Yunnan, whose name literally means south of the clouds, is situated in the southwest of China. With over 2400 years of history, exotic indigenous cultural heritage, a pleasant climate and picturesque scenery, Yunnan is renowned tourist destination for millions of travelers every year. Yunnan is a perfect showpiece of China’s many natural wonders, rugged, wild, and unspoiled. Here we provide you the overview of Yunnan.

Basic Information

Chinese Name 云南
English Name Yunnan
Location The most southwestern province in China
Provincial capital Kunming
Area 394,100 square kilometers
Population 47,705,000(in 2016)
Famous Cities Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, YuanyangJianshuiXishuangbanna
Language Southwest Mandarin
Climate Tropical and Subtropical Monsoon Climate
Zip Code 650000 to 674600
Airports 14 airports(in 2017), several are under construction
GDP 1486.995 billion yuan(in 2016)
GDP Per Capita 31,397 yuan(in 2016)
Famous Universities Yunnan University, Kunming University of Science and Technology, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics
Titles Plant Kingdom, Animal Kingdom
Main Lakes Dianchi LakeFuxian LakeErhai LakeLugu Lake
Major Rivers Lancang River(Mekong), Jinsha River(River of Golden Sands), Nujiang River(Salween), Honghe River(Red River)
Culture Ancient Dian Culture, Nanzhao-Dali Culture, Dongba Culture, Dai Culture, Yi Culture
UNESCO Lijiang Ancient Town(in 1997), Three Parallel Rivers Nature Reserve(in 2003), Stone Forest(in 2007), Honghe Hani Rice Terraces(in 2013)
Administrative Divisions Eight Prefecture-level Cities and Eight Autonomous Prefectures


Yunnan is the most southwestern province in China, with the Tropic of Cancer running through its southern part. The province has an area of 394,100 square kilometers, 4.1% of the nation’s total. The northern part of the province forms part of the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau. The province borders Guangxi and Guizhou in the east, Sichuan in the north, and the Tibet Autonomous Region in the northwest. It shares a border of 4,060 kilometers with Burma in the west, Laos in the south and Vietnam in the southeast. 

The terrain is largely mountainous, especially in the north and west. A series of high mountain chains spreads across the province. There is a distinct canyon region to the west and a plateau region to the east. Yunnan’s major rivers flow through the deep valleys between the mountains. The average elevation is 1,980 meters. The mountains are highest in the north where they reach more than 5,000 meters; in the south they rise no higher than 3,000 meters. The highest point in the north is the Kawagebo Peak in Deqin County on the Diqing Plateau, which is about 6,740 meters; and the lowest is in the Red River Valley in Hekou County, near the Vietnamese border, with an elevation of 76.4 meters.


Yunnan has a generally mild climate with pleasant and fair weather because of the province’s location on south-facing mountain slopes, receiving the influence of both the Pacific and Indian oceans, and although the growing period is long, there is little arable land. See Agriculture in Yunnan. January average temperatures range from 8°C to 17°C; July averages vary from 21°C to 27°C. Average annual rainfall ranges from 600 mm to 2,300 mm, with over half the rain occurring between June and August. The plateau region has moderate temperatures. The western canyon region is hot and humid at the valley bottoms, but there are freezing winds at the mountaintops.

Administrative Divisions

Yunnan is divided into 16 prefecture-level divisions, including eight prefecture-level cities and eight autonomous prefectures. 

Best Time to Visit

The best time to travel in Yunnanis in spring and autumn, especially March to April, and September to November. In spring (March to May), Yunnan has the large daily temperature difference changing from 12 to 20 ℃. The month of May is likely to be the rainiest month. Summer (June to August) in Yunnan will not be very hot and winter in Yunnan is never too cold. Autumn is the harvest season of most fruits and flowers. Tourists can get a lot during their trips. 

Diverse Minorities

Yunnan is known as one of the birthplaces of human beings, and the remains of the Yuanmu Man found in the province date back 1.7 million years. Furthermore, countless places of historic interest are scattered around the province. Yunnan is inhabited by such 26 ethnic groups as the Han, Dai, Bai, Yi, and Hani, making it the province with the most nationalities in China. Each ethnic minority has its unique, colorful customs. 


Yunnan is served by numerous transport modes including several civilian airports and a major highway and rail network, and forms an integral part of the structure Yunnan Province and the Southwest of China. Therefore, traveling to Yunnan, tourists can take those means of transportation for getting to and around. Yunnan Province is large geographically and its transport hub is the capital of Kunming, which acts as an important gateway, linking China to Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Read more about Yunnan Transportation.

Best Places and Activities in Yunnan

When preparing to travel in Yunnan, Kunming-Dali-Lijiang-Shangrila is undoubtedly a classic route. Classic Tours in Yunnan.


Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, is the political, economic and cultural center and also the transport and communication hub of the province. With a history more than 2,400 years, it owns its importance to the fact that is was the gateway to the well-known South Silk Road that facilitated trade with Tibet, Sichuan, Myanmar and India.

Activities: Kunming 99 Horticultural Expo Garden parades, Yunnan ethnic village song and dance performance, Yunnan ethnic village torch festival activities (only be held during the torch festival), and dance “the Impression of Yunnan” directed by the famous dancer Yang Liping, Jixin Feast dance (吉鑫宴舞).


Dali, a famous historical and cultural city. Many of the architectures of the city were built of marble from the ore nearby, and that is why it is also called a city of Dali Stone(marble). Marble buildings, marble streets, marble wall foundations and marble wells make the city so bright and limpid as if it is a tranquil fairyland.

Activities: “The Courses of Bai Nationality” song and dance performances (“白族三道茶”歌舞表演), Butterfly Dream large-scale song and dance performances, Imaging Dali large subject-live performance.


Lijiang, including the heritage site of Lijiang Ancient Town as well as picturesque attractions nearby surroundings. In 1998, Lijiang Ancient Town was inscribed into the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Commission of the UNESCO. The Commission called it an exceptional ancient town set in a dramatic landscape which represents the harmonious fusion of different cultural traditions to produce an urban landscape of outstanding quality.

Activities: Mountains Rivers Show (丽水金沙) large-scale song and dance performances, ancient Naxi Dongba music concert, Impression Lijiang by Zhang yimou, Lugu Lake song and dance performance Mosuo Bonfire Party(摩梭情篝火晚会), Lijiang Eternal Love (丽江千古情).


Shangri-La, an earthly paradise, is characterized by towering snow-capped mountains, lush forests, vast gorges and idyllic lakes. The beautiful scenery described by Hilton made the name stick in popular memory and arouses a certain curiosity and mystery whenever it is heard.

Activities: song and dance Dreamy Shangri-la(梦幻香格里拉), the Tibetan Home Visit(藏民家访).


Yunnan’s biggest pillar industry is tobacco. In Yunnan, sugar industry and tea industry are the traditional backbone industries except tobacco industry, rubber planting industry is a traditional important industry, and flower industry is an emerging industry. It is one of the important provinces producing sugar, tea and rubber, as well as the largest export base of fresh cut flowers in Asia. 

In 2018, Yunnan’s GDP reached 1,788.112 billion yuan, 8.9 percent higher than the previous year. Of this, the added value of the primary industry reached 249.886 billion yuan, up 6.3%; the added value of the secondary industry reached 695.744 billion yuan, up 11.3%; the added value of the tertiary industry reached 842.482 billion yuan, up 7.6%. In 2018, the per capita disposable income of Yunnan residents was 2,084 yuan, 9.5 percent more than the previous year. The per capita disposable income of permanent urban residents was 33,488 yuan, up 8.0%; the per capita disposable income of permanent rural residents was 10,768 yuan, up 9.2 percent. The per capita consumption expenditure of permanent urban residents was 21,626 yuan, up 10.6 percent. The per capita consumption expenditure of rural permanent residents was 9,123 yuan, up 13.6 percent.

Natural Resources

Mineral Resources

Yunnan has a wide variety of geological phenomena, superior metallogenic conditions, and abundant mineral resources, especially famous for nonferrous metals and phosphate ores, which is known as the kingdom of nonferrous metals, and the treasured place for mineral resource. Yunnan ranks among the top 10 reserves of 61 minerals in China, among which 25 minerals, including lead, zinc, tin, phosphorus, copper and silver, rank among the top 3 in China.

Biological Resources

Yunnan is the province with the largest number of plant species in China and is known as the kingdom of plants. Tropical, subtropical, temperate, cold temperate and other plant types are distributed, and there are many ancient, derived and exotic plant species and groups. Yunnan accounts for more than 60% of the 30,000 species of higher plants in the country. There are more than 150 species listed in the first, second and third levels of state protection and development.

The number of animal species in Yunnan is the highest in the country, known as the animal kingdom. There are 1737 species of vertebrates, accounting for 58.9% of the country. There are more than 10,000 species of insects in Yunnan, out of 25,000 species on the national list. There are many rare and protected animals in Yunnan, many of which are only distributed in Yunnan.

Water Resource

Due to the influence of topography and climate, Yunnan is rich in water vapor and precipitation. The average annual precipitation in the province is 1278.8 mm, equivalent to 490 billion cubic meters of water. The area distribution of precipitation is very complex. The annual precipitation in the west, southwest and southeast is larger, and the precipitation in the dry-hot valley in the central and northern regions is less. The average annual groundwater resources in Yunnan Province are 77.150 billion cubic meters, which is about 9.54% of the total groundwater resources in the whole country. More in the West and less in the east, more in the South and less in the north.

Energy Resources

Yunnan is endowed with abundant energy resources, especially water and coal resources. Geothermal energy, solar energy, wind energy and biological energy also have good development prospects. 82.5% of the water energy are located in Jinsha River, Lancang River and Nujiang River, especially in Jinsha River, which accounts for 38.9% of the total water resources in the province. Coal resources are mainly distributed in the northeast of Yunnan Province, with a proven reserves of 24 billion tons, ranking ninth in the country. Geothermal resources are most concentrated in Tengchong, western Yunnan Province. There are about 700 outcropped natural hot springs in the whole province, ranking first in the country. Solar energy resources are also abundant, second only to Tibet, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia.