Travelling through the Yunnan province means surprises at every turn as you experience vastly different landscapes, languages, and people. Plunge into the authentic heart of China and discover a mysterious place defined by sharing and ancient traditions.
Many travelers consider Yunnan to be the most beautiful province in China. Located in the southwest of the country on the border with Laos, Vietnam, and Burma, it offers visitors a backdrop of mountains, valleys, gorges, and lakes. Among the wonders, there are a few unquestionably unmissable experiences. The Stone Forest, also known as Shilin, is a stretch of limestone formations created by erosion some 270 million years ago. The Chinese have developed countless interpretations, superstitions, and legends for this site. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest in the world, and is located between two snowy peaks towering more than 16,000 feet high. And the immense Erhai Lake is a stretch of fresh water spanning 96 square miles at more than 6,200 feet of altitude, surrounded by beautiful little fishing villages.
Who would have imagined such diversity?
Did you know? China is home to no fewer than 56 ethnic groups, each with their own customs and ancestral knowledge. The most common are the Hans, while the other “minority ethnicities” are spread across most of the territory. Some 25 of them are found in Yunnan, most speak a specific language, and some even have their own form of writing. This helps explain the rich culture of this region, where surprises await around every corner. Visitors are guaranteed a unique, unforgettable experience when exchanging and interacting with different people who continue to uphold their traditions, forging the face of entire, legendary towns. Some customs have even become part of the Unesco World Heritage program. The arts and crafts are also as varied, including jade from Kunming (the capital of Yunnan), Lijiang silver, and Dali dreamstones, which are all sure to charm travelers.
The climax of any trip to Yunnan is of course the exploration of its famous, spectacular, terraced rice fields that continue to inspire photographers today. Found on the mountainside and forged by the Hani people whose ancestors developed methods for working the rocky slopes, the fields change color from season to season. In the winter they are filled with water and shimmer magically in the light. After the rice is planted in the spring they become bright green in the summer, then yellow and orange in the fall. Sunrise and sunset are the two times of day when they are most impressive. Another visual marvel is found in the canola fields stretching as far as the eye can see in Luoping County. Last but not least, don’t forget that Yunnan is also part of the renowned Tea Road that once linked Sichuan and Tibet, used to transport precious tea leaves in caravans pulled by horses and yaks. While the road no longer exists, the setting is still just as prestigious and Yunnan has conserved some of its oldest tea plantations.
Embrace this truly timeless journey that is sure to offer a change of scenery while taking you back to what really matters. Put Yunnan at the top of your list of places to visit next!