Welcome to Kunming!
Reputed as “The City of Spring,” Kunming, China, is the political, economic, and cultural center of Yunnan Province. Kunming welcomes thousands of visitors from home and abroad every year. With a unique natural landscape, brilliant culture and colorful ethnic customs, more and more people are traveling to Kunming to get a slice of this haven.
The tourists arriving at Kunming Airport know the popular attractions, but a worldwide local knows all the charms that make Kunming so special. Here is a guide to help you visit, explore, and make the best memories in Kunming.
Worldwide Local Tip: Known as the “Spring City,” the Kunming weather is good all year round--while other parts of China might be freezing mid-December, Kunming will still be warm and refreshing! The best time to visit this city is between March and November when you’ll be able to catch the scenery at its very most beautiful! Do make sure to bring along sunscreen no matter when you visit, as you’ll be out in the sun for the most part of your visit.
Begin in One of Kunming’s Incredible Parks
Kunming’s West Hill (also known to the locals as the Xishan Forest Park) has some of the most picturesque landscapes in the area. Entrance to the park will cost you just RMB 30 (a little over $4 US), which is more than worth it for the views you’ll see in return. Spend a day exploring the park, which includes a 5-peak mountain range that spans over 40 kilometers (about 25 miles). Make sure to also visit the Huating temple along the way, which is one of the oldest temples in Kunming at over 900 years old! The temple houses hundreds of statues including three golden Buddhas, and lots of clay figurines of Chinese mythical animals.
The Dragon’s Gate (Longmen) located at the top of Xishan Forest Park should definitely be among the places you visit in Kunming. Xishan Forest Park is renowned for its rolling mountains, tranquil forest with towering trees, singing birds, crystal clear streams, and numerous historical sites. However, as a travel destination, it also boasts its excellent viewpoint for overlooking the Dian Lake and watching the sunrise. If the time is right, another park that is wonderful to visit is Haigeng Park, Kunming’s lakeside bathing beach, surrounded by willows and eucalyptus.
Worldwide Local Tip: The steps up to Longmen are precipitous and narrow, be sure to have on a pair of comfortable shoes for the hike up and watch your step! If you’re not a hiking enthusiast, you can opt for a 20-30 minute chairlift which will cost you RMB 25 ($3 US) (one-way) up to the peak of the mountain instead.
Culture and Diversity in Kunming
Located across from the Xishan Forest Park, you’ll find the Yunnan Nationalities Village, in which 26 ethnic groups share their unique preserved culture, beliefs, dances, and traditions. You will be blown away by Yunnan’s vibrant minority groups. From shows to interactive games, the Yunnan Ethnic Village is the epitome of Yunnan’s culture scene.
Within Kunming, there are over 100 public bus lines available, which means you’ll definitely be able to get to almost anywhere you want. Most lines start running around 6 am, perfect for getting you from your Kunming hotel to the market for an early local breakfast. Make sure to plan to end your day before 10-10.30 pm as that’s when most bus lines stop! If you find yourself stranded at the end of the day, however, just hail a cab with charges starting from RMB 10 ($1.50 US).
Worldwide Local Tip: The buses may not have buttons or other ways to signal that you want to disembark at the next stop, so make sure to hang near the door when you want to get off so that you can easily ask the driver.
Eat Like a Local
Kunming in Yunnan has a very unique food culture that highlights on the fresh taste of food. Influenced by other cuisines, such as Sichuan, Shandong, Cantonese, and Jiangsu Cuisines, Yunnan dishes (also known as ‘Dian Cuisine’) excel in varied materials, freshness and diversified types with a salty and spicy flavor. Popular local dishes you have to try include Steam-Pot Chicken (Qi Guo Ji), Xuanwei Ham (Xuan Wei Huo Tui), Yunnan Edible Fungi such as Ji Zong, Song Rong (matsutake), Zhu Sun, and Gan Ba Jun. Your trip is also not complete if you don’t sample the famous local snack, Cross Bridge Rice Noodles (Guo Qiao Mi Xian)
Worldwide Local Tip: How to eat it is you put quail eggs in the hot soup first, then add slices of meat, barbecued pork, fresh vegetables, thin sheets of bean curd and rice noodles. At last, don’t forget to add pepper powder and chili. The soup will be colorful with red, green, yellow, and white colors.
Have a Wonderful Time in Kunming, China!
Nature, serenity, history, cultural diversity, and unique foods--you can experience all this and them some when you explore Kunming like a worldwide local.