Dali Travel Guide: Things to Do in Dali, China

Welcome to Dali, a mesmerizing destination nestled in the Yunnan Province of China. This travel guide is your gateway to exploring the beauty, culture, and history of this enchanting city. With its stunning landscapes, ancient architecture, and vibrant local traditions, Dali offers a unique blend of natural wonders and cultural richness.

Situated on the shores of Erhai Lake and surrounded by the majestic Cangshan Mountain Range, Dali is renowned for its breathtaking scenery. The city is home to a rich history, dating back to the times of the ancient Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms. Today, it showcases a harmonious blend of traditional and modern elements that captivate visitors from around the world.

Dali’s Old Town, known as Dali Ancient City, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a major highlight of the region. Step into the past as you wander through its ancient cobblestone streets, admire the well-preserved traditional Bai architecture, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of bustling markets and local artisans.

Beyond the city, the Dali area offers a myriad of natural wonders. Explore the stunning landscapes of the Three Pagodas, a trio of ancient Buddhist structures, and witness the picturesque beauty of the Cangshan Mountain Range, where you can hike scenic trails and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.

Immerse yourself in the rich local culture and traditions by interacting with the Bai ethnic minority, known for their colorful attire, distinctive architecture, and traditional customs. Experience traditional Bai cuisine, visit local villages, and partake in cultural festivals to gain a deeper understanding of the region’s heritage.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural exploration, or simply a tranquil escape, Dali offers a wealth of experiences to suit every traveler’s preferences. So pack your bags, prepare to be enchanted, and embark on a remarkable journey through the timeless beauty of Dali.

Dali Travel Guide: Things to do in Dali, China


Dali City Guide: A Brief History Of Dali, China

Dali is a city located in the southwestern part of China’s Yunnan province. It has a rich history that dates back over 1,000 years and is known for its preserved ancient architecture, picturesque landscapes, and diverse ethnic cultures. If you’re a traveler interested in the history of Dali, here’s a brief overview:

  1. Ancient Kingdom of Dali (7th-13th century): The history of Dali can be traced back to the ancient kingdom of Dali, which was established during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The kingdom reached its peak during the Nanzhao period (8th-9th century) and the Dali Kingdom period (10th-13th century). The kingdom was ruled by the Bai ethnic group and was an important center of trade and culture in the region.
  2. Dali as a cultural and trade hub: During its heyday, Dali was a vibrant city with a flourishing economy and rich cultural life. It was an important stop on the Southern Silk Road, connecting China with Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East. The city attracted merchants and travelers from various regions, contributing to its cultural diversity.
  3. Ancient Architecture: Dali is known for its well-preserved ancient architecture. The Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple is one of the most famous landmarks in Dali. These towering pagodas, built during the Tang Dynasty, symbolize harmony between Buddhism and the local culture. The old town of Dali, with its traditional Bai-style houses and narrow cobblestone streets, is another must-visit for history enthusiasts.
  4. Mongol and Ming Dynasty rule: In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded Dali and established their rule over the region. Later, during the Ming Dynasty (14th-17th century), Dali became a subordinate of the central government in Beijing. This period brought significant changes to the region, including the introduction of Han Chinese influences in architecture and culture.
  5. Bai ethnic culture: The Bai people are the predominant ethnic group in the Dali area. They have their own distinct traditions, architecture, and cuisine. Travelers can explore Bai villages, visit traditional Bai houses, and experience their unique customs, such as the Three-Course Tea Ceremony and Bai embroidery.
  6. Modern history: In the 20th century, Dali went through various changes due to political events in China. It was briefly occupied by Japanese forces during World War II and later became part of the Communist-controlled People’s Republic of China. Today, Dali has become a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world.

Exploring the history of Dali as a traveler offers a glimpse into its ancient kingdoms, cultural diversity, and architectural wonders. The city’s rich heritage, combined with its stunning natural scenery, makes it a fascinating destination for history enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

Dali Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in China

A long-time backpacker haunt for its authentic Chinese atmosphere and the mountains which surround it, Dali is equally as popular among domestic tourists today. In short, it is a popular place on the travel trail in China, but for good reason.

With much to see and do, you could easily spend a week here, so be sure to get this region plenty of time.

Come check out our Dali travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Dali, China.

Start your time in this popular destination in Yunnan by exploring the Ancient City of Dali. Located thirteen kilometres away from the centre of the modern city of Dali, this well-preserved collection of buildings date from the Ming Dynasty.

Once an important trading and military post situated on a gateway to the Silk Road, it still contains temples, intact city walls, and folk-style homes which were once part of a vibrant community which held a great deal of importance in the region.

After you have gotten your fill of Dali’s Ancient City, make sure that Chongsheng Temple is next on your to-see list. Better known as the Three Pagodas after its primary attraction, these spires have been around for over 1,800 years and marked the time when Buddhism first arrived in the region.

Standing over 220 feet tall, these multi-tiered pagodas have a commanding presence on the skyline in the surrounding area, but that isn’t all there is to the temple complex; the main building itself is a serene place, and with an attractive bell tower and lush gardens, this place is well worth a visit.

Dali isn’t the only place in this part of Yunnan Province which has ancient buildings that have stood the test of time. After experiencing everything the city has to offer, plan a day trip out to the Ancient Town of Shaxi.

Once an important waypoint on what was known as the Yunnan-Tibet Tea Horse Road, Shaxi is an island of authenticity in a sea of sanitized reproductions of China’s past. Things may not be 100% squeaky clean here, but it is what it is – a place where real human beings still live, even after thousands of years of history.

Here, the same old temples, shops, markets, bridges, and other infrastructures serve the same purpose they have for many centuries – the more you walk around, the more you will realize this place is the real thing.

Whether you walk amidst its rice paddies or walk through the market when locals are buying everyday essentials from merchants who can trace their lineage back countless generations, you will find the off the beaten track experience you are desperately seeking in this time-tested town.

Nature lovers will enjoy their time in the Dali area, as it is situated close by to some of China’s most beautiful alpine scenery. If you don’t have time to wander this region’s high country at your leisure, at least make time in your schedule to see the Cangshan Mountains.

A mountain range with a peak elevation of over 13,000 feet, the views over the valley from the tops of these peaks are awe-inspiring. Active travellers will love the hiking opportunities they will find here, while those who sweat at the thought of exercise will be happy to learn there is a cable car available to allow them to enjoy the view from high above the valley that is home to the city of Dali.

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Dali, China

Do you still have an appetite for ancient towns after visiting the ones mentioned above? Xizhou Town is another old settlement you should see while in the Dali area. A relatively short day trip from Dali, this place was a thriving centre of commerce all the way up to 1949, the year when the Communist Party of China emerged victorious over the KMT.

While its buildings have deteriorated somewhat since that time, many feel that it lends an air of authenticity to this ancient town that the Dali Ancient City lacks. When you aren’t walking through the narrow streets of this atmospheric place, check out the local market – mostly free of the trinket stalls which plague much of Dali’s market, you’ll find wandering here to be a far more pleasant experience.

Xizhou is situated on the shores of Erhai Lake, a body of water considered to be one of the most picturesque in China. Start your time here by having a coffee with breakfast overlooking its misty surface. Once you have finished up, check out the sightseeing boat cruise, as it will allow you to get out onto the water and experience the peacefulness of this lake up close.

Back in Dali, the Dali Foreigner Street is where you’ll want to go if you are looking for the greatest range of souvenirs from your time in this corner of Yunnan. Yes, there is some dinky plastic crap – but there are also exquisite wood carvings, silverware, and other fine local crafts.

Look carefully, and you’ll find something unforgettable to bring home with you.

source: One Shot Adventures on YouTube

Top 22 Things To Do in Dali, China For Visitors

Here are 22 things to do in Dali:

  1. Visit the Three Pagodas: Explore the iconic Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple, which are a symbol of Dali and date back to the Tang Dynasty. Marvel at the intricate craftsmanship and learn about their historical significance.
  2. Stroll through Dali Old Town: Immerse yourself in the charm of Dali Old Town as you wander through its narrow streets. Admire the traditional Bai-style architecture, visit local shops selling handicrafts, and savor the aroma of local street food.
  3. Cruise Erhai Lake: Embark on a boat trip and cruise the shimmering waters of Erhai Lake. Take in the picturesque scenery of the surrounding mountains and villages, and witness local fishermen casting their nets.
  4. Explore Xizhou Village: Venture to Xizhou Village, where well-preserved Bai-style houses line the streets. Immerse yourself in Bai culture by visiting the local market, trying traditional snacks, and observing the intricate woodcarvings and decorative patterns on the buildings.
  5. Climb Cangshan Mountain: Lace up your hiking boots or take a cable car up Cangshan Mountain. Traverse scenic trails, encounter cascading waterfalls, and enjoy panoramic views of Dali, Erhai Lake, and the surrounding countryside.
  6. Relax at Butterfly Spring: Discover the serene Butterfly Spring, known for its crystal-clear waters, lush vegetation, and fluttering butterflies. Take a leisurely stroll along the winding paths, breathe in the fresh air, and capture the beauty of nature.
  7. Discover Zhoucheng Village: Delve into the ancient art of tie-dyeing in Zhoucheng Village. Watch skilled artisans create intricate patterns on fabrics using traditional techniques passed down through generations. You can even try your hand at dyeing your own unique souvenir.
  8. Visit the Dali Museum: Step into the Dali Museum to delve into the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. Admire a wide array of exhibits, including ancient artifacts, traditional costumes, and ancient paintings that offer insights into the local Bai and Yi ethnic cultures.
  9. Experience the Three-Course Tea Ceremony: Immerse yourself in Bai tea culture by participating in a Three-Course Tea Ceremony. Savor a variety of teas served in three different cups, each representing a different stage of the ceremony, while learning about the art of tea preparation.
  10. Explore the Yan’s Compound: Step back in time as you explore the grandeur of Yan’s Compound, a magnificent residence that showcases Bai architecture and lifestyle. Marvel at the intricate woodcarvings, elegant courtyards, and the opulent furnishings that reflect the wealth and status of the Yan family.
  11. Try Local Cuisine: Indulge your taste buds with the flavors of Dali. Sample Yunnan-style hot pot, Xizhou Baba (a savory pastry filled with meat or vegetables), and Bai dishes like Erkuai (rice cake) and Rushan (stewed tofu).
  12. Visit the Bai Nationality Village: Immerse yourself in Bai culture by visiting a Bai Nationality Village. Interact with locals, learn about their customs, witness traditional performances, and try your hand at Bai embroidery or paper-cutting.
  13. Marvel at the Shibaoshan Grottoes: Take a day trip to the Shibaoshan Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the ancient Buddhist grottoes, admire the intricate sculptures and carvings, and soak in the spiritual ambiance of this sacred place.
  1. Explore the Western Hills: Embark on a hiking adventure in the Western Hills, where nature enthusiasts can enjoy a network of well-maintained trails. Trek through lush forests, encounter colorful wildflowers, and be rewarded with breathtaking views of Dali, Erhai Lake, and the surrounding landscapes. Along the way, you may come across hidden temples, such as Jade Emperor Temple or Taihua Temple, offering serene spots for rest and reflection.
  2. Visit the Zhonghe Temple: Nestled amidst the Cangshan Mountains, Zhonghe Temple is a Buddhist temple that offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. Explore the temple complex with its intricately carved statues, ancient architecture, and tranquil courtyards. Take a moment to meditate or simply soak in the serene atmosphere while enjoying panoramic views of Dali and Erhai Lake.
  3. Discover the Ancient City Wall: Take a leisurely walk or rent a bicycle to explore the well-preserved ancient city wall of Dali. Built during the Ming Dynasty, the wall offers a glimpse into the city’s historical past. Enjoy the scenic views as you stroll along the ramparts, pass by the imposing city gates, and observe the local life unfolding within the city walls.
  4. Attend the Dali Ethnic Minority Festival: If your visit coincides with the Dali Ethnic Minority Festival, immerse yourself in the vibrant celebrations and cultural performances. Witness colorful parades featuring traditional costumes, lively dances, and music showcasing the diverse ethnic groups of the region. It’s an opportunity to experience the rich cultural tapestry and joyful spirit of the local communities.
  5. Learn Bai Embroidery: Engage in a hands-on experience by participating in a Bai embroidery workshop. Bai women are known for their intricate embroidery skills, and you can learn the techniques and symbolism behind their beautiful designs. Create your own piece of artwork or witness skilled artisans at work, showcasing this traditional craft.
  6. Relax in a Hot Spring: Dali is blessed with numerous hot springs that offer a rejuvenating escape. Pamper yourself with a soak in the therapeutic mineral-rich waters, known for their potential health benefits. Whether you choose to visit the Tianlong Hot Springs, Nuoyuan Hot Springs, or other hot spring resorts in the area, you’ll find a tranquil oasis to unwind and revitalize.
  7. Discover the Shuanglang Fishing Village: Venture to the idyllic Shuanglang Fishing Village, situated on the shores of Erhai Lake. Immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere as you wander through the narrow streets, lined with traditional Bai-style houses and quaint cafes. Enjoy stunning views of the lake, observe local fishermen repairing their nets, or simply relax by the waterfront and soak up the peaceful ambiance.
  8. Attend a Bai Music and Dance Performance: Experience the captivating music and dance performances of the Bai ethnic group. Traditional Bai musicians skillfully play unique instruments like the three-stringed plucked instrument known as the Sanxian or the lusheng, a reed pipe wind instrument. Watch graceful Bai dancers dressed in colorful costumes as they perform traditional dances, showcasing the region’s cultural heritage.
  9. Explore the Dali Foreigner Street: Head to Dali Foreigner Street, a bustling area catering to tourists and expatriates. Explore the vibrant mix of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars offering a blend of international and local flavors. Sample diverse cuisines, shop for unique souvenirs, or simply enjoy the lively atmosphere and interactions with people from around the world.

These activities provide a comprehensive experience of Dali’s history, culture, natural beauty, and culinary delights, allowing you to immerse yourself in the unique charm of this enchanting destination.

What To Eat and Drink in Dali, China

When it comes to culinary delights, Dali offers a variety of delicious dishes and beverages that showcase the flavors of Yunnan Province. Here are some must-try foods and drinks in Dali:

  1. Xizhou Baba: A popular local specialty, Xizhou Baba is a savory pastry made from wheat flour and stuffed with various fillings such as minced pork, vegetables, or local cheese. It’s often enjoyed as a breakfast item or a snack throughout the day.
  2. Yunnan Hot Pot: Indulge in a Yunnan-style hot pot experience, where a simmering pot of flavorful broth is placed at the center of the table. You can cook an assortment of fresh vegetables, thinly sliced meats, and local ingredients like wild mushrooms, tofu, and Yunnan rice noodles, dipping them in various dipping sauces for a delicious and interactive meal.
  3. Erkuai: Erkuai is a traditional Yunnanese rice cake made from steamed glutinous rice. It can be eaten as is or stir-fried with vegetables, meat, and spices. Look out for Erkuai vendors in local markets or street food stalls.
  4. Rushan: Rushan is a traditional Yunnanese dish consisting of tofu slices stewed in a flavorful broth made with soy sauce, chili, and other seasonings. It is often served with rice and accompanied by side dishes like pickled vegetables.
  5. Yunnan Ham: Yunnan is famous for its delicious hams, which are air-dried and cured. The hams are often served thinly sliced as part of a cold platter or incorporated into various dishes, adding a rich and savory flavor.
  6. Yiliang Roast Duck: Yiliang Roast Duck is a local specialty in Dali, known for its succulent meat and crispy skin. The duck is marinated with a blend of spices and roasted to perfection, resulting in a delightful combination of flavors.
  7. Crossing-the-bridge Noodles (Guoqiao Mixian): A signature dish of Yunnan cuisine, Crossing-the-bridge Noodles is a comforting bowl of rice noodles served in a flavorful broth along with an assortment of toppings such as sliced meats, vegetables, and herbs. The dish gets its name from a legend surrounding its creation.
  8. Yunnan Mushrooms: Yunnan is home to a wide variety of wild mushrooms, including porcini, matsutake, and more. These mushrooms are highly prized for their flavors and are often incorporated into soups, stir-fries, and hot pots, adding an earthy and aromatic touch to the dishes.
  9. Yunnan Cheese: Dali is known for its unique variety of local cheeses. The most famous is Rushan cheese, which is made from cow’s milk and has a creamy and slightly tangy flavor. It is often enjoyed on its own or used as a filling in various pastries and snacks.
  10. Yunnan Pu-erh Tea: As a renowned tea-producing region, Yunnan is famous for its Pu-erh tea. This fermented tea has a distinct earthy flavor and is believed to have various health benefits. Enjoy a cup of Pu-erh tea in traditional teahouses or purchase some to take home as a souvenir.
  11. Yunnan Rice Wine: Yunnan is known for its rice wine production. The locally brewed rice wine is often enjoyed during celebrations and festive occasions. It has a mild and slightly sweet taste and can be sipped on its own or used as an ingredient in cooking.

Top Restaurants In Dali, China

Dali offers a vibrant culinary scene with a variety of restaurants serving local Yunnan cuisine, international dishes, and fusion flavors. Here are some top restaurants in Dali that are highly recommended:

  1. The Courtyard: Located in Dali Old Town, The Courtyard is a popular restaurant known for its cozy ambiance and delicious food. They offer a range of international dishes, including Western favorites and Asian cuisine, along with a selection of craft beers.
  2. Bad Monkey Mexican Cantina: Craving Mexican food? Bad Monkey Mexican Cantina is the place to go. Located in Dali Old Town, this lively restaurant serves up authentic Mexican flavors, including tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and refreshing margaritas.
  3. Fu Sheng Yuan Restaurant: For a taste of traditional Yunnan cuisine, head to Fu Sheng Yuan Restaurant. Set in a beautifully restored Bai-style courtyard, this restaurant offers a menu featuring local specialties such as stir-fried wild mushrooms, Yunnan-style hot pot, and grilled fish from Erhai Lake.
  4. Yue Xing Fang Restaurant: Yue Xing Fang is a well-established restaurant in Dali known for its Bai ethnic cuisine. They serve a variety of Bai dishes, including the famous Xizhou Baba, Bai-style stir-fried dishes, and Yunnan ham specialties. The restaurant provides a cultural and culinary experience with its Bai-style décor and traditional performances.
  5. Four Seasons Café: Situated near Dali’s Foreigner Street, Four Seasons Café is a cozy spot serving a fusion of Western and Asian cuisine. Enjoy dishes like wood-fired pizzas, pasta, burgers, and a selection of vegetarian options. They also offer a wide range of beverages, including coffee, smoothies, and cocktails.
  6. Lily Pad Coffee & Books: If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere and a great cup of coffee, Lily Pad Coffee & Books is a popular spot. This café and bookstore offers a selection of specialty coffee, teas, and homemade pastries. Enjoy your beverage while browsing through the collection of books or relaxing in the outdoor seating area.
  7. Amici Italian Restaurant: Craving Italian cuisine? Amici Italian Restaurant is a highly regarded establishment in Dali. They serve authentic Italian dishes, including homemade pasta, wood-fired pizzas, and a variety of antipasti. The restaurant offers a warm and inviting atmosphere with friendly staff.
  8. Ming Courtyard: Situated in a traditional Bai-style courtyard, Ming Courtyard offers a charming setting to enjoy Yunnanese cuisine. Their menu features dishes made from fresh local ingredients, including farm-to-table vegetables, homemade tofu, and organic meats. They also offer vegetarian and vegan options.
  9. Café de Jack: Located in Dali Old Town, Café de Jack is a popular hangout spot. This cozy café serves a range of dishes, including Western breakfast options, sandwiches, salads, and homemade cakes. It’s a great place to relax, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.
  10. Sipadan Café: Sipadan Café is a unique eatery in Dali that combines Malaysian and Yunnan flavors. They offer a fusion menu, including dishes like laksa, nasi lemak, and Yunnan-style specialties. The cozy interior and friendly service add to the dining experience.

These restaurants in Dali provide a diverse range of culinary experiences, catering to various tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for local Yunnanese delicacies, international cuisine, or fusion flavors, you’re sure to find a restaurant that satisfies your cravings.

Tours For Visitors To Dali, China

When visiting Dali, there are several tours available that can enhance your experience and help you explore the region’s cultural and natural attractions. Here are some popular tours for visitors to Dali:

  1. Dali Old Town Walking Tour: Embark on a guided walking tour of Dali Old Town, where you can learn about its rich history, explore the ancient city walls, visit traditional Bai-style houses, and immerse yourself in the local culture. A knowledgeable guide can provide insights into the architecture, customs, and stories of this historic area.
  2. Erhai Lake Boat Tour: Take a scenic boat tour on Erhai Lake, one of Dali’s most iconic natural landmarks. Cruise along the tranquil waters, surrounded by picturesque mountains and dotted with traditional fishing villages. This tour allows you to appreciate the beauty of the lake and its surroundings while learning about the local way of life.
  3. Three Pagodas and Chongsheng Temple Tour: Discover the ancient Buddhist heritage of Dali on a tour of the Three Pagodas and Chongsheng Temple. Marvel at the impressive pagodas that date back to the Tang Dynasty and explore the temple complex with its exquisite Buddhist statues and historical artifacts. A knowledgeable guide can provide historical and cultural insights into these iconic landmarks.
  4. Xizhou and Zhoucheng Village Tour: Explore the Bai ethnic minority culture with a visit to Xizhou and Zhoucheng villages. Wander through the traditional Bai-style houses, interact with the friendly locals, and witness traditional crafts like tie-dyeing and Bai embroidery. This tour offers a glimpse into the unique traditions, customs, and lifestyles of the Bai people.
  5. Cangshan Mountain Hiking Tour: Lace up your hiking boots and embark on a guided tour of Cangshan Mountain. Choose from various trails that suit your fitness level and enjoy breathtaking views of Dali, Erhai Lake, and the surrounding landscapes. A knowledgeable guide can provide information about the flora, fauna, and geological features of the mountain.
  6. Shaxi Ancient Town Day Trip: Take a day trip from Dali to Shaxi Ancient Town, a well-preserved trading post on the ancient Tea Horse Road. Explore the cobblestone streets, visit the famous Sideng Market Square, and admire the ancient architecture. This tour provides a glimpse into the history and culture of the region beyond Dali.
  7. Shibaoshan Grottoes and Stone Bell Temple Tour: Venture outside of Dali to the Shibaoshan Grottoes and Stone Bell Temple. Marvel at the ancient Buddhist sculptures and cliff carvings at the grottoes, and visit the Stone Bell Temple, known for its unique architecture and giant stone bell. A guided tour can provide historical and cultural context to enhance your visit.
  8. Ethnic Minority Village Cultural Tour: Immerse yourself in the diverse ethnic cultures of the region with a cultural tour of various minority villages around Dali. Visit Bai, Yi, and other ethnic communities, witness traditional performances, try local cuisines, and learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life.

These tours offer opportunities to explore the historical, cultural, and natural highlights of Dali, allowing you to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of this captivating destination. Choose the tours that align with your interests and preferences to make the most of your visit to Dali.

Dali Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

When visiting Dali, you’ll find a variety of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort, a boutique hotel, a guesthouse, or a budget-friendly hostel, Dali offers a range of options. Here’s a guide to help you choose the right accommodation for your stay:

  1. Dali Old Town: Staying in Dali Old Town puts you in the heart of the action with easy access to the town’s attractions, shops, and restaurants. You can find a mix of accommodations, including traditional Bai-style guesthouses, boutique hotels, and budget-friendly hostels.
  2. Erhai Lake: If you prefer a serene lakeside setting, consider accommodations near Erhai Lake. You can find resorts and hotels that offer stunning lake views and tranquil surroundings. This area is perfect for those seeking relaxation and natural beauty.
  3. Zhonghe Temple: Accommodations near Zhonghe Temple provide a peaceful atmosphere and proximity to nature. You can enjoy the mountain views and easy access to hiking trails. This area is suitable for travelers seeking a quiet retreat.
  4. Xizhou Village: For a more immersive experience in Bai culture, consider staying in Xizhou Village. You’ll find guesthouses and boutique hotels that offer traditional Bai-style architecture and decor. This area allows you to experience the charm of a Bai village while being close to Dali’s attractions.
  5. Foreigner Street: Foreigner Street is a bustling area with a vibrant nightlife and a variety of dining options. If you prefer being in a lively and energetic environment, consider accommodations in this area. You’ll find guesthouses, hotels, and hostels catering to travelers from around the world.
  6. Ertan Village: Ertan Village, located near the Shaxi Ancient Town, offers a rural escape with picturesque landscapes. There are accommodations available in traditional courtyard houses, allowing you to experience the authentic rural lifestyle of Yunnan.
  7. Dali New Town: Dali New Town offers a more modern and cosmopolitan atmosphere. You’ll find a range of hotels and guesthouses, often with modern amenities and convenient access to shopping centers and restaurants. This area is suitable for those who prefer a contemporary environment.
  8. Luxury Resorts: Dali is home to several luxury resorts that provide high-end amenities, spa facilities, fine dining options, and breathtaking views. These resorts often offer a serene setting amidst natural landscapes, ensuring a luxurious and relaxing stay.
  9. Budget-Friendly Options: If you’re traveling on a budget, Dali has various guesthouses and hostels that offer affordable accommodations without compromising comfort. These budget-friendly options are often located in Dali Old Town and are suitable for backpackers and budget-conscious travelers.

When choosing accommodations in Dali, consider factors such as location, amenities, price, and the atmosphere you desire. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred choice.

Day Trips From Dali, China

Dali serves as a great base for exploring the surrounding areas, which are filled with natural beauty, cultural sites, and historical landmarks. Here are some popular day trips from Dali:

  1. Shaxi Ancient Town: Located about two hours away from Dali, Shaxi Ancient Town is a well-preserved trading post along the ancient Tea Horse Road. Explore the cobblestone streets, visit the Sideng Market Square, and admire the traditional Bai-style architecture. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike to Shizhong Temple and enjoy panoramic views of the countryside.
  2. Xizhou and Zhoucheng Villages: Take a trip to Xizhou and Zhoucheng villages to immerse yourself in Bai ethnic minority culture. Wander through the traditional Bai-style houses, visit local markets, witness traditional crafts like tie-dyeing and Bai embroidery, and interact with friendly locals who are happy to share their customs and traditions.
  3. Shibaoshan Mountain: Located about one hour away from Dali, Shibaoshan Mountain offers a serene retreat and is known for its ancient Buddhist grottoes and sculptures. Hike through beautiful trails, explore the Shizhong Temple, and marvel at the impressive stone carvings that date back centuries.
  4. Jizushan: Jizushan, also known as Chicken Foot Mountain, is located near Dali and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Hike to the summit and enjoy the stunning scenery of Dali Old Town, Erhai Lake, and the Cangshan Mountains. The hike takes about 2-3 hours, and it’s worth it for the sweeping views.
  5. Butterfly Spring: Visit Butterfly Spring, a tranquil and scenic spot located near Dali. Stroll through the picturesque gardens, enjoy the sight of butterflies fluttering around, and learn about the local legends associated with the spring. It’s a peaceful retreat where you can relax and connect with nature.
  6. Nanzhao Cultural Island: Take a boat trip to Nanzhao Cultural Island on Erhai Lake. Explore the island’s ancient temples, including Nanzhao Love Island Temple and Nanzhao Folklore Island Temple. Enjoy the serene atmosphere, learn about the Nanzhao Kingdom’s history, and appreciate the beautiful lake views.
  7. Weishan Ancient Town: Located about one hour from Dali, Weishan Ancient Town is a hidden gem that offers a glimpse into the region’s history and culture. Wander through the well-preserved streets, visit the temples and ancient city gates, and immerse yourself in the local way of life.
  8. Jianshui Ancient Town: Although it’s a bit further from Dali (around 3-4 hours), Jianshui Ancient Town is worth a day trip for its rich history and architectural wonders. Explore the Confucius Temple, Zhu Family Garden, and Double Dragon Bridge. Don’t miss the chance to try the local specialty, Jianshui tofu.

These day trips from Dali provide opportunities to explore the diverse attractions and cultural heritage of the region. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone within a short distance from Dali.

Dali Transportation Guide

Getting around Dali and accessing the surrounding areas is relatively convenient, thanks to the city’s transportation options. Here’s a transportation guide to help you navigate Dali:

  1. Air Travel: Dali has its own airport, Dali Airport (DLU), which offers domestic flights to major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. From the airport, you can take a taxi or arrange a transfer to your accommodation in Dali city.
  2. Train: Dali does not have a train station within the city, but you can reach it by taking a train to Dali Railway Station in Xiaguan, Dali’s new town. Xiaguan is connected to major cities like Kunming and Lijiang via the rail network. From Dali Railway Station, you can take a taxi or public transportation to your destination in Dali city.
  3. Bus: Dali has a comprehensive bus network that connects various parts of the city and nearby towns. Dali Bus Station in Xiaguan serves as the main hub for long-distance bus services. You can find buses to popular destinations like Kunming, Lijiang, Shangri-La, and other cities in Yunnan Province. In Dali Old Town, there are local buses and minibusses that can take you around the town and its surrounding areas.
  4. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Dali and are a convenient mode of transportation, especially for short distances within the city. You can find taxis at designated taxi stands or hail one on the street. Make sure the taxi driver uses the meter or negotiate a fare before starting your journey.
  5. Rental Cars and Scooters: If you prefer more flexibility and independence in exploring Dali and its surroundings, you can consider renting a car or scooter. There are several rental agencies available in Dali, especially in tourist areas like Dali Old Town. Ensure you have a valid driver’s license and adhere to traffic rules and regulations.
  6. Cycling: Dali is a great place for cycling enthusiasts, and renting a bicycle is a popular way to explore the city and its scenic surroundings. You can find bicycle rental shops in Dali Old Town and other tourist areas. Cycling allows you to take in the sights at a leisurely pace and discover hidden gems off the beaten path.
  7. Private Transfers and Tours: If you prefer a hassle-free option, you can arrange private transfers or join organized tours that include transportation. Many travel agencies and tour operators in Dali offer day trips, multi-day tours, and private transportation services to popular attractions in and around Dali.

Remember to plan your transportation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, and allow extra time for unforeseen delays. Dali’s transportation options provide convenient access to the city’s attractions and allow you to explore the surrounding areas with ease.

Dali 1 Day Travel Itinerary

If you have just one day to explore Dali, here’s a suggested itinerary to make the most of your time and experience the highlights of the city:


  1. Start your day in Dali Old Town. Explore the narrow streets, admire the traditional Bai-style architecture, and soak in the lively atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along Fuxing Road, the main street of the old town, and visit local shops and boutiques.
  2. Visit the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple. Head to the northern part of Dali Old Town to see these iconic pagodas that date back to the Tang Dynasty. Marvel at their grandeur and explore the surrounding temple complex.
  3. Enjoy a traditional Bai-style breakfast. Look for a local eatery or street food stall serving Xizhou Baba, a savory pastry filled with minced pork or vegetables. Pair it with a cup of Yunnan Pu-erh tea for an authentic Bai culinary experience.


  1. Take a boat trip on Erhai Lake. Head to Erhai Lake, located just east of Dali Old Town, and hop on a boat for a scenic cruise. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the lake, surrounded by mountains and dotted with traditional fishing villages.
  2. Visit Xizhou Village. Take a short trip to Xizhou Village, a Bai ethnic minority village known for its well-preserved Bai-style houses. Explore the village’s charming streets, visit a local market, and interact with the friendly residents.
  3. Have a leisurely lunch. Stop at a local restaurant in Xizhou Village or head back to Dali Old Town to savor Yunnanese cuisine. Try dishes like Yunnan hot pot, stir-fried wild mushrooms, or Bai-style tofu dishes.


  1. Relax at the Dali Foreigner Street. As the day winds down, head to the lively Dali Foreigner Street. Take a stroll along the bustling street, browse through shops, enjoy a drink at a café, or indulge in international cuisine at one of the many restaurants.
  2. Watch a traditional Bai music and dance performance. If available, catch a Bai music and dance performance in Dali Old Town. Experience the enchanting traditional music, graceful dances, and vibrant costumes that showcase the local Bai culture.
  3. Dinner and Night Market exploration. For dinner, explore the local night market in Dali Old Town. Sample a variety of street food, including grilled skewers, dumplings, local snacks, and refreshing fruit juices.
  4. End the day with a walk along the Dali Ancient City Wall. Take a stroll along the ancient city wall of Dali Old Town, which offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Enjoy the tranquility and capture memorable moments as the sun sets.

Note: This itinerary provides a general guide, and you can adjust the timing and activities based on your preferences and available time. It’s always a good idea to check the opening hours of attractions and consider travel time between destinations to make the most of your one day in Dali.

Dali 3-4 Days Travel Itinerary

Certainly! Here’s a cleaner formatted version of the 3-4 days travel itinerary for Dali:

Day 1:


  • Explore Dali Old Town: Wander the charming streets, admire Bai-style architecture, and sample Xizhou Baba for breakfast.
  • Visit the Three Pagodas: Marvel at the ancient grandeur of the Three Pagodas and explore the temple complex.


  • Erhai Lake Boat Trip: Take a scenic boat trip on Erhai Lake, enjoying the tranquil beauty and passing traditional fishing villages.
  • Xizhou Village: Immerse yourself in Bai culture by visiting Xizhou Village, exploring the architecture and trying local delicacies.

Day 2:


  • Cangshan Mountain: Take a cable car or hike up Cangshan Mountain, relishing panoramic views and natural splendor.


  • Bai Ethnic Minority Village: Visit a Bai Ethnic Minority Village like Zhoucheng or Xizhou, learning about their customs and enjoying cultural experiences.
  • Dali Museum: Explore the Dali Museum, delving into the region’s history and art.

Day 3:


  • Shaxi Ancient Town: Take a day trip to Shaxi Ancient Town, appreciating its well-preserved architecture and historic charm.


  • Shibaoshan Grottoes: Venture to the Shibaoshan Grottoes, marveling at the ancient Buddhist sculptures and enjoying the serene surroundings.
  • Relaxation: Spend the remainder of the day relaxing by Erhai Lake, visiting hot springs, or indulging in spa treatments.

Day 4 (optional):

  • Jizushan: Visit Jizushan for stunning views of Dali or take a day trip to Jianchuan and explore the Yunnan Nationalities Village.

Note: This itinerary can be adjusted based on your preferences and the available time. Consider checking the opening hours of attractions and planning travel time between destinations for a well-paced and enjoyable experience in Dali.

Dali 1 Week Travel Itinerary

Day 1:


  • Explore Dali Old Town: Wander the charming streets, admire Bai-style architecture, and sample Xizhou Baba for breakfast.
  • Visit the Three Pagodas: Marvel at the ancient grandeur of the Three Pagodas and explore the temple complex.


  • Erhai Lake Boat Trip: Take a scenic boat trip on Erhai Lake, enjoying the tranquil beauty and passing traditional fishing villages.
  • Xizhou Village: Immerse yourself in Bai culture by visiting Xizhou Village, exploring the architecture and trying local delicacies.

Day 2:


  • Cangshan Mountain: Take a cable car or hike up Cangshan Mountain, relishing panoramic views and natural splendor.


  • Bai Ethnic Minority Village: Visit a Bai Ethnic Minority Village like Zhoucheng or Xizhou, learning about their customs and enjoying cultural experiences.
  • Dali Museum: Explore the Dali Museum, delving into the region’s history and art.

Day 3:


  • Shaxi Ancient Town: Take a day trip to Shaxi Ancient Town, appreciating its well-preserved architecture and historic charm.


  • Shibaoshan Grottoes: Venture to the Shibaoshan Grottoes, marveling at the ancient Buddhist sculptures and enjoying the serene surroundings.
  • Relaxation: Spend the remainder of the day relaxing by Erhai Lake, visiting hot springs, or indulging in spa treatments.

Day 4 (optional):

  • Jizushan: Visit Jizushan for stunning views of Dali or take a day trip to Jianchuan and explore the Yunnan Nationalities Village.

Note: This itinerary can be adjusted based on your preferences and the available time. Consider checking the opening hours of attractions and planning travel time between destinations for a well-paced and enjoyable experience in Dali.

Is Dali A Safe City To Visit?

Dali is generally considered a safe city to visit. Like any travel destination, it is important to exercise caution and take common-sense precautions to ensure your safety. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when visiting Dali:

  1. Personal Belongings: Keep your personal belongings, including wallets, passports, and electronics, secure at all times. Be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas or public transportation.
  2. Transportation: Use licensed taxis or reliable transportation services. If you’re renting a vehicle, ensure that you have the necessary licenses and insurance.
  3. Street Safety: Be aware of your surroundings and follow local traffic rules when crossing roads. Stay on well-lit and populated streets, particularly at night. It’s advisable to avoid isolated areas during late hours.
  4. Scams: Be cautious of potential scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging for goods or services. Always negotiate prices beforehand and verify prices or charges before making any transactions.
  5. Drinking Water: Drink bottled or purified water to avoid any potential health risks. It’s advisable to carry a reusable water bottle with a built-in filter to reduce plastic waste.
  6. Health and Safety Precautions: Take basic health precautions, such as washing hands frequently and practicing good hygiene. Consider having travel insurance that covers any medical emergencies or unexpected incidents.
  7. Local Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs to ensure respectful behavior. It’s always advisable to dress modestly, particularly when visiting religious or cultural sites.
  8. Emergency Numbers: Save emergency contact numbers, including the local police and your embassy or consulate, in case of any emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

While Dali is generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to stay informed about the current travel advisories and follow the guidance of local authorities. By taking these precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable visit to Dali.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Dali?

The best time to visit Dali is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons when the weather is generally mild and pleasant. These periods offer comfortable temperatures, clear skies, and less rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing. Here’s a breakdown of the different seasons in Dali:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring in Dali brings blooming flowers and lush greenery. The temperatures are mild, ranging from around 10°C (50°F) to 20°C (68°F), making it a great time for exploring the city, hiking in the mountains, and enjoying the natural beauty of Dali.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer in Dali is the peak tourist season, as it coincides with school holidays. The weather is warm to hot, with temperatures ranging from 20°C (68°F) to 30°C (86°F). While the days can be sunny and perfect for outdoor activities, be prepared for occasional rainfall during the summer months.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another pleasant season in Dali. The temperatures gradually cool down, ranging from around 15°C (59°F) to 25°C (77°F). The skies are clear, making it an ideal time for outdoor exploration, hiking, and enjoying the fall foliage.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter in Dali is generally mild but can be chilly, especially in the mornings and evenings. Temperatures range from around 5°C (41°F) to 15°C (59°F). While it’s a quieter time with fewer tourists, it’s still possible to explore the city and enjoy indoor activities such as visiting museums and experiencing hot springs.

It’s worth noting that Dali can get crowded during Chinese holidays, such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and the National Day Golden Week in October. If you prefer to avoid large crowds, it’s advisable to plan your visit outside of these holiday periods.

Overall, the best time to visit Dali is during the spring and autumn seasons when the weather is comfortable, and the natural landscapes are at their most vibrant. However, Dali has its unique charm in every season, so you can plan your visit based on your preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Dali?

After your trip to Dali, there are several nearby destinations that you can visit to further explore the beauty and cultural richness of Yunnan Province. Here are some popular options:

  1. Lijiang: Located approximately 200 kilometers north of Dali, Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its well-preserved old town and stunning natural landscapes. Explore the ancient streets of Lijiang Old Town, visit the Black Dragon Pool, and take in the panoramic views from Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
  2. Shangri-La: Situated in the northwest corner of Yunnan, Shangri-La is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and Tibetan culture. Visit the Songzanlin Monastery, hike in the picturesque Pudacuo National Park, and immerse yourself in the local Tibetan communities.
  3. Kunming: As the capital city of Yunnan, Kunming offers a mix of modernity and traditional charm. Visit the Stone Forest, explore the vibrant Flower and Bird Market, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Green Lake Park.
  4. Jianshui: Known for its ancient architecture and cultural heritage, Jianshui is a small town located southeast of Dali. Explore the Zhu Family Garden, visit the Confucius Temple, and wander through the historic old town streets.
  5. Yuanyang Rice Terraces: Located in the southern part of Yunnan, the Yuanyang Rice Terraces are a remarkable sight to behold. The terraced fields create stunning landscapes that change with the seasons, offering unique photo opportunities.
  6. Xishuangbanna: Situated in the southernmost part of Yunnan, Xishuangbanna is known for its tropical climate and rich ethnic minority cultures. Visit the Dai villages, explore the vibrant Dai Minority Park, and relax in the lush greenery of the Menglun Tropical Botanical Garden.
  7. Tiger Leaping Gorge: If you enjoy outdoor adventures, consider a trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Located near Lijiang, it is one of the deepest gorges in the world and offers breathtaking hiking trails along the Jinsha River.
  8. Puzhehei: Located in the southeastern part of Yunnan, Puzhehei is known for its picturesque karst landscapes, tranquil lakes, and vibrant ethnic minority cultures. Take a boat ride through the karst formations, visit the unique Swallow Cave, and explore the rural villages.
  9. Tengchong: Situated in western Yunnan, Tengchong is famous for its volcanic landscapes, hot springs, and historic sites. Visit the Beihai Wetland Reserve, explore the Heshun Old Town, and soak in the rejuvenating hot springs.
  10. Dali’s Three Ancient Capitals: Dali was one of the ancient capitals of the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms. Explore the other two ancient capital cities: Nanzhao Fuguo Stone Inscription in Jianchuan County and the ancient city ruins of Weishan.
  11. Nujiang Valley: For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Nujiang Valley is highly recommended. Located in the northwest of Yunnan, the region offers breathtaking landscapes, deep gorges, and ethnic minority villages. Enjoy hiking, birdwatching, and experiencing the unique cultures of the Lisu, Nu, and Dulong ethnic groups.
  12. Puer City: If you’re a tea lover, consider a trip to Puer City, known for its famous Puer tea. Visit tea plantations, learn about the tea-making process, and indulge in tea tastings in this renowned tea-growing region.
  13. Baoshan Stone Town: Located near the border with Myanmar, Baoshan Stone Town is a unique destination known for its stone houses and rich cultural heritage. Explore the ancient stone architecture, visit local temples, and learn about the customs and traditions of the local ethnic groups.
  14. Xianggelila (Shangri-La): Located in the northwest part of Yunnan, Shangri-La is a picturesque destination with stunning landscapes and a rich Tibetan culture. Visit the Songzanlin Monastery, explore the old town of Dukezong, and take in the breathtaking views of the Meili Snow Mountain.
  15. Dali’s Tea Plantations: Yunnan is famous for its tea production, and exploring the tea plantations around Dali can be a delightful experience. Visit the tea gardens in the nearby areas of Xizhou and Puer City, where you can learn about tea cultivation, processing, and even participate in tea tastings.
  16. Jinghong and Xishuangbanna: Located in southern Yunnan, Xishuangbanna is known for its lush tropical rainforests, ethnic minority cultures, and vibrant markets. Visit Jinghong, the main city of Xishuangbanna, and explore the Dai Minority Garden, Manfeilong Pagodas, and the Mekong River.
  17. Baoshan: Baoshan is a region in western Yunnan that offers unique landscapes and cultural experiences. Visit the stunning Laowo Mountains, explore the Nujiang Grand Canyon, and discover the traditional cultures of the Lisu and Nu ethnic minority groups.
  18. Tengchong Hot Springs: Tengchong is renowned for its natural hot springs. Relax and rejuvenate in the healing waters while enjoying the beautiful surrounding landscapes. Visit the Heshun Old Town and explore the fascinating volcanic landscapes of the region.
  19. Deqin and Meili Snow Mountain: If you’re seeking breathtaking mountain scenery, consider visiting Deqin and the Meili Snow Mountain range. Experience the awe-inspiring peaks, visit the Feilai Temple, and trek through the stunning valleys surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

These destinations offer diverse experiences, from ancient towns and cultural heritage to stunning natural landscapes. You can choose the destination that aligns with your interests and the time you have available for further exploration after your visit to Dali.

Dali ancient city rooftop architecture in China

Dali Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Dali is a captivating destination that offers a blend of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and a laid-back atmosphere. With its Bai minority traditions, ancient architecture, picturesque landscapes, and proximity to other notable destinations in Yunnan Province, Dali has much to offer travelers.

When planning your trip to Dali, consider the best time to visit, which is typically during the spring and autumn seasons when the weather is pleasant. Take advantage of the opportunities to explore Dali Old Town, visit the Three Pagodas, experience the beauty of Erhai Lake, and venture into the surrounding villages to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Don’t miss the chance to try Bai cuisine, sample local delicacies, and indulge in tea tastings. Dali is also a great base for day trips to nearby attractions such as Shaxi Ancient Town, Shibaoshan Grottoes, and Xizhou Village.

Remember to take standard safety precautions and be mindful of local customs during your visit. It’s always helpful to carry a phrasebook or language translation app to facilitate communication, as English may not be widely spoken in certain areas.

Overall, Dali offers a delightful blend of history, natural beauty, and cultural experiences. Whether you’re exploring the ancient streets of Dali Old Town, marveling at the scenic landscapes, or engaging with the local communities, you’re sure to create lasting memories in this captivating part of Yunnan Province. Enjoy your journey through Dali!

In the land of Dali, where mountains meet the sky, A place of beauty, where ancient echoes lie. Wander through the streets of Old Town’s embrace, With Bai-style architecture, a glimpse of grace.

Three Pagodas stand tall, proud and strong, Whispering tales of history, a legacy that’s long. Erhai Lake glistens, serene and pure, Reflecting the beauty that will endure.

Xizhou Village beckons, with its charm untold, Bai culture and traditions to unfold. Step into the past, where time slows down, As ancient customs and crafts are found.

Cangshan Mountain calls, with trails to explore, Nature’s wonders, to captivate and adore. Rivers and waterfalls, a symphony of sound, A sanctuary of peace, where solace is found.

Shaxi’s ancient streets, a portal to the past, Trade routes and stories that forever last. Shibaoshan’s grottoes, a spiritual retreat, Carved in stone, a treasure to meet.

Journey further to Lijiang, Shangri-La, and beyond, Yunnan’s beauty, an enchanting bond. Immerse in the colors, the flavors, the sights, A traveler’s delight, where dreams take flight.

Oh, traveler, let Dali’s essence touch your soul, With each step, a new story to unfold. Embrace the wonders, the cultures, the art, In the heart of Dali, a journey to start.

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