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Yunnan Top Ten Photograph Destinations

Ever wonder where to take sensational photos in China? Skip over the clichés and touristy sites and embrace those lesser-known but equally marvelous places this year, maybe you will return home as a world-renowned photographer.

Dongchuan Red Land

Though lack of the dramatic lines typical of Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Dongchuan Red Land, nature’s magic palette, is not less appealing. Ruby red land, green wheat, golden canola flowers so vivid and lavish they will hurt your eyes, there is nothing subtle about the bold colors here.
dongchuan red land

 Dongchuan Red Land's beauty will haunt you for a long time

The best time to visit Dongchuan Red Land is from September to December, when potato, buckwheat and other crops ripen. January and February will see wheat sprout new buds. May and June will witness canola in full blossom and wheat ripens. Do not miss these colorful periods. Grayish red during sunny days, darken red during rainy days, Dongchuan Red Land will adopt bright red color one to two days after rain, the golden time to capture the most beautiful photos. As we know, photography is all about lighting and timing. Dongchuan Red Land is less demanding on the right light, for the color palette is colorful enough.
dongchuan red land


Yuanmou Earth Forest

Situated in Yuanmou County, Chuxiong, Yuanmou Earth Forest is 201km north of Kunming. (opening time: 6:00am to 19:00pm, fee: 80RMB). It comprises 13 sites, among which Hutiaotan Earth Forest(Yuanmou Earth Forest), Xinhua Earth Forest and Banguo Earth Forest form the centerpiece.
Plunging into this hidden world, you will be bewitched by the spectacular clay formations, which project from the ground abruptly and glisten like yellow crystals.
Photograph Tips: with golden earth formations set against azure sky, Yuanmou Earth Forest is a fantastic photography destination.
For photographers, you can stay there for one night, for the striking silhouette of earth formations here is particularly photogenic during early morning or dawn. Trails here are bumpy and dusty, you need to take care of yourself and your camera. From November to March, the weather is quite pleasant and comfortable. During April to May, it will dry and hot. But the abundant sunshine is good for shooting quality photos. (What to pack: water, sunscreen, hat and a pair of anti-slippery shoes). From June to October, this place will be shut off from tourists.

 Yuanmou Earth Forest's immensity, the sheer intensity of light and shadow at sunrise or sunset, scream for superlatives.

Stone Forest

Hailing from Shilin County, 78km from Kunming, Stone Forest, the landmark of Yunnan, is a timeless icon for all tastes. Time your visit during Torch Festival(the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, July 1, 2013; July 20, 2014; Aug 8, 2015), so you can take photos of the eternal rock formations as well as colorful celebrations.
stone forest
Torch Festival celebrated in Stone Forest

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

If you want to capture the most breathtaking and majestic rice terraces in the world, Yuanyang is the best place. Covering an area of 240km2, these rice terraces inclined from 15 degrees to 75 degrees pile up from valleys to mist-shrouded hill summits. It is no exaggerating to say it is an epic symphony testifying to local tribes’ wisdom and will. The sheer grandeur will leave most spellbound, let alone those quaint villages dot amid them. If you want to photograph local people and custom, do not miss the Long Table Banquet of Hani people during the tenth lunar month.
yuanyang rice terraces

Bada Village(坝达村): rice terraces in this village span over 93km2, the largest patchwork in Yuanyang. Scenery at sunset is spellbinding. It is accessible by bus from Yuanyang County.

Shengcun Township(胜村乡): it consists of 17 villages, among which Malizhai Village(麻栗寨) inhabited by Hani people is the most famous. In this village, you can see massive rice terraces and cute mushroom houses of the Hani people.

Laohuzui(Tiger Mouth Scenic Area老虎嘴景区):
Encompassing 8km2, it is the most precipitous and magnificent part of Yuanyang Rice Terraces. Layers of rice terraces cascade all the way down to the tree-fringed valley cut through by a river. Atop of these hills quaint villages stand. The best photograph site is in the waist of these hills.

Habo Scenic Area(哈播景区)
: located 85km south of Xinjie Town, Habo is accessible by mini vans from Xinjie Town, Yuanyang County. Habo is notable for sea of clouds all year around. During Lantern Festival (the 15th day of the first lunar month), its valleys are filled with the peach and cherry blossoms, which complement to the gorgeous rice terraces. As we know, May is the time locals plant rice seedlings. With the right light, you can do justice to these shimmering rice paddies with dynamic curves. September signifies the harvest time and you can still capture the most intoxicating scenery. In December, this rice terraces will be filled with water again.

Longshuba Scenic Area(龙树坝景区)
: thanks to its rare seen red, green and yellow duckweeds, this less beaten site seduces the most intrepid photographers. Notice the best way to get in is through hiking. Motorcycles and cars will sink into the mud from time to time during rainy days.
Duoyishu Scenic Area (多依树景区): 200 days out of a year belong to misty days. It is the best place to capture ethnic villages, rice terraces and villages enveloped by mists or during sunset and sunrise. Aerial and surreal, the scenery evokes a traditional Chinese painting. With the minimal effort, you can shoot world class masterpieces here.
yuanyang rice terraces duoyishu scenic area
yuanyang rice terraces
yuanyang rice terraces duoyishu scenic area

The Old Town of Lijiang

Crowned as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, this unwalled museum is a classic icon of all times. As a spiritual sanctuary and key replay post along Tea Horse Road, the Old Town of Lijiang is a paradise for photographers. There is so much to capture here. Start from its maze of canals spanned by 354 stone-wood bridges, intertwining laneways flanked by tasteful shops, funky bars and cafes, you will find your film runs shortage. In Sifengjie, the hive of assorted performances, it is time to blend in with local life. In Each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a bonfire party will be staged. To gain a panoramic view, ascend to Wangu Floor. Enjoy the repository of local culture and history, visit Mu Family Mansion, the centerpiece of this town. Dongba Culture Museum is a place to unravel Dongba scriptures, paintings, rituals and dance. Naxi people, the in their ethnic attires busy themselves with daily routines.
lijiang ancient town

Nayun Ancient Town

In northern Yunnan, the Old Town of Lijiang sparks, in southern Yunnan, Nayun Ancient Town allures. Situated in Menglian County, Nayun Ancient Town, the only extant Dai village, was an economic, religious and political hub in southern Yunnan. Epitomizing the hierarchy of Menglian Dai minority, this over 700-year-old town serves as a perfect escape to experience tropic scenery, unravel the aristocracy of Dai as well as enjoy Thailand flavor in China.
nayun ancient town
nayun ancient town

Rows of bamboo houses scatter under the dense trees, solemn monasteries and pagodas grace the skyline, while monks in their beautiful robes wonder around leisurely. Half a day’s visit to this “living history” village will be both enlightening and rewarding. Photograph opportunities abound.
nayun ancient townnayun ancient town
nayun ancient townnayun ancient town

Wild Elephant Valley

It is the only place in China to see Asian wild elephant in their native habitat. At dawn and dusk, over 300 wild elephants will come out to feed, do not miss these periods if you do not want to go back empty-handed. Besides, you can also see various elephant performances inside the park. Wild Elephant Valley is so well-equipped that you can get the best out of it by staying in a tree house, trekking the midair corridor and walking along the aerial ropeway to take amazing photos.
wild elephant valley

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Standing at mind-blowing height, you will capture the panoramic view of Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest in the world. If you want to get more details such as zigzagging courses and rapids, hike along this gorge’s three sections. Arduous it can be, the hiking along the valley or mountain peaks will reward you with lifetime memory and tons of precious photos.
 tiger leaping gorge

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Defining the skyline of the Old Town of Lijiang, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a holy abode of Gods in Naxi people’s eye, beckons as the Holy Grail of hikers and photographers. It consists of 13 glistening peaks, among which shanzidou elevated at 5596, remains unconquered. Bless with abundant glacier clusters, superabundant flora and fauna species, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is reputed as “Natural Botanic Garden and Zoo” as well as “the museum of glacier”.

With aerial snow-capped mountains, azure lakes, verdant grasslands and kaleidoscopic wild blossoms, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain will mesmerize you with dramatic and ever-changing vistas. It is also the setting for the most beautiful love story of Naxi people.
jade dragon snow mountainjade dragon snow mountain
jade dragon snow mountainjade dragon snow mountain
jade dragon snow mountainjade dragon snow mountain

Luoping County

During each March, Luoping County will be flooded with 66km2 golden canola flowers, which wins it the reputation as “the biggest natural garden on earth.” Each February 21 will see the Canola Flower Tourism Festival take place, which will draw a steady stream of tourists. It is stupid to elbow you way within the crowd and follow them to take the least appealing pictures. Here are two best sites: Niujie (Ox Street牛街) and Jinji Peak (Golden Rooster Peak金鸡峰). Scenery in Niujie is distinguished by assorted patchworks of crops amid canola blossoms while Jinji Peak is characterized by canola fields’ unrivaled grandeur. Jinji Peak enveloped within morning mist is the most impressive. Dozens of hills rise above a sea of flowers like lighthouses. Pick one and climb to the top, so you can get the best view and position to create masterpieces, rather than photos. Notice that bright light will do justice to the luster of canola flowers and use backlight will create photos with a sense of distinctive layers and saturation.
luoping canola flower
luoping canola flower
luoping canola flower
luoping canola flowerluoping canola flower

Fengyan Cave: cave-dwelling tribes in Yunnan

Hidden in Nanping Town, Guangnan County, Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Fengyan Cave is home to over 300 villagers. The best photos can be taken at the entrance of this cave. The interplay of light and shadow bestows this primitive site with an air of mystique. Just imagine the sensational remarks these photos will stir when you publish it in a magazine or newspaper.
Author: Sophia   Posted on June 18, 2013
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