Dali Ancient City 大理古城 or Dali Town 大理镇 is one of Yunnan’s most popular tourist destinations. Dali Ancient City is 10 kilometers away from Xiaguan 下关镇 or Dali New Town 大理新镇.

My siblings and I stayed in a small inn in Shuanglang (双廊) (there, you can read more on Shuanglang here! ), located 40 minutes away from Dali.

Don’t get mixed up with Dali Old & New Town

Dali is often referred in guides as the Old Town by touristic guides. If you use any online maps to check where Dali is, the software is probably going to pull out various results. Needless to say, you will probably be very confused… Make a clear distinction between Dali Town and Dali New Town and you will be fine 🙂

As for me, in this post, Dali will just refer to Dali Ancient City. Indeed, Dali New Town is not as beautiful as the Ancient City: in order to preserve the historical appeal of the Old Town, the Chinese government ruled that industrial real estate developments must be conducted in Dali New Town. As for the constructions in the Old Town, the building codes must follow the Chinese traditional architectural style.

Cangshan Mountain: a very (very) crowded scenic reserve

A few kilometers away from Dali, you can have a detour and go up the Cangshan Mountain 苍山.

We did not have the courage (nor the time) to wake up at 4 am and go up the mountain by foot so we did what everyone else did. By 9am on that day, we stood at the foot of the Mountain, to take the Ximatang Cable Car 洗马潭索道 to get to the top of Cangshan Mountain.

Unfortunately, my brilliant idea was not so brilliant and we found ourselves queuing for some time… Very bad timing. I suggest you go there by foot or take the Cable Car around 7:30 am (can’t be too be sure).

Long story short, the scenery up there was beautiful, we got some fresh air and walked on a constructed and clean path.

Within the walls of the Ancient City

Free walking tour

When in the Ancient City of Dali, go and stroll around by foot. Do not hesitate to go off the main roads and visit the adjacent streets. I found these streets much calmer and pleasant, and I really had a more genuine traveling experience thanks to that.

Crowd on the main streets at dusk

Graffiti on the city walls

The Three Pagodas 崇圣寺三塔

Dating from the 9th and 10th century, the Three Pagodas are made out of bricks and covered with white mud. These buildings used to have a religious purpose in the Chinese community.


Next destination… the legendary Shangri-la!


Read more about my trip in Yunnan: