Orientis DMC’s Kunming Travel Guide, Yunnan Province

Although boasting a history that spans almost two-and-a-half thousand years, Kunming, capital city of the Yunnan Province in southwest China, is a thoroughly modern and vibrant destination. Kunming is located upon the naturally-beautiful Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau at an elevation of 1890 metres above sea level. As a result, the city enjoys a mild climate throughout the year; a feature that has earned it the nickname “the City of Eternal Spring”.

One of China’s most-visited cities, Kunming is a delight to explore and offers visitors a wealth of attractions both historic and modern including several beautiful temples, museums, public parks a botanical garden and a zoo. Shopping opportunities range from traditional street markets including the wholesale tea market, farmer’s market and flower and bird market to state-of-the-art twenty-first century shopping malls. Additionally, Kunming’s exceptional range of cafes, bars and restaurants enables visitors to enjoy the best local and international cuisine, whilst an abundance of accommodation and an efficient public transport network make the city an ideal base from which to explore the wider Yunnan Province.

Kunming’s seasons and when to visit

Due to its elevated position, Kunming benefits from a subtropical highland climate which ensures temperate conditions all year round. Extremes of temperature are rare which means that summers in the city are generally pleasantly warm and sunny without becoming uncomfortably hot. Winters are cool and dry, and whilst never exceptionally cold snow has been known to fall unexpectedly on rare occasions. Kunming experiences its greatest rainfall between May and October, but the mild climate ensures that vegetation remains lush and flowers bloom throughout the year.
There is no particularly bad time of year to visit Kunming, although the period from November to April provides the most favourable weather. As conditions in the city are typically warm and humid, only light clothing is necessary although it’s advisable to bring a lightweight raincoat in case of showers and a sweater for cooler evenings. During this period Kunming receives the most sunshine so it’s also worth packing sunblock and sunglasses.

Kunming’s cuisine

Kunming’s cuisine is typical of that found in the wider Yunnan Province, and the city’s temperate climate ensures an abundance of fresh locally-grown ingredients. This cuisine is distinctive in that its use of herbs and spices is subtler than other regional Chinese cuisines, but this does not mean that Kunming’s food is any less flavoursome.
One of the province’s most popular dishes is ‘Over the Bridge Noodles’; rice noodles are served in a chicken broth in which meat, chicken or fish have been simmered until tender and to which vegetables have then been added. Smoked tofu, also known as ‘smelly tofu’ is a street food staple and is bean curd which has been roasted on a charcoal barbecue. Rice cakes – er kuai – are a popular breakfast accompaniment or snack, and are cakes of compressed rice which hold their shape when roasted, boiled or shallow-fried. Xuanwei Huotui, also known as ‘Yunnam Ham’ is created from a process which originated in the eighteenth century. This delicious preserved ham has won many awards and forms the basis of several traditional Yunnan Province dishes.

Key activities in Kunming

Kunming offers many spectacular sights and attractions. Visitors should not miss the beautiful 1,200 year old Yuantong Temple. Set at the foot of Yuantong hill, a path descends through ornate gardens to a memorial arch which leads into the ancient temple complex. Opened in 1964, the Yunnan Provincial Museum hosts a collection of more than 400,000 cultural artefacts and relics which tell the story of the region’s development since prehistoric times. The museum focuses upon the heritage of the diverse ethnic minority groups which have inhabited Yunnan Province for centuries and feature fascinating and impressive exhibitions of traditional ethnic costumes, folk art, musical instruments and ceramics.  Despite its name, Kunming’s ‘Flowers and Birds Market’, a colourful and atmospheric street of small shops and market stalls, sells a wide variety of souvenirs and unique goods. This is a good place to find all kinds of jade carvings and jewellery as well as local handicrafts and street foods. Green Lake Park is a picturesque oasis of calm in the city and an idyllic spot in which to relax in a tea house and watch the world go by.  A short journey from the outskirts of Kunming, Yunnan’s ‘Stone Forest’ is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an unmissable natural wonder. In an area of outstanding beauty covering almost four hundred square kilometres, the landscape is dominated by labyrinthine limestone ‘forests’. These countless pillars and formations of stone have been uniquely eroded and shaped by the elements over a period of around 270 million years, and among them visitors will find hidden caves, pools, waterfalls and even an underground river.