Although Christmas in Qingdao is great fun with its Christmas Markets and bright festive lights, one can not help but think of those warm sunny days when the Qingdao Wind wasn’t quite so nail-biting cold! Therefore, if you have a couple of days to take off from your internship, then I would recommend heading down to the Yunnan Province to feel the warmth of the sun again!
After spending a fantastic 5 day Christmas vacation in Kunming and Lijiang. I have put together an action-packed 5-7-day itinerary plan to maximise your holiday:
Day 1: Travelling to Kunming
There are cheap flights from Qingdao to Kunming which can take up to 3-5 hours . Depending on the time you arrive, you can grab a taxi or the airport shuttle bus (25 RMB) to the city centre. Kunming is full of delicious restaurants, and while you are there I would recommend trying these local dishes:
Day 2: The Stone Forest
Some say that heading to Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest is a waste of a trip! The stone forest is a spectacular set of limestone pillars which look like petrified trees! They are part of the world heritage site and is representative of south China’s Karst landscape.
According to legend, the forest is the birthplace of Ashima (阿诗玛), a beautiful girl of the Yi people. After falling in love she was forbidden to marry her chosen suitor, and instead turned into a stone in the forest that still bears her name.
There are tour buses which run frequently daily to the Stone Forest, it takes about 2 hours and costs around 25RMB each way.
Day 3: Yunnan Nationalities Kunming, Guandu Ancient Town and Overnight Train
The Yunnan Nationalities Kunming is a must see! With a student card it costs around 90 RMB, and you can learn about the different cultures and 55 nationalities. You also have a chance to ride an elephant, watch performers and dress up in traditional costumes.
If you have time in the afternoon, visit the Guandu Ancient Town. It only takes about an hour to look around, but it is great fun to watch the locals sing and dance. There are lots of souvenirs, interesting buys, good food and snacks in a nice old architectural environment!
At around 9.30pm, take the overnight train to Lijiang. It is great fun especially if you are in a group together! I would recommend getting the soft sleeper bunk beds which costs around 260RMB, although it’s little bit more that other bunks, you are guaranteed a much better sleep! (Saying that, let’s hope you don’t have a baby with a fever in your carriage apartment like we did!)
Day 4: Lijiang Old Town
When you arrive in Lijiang the next day, although there are many fantastic hostels in the Old Town, I cannot recommend the October Inn enough! This hostel is just for international students,the manager Tommy speaks very good English, and I would recommend eating a home-cooked meal with the other guests around the cosy fireplace.
Make sure to go explore the Old Town and the Green lake (Tommy will give recommendations and tips on how to avoid paying tourist fares!) For the evening activities, there are some great bars in the area to go and visit!
Day 5: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Get up early the next day! We enjoyed Tommy’s amazing scrambled eggs with yak butter before boarding the bus for Tiger Leaping Gorge. For more information about this amazing 2-day hike, check out this blog.
As the route is popular, you will begin the walk with a bunch of people of all different ages and backgrounds. The start of the walk flies by as you hear stories of their own experiences and adventures in China. By the time you arrive at the Half-Way hostel, after 6 hours of climbing, battling the 28 turns, and crossing waterfalls, there is a high chance you will have bonded with your fellow hikers!
The Half-Way hostel not only has great food but spectacular views from the hostel dorms. This is where we spent Christmas Eve!
Day 6: The Descent
The next day, you will begin a 2-hour descent down the mountain to Tina’s hostel where your luggage has been kept. If you have time, I would recommend going down the to see the Gorge, before the bus departs back to Lijiang at 15:30. This walk takes approximately 2 hours, it is very beautiful and a cool opportunity to hear the extraordinary loud roar of the river and to climb up steep ladders!
Option: If you have an extra day or so, I would suggest boarding the bus from Tina’s to the Shangri-La area. From there one can either return to Lijiang or travel a little further north and catch a flight back from Dujing Airport. This region reflects the scenery without incurring the cost of entering Tibet!
Once back in Lijiang, take the overnight train back to Kunming. If you are pushed for time, you can take a flight from Lijiang to Qingdao, however, these flights are expensive and aren’t direct.
I can not recommend this trip enough! Even for a short time, it was great to travel to a different Chinese province to experience a different climate, culture and food. If my pictures don’t convince you, then have a look at the warm average temperature for December and January!
Do you feel inspired to travel from Qingdao to Yunnan? Apply now!