Few people realise how gorgeous this region of China is. Here’s our 12-day Yunnan itinerary with scenic views comparable to Switzerland!

First published on: 6 Dec 2019

Jade Snow Mountain – Yunnan Itinerary

When I think of China, I think of Beijing, Shanghai, and maybe even Guangzhou. Yunnan was not even in my subconscious, let alone on my list of must-travels. But after an exhilarating 12 days around the province, I fell in love with every single city we hit.

I fell in love with the people of Kunming, the nightlife of Dali and the antiquated mystique of Shangri-la. Lijiang even took it to the next level with its iconic snow-capped wonder, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and (in)famous 28-bend hike of the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Balagezong – Yunnan Itinerary

Yet, we found that not many people from all over the world flock to this region. Even though that is a plus point to many, we believe it would be such a shame if we didn’t share this not-so-little secret with the rest of the world! 

So before this itinerary hits the houses of many, we recommend that you start planning your Yunnan adventure to see some of the most beautiful sights in the world. Here’s our 12-day Yunnan itinerary for China’s best secrets.

Pre-trip Essentials

Kunming train station - Kunming Things to Do

Getting Around: The best way to get around is with the apps Didi and Baidu, their local Uber/Grab, and navigation map respectively.

Connectivity: Stay connected with an eSIM. Make sure to download VPN apps before leaving Singapore to access Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram, etc.

Transport: Book your high-speed rail between Kunming to Dali and Lijiang to Kunming early as these run out fast. In Yunnan, bus tickets can only be bought from the bus station the bus leaves from and you can look at the bus timing schedule here to plan your itinerary for the day.

Day 1 – 2: Kunming (昆明)

Our first stop in this Yunnan itinerary is Kunming, Yunnan’s capital — known for its pleasant weather and blooming flowers all year round. Kunming was actually the gateway to the famous Silk Road and is still considered today as China’s transportation hub connecting Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la.

Weather in Kunming: Temperatures average 15°C all year round. January is the coldest at 8°C and July’s the hottest at 25°C.

Accommodation in Kunming: There are several comfortable yet affordable stays within the city of Kunming.

Green Lake Park (翠湖公园)

Green Lake Park – Yunnan Itinerary

This park is absolutely gorgeous, with always-blooming flowers and clear waters reflecting the magnificent bridges. It’s also the perfect place to absorb the Kunming culture! Every Sunday, locals from all walks of life adorn traditional costumes and gather at the park to dance, sing and have fun.

Local's dancing at Green Lake Park

They even welcome foreigners. But beware, the dance steps are not easy at all (It’s like an eastern hoedown where everyone knows the steps and you are like what is going on).

Opening hours: 7AM – 11PM
How to get there: 8min walk from Huashan West Rd stn on Line 5 of Kunming Metro (Baidu Map)

Yunnan Nationalities Village (云南民族村)

Yunnan Nationalities Village – Yunnan Itinerary

Yunnan is home to 26 different ethnic minorities scattered all around the province, and obviously, the best way to understand a place is to understand its people. It’s almost impossible to visit every single tribe around Yunnan at once unless you’re at the Yunnan Nationalities Village.

Hot Meal Cooked By The Tribe

Each tribe in this park offered us an insight into their life back in their hometowns — adorned in their traditional garment, performing tunes of their tribe and taking us around the rebuilt replicas of their homes. We were even lucky enough to get invited to have a meal with the people of the Pumi tribe.

Group photo with people of the tribe

The park is huge, so make sure you allocate enough time to see as many tribes as you want (around an hour per tribe). A faster way to get around is by renting a four-wheel bike (100RMB).

*Pro-tip: Check the timetable at the entrance of the Yunnan Village for the performance timings around the compound and alter your itinerary accordingly.


Entrance fee: 90RMB (45RMB for students)
Opening hours: 9AM – 6PM
How to get there: Take bus line No. 44, 73 or A1 to Yunnan Nationalities Village Station (Baidu Map)

Stone Forest & Jiuxiang Scenic Region Day Trip (石林)

Stone Forest – Yunnan Itinerary

Epic or what? This 400sq km-wide area of towering limestones (all natural!) was considered the “First Wonder of the World” to the Chinese. I mean, can we question that?

stone forest – Yunnan Itinerary

Exploring the Stone Forest itself is like experiencing a giant storybook too. For example, there’s an “Ashima rock” that tells the tale of a beautiful girl who was kidnapped and forced to marry an evil man. Thankfully, her lover saves her, but she eventually gets washed away by a flood and turned into a rock.

Jiuxiang Cave – Yunnan Itinerary

40 minutes by bus from the Stone Forest lies the Jiuxiang Caves, the largest cave group system in China with over 100 karst caves. Here you’ll get to explore a bat cave, a lying dragon cave, a grand lion hall and a fairy field, among others.

Karoke session at Jiuxiang cave

And of course, my personal favourite — a karaoke system in the middle of the entire trail playing classic 90s English songs and Chinese hits. Why is there a karaoke system in the middle of an ancient cave? I can only say China never ceases to surprise us.

Stone Forest
Entrance fee: 130RMB per pax
Cost of bus ride: 34RMB (1.5hrs)
Opening hours: 7AM – 7PM
How to get there: Take Line 3 of the metro to East Coach Station. Then, take a bus to Stone Forest (Baidu Map).

Jiuxiang Cave
Cost: 90RMB + 30RMB (chairlift). The chairlift is optional but we do recommend it because it saves a lot of time. It transported us to the starting point within 10 minutes instead of having to walk back through the trail which would take an hour.
Opening hours: 8AM – 6PM
How to get there: Ask the locals to direct you to the right bus (Baidu Map)

Cross Bridge Rice Noodles at Jianxinyuan (建新园)

Cross Bridge Rice Noodles – Yunnan Itinerary

This Yunnan delicacy can be found all over Kunming, with Jianxinyuan being the most famous chain. The noodles are served separately from the soup so they don’t turn soggy, and the boiling-hot broth has a layer of oil to retain the heat. The ingredients are then mixed on the spot upon serving, allowing everything to cook in the broth.

Cost: ~20RMB
Opening hours: 8AM – 10PM
No.195 Baoshan Street, Wuhua District, Kunming 650021, China (Baidu Map)

Read also: 16 Things to Do in Kunming — The Unexplored Gem in China

Day 3 – 4: Dali (大理市)

Getting from Kunming to Dali: Take a high-speed rail from Kunming Railway Station To Dali Station (2.5hrs)

Three Pagodas – Yunnan Itinerary

Next in this Yunnan itinerary — Dali! Just 2.5 hours away by train from Kunming, Dali is sandwiched between Erhai Lake and the mountains which means you’ll be greeted with stunning panoramic views everywhere you turn.

Weather in Dali: Temperatures range from 18 – 25°C in (June) and from 4 – 17°C in winter (January).

Accommodation in Dali: We stayed at The Lily Pad Inn which was only a 15-minute walk from Dali Ancient City.

Dali Ancient City (大理古城) 

Dali Ancient City – Yunnan Itinerary

Roaming the streets of Dali Ancient City gave me the perfect snapshot of Dali, from the beautifully decorated streets to its delicious food.

Streets of Dali Ancient City

Don’t miss this street with beautifully decorated umbrellas for that Insta-worthy photo!

How to get there: Take bus 3 from Dali Railway Station to Dali Ancient Town, journey is about 1hr (Baidu Map)

Bad Monkey Bar (坏猴子酒吧)

Bad Monkey Bar – Yunnan Itinerary

Dali Ancient City is the only ancient city in this Yunnan itinerary with a lively nightlife. So if you plan on partying it up, this is your stop! When you’re done exploring, chug some local craft beer at Bad Monkey Bar. There’s India pale ale, stout, wheat and amber ale to choose from 40RMB each.

Bad Monkey Bar's Band – Yunnan Itinerary

We have to give a special mention to the live music because it really added to the ambience — and the band was singing English songs too.

Opening hours: 9AM – 3AM
Address: 73-75 Renmin Road, Dali Old Town, Dali, Yunnan 671003 (Baidu Map)

Three Pagodas (崇圣寺三塔)

Three Pagodas – Yunnan Itinerary

Built 1,800 years ago, the majestic Three Pagodas play an important role in China’s history as it’s a symbol of the development of Buddhism in China. But wait, there’s more!

Chongsheng Temple – Yunnan Itinerary

Behind the Three Pagodas is the Chongsheng Temple that was built in the 10th Century, and is one of the largest Buddhist centres in China. It comprises eight terraces, nine sections and 11 levels across 4km leading to the Cangshan Mountain.

Entrance fee: 75RMB (37RMB for students)
Opening hours: 7AM – 6:30PM
How to get there: Take the Three Pagodas Line in downtown Dali from Dali Railway Station or Xiaguan to the Three Pagodas Scenic Area in Chongsheng (Baidu Map)

Erhai Lake (洱海)

Erhai Lake – Yunnan Itinerary

Erhai is one of the seven biggest freshwater lakes in China. The ‘Er’ actually means ‘ear’ which is also the shape of the sea! It is essential to the daily life of the locals because it is an ideal spot for them to fish. With the backdrop of the vast scenic lake and the opportunity to learn about the life of a local, this serves as the best place to have a relaxing afternoon picnic.

How to get there: From the South Gate of the Ancient Town, take bus C2 and alight at Caicun Dock. Then, walk for 10 minutes to the lake. (Baidu Map)

Yunnan Wild Mushroom Rice Noodles (云南野生菌米线)

Wild Mushroom Rice Noodle – Yunnan Itinerary

Yunnan is home to hundreds of different edible mushrooms so eating here is a quintessential Yunnan experience. I really recommend you make time in your itinerary to hit this spot as it was the best meal I had in Yunnan!

The rice noodles came with supremely delicious and fresh mushrooms (morels, porcini, matsutake). We left the restaurant caressing our happy stomachs, satisfied with the recommendation from our hostel host.

Cost: 32RMB per bowl
Opening hours: 11AM – 10.30PM
How to get there: The restaurant is in Dali Ancient Town. Facing Bad Monkey Bar, turn left. The restaurant is about 10 minutes away down the same street on the left, beside a bubble tea store.

Day 5 – 9: Lijiang (丽江)

Getting from Dali to Lijiang: Take the 2.5hrs high-speed rail from Dali Station To Lijiang Station.

Tiger Leaping Gorge – Yunnan Itinerary

You don’t need to travel to Europe to get sights like these. Arguably the main highlight in Yunnan, Lijiang is a must-have in your itinerary if you’re looking for amazing nature views and hikes, from gorges to snow mountains!

Weather in Lijiang: Wear layered clothing as the temperature throughout the day fluctuates drastically. Temperatures peak at 20°C from June to September, down to 0°C in from December to February.

Accommodation in Lijiang: October Inn Hostel was located 10 minutes away from Lijiang Ancient City.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山)

Jade Snow Mountain

Photo credit: Freepik

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain consists of 13 snow-capped peaks and several glaciers, and till date, no one has reached the summit! Anyone who tried either died or was forced to give up. But don’t worry, the boardwalk goes to a height of 4,680m and is very safe.

But before that, to fully enjoy the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and its surrounding attractions, we recommend getting the package ticket that also includes entrance to the Blue Moon Valley and Impression Lijiang Show (directed by Zhang Yimou!).

There are several layers to this experience:

(1) Explore the Surroundings: Head over to the Blue Moon Valley first, which is an enormous lake at the foot of the mountain. Stroll along the lake for views of waterfalls and wild yaks.

Photo credit: Freepik

(2) Take the cable car up the mountain: There are three different cable cars that go up to various heights. The highest one goes to the Glacier Park at 4,506m high. From the station, there’s a 100m boardwalk, which is the highest a tourist can go! We recommend booking the 11AM cable car for the best views (the morning fog clears up then).

You’ll want to get your tickets early. Either book through a tour or get a local (like hostel staff) to book for you via WeChat or AliPay. Only 10,000 tickets are released daily at 7AM and they’re snagged fast (This only applies to the Big Cable Car).

If you happen to miss the tickets for Big Cable Car, you can still admire the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at the foot or mid-levels. You just have to purchase entrance tickets (100RMB) and tickets for the smaller chairlifts (60RMB to the Yak Meadow, 55RMB to the Spruce Meadow) separately on the day of your visit itself.

Life Yak

*Pro-tip: Don’t forget to layer up. If you didn’t bring enough clothes, you can rent a jacket from the base for 50RMB. Also, get your oxygen cans from Lijiang City as it’s much cheaper than on the snow mountain. It’s easy to get altitude sickness here, so walk slowly, and carry an oxygen can for good measure — one tank to two people should suffice.

(3) Catch the Impression Lijiang Show: Located at the base of the attraction, the Impression Lijiang Show is an outdoor singing and dancing performance demonstrating the tradition and lifestyle of the local ethnic people. With 500 people in the cast and the spectacular Jade Snow Mountain as the backdrop, this performance truly encapsulated the beauty of Yunnan!

Showtimes: 12:40PM, 2:50PM
Cost: 420RMB (incl. chairlift, Blue Moon Valley and Impression Lijiang show)
Opening hours: 7AM – 6PM
How to get there: Hail a private car along the Mao Ze Dong Hong Tai Yang Square (红太阳广场) that takes you directly there (400RMB). Alternatively, take the no. 7 minivan leaving from the Red Sun Square, right opposite the statue of Mao Zedong (30RMB).

Old Town of Lijiang (丽江古城)

The Old Town of Lijiang is known for its organised bridges and orderly system of waterways throughout the town. This design was actually due to the fact that this town was once a confluence for trade along The Tea Horse Caravan Trail.

Yak butter ice cream – Yunnan Itinerary

Yak butter milk ice cream is a must-try when in Yunnan.

Look out point from pavilion

We had spent many nights in Lijiang, so we became rather familiar with the streets. We even stumbled upon this lookout point that eventually became our hangout spot to watch the sunset. At the foot of Da Yan Hua Lane (大研花巷), there are stairs that will lead up to this lookout point. Ask the locals for help locating this lane!

Opening hours: Most shops close by 10PM
How to get there:
The Old Town of Lijiang is serviced by several public buses in Lijiang, but we took Didi as it’s cheaper and more efficient. (Baidu Map)

Black Dragon Pool (黑龙潭)

Black dragon pool – Yunnan Itinerary

The Black Dragon Pool is a refreshing change of pace from the city. Stroll around the compound with a view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at the back, and explore the Buddhist temple on site.

Entrance Fee: 50RMB
Opening Hours: 7AM – 9:30PM
How to get there: Take bus 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 13, 20, or 28 to Heilongtan (Jade Spring Park), or walk 15mins from Old Town of Lijiang (Baidu Map)

2D1N Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike (虎跳峡)

Tiger leaping gorge – Yunnan Itinerary

I had always fantasised about the Swiss Alps, but its lesser-known sibling hides in the depths of Yunnan. Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world, it measures 16km long and is 3900m deep from the Jinsha River to the Haba Mountain. 

Conquering the infamous 28 bends over its hiking path is no easy task, but is definitely very doable. For someone who is of average fitness, this would serve as a medium-intensity hike. No pain no gain, and the views of the beautiful Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain were definitely a very worthy gain! But do make sure to prep sufficiently for the hike, with snacks and loads of water.

Food At Naxi Guest House

We started our hike a little ahead of Qiaotou. 3 hours in, we stopped for lunch at Mama Naxi Guesthouse (~25RMB/pax), a common stop for Tiger Leaping Gorge hikers serving simple home-cooked Chinese food like eggs and tomatoes, and even butter milk tea using yak milk.

Tea Horse Guest House

We took another four hours after lunch to complete the 28 bends and the rest of the hike before we reached our accommodation for the night at Tea Horse Guest House. Sleep early because you’ll want to catch the sunrise at 6AM (otherwise, sleeping in till 9AM is fine too)!

Mountains at Tiger leaping gorge

The second-day hike was way easier because it was not crowded, and we spent the entire time hiking at the cliff’s edge. We finished the hike in 5 to 6 hours and stopped by Tina’s Guest House for food along the way down. From here, the only bus back to Lijiang departs at 3:30PM daily so don’t miss it. Depending on your Yunnan itinerary, there’s also a bus towards Shangri-la that departs from Tina’s Guest House at 3:30PM.

Entrance fee: 45RMB (22.5RMB for students under 24)
Opening hours: 24hrs
How to get there: We got our host at October Inn Hostel to arrange a bus to pick us up at 7AM and drop us at Qiaotou Bridge, which took 1.5hrs. Your trail will start slightly beyond that point (ask the locals for directions).

Naxi Snacks Store

Naxi Snacks Store – Yunnan Itinerary

This unassuming store in Lijiang Old Town can be easily missed if you’re not discerning, but it serves up really good food like blood sausage (22RMB) and chickpea noodles (6RMB).

Rice Sausage Local Food Of Yunnan

Blood sausage served with fried vegetables drizzled with homemade chili powder.

The main ingredient in blood sausage is pig’s blood which made me a little squeamish. But it was actually very crispy and tasty. It tastes more like a stuffed potato chip. The chickpea noodles are served cold with chili oil, parsley, peanuts, and beansprout in the bowl which all mix together perfectly.

Opening hours: 8AM – 9PM
Address: 88 Wuyi Street, Gucheng District, Lijiang City, Yunnan Province, China, 674100 (Baidu Map)

Day 10 – 12: Shangri-la (香格里拉)

Getting from Lijiang to Shangri-la: Take a 3.5-hour bus from Lijiang Bus Station (62RMB).

The streets of Shangri-la enchanted us with an antiquated mystique, from unique Tibetan-styled streets to grand monasteries.

Weather in Shangri-la: It’s the coldest place in this Yunnan itinerary. Temperatures average 19°C from June to August, and -2°C from December to February.

Accommodation in Shangri-la: Shangajoy Seasons Inn is located a walking distance away from the Dukezong. They had helpful staff that booked us tours and showed us around!

Balagezong Scenic Area (巴拉格宗风景区)

Balagezong – Yunnan Itinerary

Balagezong was truly breathtaking with its towering mountains, unimaginably fresh air and waters so blue I was sure the saturation was tampered with (it’s not, lah). We explored a magnificent Buddhist temple, a glass walkway perched on the mountains, had a delicious Tibetan lunch and a scenic 2.5km walk through the Balagezong Grand Canyon.

Glass walkway at Balagezong

The glass walkway stop was my favourite part of the day trip! Not being the best with heights, having to walk a pathway that allowed me to see 3,000m down to my death was not very comforting. But the views down were so stunning that a little heart palpitation was a worthy cost to bear.

If you’re feeling a little adventurous, this stop also offers a zip-lining activity through the canyon (120RMB).

Cost: 290RMB for tour incl. round trip transport, transport within the scenic area and entrance fees (ask hostel staff to help book a tour).
Opening hours: 8AM – 5PM
How to get there: Shuttle buses depart daily around 9AM from Shangri-La’s Dukezong Ancient Town, and leave Balagezong from 4PM – 5PM. (Baidu Map)

Songzanlin Lamasery (松赞林寺)

Songzanlin Lamasery – Yunnan Itinerary

Songzanlin is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, covering 30 hectares. The 5th Dalai Lama chose this site in 1679, and it has since grown into the most important monastery in the community of Yunnan.

View of Lamasery

At the entrance, you can board a bus that takes you directly to the monastery, or you can alternatively walk 30 minutes to the monastery around the lake. We recommend walking if you can because the serene stroll through the park allows immaculate views of the Lamasery.

Entrance fee: 115RMB (62RMB for students under 24)
Opening hours: 6AM – 6PM
Address: Niwang Rd, Shangri-La, Deqen, Yunnan, China (Baidu Map)

Napahai Lake (纳帕海)

Napahai Lake – Yunnan Itinerary

The Napahai Natural Lake Reserve alone is 90% of Singapore’s size at 660km sq wide. The best way to explore the entire lake is to rent a car and drive along the entire coastline. Trust me, the views are worth it!

*Pro-tip: Napahai Lake and Songzalin Lamasery are nearby so we recommend hiring a private car and visiting both in one day.

How to get there: 214 West Side of West Inner Ring Road, Shangri-La, China (Baidu Map)

Dukezong (獨克宗)

Dukezong – Yunnan Itinerary

Dukezong is a Tibetan town located in the heart of Shangri-la. Unlike the other ancient towns, the Tibetan culture colours each narrow street with gilded prayer halls, pagodas and Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags.

Prayer Wheel – Yunnan Itinerary

The Prayer Wheel is one of the main attractions of the Ancient Town. Spin the prayer wheel three times and good luck and fortune will fall upon you. It’s the tallest of its kind in the world at 21m high, making it virtually impossible for one person to spin it alone. Rally up your pals to spin it together!

Opening Hours: Most shops close by 10:30PM
How to get there: Dukezong is within walking distance from Shangri-La Town (Baidu Map)

Tibetan Hotpot (藏式火锅)

Tibetan Hot Pot – Yunnan Itinerary

After a whole day of exploring around Shangri-La, we treated ourselves to a hearty Tibetan hotpot at a restaurant in Dukezong Ancient Town.

The hot pot was really shiok especially in the cold Shangri-la weather. There was an array of fresh vegetables and meat to choose from — from bean sprouts to Chinese kale, and black goat meat to yak beef balls, we were really spoilt for choice.

Eventually, we settled on the black goat meat since it’s the local Shangri-la delicacy. And boy oh boy, was it a good choice! The meat cooked really quickly and it just melted in our mouths. We ordered the spicy miso and mushroom soup which complimented all the ingredients really well.

Heading back to Kunming

Since our return flight back to Singapore was from Kunming, we took a 13-hour sleeper bus (223RMB) from Shangri-la back to Kunming. Bus tickets can only be purchased at the ticketing counter of the bus station.

Alternatively, you can take the bus to Lijiang (62RMB), then take the high-speed rail (~S$42) from Lijiang to Kunming in under 6.5 hours.

China’s Best-Kept Secret

Group picture at Three Pagodas

Before coming on this trip, I knew next to nothing about Yunnan, let alone that it is home to so many beautiful attractions and scenic landscapes!

But after 12 days of hiking magnificent gorges, scaling snow-capped mountains and exploring ancient towns, Yunnan definitely made my list of the top three countries I have travelled to, with Slovenia and Spain sharing the title.

It now feels like I am in on this not-so-little secret that the entire of Yunnan was hiding away from the rest of the world. You can thank us later for this Yunnan itinerary. But for now, get ready for your next adventure!

Read also: 9 Reasons Why Yunnan Should Be On Your Travel Bucket List

Checking out other parts of China? Here are some more ideas:
2-Week China Itinerary — Rail Adventure Across Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou
12D Central China Itinerary to Ancient Gems & Undiscovered Sights — Things to do in Wuhan, Changsha & Zhangjiajie
Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide to China: 14 Exciting Things To Do In Beijing
25 Exciting Things to Do in Shanghai — First Timer’s Guide From Must-Dos to Hidden Gems
5D4N Suzhou and Hangzhou Itinerary — Beauty of Tiger Hill, West Lake and More
19 Reasons to Visit China’s Most Underrated Cities — Wuhan, Changsha & Zhangjiajie
11 Reasons Why You Should Visit Hainan Island For Your Next Resort Holiday

We hope this Yunnan itinerary was useful in planning your next adventure. If we missed out anything in our Yunnan itinerary, do let us know in the comments.

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Lesha attributes her sense of adventure to her outlandishly flamboyant father and extremely conservative mother. The conflict between their personalities filled her with just the right amount of crazy to want to travel the world.


  1. I agree! Yunnan is amazing! And those places are the most touristy part of Yunnan, there’s more but it’s better to rent a car and explore yourself. Thanks for this article, i founded it very useful! I stayed in NAXIs guesthouse too, love the food!
    Oh and Kunming’s weather the hottest month gets about 25 not 18…

    • Thanks Karla for your comments, article’s been corrected 🙂 Yes we’ll want to try self-driving too the next time we visit Yunnan:)

    • Hello, did you self drive in China? Understood that international license is not accepted and a china temporary driving license is required when you arrive in China. Would love to know the procedure to obtain the china driving license. Thanks!

      • Hi there! No, we did not self-drive in China. The transport system and ride-hailing are quite convenient and reliable, and we could get around with ease.

  2. Hello, the high speed rail URL is not working for me. How else do we check and book for the trains? Any changes since this article was written? Thanks

  3. Thank you for sharing this itinerary. Am planning a DIY trip but bringing my parents in their sixties. Reasonably fit to walk but I ll skip the hike and Shangri la. Any tips to take note with elderly in mind ? My plan is to fly in Kunming 3d2N ,train to Dali stay in Erhai 5d4n then train to Lijiang 6d5n before training back to Kunming onward back Sg. When based in Dali & Lijiang , am planning to do day tours etc. Any advise will be much appreciated.

    • Hi Angel, sorry I must have missed out on your question! Kunming, Dali, Lijiang are all pretty elderly-friendly. If you’ve not yet bought tickets to attractions, do check at the counters if they have discounted tickets for older folks! Some major attractions have tickets at half-price for students and adults above 60. If you and your parents speak Mandarin, you’ll have no problems at all getting around. Have a fantastic trip! 🙂

    • Hi thanks for this question! There are public toilets that are well-maintained at most tourist attractions such as Yunnan Nationalities Village, Stone Forest & Jiuxiang Scenic Region, Three Pagodas, etc. However, do not expect them to be very clean. At more rural areas such as the Ancient Towns, Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike, and Shangri-La, public restrooms are as basic as door-less cubicles with a drain. And always always bring along your own tissues. Hope this helps 🙂

  4. Hi Edelyn! I just booked airticket to Kunming! Any other important travel or hotel or train or food tips, beside what was written above? Btw how come u never consider internal flight instead of train for your trip? Thanks much!

    • Hi Bean, hope the article was useful in your trip planning! To answer your question of why not internal flights — We had budget considerations, and also wanted to experience an overnight bus for the first time, so that was what we chose 🙂

    • Hi Bean, hope the article was useful in your trip planning! To answer your question of why not internal flights — We had budget considerations, and also wanted to experience an overnight bus for the first time, so that was what we chose 🙂

  5. Hi Edelyn, pls share with me how u guys booked the Balagezong Scenic Area (巴拉格宗风景区 tour? I am unable to find a day trip tour that can take in foreigners such as the qunar website. Also is it easy to get high altitude sickness? I have a 12yo. Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Bean, we booked the Balagezong Scenic Area (巴拉格宗风景区) tour through the hostel we stayed at in Shangri-la. Almost every hotel/inn/hostel in Shangri-la can arrange tours for guests, you’ll just have to ask them!

  6. Hi! I am planning for a trip coming March 2024 to Yunnan. Can I check for those attractions that are not as accessible from the towns, did you all book for the private charter in Singapore or did you all only book the private charters via the Hostels/Hotels when you are there? I am unable to find reasonably priced charters online, most cost $100 to $200/PAX for a day charter online…Saw that your Bagalezong tour was only 290RMB which is much more economical.

    • Hi Jan! We did most of our bookings when we’re in China, either with the help of the hostel/hotel staff or via DiDi (their car hailing app). Our Balagezong tour was booked via our inn, and I recommend you to do that too! Hope this helps 🙂

  7. Hello, your itinerary and explanation is really helpful. May i ask, if i cant speak and read mandarin, do you think this itinerary is doable? Thank you

    • Hi Monica, thanks for the question. Honestly, it’ll be tough for visitors who don’t read Mandarin Chinese at all, especially at places away from the city. You can probably overcome the language barrier by using translation apps, or asking the friendly locals you meet – younger Chinese are able to converse in simple English. And with adequate pre-trip planning and preparation, I’m sure you’ll be able to enjoy Yunnan as much as we did! 🙂

  8. Thanks for sharing your itinerary, we are planning a trip in June and this will be helpful. If you don’t mind sharing, how much did this trip cost you? I am not sure how much to budget. I will be traveling with my husband and 9 yo son.

    • Hi Teresa! TBH we can’t quite remember but it should be about S$2.5k excl. flights. However our trip was back in 2019, so costs of things would have changed a bit, so do take note! 🙂

  9. Hi, do you think October is a good month to visit yunnan?
    Wondering if there’s alternative for non-hikers to not hike as much haha, jade snow dragon mountain board walk sounds manageable. But Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike, is it ok to skip this?

    • Hi! October is a great time to visit Yunnan, in fact, we did our trip in late October too! The weather is cooling with nice sunlight so photos will still look great! It gets cold in the night, so do bring along a good jacket/wind breaker.

      If you’re a non-hiker, you can skip Tiger Leaping Gorge for sure. Lijiang is a very beautiful town with plenty to see and explore — Lijiang Old Town, Shuhe Ancient Town, Black Dragon Pool Park, etc. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain can take a full day too if you’re catching the Impression Lijiang show.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  10. Hi may I ask for the 2D1N Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike, do you need to hire a local tour guide along? Would you lost your way easily if you hike alone?

    • Hey Amos! It’s typically Oct to Nov, but as with all seasons, it varies form year to year so it’s best to check ahead of time 🙂

    • Hi Natalie, it’s the Chinese Renminbi, you may also see it as “CNY” though both can be used interchangeably. Hope this helps 🙂


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