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Southwestern China Travel Guide

  • Photo: Jakrit Jiraratwaro / Shutterstock


Hidden deep in southwestern China, Yunnan is one of the country's most fascinating provinces. Its rugged and varied terrain contains some of China's most beautiful natural scenery, as well as the headwaters of three of Asia's most important rivers: the Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween. Stunning mountains, picturesque highland meadows, and steamy tropical jungles are inhabited by Bai, Dai, Naxi, Hani,

and dozens of other ethnic groups, many of which can only be found in Yunnan.

Yunnan sits atop the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, with the Himalayas to the northwest and Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam to the south. Yunnan was central to the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Route, an important trade route that connected China with the rest of Southeast Asia for thousands of years. Today Yunnan is one of the top travel destinations in China, with Lijiang, Dali, and Jinghong getting most of the attention. Countless lesser-known but equally amazing places are scattered throughout the province.

Roughly the size of California, Yunnan is becoming increasingly accessible to the outside world. More convenient air travel makes it possible to have breakfast by the Mekong in Jinghong and dinner overlooking the old mountain town of Lijiang the same day. Yunnan still has plenty of places that are off the beaten path.

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