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Travelers Guide to Lijiang: An In-depth Lijiang Tour Guide

Lijiang offers something for everyone. What are the top things to do in Lijiang? The best time to visit? This tour guide of Lijiang will answer all your questions and more.

Feb 11 2022

Lijiang is a tourist paradise located northwest of Yunnan Province, home to the Naxi and several other ethnic minorities. This ancient city is about 321 miles from Kunming and has over  800 years of rich history, going back to the Song dynasty. Since the 12th century, Lijiang Old Town was a distribution center along the Silk Road and the Ancient Tea Horse Road. This trading center brought together merchants from different provinces of China and across Asia, creating a unique cultural blend. Lijiang is home to the Mufu Palace that maintained the region’s stability and peace for around 400 years. It was the most powerful legal institution in Lijiang in ancient times.  

In 1997, three districts in Lijiang were named in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Here, you can relax and indulge in Naxi culture and cuisines. Millions of tourists visit Lijiang, attracted by its breathtaking natural beauty, immersive cultural experiences, and lively nightlife. Today, you can explore Lijiang with travel guides to indulge in its splendors and comforts.

You’ll need a comprehensive travel guide to Lijiang, Yunnan Province. Here is an in-depth Lijiang travel guide.

View of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from the Old Town of Lijiang View of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from the Old Town of Lijiang

The largest Ethnic Group in Lijiang – The Naxi People

The Naxi are an ethnic group native to Lijiang and the closest relatives of the Tibetans. The Naxi’s unique religious traditions, the Dongba, emphasize the connection between the human world and the natural world. In the Naxi language, a dongba means a "wise man" or "sage." Sages are responsible for the community's spiritual well-being. The Dongba and the Tibetans’ Bon religion share many rituals, which pre-date Tibetan Buddhism.

Dongba Pictographs Dongba Pictographs

Naxi Customs and Traditions

The Dongba plays a central role in Naxi customs and daily life. For example, Naxi women wear sheepskin shawls with seven round embroidered cloth plates. This unique design originated from the genesis of Dongba scriptures "seven sisters opened the land.” Traditionally, Naxi women do more manual work in daily life than men. They wake up before sunrise and return home late. So, the decorations on Naxi women’s clothing also represent their hardworking spirit in the company of the moon and stars. Over the years, Han Chinese and Tibetan traditions blended with the Naxi’s culture. The Naxi way of life evolved from the nomadic herdsman, agrarian, to commercialized society.

Naxi people in folk customs Naxi people in folk customs

Naxi Festival: Sanduo Festival and the Torch Festival

Sanduo Festival is the most revered Naxi festival. During this festival, the Naxi people gather around Sanduo Temple to worship their ethnic patron saint Sanduo. According to legend, Sanduo is the guardian and protector of the Naxi people. The festival dates back more than 1,200 years and combines trade activities and cultural events like horse racing, traditional temple fair, ethnic singing and dancing, and picnics. This week-long celebration is held on the 8th of the second Chinese lunar month. You can also attend the three-day Torch Festival, centered around driving out evil and giving thanks. In 2022, the Torch Festival will be celebrated from 13th to 15th August. During this festival, the Naxi, Yi, Bai, Jino, Lahu, and other ethnic groups in Lijiang, Yunnan, light up torches outside their homes. You’ll also get to experience torch-bearers walking up the hills around Lijiang. During your tour of Lijiang, you’ll notice young Naxi women with beautiful garments gathered around bonfires as they perform traditional dances.

Naxi people dancing around the bonfire at the Torch Festival Naxi people dancing around the bonfire at the Torch Festival

Lijiang Weather and Altitude

Lijiang's altitude is 7,900 feet and experiences a low latitude plateau monsoon climate. The city’s weather is characterized by cool summers and warm winters, with an average temperature of 55°F. Lijiang is sunny and dry in winter and wet in summer. In spring, this paradise is cool and dry. It has an average daily temperature of 46–68°F. But the temperature can plummet at night. The rainy monsoon season is in the summer, from June to September. It rains heaviest at night. Autumn is dry and clear, with an average temperature of 39–68°F. Winter in Lijiang is mild during the day and cold at night and starts in December. Consider these weather patterns when planning and packing for your guided tour of Lijiang.

The best time to visit Lijiang

Lijiang’s altitude and temperate climate make it suitable for travel all year round, but the best time to visit is in the spring. During the  spring season, clear skies provide panoramic views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. You’ll also get to indulge in Lijiang’s sun-kissed beauty and aromas of blooming flowers. You can schedule your escorted tour of Lijiang in autumn, from October to November. It is cool during the day but slightly cold at night. Bring warmer clothes for the evenings. Dry and warm daytimes and fewer tourists in winter can entice anyone to visit Lijiang. But nighttime temperatures can drop to 32°F. Monsoon rains in summer make it less suitable for some tourists.


The nature sights in Lijiang The nature sights in Lijiang

Top Things to Do in Lijiang

Lijiang offers something for everyone. It is a snowy wonderland blessed with untainted natural beauty and fresh air. Whether you seek dramatic scenery, cultural experiences, ancient history, or outdoor adventures, Lijiang can meet all your needs. You can book your stay in Songtsam Lijiang Lodge to explore the top things to do in Lijiang with uttermost comfort.

Visiting the Old Town of Lijiang

Lijiang Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site and China's best-preserved ancient town. It was the beginning of the Ancient Tea Horse Road, located at the intersection with the Silk Road. During this time, Lijiang brought together the Naxi, Bai, Yi, Han Chinese, and other ethnic groups from across Asia. The influences of each group are evident in Lijiang’s cultural blend and architectural marvels. Its centuries-old buildings, streets, and canals provide a glimpse into a bygone era. The best way to indulge in these attractions is to stroll the narrow cobblestone streets in Lijiang Ancient Town. A leisurely walk over its waterways with arched bridges can induce deep relaxation. This ancient city has a romantic atmosphere, with tons of shopping opportunities. Escorted tours of Lijiang won’t be complete without visiting the Old Town.  

The old town of Lijiang The Old Town of Lijiang

Touring Shuhe Ancient Town

Shuhe Ancient Town is located about 4 miles from Lijiang Old Town. It is the best-preserved courier station of the Ancient Tea Horse Road in Lijiang and one of the earliest Naxi habitations. Join escorted tours of Shuhe Ancient Town, a living specimen of Naxi civilization. Take time to explore Naxi’s transition from agriculture to commercial activities. Shuhe was a cobbler village that produced leather shoes, fur pelts, twine, ironware, and bamboo wares traded along the Ancient Tea Horse Road. Here, you can walk in the footsteps of ancient traders and tea merchants. Take some time to check the 400-year-old Qinglong Bridge and tour bustling bazaars on Sifang Street. You can also visit Shuhe Old Town to experience how the Naxi people celebrate the Torch Festival.

Shuhe Ancient Town Shuhe Ancient Town

Hiking in Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Located 12.4 miles north of Lijiang, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a snow-capped paradise with 13 peaks reaching over 16404 ft above sea level. Its highest peak reaches an altitude of 18359 ft. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is part of the Three Parallel Rivers, an ecological hotspot with hiking opportunities. During your hike, take some time to enjoy its 13 snowy peaks, dramatic scenery, and amazing panoramic views. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a stone’s throw away from Tiger Leaping Gorge, home to one of the world’s top 10 famous hiking trails.

People hiking on the top of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain People hiking on the top of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Explore Lugu Lake’s beauty and mysterious matriarchal society

Lugu Lake is a charming plateau pearl located about 120 miles from Lijiang City, between Yunnan and Sichuan border. This hidden gem has crystal clear waters and beautiful islands linked to the shore with stone-paved paths. Sit back and enjoy Lugu Lake’s beauty, with its snowy peaks setting the perfect backdrop. Here, you’ll learn more about ancient canoes, traditional fishing songs, and the mysterious Kingdom of Women. It is also home to the Mosuo people, a matriarchal society. Visit Lugu Lake with your travel guides to spend some time with a matriarchal family.

Visiting the bar street at night in the old town of Lijiang

The Bar Street sits at the center of the Old Town of Lijiang, renowned for its vibrant nightlife and lifestyle. This street is home to several decorated two-storied wooden bars, stretching from Square Market to the Giant Water Wheels. These bars come alive at night, with red lights, authentic local music, dancing, and good food. Tourists can find their favorite drinks, whether they want a beer, cocktail, brandy, whisky, vodka, or rum. You’ll need a tour guide to hit all the best watering holes on this bustling street. Don’t forget to make some friends as you indulge in the Old Town’s lively nightlife.

Learn about the lifestyles of the Naxi community

The best way to learn about the Naxi people is to indulge in immersive cultural experiences in and around Lijiang Ancient Town. Attending Naxi festivals and the Impression Lijiang show provide unique learning opportunities for tourists. Visit Baisha Village or Shuhe Old Town to get a glimpse into Naxi’s lifestyles and traditions. Naxi culture and the Dongba are intertwined. During your escorted tour of Lijiang Ancient Town, visit the Wanjuan Building of the Mufu Palace to explore Naxi’s world-famous Dongba Scriptures. Then, take Dongba calligraphy classes. Indulging in Naxi cuisine also provides immersive learning experiences about the Naxi people. To understand Naxi’s agricultural practices, attend the Bangbang Festival. Naxi farmers come to this fair to buy farming tools before the plowing season and exchange ideas.

Naxi residents living in Baisha Village Naxi residents living in Baisha Village

Watching the “Impression Lijiang”

The Impression Lijiang is a spectacular cultural show performed in an outdoor theater, around 10,000 ft above sea level. The theater provides a unique atmosphere with the stunning Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the backdrop. Hundreds of local actors, singers, and dancers come together to showcase the traditions and lifestyles of the Naxi, Yi, and Bai people. Experience the relationship between nature and life from “Impression Snow Mountain” and learn more about local ethnic groups from “Impression Ancient City.” The Impression Lijiang show is one of the top things to do in Lijiang.

Impression Lijiang show Impression Lijiang show

Enjoy local foods

Lijiang is a cultural melting pot that brings together mouth-watering regional cuisines. You can indulge in Lijiang Black Goat Hot Pot, consumed by the Naxi. Black goat hot pot uses tender goat meat with fine muscle fiber and rich nutrients. If you need a snack, try Chickpea Bean Jelly. This traditional snack consists of chickpeas, flour, Chinese chives, and mung bean sprout, with a dash of salt, pepper, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. You can also try Lijiang Stuffed Bun, a delicacy of the Naxi people that comes in sweet or salty flavors. Visit Square Street with your travel guide to indulge in these delicacies and more. Lijiang’s Square Street is home to several restaurants and chophouses, providing authentic Naxi cuisines and local foods.

Street food Lijiang's square street Street food Lijiang's square street

Shop silverware and famous local products

Lijiang offers infinite shopping opportunities. Tourists visiting Lijiang are increasingly attracted to its silverware. Across Yunnan, local craftsmen use traditional techniques handed down for generations. You can visit local markets with travel guides to buy handcrafted jewelry, home décor pieces, and jewelry boxes made of silver. In Yongsheng County, Lijiang, local craftsmen use the enamel silver technique to create jewelry, watches, and other handicrafts with intricate designs. Visit local markets with your tour guide to get the best deals and authentic silverware. Also, Lijiang offers unique culinary experiences. Don’t forget to shop for popular food products, including flower cakes, a mouth-watering cake stuffed with rose petals, chrysanthemum, and yulan. You can buy Pu'er Tea or Snow Tea to take home the unique flavors of Yunnan tea. To explore Lijiang’s tea-drinking traditions, join the Songtsam Tea Club. You’ll learn to use your cup of tea to purify the soul from experienced tea mentors.  

Lijiang is a world-class tourist destination, with natural beauty, rich culture and history, vibrant nightlife, and outdoor adventures. Join escorted tours with experienced travel guides to explore Lijiang's attractions. You can rely on this tour guide of Lijiang to indulge in immersive cultural, natural, and historical experiences.