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Dali
Avg.Score:
 
4.1
Dining:
 
3.9
Entertainment:
 
4.0
Hotels:
 
4.0
Scenery:
 
4.3
Shopping:
 
4.0
Transportation:
 
4.3

Dali (Dàlǐ, 大理) welcomes travelers with laidback cafés, friendly guesthouses and easy access to beautiful countryside. This historic town, scenically situated at the foot of the Cang Shan (Cang Mountain) and overlooking Erhai Lake, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Yunnan.

Most of Dali's attractions can easily be explored by bike, and good food and cheap drinks await at the end of each day on Huguo Lu (Hùguó Lù, 护国路). It's not all traditional charm and romantic views, however. There's the inevitable recent modern Chinese architecture of questionable aesthetic value and other incursions of functional but less-than-attractive modernity, but its residents manage to maintain the outsider feel that has made Dali a key stopover for backpackers in China in spite of the encroachment of the modern world.

On a lighter note, a number of low-key Amsterdam-style "coffee shops" have sprung up like mushrooms, causing some visiting backpackers to extend their stays in order to fully absorb Dali's sunny weather, friendly vibes, pretty sunsets and repeat plays of Bob Marley and Manu Chao tracks. And, of course, Dali's popularity comes at a price: the high season finds the city crowded with tour groups, backpackers and trinket-hawking vendors.

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Dali hotels | Dali tours & activities | Dali on the China Travel Blog

History

The character and history of Dali derives from the region's main residents, the Bai people. The Bai, today numbering over a million, first populated the area over 3,000 years ago. During the 8th and 9th centuries, they established Dali as the capital of the Bai Kingdom of Nanzhao after defeating a Tang Dynasty army to gain complete control over Yunnan. The 500-year rule of the Nanzhao Kingdom marks an important time of trade, commerce and the arts in Dali.

Several of the city's most fascinating attractions, including the Three Pagodas and the Grottoes at Shibao Mountain are a result of this period. Today, the tiny city is home to Bai as well as Han Chinese. Much of the old city remains, in the form of the original city gates and walls, cobblestone streets and traditional stone buildings.

Climate

Most days in Dali are pleasant and warm. Temperatures rarely fall below 4ºC (39ºF) in the winter and summer days peak at 25ºC (77ºF). Travelers should pack some warm clothes for cooler evenings. Seasonal monsoons bring more rain to the area from May to October. The best time to visit Dali is in the spring, though the region makes for a great escape from the winter cold of many other parts of China.

Yunnan guide | Dali attractions | Dali flights
Dali hotels | Dali tours & activities | Dali on the China Travel Blog