THINGS TO DO IN LIJIANG, YUNNAN, CHINA
One place we fell in love with whilst travelling around China, was Lijiang. It was a place that really took our hearts, and although we were only there for a few days, it was the one that would never leave our minds.
Lijiang is a hidden gem in the Yunnan Province, and is somewhere you must add to your list if you are exploring China. This UNESCO heritage site, is one of four best preserved ancient cities in Chi
na. Bursting with history, Ljiang has a cobbled ancient town, filled with colour, multi-ethnic culture, ponds, parks and palaces – it has everything you need to explore during your visit. It has great weather all year round, and offers visitors the chance to hike in the surrounding mountains, and see some stunning views.
Here are some things you should do if you visit Ljiang.
1. Explore Lijiang Old Town
Be prepared to spend hours exploring the cobbled streets of Lijiang. The old town comprises of three component parts: Dayan Old Town (including the Black Dragon Pond), Baisha and the Shuhe housing clusters. It is easy to get lost in the old town, each turning takes you down a whole new route and area.
Follow the paths through arched gateways, courtyards, pottery, flowers, and colours. Choose to visit different restaurants, shops, balcony’s looking out over the town. As it is so busy, there’s no direct route to walk around, there are several maps dotted around, but it really is best to just go with the flow, and take whichever path interests you.
The old town really offers a blend of local cultures, folk customs, and traditions, and really is the perfect place to explore.
2. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
One of the main reasons people visit Lijiang, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This stunning mountain is 5596m above sea level. With an observation deck up to 4680m, this mountain really does give you the most amazing experience.
You can access this mountain via the cablecar, and then climb the last few steps up to witness the stunning views. Just be aware, as you are high up, you may need oxygen to keep you going and reduce any altitude related illness. The main way to access this park is by going as part of a tour who usually provide you with oxygen bottles, however, there are several stalls selling it up at the top.
At the time we visited, the sun was out, enough to just go short sleeves without jackets. Although, when the wind blew, it was very frosty. It was such an amazing experience going up this mountain and definitely a must do!
3. Blue Moon Valley
I’m sure if you type in Ljiang to google, there will be several images popping up of the blue/turquoise waters. Just further down from the mountain is the Blue Moon Valley. The river was formed by the streams melted from the glaciers and snow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
There are four lakes divided by small waterfalls or giant rocks along the river, namely Jade-Like Lake, Mirror Pond, Blue Moon Lake, and Wave-Listening Lake. The lakes have a natural reflection of the mountain and surrounding cliffs, and really provide the most amazing views of the area. The sunnier it is, the brighter the colour of the water!
4. Watch a performance of traditional Naxi Dancing in the Old Town
At certain times of the day, there is a chance to watch traditional dancing in several areas around the old town. Make sure you head over to Old Town Square, as there will some performances. We also discovered a cultural centre, that was showing a traditional dance, we found it by chance, there aren’t any signs leading up to it – so keep walking around and hopefully you come across one. Listening to the locals sing and dance is truly and experience, and they might even grab you to get involved as well!
5. Watch the sunset with a cocktail
The further you head up the hill, the more options you will find to hang out at a bar, have a cocktail, and watch the sunset go down. We couldn’t decide as there were so many options, we actually ended up going into one that had live western music. Just bear in mind, cocktails in Ljiang are EXPENSIVE! Well I say expensive, compared to other parts of China they are. It has such a chilled vibe, just hanging out, sipping cocktails as the sun goes down behind the mountains.
6. Trek the Tiger Leaping Gorge
Take a trip along the turquoise waters surround by vertical cliff faces. Explore one of the deepest gorges in the world, reaching 16km in length, at its highest point has a maximum depth of 3790m, you can take some time hiking here.
You can head here with a tour company or on your own, you can either go for one day, or explore over several days. The valley is part of a UNESCO natural preservation area, and is important for wildlife and is the headwaters for three of Asia’s biggest rivers. You could find some rare plants and animals, and really gives you some stunning natural highlights.
7. Go bar hopping
Something we were never expecting to see, a whole street full of bars in the old town. There is a bar for everything, so many different types of music, drinks, and entertainment. We didn’t head into any of the bars, but we explored what we called bar street, it took us a good half an hour to walk down the street, seeing what they had on offer, and what was going on. It was such a different experience to see how the vibe of old town changes at night. If you’re looking for a good night, you will definitely find a place to go.
8. Enjoy a huge bowl of fruit as you walk around Old Town
When we were walking around, I kept seeing all of these tourists walking around with huge bowls of fruit. I am a fruit lover, and I knew I needed to get one. We found this lovely lady after heading up one of the hills, and decided that it was the right time to get my bowl. You essentially pick and choose what fruits you want, they cut it up fresh for you and pop it in the bowl for you to start eating. It was super cheap as well, and tasted great. Between 2 of you, it may take 2 days to eat, luckily there was a fridge at our place to put it in.
9. Climb Lion Rock Hill and Wangu Tower
We found this area on the off chance when we decided to head further up the hill. Several ancient buildings are dotted around the hill, heading up here is the best way to get a panoramic view of the ancient town. If you want to see some green areas, and listen to the birds singing, this is the perfect place.
You will find the Wangu building at the top of Lion Hill. A five-story building, this is still a pure wood building with natural pillars, so really giving you a chance to see the history. You can explore the park area and see several other temples, and other sacred buildings in the park, even a peacock park!
The temple gives you an amazing view of the surrounding mountains, Jade Dragon Snow Moutain, Lijiang Old Town, and the Naxi villages.
10. Eat local food and shop for souvenirs
Probably linking in with point one and exploring the Old Town. There are so many vendors selling a variety of local foods and souvenirs. Each different alley you turn down, theres something new to look at, or something new to try. I would say a lot of it is durian, local spices, tea, or some form of jewellery, but still totally worth exploring and potentially buying yourself something nice!
There you have it, our recommendation for 10 things to do whilst you are in Lijiang, Yunnan, China! We honestly loved this place, and would one day love to go back and visit it, try and see some of the surrounding villages or explore local areas. It is very friendly, and a lot of the locals speak English, so you won’t have a problem getting around. This place really does leave a mark on your heart, and is one to put on the list.
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