China may have some spectacular scenery, but Lijiang has the best by far. Located in the Yunnan province in Southwest China, this UNESCO city boasts snow-capped mountains, deep canyons and crystal blue glacier lakes.
It’s also bursting with history and culture, which is why it simply has to make it onto your travel itinerary for China. In fact, check out these 7 things to do in Lijiang and you’ll be able to understand why.
1. Explore the Old Town of Lijiang
A maze of cobbled streets with traditional wooden Chinese buildings lined along gushing canals that run under little stone bridges, Lijiang Old Town has over 1,000 years of history and is beautifully preserved.
Although busy (and I mean really busy), the joy of the Old Town is in getting lost in the twisting narrow lanes and discovering the hidden gems that are nestled within them.
If you do want to escape the crowds though, do your exploring early in the morning!
At night, Lijiang just keeps on giving.
When the sun sets, red lanterns are lit all over town and the streets are filled with the sound of locals singing in the different bars, which there are plenty of, making Lijiang a perfect place for a cheeky bar crawl!
2. Go to Black Dragon Pool
On the Northern edge of Lijiang, you’ll find Jade Spring Park and, in it, one of the most stunning sights EVER: Black Dragon Pool.
This charming location is the perfect place to see the stunning Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. With green mountains on either side and a white marble bridge that stretches over the pool, the view of the snowy mountain is iconic.
If you’re looking for a place to get that perfect pic for the ‘Gram, this is it.
The best time to enjoy the park is the morning or at sunset where you can stroll next to the old trees that hang over the pool’s banks and watch the locals practice their Thai-chi… Simply put, it’s paradise.
(Thank me later for this one!)
3. See the Dancing in the Square
One of the best things to do in Lijiang is see the dancing in the square. In all honesty, I stumbled upon this by complete accident, but I am so glad I did.
It turns out local women volunteer to dance in Lijiang Old Town every morning. Dressed in traditional Naxi outfits, lines of women fill the old town square dancing to traditional music in perfect harmony.
You’ve got to get up early to see this, but trust me when I say it’s worth it. And it’s best enjoyed with a cup of Chinese tea and some brekkie!
4. Visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge
One of the deepest gorges on the planet, one of China’s best hiking trails, and one of the top things to do in Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge is a MUST see.
Featuring fresh waterfalls, rugged paths and fierce flowing water, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the most stunning landscapes in China.
With a drop of 3,900 metres, the trail runs along the mountainside following the Jinsha River. Occasionally stepping aside for donkeys or goats, you can do this trek from anywhere between 1-3 days, depending how far you want to walk.
From hiking steep hills, sleeping in Nepalese-style guest houses, and waking up surrounded by unreal views, this is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the Old Town and explore rural China.
5. Go Up Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The first thing I’ll say about Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is that it is insanely busy.
The second is that it is ABSOLUTELY FREEZING.
The third is do not let those two things put you off.
If you’re looking to get up close to those snow-capped mountains I mentioned earlier, this is the way to do it.
Starting at 3356 metres above sea level, you take a cable car up 4,506 metres to a viewing platform on the glacier where, on a sunny day, you’ll get a gorgeous view of the Yunnan scenery.
From there, you climb the next 200m to the highest point that tourists are allowed to go – 4,680m. At the summit, you can see the entire glacier spread out around you and, honestly, it’s one of the most phenomenal things you’ll ever see.
Stark-white snow blanketed over a dramatically grey, rocky mountain… I have goosebumps even just thinking about it! It’s a must-do.
Pro tip: 200 metres might seem like a small feat, but it’s freezing, and the altitude is very high, making it a pretty tough climb. Consider taking an oxygen canister. Definitely take gloves.
6. Check Out Blue Moon Valley
Enjoy another not-so-shabby view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from below in Blue Moon Valley.
This valley sits at the foot of the mountain and has a GORGEOUS view on the snow-shouldered mountain. You’ll also find crystal-clear waters fed by the melting glacier snow trickling over fan shaped terraces… And yes, this place is real.
In the same national park as the snow mountain, you can visit Blue Moon Valley on the same day.
7. Eat a Meal at V. Sherry
Lastly, as if I haven’t given you enough things to do in Lijiang, I have to add a meal at V. Sherry onto the list. Seriously, I would go back to Lijiang just to eat there again.
Leave your good intentions at the door because you’re going to want to try EVERYTHING. I’m talking stewed beef, snow mountain fish, deep-fried tofu, local veg, wild mushrooms… Honestly, the list goes on.
The staff, the restaurant and food is all amazing (and super cheap!).
Embracing the Top Things to Do in Lijiang
Even with all its crowds, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Lijiang.
I only intended on staying in Lijiang for two nights, but with its irresistible charm, friendly locals, enchanting music and the magnificent scenery (did I mention that already?), I had to extend my stay.
With so much to see, do and eat, you’ll definitely love it just as much as I did!
Abbey Gibson is a globe-trotting, country music-loving freelance content writer specialising in websites, social media and digital publications. Click the globe icon to the left to visit her website.