Lijiang Destination Guide

Lijiang city is an attractive tourist destination in Yunnan province and home to the best preserved old town in China. Lijiang region is inhabited by the Naxi group, one of the 55 minority ethnic groups in China. There are a number of amazing things to see & do in Lijiang thanks to the regions picturesque natural beauty and immense cultural history.

Lijiang city offers an interesting blend of ancient tradions and modern culture!

This Lijiang Destination Guide, together with our Lijiang tour suggestions, will tell you all you need to know about the must see highlights of Lijiang. Dont miss our China Country Guide for some handy information about travelling in China, or our destination guides for Beijing, or China's neighbours, Mongolia and Vietnam for some of the regions great highlights and features.

Things to see & do in Lijiang

Follow the links to the right or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many interesting tourist attractions in Lijiang:

Dongba Palace Top

The performances held in the Dongba Palace are very popular due to the grandeur of the scenes, intriguing themes and excellent production. The most famous show is the Mountain and River Show - a live theatre production which showcases the daily life, customs and fairy tales of the Naxi people. There are several other wonderful shows held here everyday at 8pm.

Impression Lijiang - Cultural Show Top

Impression Lijiang is a cultural show that describes the lifestyle and several interesting traditions of the Naxi, Yi and Bai people in a colourful and flamboyant outdoor production. An outdoor theatre in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Park, with the mountain as a backdrop, is the venue for this show. The theatre is at a height of 3500m above sea level. More than 500 people star in this show, which has been produced by Zhang Yimou of Hero, House of Flying Daggers fame, and Fan Yue and Wang Chaoge. Several horses feature in the show. The show is vivid and colourful but there is no central plot as such. It is specially designed to attract tourists by enacting ancient traditions and exhibiting ethnic costumes.

Tickets to this show cost 190 Yuan and these can be purchased in the Old Town itself. You can reach the ticket booth by taking a right turn at the water wheels and walking down the main street. In addition to the ticket you will have to spend on entrance fee for the park (80 Yuan) and transportation to and from the park, which is 10 Yuan one way, with the ride taking about an hour. Showing your hotel key at the booth will get you an exemption from the Old Town Preservation fee as your hotel charges cover the fee. You can board bus # 7 from near the Mao Zedong statue. Just be careful to find out the timings for the last bus for the return journey and make sure you are on board.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Top

Standing at a vantage point in Lijiang Old Town you get a superb view that looks like a jade dragon nestling in the clouds. What you see is the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which remains snow-capped all year round. The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is visible from Lijiang. As part of the government's development plans, from Dec 2007 onwards, a fee of 80 Yuan is charged from people who enter from the Lijiang end. Another charge collected from tourists is a protection fee of 40 Yuan.

The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, also known as the Yulong Mountain, has the distinction of being the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. There are 13 peaks in this mountain range with Shanzidou being the highest one, standing tall at 5,600 metres (18,360 feet). The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range stretches over 35 kilometres (22 miles) in length and 20 kilometres (13 miles) in width.

An abundance of wild plants grow in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Several rare animals can also be found here. The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is home to a quarter of all the plant species that grow in China. Around 20 primeval forest communities live in this forest, sheltering all the plants and animals. These communities, 400 types of trees and 30 animal species enjoy state protection.

The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a much sought after location for sightseeing, scientific research, exploration and activities like mountaineering and skiing. The unclimbed Shanzidou peak and the legends and myths of the Naxi ethnic minority are part of the attractions for visitors to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Take a hike around Jade Dragon Snow Mountain for the adventure of a lifetime. You will explore the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge and get the chance to experience the traditional way of life visiting some of the rural villages within the mountains.

Admission Fee
Entry fee from Lijiang end - 80 Yuan
Protection Fee for Old Town - 40 Yuan

Lugu Lake Top

The beautiful Lugu Lake, 200 kilometres (124 miles approx) away from Lijiang City, lies like a sparkling jewel among the hills in the northwest plateau in Yunnan. The lake has Ninglang County in Yunnan Province on one side and the Yanyuan County in Sichuan Province on the other. Clean air, clean water with fish in it, and hills and dense forests all around make Lugu Lake an enchantingly beautiful place. The weather here is pleasant, with cool summers and warm winters. It is almost as if spring is in attendance all year round. In summer and spring the hills glow emerald green and the flowers are in full bloom, attracting a vast number of birds.

This area is inhabited by the Mosuo people, who have a matriarchal society. Marriages are replaced by a system in which men are chosen as mates by women and come to live with the women in their homes. The relationship lasts as long as the women desire it. Children use their mothers' surnames and are brought up by the women. Family members are all matriarchal kinsfolk and women perform all the important activities in the society and occupy all the important posts too. Visitors find this kind of living intriguing and interesting.

Discover the beauty of Lagu Lake and the unique culture of the Mosuo people yourself by joining a Lagu Lake Tour.

Naxi Ancient Music and Dance Show Top

The Naxi People have a unique culture and traditions, which have readily absorbed inputs from other groups with the passage of time. Religion plays a major role even in day to day living. The best of the Dongba culture is seen in the music and dance of its people.

Visitors to Lijiang spend their days visiting the wonderful scenic spots and relax in the evenings by attending ancient Naxi dance and music shows. The two venues for watching dance and music shows are the Naxi Concert Hall and the Dongba Palace.

Joining a Naxi Culture Walking Tour is a great way to learn more about this ancient society, while seeing the best of Lijiang Old Town.

Naxi Concert Hall Top

For entertainment head straight for No.11 Jishan Valley, Xinyi Street, Old Town. You will find yourself at the Naxi Concert Hall, where concerts are held from 8 pm to 9:30 pm. Local senior musicians with an average age of 60 years get together to perform the concert.

However, this tradition is on the brink of extinction as the group is slowly dwindling in numbers, with hardly any newcomers joining the group. A running commentary in Chinese and English rendered by Xuan Ke is also a crowd puller. Xuan Ke has had a major hand in the restoration of Naxi music. The rates for tickets to these concerts range from CNY80 to CNY120 per head. That translates to10 - 15 USD.

Old Town Top

The old Town of Lijiang is also known as Danyanzhen which means Toen of Big Ink Slab. This city is mainly inhabited by ethnic minorities and as a result the city has a rich cultural heritage. This city is situated in the Yunnan Province and is a central town of the Lijiang City of the Naxi Ethnic Minority. It is located 2400meters(7.874feet) abouve sea level. the town is on a plateau with the Elephant and Golden Row mountains in the norht, the tree-covered Lion Mountain in the west and vast fertile fields in the southeast. Crystal clear water runs through the town and adds to its beauty.

The late song Dynasty and the early Yuan Dynasty were instrumental in building the Old Town. This town, spread over 3.8 square kilometres(912acres), was built in harmony with the natural lay of the mountains and the rivers flowing through the area.   The town has a proud history of more than 800 years. Kubla Khan, the frst emperor of the Yuan dynasty, ruled from here. so the town went on to become an important cultural, pilitical, educational and trading centre for Tibet, China hinterland, Yunnan India and other Asian countries. This rich heritage is evident in the excellent works of art on sale in the shops of the Old Town. the Lijiang old Town has a rich potential for research on the architectural skills in ancient China. the town's distinctive character comes from its lovely surroundings, rich history and multiracial populace. 

Tiger Leaping Gorge Top

The Tiger Leaping Gorge or the Hutiao Gorge, which is the deepest gorge in the world, lies about 100km (62miles) northwest of Lijiang Old Town. it is situated between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain(Yulongxueshan) and Haba snow Mountain (Haba Xueshan).The Golden Sands River or Jinsha River can be seen when you look down from the top of gorge.the sides of gorge are at steep angles, measuring almost 70-90 degrees, and the view of the Jansha's 18 frothing rapid more than 200 meters below is a majestic sight to behold. the gorge is naturally divided into three sections.

The mouth of the fast flowing Jinsha River forms the first section. This is the narrowest and uppermost section measuring only 30 meters (33yards) across.The gorge gets its name from ancient legend that says that a large rock across the narrowest portion of the gorge was used as a stepping stone by a tiger.

The middle section of the gorge is 100 meters (330feet) below and the river gushes out at a rapid pace here,slamming into rocks and crashing downwards, forming whirlpools. The third and lowest section of the gorge has a cliff overlooking it and it is here that the river twists and turns while surging onwards,crashing into the mountainsides furiously. The scenery of course is magnificent.

The gorge,stretching for about 15km (9miles),affords a lot of possibility for water sports like rafting or even sailing, in the quieter sections. Take your pick as per your capacity for adventure.
Hiking on Tiger Leaping gorge to enjoy breathtaking views of one of the deepest gorges.

useful tips

Do take your camera along for some unforgettable photographs at this site. Also remember to wear non slip shoes so that you can walk through difficult and slippery surfaces with ease.