This is one of those weird attractions that is equally the most visited and most derided (especially since the price hike) attractions in the Kūnmíng area. Shílín (Stone Forest; 771 0316; admission Y140) is a massive collection of grey limestone pillars located about 120km southeast of Kūnmíng. Split and eroded by wind and rain, the tallest reaches 30m high.
Yuányáng Rice Terraces
Fashioned over hundreds of years by the Hani, these rice terraces cover roughly 12, 500 hectares, and are one of Yúnnán’s most spectacular sights. They can be done in two days from Kūnmíng, though a visit of three or more would be ideal. Photographers and Chinese tourists flock here in droves to watch sunrises and sunsets turn the terraces into pools of gold, red and silver.
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.
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.
The main reason to come to the Nù Jiāng Valley is to visit this isolated, friendly village, set in a beautiful, wide and fertile bowl. Just 35km south of Tibet and close to Myanmar, it’s a great base for hikes into the surrounding mountains and valleys. The area is at its best in spring and early autumn. Don’t even think about coming in the winter.