Introducing Lúgū Hú
Straddling the remote Yúnnán–Sìchuān border, this lake remains a laid-back, idyllic place that makes for a great getaway, even with a rise in domestic tourism. The ascent to the lake, which sits at 2690m, is via a spectacular switchback road and the first sight of the 50 sq km body of water, surrounded by lushly forested slopes, will take your breath away.
Villages are scattered around the outskirts of the lake, with Luòshuǐ (洛水) the biggest and most developed, and the one where the bus will drop you. As well as guesthouses, and a few cafes with English menus and Western food, there are the inevitable souvenir shops. Nevertheless, it’s hardly a boomtown, with the dominant night-time sound being the lapping of the lake.
Most travellers move quickly to Lǐgé (里格), 9km further up the road, tucked into a bay on the northwestern shore of the lake. Although guesthouses make up most of the place, along with restaurants serving succulent, but pricey, barbecue, the sights and nights here are lovely. If you want a less touristy experience, then you need to keep village-hopping around the lake to the Sìchuān side. At the moment, top votes for alternative locations are Luòwǎ (洛瓦) and Wǔzhīluó (五支罗).
The area is home to several Tibetan, Yi and Mosu (a Naxi subgroup) villages. The Mosu are the last practising matriarchal society in the world and many other Naxi customs lost in Lìjiāng are still in evidence here.
The best times to visit the lake are April to May, and September to October, when the weather is dry and mild. It’s usually snowbound during the winter months.