Kunming Travel Guide

Kunming is the laidback provincial capital of Yunnan. It sits in the center of this southern Chinese province and has bags of interest in and around the town. Transport options are good and it has a year-round climate.

Kunming is becoming more and more touristy, although is nothing like Shanghai or Beijing. It is a lot quieter than those major centers, yet also boasts an expansive history. It is dubbed ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and it’s not too much of an issue whatever time you decide to visit owing to its 2,000m altitude. However, it does get chilly between December and February.

Kunming has lots of eye-catching architecture in its myriad of squares, along with shopping districts and other pedestrian streets. Nanping Jie and Jinma Biji Fang are two such thoroughfares. The capital also comes with a good number of restaurants and Western-style bars and attracts as many backpackers as it does hikers.

There are all sorts of attractions in Kunming for both culture-vultures and for families. The West Temple and East Temple pagodas are popular sights, as are the Kunming Zoo and the aquarium. Kunming’s ancient markets are also a must-see, along with the Yunnanese Cultural Park.

Specifically for tourists, Kunming has scores of star-rated hotels and hundreds of guesthouses in all areas. There are also many cheesy souvenirs and handicrafts to get hold of, more so than most any other provincial capital owing to the numerous ethnic minorities here.

For many people, Kunming is just the gateway to Yunnan. There is so much to see in Yunnan. It is one of China’s most diverse provinces, bordering three other countries - Burma, Laos, and Vietnam - along with the disputed Tibetan region. The major attraction near to Kunming is the unique Stone Forest. It is only an hour or so to the east of town via expressway and makes a great day trip.

Farther afield, northwest Yunnan has most of the appeal of the province, with the towns of Lijiang and Dali being major launch points for exploring the landscape. They are also worthy of a couple of days each, Lijiang with its UNESCO ancient look and Dali with its impressive lake.

North of here it gets pretty mountainous, with the celebrated Snow Mountain having unbeatable hiking. It is best accessed through the Tibetan-majority towns of Shangri-La or Deqin. The Nujiang Valley in the west is even more remote again and is just as beautiful, while the southwest, south and east are lower and easier to get about.

Getting There & Away

Kunming’s international airport, known as Wujiaba Airport, is the gateway and is situated nine kilometers to the southeast toward the Stone Forest. It is connected with every city in China that matters and also with the likes of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.

Trains come in from Guiyang in Guizhou, Nanning in Guangxi, and Chengdu in Sichuan, and you can also make connections from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Buses also serve from neighboring provincial capitals via expressways.

Things to Do

Kunming Attractions

East and West temples

Kunming’s best looking temples were built in the qing (east) and tang (west) dynasties.

Kunming Aquarium

A must-see for those with families, the aquarium has all sorts of wet creatures endemic to china and overseas.

Yunnanese Cultural Park

One of the best museums in town shows off yunnan’s many ethnic minorities.

Kunming shopping

There are many pedestrianised streets in town such as nanping jie and jinma biji fang, with oodles of souvenir shops,

Side trips from Kunming

Stone Forest

Located an hour or two to the southeast of town, this stunning unesco park used to lie on the sea floor and has a unique karst landscape.

West Hills (Xi Shan)

For nice views of kunming, buses only take about 1 hour, 30 minutes to get here; there are many impressive daoist caves full of sculptures.


Kunming International Cultural Tourism Festival

A may event spread over five days with activities and dancing galore.

Onward Travel

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