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4 reasons why Yunnan is China's most beautiful province

If you go about asking which is China's most beautiful province, you may just spark off a heated debate over which of the 23 provinces is worthy of the title. But one thing is for sure- you're bound to hear Yunnan mentioned more than a couple of times. 

Yunnan's beauty lies in the diversity of its landscapes as well as its people. Whether you're looking for ancient culture, ethnic diversity, or surreal landscapes, you've got it all. Here are four reasons why Yunnan is China's most beautiful province. 

Ancient Towns

A visit to the ancient towns in Yunnan is to travel back hundreds of years. With the boom in domestic and international tourism, it may be harder to wander around in solitude, but start your day early and you could just soak in the beauty of the place and let time stand still.

Lijiang Ancient Town

The Old Town of Lijiang had been a significant trading center from the 12th century onward. In addition to the trade of goods from Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet, the Old Town was also a hub of cultural and technological exchanges. Various ethnic groups, including the Han, Tibet, Bai, and Naxi, influence the architectural style of the town.

Wander off the main track and head to Baisha and Shuhe to get a feel of what Lijiang was in the past, before the influx of tourists.

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Dali Old Town

Dali Old Town is a picturesque old town that still manages to retain its laid-back vibe, and is less overwhelmed with tourists than Lijiang. Nestled in between the Cangshan Mountain and the Erhal Lake, Dali was where you could find hippies discovering themselves. Today, they are joined by domestic tourists searching for peace and tranquility.

Don't miss the Three Pagodas, built in the unique Chinese Buddhist architectural style. The main Pagoda is about 1200 years old and has withstood many catastrophes.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Rice terraces are the best examples of how man can create art within nature in his quest for sustenance. The Yuanyang Rice Terrace in Yunnan is perhaps one of China's most spectacular, and that says a lot. 

The Hani minority built the ingenious terraces over a thousand years ago as a way to cultivate rice in the mountainous region. Their marvelous technique had even earned them the title of "Skillful Sculptors" during the Ming Dynasty.  

To get the best views and photos of sunrise on the fields, head to the Duoyishu Scenic Point. And if you're not a morning person, then visit the Bada Scenic Spot to witness the fields' glow with the setting sun.

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Stunning Nature

Yunnan is home to magnificent and diverse natural landscapes. If you're a nature lover, Yunnan could warrant multiple visits to take it all in.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

The Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world and makes for a spectacular hike that's surprisingly not yet commercialized. It's steep, winding, and at times it doesn't feel like there's much between you and the abyss. But above all, that means makes for jaw-dropping views that you'll never forget. 

Stone Forest

The Stone Forest (Shilin) looks like landscape from another planet. The strange and impressive limestone formations are the result of 270 million years of seismic acitivity, water and wind erosion.

Look out for the Ashima rock. Legend has it that a beautiful maiden named Ashima was kidnapped and forced to marry the son of an evil landlord. Upon being rescued by her true love, Ahei, she was caught in a flood on the way home and drowned, tragically.

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Ethnic Diversity

Ethnic diversity is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of China, and it may surprise you that there are 56 ethnic groups (yes, not all Chinese are the same). Yunan is home to half of these ethnic groups, most prominently the Yi, Bai, Dai, Hani, and Zhuang. 

If you're lucky enough to schedule your trip around the festivities, don't miss the Torch Festival of the Yi, which is celebrated at the end of July. This festival brings on the colours, music, and fire, and one of the many legends surrounding the festival is that of the wrestler Atilaba who won a god in a wrestling match. The angry god unleashed locusts on the crops of the villagers, who lit torches and killed all the insects.

Another fun festival to be part of is the Water Splashing Festival of the Dai held mostly during the month of April. Similar to what you'd find in parts of Southeast Asia, the festival is about the purification of oneself and others, and the letting in of good luck and prosperity.

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About the author

Tilda is a happy sufferer of chronic wanderlust. When she isn't spending a disproportionate amount of time Googling about places and cultures, she's writing, dancing, and navigating a massive career change. She shares stories and photography on Wanderful People, and shares her coffee with no one.

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