15 Days Photo Trip for the Best of Yunnan
Date: Feb. 1 to Feb. 15, 2022, 2023
Price: From 3999USD/PAX
Trip Focus: Photo + Yunnan
Status: Open to Booking
Trip Code: PH004
This is a photo trip targeted at stunning landscapes and exotic ethnic minority cultures in Yunnan. Join us to chase the shadow and light in the glamorous Yunnan with your cameras. Lying in the southwest of China, Yunnan is well known for its magnificent landscapes and enchanting natural scenes. On the "Tropic of Cancer", only here in Yunnan where we can find such diverse landscapes with sky-piercing snow mountains, thick primeval forests, mysterious deep valleys, torrential rivers, calm and limpid highland lakes, and many wonderful karst mountains and caves. In this photo safari, we are scanning a wide range of landscapes including the Shilin Stone Forest, Jiulong Waterfalls, Jianshui Swallow Cave, Yuanmou Earth Forest, and Dongchuan Red Land. We will collect the curves of those wonders through the lens.
The landscape in Yunnan is never a masterpiece only by nature but also been crafted by its intelligent and romantic residents. Inhabited by 25 ethnic nationalities, the province is well known for its greatest number of ethnic groups in China. The minorities show strong identities by their unique ethnic folk customs distinct from the Han Chinese. They moved the "rice culture" from plain to the mountains and created an engraving art of the land. Hani people's resilient land management system of the rice terraces in Yunnan demonstrates extraordinary harmony between people and their environment, both visually and ecologically, making Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (Yuanyang Rice Terraces) the representative of this rice terrace culture and be listed in the UNESCO sites. We are going to view the terraced fields in Yuanyang in the best viewing points and venture Luoping for the most beautiful rapeseed flower field to record those splendid cultural landscapes by our camera.
The pleasant climate in Yunnan is another blessing from nature. Wherever you go to Yunnan, you will always encounter beautiful sunny days which is a big bonus for photographers. The warm sunshine will delight your body as well as nature and people in your frame. Any season you come to visit the rice terraces in Yunnan, you will be treated fairly. The mountains are always capped with snow while it is forever summer in the tropical river valleys. And the friendly local people are always enjoying their peaceful life in the sunbath regardless of those ever-changing visitors. It is a corner forgotten by the world, a corner that you will never forget.
• Diverse landscape photography including stone forest, karst cave, waterfall, as well as rice terraces, which are all the unique geological wonders.
• Colorful ethnic minority cultures and customs. Among the country's 55 minority ethnic groups, 25 minority ethnic nationalities are found in Yunnan Province.
• Pastoral scenery photography of the famous Hani Rice Terraces in Yuanyang. The smart minority people added new curves of the landscape by diligently cultivating on their homeland.
• It is a trip that running during the Spring Festival. We are going to experience local culture and authentic remote countryside lifestyle by joining their daily life along the way.
• Photograph the rapeseed flower on the right season. We will capture the earliest blossom of a rapeseed flower field in the world-famous spot of Luoping.
Introduction to Trip Destinations:
Yunnan Nationalities Museum
Yunnan Nationalities Museum is located at the bank of Dianchi Lake. Its whole complex is shaped like a cloistered courtyard. It is rated as a national first-class museum, the largest nationalities museum in China, and a famous museum in Asia. It houses more than 40,000 pieces of cultural relics of certain historical, scientific and artistic value, including the most complete collection of ethnic costumes and accessories in China. Its basic exhibits cover ethnic clothing and tailoring, ancient books in the writing systems of ethnic minorities, traditional production, living technologies, ethnic musical instruments, ethnic folk masks, ethnic folk fine arts, ethnic folk pottery, and so on.
Shilin Stone Forest
Shilin means "stone forest" in Chinese. Listed as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007, Shilin Stone Forest has the most unique karst landform in the world. It is only about 80km away from Kunming. Due to its 270 million-year-old forest of stone, large scale, and rich categories, Shilin Stone Forest is reputed as "The First Wonder under the Heaven" and enjoys a high reputation in world geography circles. Besides the natural scenery, Shilin Stone Forest also famous for the Ashima Stone, which legend says was formed after the beautiful girl from Yi ethnic group, Ashima, ran into the forest and was turned to stone after being forbidden to marry the man she loved.
Jiuxiang Scenic Area
Jiuxiang Scenic Area also called the Museum of Karst Caves, is about 40 kilometers from Shilin Stone Forest of Kunming. It is a cluster of hundreds of karst caves with beautiful landscapes while displays the custom and culture of the Yi and Hui minorities. In Jiuxiang, you can appreciate lush forests, narrow canyons, and underground caves. We can take a sightseeing elevator with a fall of 53 meters down to Green Shady Valley. We can also take a boat through the narrow gorge to appreciate differently shaped limestone formations covered with lush plants on both sides of the river. Also, we can visit Yi Minority Village where young people perform traditional minority dances.
Luoping Rapeseed Flowers
Luoping, located on the border of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi Province, is home to one of the largest plantations of rapeseed flowers in Southwest China. Every February and March, the rapeseed flowers in Luoping are in full bloom, the fields covered with golden flowers stretch as far as we can see. What a sea of yellow buds. It is a perfect opportunity for photographers to get a glimpse of Yunnan's colorful countryside during this short period. We will visit Jinjiling which offers an excellent and expansive view of the fields and hills. The rapeseed flower fields in Luoping will make you feel the harmony between human beings and nature, and enjoy the beautiful sights fully.
Bamei means "cave in the forest" in the Zhuang language. Though Bamei Village is only 30km away from Guangnan County in Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, it is hard to find due to its unique location. Bamei Village is surrounded by hills, visitors have to travel by small boat through a long, dark limestone tunnel before being amazed by a picture of the Peach Blossom Valley that wrote in Tao Yuanming's poem. The famous Chinese litterateur Tao Yuanming (317-420) once told of a Peach Blossom Valley isolated from the hustle and bustle of the ordinary world. The description of Tao Yuanming came true when the Bamei Village was discovered.
Puzhehei Scenic Area
Puzhehei in the Yi language means a pond teeming with fish and shrimp. Puzhehei is a charming fairyland boasting beautiful karst landscapes, lakes, and the unique cultures of the Zhuang, Miao, Yi and Bai ethnic groups. Abounded in green hills and clear waters, Puzhehei is also famous for its six major landscapes "pastoral scene, lakes & mountains, Yi villages, karst wetland, lotus world, and Migratory Bird Paradise". Besides, it is home to 15 plant species that are under the second level of national protection, plus it also accommodates over 200 bird species. We will have the chance to visit its Qinglong Mountain for a full view of Puzhehei while photographing the sunset.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Yuanyang is located in the Honghe Prefecture of Yunnan Province (320km from Kunming). Over the past 1,300 years, Hani ethnic group living on this incredible remote land, have developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, Yuanyang Rice Terraces are famous for some of the biggest rice terraces in the world and are reputed as the most beautiful rice terraces in China. Everything here in your lens will be brilliant—sunset, sunrise, the sea of clouds, Hani folk houses, rice paddies, cattle, etc. Besides, a visit to Shengcun Market for the daily life of the Hani group is highly recommended.
Jianshui Ancient Town
Jianshui Ancient Town, first built in Tang Dynasty, has a history of more than 1,200 years and it was called Lin'an in ancient times. Jianshui has more than 50 well-preserved ancient buildings, enjoying a great reputation as a "Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses". Local people purely regard this city as a place to live. The highlights of this ancient town are Jianshui Confucian Temple, Zhu's Garden, Shuanglong Bridge, and Tuanshan Village. Besides, ancient wells are special spots in Jianshui Ancient Town, there are three-wells, four-wells, five-wells, and even twelve-wells exist in the town, which is pretty unique in China.
Yuanmou Earth Forest
Yuanmou Earth Forest is located in Yuanmou County, Chuxiongzhou. The unique landscape was formed by geological movement and soil erosion one or two million years ago. It is named for its shapes like immense forest and the main composition of the expansion earth. A visit through Yuanmou Earth Forest will promise visual shock and boundless photography opportunities, such as shoot the marvelous sunrise, sunset, and the array of stars glittering in the boundless sky. On this trip, we will visit its Wumao Earth Forest and Langbapu Earth Forest. Enjoy a wonderful photo trip in Yuanmou Earth Forest.
Dongchuan Red Land
Dongchuan Red Land is located in Dongchuan District, 200 km away from Kunming City, Yunnan Province. It is praised as "God's Palette", is the world's second marvelous red soil field following the one in Rio Brazil. Extending for nearly 50 kilometers, Dongchuan Red Land boasts the most typical and featured red soil in Yunnan with an altitude of 1,800–2,600 meters. Discovered in the mid-1990s, the exact location is kept secret among a few Chinese photographers who scooped award-winning photos here. Now, the brilliant red soil, the yellow buckwheat, and the dramatic skies make the region around Dongchuan a paradise for photographers from all over the world.
Best of Yunnan Photography Trip Map
Day 1. Arrive in Kunming. (D)
The airport pick-up. City exploration based on your time of arrival. Overnight: Kunming (2,000m)
Day 2. Kunming-Shilin. 75km 1.5h (BLD)
Drive to Shilin after visiting Yunnan Nationalities Museum. Overnight: Shilin (1,800m)
Day 3. Shilin-Jiuxiang-Luoping. 200km 3h (BLD)
After visiting Shilin Stone Forest, we will drive to Jiuxiang for its karst caves. Overnight: Luoping (1,500m)
Day 4. Luoping. (BLD)
Visit Jiulong Waterfalls, Lubuge Gorge, and photograph the golden rapeseed flowers. Overnight: Luoping (1,500m)
Day 5. Luoping-Duoyihe-Bamei. 170km 4h (BLD)
Drive to Bamei Village after photograph the rapeseed flower field in the morning. Overnight: Bamei (850m)
Day 6. Bamei-Puzhehei. 180km 4h (BLD)
Drive to Puzhehei Scenic Area for sunset after exploring in Bamei Village. Overnight: Puzhehei (1,450m)
Day 7. Puzhehei-Wenshan. 120km 2h (BLD)
Photograph in Puzhehei Scenic Area then drives to Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Overnight: Wenshan (1,300m)
Day 8. Wenshan-Yuanyang. 240km 4h (BLD)
Drive to Yuanyang Rice Terraces for sunset. Overnight: Yuanyang (500m)
Day 9-10. Yuanyang. (BLD)
Photograph and trek in Yuanyang Rice Terraces. Overnight: Yuanyang (500m)
Day 11. Yuanyang-Jianshui-Tonghai. 190km 4h (BLD)
Drive to Tonghai after visiting Jianshui Ancient Town and Jianshui Swallow Cave. Overnight: Tonghai (1,800m)
Day 12. Tonghai-Yuanmou. 320km 4.5h (BLD)
Drive to Yuanmou Earth Forest. Overnight: Yuanmou (1,150m)
Day 13. Yuanmou-Dongchuan. 250km 5h (BLD)
Photograph in Yuanmou Earth Forest then head to Dongchuan. Overnight: Dongchuan(1,400m)
Day 14. Dongchuan-Kunming. 200km 3h (BLD)
Photograph Dongchuan Red Land then head to Kunming. Overnight: Kunming (2,000m)
Day 15. Depart Kunming. (B)
Day 1. Arrival in Kunming. Meals: D
The airport pick-up. Based on the time you arrive, we can plan some free city tour programs such as visiting a local park or market to communicate with local people. Kunming, as the capital city of Yunnan Province, is known as "the City of Eternal Spring" for its pleasant climate and flowers blooming all year round. With a history of more than 2,400 years, it was the gateway to the celebrated Southern Silk Road that facilitated trade with Tibet, Sichuan, Myanmar, and India.
Overnight: Kunming (2,000m)
Day 2. Kunming-Shilin. 75km 1.5h Meals: BLD
Today, we will start the trip with a nice breakfast slowly in the morning to adjust to the time difference. Then, we will drive to visit Yunnan Nationalities Museum which is located by Dianchi Lake. Yunnan Province is well known as a "live museum of ethnic groups". In the museum, we can have a good opportunity to photograph the colorful minority culture. Our local guide will tell you many stories about their customs and history. After that, we will head to Shilin—the name card of Kunming.
Overnight: Shilin (1,800m)
Day 3. Shilin-Jiuxiang-Luoping. 200km 3h Meals: BLD
In the morning, we will visit Shilin Stone Forest which is acclaimed internationally as the "Museum of Stone Forest Karst". It is a marvel to photograph its amazing shapes made by nature. The Shilin Stone Forest displays the richest morphological features. Due to its unique geological evolution, numerous stone forest clusters that formed in different geological periods coexist in varied topography, each with its particular features. There are pinnacle-shaped, column-shaped, mushroom-shaped, and pagoda-shaped groups. Almost all the typical pinnacle karst types can be identified in the stone forest. Leaving Shilin, we will stop by Jiuxiang which is famed for its caves as the largest in scale and number (there are about a hundred karst caves) and has the most wonderful in-cave scenes in China. Then, we will drive to Luoping.
Overnight: Luoping (1,500m)
Day 4. Luoping. Meals: BLD
Luoping is famous for the rapeseed flower sea and we arrive at the right season to photograph its beauty. In the early morning, we will drive to Jinjilin for the wonderful sunrise if the weather permits. Jinjilin is a lonely peak cluster isolated in the flower sea. The hills look like some ships floating in the ocean which makes a unique picture. Then we drive to Jiulong Waterfalls which is ranked among the "Top Six Most Beautiful Waterfalls in China" by China National Geographic Magazine. It will be another unique scenery combining the golden rapeseed flower and the magnificent running waterfall. The last stop of the day would be Lubuge Gorge. The Luguge Gorge is a storage reservoir of the Luguge Hydroelectric Power Station with a 19.8-kilometer-long tranquil lake which was originally an extremely turbulent section of the Huangni River before the construction. The gorge is full of cliffs in various life-like images that take you into a fairyland.
Overnight: Luoping (1,500m)
Day 5. Luoping-Duoyihe-Bamei. 170km 4h Meals: BLD
After photographing the rapeseed flower field in the morning, we will pay a visit to Duoyihe Scenic Area where we will spend about 3 hours for its rare calcified waterfall shoals of small and large, sugarcane fields, banana gardens, self-use bamboo wharf, Buyi ethnic group, and their village. Then, we will drive to Bamei Village. The famous Chinese litterateur Tao Yuanming who lived during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) once told of a Peach Blossom Valley isolated from the hustle and bustle of the ordinary world. People lived there in peaceful, serene isolation. The description of Tao Yuanming came true when Bamei Village was discovered. It is surrounded by hills, and visitors have to travel by small boat through a long, dark limestone tunnel. In the dark, you feel as if you are going back in time. When you emerge from the tunnel you will be amazed. In a hidden valley, in a grove of green bamboos and old trees, lies Bamei Village.
Overnight: Bamei (850m)
Day 6. Bamei-Puzhehei. 180km 4h Meals: BLD
Exploring in Bamei Village in the morning. Located thirty kilometers (about nineteen miles) from Guangnan County in Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, this village is hard to find because of its unique location. A blue stream gently flows by, and hard-working farmers silently work in the green fields. It's a picture of another lost Shangri-La. It is an ideal destination for pastoral scene photography. Then, we will drive to the Puzhehei for the sunset.
Overnight: Puzhehei (1,450m)
Day 7. Puzhehei-Wenshan. 120km 2h Meals: BLD
Today, we will Photograph in Puzhehei Scenic Area. Puzhehei Scenic Area is located in Qiubei County of Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Nationalities Autonomous Prefecture. It consists of clusters of lakes, limestone peaks, and karst caves. The beautiful scenes are enhanced by numerous peaks standing amidst limpid water, patches of lotus leaves dotting the lakes, and fishing boats seen here and there. It is praised as "Guilin of Southern Yunnan" because its mountains, lakes, and water look so similar to and perhaps are even more beautiful than those in Guilin. Then, we will drive to Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture.
Overnight: Wenshan (1,300m)
Day 8. Wenshan-Yuanyang. 240km 4h Meals: BLD
Today we will drive to Yuanyang Rice Terraces for sunset. Yuanyang is located in the depth of the Ailao Mountains in Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture. It was once crowned as one of China's 17 most attractive scenic places. Yuanyang is very popular and becomes a big draw to tourists and photographers home and aboard for the amazing rice-terraces built on the red-soil mountains.
Overnight: Yuanyang (500m)
Day 9-10. Yuanyang. Meals: BLD
Photograph and trek in Yuanyang Rice Terraces. In Yuanyang, we will drive to Duoyishu to photograph sunrise in the early morning. We spend two days exploring the rice terraces and experience the life of local minorities who created this great wonder. Yuanyang Rice Terraces are known as the world's largest and most spectacular rice terraces. The incredible rice terraces in Yuanyang allows us to explore China's most beautiful and peaceful countryside with great freedom.
Overnight: Yuanyang (500m)
Day 11. Yuanyang-Jianshui-Tonghai. 190km 4h Meals: BLD
After breakfast, we start our trip to our next destination, Tonghai, en route we will pay a visit to Jianshui Ancient Town and Jianshui Swallow Cave. Jianshui Ancient Town can be dated back to Nanzhao State (738-937) which is about 1200 years old. As an abundant distinctive cultural heritage, this ancient town enjoys a great reputation as a "Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses". After Jianshui Ancient Town, we will pay a visit to the famous natural scenery Jianshui Swallow Cave which is known as one of "the biggest and most splendid cave in Asia". Jianshui Swallow Cave consists of a dry cave, a water cave, and a 30,000-square-meter natural forest, with a total area of 100,000 square meters. Every year between spring and summer, thousands of swallows will fly here from Malaysia, building nests and giving birth to and raising young swallows. Thus it is named "Jianshui Swallow Cave".
Overnight: Tonghai (1,800m)
Day 12. Tonghai-Yuanmou. 320km 4.5h Meals: BLD
Today we will drive to visit Yuanmou Earth Forest via Xingmeng. Xingmeng Township is a Mongolian village which is the only dwelling area of Mongolia nationality in Yunnan. It will be very interesting to check out the life of this northern ethnic. Then we will head to Yuanmou Earth Forest which was formed by geological movement and soil erosion one or two million years ago. It is named for its shapes like immense forest and the main composition of the expansion earth. We will visit its Wumao Earth Forest and Langbapu Earth Forest.
Overnight: Yuanmou (1,150m)
Day 13. Yuanmou-Dongchuan. 250km 5h Meals: BLD
In the morning, we will drive to visit Yuanmou Earth Forest (Tulin). Discover more about this natural landscape composed of earth columns or pillars forming like an immense forest. A visit through Yuanmou Earth Forest will promise visual shock and boundless photography opportunities. Then, we will drive toward the world's second marvelous red soil field in Dongchuan following the one in Rio Brazil. Dongchuan is a great place to photograph the red soil field.
Day 14. Dongchuan-Kunming. 200km 3h Meals: BLD
In the morning, we will start photographing the Dongchuan Red Land in different locations. This area boasts the most typical and featured red soil in Yunnan. The brilliant red soil, the buckwheat, and the dramatic skies make the region around Dongchuan a paradise for photographers. After the program in Dongchuan, we drive back to Kunming. We will have a farewell dinner and end this trip.
Overnight: Kunming (2,000m)
Day 15. Depart Kunming. Meals: B
The airport drop-off. On the final day of this tour, our team will escort you to the airport and assist you with luggage check-in.
1. If you need help in arranging a flight to Kunming from other major cities of China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, or a departure flight from Kunming, please feel free to contact us, we are more than happy to provide any support we can to facilitate your trip planning.
2. The overnight altitudes and driving hours listed in the itinerary are just for your rough reference.
Dates & Prices
1. How is the weather in Yunnan in February?
The average elevation of Yunnan is about 1,900m. In the early spring in February, it is always sunny and dry. The temperature is below 20℃. There is a large temperature difference between day and night. The sunlight is very strong, so make sure you bring some layers, sunglasses, and a hat with you.
2. What type of vehicle will be used on the trip?
The road condition in Yunnan is quite good. We will use 7 seats vehicle for 4 people and 19-23 seat coast for 8-12 people. Our drivers are very experienced, nice, and flexible who will try their best to help you get the best photo.
3. What kind of food will be provided?
One of the principles of AbsolutePanda is dined at local and stay with local. We want to share the benefit with local people and enjoy the authentic local gourmet. We will choose a popular local restaurant and try as much as a different flavor as you want. We will prepare a western breakfast for you or you can certainly choose to try the Chinese style. All we desire is that you can enjoy the food along the trip.
4. What kind of lodging will we stay at?
The tourism industry is well developed in Yunnan. There are many cozy local guest houses or hotels in Yunnan. We will choose featured local guest houses or 3 to 4 star standard hotels run by local people. It is a great chance to experience local hospitality and culture by staying with lovely people.
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Videos & Photos
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Karst Cave in Jiuxiang.
Local people and his water pipe(Yunnan hookah).
Amazing sunset and the mountains look like a Chinese painting.
Yuanyang Rice Terrace
Yunnan ethnic people.
Yuanmou Earth Forest
Dongchuan Red Land
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