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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