Lijiang is the main center of the Naxi or Nakhi people, though it is by no means a Naxi-only town: at least half a dozen other ethnic groups are represented. The Naxi number under a million and are perhaps best known for their embroidery; they also have their own language with its own hieroglyphic-style writing system, and their own religion, clothing, art, architecture, music and dance. The Chinese government classifies the Mosuo (found mainly further north around Lugu Lake) as part of the Naxi group, but neither the Naxi nor the Mosuo accept this.
Lijiang or nearby Baisha (now a village 12 km north of town) have been important for about 2000 years, when the Naxi settled in the area, and Baisha was the capital of a Naxi kingdom from 658 to 1107. Then the area came under Chinese control and Lijiang became the administrative center. Parts of the old town date back to this period, built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The town was built where the Jade River divides into three and its streams form the canals and waterways which flow along the old town streets.
In 1278, the Yuan Dynasty appointed the Naxi chief Mu De hereditary ruler of the area, and the Mu family retained power for about 500 years. Today their palace is one of the major tourist attractions of the old town.
Lijiang became known in the west through two men who lived in or near the town in the early 20th century, Austrian-American botanist Joseph Rock who wrote a Naxi dictionary, several scholarly papers, and many articles for National Geographic, and Russian Peter Goullart who wrote several books. It has been suggested that Rock's articles inspired James Hilton's Lost Horizons novel about a fictional Himalayan paradise, Shangri-la, but the claim is controversial.
After China started to admit foreign tourists in the 1980s, Lijiang began to attract many visitors. To fulfill their needs, local people started restaurants and cafes. Chinese people also long for the lifestyle and the excellent environment in Lijiang and started to pour in.
An earthquake in 1996 flattened large parts of the town, though quite a few of the traditional wooden buildings remained standing while far more of the Mao-era brick or concrete structures collapsed. Since then there has been extensive rebuilding, mainly in traditional styles. There have been some complaints that much of that work followed traditions of central China, rather than locally appropriate ones, but most visitors will just notice a lot of rather pretty old-looking buildings.
Most guest houses in the traditional architectural style are in the old town. As taxis are not allowed to enter the old town, they have to stop at the gates. So either be prepared to carry your luggage a bit or call the hotel to send someone to carry your luggage on a cart.
- 1 Lijiang Sanyi International Airport (LJG IATA 丽江三义国际机场), Sanyi Village, Qihe Town, Gucheng District (古城区七河镇三义村), ☏ (general enquiries), (baggage enquiries), (ticket sales).
There are many flights from Kunming to Lijiang, from early morning to late at night.
It is also possible to book a flight to Lijiang from any major city in China, direct flights are available from Shanghai, Beijing etc., but many flights will stop in Kunming and many will require a change of planes there.
The modestly sized airport is 40 minutes from the city. You can take a taxi for ¥100 (official fixed price) to get to the city. There are touts that will offer the same trip for ¥60-80, but it is likely you will find yourself squeezed into the same vehicle with strangers. Alternatively, outside the arrival hall, you will find the airport bus, which leaves regularly when full, for ¥20, to the Blue Skies Hotel near the Guangfang Hotel, which is 1 km from the Old Town. A taxi to the old town will be ¥7-10 from the Blue Skies Hotel carpark.
When leaving Lijiang, arriving at the airport an hour before your flight is sufficient. Taxi back from Old Town to airport is around ¥110, with additional ¥10 toll fee.
Lijiang is at 2,400 m (almost 8,000 feet) so there is some risk of altitude sickness if you fly in from a lower altitude. The risk is not remarkably severe, but it may be more prudent to fly to Kunming at 2,000 m, acclimatise there, then come to Lijiang. Dali would be an interesting intermediate stop. If you do fly direct to Lijiang from sea level, plan to take it easy the first day or two while your body gets acclimatised.
- 2 Lijiang Railway Station (丽江站, Lijiang Station), Shangji Road, Huangshan Town, Yulong County (玉龙县黄山镇上吉路) (Several public bus lines serve the station, including the number 18 and some number 4 buses. Taxis are reluctant to use the meter and will demand high fares of ¥30-40, though with bargaining ¥15 may be possible. Taxis are not easy to come by in Lijiang, but small SUV-type vans cruise around offering a share-taxi service). The train station is an impressive structure about 7km south of Lijiang old town.
A new bullet train service commenced on January 2019, which can take you to Lijiang from Kunming in 3-3½ hours (6 trains per day). First class seats ¥330-350, second class seats ¥210-220. Some of these trains travel non-stop all the way to Lijiang while others stop at one or more of the following stations: Lufeng South, Chuxiong, Xiangyun, Heqing. The bullet train begins its journey from the Kunming South Railway Station and also stops at the Kunming Railway Station.
There are four normal trains leaving each evening that take 8½-10½ hours. Soft Sleeper ¥226, Hard Sleeper ¥153, Hard Seat ¥89 (Apr 2019).
If you travel as a family, consider the VIP chamber which is at the price of ¥614, one less than purchasing three individual tickets in a four-bed standard room. You may feel a bit tight for luggage storage space, but you gain more valuable privacy, with your own family.
From Dali the train is a faster, cheaper alternative to the crowded buses: A hard (padded) seat is ¥34, and the journey takes only 2 hours from Dali city on a K-class train. (As of April 2019, although there are bullet train services from Kunming to both Dali and Lijiang, these are separate services and it is not possible to take a bullet train from Dali to Lijiang. When this service becomes available, the journey time between Dali and Lijiang will be less than one hour.)
- 3 Lijiang Bus Station (丽江客运站 Lijiang Passenger Transport Station), 25 Kangzhong Road, Gucheng District (古城区康仲路25号) (The bus station is south of the old city. You can take the bus 8 in front of the bus station to the old town), ☏ .
- From Dali, minibus/bus/comfort bus at ¥55/60/80 about every 30/60 min, ~3 hr on highway.
- From Shangrila there are regular services and overnight service from Kunming stop here.
- from Chengdu there is a direct bus which starts at 11:20 at Xinnamen station in Chengdu. It takes about 24 hours to do the trip, and cost about ¥280. Alternatively, you can take a train from Chengdu to Panzhihua (15 hr, ~¥191 for a hard sleeper) to arrive in the early morning. At the exit of Panzhihua train station, take one of the bus 64 on the left of the exit and get off at the terminus, which is the bus terminal (¥3, ~1 hr). Then, you can take a bus to Lijiang, which run every 45 minutes from 07:00 to 13:00 (from ¥83 to ¥92, ~8 hr).
Walking is the only option in the old town, while taxis are often the easiest way around the rest of town, meter starts from ¥9 (as of Mar 2019). Make sure you have the exact location info or address for the cab driver. Some of them do not know a whole lot more than you do.
Fracture alert: watch where you are walking. It is easy to trip on the cobblestones or fall into the canals from the walkways or bridges, many of which do not have handrails. The cobblestones can be very slippery when wet.
To see the sights outside the old town, the options are walking, biking, public bus, private mini-bus, or taxi. The public bus mainly stays within the city and stops. The mini-buses are the same price as the public bus within the city. They will have the number of the bus on the front windshield. The price of a mini-bus to a nearby village is ¥1-5, but the starting location within the city is different for most villages. If you do not know where you want to go and are limited on time, the best option is to rent a taxi or mini-bus for the day, but the price can vary wildly from about ¥100 all the way up to ¥300. The price mainly depends on whether you can speak Chinese or not, and how comfortable you look when you try to bargain the deal.
- 1 Old Town of Lijiang (丽江古城, 大研古城 Dayan Ancient Town), Gucheng District (古城区), ☏ . Walk around, watch people, shop, drink and eat. There is a bonfire at around 19:00 at the Si Fang Jie (四方街), the central plaza. Many local folks dance there, apparently entertain themselves. Tourists are welcomed to join. And if you get there early in the morning, you can avoid the crowds. Entry to the old town is free. The Old Town Maintenance Fee was abolished in 2017. However, some attractions within the old town still charge a fee.
- 2 Mu Palace (木府; Mùfǔ), 49 Guanyuan Lane, Guangyi Street, Gucheng District (古城区光义街官院巷49号), ☏ , . 08:30-17:30. The palace where the Mu Clan of the Naxi people ruled for over 400 years. It is a large complex that extends part way up the hill behind it. There used to be a lot of high quality paintings in the palace and finely carved wooden doors, but most were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. At the back hill of the Mu's Palace is the 'Lion Hill Scenic Area', which requires additional ¥40 entrance fee. At the top is a Daoist temple, with a few Daoists ready to give fortunes to visitors for a donation. A taste of Mulaoye Wine (木老爷酒; Mùlǎoyejiǔ), a kind of local alcohol, is available for ¥5 (in a shot glass), and there is also a free tea tasting area. Allow at least two hours explore this expansive complex and do wander off into the side courtyards as it will take you back to the main courtyards. If you are visiting Wangulou, exit the Lion Hill Park from the south exit which leads you right into the back entrance of Mu Palace. Entry fee is ¥40 (as of Mar 2019). Discounts are available for children over 1.2 metres in height and adults aged between 61 and 69. Children under 1.2 metres in height and adults aged 70 and over may enter for free.
- 3 Black Dragon Pool (黑龙潭; Hēilóngtán), 1 Minzhu Road, Gucheng District (古城区民主路1号) (about 1 km from Square Street), ☏ . 07:00-19:00. Quite large place with some nice natural scenery together with traditional building styles. Don't forget to take pictures on the center bridge where the Yu Long Xue Shan (The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain) can be a perfect background. Popular with locals, whom you can find dancing or playing games such as mahjongg or Chinese chess. You can also hike up Elephant Hill if you're feeling energetic. Walk north along the canals from the waterwheels just to the north of the old town. It is about 10 minutes walk up-river. ¥50, free to seniors over 60.
- 4 Dongba Cultural Museum (东巴文化博物馆) (Right outside the North entrance of Black Dragon Pool), ☏ . 09:00-17:00. A small museum featuring the Dongba religion and culture. Quite intriguing to see how other Chinese beliefs are related to the Dongbas. Free.
- 5 Shuhe Old Town (束河古镇), Shuhe Road, Gucheng District (古城区束河路) (About 8km north of Lijiang OId Town. Take bus no. 5a or 5b from Lijiang Old Town, bus no. 6 from Xiangshan Market or bus no. 11 from the bus station. It should take no more than 30 minutes to get there), ☏ (tourist hotline). Better than Lijiang if you want a place less commercialized; a horse ride in the town is an attraction.
- 6 Old Tea Horse Road Museum (茶马古道博物馆), North Gate, Shuhe Old Town, Gucheng District (古城区束河古镇北门). 07:30-17:30. One of the main attractions in Shuhe Old Town. The museum is housed in a former Buddhist temple, which was historically known as the Dajue Temple (大觉宫) and dates back to the late Ming Dynasty. So besides the exhibitions on the Old Tea Horse Road, one can also view some old Buddhist murals. More murals from the same time period may be seen at Baisha Old Town (see below).
- 7 Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山; Yùlóngxuě Shān) (25 km from Lijiang. Mules can be rented from the nearby Baisha Village or you can take a cable car to the top. Prices vary for the mules depending on what elevation you want to go to. ¥180 to ride to 3800 m plus ¥5 for insurance. ¥300 to 4200 m. ¥350 to 4600 m. If you pay for the lowest elevation you might be able to bargain with the handlers when you reach the end and continue to the higher elevations for a lower price. Passengers over 100 kg might have to pay a surcharge. Tickets for the cable car cost ¥170 round-trip). A mountain massif (also identified as a small mountain range) visible from Lijiang and snow-capped all year round. Its highest peak is Shanzidou (扇子陡; Shānzidǒu) at 5,596 m. The view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool in Lijiang is one of China's finest views. The far side of the mountain forms one side of Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡; Hǔtiàoxiá).
To reach the mountain area, you have to take a private mini van from the Hongtaiyang square in front of the Mao statue. The mini van costs ¥20 and will wait until it is full before it will leave. There is no official city bus, but the mini vans have adopted the #7 name so people can recognise where they are going. Some cable cars can be cancelled due to wind, but there is plenty to see without going up the mountain.
The mountain area is part of a national park, which has a ticket gate where you will have to buy a ¥130 entry ticket, this ticket does not include any cable cars or other transportation, which is required to visit anything. The mini van will drop you off here at the ticket gates and tourism centre. You can't walk anywhere from here (closest stop is 6 km), and must buy a ¥20 ticket for a shuttle bus, that makes a loop and stops at all the important viewpoints. The bus ticket gives you access to this route and you can get on and off as you please, and can also return back to ticket gate in the end. The ticket itself has a tiny map showing the stops the bus goes to, but is in Chinese.
To find the shuttle bus in the tourism centre, follow the signs to "Blue moon valley bus waiting area".
The first stop is the Blue moon valley where you can see the White water river and artificially made waterfalls. It is worth getting off here. You might be asked to purchase tickets for the electrical bus, which they call the "Little green frog". It's not worth it. You would miss the 20-minute walk on a wood trail, which is very enjoyable. The walking trail goes parallel to the electric bus route, so if you can't find it, follow the small bus at first. Walking trail is very nice and goes in different directions. It is paved and well marked with signs.
It is possible to take a short cable car to Spruce meadow, or get on the shuttle bus and continue to the next stop, where you can see the white water river dammed up and turned into mini reservoirs. From this stop, you can also get back to the park entrance, you can ask somebody if the bus will go back or continue further to the next stop, which is Yak meadow.
If you take the cable car up the mountain to high altitudes, renting a coat is not necessary during the late spring and summer season. You would find it a big burden later. Watch out for altitude sickness in the thin air. ¥130.
- 8 Dongba Valley (东巴谷), Yuquan Road (玉泉路) (About 2km south of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Scenic Area), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 07:00-17:00. On your way to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, you may stop by at the Dongba Valley culture center. They moved some families from other places to this village and let them live their normal lives. Such domestic scenes as the husband in a family counting change while the wife is comforting the baby or two young siblings baking cookies and selling them to visitors are common. There are live singers and instrumentalists performing at different corners. Some singers are pretty and sing well. ¥40.
- 9 Baisha Ancient Town (白沙古镇, 白沙镇 Baisha Town) (12 km north of Lijiang Old Town. Take bus no. 6 from near the North entrance of Black Dragon Pool. The bus fare is ¥1 as of March 2019. You can also rent a bike and get there in about 40 minutes.). Baisha Town was once Lijiang's political, economic and cultural center. It is the original settlement of the Naxi people who came to the greater Lijiang Valley over a thousand years ago. Made up of at least 12 smaller villages, the main village is Sanyuan (三元村), which has one main stone street called of course, Baisha Street. Have a drink some Yunnan coffee eat a Naxi Pie. Good for a half day visit. A quiet town which makes a nice break from the packed Lijiang Old Town. People are more friendly, stores are seldom throwing ridiculous tourist price. You will see elderly peddlers, some in their traditional Naxi outfit, selling honey, fruits, nuts and other stuff. Support these elders by buying their goods, since they offer fair price even though don't have many visitors. You should consider staying a few nights, in a Naxi family’s courtyard, no hotels or hostels here. Even though almost everything costs you a ticket price to do in China these days you can do many things here for free. Visit some of the temples or traditional Naxi houses of the area before they are gone.
- 10 Baisha Murals (白沙壁画), Baisha Ancient Town (白沙古镇) (Opposite the Baisha Town Government building), ☏ . 08:00-17:30. The Buddhist murals here reflect a fusion of both Han Chinese and Tibetan painting techniques with Naxi cultural traditions. ¥30.
- 11 Baisha Naxi Embroidery Institute (白沙锦绣艺术院), No. 17 Group 1, Sanyuan Village, Baisha Ancient Town (白沙古镇三元村一组17号) (opposite the post office), ☏ , email@example.com. The Baisha Naxi Embroidery Institute. It is a typical Naxi courtyard with a very nice surroundings. The mission of the institute is to save, protect, inherit and promote the Naxi traditional hand-made embroidery. It occupies 800 m² and there are many embroidery masters and students. You can try how to do hand-made embroidery there if you have time. Also you can buy some very nice embroideries there if you like.
- 12 Lashihai Lake Wetland Park (拉市海湿地公园, Lashihai Wetland Park, Lashi Lake Wetland Park) (On the south side of Lashihai Lake. Take bus no. 31 or 32 from the Zhongyi Market (忠义市场) bus stop on Changshui Road on the southwest side of the old town), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-17:00. A popular area for bird-watching, particularly during the winter months when thousands of migratory birds flock here from distant lands. You can also go horse-riding around the lake. Boating activities, however, have been banned since October 2018. ¥30.
- 13 Zhiyun Monastery (指云寺, 指云禅寺), Hainan Village, Lashi Township, Yulong Naxi Autonomous County (玉龙纳西族自治县拉市乡海南村) (Near Lashihai Lake. Take bus no. 31 from the Zhongyi Market (忠义市场) bus stop on Changshui Road on the southwest side of the old town. Get off at the final stop.), ☏ . 08:00-21:00. A Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Unlike many other sights in Lijiang, the monastery has so far resisted commercialisation and sees relatively few tourists. Free.
- 14 Gold Dragon Bridge (Jinlong Bridge 金龙桥, Zili Bridge 梓里桥), Yongsheng County (永胜县) (Take a taxi. The bridge is roughly 50km southeast of the old town). Built between 1876 and 1880, this iron chain suspension bridge spans the Jinsha River, a tributary of the Yangtze. It is said to be the oldest bridge on the Yangtze still in use today.
- 1 Naxi Concert Hall (纳西古乐会), 86 Mishi Lane, Xinyi Street, Gucheng District (古城区新义街密士巷86号), ☏ . 20:00-21:30. Enjoy the traditional Naxi music Culture Show performed by the Naxi Orchestra, which includes some 70-90 year old men. The music itself is a combination of traditional Chinese music dating back to the Tang dynasty and local instruments and flavours. The music is well performed, however be prepared for long explanations of its musical history in Mandarin between each piece and the sometimes self-serving comments of Xuan Ke the Director. While the Naxi Ancient Music group of Lijiang is famous and well promoted, there are other excellent classical Chinese music groups playing in Lijiang's parks (for ¥10) or at weddings or housewarmings all over Yunnan. ¥120-160.
- Float styrofoam boats. Along the main streams are girls selling candles that float on delicate flower-shaped styrofoam boats. Tourists can purchase one, make a wish, and send their candle down the waterways. Late in the evening after groups have had significant amounts of alcohol you can see many floating candles sailing down the waterways. If you are environmentally conscious and have reservations about sending styrofoam downstream do not worry. There is a net, far down the waterway, that catches the boats. The girls just go down, pick the boats up, and re-sell them the next night. ¥10 (September 2010).
- Biking. Rent a bike downtown, e.g. at Ali Baba's near Mao Zedong's statue, and see the sights. Ali Baba's will give you a handmade map of smaller surrounding towns that capture the quaint styles of Lijiang without the heavy tourism and the tacky souvenir shops. There are at least three towns, ranging from converted hippy communes to remote farming villages. There is a beautiful remote Buddhist monastery at Puji Mountain which is worth the 30 minute hike. There is also a Tibetan village labeled on the map but is hard to find, so ask Ali Baba for directions. Most of the terrain around Lijiang is level and the roads have only light traffic. These small, non-touristy towns and other sightseeing destinations can be reached within a 20-minute ride. About ¥40 per day including a map.
- Walk the canal path. To get to the Black Dragon Pool you can walk the canal path north near the main water wheel. It will take you to the south entrance of the park. The north part of the park is free and you can get there by walking around the south entrance and keep heading north. You should reach a street with the main entrance to the park. Keep going north and you will see a small bridge that leads to a large white building. The white building is the Dongba Museum, everything north of that is free. If the guards bother you at the gate, just walk back to the street and keep walking north and there will be another path to get in to the free part with no gates or guards to bother you. Further north of the park is a local college, and northwest of that is a small reservoir. The reservoir is a good place to take photos of the snow mountain when it is visible. On hot sunny days in the summer there will be lots of locals swimming there in the afternoon. At the local college you can find students to help you. The English building is the large pink one just right after you enter the south entrance. There is a student run café that is open in the evening from 18:30-22:00 in the "butterfly" building, which is opposite of the English building. As of 2007 the school had an English corner every Thursday after lunch (~13:00), and after dinner at ~17:40. The English corner is so-so, but it is a great chance to ask students about where to go, and cheap transportation. Many of them are from other places in Yunnan.
- Visit Naxi villages. If you would like to visit some of the Naxi villages in the hills surrounding Lijiang, you can rent a small van to take you around for ¥100-300, depending on the driver and how much Chinese you speak. There are regular minivans on Shangrila Road, the main road on the west side of town, which take locals to and from the villages. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a mini-van to go back to Lijiang after 17:00 if you do not make arrangements with the driver who took you there. The regular one way mini-van fee is ¥2 to Shuhe, and ¥3-5 for villages farther north (2007). It is highly recommended to ask a student at the local college on where to find the mini-buses and the prices of the village you want to go. Many drivers will try to rip you off if you do not speak Chinese, and the buses are not always easy to find as they look the same as the private "3-8" buses that travel inside the city.
- Impression Lijiang. A cultural show demonstrating the traditions and lifestyles of the Naxi, Yi and Bai peoples of the area. The show takes place inside Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Park at 3500 m in an outdoor theater specifically designed to showcase the mountain which is used as a backdrop. The production itself was designed by Zhang Yimou (director of Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Fan Yue and Wang Chaoge, a cast of over 500 people, and a number of horses. However, the show does not have a plot. Tickets cost ¥190 and can be bought from the ticket booth in the Old Town (make a right at the water wheels and walk down the main street, the booth will be on your left). The ticket price does not include transportation to and from the theater (approx 1-hour drive) or the entrance fee for the park (¥80). There is also an Old Town Preservation fee that the park tries to charge as well, however, this can be avoided by claiming to have already paid at you hotel (and showing your hotel key). Bus 7 will take you to the theater for ¥10 and can be caught across from the Mao Zedong statue, but be sure to find out what time the last bus leaves the park.
- Dry Sea Meadow (Ganhaizi). The closest chair lift up the mountain to Lijiang. It transports visitors to a large meadow located at 3050 m. ¥160 return.
- Cloud Fir Meadow (Yunshanping). From the reception centre which is next to Impression Lijiang on the Lijiang-Daju road a fleet of buses transports visitors to a cable car. Both bus transfer and cable car costs a total of ¥110 for a return trip. From the upper terminus of the cable car a vehicle takes you to the Cloud Fir Meadow for ¥50. The view is not very spectacular which makes this trip highly overpriced.
- Yak Meadow (Máoniúpíng). The furtherest from Lijiang at a distance of 60 km, this cable car, costs ¥60 for a round-trip. At an elevation of 3,500 m and the least-visited of the three chair lifts this area offers grazing yaks, a Tibetan temple and a number of hiking possibilities. On the way to the chairlift’s lower terminus the road drips down and crosses a river. A number of yaks are located here where for a fee you can sit on one. Their owners seem to have no objection to visitors taking photos for no fee of the yaks standing in the river with awesome Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background. You can also access Yak Meadow by hopping aboard bus 7 across from the Mao Zedong statue which will take you to the Impression Lijiang Theater for ¥10. At the theater there is a ticket booth to the left of the show entrance which sells tickets to both Spruce Meadow and Yak Meadow (¥80) and provides a tour bus to and from the cable cars and a cable car ticket. Be sure to find out what time the last bus passes the Impression Lijiang theater or you may find yourself calling a taxi which could be expensive. Also see "Impression Lijiang" info for entrance fees to the park.
In Biasha village, there is an old woman named Liu who will sometimes stop tourists and invite them into her home. She is a very nice lady, who will show you pictures of people who have visited her home as well as messages that people have left in her guestbook. She will feed you snacks and tea and make you feel welcome. Before letting you leave, she will ask for a small 'donation' (around ¥10 per person).
- Go hiking to local Naxi villages, Old Town Lijiang (Start in old town), ☏ . Get out of Lijiang and discover the real place, by hiking in the Lijiang valley or in the hills to temples, lakes, villages and scenic lookouts. Agencies like Lijiang Guides can arrange trips to remote villages, as well as Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lugu Lake and Baoshan stone village.
Loads of tourist shops available in old town. Probably overpriced, but Lijiang does not have as many cases of the Westerner price being too much higher than the Chinese price as in many other parts of China.
- Burned wood carvings - One of the popular local specialties. Quality varies greatly by the individual artist, and prices vary by shops. Some shops do custom etchings of your face (near photo-realism) with Lijiang in the background. Expect to have your picture taken, then come back in a few hours.
- Yak horn combs - Also popular, with some combs also carved from the yak hoof (the ones with the rougher edge on the handle).
- Naxi clothing - For ¥5 you can get your picture taken in them without having to buy them. Local skirts that include designs that appear Ancient Egyptian may actually be based on pictographs that preceded Chinese characters.
- Art and writing samples (东巴; Dōngbā) - The Naxi have the only living hieroglyphic language in the world, and shops with samples of it, or of the unique Naxi style art, are abundant.
- Yunnan Coffee - Coffee ground to a fine powder then added to water, although most contain milk and sugar powder already.
- Warm Clothing - In the Old Town warm clothing is quite expensive if you are just looking for something cheap to keep the chill out. The road just outside the town by the waterwheel has very cheap hats, mitts, and even long johns. Just turn left at the first intersection.
- Small red coconut - do not buy a small red fruit shaped like a coconut. It is just a coconut painted red and sold for a very high price. This is a scam.
- Naxi hand-made Embroidery, Baisha Village (12 km north of Lijiang City), ☏ . You can find many nice Naxi hand-made embroideries in the Baisha Naxi Embroidery Institute. Some of them are arts, very unbelievable, made by the famous Naxi masters.
If you are looking for supermarket that offers fair prices, there is none in Old Town. The nearest option will be 'Dragon Life Supermarket' near the South Gate, along the southwestern part of Old Town, or 'Good Mood Supermarket' near the North entrance of Black Dragon Pool.
There are three primary types of restaurants in Lijiang: Naxi, Tibetan, and Sichuan. Some restaurants offer more than one type of food. Much Western food is also available, but more expensive. A bowl of noodle costs from ¥12-15 (slightly more pricier than Dali) (as of Jul 2019).
Lots of local snack-type foods available from street vendors, including:
- Baba - a flat wheatbread available; a savory version sometimes served with chili sauce and a sweeter version that tastes honey-flavored.
- Naxi style fried white cheese - A soft white cheese cut into slices then fried in a non-greasy batter. Served with sugar sprinkled on top and very delicious (only seen in restaurants).
- Yak's milk yogurt - Has a bit of a different flavor than cow's milk yogurt, but very good. Commonly served with honey, muesli, and/or fruit. Can also be made into fruit shakes.
- Fried yak meat - served on skewers.
If you are in the old town, it's probably better to get out to find cheap prices.
- Prague Café (from main square take Easterly road, over a bridge, on the left(?)). The food is good and fairly reasonably priced (given the touristy area it is in) and it has a friendly atmosphere, but the drinks are expensive. Especially green tea at ¥15/cup!
- Country Sky, Hongye Street, Shuhe Ancient Village (Just outside of Lijiang), ☏ . Serves lunch and dinner and offers vegetarian and traditional dishes at fair prices.
- N's Kitchen, 2/F, 17 Jishan Alley, Xinyi St (Find your way to a small square in the old town some people call the grass selling square. The place is easy to miss because it is on the second floor. The entrance is by the southern entrance to the square, across from Susan's Naxi), ☏ . Serves western breakfast, tasty sandwiches, monster burgers, and pizzas. Free Internet and WiFi. And they have very nice bikes for hire. You could also get lots of informations of biking and hiking here. the view from the balcony is nice and you can chill out a while.
- Qiuyuege Restaurant, 32 Cunwen Sect, Xinhua St, ☏ . Serves Naxi foods. Free live music and free Internet and WiFi.
- Lijiang Gulou Restaurant (丽江古楼; Lìjiānggǔlóu), 49 Yellow Hill Lower Section, Xinhua St, ☏ . Serves Naxi and Sichuan food. The best ma-po tofu!
- Adam Restaurant. A unique restaurant inside the old town. There is no menu in this restaurant. Adam, the owner, will only cook when the visitors come in. You only need to enjoy the food he cooks and pay the food as your convenient. It is worth trying for the food adventure.
- Nordic Delight (along the river path to the Black Dragon Pool). A bakery and café with very good cheese cake and coffee. Seems closed. ¥25 for a slice of Oreo cheesecake.
There are a couple of local drinks worthy of special mention. Lijiang Yinjiu and Sulima (both commonly available in Lijiang) are modern renditions of ancient beer types of the Naxi and Mosuo people and far more enjoyable than the typical bland Chinese lager. Yunnan is famous for tea, as well (though Pu'er, Yunnan's best-known tea town, is way down south on the road to Xishuangbanna) and every fourth shop is a tea shop specializing in the length and breadth of Chinese tea, the likes of which you will not find in your average Western Chinatown. See Chinese cuisine#Tea for details.
Unlike the rest of China, Lijiang's cafés and restaurants shut down around 11PM. The bars have to shut down their music at 23:30. But you can drink until you finish your alcohol. Along the canal you find find it packed with bars. It's packed with people even on rainy days. The cost for a dozen beers ranges from ¥98 at 21:00, all the way to ¥600 around 23:00. The bars along the canal are the most touristy. If you walk past Four Square street deeper into the old town you will find less touristy bars where you aren't constantly asked to buy flowers for the girls.
There are too many bars inside old town to list, but here are a few:
- Freshnam Cafe (68 WangJiaZhang Alley WuYi Street Lijiang, right beside Mama Naxi Guest house (5 minutes walk from si fang jie)), ☏ . 10:00-00:00. Western/Korean bar. Easily accessible, 5 minutes walk from old town center. In the day, it is a quiet cafe, ideal for some hot tea or smoothies. Live music starts from 20:30 every night, perfectly located away from the tourist crowds. Refreshing cocktails served at reasonable prices, definitely worth a visit. Free wifi available and even a shelf of books for your reading pleasure.
- LMC - Lijiang Millionaire's Club, Bai Sui Qiao (From old town square, either down Qi Yi Street and first left to Bai Sui Qiao, or go along Wu Yi street to the Big Stone Bridge, and go downstream to next stone bridge, Bai Sui Qiao. LMC is on your left, upstairs in Water Nymph cafe), ☏ . after sunrise til late. LMC is a new cafe/bar in old town, the only one in the old town run by foreigners, and a good meeting place for travelers. Has free Wi-Fi, live music every night, film nights on Tuesdays, local and imported beers, wines from all over the world, as well as pizza, pasta and Indian meals. reasonable.
- Stone the Crows, 134-2 Wenzhi Alley, Wuyi St, Lijiang old town (half way along the shortcut between Wuyi st and Wen Hua Alley), ☏ , email@example.com. 18:00 - very late. Down-to-earth Irish pub with a fine selection of drinks, pool table and big movie playing TV. It can be a little hard to find as it is located down a small quiet alley, but it is well worth doing so. Popular with both foreign tourists and locals, this is a great place to escape the busy main streets and guarantees absolutely no karaoke. The kitchen stays open until 02:00 offering snacks, burgers, pizza and to any hungry customers.
- Sweet Air (漫香(Man Xiang)), 古城区 崇仁巷(饮玉巷(近振兴巷)). This is probably the best bar in the old town that is not touristy. Once you step inside, you can tell they spent a lot of money on the renovations. There is a see through floor where the wine cellar lies below, and stone walls. They have a live band that starts playing at 21:00. They have a drummer from Africa and a bass guitarist from USA. You won't find people trying constantly sell you flowers or ice cream here. This place is hard to find, so most of the customers are regulars. You can sit at the bar counter and buy one beer, or get a table and get a dozen. Come early or their won't be any seats. ¥40 a beer, ¥480 a dozen.
Lijiang has plenty of hotels to fit all budgets and styles.
It is sometimes difficult to find specific addresses in the old town; the best option, especially in low season, is to walk around town and check out prices and rooms to see which suits you best, as there are many different options to choose from. In the winter, ensure that there is a heated mattress pad or heating in the room as the nights are quite chilly.
There are hundreds of beautiful and clean Chinese hotels not listed below. To find them it's best to ask around, or stand in the train station bus drop-off stop (East of the water-wheels central square) with a big backpack and look lost. Nice ladies will approach you: expect to get a double room for around 80Y-100Y, depending on the season.
- Enjoy Inn, No.39 Lower Ba Yi of Qi Yi street in the old town (丽江古城七一街八一下段39号) (From the bus station it's best to take a taxi (¥7-10 approx). Taxis cannot drive into the centre but they can get you very close. Ask the driver to take you to the 'first middle school of Lijiang' (丽江市第一中学) then walk straight into old town along the quaint Chinese street with the stream on your right and various dumpling restaurants on your left. Enjoy inn will be on your left after 300 meters - just at the end when the road swings right with the make-shift football pitch on your left.), ☏ (English or Chinese). Really charming little place situated on a very Chinese street with food vendors in the morning and some nice little dumpling houses. Easy walking distance to centre in a much nicer and less hectic part of the town. Lovely communal open-air courtyard to relax in. Run by Joy who speaks very good English and is extremely helpful. A tea-enthusiast who is happy to share her stash over a chat and is very happy to point you in the right direction if you're interested in buying some. Knows a lot about the area and very happy to help. Wifi throughout, computers available, hot water etc. Single room/twin room shared bathroom ¥40/¥70, double bed private bathroom ¥160, family suite ¥360.
- Happiness Inn, Lijiang old town, Xin Hua Street Huang Shan Shang Duan (Easy to find. Coming from the waterwheel on Dong Da Jie, go to Sifang square and turn right up the hill at the end of the square. The Inn is on the left about 5 minutes up the hill.), ☏ (English OK), (Chinese only), firstname.lastname@example.org. Cute, quiet inn near the top of the hill. Run by very a friendly English-speaking young woman who goes out of her way to help guests with exploring the town and surroundings and often invites guests for communal meals. ¥80-120.
- Long time no see Guesthouse (in Chinese: 好久不见), Lijiang, Old City, five one street, Vincent lane No. 46 (in Chinese: 五一街 文生巷 46号 (spoken: wu yi jie, wen sheng xiang, 46 hao)) (It is in the outer part of the old town area. You have to pass first the Garden Inn and the Panba Hostels on the Wenming Lane, Wuyi Street, Old-Town District, Lijiang. On the next crossroads behind the Panba turn right and after 15 meters you will see it on the left side), ☏ , , , , email@example.com. Check-in: almost anytime. Very nice and very beautiful guesthouse with a very friendly woman, who is the owner. It is in the outer part of the Old City in a very quiet area. The house is older than 100 years, but completely renovated. The rooms are clean and big, the free wi-fi is very fast, the beds are in very good condition and the bathrooms are almost perfect. The laundry is for free and sometimes some friends of the owner come to cook for the people in this guesthouse. All rooms have flatscreens with satellite-TV. If you want something really good for your money, then you should go there! Double and twin rooms for around ¥100, very big room for about ¥160.
- TianYiJiao 天一角, 束河古镇街尾村88号 (in ShuHe village, on SiFangJie main road, take the small road left of Le Petit Paris about 100 m, turn right and walk 50 m), ☏ . Guesthouse, beautifully furnished, with open air courtyard. Free Wi-Fi, public kitchen, free washing machine. Areas for chatting, drinking tea and beer. Rooms have ancient Chinese locks. Owner Mr Wen doesn't speak English, but has travelled all over China, and each night happily shares tea with guests. Double rooms from ¥150.
- After Sunday Guest House (In ancient Shuhe Village outside of town, just follow Hongye road past the little pond and you will see it on your left). Quiet and the people who run it are friendly. Double ensuite ¥60 per night in low season.
- Be With Me Inn (in ancient Shuhe Village outside of town, on a side lane off a street with no name that is referred to as the bar street and meanders along one of the main streams that crisscross the town, it is 5-minute walk from Laosifang Street (the old square)), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Another wonderful option is this charming inn. The owner is a young woman who speaks little English, but is extra accommodating and provides a wonderful service.
- Dongba House (东巴豪斯客栈; Dōngbā Háosī Kèzhàn; formerly called the MCA Guesthouse, or MCA Dongba House Holiday Inn), 16 Jishan Lane, Xinyi Street, Lijiang Old Town (古城区新义街积善巷16号; Gǔchéngqū Xīnyìjiē Jīshànxiàng), ☏ , fax: . In a traditional Naxi courtyard house. Cheap but clean. The restaurant has a great view of the old town below. Free internet and free wireless available. Dorms ¥20-30, doubles ¥50.
- 1 [dead link] Garden Inn (May's Garden Inn), 7 Wenming Lane, Wuyi Street, Old Town District, Lijiang, Yunnan (on the east side of Lijiang old town, a few minutes walk from the center of the old town (Sifang Square)), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. Beautiful views of the mountains and valleys below. Rooms are comfortable and clean (dorms bed aren't comfortable and not safe, piece of wood which support the mattress was moving). Great atmosphere and wonderful staff that go out of their way to make sure your experience in Lijiang is a special one. Free Internet. Staff can organize trips: Lijiang to Qiaotou ¥35; Lijiang to Lige island ¥80 one way. Many more trips on request. Airportshuttle if you order in advance ¥80. Dorms from ¥40 (updated July 2012), standard rooms from ¥120 and luxury rooms from ¥100.
- International Youth Hostel (丽江老谢车马店青年旅舍), 25 Jishan Alley, Xinyi Street, Old Town, ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [dead link] K2 International Youth Hostel, 1 Guailiu Lane, Kangpu Road, Shuhe Old Town, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. ¥120-160.
- Luminn (留名客栈; Liúmíng Kèzhàn), Qiyi Street, Xingwen Alley, Lijiang Old Town, ☏ , . Guesthouse started by a Chinese young couple who both graduated as English majors. There are 10 guestrooms with clean and big bathrooms and big comfortable beds. There is a bar upstairs and a big kitchen and dining room downstairs. Free washing machine available. ¥70.
- Mama Naxi's Guesthouse, 78 Wenhua Lane, Wuyi St (telephone upon arrival and they will send someone to guide you), ☏ , . Excellent friendly guesthouse south of the old town. This is an excellent place to share rides with others. Mama not only provides large communal meals (at 18:30, ¥25) but can arrange transport in minivans. Free internet and WiFi. Fairly clean and fun budget guesthouse that is a favorite for young backpackers. Dorms ¥25, double from ¥80.
- Old Cattle Hotel (from the bus station take the road opposite, turn left up a stone-paved road beside a stone stream, take a left at the top, and you will be in the old town, the hotel will be on the left). Inside a traditional courtyard building. A bit cold in the rooms in winter, but have lots of bed covers. Doubles ensuite ¥50 (2005).
- The Yuegulou Inn (In the golden region of Lijiang Old Downtown), ☏ , , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. A historical cultural hotel in Naxi-style, offers 32 standard rooms at various price points. Free internet is provided in most rooms. They provide free airport pickup or dropoff if you stay two or more days. Other facilities include free washing machine, in room phones, flat screen TVs in some rooms and electric blankets. ¥100-360.
- Story Inn, 166 Bayi Xia Section, Qiyi St, ☏ . A nice and very friendly inn in the southern part of the Old City. Very helpful staff, quiet, area, free Wi-Fi in the room, simple breakfast (included in the rate) in the courtyard. Laundry available, if you ask nicely. Rooms equipped with TV, kettle and in-built radiotor heater and heating blankets. As you arrive in Qiyi Street, give them a call to pick you up. The place is not easy to find, but worth it! Double and Twin Rooms for around ¥150.
- Baisui Inn (百岁桥客栈), 25 Baisui Fang, Xingyi Street, Lijiang Old Town, ☏ , email@example.com. A 300-year-old Naxi traditional house renewed in 2004 with a pebble cobbled courtyard surrounded by three wooden buildings. The owner Mrs Ho has been living in the old town since she born. As the old Naxi saying says: one Naxi lady equals to 8 horses, the poor lady works all day long in the Inn. The inn is very peaceful, quiet, and good location. Haba is a guide who speaks very good English and Japanese. He is a nephew of Mrs Ho, assists Mrs Ho in the inn most of the days.
- Bruce Chalet (纳西明珠渡假居), Ronghua Road, Shuhe Old Town, Gucheng District, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Charming guesthouse with an open courtyard and view of the Jade Dragon Mountain. Clean and tidy, each room has a Western toilet, heated mattress, and flat-screen TV; some rooms also have a balcony view of the mountain. There is also free wifi, spring water, and computer access in the common room. Breakfast is available for ¥10 and there is self service laundry for ¥10/load. The owner speaks English, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese and can help you organize tours, trips, and arrange a car/driver. 7-10 minutes walking from Shuhe Old Town, this guesthouse is ideal for travelers looking to escape the touristy parts of town and want to just relax. ¥170-450.
- Lijiang Sina Hotel 新纳大酒店, 中国云南丽江古城七一街崇仁巷96号 (No. 96, ChongRen Alley, QiYi Street, LiJiang Old Town), ☏ , email@example.com. Lijiang Sina Hotel is in the famous "World Cultural Heritage" – inside the old town of Lijiang City. Accessing the hotel by the South Gate, its architectural structure is rich in art and also follows the traditional "Naxi" dwelling and is owned and managed by Emperor Resorts International Pte Ltd, Singapore. For info - Facebook Page - Lijiang Sina Hotel 新纳大酒店
- Lijiang Tianlun Guesthouse (close to the main street), ☏ , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org, MSN:email@example.com. A traditional building of Naxi culture. Opened in 2008, with 24-hour hot water and good English service, kitchen, book bar, tour guidance, Naxi breakfast, airport pick-up. Different type rooms are available. ¥180-560.
- Moon Inn, Wuyi Road, Dayan (In the old town), ☏ , . A delightful, upmarket hotel. Surrounding an open air courtyard the 10 double and twin rooms all have ensuite bathroom and Western toilet. Some have marvellous views over rooftops to the mountains. At night, as the roofs come alive in coloured lights, the effect is spectacular. The Li family run the hotel, and offer a computer with internet connection in the lobby, laundry and meals. Listed rates from ¥400, discounted from ¥200.
- New Senlong Hotel, Minzhu Road, Lijiang Old Town. Four-star traditional Naxi palace-style hotel that is adjacent to Ancient Town. Inside the hotel’s traditional setting, modern facilities and services can be enjoyed. Amenities include 214 deluxe guestrooms, The Mushroom King restaurant, KTV, spa, and roof garden to name a few. Guaranteed online reservation is available. Listed rates from ¥1,080, discounted from ¥360.
- 2 Hidden Garden, No. 46 Wenming Alley, Yishang Street (Wuyi Str.) Old Town District 674100 Lijiang, Yunnan, China (get a taxi to Beimen Po Gucheng guan li ju (北门坡 古城 管理局). When you get off the taxi you are at the northside of the old town. Walk down the old cobble street then turn left after 25 meters. After 50 meters this alley ends, you turn left. Follow the street for 120 meters, turn right. The Hidden Garden is situated after 40 meters on the left hand side.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Hidden Garden Lijiang is the newest small scale (10 room) guesthouse tucked away in the narrow alleys of Lijiang Old Town. The hostel is located in the upper north eastern parts of the Old Town, just outside the crowds and noise of the center. The old Naxi style house has the ancient look and feel, with modern facilities. There is a peaceful garden, a relaxing and quiet place to hang out, have a coffee, or discuss your travel itinerary with the multilingual staff. Listed rates from ¥228.
- [dead link] Pullman Lijiang Resort & Spa, ☏ , email@example.com. Shuhe Road, Shuhe Old Town. Possibly the most comfortable place to be in Lijiang is here, with rooms starting at ¥1,400 per night and villas starting at ¥2,400 per night (as of Sept 2011). The interiors are of contemporary Chinese design, reflecting Naxi architecture and style. Amenities include new 42” LCD TV and sliding doors for washrooms. For cuisine, there is fine international cuisine, with local Chinese food in their restaurant. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain backdrops the resort. Water is free and transportation is well. The hotel is about 7 minutes away from Shuhe Ancient Town.
- Banyan Tree, Lijiang, ☏ . Yuerong Road, Shuhe Old Town. For those with deep pockets the Banyan Tree Lijiang is possibly one of the world's nicest hotels with rooms from ¥3,000 per night (price of Apr 2008). Placed way out in the middle of farmland, this hotel is quiet, peaceful, and from afar looks like a fortress village. The "rooms" are small villas built in traditional farmhouse architecture, comprising of a bath, study and bedroom with a direct view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, a private garden, patio, and an outdoor jacuzzi. The food here is mediocre but the prices are comparable to the touristy parts of the old town with meals costing ¥30-40. However the water is outrageously expensive with a bottle of Perrier setting you back a staggering ¥45, making it more expensive than a glass of wine (¥38). A taxi is required to get to and from the hotel (¥10-15 to the old town) (Nov 2006). This hotel is quite far from the center of Lijiang city.
- Guanfang Hotel. Although not in the old town (it's in the new city), you can get a taxi ride from this hotel to the old town's entrance for a reasonable fee (less than ¥10). Guanfang hotel is part of a hotel chain owned by a Yunnanese hotelier group - it has "Guanfang hotels" in other cities in Yunnan province. The Lijiang Guanfang hotel is built to a resort (bungalow) style. The hotel ground area is very big and you have to walk quite a distance from the hotel lobby to your assigned bungalow (containing a number of rooms). But the rooms are pretty spacious and it's beautifully set and are between 4-5 stars.
- Hotel Indigo Lijiang
- InterContinental Hefu Lijiang
The smaller streets in the old town are reported not to be safe at night. Do not walk alone.
As the city lies at the foot of the Himalayas, you may be susceptible to high altitude sickness, especially if you go visit the 3,000 m-high mountains in the area.
Lijiang is on a popular route described at Yunnan tourist trail. Other major towns along that route are:
- Dali, next main city south. There is a direct bus to Xiaguan, Dali new town. You need to take another bus to Dali ancient city. There is also a direct bus from Lijiang to Dali ancient city; ask your hotel or a tour agent to book the ticket. All of the Lijiang buses pass the Dali old town on the way to Xiaguan. Just tell the driver to drop you off in Dali.
- Shangrila, next main city north. It is ¥60 from Lijiang to Shangrila by express bus. about 4-hr trip, bus every hour.
Other places in the region include:
- Shaxi, between Dali and Shangri-la. Unexploited ancient town unlike Lijiang, less travel by tourists, but is now attracting backpackers. There is no transport direct to Shaxi, you need to arrive at Jiangchuan first. An express bus operates from Dali (Xiaguan) to Jiangchuan, and Lijiang to Jiangchuan. A mini bus will also take you from Lijiang to a border of Jiangchuan and Lijiang, where you need to take a minibus to Jiangchuan city, and continue with another minivan to Shaxi old town. If you miss the express bus, the mini bus will be an alternative; it is faster. Or you can just flag down any bus going From Dali to Shangri-la and tell them you're getting out in Jiangchuan.
- Lugu Lake, north of Lijiang near the Sichuan border, direct bus from Lijiang. As of 2010, the road was under construction and very rough, more than seven hours of rough ride. Presumably construction is now complete, so travel should require about four hours and be reasonably comfortable.
- Qiaotou for Tiger Leaping Gorge - regular bus services are available from the main bus station. You can also take any Shangrila bound bus and have the driver drop you off at Qiaotou. Costs about ¥25. If you take a Shangrila bus, make sure to ask for the ticket to Qiaotou only, otherwise they will charge you the full fare to Shangrila.
- For the Three parallel rivers region you will need a guide (readily available in either Lijiang or Shangrila), equipment, and at least a week.