Yunnan, meaning ‘south of the clouds’, is a vast province in southern China that shares a long land border with Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Vietnam. Populated by over nine minority groups, and with 25 minority languages spoken, the culture is incredibly diverse. If visiting southern China on a tailor made holiday, one should not miss out on Yunnan; the attractions are numerous.
Biologically speaking, Yunnan is incredibly diverse and well-blessed. The province is said to contain up to 50% of China’s mammals and birdlife, even though it comprises less than 5% of the country’s landmass, so it is perfect for bird lovers and wildlife holidays. The diversity of flora in the province is also impressive, owing to its unique location next to the Tibetan plateau, and that it contains both snow-capped mountains and tropical zones. One of the world’s most impressively spectacular gorges lies in Yunnan province, and it goes by the name of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The legend goes that a tiger was escaping a hunter and managed to leap over the gorge at the narrowest point, a mere 25 metres! Visit Tiger Leaping Gorge and you’ll find bright green rice-paddy terraces flowing down to a deep blue river, carving though rock formations to create immense cliffs jutting up on either side, as visitors cling to the edges on constructed walkways and viewing platforms. A truly spectacular sight.
The UNESCO protected old town of Lijiang is a must visit. Spend hours wandering around the ancient town, with the spectacular mountain scenery as the backdrop, listen to traditional folk music, as locals dance merrily in the squares or go hiking in the surrounding hills - one can easily spend a couple of days here before moving on. A great holiday idea would be to combine it with the town of Shangri-La, just north of Lijiang. Formerly Zhongdian, Shangri-La is an old town that has much in common with the neighbouring Tibet Autonomous Region, with a large part of the population being ethnically Tibetan. Although some of the old town was lost in a fire a few years back, Shangri-La has not lost its soul and vibrancy, and its unique culture is still very much alive and there to be experienced. Shangri-La is a wonderful place to visit on the way to Tibet, or as an easier, much more accessible alternative.
Heading south, Dali is another old town in Yunnan worth spending a few days. Sitting on the shores of the huge Erhai Lake, the quaint town has been a draw for adventure travellers for many years. In more recent times, the town has expanded, but by Chinese standards remains small, and the old part of the town is packed full of charm and character. Base yourself here to soak up all that Yunnan has to offer; spend time trekking in the Cangshan mountains where you’ll find serenity and awesome scenery, walk or cycle around the shores of Erhai Lake where you’ll find many small villages and be able to sample local foods, and try your hand at bartering in the colourful local markets.
Continuing deeper into the far south of the province, lies Pu’er, famous for its fragrant tea, and south of this is Jinghong, a perfect base to explore diverse border areas. It is also possible to continue onto Laos, if you wish to combine the two countries. Kunming, the busy and sprawling capital of Yunnan province is well connected with the rest of China, whether by rail on the country’s superb rail network, or by plane from somewhere further afield.
Hotels in Yunnan are remarkably diverse and luxury hotels and boutique hotels are not in short supply. As we are the leaders in luxury tailor made travel, we are able to recommend the most suitable accommodation in Yunnan, depending on your tastes and requirements. Whether you seek wildlife holidays, adventure holidays, or culture holidays, we offer unique experiences, where we can take you off the beaten track, to a national park, or an ancient town. China’s Yunnan province is not only the perfect place for luxury honeymoons and couple’s holidays, but equally for families and solo travellers looking for stunning scenery and wonderful culture.
For tailor made tours to Yunnan, the best time of year to visit is April to May and September, when the weather is kinder and flora is at its best.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
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