DON’T MISS: Lijiang–Tiger Leaping Gorge–Shangri-La, on each end of the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge 2 day hike are the wonderful, traditional Chinese (Lijiang) and Tibetan (Shangri-La) cities. In a few short days you can see some of the best of Chinese culture and landscape.
MUST SEE: Pandas in Chengdu. Critically endangered, the Panda Research Center is the center of a global effort to save the giant pandas from extinction.
MUST TASTE: Sichuan food. Famously spicy, it is a great experience to savor the pepper, ingredients and combinations. Easily among the best type of Chinese food.
TRIP PLANNING: Visiting Yunnan and Sichuan requires at least two weeks. Entering and leaving China via Shanghai or Shenzhen
will provide a great view into China new and old.
GETTING AROUND: Trains and planes. If you have the time for overnight trains, you won’t go wrong with a soft-sleeper. For those constrained by time, flying is the only option due to the distances involved. Fly into Shenzhen/Guangzhou or Shanghai, then to Kunming. Take the train from there to Lijiang and bus to the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: Southern China, especially the states Sichuan and Yunnan are not the polluted, crowded China of the North or East. If you want to see China’s natural beauty and culture, this is the region to visit.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have budgeted more time for the area.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: See the main China Travel Guide for tips and links to visiting China.
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Pandas in Chengdu.
WHERE WE WENT: Shanghai, Lijiang, Yuanyang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shangri-La, Chengdu, Dali, Yangshuo
WE REGRET MISSING: Traveling from Chengdu to Shangri-La via bus. It takes several days through completely non-English speaking Szechuan and Yunnan, but is supposed to be an unforgettable experience.
Interested in reading about South China?
- Learn how to see the best of Shanghai in 3 days
- Walk ancient Chinese streets in Lijiang
- Visit the real-life Shangri-La
- Sample spicy Sichuan food with a family
- Walk one of the world’s deepest gorges, Tiger Leaping Gorge
- See the secret lives of Pandas in Chengdu
- Click here for the China article index
- Search for articles on our Interactive Map
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Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People\'s Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010. Located in the Yangtze River Delta in eastern China it is influential not only because of it\'s location, but it\'s residents, which include many large corporations. Visiting Shanghai you may even wonder if you have temporarily left the chaos of China behind.
Yuanyang county covers an area of 2200 square kilometers and has a population of approximately 365,000 (2002), of which 88% belong to ethnic minorities and 95% is associated with agriculture. The main attraction here are the gorgeous terraced rice fields as far as the eye can see. We enjoyed getting lost among the rice and meeting the warm and friendly local people.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world\'s deepest gorges, with 18,360 foot Jade Dragon Snow Mountain on one side of the 15 km gorge. It offers a stunning hike along the side of the gorge, finishing with a steep descent to the river. It is a highlight of Yunnan Province and conveniently located between Lijiang and Shangri-La.
Shangri-La, in the Yunnan Province, named after the fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon, fulfills its reputation as an earthly paradise for tired tourists. Tourist arrive from a bruising 5 day bus trip or hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge to find comfortable, affordable places to stay and a plethora of international foods. The old town has is filled with Tibetan and Chinese small town charm, along with a gorgeous lakeside monastery, Zhongdian.
Chengdu is capital of the Sichuan Province, known for it\'s spicy foods. The city is the center of an urban area with over 14 million residents, but is one of China\'s cleanest, nicest and most organized large cities. The highlight of our trip to Chengdu was visiting the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the world\'s center of attempts to save the Pandas from extinction.
Dali, in the Yunnan Province, is the ancient capital of both the Bai kingdom, which flourished during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Kingdom of Dali, which reigned from 937-1253. It has become a major tourist destination with a bohemian arts scene, international cuisine, and a quiet atmosphere that is a great break from more bustling parts of China.
Yangshuo is a popular destination for both domestic and foreign visitors due to its incredible karst scenery, beautiful mountains, rivers and caves as well as its laid back cafes and bars. Renting a bike to explore the countryside made for a nice laid-back vacation from the rest of China\'s busy cities.