnic minority cultures, and the Naxi ethnic group is especially prevalent here. When we arrive at Lijiang the first attraction will visit is the Black Dragon Pool. Although idiosyncratically known as Black Dragon Pool, the Jade Spring Park to the north of Lijiang derives its name from the waters which sparkle like jade and are as clear as spring water. The entire park is green with grass and shaded by swaying willow trees. Under the Shuocui Bridge, a waterfall creates a constant roar as it cascades downstream. At the far side of the pool, there are renovated buildings used for art exhibitions, the Moon-Embracing Pavilion with its own white marble bridge across the water, and the Five-Phoenix Temple built during the Ming Dynasty.

After taking in the wonderful vistas of Black Dragon Pool we’ll head to the Dongba Museum. The museum is built completely according to the traditional life style of the Naxi Minority. You can feel the traditional atmosphere of national culture from the layout of its yard, building facilities, tools and details of life.

After dinner, you’ll be treated to an evening of music and dance at the Naxi Orchestral Show, located at the Dongba Palace.

Day 8 Lijiang-Jade Dragon Snow Mountain-Lijiang (B, L, D)

Today we will be exploring Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which dominates the landscape of Lijiang. The Jade Dragon Snow Mountains are a small group of peaks close to the city of Lijiang. The nearest slope is only about 30 kilometers north of the Dayan Ancient City District, and the mountain can be clearly seen from the Black Dragon Pool next to the ancient district. The group of mountains is notable because they contain a small ski area, good hiking along Tiger Leaping Gorge, great scenic views, and a 15,000 foot mountain with a specially built stairway and path to make climbing to the summit easy. If you’d like to climb to the top of a high mountain, that might be one to try. There is no sliding on steep paths or climbing with your hands, the distance from the tram is short, and oxygen tanks can be rented for a little more than 4 dollars USD. But the view is excellent! The tallest peak called Shanzidou has only been climbed once by two Americans who say it is extremely dangerous. The Yangtze River runs through Tiger Leaping Gorge in the valley below. The mountains are a place to go to in Yunnan for skiing or fun in the snow in the winter and for hiking and enjoying the natural scenery the rest of the year.

By cable car and by foot we’ll visit all the scenic spots of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, including the Yak Meadow and the Ganhaizi Meadow.

In the afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to get better acquainted with the Naxi people at the village of Baisha. Baisha Old Town is one of the oldest towns in Lijiang. It is the earliest settlement of the Naxi people and is the birthplace of "Tusi", chief of the Mu clan. In the town there are many ancient buildings built during the Ming Dynasty, including Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Temple, and Wenchang Palace. The well-known Baisha Frescoes are located in Dabaoji Palace. Because of the white sand on the ground, the town was named "Baisha", which means "white sand". In the Naxi language, it is called "bengshi". The architectural complex is made up of two parts, folk residence and cultural sites. The folk residence is called "pengshizhi" which in the local language means "Baisha Streets". The streets all go from south to north. In the center of the old town there is a square where three thoroughfares intersect. Houses and small stores stand on the both sides of these streets. A crystal clear stream winds around all the houses flowing through the small town from north to south.

The center of town features a beautiful rendering of frescoes religious frescoes. The 44 pieces of Baisha frescos were drawn in the early Ming Dynasty. Most of the paintings are about religious stories of Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. The murals embody the artistic characteristics of the Naxi, Tibetan, Han and Bai ethnic groups. Among them the paintings about Kwan-yin and Sakyamuni are the most famous ones. Now Baisha Frescos, also known as Lijing Frescos have become precious data for the study of China's history of arts and religions.

We’ll then return to Lijiang for the evening.

Day 9 Lijiang (B)

Today you will have a free day for yourself, and you can explore the Lijiang Old Town and the aspects of Naxi life that it has to offer. The old town is made up of three old districts that retain a special character of Naxi and Han construction and Naxi customs, arts and culture. It was a former trading town and a stop for traders carrying goods on the “Chama Road” trails. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 following an earthquake and reconstruction in 1996 that returned the city to a more ancient look. The UNESCO description says: “The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity.

You also have the option of taking a tour of the Shuhe Old Town, a charming town to visit for everyone, because there is a traditional Naxi village where you can enjoy Naxi drinking and food at the bank of the river in the farmland. You can rent a bike in Lijiang Old Town and ride to Shuhe, which is about 5KM away from the Lijiang Old Town.

In the afternoon you might want to visit the Wangfu Pagoda, which is located on top of Lion Hill in a small park. The top of the hill affords excellent views over Lijiang. When you walk down from the hill you can come across the Mu Chieftain’s Palace, which is the residence of the former chieftain of the area.

Day 10 Lijiang-Tiger Leaping Gorge-Shangri-La (B, L, D)

After breakfast we’ll make the 60km drive to he First Bend of the Yangtze River. It is called the “first bend” because the river makes a 90 degree turn from south to east within a distance of 1 kilometer. The place was important militarily because big armies crossed the river at that point, and it was a place where Tibetans came down to trade with the people living in the area. It is an interesting scenic area, and there is hiking and other outdoor activities nearby.

Then we’ll visit the Stone Drum Town. This town derives its name from a white marble carved monument in the shape of a drum, (diameter 15 m, thickness 0.7 m). This monument memorializes the victory and subsequent spread of power of Baizhuang, the Tusi of Mu Family of Lijiang, during the Jiajin years of the Ming Dynasty. This historically relevant stone monument was erected during one of the earliest periods in Lijiang. To the right of the monument is a lovely willow forest at its bank; while on the left flows the Chongjiang River. Spanning this river is the 17m long Tiehong Bridge, constructed of boards paved over iron chains, and with similar iron chains serving as fences on both sides. Stone Drum Town is a historically important town on the ancient trade route for tea and horses between inland provinces and Tibet. The town still features a flourishing trade fair, currently held every three days.

We’ll then drive another 40km to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world’s deepest gorges, and is tucked in between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Mountain. At a length of 17km, Tiger Leaping Gorge is the birthplace of the ancient Lijiang culture, whose people lived in the many caves, big and small, in the side of Yulong Xueshan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain). These caves were naturally formed houses. In some caves, rock paintings and artifacts shedding light on the life of these primitive peoples were found. The rock paintings have now become another attraction of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The gorge is regarded as one of the top ten hiking trails in China. At the mouth of the upper gorge, squeezed by the two snow-capped mountains and further blocked by the huge Tiger Leaping Boulder, the Golden Sand River (Yangtze River) is only 25 meters in width. The water there makes violent whirlpools and hits the banks so powerfully that soaring breakers are created. This really makes boating treacherous. However the high waves, soaring water, and the mountains shrouded with clouds and mist constitute the most magnificent scenes of the gorge and attract numerous brave explorers.

After taking some time to poke around Tiger Leaping Gorge and to have lunch, we’ll drive on to northwest Yunnan to reach the town of Shangri-La (which is also known as Zhongdian). The mythical, yet real, Shangri-la, is the basis of much legend. The English writer, James Hilton’s legendary novel “Last Horizon” wowed readers with a paradise, characterized by snow-capped mountains, vast grasslands, lush vegetation, gorgeous gorges and idyllic lakes.

Day 11 Shangri-La (B, L, D)

Following breakfast we’ll get started on some Shangri-La sightseeing, and we’ll first visit the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. Being the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, Songzanlin Monastery, also known as Guihua Monastery, is one of the famous monasteries in the Kang region. Construction of the monastery began in 1679 and was completed two years later. The monastery seems like a group of ancient castles and is composed of two lamaseries, Zhacang and Jikang. The gilded copper roof endows the monastery with strong Tibetan features and the 108 (an auspicious number in Buddhism) columns downstairs also feature the monastery with characteristics of Han nationality. The main halls in the monastery are magnificent, and on both the left and the right sides are wonderful frescos, depicting Buddhist tales and legends. The inside-halls are exquisite with cloisters running through. The cloisters are all decorated with beautiful sculptures and consummate frescos.

Then it is off for some relaxation at the Pudacuo Nature Reserve. This is a protected wetlands area that has a primitive forest of coniferous trees lakes, and lies 3,539 meters above sea level. Two lakes that accentuate the beauty of this park are the Shuda Lake and the Bita Lake. We will then follow this up with a visit to the Summer Pastures at Napa Lake, right outside Shangri-La.Several rivers flow into the lake, including the Naizi and Naqu Rivers. The lake is seasonal in that it is dry in the fall and winter seasons, naturally becoming part of the Yila Prairie. During this time, visitors can see many sheep and cows grazing in the lakebed.

Afterwards we’ll head to the old town of Shangri-la, which contain bazaars and markets. The Old Town, including hefty Tibetan wooden buildings (some old, and many that look rather older than they are), and several temples built onto a hill in the centre of town. Next we’ll go over to Guishan Park, a lovely preserve with a temple one top that gives you a sweeping panoramic view of the entire city.

In the evening, you’ll get to have some firsthand experience in the Tibetan culture of the area by visiting the home of a local Tibetan family, and if you’re a good guest (and we’re sure you will be!), you’ll get to try some yak butter tea (yummy!), and even take part in some Tibetan dancing!

Day 12 Shangri-La-Kunming-departure (B)

In the morning you’ll be taken to the airport, and you’ll make the short flight back to Kunming, and from Kunming you’ll fly on to your next destination, thus ending the tour.

Stuff to bring:
• Sturdy shoes or boots, sunglasses and sunscreen
• Bug spray and any other items needed in dealing with the tropical heat
• Tips for a job well done by your guides and drivers, money for any personal expenses not mentioned


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