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8 Days Classic Yunnan Photography Tour

Leisure Life in Colorful Dreamland


Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La are the three ancient cities on the Yungui plateau. They are the dreamland offering you awesome photography sites to capture the diverse Yunnan.

You could wander in the old towns taking you back to ancient times, do boating in Erhai Lake, find a great loacation to shoot Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge overlooking Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, get on a viewing deck to shoot the holy monastery, walk around peaceful Bita lake and Shudu Lake...Will it fulfill your dream to get the most diverse experience and explore the colorful Yunnan? What’s more, there are colorful ethnic groups like Bai people in Dali, Naxi people in Lijiang, Tibetan people in Shangri-La, showing the unique culture and folk customs.

Come to the COLORFUL DREAMLAND of Yunnan and shoot now!

Basic Photography Info

Travel Route: Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La

Travel Length: 8 Days

Tour Code: CD-PTYPT-08

Tour Type: Customizable Private Tour

Departure: You Choose (you may plan it according to the best season and time.)

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Itinerary Details Day by Day

Day 1 Kunming Arrival

Welcome to Kunming, the Spring City! Free until being escorted to the airport for your flight to Kunming. Upon arrival, be met and transferred to your hotel in Kunming. Your guide will help you check in. (Please note: you'll arrive in Kunming before 12:00 on this day.)

After a rest, you’ll start a tour to Western Hills which is called “Sleeping Beauty Hills”, looking like a beautiful young lady lying beside Dian Lake (the largest freshwater in Yunnan and famed as the “Pearl on the Plateau”). It will be a perfectly lovely trip to walk in this long wedge of parkland and explore the famous temples (Huating Temple and Taihua Temple included) and other cultural relics. There is a saying: If you do not visit Western Hill, you haven't visited Kunming; if you do not come to Dragon Gate, you haven't been to Western Hills. Make some effort to climb up to magic Dragon Gate where you’ll appreciate the panoramic view of Dian Lake as well as see a group of grottoes and sculptures. 

Later, transfer to Yunnan Minority Village, an epitome of ethnic of Yunnan. In the minority village, you can not only get to know ethnic architecture styles, costumes, customs, funny marriage, etiquette, but also interact with the ethnic people, sing folk songs, dance with them and even taste some ethnic snacks.

After the tour, drive back to your hotel

Kunming Western Hill Yunnan Minority Village
Day 2 Kunming (B)

After breakfast, drive 85 km to the typical Karst landform - Stone Forest. Walk into the Greater Stone Forest, marvel at groups of gray-black stone peaks and climb up a pavilion to have a panoramic view of the intricate stone forest. Visit the Lesser Stone Forest and listen to the legendary story of “Ashima”. It will be a real treat to visit the extraordinary natural stone forest. You feel like come into a "stone world".

Later, drive back to Kunming downtown area and pay a visit to the 1200-year-old Yuantong Buddhist Temple, the largest temple in Kunming City. Learn Buddhism’s three traditions and seek for some calmness and peacefulness by exploring this impressive temple. Later, walk a few minutes to the most picturesque park in Kunming urban area - the Green Lake Park. Here you can share the happiness of local people’s doing tai chi, performing local opera, and other vibrant activities. If you visit the park in November or December, you will see the grandeur of huge flocks of black-headed gulls that migrate there from Siberia.

The Most Famous Rock of Ashima in Stone Forest Kunming Green Lake Winter Scenery photoed by our customer Marcin
Day 3 Kunming - Dali (B)

Take the morning bullet train to Dali. Dali is a historically and culturally famous city of China, is renowned for her historical interest and Bai ethnic culture. On this day, you’ll visit and shoot Three Pagodas, Erhai Lake and Dali Old Town.

Three Pagodas: It has a history of over 1,800 years located at the foot of Cangshan Mountain facing to the Erhai Lake. Three Pagodas are made of three ancient independent pagodas forming a symmetrical triangle.

Erhai Lake: Take cruise in Erhai Lake by the small boat to the Jinsuo Islet in the east Erhai Lake. There are 200 Bai ethnic families around 1000 people in Jinsuo Island. In Erhai Lake cruise, you will enjoy the green Cangshan Mountain and the Three Pagodas from a far as well as lots of birds and seagulls flying over the lake.

Dali Old Town: In Dali Old Town, walk around the Foreigner Street and enjoy the relax time with local people. After climbing up to the City Wall of Dali, you could shoot panoramic view of the Erhai Lake.

Our guest Louis J from Belg visited Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Monastery in December 2021 Wuhua Tower in Dali Old Town, Photographed by Our Guest Carrie in 2019
Day 4 Dali - Lijiang (B)

In the morning, you’ll be driven about 18 km to visit the Morning Market in Xizhou. It is a place for local people trading daily supplies, including fresh vegetable, fruits, meats, and many kinds of food and daily necessities. It is a great opportunity for getting close to local living conditions. Then, explore in Xizhou Ancient Town, a historical town showing you the Bai minority cultural, the local people’s daily life and natural beauty. Shoot the traditional Bai people’s architecture in Xizhou.

Then, drive to Lijiang with the beautiful farmlands and ethnic villages on the way. After arrival, you’ll start your memorable Lijiang tour from Lijiang Ancient Town. Enjoy a panoramic view of this fascinating old city from Wangu Tower, the landmark building of Lijiang. This pure wood building was built at 33 meters tall on the top of Lion Hill where you could also overlook Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance.

Louis from Belgium visited Lijiang Old Town in 2019 Bai-style Architecture in Xizhou Old Town
Day 5 Lijiang (B)

Today, your guide and driver will escort you Yuhu Village which is located in the south of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. When walk around this authentic Naxi Village, you’ll capture unique stone house, naxi ladies dressing in traditional clothes, a wooden fish is hunging in the middle of the roof, the kids playing…Then you get to the Former Residence of Joseph Rock, who is an Austrian-American Botanist came in Lijiang and stayed in Yuhu Village for 27 years.

After that, visit the ancient Baisha Mural Paintings at Baisha Village. Painted over 1000 years ago, the murals combine the cultures of Han, Tibetan and Naxi people displaying the life stories of the Tibet Buddhism, Confucian and Taoism. Then, followed a trip to Shuhe Ancient Town - a component of Lijiang Old Town listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1997. 

Later, head for Black Dragon Pool Park to shoot the pavilion, lakes and mountains. Visit Naxi Dongba Culture Museum where you can learn Naxi pictograph character and explore the rich Naxi minority culture in the museum.

Carrie from China visited Black Dragon Pool Park in 2021 Daisy from Thailand visited Baisha Village in 2018
Day 6 Lijiang - Shangri-La (B)

After breakfast, you’ll be driven to shoot the First Bend of the Yangtze River with imposing gorge scenery and the Iron Chain Bridge in the Shigu (Stone Drum) Town (about 60 km from Lijiang with 2 to 3 hours’ drive). Later you will take photograph in Tiger Leaping Gorge. Last, you'll drive to Shangri La, about 100km. You'll enjoy the enchanting natural scenes on the way.

First Bend of the Yangtze River: Surrounded by rivers and mountains, the First Bend of the Yangtze River has picturesque scenery. Three rivers join together here and take a sudden turn.

Tiger Leaping Gorge: the deepest gorge in the world. It is divided into the Upper Tiger Leaping, the Middle Tiger Leaping and the Lower Tiger Leaping three parts. In the upper part of Tiger Leaping Gorge, you will walk about 2.6 Km from the entrance to Tiger Leaping Rock. It is a nice walking along the Jinsha River and Marble trail. You will walk through three marble tunnel s in the gorge.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking Daisy from Thailand visited First Bend of Yangtze River in 2018
Day 7 Shangri-La (B)

Today is a full day to explore and shoot the on-earth paradise described in the famous novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton.

You'll visit the Garden Sumtseling Monastery to be touched about how the simple Tibetan keeps their pure and religious belief in this temporal world. Get on Gulongcun viewing deck to capture the panoramic view of Garden Sumtseling Monastery. Later take a leisurely walk beside the beautiful Bitahai Lake and Shudu Lake, feel marvel for the nature's masterpiece. Then, pay a visit to a local Tibetan family and experience the highly-praised hospitality of Tibetan people.

Visit Dukezong Old Town in the late afternoon, climb up to the top of Guishan Hill or Tortoise Hill, you will see the largest Prayer Wheel of the world and have a panoramic view of Shangri-La County and Dukezong Ancient Town.

Important Notice: Militang Pasture (弥里塘草场) in Pudacuo National Park is closed for tourists due to maintainance from 3th September, 2017. The administrative office of Pudacuo National Park hasn't confirmed when they will be open exactly. Shudu Lake Scenic Area (属都湖) and Bita Lake Scenic Area (碧塔海) are open for tourists. Please contact your travel consultant to adjust your itinerary.

Mutia's Group from Indonesia Visiting Songzanlin Monastery with China Discovery in 2018 Pudacuo National Park
Day 8 Shangri-La Departure (B)

On this day you will be free until your tour guide escorts you to the airport for your flight to your next destination.

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In this Yunnan color dreamland photography tour, you’ll photograph in three great destinations from Kunming, including the Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La. Please take some time and check the photography guide one by one and you are sure on the way to get the most gorgeous pictures in those places.

Dali Photography Guide

Three Pagoda Photography Dali Old Town Photography Erhai Lake Photography

In Dali, there are Four Greatest Scenes are the most attractive and enchanting. If have enough time in exploring in Dali, you should not miss the winds of Xiaguan, flowers of Shangguan, snow of Cangshan Mountain and moon of Erhai Lake. As a photographer, you should have in-depth exploration in the ancient towns, Cangshan mountain and Erhai Lake, if interested, attend the local market and feel the authentic Bai people’s life.

Best Sites for Photography

Ancient Towns & Pagodas

In Dali, there are two famous ancient towns where photographers could shoot typical Bai people’s architecture and daily life. The two ancient towns include Dali Ancient City and Xizhou Ancient Town.

Dali Ancient City has four gate towers, five streets from south to north, eight streets from east to west, small and exquisite courtyards, colorful flowers blooming in every household, shops and bars standing along the old streets, people chatting leisurely in tea houses, Bai ethnic girls in traditional Bai clothes smiling...When wandering leisurely in the old town, photographers should not miss Xiyun Academy, Foreigner Street and get on South Gate Tower to capture the snow scenery of Cangshang Mountain also have a panoramic view of Dali Old Town.

Xizhou Ancient Town with a history of 1000 years, is “the Museum of Bai Architecture”. There are many residences from Ming and Qing Dynasties. The typical Bai houses are San Fang Yi Zhao Bi (three houses from a U and one screen wall stand in the front and form a enclose space, with courtyard in the middle), Si He Wu Tianjin (four houses form enclosed space with five wells). It is recommended to visit the Seven Inch Book Mansion, Yang Family Courtyard, Yan Family Courtyard. Photographers could shoot the screen wall, well-decorated doors and windows, gables and more in the old houses.

Besides the ancient towns, photographers should never miss Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple. The main pagoda is called Qianxun Pagoda built during 824-840 AD by the King of Nanzhao State. The other two sibling pagodas stand to the northwest and southwest of Qianxun Pagoda. The best site to shoot the Three Pagodas is “Small Erhai Lake”. It is good to capture full-face photo, pagoda, blue sky and white cloud reflection in the water, in this way, “the six pagodas” would get into your pictures.

Cangshan Mountain & Erhai Lake

Cangshang Mountain and Erhai Lake are another two famous sites of Dali. Cangshan Mountain consists of 19 peaks and 18 brooks. All the 19 peaks are at altitude of 3500 meters, snow-capped all the year round. The photography road in Cangshang Mountain is the Jade Belt Road at an altitude of 2600m and with a length of 18 km. Photographers could use down shot to capture Dali Ancient Town, Xiaguan Town and Erhai Lake.

Erhai Lake, the mother lake of Bai minority, is located in the east of Dali Ancient City. The scenery of Erhai Lake is gorgeous and pleasing. It is great to capture the picturesque scenery with islets, caves, marshes, forest, shoals and cottage, etc. There are several ways to shoot Erhai lakes, you could choose to go Erhai Lake Park for Cangshang Mountain and Erhai Lake scenery, Wanghai Tower in Chongsheng Temple for distant view, or cruise in Erhai Lake for sunset scenery.

Best Season for Photography

Spring is the best season to photograph in Dali. There is a saying “Dali has the best scenery in March”. During this season, flowers are blossom everywhere, especially when you wander and shoot in Dali Ancient City, you’ll be amazed by the flowers in Bai people’s household. Besides, many festivals like March Fair with features activities hold in March and April.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Erhai Photography

There are three tips for photography in Erhai Lake. (1) Use Grad ND filter to darken the sky; (2) Use CPL to get rid of stray light, strengthen the contrast of colorful cloud and blue sky and make all the scenery saturated; (3) Use HDR (High-Dynamic Range)

2. Cultural Experience

It is good to cover some cultural experience in your photography tour. You could enjoy Three-course Tea of Bai Ethnic Minority and appreciate Batik of Zhoucheng old city.

3. Transportation Tips

You could take flight, train or long-distance coach to Dali. It is very convenient to transfer from Kunming to Dali by air. Meanwhile, there are four trains from Kunming to Dali, taking 6-8 hours.

4. Advice for Accommodation

You may want to spend some time to take photograph of Dali Ancient City for the beautiful night view. Hence, it is good to stay overnight in Dali Ancient City. Hotels range from 5 star, 4 star and boutique ones.

For more photography advice in Dali, you could feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

Lijiang Photography Guide

Lijiang Photography Tour Lijiang Photography Tour Lijiang Photography Tour

In Lijiang, photographers could have very romantic journey and encounter. Of course, you’ll first wander and shoot leisurely in Lijiang Old Town. You’ll be impressed by the old streets, old Naxi buildings, clear water, enthusiastic Naxi people and thousands of travelers...Actually, Lijiang Old Town is the place to meet others, meet nature and even the true self. Out of Lijiang Old Town, you could explore more natural scenery like snow-capped mountains, thrilling gorges, bend of Yangtze River, beautiful villages with Naxi culture and more.

Best Sites for Photography

Lijiang Old Town

It is also called Dayan Old Town, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The old street is the windpipe of Lijiang Old Town. The water is the blood of this old town and Naxi ethnic minority culture is the soul of Lijiang Old Town while the bars and shops make the old town alive. For photographers, they could shoot the old streets, old bridges and old folk houses and more sites. Also, don’t forget the Naxi ethnic group. In Sifangjie Square, you could shoot the Naxi people attend the fair and dance in a circle, if you like, you could join in them. Appreciate Naxi Dongba Ancient Orchestral Music and stand at a higher place and use telephoto lens to shoot the musical instrument and performers. It is good to get up Lion Hill and Wangu Tower to take panorama view of Lijiang Old Town. In Black Dragon Pool Park, you could capture the beautiful mountains and rivers, with Jade Snow Mountain as the backdrop.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world with a vertical depth of nearly 4000 meters. The famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is located on the southern side of Tiger Leaping Gorge, visible from many places on the northern side of the gorge. On the southern side of the gorge locates the Haba Snow Mountain. Tiger Leaping Gorge stretches about 20 kilometers consisting of three sections: Upper Leaping Gorge, Middle Leaping Gorge and Lower Leaping Gorge. It is good to do photography by hiking. If you want to hike all three gorges and get the best pictures, at least two days are needed. The scenery near Tiger Leaping Stone is very fantastic. It is good to use telephoto lens to capture the amazing views. The scenery of Middle Leaping Gorge are gorgeous and be careful when shooting in this gorge. If you want to stay one night and there is no need to worry about the accommodation for there are some guesthouses along the trail roads.

Best Season for Photography

Lijiang Old Town can be visited all the year round. And the best time for Tiger Leaping Gorge photography is from May to July.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Old town photography

Try to avoid shooting the old town in the noon. It is better to use polarizer.

2. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is another destination out of Lijiang Old Town for shooting the snow-capped mountains. The best photography time is in April, May and in winter. It is a good choice to take the cable car when visiting the mountain. There are three cable car lines, the first is to the Glacier Park (4,500m), the second is to Spruce Meadow (3,200 m), and the third is to Yak Meadow (3,700m). If you want to know more about photography information about Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, please feel free to contact us and our photo experts are here ready to offer you useful experience.

3. Advice for Accommodation

You may want to spend some time to take photograph of Lijiang Old Town for the beautiful night view. Hence, it is good to stay overnight in Lijiang Old Town. Hotels range from 5 star, 4 star and 3 star. You could decide which one to stay.

For more photography advice in Lijiang, you could feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

Shangri-La Photography Guide

Shangri-La Photography Tour Shangri-La Photography Tour Shangri-La Photography Tour

Shangri-La, also called Zhongdian, is a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a monastery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Enter into the Eden in Dream, you could see the snow-capped mountains, the vast virgin forest, peaceful lakes, fat pasture, clear streams, year-old ancient town...It is the real scene in the Lost Horizon. To sum up, there are two kinds of subjects for your photography in Shangri-La: One is the snow mountain natural scenery, the other is Tibetan folk customs.

Best Sites for Photography

Pudacuo National Park

It is the best place to shoot the lake scenery with beautiful surroundings like minority villages, lush forests and pastures. Pudacuo National Park has two lakes called Shudu Lake and Bita Lake. Shudu Lake has plank road surrounded the lake where it becomes a good location to shoot the lake view. There is a viewing deck to photograph the whole Bita Lake and it is the best location to shoot the islands in the lake.

Dukezong Ancient Town

With 1300-year-old history, it is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan city among China’s 147 Tibetan counties. It is also site of the largest ancient Tibetan community. As a key stop on the Ancient Tea-horse Road and a focal point for Han-Tibetan exchanges, it has experienced both the flames of war and prosperity of frontier trade. Photographers could wander and shoot the authentic Tibetan dwellings, majestic Golden Prayer Wheel, Tortoise Hill, etc.

Songzanlin Monastery

It is referred as “the Little Potala Palace”. Built in 1679, the monastery is not only the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan, but also the most important monastery in southwest China. The best location to shoot the panoramic view of Songzanlin Monastery is Gulongcun Viewing Deck which is located on the road to the monastery. The sunrise is around 07:00 and the sunset time is around 20:00. To shoot the sunset view, you’d better arrive early and wait for the amazing view. In the monastery, photographers could shoot Thangka, palm-leaf scripture, censer, light and more. The Lama and pilgrims could come into your pictures. To enjoy the Tibetan folk customs and activities, you could come during the Gedong Festival in 26th to 29th in December by Tibetan calendar.

Best Season for Photography

The best times to visit Shangri-La are from May to July and September to October. The weather is mild and pleasant and the scenery is very attractive and breathtaking. During those months, it couldn’t be better to visit Pudacuo National Park and its lakes. During the summer time, azalea and other other wild flowers are in blossom, herds of sheep and cows are scattered over the grassland, you are just getting into the paradise and when rise your head, you could see the snow mountains afar. During the autumn time, the park turns into a golden world. It is good to shoot in the early morning and in the late afternoon.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Ancient Town Photography

Get on the Tortoise Hill and use wide angle lens to shoot the panoramic Dukezong Ancient Town. It is good to come in the early morning and late afternoon when it is less crowded and with better light.

2.Aerial Photography

If you get to Shangri-La by air, you could catch the rare opportunity before landing to shoot Shangri-La with mountains, valleys, lakes, forests, pastures, streams for panoramic views.

3. Transport Info

There are two ways to reach Shangri-La, by air or by road. There are flights from Kunming, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Lhasa, Beijing to Shangri-La. It is also popular to get to Shangri-La after Lijiang travel by road.

For more photography advice in Shangri-La, you could feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

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