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Overview

With its larger than life scenery and compelling cultures, Yunnan is a photographer’s paradise. So, keep the batteries fully charged on this eight-day trip, venturing through China’s most breath-taking landscapes and tribal villages. Travel well off the beaten track and be rewarded with stunning photo opportunities at every turn.

Trip Highlights

Yunnan, Photographer’s Paradise

Photography China’s stunning landscapes

Trek, bike and boat to Yunnan’s best natural settings- the famed ‘snail-shaped’ fields, ‘Red Earth’, sugarloaf mountains and rice terraces.

Capture Yunnan’s compelling culture

Come face-to-face with several ethnic minority groups and photograph their traditional costumes and customs.

Get a unique impression of China

See China in a different way, waking up early in the mornings and venturing away from the main sights.

Itinerary

1

Kunming - Hongtudi (Red 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 the Yunnan 1 week experience with a departure from Kunming for Hongtudi (literally translating to “Red Earth”), which takes its name from the rich minerals found in the earth that give the region its characteristic red-orange color.

En route, make a stop in Tangxun at a 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. Practicing a moderate form of Islam, Hui men can be recognized by their white skull caps and women by their headscarves and conservative dress.

The journey will continue on, passing some traditional villages along the way.

Arriving in the small hamlet of Huagou, there will be a brief check in to the hotel followed by a visit to Yuepu’ao, a beautiful area offering some of the region’s best photo opportunities. Photographers are particularly drawn to the region in spring (particularly in February and March), when the flowers are in bloom and produce a marvelous array of colours.

Continue the journey along to Damaka, passing through Jinxiuyuan. This relaxing journey highlights peaceful countryside, far from the hustle and bustle of modern Chinese cities.

En route, watch locals working in the fields, the majority of whom belong to the Yi minority. With more than eight million Yui living in the province, this is Yunnan’s largest ethnic group.

On the way back from Damaka, admire a beautiful sunset from Lexiaguo, a small village in a valley, which lights up with vibrant colors in the evenings. Dinner will be served here.

Note: The destination to observe the sunset may be altered according to the weather forecast

Overnight in Hongtudi.

2

Hongtudi - Luoping

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

If there is time (and for those interested), the day will start early with a sunrise at Jinxiuyuan. Although guests visited the night before, the landscape transforms in the blue dawn light. Warm clothing is recommended - the nights and early mornings are particularly fresh in this region.

Then head back to the hotel for a well-earned breakfast.

Before noon, set off for Luoping. The first hour of the journey offers another chance to appreciate the unusual countryside of the region. A photo stop will be made at Yueliangtian where the scenery is particularly stunning. We will stop for lunch here in the early afternoon in Qujing, the largest town on the route.

Upon arrival, visit the nearby village of Jinji or climb the steps to the top of Golden Rooster Peak, which takes its name from the village it overlooks. The peak is home to the Lingyi Temple, which is more of an improvised place of worship than an official Buddhist site, but the views from the promontory just below the temple are stupefying. The views are especially beautiful between January and March when the green-black karst hills contrast with the fields of vibrant yellow colza flowers, or in summer when chrysanthemums are in bloom.

Overnight in Luoping.

3

Luoping - Jiulong - Puzhehei

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

Continue the Yunnan 1 week journey with a visit to the iconic colza fields, which are dotted with the rock formations typical of southern China. It is advisable to wear a strong pair of shoes.

Next pay a visit to a factory specializing in the production of canola honey, which is famous in the region. The countryside jaunt will continue with a visit to a tobacco field. The Chinese are big smokers and the tobaccos of Yunnan and neighboring Guizhou province are some of the most sought-after in China.

The journey continues on to Niujie, which is home to the “snail-shell shaped fields” – another geographical eccentricity of the region (particularly of interest during the January-March period when the colza is in flower.) The local villagers farm the colza flower in small circular terraces which, when viewed from afar, resemble the shells of snails.

Afterwards, head to the Jiulong (or “Nine Dragons”) Waterfalls, which are considered among the most beautiful in the country. It will take around half an hour to get there with no traffic- a region populated mostly by the Buyi minority.

Take a cable car to get a better view of the highest waterfall (56-meters-high by 112-meters-wide). Traveling approximately 3km up the mountain, this ride allows full appreciation of the beauty of the falls and villages below (10 falls in total.)

Back on the road, the journey continues to Puzhehei. Spend the night in a typical village in the heart of countryside, away from the tourist masses.

Overnight in Puzhehei.

4

Puzhehei

Begin the day with a bike ride through the countryside.

The route will pass a number of “sugar loaves” (the local name given to of the dramatic limestone karst hills), traditional red brick houses, and vibrant green paddy fields.

A refreshing stop will be taken at a peach farm, where guests will be able to try some of the local produce.

After the bike ride, return to Puzhehei to enjoy a pleasant one-hour boat trip on the lake. Guests will be able to marvel at the natural beauty of the water-lilies covering the lake, which bloom in the summertime.

End the day with a walk along the embankment as the sun sets gently over the lake, reflecting the sugar loaf hills. This peaceful 1-2 hour stroll will go beyond arched bridges and traditional wooden houses where locals gather to play mah-jong. For those who are exhausted from the day’s activities, enjoy the surrounding scenery via electric car.

Arrive at a small fishing village and feast on the catch of the day for dinner.

Overnight in Puzhehai.

5

Puzhehei - Yuanyang

Estimate distance and journey time: Puzhehei – Yuanyang (approx. 350km):approx 7h30 Yuanyang – Yuanyang Laohuzui (approx 20Km): 30 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin Day 5 of the Yunnan 1 week tour by setting off for the rice terraces of Yuanyang.

En route, stop for lunch at a Hui restaurant, before reaching the destination in the afternoon.

The Yuanyang rice terraces are without a doubt the most beautiful in China (possibly the most impressive in the whole of Asia.) Even UNESCO recognizes the natural beauty of these rice terraces and is in the process of registering them as a World Heritage site. Cascading down the mountainside, the terraces give the impression of giant steps leading to the mountaintop. The best time to visit is in spring (between March and April), considered by photographers to be the best time to visit.

For the adventurous type, sample a local delicacy of eel, found in many local restaurants. A meal will be eaten fairly early, in preparation for a big day to come.

Stop at the hotel and head to Laohuzui, literally “The Tiger’s Mouth,” to enjoy the sunset. Here, the rice terraces continue as far as the eye can see, and the panorama is breath-taking, even dizzying for some.

Overnight in Yuanyang.

6

Yuanyang

Begin Day 6 quite early to admire the sunrise at Duoyisu (depending on the hotel location, some may be able to view sunrise from the room’s terrace).

It is recommended to wrap up warm as the early mornings can be rather fresh.

Breakfast at the hotel.

Continue with a visit to a local market in a Hani minority village (a daily market, rotating between different villages in the area.) The Hani, otherwise known as the Akha in Southeast Asia, number around 1.5 million and are mainly to be found in Yunnan. In spite of their modest numbers, they are famous for their skill in the art of rice terrace sculpting and drainage systems. It is believed that the Hani were the first people to implement this rice production method.

It is mainly the Yi and the Hani who come to buy and sell their produce at the market. This busy market is to be savored for its traditional hustle and bustle and for its bright and vivid colors.

Continue with a 4-5 hour walk through the rice terraces starting at Duoyishu and finishing at Bada.

Upon arrival in Bada, enjoy a breathtaking sunset- a great reward for the day’s hike. This vantage point is much closer to the terraces themselves, enabling guests to take in the full glory of Hani’s agricultural craftsmanship.

Overnight in Yuanyang.

7

Yuanyang - Jianshui

Estimate distance and journey time: Yuanyang– Jianshui(approx. 85km):approx 2h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Today, guests will travel to the ancient Chinese garrison town of Jianshui. Yunnan, like the majority of China’s border regions, is stuck between two worlds – 21st Century China and their traditional neighbors.

Start the day with a visit to the Confucius Temple, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. It is particularly known for its green lotus pool which symbolizes the immense scale of knowledge. Explore the site and absorb the unique ambience of its  surrounding park, filled with elderly people chatting and playing mahjong.

The region is equally as famous for the residences of two families built in the 19th Century, the Zhang Family Estate and Zhu Family Estate.

The Zhu Estate is located at the heart of the old town and is one of the most stunning examples of traditional housing in the entire country. An intricate labyrinth of more than two hectares of bamboo groves, pavilions, courtyards and bandstands, it perfectly embodies one’s mental image of Imperial China. Today the estate is a hotel, but its old-world charm has been well preserved..

The Zhang Estate is located at Tuanshan, around 15km from Jianshui. This seemingly timeless village is an interweaving lattice of avenues that hide the stunning former residences of merchants, who made their money in the salt trade. These houses are interspersed with the more common ochre houses of the village. The Zhang Estate, with its square courtyards, sculpted doors and richly decorated friezes, is the best example of such a house.

Before returning to Jianshui, pay a visit to the Twin Dragon Bridge, which takes its name from the two rivers which weave dragon-like through its 17 arches. It is one of the oldest bridges in all of China, and is a wonderful piece of stonework. After this visit, head back to the hotel.

Overnight in Jianshui.

8

Jianshui - Shilin - Kunming (altitude 1750m)

Estimate distance and journey time: Yuanyang– Jianshui(approx. 85km):approx 2h30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Wrap up this Yunnan 1 week experience with a trip to the county of Lunan, which is home to the dramatic Shilin, or “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. Guests will therefore be taken to the quieter Black Stone Forest, which is roughly 10km from the main site but just as impressive.

This maze of “stone trees” is fascinating, but it’s also easy to get lost; it’s imperative to follow the guide at all times!

Depending on the weather, enjoy a picnic lunch in the middle of the “forest”, which boasts beautiful scenery and avoids the inflated prices of the tourist restaurants.

En route to Kunming Airport for the departing flight, there will be a chance able to see some old French train tracks. While China was never fully colonized by Western powers, concessions were granted during the 19th Century, one of the best known being in Shanghai. In 1910 the French launched a mammoth project to link Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam at the time of French rule, with Kunming. They laid more than 450 km of track, built more than 3500 bridges and 170 tunnels, and what remains of this epic project is one of the most significant traces of the French presence in China. 

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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