How to Plan a Dali Tour

Dali is located at the foot of Cangshan Mountain near Erhai Lake. It has a deep cultural background and a long history in China. It is no exaggeration to say that Dali is a perfect combination of natural landscape and historical culture, and one of Yunnan’s most popular tourist destinations. Dali had once been the political, economic and cultural center of Yunnan Province for more than 500 years. Dali, with its well-preserved historical relics, unique natural scenery and splendid Bai culture, is regarded as one of the ten most attractive cities in China. Located in the low latitude plateau, the seasonal temperature difference is not big, the dry and wet season is clear, mainly the low latitude plateau monsoon climate. In Dali, the most representative attractions include Butterfly spring, Cangshan Mountain, Erhai Lake, Dali Ancient Town and Three Pagodas, etc.

Choose a Gateway City

Choose a gateway city in China to take a flight or high-speed train to Dali. Kunming is the most popular gateway city to start a Dali tour among tourists. Moreover, you can also start your tour from BeijingShanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu and other cities to appreciate more about China’s charm.

Make Travel Duration Sure

Visit Dali in One day

If you only spend one day in Dali, it is recommended to visit the highlights of Dali including Xizhou Ancient Town, Zhoucheng Village, Three Pagodas, Erhai Lake and Dali Ancient Town. You can also spend the day hiking Cangshan Mountain easily and enjoying the stunning view of Erhai Lake; Or pay a visit to Weishan Old Town and Donglianhua Village, and in this way, you can not merely enjoy the local culture, but also taste featured dishes and snacks.

1 Day Dali Highlights Tour
1 Day Dali Easy Hiking Tour to Cangshan Mountain
1 Day Weishan Snack Festival Tour

Visit Dali in 2-4 Days

For visiting Dali in Yunnan, 2-4 days may be enough to visit the must-see attractions in Dali. 

What to Do for 2-4 days Dali Tour

  • Experience the ethnic culture of Bai minority in Xizhou Town – visit Bai-style morning market.
  • Visit and explore religious culture in Shibaoshan Mountain.
  • Discover the important ancient town of silk road, Shaxi Old Town.
  • Enjoy the beautiful view of Erhai Lake.
  • Walk and explore joyfully in Dali Ancient Town between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake.
  • Photography the sunrise of Jizu Mountain.
  • Have a splendid view of Cangshan Mountain.
  • Visit three pagodas and Chongsheng Monastery.

2 Days Shaxi Old Town and Shibaoshan Mountain Tour from Dali to Lijiang
2 Days Dali Cycling Tour around Erhai Lake
2 Days Dali City Tour from Kunming by Speed Train
4 Days Kunming-Dali-Lijiang-Group Tour

Visit Dali in 5-7 Days or More Days

Some people choose to spend about one week in Dali, enjoying leisure time and exploring local culture. They can stay in Dali old town for a few days, or spend one or two days in Shuanglang Village. For some who plan to ride their bikes all over Erhai Lake, they may stay longer in Dali. However, many tourists just take Dali as one of the stops in their Yunnan tour, where they will spend only 2-3 days in Dali during their 5-7 days or more days tour. Their itinerary is usually Kunming as the beginning of Yunnan travel, then Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La or even Xishuangbanna. Other itineraries like Yunnan classic tour, Kunming – JianshuiYuanyang – Dali – Lijiang – Shangri-la, and Tea culture tour, Kunming – Lijiang – Dali – Pu’er – Jinghong in Xishuangbanna, etc.

6 Days Kunming-Dali-Lijiang Tour
8 Days Yunnan Classic Tour by High Speed Bullet Train
11 Days Yunnan Ancient Tea-Horse Road Tour with Puer and XishuangBanna Tea Culture Exploration
11 Days Yunnan Classic Tour with Jianshui Old Town and Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces

Make the Tour Theme Sure

Dali tour involves some theme tours, such as Hiking Tour/Trekking Tour, Cycling Tour, Tea Culture Tour, Classic Tour, Students Education Tour, Motorbike Tour, Botany Tour, Bird Watching Tour, Flower Trip, Festival Tour and the like. Tour packages including Dali range from one day to 46 days.

Hiking Tour(Cangshan Hiking Tour)

When it comes to Dali tour, Cangshan Mountain is a main attraction that can not be missed for those who love the natural scenery. Cangshan is a high mountain rising above the Dali city in the western of Yunnan province. It is a scenic spot and a good hiking area in Dali. While hiking at Cangshan Mountain, you will experience a 10-km hike from a small and quiet farming village at the foot of Cangshan Mountain through terraced fields, tea plantations and along the edge of a dramatic river gorge to a beautiful alpine meadow with hidden waterfalls and stunning views of Erhai Lake at an elevation of 2600 meters above sea level. If you want to hike at Cangshan Mountain only and enjoy the leisure time in Dali, there are one day Cangshan Mountain hiking tours you can choose.

1 Day Dali Cangshan Mountain Hiking Tour to Xiaocenfeng Peak 4092M
1 Day Dali Easy Hiking Tour to Cangshan Mountain

In addition, we also have 2 Days Dali Pilgrimage Hiking Tour from Erhai Lake to Jizu Mountain, through which you will enjoy the sunrise of Jizu Mountain and pay a visit to the Huashou Gate(华守门) and then Zhusheng Temple(祝圣寺) to experience the mystery of Buddhism.

Tea Culture Tour

A tea culture tour involves Pu’er, Fengqing and Jinghong, except for Dali. We have short tea culture tour, which tourists usually only need to spend 1-2 days. During the short tour, tourists normally have no time to visit other highlights of a place, but mainly tea factory, tea museum and tea plantation. For a longer tea culture tour(at least 7 days), except Dali, Pu’er, Fengqing and Jinghong, Kunming and Lijiang could be included in the itinerary. In this way, you can visit the famous attractions of Kunming, Dali and Lijiang while experiencing the tea culture.

1 Day Dali Tea Culture Tour with Xiaguan Tuocha Tea Museum and Taoxigu Valley Tea Plantation
2 Days Fengqing Dianhong Black Tea Culture Tour from Dali
2 Days Yunnan Tea Culture Tour to East Slope of Wuliangshan Mountain in Jingdong County
7 Days Kunming, Dali and Lijiang Tour with Dianhong Black Tea Culture Tour
7 Days Lincang Fengqing Dianhong Black Tea and Puer Organic Tea Tour
11 Days Yunnan Ancient Tea-Horse Road Tour with Puer and XishuangBanna Tea Culture Exploration

Students Education Tour

Students education tour includes the special visiting to local schools and experience local life with ethnic people. Students will have chance to know about the local students’ study life by having classes, games etc. They will also have opportunity to learn how to make some handicrafts, visit some well-known attractions like Dali Ancient Town, Shaxi Old Town, Tiger Leaping Gorge, and experience beautiful nature by hiking. 

9 Days Dali-Lijiang-Shangri-La Education Course Tour

Botany Tour/Flower Trip

Yunnan is the Kingdom of plants and flowers. Wherever you go, you will see different plants and flowers, for a couple of hundreds years, flowers hunters from western countries come here over and over again just want to see the new plants. If you have the interests in flowers, Yunnan including Dali is the right place for you. The best time to start a Yunnan botany tour or a flower trip is usually in May and June. In Dali, Cangshan Mountain is the best place to start your flower trip since there are plenty of azaleas. Generally, a Yunnan flower tour must include Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la.

10 Days Yunnan Botany Tour(May&June)
13 Days Best Yunnan Flowers Trip to Snow Mountains between May and June

Festival Tour

Our Yunnan Festival Tour invites you to step backwards in time, to visit one or several of the more than 25 minorities that inhabit different corners of Yunnan, some of whose unique cultures and customs date back several thousand years. The key any China minority festival tour is all about timing. For example, the Torch Festival is on June 24th of Chinese lunar calendar; And Sanyuejie or the Third Month Fair of Bai minority is held on March 15th of Chinese lunar calendar. For travelers in general, it is wise to choose a classic itinerary during a specific time of festival. 

13 Days Yunnan Festival Tour in Spring

Classic Tour

A Yunnan classic tour takes at least 7 days, during the tour, you will visit the highlights of Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la and discover the ethnic culture of Yi, Bai, Naxi and Tibetan. In these cities, you will visit Kunming Stone ForestDali Old TownLijiang Old TownLijiang Jade Dragon Snow MountainTiger Leaping Gorge, and Shangri-La Songzanlin Monastery, etc. All of them are famous attractions in Yunnan. During the classic tour, what you experience is varied and colorful. You will hike or climb a mountain, go cycling around a lake, stroll around a park or watch a show. More Attractions in the itineraries, please check the following tour packages:

8 Days Best Yunnan Small Group Tour-Kunming-Dali-Lijiang-Shangri-La
9 Days Kunming Dali Lijiang and Shangri-La Classic Tour with Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking Adventure
9 Days Yunnan Classic Tour with Muslim Culture Exploration
10 Days Yunnan Classic Tour With Xishuangbanna Tropical Forest
10 Days Yunnan Classic Tour with Dongchuan Red Land Photography

Dali-Lijiang Tour

Since the transportation between Dali and Lijiang is convenient, especially the high-speed train reduces the distance between them to 1 hour and 21 minutes. 1-2 days Dali-Lijiang tours are provided. This tour combines ancient history with modern tourist attractions, and the journey usually starts from Dali and ends in Lijiang. 

1 Day Dali to Lijiang Tour with Shaxi Old Town and Shibaoshan Mountain
1 Day Dali to Lijiang Tour
2 Days Shaxi Old Town and Shibaoshan Mountain Tour from Dali to Lijiang

Know the Travel Tips

Best Time to Visit Dali

Because the climate in Dali is warm and temperate, travel to Dali is available all the year round. However, the best time to visit Dali is in spring, especially in March and April, which is a good time for Cangshan mountain and Erhai Lake. The famous ethnic festival for Bai minority is around the April in Chinese solar calendar, which is so called Sanyuejie or Third Month Fair. It is the annual traditional festival of Dali, with a history of more than one thousand years.

Crowded Season: Chinese Spring Festival(Late Jan. or early Feb.), Labor Day(May 1-3) and National Day(Oct. 1-7). 
Read more: Dali Climate

What to Eat in Dali 

Due to its geographical location near Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, Dali is rich in various fungus and fish. On your trip to Dali, dishes like Boiled Fish in Casserole, Dali Spicy and Sour Fish, Fish boiled with Tofu are worth a try. If you’re not interested in fish, try Ersi and rice noodles boiled in small pot, which are two special kinds of noodle in Yunnan. In addition, there are many local snacks for you to choose from. The most symbolic local snack in Dali is the Rushan or Fried Dairy Fan, which is made of milk. The Dali people make it into the shape of a fan, usually fried or baked and mixed with sugar or other sweets. Dali’s another one of the special food is Xizhou Baba, a kind of crispy bread from Xizhou Town. What is worth mentioning is the Sandao Tea or three-course tea, which contains the Bai people’s life philosophy of welcoming guests. Three kinds of tea include bitter tea, sweet tea and aftertaste. Read more: Dali city Dining 

Where to Stay in Dali

There are three popular places you can choose to stay when travelling in Dali, they are Dali Ancient Town, Caicun Village and Shuanglang Village respectively. 

There are a variety of restaurants and shops in Dali Old Town, very convenient for eating and shopping. It’s more enjoyable to walk and experience the local culture in Dali Old Town whenever you want. The most convenient place in ancient town is near South Gate, where you can go to Lijiang and Kunming by long-distance bus. Or you can choose a hotel near the East Gate, where there are many new hotels for you to choose from.

For those who like Erhai Lake and want to stay near Erhai Lake, they have two options, Shuanglang Village and Caicun Village(才村). There are many local shops and restaurants along the street in Shuanglang Village. It is really convenient to eat and shop. You can go to Erhai Lake by boat to get close to its beauty, or rent a bike to ride around Erhai Lake. If you not only want hotels beside Erhai Lake, but also convenient shopping streets, Shuanglang Village will meet your expectations. But if you want to enjoy Erhai Lake at different times, especially sunrise, then Caicun Village is a good choice. Hotels there are quieter and cheaper than hotels in Shuanglang Village. You can get there by No.2 bus from Dali Ancient Town. The transportation to Caicun Village is convenient, but there are few commercial shops. Read more: Dali City Accommodation

How to Get in Dali

Two popular ways to Dali: airplane and train.

1. By Flight

Dali Huangcaoba Airport(大理荒草坝机场) is an important feeder airport and tourist airport in Yunnan Province. The airport is 2155.4 meters above the sea level, belonging to plateau airport with complex original landform. Dali Airport is located on the southeast bank of Erhai Lake, there are mountains in the east, Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain in the west. You can fly directly from Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Xishuangbanna and other cities to Dali. Because there are many airlines to Kunming, you can also choose Kunming as your first stop in Yunnan and then transfer to Dali by plane. By the way, Dali Airport is a little far from the downtown, but there are shuttle buses to and fro the airport.

Read More:
Dali Huangcaoba Airport
Dali – Kunming Flights

2. By Train

Since June 29, 2018, the normal speed trains from Kunming to Dali are all closed and the high-speed trains are formally put into use, which cut the entire journey to 2 hours. Therefore, taking a high-speed train to Dali is considered as the best way to get to Dali, fast, convenient and comfortable. The journey is just 2 hours departing from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. You can go to Dali by high-speed train from most cities in China. You can take No. 8 bus directly to the Dali Ancient Town.

Read more:
Dali Railway Station
Dali City Transportation

Main Bai Festivals in Dali

As the main ethnic group inhabited in Dali, Bai ethnic minority created brilliant culture and customs, among which the unique traditional festivals of Bai people enjoy good fame and attract tourists home and abroad to visit. These festivals include Sanyuejie or Third Month Fair(March 15th in Chinese Lunar Calendar, Lasting 7-10 days), Raosanling or Visiting Three Spirits(March 23-25 in Chinese Lunar Calendar) and the like. More Dali Festivals and Activities.

Best Things to Do in Dali

1. Take a Walk in Dali Ancient Town

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.

2. Pay a Visit to Three Pagodas in Chongsheng Monastery

The magnificent Chongsheng Monastery and the well-known Three Pagodas are another symbolic landmark of Dali. Originally, the Chongsheng Temple was built in the period of Nanzhao Kingdom in 10th century to be near the Dali Three Pagodas, so people call them “Chongsheng Temple and Three Pagodas“. If you look at it from a distance, the pagodas are like three giant ballpoint pens breaking up the landscape of the never-ending mountains and emerald rice fields of Yunnan. It’s a good choice to go to the reflection park of Three Pagodas, as you can enjoy the most beautiful reflection of pagodas with beautiful natural scenery on the pure lake water. 

3. Hiking at Cangshan Mountain

Cangshan Mountain lies west of Dali Ancient Town and Erhai Lake, including 19 peaks and 18 streams. It is a scenic spot and a good hiking area in Dali. Covered by snow all the year round, Cangshan mountain may always has something special to attract your attention, snow-capped mountaintop, changeable clouds or crystal streams. If you would like to have a bird’s-eye view of Dali Ancient Town and get closer to the natural beauty of Cangshan, you can choose to take a cableway or hike up the mountain.

4. Enjoy the Beautiful View of 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. In a sunny day, the crystal waters of Erhai Lake and the snow mantled Cangshan Mount radiate with each other.

Read More: Erhai Lake Cruise in Dali City

5. Explore the Bai Ethnic Culture in Xizhou Old Town

Xizhou is a famous cultural town, enjoying the history of more than one thousand years. It was the center of west bank of Erhai Lake in terms of culture, politic and economy in the past. The elegant ancient town is like a architecture museum, covering typical Bai’s residence houses of different dynasties. Xizhou Town is going to show you the Bai minority culture, the local people’s daily life and profound history. And you will get closer to Bai Minority culture by tasting their unique Three-course Tea and Xizhou Baba, which is local famous snack.  

Read More: Dali City Attractions

Prepare for Dali Tour

What to Know

1. Know some basic information about Dali, Yunnan and China, which can help you understand the local culture well.

2. Learn some information about Bai ethnic minority in advance.

3. If you are interested, learn some basic Chinese words and phrases, which could help you communicate with the locals easily.

What to Take

1. Dali weather has no distinctive difference, so weather in Dali is not very hot or cold. But you’d better pay attention to the strong solar radiation during the day and the changeable weather. Windproof clothing is suggested for the strong wind. Besides, warm clothes is also needed during spring and winter time. In Spring, temperature difference is relatively large between day and night; While in winter, the temperature is lower than other seasons.

2. Pay attention to sun protection. Due to the strong solar radiation in the daytime, sun cream, sun hat, sunglasses and other sunscreen products will be needed.

3. Do remember to take the umbrella and rain gear during the rainy season, especially in July and August.

4. Bring some medicines for emergency, like cold medication and medicines for a stomachache.

5. Don’t forget your Chinese visa and passport. If you will go further to Tibet, Tibet travel permit is also required.