Spring City - Kunming
Kunming, a city of rich history, exotic flavor, and mesmerizing scenery, is known as the "Spring City" due to its eternal mild climate. It is the capital city of China's southwest Yunnan Province. Kunming city is the political, commercial, financial, and cultural center of Yunnan and the only Chinese gateway to ASEAN.
Covering an area of 21,473 sq. km. (8,291 sq. mi.) and with a population of 6.3 million, it is not only an important cultural and historical city but also a paradise for travelers. The climate here is mild all year round, with an annual temperature of 15 C (60 F), which makes it agreeable in every season. The history of Kunming dates back to 2, 200 years ago and it is one of the oldest cities in China. The city of Kunming is a converge pot of 25 ethnic groups, making it the center of Yunnan minority culture and ethnic custom.
Kunming is a city rich in beautiful natural landscape, brilliant cultural relics, and gorgeous ethnic customs, which make it a top 10 tourism city in China. There are over 100 scenic areas and 200 cultural heritages in Kunming. Kunming serves as the entry city of numerous travelers in their Yunnan tour, they can visit many other charming Yunnan attractions including Lijiang, Shangri-la, and Lugu Lake from here.
Top things to do and see in Kunming
Located about 80KM away from Kunming, the Stone Forest is featured by the scenic spots of surprisingly artistic stones and breathtaking geomorphologic landscape, which is a precious and marvelous spectacle worldwide. Its main types are the karst geological landforms, with tall sword-shaped, mushroom-shaped, column-shaped, and tower-shaped limestone columns, together with the karst caves, stalactites, cliff waterfalls, dissolution lakes, cone-shaped peaks, natural bridges, etc. It is the Natural Museum of Geomorphologic Wonders and one of Chinese Famous Natural Wonders.
Dian Lake and Green Lake (Cuihu Lake)
Dian Lake is a typical freshwater lake in southwestern Kunming and the largest inland lake in Yunnan Province. It is famous for its natural beauty, scenic spots, and cultural heritage nearby. The lake is also an ideal summer resort, which is surrounded by numerous mountains and many rivers join with each other here. Moreover, the color of the lake will change according to the weather and it is now a home for all kinds of birds.
Green Lake (Cuihu Park) used to be a bay in Dianchi Lake, but later it became a small and clear lake due to the drop in water level. It is one of the most beautiful parks in downtown Kunming. Every winter, thousands of Siberian red-headed gulls fly from the north overwinter in Green Lake, frolicking in the water and fighting for food, which adds infinite interest to Green Lake.
A Buddhist temple 12KM to the northwest of Kunming City. It has many painted sculptures and is a noted cultural heritage. It got its name because of the grand temple and flourished bamboo forest. The Arhat Sculptures in Qiongzhu Temple are of the highest artistic value. The 500 sculptures are an important attraction in the temple and are regarded as the Bright Pearl of the Oriental Sculpture treasury.
The largest and oldest Buddhist temple in Kunming, which is located in the Yuantong Street of Kunming. It is famous for its architectural style, grandness, cultural heritage, and Buddhism atmosphere. It was first built in the Tang Dynasty and got its name Yuantong Temple in the Yuan Dynasty (1301 A.D.). There are a copper Buddha palace and a copper statue of Sakyamuni in the temple, which is the only Buddhism Hall in the inner land of China.
Kunming West Hill
The most famous hill in Kunming and one of the four scenic hills in Yunnan Province. Viewing from afar, it looks like a giant sleeping Buddha or sleeping beauty, so it is also called the Sleeping Beauty Hills. West Hill has enjoyed the reputation as the First wonderland in Yunnan. The main attraction is the Huating Temple with a history of 900 years and the Dragon Gate, other attractions like Taihua Temple, Sanqing Pavilion, Yulan Garden, and Tomb of Nie' er are also worthy of visiting.
Jiuxiang Karst Cave
Located in the Yi and Hui townships of Jiuxiang, Yiliang County, Kunming City. Hailed as the "Museum of Caverns", Jiuxiang Karst Cave (open time: 08:00-18:00, admission: CN￥90 per person) has hundreds of large and small karst caves here, which is one of the largest and most numerous cave community systems in China. There are ancient marine microbial fossils called "prehistoric wonders", and many typical sections and scenic spots such as hydrogeological wonders and three-dimensional layered caves, and multi-layer cave landscapes.
Dongchuan Red Land
Located in northeast Kunming, Dongchuan Red Land's soil contains more iron and aluminum, forming a dazzling color. It is considered to be the most imposing red land in the world except Brazil. From a distance, it looks colorful and magnificent, which is a paradise for photography lovers. The best time to visit the Red Land is when the wheat is ripe from April to May. In addition, September-December is the period of vigorous growth of rapeseed flowers, and occasional residual snow in the fields from February to February is when the red soil is very beautiful.
Kunming World Horticultural Expo Garden
It’s the main venue of the Kunming World Horticultural Exposition in 1999, a world-class garden and horticultural grand view garden with Chinese and Yunnan local characteristics. Mainly composed of 5 exhibition halls, 6 special exhibition parks, 34 domestic exhibition parks, and 33 international exhibition parks. The central square, playgrounds, landmark towers, garden avenues, and other scenic spots in the Expo Garden (open hour: 08:00-17:00, admission: CN￥100 per person) complement each other, and being in the garden is like stepping into a world of flowers and a green ocean.
Local activities and specialties in Kunming
Torch Festival of Yi Nationality
The Torch Festival of the Yi is a traditional festival of the Yi ethnic group. It is held on June 24th of the lunar calendar every year. It is popular in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and other Yi ethnic regions. Although there are many theories about the origin of the Torch Festival, its origin is most directly related to the natural worship of fire. Its purpose is to use fire to drive away insects and pests and protect the growth of crops. Fire is the symbol of the Yi people's pursuit of brightness.
Kunming's Torch Festival is arranged every year in the Shilin (Stone Forest) Scenic Area. In addition to spectacular torch festival performances and sacrificial activities, there are also traditional programs such as bullfighting, wrestling, and embroidery competitions. People gathered in groups in the square, piled many torches into a fire tower, and sat around the bonfire, singing and dancing in joy.
Songkran of Dai Ethnic
The Songkran Festival is a traditional festival of the Dai people and also a New Year of the Dai Nation. It will hold around mid-April in the Gregorian calendar and generally lasts 3 to 7 days. During the festival, everyone splashed each other with pure water, praying to wash away the troubles of the past year.
The biggest Songkran of Dai festival is held in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. Although it is not held in downtown Kunming, it is still held in Yunnan Nationalities Village and some Dai villages around Kunming. Yunnan Nationalities Village is located on the banks of Dianchi Lake in the southwestern suburbs of Kunming. During the Songkran Festival every year, dragon boat races, Fang Gaosheng (the bamboo joints are filled with gunpowder and fired into the sky), Fang Feiddeng (lit a fire to fly the lanterns), and other traditional activities and various kind of song and dance parties.
Batik is a folk hand-dyeing and printing handicraft popular in ethnic minority areas of Yunnan Province. Batik fabrics are integrated with the culture of Yunnan ethnic minorities. The patterns are unique and novel, simple and generous. The price of a piece of batik cloth is about 30 Chinese Yuan and sold in most shopping malls and markets in Kunming. Some are made into clothes, scarves, fans, backpacks, etc., which are very suitable as gifts to take home to families and friends.
Bird and Flower Market
Kunming is called the “Spring City” because of its climate, and precisely because of its climate, which is particularly suitable for the growth of flowers. There are many flower markets in Kunming, supplying fresh flowers to all parts of China. Especially in winter, basically, the vendors of every city in China will book flowers and then pack them from Kunming by flights to sell locally. Here we recommend the Jingxing Street Flower and Bird Market, which is divided into 6 areas: tourist crafts, jewelry and jade, flowers and plants, aquariums, fishing gear, and birds. There are also many local snacks that can be tasted in this market.
Best time to visit Kunming
The four seasons in Kunming are not obvious and with the spring-like climate all year round, it's good for traveling in Kunming at any time of the year. The annual temperature difference is small, the daily temperature difference is large, and the ultraviolet intensity is high. The annual average temperature is around 20℃.
From March to May, there are many kinds of fruits, flowers, and festivals of ethnic minorities in Kunming, Kunming has the most beautiful scenery during this period. From June to November, the climate is cool, generally, Kunming's summer temperature does not exceed 30℃, and often rain, which will slightly affect the travel itinerary. December to February is the winter in Kunming, and the temperature difference between day and night is relatively large. Flocks of red-headed gulls fleeing from the northern cold wind fly from far away from Lake Baikal in Siberia and settle in the city of Kunming.
How to get to Kunming
Getting to Kunming is very convenient. Many cities in China can reach Kunming directly by plane, train, or long-distance tourist bus.
Kunming Changshui International Airport is located 24.5 kilometers northeast of Kunming and is one of the eight regional hub airports in China. As of 2018, Kunming Changshui International Airport has opened 348 domestic and international routes. In addition to daily round-trip flights with most cities in China, there are also direct flights with international cities such as Osaka, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Paris, Vancouver, Sydney, and San Francisco.
There are 3 railway stations in Kunming, Kunming Railway Station, Kunming South Railway Station, and Kunming North Railway Station. Normally, the high-speed trains will depart from or arrive at Kunming South Railway Station. There are still some high-speed rails that will depart from or arrive at Kunming Railway Station. It takes 6 hours from Chengdu to Kunming by high-speed rail, and about 2 hours from Kunming to Dali or Lijiang.
Lodging and dining in Kunming
Lodging in Kunming
Like most Chinese tourist cities, Kunming also has various categories and grades from budget hotels, 3-star economy hotels to 5-star luxury hotels. Depending on the high and low seasons, the average price of a 3-star hotel usually ranges CN￥280-480 per night, CN￥550-1,000 per night for 4-star hotels, and CN￥700-1,800 per night for 5-star hotels. Most hotels are modern from architectural style to room decoration and facilities. There are still many hotels whose exterior buildings and interior decoration are antique Chinese style, but the electrical appliances and facilities inside are very advanced.
Most tourists will choose to stay in the areas of Jinma Biji Fang (Golden Horse and Emerald Rooster Archway) or Green Lake Park. Jinma Biji Fang is located in the center of Kunming, with mature accommodation conditions, and the shopping plaza, pedestrian street, and bar street are all located here. Many universities gather near Green Lake Park, the campus atmosphere is strong, and travelers can walk directly to the scenic spot to enjoy and relax. Many tourists also choose to stay near the railway station, where the transportation is convenient and the overall accommodation conditions are good.
Food in Kunming
The taste of Yunnan cuisine is similar to that of Sichuan cuisine, with a heavy taste, mainly hot and sour. Yunnan people especially like potatoes and various mushrooms.
There are many snack streets in Kunming, such as Nanping Street, Xiangyun Food Street, Snack City in Daguan Commercial Street, Heping Village Snack Street, etc. The famous snacks like Purple Rice Pudding, Spring Rolls, Scratched Powder, Flower cake, Er Kuai(also known as rice-flour cake), which will surely be a great treat for your mouth. The price is basically a few Yuan to dozens of Yuan.
Local food in Kunming is also a distinguishing feature. The most outstanding and delicious food are Guoqiao Rice Noodle (CN￥ 35-58 per set), the Chicken of Boiler (CN￥ 58-88 per pot), Wild Mushroom Hot Pot (CN￥95-140 per capita), Mashed Potatoes (CN￥12-25 per dish), Lunan Custard (CN￥38-58 per dish), Potato and Pea Braised Rice (CN￥28-58 per pot). Besides, there are numerous restaurants, bars, cafes, or night markets, where you can find these foods and many other high-quality meals. In addition, you should also try the famous 18 Oddities in Yunnan!