Yunnan Province sits in the bottom left-hand corner of China bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. It is fast becoming one of the hot tourist destinations in China with a rich mix of culture and adventure.
The name Yunnan means literally 'South of the clouds', often expressed more poetically as 'Beyond the clouds'. For much of Chinese history it has remained a remote outpost and the local ethnic minorities still retain much of their original character. This makes for interesting travels as you do not need to go far to experience a totally different culture, with some real surprises to be had. Keep reading to find out where you can see Mongolians here in the deep south, the descendants of soldiers sent by Kublai Khan to invade parts of South-east Asia.
Yunnan abuts Tibet and the two regions have strong links. By the time you reach Zhongdian there is already a heavy Tibetan influence, including one of the finest monasteries outside of Tibet proper.
The provincial capital,, is the travel hub for Yunnan and you will almost certainly find yourself passing through this city several times if you decide to travel to different sectors of the province, especially if flying around. This is no great hardship as the city is small enough to be pleasant but large enough to have a range of facilities. Many visitors choose to spend one day visiting the outside the city. This area of heavily-eroded limestone is fascinating though often crowded.
Two of the most popular destinations for travellers are Dali and Lijiang. The former is home to the Bai ethnic group, and the latter is home to the Naxi. Dali sits between the Cangshan mountains and Erhai Lake, and still retains its city wall. Lijiang was devastated by an earthquake back in 1996. The town that replaced it features delightful architecture and a network of crystal clear streams running throughout. With Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background it is truly a great place to spend time.
Thestarts in the sub-tropical region, inhabited mostly by the Dai ethnic group who are closely related to the Thais of Thailand. One of the most famous teas, Pu'er, is grown here, and much of the lower grade tea was transported in bricks up through the mountains to be traded with the Tibetan nomads. Although you are unlikely to follow the whole trail it is interesting to find and to follow small sections, especially with pack-horses for company. If you don't fancy hiking there are plenty of other attractions in Xishuangbanna including temples, elephants and, if you can time your trip accordingly, (aka the water-splashing festival).
Other options for the adventurous include Lugu Lake on the border with, the towns and villages around Tianshui and cross-border options into South-east Asia. Serious trekkers could consider a visit to the Three-Rivers Region, and anyone interested in volcanoes can consider whether the effort of reaching Tengchong is worth it for them.