Best time to visit Yunnan

Best time to visit the Yunnan


If you had to pick one Chinese province that would expose you to the most varied climate, it would be Yunnan, and the weather – that changes daily rather than seasonally – is as diverse as its landscape. The best time to visit Yunnan, therefore, is pretty much up to you, although as a rule of thumb the temperature and rainfall rises the further south you travel. Lijian and Shangri-La sit high above sea level and are most comfortable from April-Oct. Spring is cool and colourful all rounder, with wild flowers and dense foliage.

Things to do in Yunnan


Things to do in Yunnan…

See a very different side of China. Regardless of its unique geography, Yunnan has always been very separate from the rest of China in personality too, not least because of the 28 ethnic groups that live here, each with their own language, gastronomy and beliefs. Though it all gels together under a palpable sense of custom and calm, a visit to Yunnan is very much about exploring the intriguing culture and customs that pervade it.
Explore your spiritual side. Being in such close proximity to Tibet, and with many ethnic groups that still live very traditional lives, it’s no surprise that Yunnan has more than a hint of spirituality and religion flowing through it. The landscape is peppered with pagodas, temples and monasteries; in many of them you can stroll around the grounds, watching the monks go about their daily business.
Mix hiking with history. Every part of Yunnan has a story to tell. Visit Tea Horse Road, an old trading route along the Silk Road where tea growers and horse traders once met; explore Bai culture in Dali where whitewashed houses have flower-painted borders; or get lost in the mysticism of Shangri-La where Tibetans sip yak butter tea and the crisp air swirls with the scent of wood smoke – you cannot fail to be swept up in the traditional way of life. Ask questions and show an interest – you will learn far more than you thought you would.

Things not to do in Yunnan…

Live for the party. This is Yunnan, not Beijing; there are no bright lights and big city. The beauty of the province is its rural, simple way of life and quiet, contemplative nature. Which isn’t to say the locals don’t know how to have fun. They do. It’s just that their idea of fun is less about late night drinking and more about folk festivals of myths, singing, dance and storytelling, of which there are more than 400 celebrated throughout the year.
Forget your hiking boots. Going to Yunnan and not walking would be up there with going to Xi’an and giving the Terracotta Warriors a miss. From wandering around Spruce Meadow, famous for growing more species of fungus than any other Chinese province, to strolling around the 17th century Songzangling Monastery at Shangri-La, or hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge – there is so much to explore on two feet. Take a pair of sturdy shoes and embrace each very different, but equally brilliant walking experience
Be a picky eater. We all think we know what Chinese food tastes like, but generally, the exported stuff isn’t a patch on the real thing. Especially in rural guesthouses, things will arrive on your plate that you might not like the look of. However, it’s a huge part of local hospitality to prepare dishes for visitors, so do try it – the chances are it’s a local delicacy and tastes delicious. Rice and noodles are ubiquitous at breakfast, lunch and dinner, so don’t expect cornflakes. Oh, and get some chopstick practice in before you go!

Yunnan travel advice


Mia Yang, from our specialist supplier, China Highlights, shares her tips for visiting Yunnan:

Preparing for the weather

“The weather across Yunnan Province is very changeable due to its varied terrain and conditions. Even if you travel in summer, packing a light jacket is very practical as early morning and evening can get quite cool.”

Responsible tourism

“When in the countryside, don’t photograph an old person without his or her permission. Also, be prepared that toilets in the countryside are usually not clean. It is wise to always bring your own toilet tissue, and use the bathroom of your hotel before you hit the road. Otherwise, embrace the experience with an open mind.”

Culture tips

“Yunnan is home to many ethnic minorities, each living by their own diverse customs and traditions. When visiting ethnic villages, be courteous and observe any signs regarding what to do and not to do. If you are not serious about making a purchase, do not ask for the price of the item you’re buying, or try to bargain with the vendor.”

Yunnan travel advice


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Yunnan travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.

“Hire a bike in Dali and head off the beaten track.” – Juliet Hewish

“If you’re cycling, take warm waterproof gear and a head torch. It rained on a few occasions and is cold at altitude. The electric went out at Tiger Leaping Gorge, so the head torch was very useful. Shangri-La is 3,700m, so read up on altitude sickness, and take toilet roll, it can be in short supply.” – Karen Harding

“Take some dollars, go (unlike locals) between November and April – we had superb weather; take some warm clothing for the Tibetan plateau, and take plenty of film and memory cards for your camera!” – John Deason
Photo credit: [Temp chart: Chensiyuan] [Preparing for weather: Alexander Savin] [Culture tips: Jon Wade] [Review 1 - Ethan Myers: Ines Yeh] [Review 2 - Claire Cowie: Ines Yeh] [Review snippets: Nick Turner]

Written by: Polly Humphris
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