Colorful Yunnan. The signs are everywhere, from the airplane seats to the tour buses…sometimes misspelled 😉 We spent two weeks exploring what to do in Kunming and the rest of Yunnan — now my favorite province in China — all summed up in one short but amazing video embedded below.
Who is “we” ?? On this particular spontaneous adventure I was joined by several friends, including Yuki Ng, TJ Lee, and Boom Garcia of Our Awesome Planet. We were accompanied by around 20 China locals, including a film crew from Kunming and tour guides from the Kunming Municipal Tourism Development Commission.
Where is Yunnan?
Yunnan province is located in southwest China that borders Myanmar, Tibet and Sichuan province. It is slightly off the beaten path, however when the Sino-Thai Railway is complete in a few years you’ll be able to travel from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, to my village in Thailand via a single train. (My deserted beach will soon become just another crowded tourist destination, so if you want to visit, come now!)
There is no denying how colorful Yunnan is. Cold weather and mountainous terrain mean colorful clothing, nighttime fires, traditional drinks and lots of dancing 😀 There are many similarities between the cultures and customs here with those in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.
What To Do in Kunming, China
Given that Kunming is the capital and largest city in Yunnan, there is no shortage of fun things to do in the city and breathtaking natural scenery to enjoy just outside the city. All of these locations (and more) are included in the video:
Nanqiang Street City Center is an outdoor shopping center full of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and even a theater.
Kunming Green Lake Park is located smack dab in the center of Kunming and dates back to the 17th centry. One of the must visit destinations in Kunming.
Kunming Grand View Park on the northern tip of Dianchi Lake dates back to 1828 and is home to one of the most famous pavilions in China. The breathtaking 360 degree view is where the name comes from.
Located on the northeast outskirts of the city is Kunming Golden Temple Scenic Spot, well known for its 17th-century Taoist temple made of bronze featuring intricately designed walls and a 14-ton bell.
Top Sights & Activities near Kunming
Up in the Western Hills of Xishan Forest Park is Xishan Forest Scenic Spot, only 15km from the city center and often referred to as the “top scenery in central Yunnan”.
Covering over 200 acres, Yunnan Nationalities Village is located in between Western Hills Forest Park and Dianchi Lake and quite possibly the best destination in all of Yunnan for learning about the different ethnicities and cultural heritage of the people of Yunnan, China.
Consistently ranked as one of the best cave systems in China, Jiuxiang Scenic Area is packed full of jaw-dropping natural beauty and famous for its caves, mountains, rivers, deep valleys, customs and cultures. Definitely a must visit!
The towering limestone formations that make up Stone Forest are just one part of the Shilin National Scenic Area (昆明市石林风景区), which covers a whopping 400 km2 (150 sq mi) in Yunnan province. These formations are believed to be over 270 million years old and have become a popular tourist attraction with both foreigners and Chinese tourists.
The Famous Town of Ancient Dian Kingdom opened in 2015 and is part of the Colorful Yunnan project. Half wharf, half wetland park and located on Dianchi Lake, the park is free to enter and has 6km (nearly 4 miles) of walking paths. Boat rides are 88 yuan/person. See more.
Jiaozi Snow Mountain is a must visit! High up in the mountains we spent our days hiking and exploring mountain lakes, and spent our nights eating and dancing with locals.
These are just a fraction of the places we visited in Yunnan, only the ones in or near Kunming. We also went further west to Lijiang and Lugu Lake, but you’ll have to wait until my next post for that 😉
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8 thoughts on “Colorful Yunnan: What to do in Kunming & Yunnan, China”
‘Cool stuff Derek!
I really enjoyed watching your video. I don’t really like vlogs (gasp!), but I quite liked this one. And the Chinese scenery, activities, people and food, made me want to book a ticket right now!
p.s. I met the owner and founder of Our Awesome Planet, when I went to the Philippines in 2016! They’re very nice people.
Thanks Victoria but I didn’t do this video, the photographers / film crew did. Asked me to upload it to my channel since they are in China and don’t have a channel of their own to promote it. Of course it was nice to be back in front of the camera again, instead of behind it, which is where I am most of the time nowadays lol 😉 But yes, there is no denying it, the things we did there were absolutely amazing and when I first saw this video I got the urge to hop a flight right back to China. Have been a few times now and each province is so different….there’s a never-ending list of things to see, do and eat!
Yes, Anton is a great guy indeed. First met him back in 2014 back in Sri Lanka but have not yet met his wife or family. Boom Garcia, the Creative Director of AOP, was traveling with me this time instead of Anton. Equally cool cat 😉
The JiuXiang Scenic Area looks so scenic and colourful. Looking at your photos, I can feel the colourful vibes of this city. Surely one of the places that I wanted to visit in China!
The entire province was amazing Khai! So diverse, so colorful! It’s near Tibet, so as you can imagine there is lots of overlapping between the culture, scenery and vibes. We had amazing weather up in the mountains too, with blue cloudless skies on most days…..simply stunning 😀 Highly recommended!
The collection of the pictures you have is amazing. Looks like this is a really a great place for travel point of view. You posted a great and quality info. Thanks for posting about such an amazing place, looking forward to make a trip over there.
I was just in Yunnan, and I agree that Kunming was one of the coolest cities I’ve been to in China. Still has a lot of soul and variety. Lijiang was also awesome – the Naxi and Yi cultures are thriving there, and the food is greasy and delicious. And near Lijiang, I can’t believe you didn’t mention hiking, especially Tiger Leaping Gorge. If you like hiking, the mountains out there are amazing, comparable to the Dolomites, and one of the rare places in China where you can wander around freely. There are homestays every few miles on the trails there that will feed you and put you up for the night. Highly recommended!
Tiger Leaping Gorge is spectacular! You are right, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t mention that. Haven’t done any extending hiking trips though and now that you bring it up I have a sudden yearning to return to the mountains of Yunnan. Definitely one of the most beautiful regions of China. Glad you were able to experience it firsthand for yourself, cheers!