Perhaps more than any other province in China, Yúnnán (云南) boasts the highest degrees of diversity, both in people and landscapes. Its extraordinary sights and peoples have made it one of the trendiest destinations for China’s exploding domestic tourist industry.
More than half of the country’s ethnic minority groups reside here, providing an unexpected glimpse into China’s mix of humanity. Then there’s the hugely varied splendour of the land – dense jungle sliced by the Mekong River in the south, soul-recharging glimpses of the sun over rice terraces in the southeastern regions, and snow-capped mountains as you edge towards Tibet.
With everything from laid-back villages and spa resorts to multiday mountain treks and excellent cycling routes, Yúnnán appeals to all tastes. Transportation links are good so getting around is a breeze but you’ll need time to see it all – whatever time you’ve set aside for Yúnnán, double it.
Need to know
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Gingerly stepping along a trail swept with scree to allow an old fellow with a donkey to pass; resting atop a rock, exhausted, looking up to see the fading sunlight dance between snow-shrouded peaks, then down to see the lingering rays dancing on the rippling waters a thousand metres away; feeling utterly exhilarated.
How popular is this timelocked, if tourist-ified, place? Lìjiāng’s maze of cobbled streets, rickety (or rickety-looking, given gentrification) wooden buildings and gushing canals suck in around five million people a year. So thick are the crowds in the narrow alleys that most days it can feel like all five million have arrived at once.