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The capital of Yunnan province, Kunming (昆明 – kūn míng) is known for its famous “Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles” and spring-like weather. It’s even called the Spring City (春城 – chūn chéng) for this reason. While there’s plenty to see and do in the city to keep you busy for a few days, there are several great options for day trips to escape the concrete jungle and get out in nature. Here are 5 awesome Kunming day trips you can choose from when you visit.
The most popular spot for a Kunming day trip is certainly the Western Hills (西山 – xī shān). This massive scenic area is formed by three mountain ranges – the Huating, Taihua and Luohan. They’re located on the eastern bank of Dianchi Lake (滇池 – diān chí), which is the largest in all of Yunnan province. It’s nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty Hills” (睡美人山 – shuì měi rén shān) as they’re said to resemble a beautiful girl laying beside the lake with her hair flowing into the water. The entrance of the scenic area is about 15 km outside of the city, making it a very popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Throughout the scenic area, you’ll find temples, pavilions, historic sites, caves, and numerous viewpoints.
One of the best options for a day trip is Grand View Park (大观公园 – dà guān gōng yuán). Here you can read a famous poem, wander around the gardens, ride a roller coaster, and see an amazing Lantern Festival. This huge park is located just 6 km southwest of the city center and is easily reachable by public bus or taxi. Tickets cost just 20 RMB and the park is open from 8:30-6 every day. It’s on the shores of Dianchi Lake, facing the Western Hills.
Kunming is home to many temples, some in the city and some a bit further afield. One of the better temples to visit on a day trip outside of the city is the Bamboo Temple (筇竹寺 – qióng zhú sì). This ancient Buddhist temple has a fascinating story behind it and is a beautiful place to explore. Another great option is Xuning Temple (虚宁寺 – xū níng sì). This stunning temple can be found on Kunming’s “Long Insect Mountain” (长虫山 – cháng chong shān). It has been there for over 700 years and is well worth the short hike to get to. Judging by the modest front gate, it doesn’t seem like much. Just wait until you get inside – recent renovations turned this into an absolutely incredible temple.
Another excellent day trip out of Kunming is the beautiful Golden Temple Park (金殿公园 – jīn diàn gōng yuán). This is a great place to get out of the concrete jungle, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy exploring an ancient Taoist temple inside a huge park. The Golden Temple Park is a lovely, peaceful place to spend a few hours. Be sure to get there early so you can properly explore the entire grounds. After a little lunch, you’ll still have plenty of time to head to the next stop on our tour of Kunming day trips.
This massive botanical garden hosted the 1999 International Horticulture Exposition. The theme of the expo that year was “Man and Nature, Marching into the 21st Century.” It’s said to have been built in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings – mountains (山 – shān), water (水 – shuǐ), and forest (森林 – sēn lín). It covers 218 hectares (around 540 acres) and it cultivates over 2,500 species of plants. The expo is long gone, but the grounds remain well-maintained and make for an excellent place to spend a few hours.
As you can see, there’s enough to do around Kunming to keep you busy for a while. Once you’re ready to move on from the city, you’ve got tons of options for further exploration of Yunnan. Head up to Dali for some cycling and hiking, explore the beautiful ancient town of Lijiang, hike Tiger Leaping Gorge, take part in the world’s biggest water fight down in Xishuangbanna, and so much more. There are lots of beautiful places to visit in China, but it’s really hard to top Yunnan. I spent a year living in Kunming and traveling to other parts of the province on the weekends and holidays, and I have nothing but fond memories of my time there.