Yunnan has the greatest diversity of any of China’s provinces, sharing borders with Vietnam, Burma, Tibet and Laos. Geographically it ranges from tropical rainforest in the south to the snow capped peaks on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
The city of Kunming is a starting base for this area, and at the same altitude is Dali, a colorful town surrounded by a great city wall. On a scenic drive from Dali you’ll stumble across the UNESCO World Heritage ancient town of Lijiang where you can explore a world of narrow cobblestone streets bordering canals, all against a magical backdrop of the snow-capped Dragon Snow Mountain.
Further north, at an altitude of 3200 meters, you’ll find yourself in the enchanting area of Zhongdian (or Shangri-La as it is sometimes known), which is as close as you can get to Tibet without crossing the border. The Sumtsenling Monastery with over 600 monks in residence is an interesting visit, or for the more adventurous there are challenging treks across the remote countryside.