When we were planning our visit to China, we usually found family itineraries of Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. We wanted something more outdoorsy and a bit different but were not sure of where it would take us. Having our Lonely Planet book in tow, we found a curio site called Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and that started our journey towards the province of Yunnan down South of China.
IN THE KNOW
Lijiang is a point along the Ancient Tea Horse Road and is home to various ethnic groups such as the Naxi, Han, Tibetans and Bai. It is known for its beautiful natural scenery such as snowy mountains and deep gorges. During our visit, it was autumn in China and the weather was chillier than what we were used to. We had to pack in layers and consider the possibility of altitude sickness because it was 2,400m above sea level.
Because of the language barrier, we opted to hire the services of a good local operator. I researched high and low in TripAdvisor and found Lily Zhang of Lijiang Xintuo Ecotourism. She helped us with all our needs during our Lijiang trip.
Because we only had 8 days to visit Beijing and Lijiang in China, we chose the fastest route to get to Yunnan which is by plane. Serviced by Lijiang Sanyi Airport, we chose a direct flight from Beijing using Air China and booked our flights via Trip.com. There are also other flights you can take by flying in to Kunming and connect from here.
You can also opt for train as it will take you to Kuming and Dali, other cities in Yunnan. The train will give you time to acclimatize while enjoying the beautiful countryside but this route would set you back 1-2 days. The decision of which route to take be highly dependent on your available time, budget and preference.
With so many new places and things to do and explore, here are our top picks for what you shouldn’t miss when in Lijiang, Yunnan, China.
#1 STROLL ALONG LIJIANG OLD TOWN
The Old Town of Lijiang is a cobblestone-filled ancient town with well-preserved ancient architecture. Vehicles are not allowed inside so be prepared for tons of walking on staircases and uneven alleyways. At times it may feel a bit touristy (reminds me of Hoi’An Ancient Town in Vietnam) as the town was littered with stores that sell Chinese knick-knacks. Our suggestion is to explore the ancient town early in the morning while most people are still sleeping.
In the Ancient Town you can also visit Mu’s Mansion (which is a replica of the Forbidden City) and Wan Gu Lou Tower which gives you a really good view of Lijiang from the top.
#2 HIKE THE TIGER LEAPING GORGE
Yes, we took our 7yr old daughter with us to hike, but just a portion of the Tiger Leaping Gorge circuit which took us about 3.5hours. Had a lot of hesitations if we should do it, but it was the most exhilarating family experience we have ever had. We made our way to Halfway Guest house which offers the best views of the gorge and the legend behind it is a story to listen to. It is said that a Tiger leaped from Haba (Shangri-la side) and Yulong (Lijiang side) Mountains thus the name.
#3 TAKE A CABLE CAR AT THE JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN
At the time of our visit, we were very fortunate enough to see the first days of snow coming down on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Since we come from a tropical country, we only see snow-capped mountains on television or in magazines. Thus making this day one of the greatest ever!
#4 ADMIRE THE BLUE MOON LAKE VALLEY
When we arrived at Blue Moon Lake Valley, our hearts stopped with how beautiful the scenery is. We initially thought the photos of Blue Moon Lake Valley were edited or fake and had to see it to believe it. But betcha by golly wow, they are real (and the blue hue is due to the high concentration of copper ion in the water).
#5 GET TO KNOW THE NAXI PEOPLE
The Naxi culture is one the longest preserved ethinic cultures in Chinese history. We spent time with our host Naxi family understanding their way of life, the type of food they eat, the Dongba pictographs, and also their art in the form of embroidery.
#6 WATCH THE IMPRESSIONS OF LIJIANG... OUTDOORS
What??? Outdoor theater with beautiful snowcapped mountains as the background!!! I know, we were all positively surprised that this could even be done. We watched the Impressions of Lijiang, a cultural show directed by Zhang Yimou up high in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 3,100m above sea level. The show was entertaining and educational as it showcased 11 minorities, men riding horses, their ways of gathering food, drinking as a communal activity, the legend of lovers and Dongba priesthood. It is a bit hard to understand especially if you don't have a guide who can translate it to you, but the singing and dancing are definitely something that would make your feet stomp.
Cost of tickets is CNY 190 for normal seats and CNY 260 for VIP seats. I didn’t see much difference between the seating arrangements thus recommend the normal seats. For better seating view, make sure to get in at least 30mins before the show hours (11am and 2pm).
#7 EXPLORE THE BLACK DRAGON POOL
The Black Dragon Pool is nearby the Lijiang Old Town located at the far north. It will take you to a beautiful pond located near the foot of Elephant Hill. We spent our afternoon just sitting on the bench and waited for the sun to set. Entrance fee is CNY 80 per person which is good for the next 90 days.
Planning a trip to Lijiang? We highly recommend our tour guide Lily of Lijiang Xintuo Ecotourism . She helped us with our itinerary to best fit all of the activities we wanted to do in a short period of time. When we had trouble with our Air China tickets (they cancelled one of our flights), Lily was able to coordinate with the local office.
Don’t forget to check out our post on how we packed all these activities in just 3 days!
#Aguiventure #FamilyAguiventure #FamilyTravel #China #Yunnan #Lijiang #LijiangOldTown #AncientTown #Baisha #JadeDragonSnowMountain #TigerLeapingGorge #HalfwayGuestHouse #BlackDragonPool #YakMeadow #BlueMoonLakeValley #Dongba #Naxi