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72 Hours in Kunming (Part Three) Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Culture

Kunming is one of several cities in China you can now visit visa-free for 72 hours. With three full days, you can get a nice feel for the Spring City. After exploring the Green Lake and Yuantong Temple on day one and walking around Grand View Park plus the Bird and Flower Market the next, our last day begins with an adventure. There are quite a few options for great day trips around Kunming, so choose one and head out early.

The Western Hills

View from the top.

Located just a few kilometers from the city center, the Western Hills (西山 – xī shān) of Kunming make for an excellent outing. They’re also called “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. Here you can hike – or take the lazy way and ride the bus and cable car – past several temples, pavilions, and the amazing Dragon Gate (龙门 – lóng mén) grottoes. When you finally make it to the top, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of Dian Chi lake and the city.

Golden Temple and World Expo Gardens

Passing through a heavenly gate.

Another great option for a day trip is a combined visit to the Golden Temple (金殿公园 – jīn diàn gōng yuán) and World Expo Gardens (世界园艺博览园 – shì jiè yuán yì bó lǎn yuán). Start out at the copper-tiled Taoist temple, which is one of the largest in Yunnan province. Walk through a series of Heavenly Gates and climb to the top of the Bell Tower to take in the views.

72 Hours in Kunming (Part Three)

Are we really still in the city?

It’s possible to buy a combination ticket that includes a ride on the cable car over to the gardens. This massive botanical garden hosted the 1999 International Horticulture Exposition. The expo is long gone, but the grounds remain well-maintained and make for an excellent place to spend a few hours.

Chill at the Hump

Hanging at the Hump Hostel.

Whichever day trip option you choose, you won’t get back to the city until later in the afternoon. Since it’s already been a jam-packed couple of days, it’s time to chill out a bit. Even if you’re not staying there, you should head to the Hump Hostel (驼峰客栈 – tuó fēng kè zhàn) downtown. They’ve got a bar where you can order up a coffee, tea, or cold beer. They’ve also got pool and ping pong tables. Their terrace is an awesome spot to sit for a while and relax. Chat with other travelers or just gaze out at the beautiful Golden Horse and Jade Chicken gates (金马碧鸡 – jīn mǎ bì jī).

Local Food

Mmm.. hot pot.

There are also tons of options for dinner around here. Since it’s your last night in Kunming, you might as well go with some classic Yunnan cuisine. One of the best restaurants in town is Yi Ke Yin (一颗印 – yī kē yìn), which is affectionately known as Old House (老房子 – lǎo fáng zi). It really is set in a beautiful old house, and the food here is incredible. You’ll also find quite a few hot pot restaurants and noodle shops around here, or you could always just munch on some street food and local snacks.

Dynamic Yunnan

After feasting on local food, it’s time to enjoy an impressive performance at the Art Theater (艺术剧院 – yì shù jù yuàn). The Dynamic Yunnan show goes on from Monday-Saturday at 8PM and is a must-see while you’re in town. The song and dance show highlights the culture of Yunnan’s many ethnic minority groups, including the famous peacock dance. Photos are not allowed, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it when I say how good of a show it is.

Live Music

Rock out at DT Bar.

If you’ve still got any gas left in the tank, you might as well go out with a bang and rock out to some live music. Kunming has quite a good local music scene, from rock to reggae to hip-hop to electronic. One of the best places to take in a show is DT Bar, which is usually packed on the weekends. Grab a drink and dance to the music to wind down your adventure in Kunming.


If you do decide to get a visa and spend more time in Yunnan, there are so many amazing experiences that await. Hit the road and visit places like the beautiful towns of Dali or Lijiang. Yunnan is a fascinating place to explore with lots to offer travelers, so the more time you can dedicate to it the better!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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