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How To Visit Kunming, Shilin And Dali


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Krystyna Delarosa



Welcome to the enchanting province of Yunnan in southwestern China, where you can discover a world of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant local traditions. This region is home to three fascinating destinations that should be on every traveler’s bucket list: Kunming, Shilin, and Dali.


Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan, is known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ due to its pleasant climate all year round. Boasting stunning landscapes and a thriving urban scene, Kunming offers a perfect blend of modernity and tradition. Shilin, located approximately 80 kilometers northeast of Kunming, is famous for its spectacular Stone Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with towering karst formations. Finally, Dali, situated in the northwest of Yunnan, beckons with its picturesque Old Town, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, serene lakes, and authentic Bai minority culture.


Whether you are an adventurous nature lover, a history enthusiast, or a cultural explorer, this article will guide you on how to make the most of your visit to Kunming, Shilin, and Dali. From transportation and accommodation options to must-see attractions and local experiences, let’s embark on a memorable journey through the heart of Yunnan.


Get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant colors, flavors, and traditions of these three remarkable destinations. Let’s dive into the details of each place, starting with how to get to Kunming.


Getting to Kunming

Kunming, as a major transportation hub in Yunnan, is well connected to various cities in China and international destinations. The most convenient way to reach Kunming is by air, as the city is served by the modern and well-equipped Kunming Changshui International Airport.


International travelers can easily find direct flights from major cities such as Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, and Seoul. If you are flying from within China, you have numerous options with regular flights available from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and other major cities.


If you prefer a more scenic route, you can also consider taking a train to Kunming. Yunnan is connected to China’s extensive rail network, and there are several high-speed and overnight trains that run to and from Kunming. The journey might take longer compared to flying, but it allows you to appreciate the breathtaking landscapes of the region.


Once you arrive at Kunming, transportation within the city is convenient and efficient. The metro system is well-developed and covers many areas, allowing you to easily reach popular attractions and explore different neighborhoods. Taxis and rideshare services like Didi are also widely available for shorter trips or when you prefer more flexibility.


If you are planning to visit both Shilin and Dali during your trip, you can either take a bus or hire a private car. There are regular bus services from Kunming to both destinations, with comfortable coaches that offer a scenic journey through Yunnan’s countryside. Private car hire is another option, which allows you to have more flexibility in terms of timing and stops along the way.


Now that you know how to get to Kunming, let’s delve into the fascinating attractions and experiences that await you in this captivating city.


Exploring Kunming

Kunming, the vibrant capital city of Yunnan province, offers an array of attractions and experiences that will captivate every traveler. From stunning natural landscapes to cultural treasures, here are some highlights to explore during your visit.


Begin your journey by visiting the iconic Green Lake Park, a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. Stroll along the picturesque paths, admire the blooming lotus flowers, and watch locals practicing tai chi or playing traditional instruments. It’s a perfect place to relax and soak in the serene ambiance.


Next, immerse yourself in Kunming’s rich history and culture by exploring the Golden Temple, a striking Taoist temple complex dating back to the Ming Dynasty. The temple is famous for its magnificent gold-plated copper Hall of Mahavira, which is one of the largest copper halls in China.


For a taste of traditional Yunnanese architecture and culture, head to the Yuantong Temple. This ancient Buddhist temple showcases beautiful gardens, intricate carvings, and a tranquil atmosphere, making it a perfect place for meditation and reflection.


If you’re interested in local ethnic minority culture, don’t miss the chance to visit the Yunnan Minority Village. This cultural theme park offers insights into the diverse ethnic groups residing in Yunnan through traditional performances, handicraft demonstrations, and authentic cuisine.


No visit to Kunming is complete without experiencing the vibrant local cuisine. Yunnan cuisine is known for its rich flavors, unique ingredients, and diverse influences. Sample local specialties like Crossing the Bridge Noodles, Steamed Pot Chicken, and Yunnan Rice Cake to tantalize your taste buds.


For nature lovers, a visit to the Western Hills is a must. Located just outside the city, this picturesque mountain range offers breathtaking views of the Dianchi Lake and the surrounding countryside. Explore the Dragon Gate, a series of stunning stone carvings and pavilions perched on the cliffs, providing panoramic vistas of Kunming.


As night falls, be sure to visit the bustling Nanping Pedestrian Street. This vibrant street is lined with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, offering a lively atmosphere and a chance to indulge in some retail therapy.


These are just a few highlights of what Kunming has to offer. With its fusion of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and culinary delights, Kunming promises an unforgettable experience.


Now, let’s continue our journey to the remarkable Stone Forest in Shilin, just a short distance from Kunming.


Visiting the Stone Forest in Shilin

Located approximately 80 kilometers northeast of Kunming, the Stone Forest in Shilin is a natural wonder that will leave you in awe. This unique limestone karst landscape, often referred to as “the First Wonder of the World,” is a must-visit attraction when exploring Yunnan province.


As you enter the Stone Forest, be prepared to be greeted by a mesmerizing labyrinth of stone formations, some of which resemble petrified trees. The sheer size and intricate shapes of these formations create a surreal atmosphere that feels like stepping into another world.


Take your time to wander through the paths and discover the various scenic spots within the stone forest. Marvel at the beauty of the “Ashima Stone,” a legendary figure in the Yi minority folklore, or capture the stunning reflection of the “Lotus Pond” on a calm day.


One of the highlights of the Stone Forest is the “Stone Forest Ethnic and Cultural Park.” Here, you can learn about the diverse ethnic groups in Yunnan through cultural exhibitions, traditional performances, and handicraft demonstrations. It’s a great opportunity to delve deeper into the local culture and gain insight into the lives of the people who call this region home.


To fully appreciate the beauty of the Stone Forest, don’t miss the chance to climb up to the “Goddess Peak.” From the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the entire stone forest, allowing you to truly grasp the magnificence of this natural wonder.


Before you leave, take a moment to explore the nearby Xiaoqikong Scenic Area. This area offers additional stunning landscapes and is home to a crystal-clear river that winds through the karst formations, creating a picturesque scene that will leave you in awe.


Public buses are available from Kunming to the Stone Forest, or you can opt for a guided tour for convenience. It’s recommended to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience.


After exploring the wonders of the Stone Forest, it’s time to continue our journey to the charming Old Town of Dali.


Discovering the Old Town of Dali

Nestled in the northwest of Yunnan province, the Old Town of Dali is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. This ancient city, situated between the towering Cangshan Mountains and the serene Erhai Lake, provides a captivating blend of Bai minority culture and traditional Chinese heritage.


Strolling through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, you’ll be enchanted by the charm of preserved traditional architecture, exquisite Bai-style courtyards, and bustling markets. The intricate patterns and vibrant colors of the traditional wooden buildings create a picturesque setting that feels like stepping back in time.


One of the main attractions in Dali is the Three Pagodas. These dazzling structures, standing tall against the backdrop of the Cangshan Mountains, date back to the Tang Dynasty and are considered an architectural marvel. The surrounding temple complex provides a serene ambiance, making it a perfect spot for reflection and appreciation of the ancient Buddhist heritage.


Another must-visit site is the Dali Ancient City Wall. Built during the Ming Dynasty, the well-preserved city wall offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Take a leisurely walk along the wall, or rent a bicycle and cycle your way around it, immersing yourself in the ancient atmosphere while enjoying the stunning vistas.


For a deeper cultural experience, visit the Bai ethnic villages surrounding Dali. These villages provide an opportunity to interact with the local Bai minority people, learn about their traditions, and enjoy performances of traditional music and dance. You can also indulge in delicious Bai cuisine, known for its use of local ingredients and unique flavors.


To fully appreciate the natural beauty of Dali, take a boat ride on the serene Erhai Lake. Surrounded by lush green mountains and dotted with charming fishing villages, the lake offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the town. You can also hike in the Cangshan Mountains, where scenic trails lead you to breathtaking viewpoints and peaceful temples.


As the day comes to an end, make sure to visit Foreigner Street. This lively street is filled with bars, restaurants, and shops, offering a vibrant nightlife scene where you can unwind and mingle with travelers from around the world.


Whether you are exploring the ancient architecture, immersing yourself in local culture, or admiring the natural landscapes, the Old Town of Dali is a destination that will leave a lasting impression. As our journey through Kunming, Shilin, and Dali comes to an end, it’s time to start planning your trip to these remarkable destinations in Yunnan province.


Planning Your Trip

When planning your trip to Kunming, Shilin, and Dali, there are a few important factors to consider to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.


First, determine the best time to visit. Yunnan province has a mild climate, but each season offers a different experience. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are considered the best seasons, with pleasant temperatures and blooming flowers. However, if you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons or even winter for a peaceful and less crowded experience.


Next, decide on the duration of your trip. While it is possible to explore each destination in a day or two, it is recommended to allocate at least 3 to 4 days for each location to fully immerse yourself in the cultural and natural wonders of the region.


When it comes to accommodation, all three destinations offer a range of options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses and boutique accommodations, you’ll find plenty of choices in Kunming, Shilin, and Dali. Consider staying in the heart of the cities to have easy access to attractions and local amenities.


Transportation between the destinations can be easily arranged. Public buses are available, but if you prefer convenience and flexibility, hiring a private car or joining a guided tour is recommended. This way, you can have a more personalized itinerary and explore at your own pace.


While exploring each destination, make sure to try the local cuisine. Yunnan’s diverse culinary scene offers a delightful array of flavors and specialties. From street food stalls to local restaurants, be sure to sample dishes like Yunnan noodles, hot pot, and unique Yunnan snacks.


It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local customs and traditions. Yunnan is home to various ethnic minority groups, each with its distinct culture and practices. Show respect and engage with the locals to learn more about their way of life and traditions.


Lastly, be prepared for outdoor activities and pack accordingly. Yunnan’s natural landscapes, including the Stone Forest and the mountains around Dali, offer opportunities for hiking, walking, and exploring. Pack comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and appropriate clothing for different weather conditions.


With careful planning and consideration, your trip to Kunming, Shilin, and Dali is sure to be a memorable adventure. Immerse yourself in the rich history, natural wonders, and vibrant cultures of these captivating destinations in Yunnan province.


Now, it’s time to embark on your journey and create memories that will last a lifetime!



As we conclude our exploration of Kunming, Shilin, and Dali, it is clear that these three destinations in Yunnan province offer a remarkable blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and captivating experiences. From the blooming gardens of Kunming’s Green Lake Park, to the surreal stone formations of the Stone Forest in Shilin, and the ancient charm of Dali’s Old Town, each place presents its unique allure.


Throughout your journey, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant cultures of Yunnan, interact with local ethnic minority groups, savor tantalizing local cuisine, and take in breathtaking landscapes that will leave you in awe.


With careful planning and consideration of the best time to visit, transportation options, accommodation choices, and local customs, you can create a truly remarkable trip. Whether you choose to explore each destination individually or combine them into an unforgettable Yunnan adventure, you will undoubtedly be left with treasured memories.


As you navigate the winding streets of the Old Town in Dali, gaze upon the majestic pagodas in Shilin, or marvel at the architectural wonders of Kunming, you will be enriched by the history, culture, and natural wonders that define these destinations.


So, pack your bags, prepare your camera, and get ready to embark on a journey that will take you through the heart of Yunnan. From the City of Eternal Spring to the Stone Forest and the ancient charm of Dali’s Old Town, the wonders of Kunming, Shilin, and Dali await your exploration.


With their captivating beauty, rich heritage, and warm hospitality, these three destinations offer an experience like no other. Discover the enchanting province of Yunnan and create memories that will last a lifetime.