Erhai Lake, Dali

Erhai Lake

Erhai Lake (Ear-shaped Sea), known as “Pearl of Plateau”, is the second largest highland lake of Yunnan. Since the lake has a shape of an ear, it gets the name Erhai (Ear Lake). Taking a boat and cycling around the lake are fantastic ways to explore “Silver Cangshan Mountain and Jade Erhai Lake” scenery. It is ranked the second in Yunnan Province and the seventh freshwater lake in China by area and water storage.

Why is Erhai Lake so special?

Erhai Lake is famous as “Pearl of Plateau”, which is the second largest lake in Yunnan Province and the seventh freshwater lake in China by area and water storage. It also enjoys the charming scenery. In a sunny day, the crystal waters of Erhai Lake and the snow mantled Cangshan Mount radiate with each other. Moon in the Erhai Lake is also one of four elements of Dali. In a word, it is an approving attraction.

1.The second largest lake in Yunnan

2.The seventh freshwater lake in China

Where is Erhai Lake?

In the ancient literature Erhai Lake has been called: Erhe River, Yeyu River, Yeyuze, Mihe River, Kunming Pool, etc, which was formed the plateau lake by collapsed west Erhe River, and due to its appearance looks like ears, so it named after Erhai Lake (Er is the homophone of ear in Chinese character). Although its area is smaller than Dianchi Lake, as a result of deep water level, its storage capacity is larger than the Dianchi Lake. Erhai Lake is originated in Pibi Lake of Eryuan County, the source from Bagu Mountain. The main part of Erhai Lake is in Dali City. The north part of Erhai Lake is connected to Eryuan County. It is the branch of Lancang River and Yangbi River.

How to Get to Erhai Lake?

Getting to Erhai Lake means to reach the cruise piers around Erhai Lake to take boat or reach the nearby villages for leisure sightseeing. There are four cruise piers including Caicun Pier, Longkan Pier, Erhai Lake Pier and Taoyuan Pier and among them Caicun Pier and Longkan Pier are the most used ones to take boats sailing on Erhai Lake.

Transfer to Erhai Lake & Its Pier

From Dali Old Town to Caicun Pier: It is about 3.5-4 km. Travelers can take Bus C2 from North Gate to Caixun Pier. If by taxi, it may cost around 20 Yuan.

From Dali Old Town to Longkan Pier: It is about 4.5 km. Travelers can take Bus No.8 from Regent Hotel Stop to Yuexicun Station and walk about 3.5 km to Longkan Pier. Travelers can take Bus No.3 from North Gate to Longkan Pier. If by taxi, it may cost around 30 Yuan.

Other ways to Erhai Lake

Erhai Lake in Dali
  • You can take bus or taxi to this Dali tourist attraction.
  •  If you plan to take bus and are at railway station, you can firstly take No. 8 bus to Fuxing Road at Dali Ancient city. And then get off and go straight to the Boai Road to take No. 2 bus. No.2 bus will stop at Cai Village Dock, get off at this stop, you will arrive at the lake.
  •  If you think it too difficult for you to take bus to the lake, you can just choose taxi. The driver will send you to the destination.



Erhai Lake has been famous and recorded in the history as early as the Han dynasty. In 122 BC, Zhangqian was sent on a diplomatic mission to the western regions and back to Changan, when he reported to the emperor Wu of the western regions, he said that in Balkh (now Afghanistan) he had seen Shu cloth which was brought via Sindhu (India). He strongly advised: going to Sindhu from Shu county is convenient and shortcut that it gains everything and lose nothing. According to Zhangqian’s advice, the emperor sent messengers to southwest to seek the road to Sindhu. Roads were blocked by Kunming tribe near Erhai Lake, eventually failed to connect to Sindhu. In 120 BC, due to Kunming tribe blocked the way, emperor Wu decided to call up manpower in the capital Chang’an and dug a man-made lake, called “Kunming Lake” for training of water army, in order to conquest Kunming tribe of Erhai Lake region. Of course, the water army in Chang’an “Kunming Lake” that the emperor Wu trained to conquer the Yunnan plateau could not have come in handy. However, this story was recorded in Selections from Records of the Historian by Sima Qian.

Erhai Lake in Dali

In the history there is record that on the east and west side of delta there is grassy shallow bay, where is a good place for fish breeding, and the aquatic products are rich in there, local called “fish soil pot”.” According to the “West Erhai Lake Record”: there are a lot of fishes and they are in good quality compared with the fishes in other water area. Emperor Weiwu ate it in four seasons and said: “the fish from Dianchi Lake is extremely tasty in winter”.

The Legend of Mt. Cangshan and Erhai Lake

Emperor’s daughter had just married and then her husband went out to war and did not return more than ten years. People who came back said that her husband was dead, the princess began to cry day and night, finally her tears became the Erhai Lake and the princess life was depleted. At that time her husband returned, but it was farewell and her husband was overwhelmed with sorrow and solemnly loudly swore that he would turn into mountain and keep the sea mountain, thus there came the Mt. Cangshan and Erhai Lake. When the fishermen fishing see above features two clouds winding when it should be home to draw back and forth, because it was the princess and her husband together, they will be delighted to cry because of short meet, while the erhai lake will become a baffling craze, ethos cloud chung, very afraid, every time holed up in erhai lake people around this time, till the end.

Main Attractions

1.Nanzhao Folk Island (南诏风情岛)

Nanzhao Folk Island, also called Nanzhao Love Island, is one of the three islands in Erhai Lake. It is about five minutes from Shuanglang by cruise. Besides the hills, threes, beach, there are eight man-made sights to see – the Statues of “Mother Shayi”, the Seascape Villas, the Guanyin Acuoye Statue on the Luck of Yunnan Square (Fuxing Square), the big hotel called the Nanzhao Summer Palace, the Square of the Patron Gods, a small amusement part on the beach, the Taihu Rocks and a View of Fishing Families. Travelers who visit Nanzhao Folk Island need to pay 50 Yuan and you’d better spend about 2 hours there.

2.Little Putuo Island (小普陀)

Xiao (Little) Putuo Island of Erhai Lake in Dali

Little Putuo Island is the smallest island located in the east of Erhai Lake, close to Wase Village. This island is like a seal floating in Erhai Lake and the Ming-dynasty Little Putuo Temple is situated on the island. The temple has two floors, one is for worshiping Buddha Bodhisattva and the second is for worshipping Avalokiteshvara (KWAN-YIN). The best time to enjoy great scenery of Little Putuo Island is in the morning, showing you misty and mysterious island. Photographers can catch the chance to take fantastic pictures of Little Putuo Island either from afar or on the island.

3.Jinsuo Island (金梭岛)

Looking from the sky, there is a small island like a shuttle lying in the Erhai Lake. That’s Jinsuo Island which means golden shuttle English. It is located in the southwest of Haidong Town, 250-600 m from east bank of Erhai Lake, facing Qiliqiao Village in the west across Erhai Lake. There are over 200 Bai households living on the island. Travelers can wander through Bai minority houses, fertile fields, beautiful flowers, green trees…Also, relax yourselves down to taste Bai Ethnic Minority’s “Three Courses of Tea” and local food and enjoy beautiful scenery of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake quietly. Travelers need to pay 20 Yuan to visit Jade Dragon Palace. To the southeast of Jinsuo Island is situated a smaller island called Yinshuo Island (silver shuttle), the sister island of Jinsuo Island.

4.Luoquan Peninsula (罗荃半岛)

Luoquan Peninsula is situated in the east bank of Erhai Lake, facing Dali Old Town across the lake. It is an ideal place to view Silver Cangshan Mountain and Jade Erhai Lake. Several Buddhist sites are worth exploring on the island, including one temple called “Luoquan Temple”, one pavilion called “Guanyin Pavilion” and one pagoda called “Luoquan Pagoda”. The ticket of Luoquan Peninsula is 30 Yuan.

5.Erhai Park (洱海公园)

Erhai Park, located in the southern tip of Erhai Lake, is the best site to view beautiful scene of Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain. Standing at the lake edge, it is a steady climb up with 270 stone steps leading to two viewing decks – the Observation Pavilion and Long Corridor where stunning Erhai Lake vistas await. When you first reach Dali in Xiaguan, you can pay a visit to Erhai Park, either have leisurely walk or take cruise at Erhai Lake Port to other islands of Erhai Lake. No entrance fee is needed to visit Erhai Park.

6.Xizhou Ancient Town (喜洲古镇)

Xizhou Ancient Town in Dali

Xizhou Ancient Town, located about 18 kilometers north from Dali Old Town, is a typical town with Bai’s characters with over 1000 years’ history. Taking a visit to Xizhou, you’ll catch the best chance to enjoy Bai’s typical architectures and houses as well as taste the Bai People’s “Three Courses of Tea”. To have full understanding of Bai’s architecture, it is recommended to visit Yan Family’s Courtyard to know more about “Three Rooms and a Wall Screening”, “Four Joints and Five Courtyards” which are decorated with woodcarvings, colored patterns, marbles and wash drawings.

7.Zhoucheng (周城)

Zhoucheng is located in the north of Xizhou Ancient Town, west side of Erhai Lake. It is called the “Land for National Tie-dye” where travelers can learn how to make a tie-dyed cloth. Visit one of Bai’s family workshops and see the local Bai people use traditional tie-dye techniques to make cloth. In the family workshop, you’ll appreciate colorful tie-dyed clothes, caps, bags, etc. Bright colors, an unlimited variety of patterns and color combinations, and the simplicity of the techniques contribute to its enduring appeal.

8.Shuanglang Town (双廊)

Shuanglang, the most scenic town around Erhai Lake, is located in the north of Dali and the northeast of Erhai Lake. For over a thousand years, the local Bai ethnic people here made their living fishing in the lake. And now the small tranquil village is popular with visitors unwinding and enjoying a slower tempo. Enjoy several hours or a peaceful night here to explore among the old alleys and traditional architecture or take a boat out on Erhai Lake or kick back and do very little.

Recommended Route for Tourists

Cruise Around Erhai Lake

Type One: Erhai Lake Long Cruise
1. Depart from Erhai Lake Pier (Xiaguan Pier) around 08:00~09:00, visit Nanzhao Folk Island and enjoy Bai People’s Three Courses of Tea and arrive at Taoyuan Pier;

2. Depart from Taoyuan Pier around 13:30~14:00, visit Nanzhao Folk Island, enjoy Bai People’s Three Courses of Tea and arrive at Longkan Pier around 17:30~18:00.

Type Two: Erhai Lake Ecological Cruise

Erhai Lake in Dali

1. Depart from Longkan Pier around 09:00~10:00, visit Longquan Peninsula or Jinsuo Island, enjoy Bai’s three Courses of Tea and arrive at Taoyuan Pier around 12:30~13:00;

2. Depart from Taoyuan Pier around 14:00~14:30, visit Nanzhao Folk Island and enjoy Bai’s Three Courses of Tea and arrive at Longkan Pier around 17:30~18:00.

The cruise information may adjust based on the season, weather and number of travelers, etc. To inquiry more Erhai Lake cruise itineraries and tickets, please feel free to contact our professional travel consultants and they are here to help give you suggestions and book the cruise for your Dali tour.

Cycle around Erhai Lake

Route One: Cycle on the west bank of Erhai Lake, 46 KM for One Day
Your biking tour begins Dali Old Town, pass Three Pagodas and stop to explore Xizhou Old Town , continue to head to Zhoucheng and drive back via the same route. You need to drive about 23 kilometers for one way and 46 kilometers altogether.

Route Two: One Circle around Erhai Lake, 128 KM for Two Days
Day 1: around 50 Km for 4 hours’ riding. Dali Old Town – Three Pagodas – Xizhou Town – Zhoucheng Village – Taoyuan Dock – Shangguan Town – Shuanglang Village (Nanzhao Island).

Day 2: around 80 km for 6 hours’ riding. Shuanglang Village – Wase Town (Little Puto Island) – Haidong Village – Jinsuo Island – Huanhai Road – Airport Road – Erhai Dock – Haixi Village Highway – Caicun Dock – Dali Old Town.

Recommended Tours

1 Day Dali City Highlights Group Tour

2 Days Dali Pilgrimage Hiking Tour from Erhai Lake to Jizu Mountain

2 Days Dali Cycling Tour around Erhai Lake

6 Days Kunming-Dali-Lijiang-Shangri-La Group Tour

Best Time to Visit Erhai Lake

The best time to visit Erhai Lake should be from June to August, during that time is very comfortable. The seasonal variation of Dali is not obvious, there is no obvious hot summer and bitter winter. And the weather in Dali is spring all the year round.

Nearby Attractions

1.The Three Pagodas

The Three Pagodas,the symbolic building of Dali, was first built in the time of Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom in 9th and 10th century. Looking from a distance, the pagodas are like three ballpoint pens standing between the magnificent Cangshan Mountain and elegant Erhai Lake.

Cangshan Mountain,located west of Dali Ancient Town and Erhai Lake, is with nineteen peaks and eighteen streams. Travelers can take cableways to reach the top of Cangshan Mountain or explore the breathtaking scenery along Jade Cloud Road.
Dali Ancient Town is a historic town with rich culture located between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake. Unlike any other Chinese town, the traditional Bai ethnic houses give the town distinctive feel. Travelers can wonder in this leisure town to appreciate the unique ethnic architecture and discover its profound history and culture.

Useful Travel Tips

When you are at Erhai Lake, it is advisable to visit the fishing villages of Bai people nearby, which is the few fishing villages on the altiplano. The famous movie of 1950s, the Five Golden Flowers, reflected the life here. Erhai Park in Xiaguan was designed and built for tourists to sea Erhai Lake. You can get there from any place in the city proper by taxi and that will only cost you 5 yuan. If you are interested, you can take ships there to visit Erhai. There are wooden ships and yachts. Remember to bargain before you get aboard. Ordinary boats do not go to the Nanzhao Love Islands. They usually come back after arriving at Golden Shuttle Island, Small Putuo Island and Kwan-yin Pavilion. If you rent boats, safety is the most important. When it is summer and autumn, especially when Husband Awaiting Clouds turn up on the Cangshan Mountain, it is better for you not to go on the sea.

Recommended Cycling Route for Tourists
1. Dali Ancient City Yuer Road—Mt. Cangshan West Gate—No.214 National Road—Chongsheng Temple Three Pagodas—Erhai Ring Road—Xizhou– Shuanglang
2. Dali Ancient City Yuer Road—Mt. Cangshan East Gate—Dali Road—Caicun Village—Erhai Ring Road—Xizhou—Shuanglang
3. Shuanglang—Wase—Small Putuo—Haidong Town—Jinsuo Island—Xizhou back to Shuanglang
4. Shuanglang—Xizhou—back to Shuanglang

Best Time to Travel Erhai Lake
The best time to visit Erhai Lake should be from June to August, during that time is very comfortable. The seasonal variation of Dali is not obvious, there is no obvious hot summer and bitter winter. And the weather in Dali is spring all the year round.

Erhai Lake is in Yunnan, the weather is pleasant. Tourists can bring the spring clothing and do not need to bring the thick clothes. In addition to it is a little bit cold at night, the temperature is suitable during other time.