Top 10 Things To Do In Dali, Yunnan

things to do in dali
Paul Jeremiah
Paul Jeremiah 
| 5 min read

Dali is a city in western Yunnan, China, that has a rich history and culture, as well as a thriving economy. In the 19th century, tea was its major produce, and as such, the city became a prominent tea market. When the Burma Road was built, trade and commerce flourished even more. Dali sits on the southern end of the scenic Lake Erhai, the second-largest freshwater lake in Yunnan and one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. The lake and the Dali Cangshan Mountains offer perfect spots for outdoor adventures, such as hiking, cycling, and boat riding. East of the Dali Cangshan Mountains lies Dali Ancient City, where you will find numerous restaurants, snack bars, and cafes. For a fun-filled vacation in the city, check out this list of the top things to do in Dali, Yunnan.

1. Learn about Dali's history in Dali Ancient City

Source: Photo by Flickr user gill_penney used under CC BY 2.0

With historic buildings and gorgeous gardens, Dali Ancient City is a great place for a walk. To learn more about Dali and its history, you can visit Dali Museum and Dali Rural Film History Museum. You can also enjoy great views atop Wuhua Tower and Wenxian Tower. If you get hungry while exploring, there are a lot of dining options here, such as restaurants, cafes, and dessert shops.

Dali Ancient City is easily accessible if you will opt for private transport. Additionally, Dali Railway Station is just 17 km (10.6 mi) from here.

Dali Ancient City

Address: Yita Road, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China

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2. Marvel at the architecture of the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

Things to do in Dali
Source: Photo by Flickr user Luca Casartelli used under CC BY-SA 2.0

You’ll be struck with wonder as soon as you see the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, which consist of the 69-m (226-ft) main pagoda, Qianxun Pagoda, and 2 smaller ones that stand at 42.2 m (138.4 ft). The pagodas are arranged in a triangle and have Buddhist inscriptions on them. As for its historical significance, it is said that the pagodas protect the land from natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods.

They are incredibly important structures, and as such, the local government has prohibited tourists from entering the pagodas in order to preserve them. However, you can still view the pagodas and explore the area as much as you want.

Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

Address: P43Q+7R2, Dali, Yunnan, China

Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)

Price: 120 CNY (18.59 USD)

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3. Immerse yourself in Dali's culture in Chongsheng Temple

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zhangzhugang used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Get a chance to study Dali’s culture and history by paying a visit to Chongsheng Temple, a Buddhist temple that has been around since the 9th century. It is also the formal royal temple of the Dali Kingdom. Here, you can find the largest bell in Yunnan— the Nanzhao Jianji Bell— and the Three Pagodas.

Also, you can visit Reflection Pond, which is called so because you can see the pagodas’ reflection on it.

Chongsheng Temple

Address: P43Q+7R2, Dali, Yunnan, China

Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)

Price: 120 CNY (18.59 USD)

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4. Learn about tie-dyeing in Zhoucheng Village

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user G41rn8 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tie-dyeing has been a longstanding practice of the Bai people, especially those in Zhoucheng Village, located west of Erhai Lake. Witness and learn the multi-step process, where cloth is tied with rubber bands and knots. Afterward, it is stained with a dye to create stunning, complicated patterns. The tie-dyed cloths produced here are unique to the area and make for great souvenirs to take home.

Aside from tie-dyeing, Zhoucheng Village is popular for its architecture and festivals.

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5. Stroll around and buy fresh produce in Ancient Town Xizhou

Xizhou Town
Source: Photo by Flickr user Luca Casartelli used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Immerse yourself in the historic Bai town of Xizhou on the west of Lake Erhai. Here, you can learn about Bai people and their culture by interacting with locals in the daily morning market and checking out the traditional residential homes. These homes are a mix of architecture from the Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, and even modern times.

Aside from that, you can participate in a three-course tea ceremony, try your hand in tie-dyeing, and taste the Xizhou baba, a local delicacy.

Ancient Town Xizhou

Address: Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Dali City, Yunnan, China

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6. Experience unparalleled nature views atop the Dali Cangshan Mountains

Dali Cangshan
Source: Photo by Flickr user Michael Wood used under CC BY-SA 2.0

To the west of Erhai Lake, you’ll find the Dali Cangshan Mountains, which offers gorgeous natural scenery, thrilling activities, and historic temples.

There are 19 peaks in the range, and a brook flows in between each of them. Out of the 18 brooks, Qingbi Stream is quite popular. On top of that, you’ll find pristine waters in Xima Pond, an alpine lake that’s 3,920 m (12,861 ft) high. For cultural excursions, visit the Buddhist temples, Zhonghe Temple and Gantong Temple.

To get to the top of the mountains, you can choose among three cable car routes. One of them is the Ximatan Cableway, which spans more than 5,000 m (16404.2 ft). If you opt for this cableway, you will be riding at an altitude of 4,000 m (13,123 ft). Gantong Cableway will bring you to Gantong Temple, while Zhonghe Cableway will bring you to Zhonghe Temple. From both temples, you can hike your way up.

Dali Cangshan Mountains

Opening hours: From April - October: 8:30am - 4:10pm (daily); From November - March: 8:30am - 3:40pm (daily)

Price: From 40 CNY (6.20 USD)

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7. Pay a visit to the Sun Palace on Yuji Island

Yuji Island in Erhai Lake, Dali
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mx. Granger used under CC0

Yuji Island is located in the Shuanglang Ancient Village on Lake Erhai.

It houses Moon Palace and Sun Palace of Yang Liping, who is well-known as the “Peacock Princess” because of her acclaimed “Spirit of the Peacock” dance. The Sun Palace is open to tourists, while Moon Palace is for the dancer’s private use only. These buildings were created by a local artist after making his own house, Qinglu, which is also on Yuji Island.

Yuji Island

Address: Shuangling Ancient Village, Dali, Yunnan, China

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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8. Watch the cormorants at Little Putuo Island

Putou Island on Lake Erhai
Source: Pixabay

Seeking a unique tourist destination? Take a boat trip to Little Putou Island on Lake Erhai. Little Putuo Island is a small, isolated piece of land that only contains one thing — a temple for Guanyin, the Buddhists’ goddess of mercy. The temple, although modest, is full of life, and you’ll sometimes find locals playing cards or mahjong. Cormorants fly about the area, and observing them while they fish for their meal will surely be entertaining.

If you want to taste the seafood here, you can avail yourself of fish and giant shrimps on the island, too.

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9. Catch sight of beautiful butterflies in Dali Butterfly Spring Park

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Located south of Dali Ancient City, this tourist spot offers three special themes or “Three Wonders.” These are “spring,” “butterfly,” and “tree,” The water in this park’s spring is clean and clear, and the spring is surrounded by lush greens and forms a pool. Rising above the pool is the “Butterfly Tree,” which attracts thousands of butterflies during the time that spring turns into summer.

Additionally, there is a butterfly museum on site if you want to learn more about them.

Dali Butterfly Spring Park

Address: P522+RJ4, Dali, Yunnan, China

Opening hours: 8:30am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 60 CNY (9.31 USD)

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10. Gaze at beds of flowers in full bloom in Erhai Park

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Located in the southern area of Lake Erhai, this park offers perfect vantage points for viewing the lake and the Dali Cangshan Mountains. It was formerly called Tuanshan Park because of Tuanshan Hill. If you climb to the top of the hill, you can enjoy even better views. You can see the city from here, as well.

To add to that, beds of flowers await you at the park; you can gaze at camellias, primroses, and more in full bloom.

Erhai Park

Address: 1 Erhe S Rd, Dali, Yunnan, China

Price: Free entry

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Discover the natural beauty and rich history of Dali

Dali abounds with natural beauty, with lush foliage, breathtaking mountains, and a pristine lake. Also, it has a wide variety of food to enjoy, from local delicacies to complex dishes, and a whole lot of activities to try, such as participating in a tea ceremony and taking a stroll in a historic town. If you want to experience all these and more, check out the list of the top things to do in Dali, Yunnan, mentioned above.

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Paul is a Philippines-based writer with a deep passion for food. He revels in savoring delectable cuisine and traveling to destinations offering breathtaking views that he can wholeheartedly...Read more

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