Lijiang (map), also known as Likiang, is a small city in *Yunnan Province, China. It is the most preserved and most Naxi-style ancient town in China.
Lijiang is famous for its UNESCO Heritage Site, the *Old Town of Lijiang (丽江古镇, map), which contains a mixture of different historical architecture styles and a complex, ancient water-supply system.
The town has a history going back more than 1,000 years and was once a confluence for trade along the “Old Tea Horse Caravan Trail”. The Dayan Old town is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges, a system fast becoming but a memory as the underground water table drops, probably due to over-building in the suburban areas.
Mu Palace (木府, map). 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. At the back hill of the Mu’s Palace is the ‘Lion Hill Scenic 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.
Black Dragon Pool (黑龙潭, map). 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.
Shuhe Old Town (束河古镇, map). About 8km north of Lijiang OId Town. It should take no more than 30 minutes to get there. Better than Lijiang if you want a place less commercialized.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山, map), 25 km from Lijiang. 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.
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.
Dongba Valley (东巴谷, map). About 2km south of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Scenic Area. On your way to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, you may stop by at the Dongba Valley culture center.
Baisha Ancient Town (白沙古镇, 白沙镇, map), 12 km north of Lijiang Old Town. 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.
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 should consider staying a few nights, in a Naxi family’s courtyard, no hotels or hostels here. Visit some of the temples or traditional Naxi houses of the area before they are gone.