Eastern Yunnan in Winter, Off the Beaten Tracks

5 Days / 4 Nights


Keep the camera batteries fully charged- this eastern Yunnan excursion is filled with breath-taking moments. Explore landscapes that have made Yunnan so famous, venturing through rice paddies dotted with limestone karsts, red earth terrain and massive waterfalls. And meet the colourful hill tribes who inhabit this corner of China.

Trip Highlights

Eastern Yunnan in Winter, Off the Beaten Tracks

Encounter Yunnan’s diverse cultures

Travel through villages inhabited by various ethnic groups and learn about their background and unique traditions

Explore incredible waterfalls

See the ‘Nine Dragons’ falls and travel by cable car for an aerial view of the 56-metre Spiritual Dragon Waterfall.

Be immersed in Puzhehei’s beauty

Take bike rides around limestone karsts, boat on a tranquil lake, see famed ‘sugarloaf’ mountains and more of Puzhehei’s landscapes.  



Kunming - Hongtudi (Read Earth)

Estimate distance and journey time: Kunming city – Hongtudi (approx. 170km): approx 4 hours *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin this eastern Yunnan in winter tour with a visit from Kunming to Hongtudi. The site takes its name (literally meaning “red earth”) from the rich minerals found in the earth which, due to the oxidation process, gives this region its characteristic red-orange color.

En route to Hongtudi, stop off in Tangxun for some delicious food at the Hui Muslim minority restaurant. The Hui are indirect descendants of Persian and Arab merchants who started to trade with the Chinese in the 7th century, settling more permanently in the 13th century. They practice a moderate form of Islam, celebrating Ramadan, abstaining from the consumption of alcohol, and not eating pork. Hui men can be recognised by their white skull caps and the women by their headscarves and conservative dress. The Hui, like a majority of Muslims, are very concerned by cleanliness, and locals thus consider Hui restaurants as some of the most trustworthy and hygienic available.

Along the way to Hongtudi, pass a variety of beautiful local villages.

Arriving in the small hamlet of Huagou, check into the hotel and set off for some spectacular views at Yuepu’ao, one of Yunnan’s many perfect photo opportunities. Photographers are particularly drawn to the region in spring, especially in February and March, when the flowers are in bloom providing a marvellous array of colour.

Heading to Damaka, passing through Jinxiuyuan, the journey will be a relaxing one through the peaceful countryside, far from the hustle and bustle of modern Chinese cities.

Watch along as locals work in the fields, the majority being from the Yi Minority – the largest group in China numbering around 8 million.

Private transport will head back to Damaka, where a beautiful sunset is awaiting (from the small village of Luoxiagou) only a few kilometers away. The valley’s colours are particularly vibrant in the evenings, where dinner is planned for the night.

Note: Sunset or sunrise are dependent on the weather; the itinerary can be modified accordingly. The weather in Yunnan in winter can be a bit unpredictable!

Overnight in Hongtudi


Hongtudi - Luoping

Estimate distance and journey time: Hongtudi area – Luoping (approx. 350 km): approx 6 hours *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

For those who are interested, the day will start rather early to watch the sunrise at Jinxiuyuan. Despite being there the night before, the blue dawn colors make the destination nearly unrecognisable. Be sure to wrap up for this experience, as the nights and early mornings are particularly cool in the region.

Head back to the hotel for a well-earned breakfast.

Before noon, set off for Luoping. The first hour of the journey will allow further appreciation of the region’s unusual countryside. Enjoy a short photo break at Yueliangtian, where the panorama is particularly stunning. Lunch will be had in the early afternoon in Qujing, the biggest town along the route.

Upon arrival at Luoping, we will either visit the town of the nearby village of Jinji, or there will be a climbing option to the top of Golden Rooster Peak. Stop off first at the Lingyi Temple, which is more of an improvised place of worship for the locals rather than an official Buddhist site. The view from the promontory just below the temple is stupefying, particularly (during Yunnan in winter or early spring) when the green-black Karst hills are adorned by fields of vibrant yellow colza flowers. A breathtaking sunset can be seen from this vista as well.

Overnight in Luoping


Luoping - Jiulong - Puzhehei

Estimate distance and journey time: Luoping – Jiulong waterfalls (approx. 30km): approx 40 min Jiulong waterfalls – Puzhehei (170 km): approx 3h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

After breakfast, take a walk to the colza fields, dotted with the rock formations typical of Southern China. A good, strong pair of shoes are advised!

Follow up this visit with a tour of a factory specialising in the production of canola honey, famous in the region. Do beware, however, of roadside canola honey hawkers… some have been known to sell fake honey!

The countryside jaunt will continue with a visit to a tobacco field. The Chinese are big smokers and the tobaccos of Yunnan and the neighboring Guizhou province are some of the most sought-after in China; in the region, farmers smoke their water pipes at all hours of the day.

Onwards to Niujie, take in the “snail-shell shaped fields” – another eccentricity of the region that is only of interest during Yunnan in winter, when the colza is in flower. The local country folk farm the colza flower in small, circular terraces, which when viewed from afar, strangely resemble the shells of snails.

Afterwards we will head to the Jiulong Waterfalls, which are counted amongst the most beautiful in the country. It will take around half an hour to get there if the traffic is clear. Head into a region populated by the Buyi Minority, who number at around 3 million and are mostly concentrated in the province of Guizhou. The Buyi people are known for their consumption of dog meat, and it’s not uncommon in some villages to find restaurants which specialize in this ‘delicacy.’ Despite this consumption, the majority of the Buyi are Animists, believing that all natural objects have souls or spirits (calling for a deep respect of nature.) The Buyi are also set apart from their indigo and white coloured clothing, directly reflecting the two principal colors of the heavens above.

Embark on a cable car ride in order to get a better view of the biggest waterfall, known as the “Spiritual Dragon Waterfall”, measuring 56 meters high and 112 meters wide. The cable car ride will run about 3 kilometres upstream, offering a true appreciation of the falls, villages, and colza fields below.

We will then travel on to Puzhehei. The first part of the journey, which passes through heavily wooded areas, is referred to by the locals as the “Guilin of Yunnan”. There will be an opportunity to explore this area in more depth the following morning.

Spend the night in a typical village in the heart of countryside, just a few kilometers away from local mass tourism in the region.

Overnight in Puzhehei



Start the day with a bike ride in the surrounding countryside, with the choice of a traditional bicycle, tandem bike, or even a three seater!  

The route will pass through a number of “sugar loaves” (the poetic name given to a specific type of karst formation) and patches of private land, beyond traditional red brick houses and through fluorescent green paddy fields.

Take a refreshing stop at a peach farm, where a sample of the region’s delicacies are available. Peaches originate from China, and those from this region are particularly succulent thanks to its especially rich soils.

We will then return to Puzhehei to enjoy a pleasant boat trip on the lake lasting around an hour. An early arrival will offer some time to marvel at the natural beauty of the water-lilies covering the lake, which bloom in the summertime.

The day will end with a walk along the embankment, admiring the sun gently setting over the lake and reflecting the “sugar loaf” hills. Arched bridges and traditional wooden houses punctuate this superb walk through beautiful, natural settings. The walk can last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on pace, and runs alongside a perfect flagstone path (open to electric cars for those who are tired from the day’s activities.) Finally arrive at a small fishing village, where the catch of the day is featured, which will later be served for dinner.

Overnight in Puzhehei


Puzhehei - Stone Forest - Kunming

Estimate distance and journey time: Puzhehei – Stone forest (approx 275 km): 5h Stone forest – Kunming airport (approx. 90 km): 1h15 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Depart Day 5 for the long road to Kunming, passing by the county of Lunan. Here provides a unique opportunity to discover one of the major attractions of the region: Shilin or literally The Stone Forest. Due to its proximity to Kunming, Shilin can become a bit of a tourist trap. However, only a small part of the 26,000 hectare site is crowded and it is easy to escape the hordes of package holidaymakers. Avoiding the crowds, we head to the quieter and less frequented Black Stone Forest, roughly 10km away from the main site (but just as impressive.) This maze of “stone trees” is fascinating, but is also easy to get lost in, so it’s very important to follow the guide!

Shilin is an endless maze of rocky peaks laid out in an intriguing array of shapes and sizes, the result of chemical erosion caused by rain and wind. Depending on the weather, enjoy a picnic lunch in the middle of the “forest” which will not only provide the opportunity to enjoy the scenery, but also to avoid the rather high prices of the restaurants on-site.

En route to the Kunming Airport, take note of the old French train tracks. China was never fully colonized (at least by Western powers) unlike some of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, but concessions were granted to Western powers during the 19th century… These tracks are a living reminder! 

Important Information

Our services include:

  • Accommodation in selected hotel
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner).
  • English speaking guide without shopping (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits

Our services do not include:

  • Other meals not mentioned
  • Visa of China
  • Other services than mentioned
  • International and Domestic Flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance

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