Travel

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

There is this epic self-driving loop in Yunnan that takes more than twenty days to play through. It connects the 213 National Highway, 214 Yunnan-Tibet Route, 219 National Highway, and the Red River Loop together. It brings together almost all areas in Northwest Yunnan (Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La), Southwest Yunnan (Tengchong, Lincang, Pu'er, Banna) and Central Yunnan (Honghe, Yuxi). We call it the Great Yunnan Circuit, which takes you through the core of Yunnan in one trip.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

We walked the entire trip in four sections

The first section Kunming - Dali - Lijiang - Deqin

The first section is a very classic and has been on fire for decades, the Northwest Yunnan route, which is also the starting line of the Jizang Line. It starts from Kunming all the way to the west and rises in altitude. It first passes through Chuxiong, the hometown of dinosaurs and Yuanmou people, with ruins, fossils and earthen forests, perfect for a family outing with kids to visit. Chuxiong is famous for its wild mushroom kingdom, so if you come in July or August, make sure to stop for a wild mushroom dish before hitting the road.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

The next stop is Dali, where life will slow down, but the wind in Shimonoseki will not. The field bazaar, the Erhai Sea, strangers sitting on the ground drinking beer and coffee on the People's Road, and free hitting points are very much in evidence. The casual atmosphere of life is really casual enough, off-season travel is recommended to book the Erhai side of the bed and breakfast, as long as the stay a day, the whole rhythm of people will be subliminally slowed down.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Compared to Dali, where many cultures come together, Lijiang, a 2-hour drive from Dali, has a much stronger minority flavor. From here, pull out a cold and warm outfit. Even in summer, all it takes is one rain and Lijiang will turn into winter in a flash. To find a more niche ancient city, go to places like Baisha Ancient Town and Yuhu Village under the snowy mountains. Many old houses, and even stone walls are still preserved. Live under the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, small bridges and flowing water through the ancient city, Lijiang is a kind of spiritual magic.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

From Lijiang, it will be a fork in the itinerary, so if you have enough time, you can head northeast to Lugu Lake in Ninglang County. We went from the west side of Lijiang, along National Highway 214 to the next stop in Shangri-La. First is the first bay of the Yangtze River in Shigu town, there is a photo of the first bay of the Yangtze River that may add to your journey. Continue north, past the rushing Tiger Leaping Gorge, the quiet Haba Snow Mountain, and all the way to Shangri-La.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

If people must go to a place in their lives, then I think it is Shangri-La, the meadow under Songtsamlin Monastery, the blue moon valley after Shikha Snow Mountain, next to the Flying Monastery coincides with the sunrise of Meili Snow Mountain, everyone goes to Shangri-La to find the answer to the disappearing horizon after the song and dance that does not pass away, for me, the answer to Shangri-La is, adjust yourself before you go. The first leg of the journey ended when we passed the fork in the road at Balagzong, crossed the White Horse Snow Mountain and arrived in Deqin County after encountering Meili.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

The second section Deqin - Gongshan - Fugong - Tengchong

The section from Deqin to Gongshan has a long stretch of unpaved road, which is the most difficult section of the whole journey, requiring crossing the mountains from the Lancang River basin to the Nu River basin. Less than 100 kilometers of road, often renovated, along with the bad road is a stunning scenery. Along the way you can see numerous unknown rainforests and snow-capped mountains, try to pass in the daytime.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

The dangerous road also ended temporarily when we arrived at the Gongshan checkpoint. The mystery and beauty of the Nujiang River comes gradually as you go further into Pingzhongluo. The next section to Tengchong will run through the Nujiang River state. First, there are the villages of Wuli, Qiu Na Barrel and the First Bay of the Nujiang River, all of which grow on the cliffs.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Continue the journey to arrive in Fugong, Bilo Snow Mountain, Zhi Zi Luo, Lao Mu Deng Church, which is a niche attraction gathering area for self-drive travel. Zhiziluo was originally the capital of Nujiang Prefecture, but because of the predictions of geologists, the whole town was moved away, leaving an empty city, which still has the same buildings as it was then, and some residents moved back to Zhiziluo. In the distance, the snow-capped mountains of Bilo and this old town reflect each other.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Leaving Fugong, you will turn out of the Nujiang River valley and head south to Tengchong. Compared to the first half of the journey, Tengchong is much lower in elevation, with richer climatic conditions and geothermal resources, making it a destination for recreation and healing. Heshun is probably the quietest ancient town on the entire route, with less commercialization and foreign tourists, so you can stop and stay for a few days. Ginkgo village is a seasonal attraction, only in November is worth coming, volcanic hot sea, Beihai wetlands are not limited to the season.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

The third section Tengchong-Lincang-Canyuan-Lancang-Xishuangbanna-Pu'er

The third leg of the journey begins in Tengchong, a line of drunkenness. Along the way is the highest volume and frequency of drinking in Yunnan's ethnic minority areas, Yi, Dai, Wa, Hani, Lahu, Jinuo, all ethnic groups can drink you over. This is the core region of Pu'er tea and Yunnan coffee. You can see a host of ancient ancient tea villages in Lincang, Lancang and Xishuangbanna. You can see the fresh coffee fruits growing under the Northern Regression.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

First arrive at Lincang, the world Wa hometown. The ancient fortress of Wengding has burned down, and the ruins still have the cliff paintings of Canyuan. The Wa style here is extremely strong, and the Wa King Feast is a must-eat delicacy. If you don't turn into Ximeng County, Canyuan is the last Wa settlement in the whole trip, so you have to eat enough Wa food here.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Next stop Lancang, Lahu Autonomous County. The Jingmai Mountain between Lancang and Menghai is the key mountain scenery, the mountain is inhabited by a number of different ethnic villages such as Laodabao and Nuganguzhai, which have been picking tea for generations for a living. Thousands of years of ancient tea plantations, cloud lodges, once on the Jingmai Mountain need to play a three or four days.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Coming down from Jingmai Mountain and going through Menghai to Jinghong City, the tropical atmosphere of Xishuangbanna opens up completely. The botanical garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Wangtian tree, the primitive forest park, you can see hundreds of plants in a day. The only remaining night market in Asia is Guozhuang, change into a Dai costume and take a good set of photos.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

From Xishuangbanna towards Pu'er, the scenic spots are basically related to wildlife. Before arriving in Pu'er, you will pass through Pu'er National Park, the forest hotel of Little Panda Manor, the rhinoceros and the red panda in Rhinoceros Ping Scenic Area all can be approached closely. After arriving in Pu'er City, the third leg of the trip is also completed.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Section 4 Pu'er - Yuanyang - Jianshui - Mengzi - Pu Shihe - Mile - Chengjiang - Kunming

The last leg of the trip, from Pu'er, will turn east towards southeast Yunnan. The first stop will be the fireplace city of Yuanyang County, where the terraced rice fields are at their peak during the water season from November to March, when the landscape is at its best. During the other seasons, the Yuan Yang terraces are lush with crops, and cloudy weather dominates most of the time, making it perfect for a summer stay at a mountain top bed and breakfast.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

Next stop into the Red River city group, the Jianshui ancient city with its 17-hole bridge, ancient city tower, Lin'an small train; Bisezhai in Mengzi, there are so many historical attractions worth hitting. If it's the summer of July and August, the lotus blossom season, you can go to Puzhehei to escape the heat, other seasons can simply ignore.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

The next stop is Mile, a city in the north of Honghe Prefecture, which is very densely populated and rich in hot springs. East Wind Rhythm, Jinping Mountain, Taiping Lake, and Koyi Town are all available, from Netflix to in-depth recreation. Not far from Mile is Fuxian Lake, the best lake in terms of water quality, and it is also worth experiencing the bed and breakfasts by Fuxian Lake.

Yunnan Grand Circle Route, one route to enjoy the best of Yunnan

It takes only 1 hour to return to Kunming from Chengjiang County on the northern shore of Fuxian Lake. Returning to Kunming will end the entire journey on the Great Yunnan Loop.