Yúnnán has some of the most magical and diverse scenery in all of China. There are endless trekking opportunities in the south’s tropical rainforests, and in the north, snow-capped Tibetan peaks hide dozens of tiny villages and temples rarely visited by tourists.
Yúnnán is also home to a third of all China’s ethnic minorities (nearly 50% of the province is non-Han) and despite the best government efforts, numerous pockets of the province have successfully resisted Han influence and exhibit strong local identities.
Even Kūnmíng, the provincial capital, has a flavour that seems more than half a world away from Běijīng. Despite the rapid economic growth, Kūnmíng, ‘Spring City, ’ retains an individuality that has earned it a reputation for being one of the more cosmopolitan and relaxed cities in the southwest.
Yúnnán is the sight of important archaeological discoveries, including sophisticated Bronze Age cultures around Diān Chí (Lake Dian) and the oldest human remains yet found in China (human teeth fragments dating from 1.75 million to 2.5 million years ago).
The province is also home to the nation’s highest number of species of flora and fauna – including 2500 varieties of wild flower and plant – and is known for its mild climate year-round.
It’s hard to comprehend all that Yúnnán has to offer until you get here. If you’re a traveller planning to start your China journey in Yúnnán you should be warned, once you’ve come see it for yourself, you may never get further east than Kūnmíng.
Best places to stay in Yúnnán
Best of Yunnan
China is developing faster than just about anywhere else, but after wandering the scenic highlands of Yunnan for a while, you can’t help but wonder, “What’s the rush?” This 10-day trip is ideal for travellers eager to dig into a side of China you won’t find in bustling Beijing.
Where three great Asian rivers meet
Far away from the smog and crowds of China’s east coast cities is Yunnan Province. Though it has a few cities of its own, the southwestern province is geographically diverse, with the Tibetan plateau rising in the north and west, and subtropical lowlands steaming to the south...
China travel guide
With tumble-down chunks of the Great Wall, mist-wreathed, temple-topped mountains, quaint villages, water towns and eye-catching ethnic borderlands, China is home to one of the world's oldest and most remarkable civilisations.
The Dai water-splashing festival: where China meets Southeast Asia
Walk through Jinghong, the capital of the Xishuangbanna region in the far southwest of China, in the middle of April and you’re likely to get wet, very wet...
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Experience the breathtaking natural scenery, historical attractions and rural lifestyles for which the Yunnan province is renowned for on this active trip through Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Kūnmíng has become a thoroughly modern Chinese city with wide, palm-lined roads and sky-scraping modern buildings. What was left of the quaint back alleyways and wooden buildings have been replaced by shopping malls and modern apartment blocks. However, as far as Chinese cities go, Kūnmíng is very laid-back and an enjoyable place to spend a few days.
China - Yunnan (Chapter)
More than half of the country's ethnic minority groups reside in Yúnnán, a province which boasts the highest degrees of diversity, both in people and landscapes. Natural attractions include dense jungle, rice terraces, and snow-capped mountains...
Hike and Bike China
Discover a different side to fascinating China as we hike and bike our way across this vast country
Tracing China’s ancient Tea-Horse Road
From the steamy, subtropical lowlands of Xishuangbanna (“shee-shwang-bah-na”), to the crisp highlands of the Tibetan plateau, China’s Yunnan province has been a link between tea growers and drinkers for more than 1,200 years...
Walk the Great Wall of China and trek through stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge. Stare down Terracotta Warriors and commune with giant pandas. For those seeking a unique adventure that balances China’s highlights with a look at its ‘wild’ side, this 3-week tour gives you the classics before taking you further afield to the hidden gems.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
A hike here has gone from obscure adventure to the ‘can’t miss’ experience of northern Yúnnán and is well worth the hype. The gorge (Hǔtiào Xiá), one of the deepest in the world, measures 16km long and is a giddy 3900m from the waters of Jinsha River (Jīnshā Jiāng) to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hābā Shān (Haba Mountain) to the west and Yùlóng Xuěshān to the east.
With more than one billion speakers worldwide, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language on the planet. How can you miss the chance to communicate with one in seven people on Earth?
Lìjiāng’s maze of cobbled streets, rickety old wooden buildings and gushing canals makes it one of the most visited sites in northern Yúnnán. But its popularity has grown faster than its ability to absorb the microphone-toting tour groups.