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Everything You Need To Know About The Old Town of Lijiang

Located in the province of Yunnan in southwest China, the Old Town of Lijiang is a well-preserved old city of ethnic minorities. Surrounded by the tree-covered Lion Mountain in the west, Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the north, and vast fields with crystal clear waters running through it in the south, Lijiang is absolutely beautiful and picturesque. The old town itself occupies 3.8 square kilometers and was built in the late Song Dynasty/early Yuan Dynasty. The city was built along the old trade route of the "Old Tea Horse Caravan Trail” and was once a confluence for trade. It is also the only old city built without a city wall around it.

Over the past 800 years of the old town’s existence, it has developed to become a political, cultural and educational center in the province of Yunnan. The old town plays an important role in the trading activities among Yunnan, China hinterland, Tibet, India and other Asian countries. Today, as you walk the streets of the Old Town of Lijiang, one can feel the prosperity and thriving lifestyle with its shops selling incredible arts and crafts. If you looking to visit this incredible town that is drenched in history and beauty, here is everything you need to know about it:

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

City Centre

The hub of activity in the Old City of Lijiang happens in Square Street (Sifangjie) which is the intersection of four main streets. With countless lanes paved with local bluestone extending in all directions, there is plenty of exploring to do to do in the city center. Be sure to avoid the center of the city late at night as the sluice gate at the center of the city is opened so that the water flushes the street and washes them clean. This practical use of water is part of the daily life in the town.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons


The most famous shopping area in Lijiang is at Square Street. There are a large number of souvenir stores are located here which sells various kinds of arts and crafts. A few of the shops are still locally owned, but unfortunately, most of them are owned by people from other places in China. Here are a few of our favorite places to go shopping for souvenirs:

Head to Bu Nong Ling for Bunong Bell. Located east of the big stone bridge, Bu Nong Ling sells bells that are designed and made locally by the shop owner.

Shop at Li Yin for silver which sells a variety of handcrafted silver ornaments. The shop is located on Guanyuan Alley.

Visit Sun Wood-carvings for wooden handcrafts. This shop is located on Mishi Alley.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

UNESCO World Heritage Site & Tourism

On 3 December 1997, the Old Town of Lijiang made a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed under World's Relics. Since then, there has been an influx of tourists. Most of the Nakhi inhabitants of the ancient city have moved away due to rising costs of housing and food items. Even though locals have left the old city, they have rented their homes which have been turned into tourist establishments. Business owners now pay huge amounts of money for rent to the Nakhi homeowners.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons


Due to the growth of tourism and the need to protect and conserve the old town, tourists are required to pay CNY 80 as a protection fare. Upon payment, tourists will receive a receipt. This receipt is checked when they go to various places in the old town and is valid for one month. This receipt also covers all tourist attractions in the old town and Yulong Autonomous County including the Mu’s Residence, Heilongtan (Black Dragon Pool), Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Guanyin Gorge and Tiger Leaping Gorge.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Getting There

There are a few ways to get to the Old Town of Lijiang, with the three easiest ways being by train, bus and by air. 


If you’re traveling by train, you’ll need to take the fast train to Kunming Railway Station and then take two buses before arriving at the old town. 


If you’re traveling by airplane you’ll either arrive at Changshui Airport or Lijiang Airport. Traveling by air is the fastest way to travel to the old town. If you arrive at Changshui Airport, you’ll then need to take a shuttle to Lantian Hotel in the downtown area then walk or take a bus to the old town. If you arrive at Lijiang Airport you can take a taxi to the old town.


From Dali, tourists can take a bus from Tourist Bus Station near the South Gate of Dali Ancient Town. If arriving at Lijiang Express Bus Station, you’ll need to take bus number. 8, 11 or 16, get off at Qixing Street Station and walk to the old town. If you arrive at Transport Service Center Bus Station, then take bus no. 8 or 11, get off at Qixing Street and walk to the old city.

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About the author

Ji Guo is a former professional travel writer. He's started several businesses in China and was born in Tianjin. Graduated from Yale University.


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