Top 8 Natural Wonders in Yunnan
In Southwest China, the yearly sun-soaked Yunnan abounds with the most diverse and breathtaking landscapes of the country. Most tourists might spend lots of time in the charming old towns in Lijiang and Dali, while Yunnan actually offers a plethora of staggering natural wonders in some of the most unspoiled rural parts of China. From snow-capped glacier mountains to jaw-dropping gorges, turquoise lakes to rice paddies, and from amazing hikes to superb photography spots, Yunnan has it all. This article would bring outdoor adventurers 8 of Yunnan's scenic stunners that rank the tops in China.
Home of Hani people, Yuanyang is endowed with one of the most captivating rice terraces on the globe. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, this amazing complex of rice paddies have been cultivated by the local Hani people for over 1,300 years. Along the slopes of mountains above 2000 meters sea level, the spectacular fields upon fields cascade down to the banks of a small river, unfolding like a real-life Van Gogh's painting. The best time to visit the terraces is between January and March, when they are imbued with water and reflect the light just right. However, the paddies are awesome as well in other seasons when the fields are covered with green, red or golden crops. Besides, Yuanyang truly becomes a little slice of heaven when sunrise, sunset and furling mists make the rice terraces exceedingly breathtaking.
Considered sacred among the local Naxi people, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains stands at a total of 18,360 feet above sea level, which has been not conquered by human beings yet. Although the highest peak Shanzidou is veiled in mists all year round, you could take the cable car up to an altitude of 4,506m and ascend up a series of steps to a viewing platform at 4,680m to have a glimpse of its true self.
Get ready to embrace the wondrous snow-capped mountains, glacier peaks, alpine meadows and lakes as well as primeval forests. Meanwhile, prepare yourself some oxygen bottles since the quick change in elevation during the cable car ride may cause altitude sickness to most travelers.
Sandwiched between Lijiang and Shangri-la, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world's deepest canyons stretching for 16 kilometers in the upper reaches of Yangtze River. Rapid flows and roars flush down between the jagged cliffs of snow-capped mountians, which is formidable for people to come nearer.
There is a legend about the origin of its name that a tiger leaps across the narrowest part of the gorge with only one stepping stone. Actually, now the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the best hikers' secret trails in the world. If you are a seasoned hiking lover and craving for an awesome adventure, you could undertake a two or three days’ trek. Alternatively, you can opt for a moderate-level day hike according to your state of strength.
Located about 4-hour drive from Kunming, Dongchuan Red Land is a surreal and tempting natural spectacle hidden deep in a relatively un-commercialized part of Yunnan. Famed for the reddish earth of the farmed land, Dongchuan offers truly colorful and spectacular scenery known as the God’s Magic Palette. Now more photographers and backpackers fumble their way into this less visited landscape.
To capture the beauty of Dongchuan Red Land, time really matters. September to December is regarded as the best time for a visit when the red land will be blanketed with colorful crops ready for harvesting. However, it is also worth a journey when the rice fields are at their mirror-like finest when tendrils of mist hang over the hillsides in springtime, and strongly red fields are just turned over for new crops in summer. The sunrise and sunset are always the prime moments for photographers to take the most dramatic shots due to the sudden changing hues and rays of sunshine.
Many travelers take Kunming only as a landing base in Yunnan, while in fact Kunming boasts a big draw of nature that has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2007. It is the awe-inspiring Stone Forest. As the name suggests, you may could picture the scenic spots in your mind. Yet, Stone Forest is home to a massive collection of peculiar limestone karst rock formations across its 10,000-acre landscapes.
200 million years in the making, the stones comes into spectacular shapes of pinnacles, caves, bridges and screens, each of which is like no other. You will be awed by the natural stone masterpieces and let your imagination run wild and see what else you can spot!
As an alpine pearl perched at the border between Yunnan and Sichuan province, Lugu Lake is absolutely an idyllic and mystical natural escape for a quiet vacation. Surrounded by lush forests, the freshwater lake is a tranquil gem with a uniquely turquoise-like sheen, displaying different spectacles during a day: a misty orange pearl at sunrise, an emerald shock of jade at midday and a dark green sheet of glass at sundown.
You could take small wooden boats to explore its flora and fauna-rich islands or go for a scooters ride to admire the fascinating shorelines. The local residents of Mosuo People are an extra draw of the lake. They has been maintaining a matrilineal social order for centuries, which adds more unconventional charms to Lugu Lake.
Situated in the southern part of the “Three Parallel Rivers” world natural heritage area, Pudacuo is the first national park in China that is crowned as the Last Piece of Heavenly Land. Sitting at the crossroad of the Tibetan-Yunnan Plateau and the Indian tectonic plate, the park is blessed with a very unique bio-system and great biodiversity, holding 30% of all the flora and 20 % of all the fauna species of China as well as almost 100 endangered species.
The well-protected reserve consists of primeval pine and fir forests, pure lakes, enchanting pasture lands, wetlands, rolling hills and the snow covered peaks. Tourists can take pleasant hikes through the miles long of wooden-walkway in the fairy-like park, soaking up the unspoiled air and scenery freely.
Nestled by foot of the mighty Cangshan Mountains, Erhai Lake is a flawless gem in Dali, a laid-back town full of gorgeous and heart-stirring sights. Shaped like an ear, Erhai Lake displays a cozy and relaxing taste of sunshine, lake breeze, picturesque reflections of azure sky and Mt. Cang. One of the greatest way to absorb its charms is to take a cruise ship to see the shimmering water and land one of the lovely islands for delightful onshore excursions. Or you could linger around the lakefront for farseeing views of the Three Pagodas, the landmark of Dali or feed the migrant black-headed gulls.