While the tiled roofs of Lijiang make for picture-perfect views, the scene on the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is often less than tranquil. According to a report from UNESCO, from 1997 to 2007 Lijiang’s Old Town visitors grew from 1.7 million tourists to over 5 million tourists per year. While Lijiang has unfortunately lost much of its small-town charm and culture, there are still many fun things to do in the less-visited areas nearby.
Beyond Lijiang, here are a few of our favorite things to do in this area of Yunnan:
Hike to the Wenhai Ecolodge
One of our favorite hikes in Yunnan, this approximately 4 hour trek ends in a stunning, untouched valley with pristine mountain views. Guests can overnight in the Wenhai Ecolodge, a spartan but comfortable guesthouse in the valley that is run by a village cooperative.
Visit Puji Temple
Managed by a young monk (pictured right), Puji Temple is a small but beautiful temple about 30 minutes from the Old Town. A short hike through a village leads you to a Buddhist temple with prayer flags flapping in the wind. As a bonus feature, the hike on the way down gives you a beautiful view over the entire valley.
Relax in Yuhu Village
Former home of famed explorer Joseph Rock, this small village at the base of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a tranquil reminder of a former time. Relaxing here with a cup of tea is a treat after a busy day of sightseeing.
Visit the Market
Located on the outskirts of the Old Town, Lijiang’s market is a sprawling outdoor superstore with everything from tofu and spices to socks and toys. Friendly vendors will let you sample their wares, but beware of the chilis – even the tiny ones pack tongue-searing heat.
While the authenticity of Lijiang’s Old Town is certainly at risk, it’s still a fun and vibrant place to visit. WildChina likes to bring our guests to wander the streets in the early morning, before the crowds, when it’s likely that the only shops open are the ginger candy makers preparing their goods. Mmm…delicious!