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Kunming – Dali – Lijiang – Shangri-La

Discover Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Explore the timeless charm of the UNESCO World Heritage City

f you’re new to China and not sure where to start,look no further. Let us take you on a journey toembrace the serene ambiance atop snow-capped mountain peaks. Discover the grandeur of Yunnan Province’s largest Buddhist temple and delve into the rich tapestry of historical sites. Following the KunmingDali-Lijiang-Shangri-La route, we’ll explore four popular destinations in Yunnan, the southernmost province of China, renowned for its natural beauty and as 5A China’s Tourist Attractions.

We started our trip from Kunming as the first destination. From Bangkok, it took just two and ahalf hours to reach Kunming Changshui International Airport (KMG). Upon arrival, while many chose to hastily board the high-speed train to Lijiang, our experience told us to embark on a more gradual ascent. Start from Kunming and then slowly make stops in different cities, climbing in elevation from 3,000 to 4,700 meters above sea level. This allows your body to adjust to the low oxygen levels.

Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province, offers a variety of fascinating tourist attractions. Among them is the Yuantong Temple, a testament to ancient history dating back over 1,200 years to the Tang Dynasty. This revered temple serves as a focal point for three distinct Buddhist sects: the Mahayana sect of Myanmar, the Hinayana sect of Thailand, and the Tibetan sect of Tibet. Take a leisurely stroll through Kunming’s charming Old Street, where iconic landmarkslike the Golden Horse and Jade Cock Gate stand proudly as symbols of the city’s rich heritage. For a convenient and vibrant stay, we recommend accomodation in this area, which has easy transportation access and a bustling shopping area with outlets, local eateries, and souvenir stores.

Heading North from Kunming, we reached the ancient city of Dali, also known as Dali Old Town. As we were wandering through the streets, it felt more and more like stepping back to ancient China. Notable attractions include the Three Pagodas, located within the Chongsheng Temple and revered by the locals of Dali.

As evening fell, we were strolling along the pedestrian street of Dali, which features the iconic gate towers standing prominently in all four directions. It’s a hub of restaurants, cafes, shops, entertainment venues, and various types of accommodation. For photography enthusiasts, rental shops offer costumes and makeup services, as well as photographers, at reasonable prices. It’s a popular spot favored by young Chinese travelers.

Continuing from Dali, we head to Lijiang via the highspeed rail, which only takes 3.5 hours. Lijiang is a small city nestled amidst majestic mountains. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chinese government this year plans to introduce the world’s first mountain tourism train, starting from Lijiang. It will traverse various tourist destinations, reaching the stunning Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Make sure to make your visit during November-March if you’d like to see the snow-covered mountain peaks. The highest peak reaches an elevation of 5,596 meters above sea level. For those who get tired easily or physically weak, pack a few oxygen canisters in advance. As altitude increases, the air will become thinner, making breathing more difficult. Oxygen canisters can be purchased along the pedestrian street for around 20 yuan, or at the park entrance before ascending the cable car, though the price there is around 60 yuan per canister. Despite the additional cost, the breathtaking view makes it a truly worthwhile exchange.

When it comes to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, one mustsee thing is the performance of “IMPRESSION LIJIANG” created by Zhang Yimou, a renowned Chinese director of international acclaim. The show is staged in a large outdoor theater against the majestic backdrop of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a breathtaking spectacle that brings to life the region’s rich cultural tapestry. And don’t miss the chance to explore the turquoise waters of Blue Moon Valley, a hidden gem tucked away in the heart of this picturesque landscape.

One of our favorite places in Lijiang is the ancient town of Dayan, which is over 800 years old and remarkably preserves its beauty from the past. It’s filled with ancient Chinese-style buildings and intersected by numerous streams, earning it the nickname “Venice of the East.” Every street in the ancient town of Dayan converges at Sifang Jie Street, a bustling area full of restaurants and souvenir shops, reminiscent of a scene from an ancient Chinese market.

Last but not least is the enchanting Shangri-La, home to the Songzanlin Monastery. Built in 1679 during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama, it is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan Province and known as the “Little Potala Palace” because it was modeled after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Another significant temple in Shangri-La is the Guishan Temple, also known as the Dafo Temple, which houses a grand Buddha statue surrounded by a magnificent golden-colored mandala, the largest of its kind in the world. Aside from being a sacred site, it offers stunning panoramic views of the city, creating a beautiful sight that attracts tourists throughout the day.

While there are plenty more amazing tales to tell, we’re running out space. For those who haven’t been to China yet, we strongly suggest giving it a go. In less than three hours of flying, you’ll get to experience stunning nature, charming traditional buildings, and delicious food, all at an affordable cost.

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