When traveling in Yunnan, China’s beautiful Southwestern province, be sure to stop by Dali. The most interesting part of the city is Dali Ancient Town, built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It’s a beautiful old town city centre with local shops, restaurants, temples, towers and city wall.
If you don’t have as much time to travel in Dali, this one day itinerary gives you the perfect overview of the city!
Enter the Main Gate to Old Town
Time needed: 2-3 hours
Only got 1 or 2 days to spend in Dali? No problem: start your adventure at the main gate of the old town. There’s no entrance fee required to enter and explore this ancient city! Wander through the narrow streets and check out the amazing architecture all around you! Try some street food or indulge in some shopping of local goods!
Try Local Food
Time needed: lunch or dinner
I had read about this local restaurant called MeiZi Jing and just had to check it out! It’s in a side street of the old town and offers a beautiful quiet garden to sit in! Their specialties include plum brewed liquor, with 10-year, 5-year, 3-year vintages and braised pork with carved plum and baked beef on a hot plate.
All over the ancient city, you can also find delicious street food made by local minorities of the province!
Walk Up to the Three Pagodas
Time needed: 2 hours
The Three Pagodas are about a 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) walk from the historic center. It is walkable but the route isn’t really exciting. I took a cheap “tuk-tuk” motorbike back because I did not want to walk the extra mile.
The middle pagoda, Qianxun Pagoda is one of the highest pagodas of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). Even though the entrance fee of CNY 121 is quite expensive for China, you get to see Buddhist relics and temples along your way up to the pagoda and don’t forget the beautiful view of the giant Erhai Lake!
Buy Yunnan Tea
Yunnan is famous for its fragrant teas, especially Pu’er tea! Don’t leave without handpicked local tea in your luggage! You can find tea shops all over the city offering an unimaginable number of different local teas. You can find tea for any budget – high or low price!
Spot Different Minorities
Yunnan is home to 25 of China’s 55 minorities. That being said, wandering through the streets of ancient city Dali gives you a great insight into their different cultures. You can easily spot some of the minority people due to the way they dress! How many can you count?
Night Walk Through the City
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Believe it or not, ancient town Dali is a hotspot for great night entertainment! The famous “foreigner’s street” is filled with cozy bars and restaurants battling each other with live music and drink specials! You can even find the most amazing temples and pagodas wandering through the city at dusk.
Where to Stay
I wanted to stay right at the ancient city instead of the “modern” city of Dali, which is actually quite far from the historic center. Therefore, I chose Ji Rui Hotel Dali, a cozy Chinese style guesthouse. It’s only a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the old town and a 5 minute walk to the express bus station – an ideal location!
The hotel is owned by a family who moved to Yunnan from polluted Chongqing. They are the friendliest owners and even gave me a ride to the local pharmacy when I needed cough drops and other medicine! I can highly recommend this hotel!
Off to Dali!
Dali is one my favorite cities in Yunnan. It has so much history and beautiful scenic spots to visit. I will sure be back and check out the old town again! Have you been to Dali?
What is your favorite part of Dali? Save it for later!