Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces in Honghe

Why is Yuanyang Rice Terraces so special?

Yuanyang Rice Terraces are the Hani ethnic minority’s masterpiece of ingenuity. In unique shapes and sizes with thousands of years of history, they form a mosaic of colorful and breathtaking landscapes of natural beauty. Known as a “land sculpture”, the terraced fields have been officially acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site. There are three popular scenic areas: Duoyishu, Bada, and Laohuzui.

Introduction of Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces has been a masterpiece of the ingenuity of the Hani people for generations. Southern Ailao Mountain, with this typical tiered landscape, is famed for its unique frontier scenery.

The Hani people’s ancestors came to this steep mountain area 2,500 years ago. In their struggle against the difficult terrain they successfully established the terraces, where they grew rice in order to make a living. The technology of developing fertile land on rugged mountain slopes didn’t spread all over China and Southeast Asia until 14th century. The creativity of the Hani people turned this mountain area into one of artistic beauty. In recognition, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) emperor granted the title of ‘Skillful Sculptor’ to Hani people and their good reputation was passed down from generation to generation. At present, known as ‘land sculpture’ the terraced fields have been being officially acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site.

Hani terraced fields are magnificent and on a large-scale. They extend to many towns along the south bank of the Red River, such as Yuanyang, Lüchun and Jinping among others. With an area of more than 113 square kilometers (28,005.3 acres), the terrace in Yuanyang County is regarded as the core area of Hani terraces as the county is mountainous and the terraces built on the hillsides have a slope varying from 15 degrees to 75 degrees. The terraces rise by 3,000 steps forming a landscape that is rare both at home and abroad. In the main, the Yuanyang Hani terraces form three major scenic areas: Duoyishu scenic area, Bada scenic area and Laohuzui (the Tiger Mouth) scenic area. So many terraces set among vast forests, topped by an ocean of clouds create a magical, magnificent view. 

Main Rice Terraces in Yuanyang County

Duoyishu Rice Terraces (the Best Place to Take Pictures of the Sunrise)

Duoyishu Scenic Area is a 50-minute drive from Yuanyang. It is considered to be the best place to take pictures of the sunrise from the terraces. You are recommended to reach Duoyishu at dawn. As the sunlight appears on the horizon, it silhouettes the terraces and makes for an unforgettable moment. As the sun rises, the nearby village wakes up and people start walking on the ridge, presenting even more photo opportunities. When the sun rises over the mountain, everything is visible and clear, and the terraces glisten in the sunshine.

Bada Rice Terraces (the Best Place to Take Pictures of the Sunset)

Bada is the best place to get the sunset scenery of Yuanyang Rice Terraces. The terraces extend from the base to the top of the mountain, like ladders to heaven. As the sun sets, the terraces change colors incessantly; first they are pink, then turn to a rosy hue, and later to dark red.The spectacular sunset over Yuangyang Rice Terraces The spectacular sunset over the rice terraces. There are 17 Hani minority villages in this area. It is enjoyable to explore the villages and to see the traditional mushroom-shaped architectures of the Hani people.

Laohuzui Scenic Area (Rice Terraces Are More Rugged and Marvelous)

It is a 40-minute drive from Bada to Laohuzui. Laohuzui Scenic Area is situated in the core area of Yuangyang Rice Terraces. The 8.5 km2 (3.3 mi2) of rice terraces are more rugged and marvelous, looking like a natural picture painted by an artist.

Thousands of colorful layers extend for several kilometers and are dotted with trees. The best moment to enjoy the view of the marvelous rice terraces is during the sunset period.

Major Scenic Sites

The Hani Terraces are distributed over the Yuanyang, Red River, Lvchun and Jinping counties, mainly grouped around Xinjie Town (New Street Town). The major scenic sites are listed as follows:

Xinjie Town (新街镇): It is 30 kilometers away from Nansha Town which now holds the government seat of Yuanyang County. It is about 1,500 meters above sea level. Standing on some roofs, one can take pictures and have a view of a sea of clouds, sunsets and villages. Most photography-lovers stay there and leave for other scenic sites by renting a vehicle.

Qingkou (箐口): 8 kilometers away from Xinjie Town. Terraced fields can be seen everywhere in this site. Qingkou is a folk village, seated halfway down the hill. There are 150 families with more than 800 villagers. With the dense woods around it and the chorus of various kinds of birds, the original village represents the integrity of the ethnic culture of the Hani Terraces that comprises four elements: the forest, water, the terraces and the village. Walking along the flagged road, visitors can enjoy the masterpiece of the Hani Terraces culture. Visitors can enjoy the sight of farming and living facilities, such as the mushroom-shaped houses, Zhaishen wood, ditches, wooden cuts, water-powered roller for grinding grain, watermill, the building that houses the water-powered trip-hammer for husking rice, minority costumes, ploughs, harrows, hoes and looms.
In addition, two crystal springs named ‘White Dragon’ and ‘Longevity’ can be seen in the exhibition area.

Sheng Village (胜村): About 20 kilometers away from Xinjie Town. About half of the road to Xinjie is unpaved. There are some scenic spots nearby the country road, such as the Blue Dragon Teahouse, hills planted with tea, Beida village and Mali village. Mali village is also a typical Hani-type village with its special mushroom-shaped houses.
Sheng village is a great spot to see the Hani Terraces as well as a sea of clouds, and to enjoy local customs and practices. It is also a must-see place for photography.

Habo Village (哈播): 85 kilometers away from Xinjie Town. It is on the southern side of Xinjie Town. It is a good place to take pictures of the rising sun but few photographers go there as it’s a long way to go.

Village Fair: Yuanyang is an area mainly inhabited by minority nationality people, such as Hani, Yi, Dai and Miao. Therefore, in addition to the terraces, photography-lovers can take pictures of folk customs of the local people. Village fairs held in the big villages may be good places to go, such as Sheng, Niujiao, Majie and Shatuola Panzhihua villages.

Nearby Attractions

Jianshui Ancient Town: It has unique folk houses and ethnic Hani customs.
Mengzi Ancient County: It is famous for a 100-year-old rail track and station, French-style houses, and Yunnan Rice Noodles.
The Stone Forest: Reputed as the “Stone Forest Museum”, it is the only karst stone forest in a subtropical plateau region in the world.

Yuanyang Hani Terraces Climate

Besides the seasons, weather is also a crucial factor for taking pictures. The Yuanyang Terraces are located at the southern part of the Ailao Mountains, the valley of Red River and Tengtiao River. It is said that there are about 180 days with foggy conditions each year because of its wet climate. Therefore, it is necessary to know the weather information before departure.

Best Seasons for Photographing

Generally speaking, there are two best seasons in a year.

The first one is the spring sowing season from January to March. Before planting, the water-filled rice terraces are like thousands of mirrors reflecting the blue sky, green hills and mountains, or the sunrise and sunset, presenting a marvelous view.
The second one is the autumn harvest season from July to September. At this time, the bottom of the Ailao Mountains is golden yellow with rice. Rice terraces with different harvest times show different colors, either deep or light.

Compared with the autumn harvest season, pictures taken in the spring sowing season may be better because the lines between the water in the terraces and the ridges of the fields are clear and beautiful.

The Best Times to Visit

The best time for appreciating Yuanyang Rice Terraces is from January to March, when the terraces have been irrigated and the water in the fields reflects the sunshine, creating many colors.

In early spring (from late February to March), the terraces are decorated with lots of flowers, including pink peach blossom and white pear blossom.

How to get to Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang lies at an altitude ranging from 140 meters along the Red River up to nearly 3000 meters above sea level in the Alao Mountains. The road to Yuanyang is very steep and winding. At present, the only way to get to Yuanyang is by road (private car or long distance bus).

Private Car

To reach the final destination in Yuanyang – Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China Discovery suggests you use our private car service which can make everything easy for you. No matter you come from Kunming to Yuanyang or have a stop in Jianshui first and then get to Yuanyang, you’ll enjoy worry free transfer service with your own car. If you want to arrange the private service with private car or local travel guide, please feel free to contact our professional travel consultants.

Long Distance Bus

If you are independent travelers, you usually travel from Kunming to Yuanyang directly, or travel from Jianshui to Yuanyang. Both buses arrive at Yuanyang Nansha County and Yuanyang Xinjie County. The distance between Kunming and Yuanyang is about 375 kilometers. Travelers can take long distance buses from Kunming South Bus Station to Xinjie Town at 10:20, 13:30, 19:30 and 20:00. It takes about 7 hours. The distance between Jianshui and Yuanyang is about 141 kilometers. Travelers can take long distance buses from Jianshui Bus Station to Yuanyang Nansha Station during 07:15~18:40. It takes about 3~3.5 hours.

Recommended Tour Routes

The scenery of the terraced fields in Yuanyang is at its best from November to the following April. Taking a tour to Yuanyang Terraces in winter is amazing, since the fields are full of water, composing a colorful painting. We provide tourists with some tour routes to choose.

4 Days Long Street Banquet Festival and Yuanyang Rice Terraces Photography Tour
6 Days Kunming Shadian Muslim Tour with Yuanyang Rice Terraces and Jianshui Old Town
7 Days Yunnan Muslim Culture Tour with Shadian Mosque and Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Travel Tips

1. Yuanyang lies on the Tropic of Cancer, so the climate is neither extremely hot nor cold. However, it is cooler in morning and evening, and the sun is very strong at noon. You should pay attention to sun protection. Moreover, T-shirts and shorts can be worn all year round, but you are advised to take a jacket.
2. It is very interesting to participate in a local country fair, during which the entire minority people dress in colorful ethnic costumes. It is very lively.