Yunnan: Yuanyang and Jianshui

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6 Days
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Kunming
Kunming
About this Journey

Yunnan boasts for its diversity. Even in the same province, you found different weather patterns, very different landscapes, regional cuisines and the different ethnic minority groups.

This journey brings us to a lesser-known region of Yunnan but rich in landscape, culture, history, tradition and food. You might have heard of the most known Yunnan Cross Bridge Noodles. Yes, it is from this region. If you love photography, you will be rewarded with stunning view of the UNESCO rice paddy fields with elevations going from 200m to 2000m. 

Join us to discover the largest rice terraces in the world as we dive into the local traditions, history, and backcountry of the charming Red River Valley, its Hani people, and their ingenious ways of bringing water to their rice terraces.

What we love
  • Yuanyang+Jianshui
  • Riding a train along one of the oldest transboundary, Yunnan-Vietnam railways
  • Joining Hani villagers in harvesting rice stalks and catching fish in the rice terraces
Where you're going
Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in Kunming, drive to Yuanyang

Today is the day, the start of your WildChina adventure. Step off the plane in Kunming and meet your local WildChina guide in the airport arrivals hall. They’ll be waiting to welcome you and will have your private vehicle on standby, ready to whisk you off to Yuanyang.

Drive to Yuanyang

The ride from Kunming to Yuanyang will take around 4.5 hours.

First stop: Yuanyang

Explore Yuanyang and its terraced rice fields, a true masterpiece of agricultural organization. Descending down the slopes of the Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River, the rice terraces are a truly mesmerizing sight. Meticulously developed by the Hani people over the past 1,300 years, the patchworked fields are not only impressive to look at — they are a complex water delivery system for the mountaintop plantations, essential for the village’s wellbeing.

Welcome Dinner

Join your fellow guests for a Welcome Dinner at a local farm restaurant. During dinner, you’ll get to know each other, your WildChina guide, and learn more about the journey ahead.

A feast in every perceivable way, take a seat at the Long Street Banquet, also referred to as Long-Dragon banquet as the tables string together throughout the streets in a continuation of over 4,000 meters representing a ‘Long-Dragon’. This age-old Hani tradition is a truly decadent event, bowls flood the tables bearing brightly colored foods, a confetti of artfully crafted butterfly dumplings are strewn throughout and to match the Hani people line the table sides in their vibrant, traditional clothing.

Your guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day.

Meals included: dinner

Day 2Yuanyang

Hike to Azheke Village

Morning, after a scenic ascent up to Azheke Village, hiking alongside the UNESCO-registered rice terraces, the only sense left to satisfy is the tastebuds. A warm welcome awaits at one of the local Hani people’s home where lunch preparations will launch into full flow with the offering of some of the plants collected on the hike up. Experience the traditional flavors of the Hani heritage, everything consumed is local and fresh.

Azheke Village

Nestled at the top of the escalier of paddy terraces sits an outcrop of ‘mushroom houses’ which indicate the arrival at the traditional Azheke Village. The architecture of this natural village serves as an extension to the Hani people’s engineering creativity, the views from the village and observation deck overlook the fog plain blanketing the valley beneath in a cradle of forest greenery. The rich colors of the traditional clothing laid out to dry interject and accessorize the verdancy of the surrounding landscape with vibrancy.

Hani-haba, Traditional Hani Songs

The sacred music of the Hani people has been listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Many of their lyrical songs are not performed just for ceremonies and entertainment but for practical purposes, such as seedling transportation and the propagation of crops. The soul of their lyrics possess direct meaning and cause, so many refuse to perform a song if it isn’t in keeping with its season or purpose. An inheritor of the Hani-haba, a form of ancient Hani songs, extends an invitation to experience these revered melodies and perhaps try some traditional instruments.

Your guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day.

Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Day 3Yuanyang

Sunrise in Duoyishu Village

Early morning, drive to the pastoral village of Duoyishu for an unobstructed view of the rice paddy fields framing the area with sunrise. A self-sustaining ecosystem, the fields were crafted by the Hani people over a thousand years ago and remain the key mechanism of local agriculture to this day. From winter to spring, the rice fields are fed by the spring water from mountain forests and are particularly impressive in the rays of the early morning sun.

Sunrise is subject to the weather

Shengcun Market 

People from the north of China delight in the market offerings of the south, due to their more temperate climate food is never in short supply and their markets only prove this in their boastful and bountiful displays. Shengcun Market is a local favorite in the south, its muddy red streets are dowsed in a majestical veil of fog which enhances the market offerings as it serves as a photographer’s backdrop. Emerging from which, in great pops of color are beautifully tied bundles of beans that exist in every perceivable variation, boatfuls of fruit spill over from traditionally woven baskets, and mysterious local delicacies occupy every bowl in sight.

Hani History and Culture Museum

An inspiration for poetry and paintings, the rice paddy terraces in Yunnan are intricately carved into this landscape as they each balance in outcrops of glassy plateaus from the mountainside forming plains of staircase steps. These rice paddies are not only beautiful but are complexly constructed to channel water and each location is carefully selected by the Hani people of this area for full efficiency and collaboration with nature. The Hani History and Culture Museum serves as an ode to this particular group of Hani people in the Yunnan region, demonstrating their ingenious agricultural skills, culture, traditional songs and clothing.

Traditional Hani Cooking Class

The Hani people are distinguished by their innovation, from their architecture to agriculture, and their creativity persists in their culinary endeavors. Their butterfly dumplings are a celebrated staple at the Dragon Boat Festival, stuffed with naturally dyed rice. These unique dumplings explode with colors of yellow and purple, wrapped in a complementary leaf folded into four meticulous corners. The two colors are endearingly named man and wife by locals. No need to wait for festival preparations to begin, try this traditional cooking class and experience food in color.

Your guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 4Yuanyang to Jianshui

Drive to Jianshui

The ride from Yuanyang to Jianshui will take around 2.5 hours.

Next Stop: Jianshui

Resting in a fertile river valley in Southeast Yunnan, Jianshui has long been considered one of the province’s most prominent cities. Also known as Lin’an, today the formerly walled town stands as a captivating collection of old buildings enveloped by a modern, much larger city. Once the center of Confucian education for the province, Jianshui is filled with a charming blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

Jianshui Old Town

Walk the streets of Jianshui Old Town, dubbed the ‘Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses.’ Boasting a history of over 1,200 years, the town is a well-preserved collection of ancient buildings, orange-tiled roofs, and hidden temples. Having retained the traditional town style of the Ming Dynasty, Jianshui offers a unique opportunity to see ancient architecture in its original state, protected by break walls and a gate tower. Stop by one of the oldest Confucius temples in the country and visit the area’s most well-known residential garden.

Confucius Temple

Nestled in the heart of Jianshui, the sprawling Confucius Temple stands as a shining example of the great sage’s influence. Built during the Yuan Dynasty with the Confucian temple in Confucius’s hometown of Qufu as its muse, Jianshui’s temple is the third-largest of its kind in all of China. More than a monument to the teachings of China’s favorite teacher, the temple was once the center of learning in the region for nearly 750 years. It was so successful, in fact, that of all the successful imperial examination candidates coming from Yunnan Province during that time, more than half called Jianshui their alma mater. Imagine the students that once shuffled through its many halls as you wander through the grounds.

Zhu Garden and Ancient Well

For an experience in real zen and tranquility, we’ll stop by Zhu Garden and Ancient Well, a typical ancient Chinese residency complete with over 40 meticulously organized courtyards and perfectly trimmed bonsai trees. Covering an area of over 20,000 square meters, Zhu Garden is one of the most elaborate and grandiose residential gardens in Yunnan — and a wonderful insight into the intricacies of traditional landscaping. In older times, access to the gardens was strictly denied to the public — now we are free to enjoy it in all its glory.

Learn to Make Jianshui Tofu

Jianshui tofu is a local specialty and today, we’ll learn how it’s made. Our host will soak soybeans are soaked overnight before grounding them into a paste. We’ll then squeeze and mold our tofu cubes using a simple cheesecloth and watch on as the masters show us how they make over 300 tofu cubes an hour!

Your guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day.

Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Day 5Jianshui

Tuanshan Village and Zhang Family Garden (sightseeing train)

Lying in the rolling countryside outside Jianshui, the village of Tuanshan is like a land locked in time. Fortunately, the quaint hamlet was protected from the march of progress by the World Monuments Fund after it was designated as one of 2006’s ‘100 Most Endangered Places.’ Wandering its narrow, cobbled paths under pointed, black-tiled roofs past ancient courtyard homes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d step back into the Qing Dynasty. Many of the homes belong to the Zhang family, who still return to the village today to honor their ancestors. You can almost picture the Zhangs that once called Tuanshan home as you explore its timeworn lanes.

Double Dragon Bridge

Spanning the convergence of the Tachong and Lu Rivers, Jianshui’s iconic Double Dragon Bridge is a sight to behold. Named after the twin rivers that wind like dragons across the land, the bridge boasts 17 archways and three pavilions – along with stunning views of the flowing water below and towering mountains beyond. Marvel at the centuries of history that have traversed its path as you walk along its length.

Jianshui Xiaodiao Performance

Jianshui’s “Xiaodiao” folk performance has a history of more than 600 years. Offering a unique and entertaining look at the region’s traditions, customs, and music, today the performances are attended by visitors as well as locals. Expect a lively affair and pay special attention to how Jianshui Yi people’s lantern music has integrated Han musical traditions and languages as the region has become less isolated. Xiaodiao performances are held during festivals and special occasions throughout the year.

Your guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 6Departure

Your WildChina guide and private chauffeur will escort you to the airport and help you check in to your flight.

Your Accommodation

YuanYang Lanzi de Xiaowu Inn

Yuanyang

Crested on the hillside, the YuanYang Lanzi de Xiaowu Inn reserves a special view for all its guests, commanding an endless gaze over the mosaic of rice paddies fields with the occasional drama of the valley fog drifting in. Although modest in its exterior, the inn sits majestically draped in plumes of mist.

Inside guests will find it impeccably finished in an elegant shabby chic design and from the bathtub to the balconies the view is always on display, with the brimming rice paddies mirroring the changing skies.

Tingziyun Holiday Hotel

Jianshui

Tucked away in Jianshui’s Old Town, Tingziyun Holiday Hotel is a charming respite in the heart of the city. Located in a restored, traditional Chinese courtyard home filled with authentic touches, the hotel offers modern, comfortably appointed guestrooms.

Guests can fuel up for a day of adventures on an array of local breakfast favorites and retire during the evening with a bowl of Chinese dessert soup after wandering through the courtyard gardens.

Photos
Details

What’s Included

  • All overland transfers with private chauffeur and in-transport refreshments
  • All admission fees and activity expenses, as noted in the itinerary
  • Meals as noted in the itinerary with complimentary drinking water
  • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
  • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide
  • Private chauffeur service to and from airport at start and end of your trip

What’s Excluded

  • International and domestic flights, domestic trains, plus relevant taxes
  • Chinese tourist visa, which is required for most foreign passport holders
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Meals, apart from those included in the itinerary, and alcohol
  • Expenses of a personal nature
  • Excursions and activities not included in the itinerary
  • Discretionary gratuities for guides and drivers
Why WildChina

We’re on the ground with you

Our team of advisors will design every detail of the trip with you through close consultation, then orchestrate your entire journey while on the ground. We’re in the same time zone as you, so we can fulfill requests and handle issues without a hitch. With over 40 staff in China and an expansive network of operational partners across the country, we have the manpower to ensure your journey is safe, reliable and comfortable from beginning to end.

Your trip, your way

Flexibility is our highest-ranking compliment. We pull off journeys for pioneers with a 6-hour layover to Hollywood’s elite, and everywhere in between. Our team regularly pulls off unprecedented logistical feats; nearly any time frame or budget is within our realm. No matter how you wish to experience China, we are here to bring that dream to life.

We embody passion

WildChina guides are carefully handpicked for their knowledge and charisma, then meticulously trained to maintain our exceptional service standards. They are expert storytellers and passionate natives of the regions where they guide, having the perfect combination of local insights and service know-how to bring you seamless once-in-a- lifetime moments all across China.

The little things, the big picture

Supporting inspired local economies allows you to experience the soul of the destination, while also protecting and cultivating China’s artisanal culture. From watching artisans creating their handcrafts, to picking organic vegetables for dinner on a local farm, our tours are designed to showcase and protect China’s heritage, both natural and human.