If you’ve been to China before and would like to explore the country beyond the usual Shanghai or Beijing basics, then a visit to Lijiang will be a great addition to your trip. It’s a long way to come for just 3 days, but if that’s all you can spare, then this 3-day suggested itinerary will be very useful. There are of course numerous other destinations in this city so you might want to mix and match the suggestions below to create your own itinerary.
Things to know before traveling to Lijiang:
Language – Standard Chinese and Mandarin Chinese are the official languages of China. Learning the language is not necessary, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but speaking at least some Chinese phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by locals. In Lijiang, Naxi people speak the Sino-Tibetan language, which is sub-divided into two dialects – the western and the eastern dialects. Although they have their own distinct language, most people in Lijiang can speak Standard Chinese and Mandarin Chinese.
Currency exchange – Chinese Yuan (also known as Renminbi) is the official currency of China. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout Lijiang. ATMs are plentiful, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it’s easy to withdraw your money in CNY. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most mid-range to high-end restaurants and hotels.
Tourist visa – Visitors who have a layover in some major cities in China are eligible to get a free 72-Hour Transit Visa. Nationalities from Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand are qualified to take advantage of 72-Hour Visa Free Transit Policy.
Getting there – Lijiang is located in China’s Yunnan Province. Although the geographical location of the city is remote, there are plenty of ways to get there. Traveling by air is possible via the Lijiang Airport (LJG), which is connected with most major cities in China (round-trip airfare from Chengdu starts at 220 USD and travel time is about an hour). By train, you can travel to Kunming Railway Station and transfer to a direct train to Lijiang Railway Station.
Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in China, whether you’re looking for luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. In Lijiang, most hotels/hostels options are located in Lijiang Old Town (Dayan Old Town), Shuhe Ancient Town and Baisha Old Town. The most frequent question from first time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Lijiang?” Without a doubt, the best area to stay in is the Lijiang Old Town (Dayan Old Town) to get easy access to most attractions and to get more hotel options.
Hotels to consider in Lijiang:
Hotel Indigo Lijiang Ancient Town
Detailed itinerary: Make the most of your 3 days in Lijiang, China
Day 0: Arrival in Lijiang
Assuming you have taken an afternoon or evening flight to Lijiang Airport (LJG) from major cities in China, then you won’t be able to explore yet. Make your way to your chosen accommodation in Lijiang Old Town (Dayan Old Town), then get a good night sleep so you have energy for a whole day of adventure the next day.
Day 1: Lijiang Old Town
Your adventure in Lijiang starts today. Wake up to a delicious breakfast in your private room. After breakfast, you may now proceed with your walking tour of the city. Lijiang Old Town is an exceptionally well-preserved historic town, which reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign influences. Its building, architectural monuments, religious structures and water systems are original and intact and still function properly today. A walk in the old town also provides opportunity to observe the Naxi ethnic minority. Originally from Tibet, the Naxi People have lived in Lijiang for more than 1,000 years. One of China’s official minorities, the Naxi are considered as one of the oldest ethnic groups in China.
Head to your first destination, Mu’s Residence. Considered as the miniature Forbidden City of Lijiang, the residence served as the center of power during the reign of Tusi Mu. Unfortunately, the entire complex was destroyed during the Qing Dynasty and was rebuilt only in 1999. Nonetheless, the Mu’s Residence is a great place to see the architectural style of China of during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Your next destination is the Black Dragon Pond Park, the most iconic park in southwest China. Located at the foot of Elephant Hill, this pond is famous for its stunning views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
Do not miss to witness the Lijiang Impression Show, a cultural show that demonstrates the life of the ethnic minorities in Lijiang such as the Naxi, Bay and Yi. It is probably one of the best cultural shows in China because of its unique program with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as the backdrop.
Day 2 : Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
On day 2, after a filling breakfast, make your way to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, one of the best mountains to visit in China and is known for its 13 main peaks that look like silver dragons flying in the sky. Standing proudly at 5,596 meters above sea level, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is considered as one of the highest peaks in Yunnan Province. Apart from its breathtaking scenery, the mountain also boast thousands of species of flora and fauna, which proves that China is one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries. Admission to the mountain costs 230 CNY (a little over 33 USD), which includes access to Yushui Village, Dongba Valley, Yuzhu Qingtian Scenic Resort, Yufeng Temple, Dongba Gods’ Garden and Baisha Mural.
Day 3: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Your final day in the city can be spent on last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for. You may also start early and go to Take a local bus at 8:00 AM from Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge Town. There are three sections of the gorge to choose from – Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge, Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge and Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge. For first time visitors, we recommend the Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge because this place offers the best views of mountains and the Yangtze River.
Have you been to Lijiang or anywhere else in China? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Lijiang old town (Toa55 / Shutterstock.com)