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Dali Travel Guide

Dali Overview

Dali is originated from that of a local regime in history called Kingdom Dali, meaning a state of great order. Many of the architectures of the city were built of marble from the ore nearby, and that is why it is also called a city of Dali Stone (marble). Both Chinese writing and pronunciation of 'great order' and 'marble' are the same. Marble buildings, marble streets, marble wall foundations and marble wells make the city so bright and limpid as if it is a tranquil fairyland. Each family loves door carving and wall-decoration; every household has a flower garden. While it is freezing season in the north, hundreds of flowers are in blossom here. Among them, camellia, azaleas and orchids are the most fascinating and enchanting ones.

Dali is also celebrated for its scenic beauties of Mt. Cangshan and Erhai Lake. And also, Dali enjoys a very high fame for its four grand scenes, namely, Xiaguan's wind, Shangguan's flowers, Mt. Cangshan's snow and Erhai's moon. Especially Xiaguan's wind, which impresses people so deeply, makes Xiaguan such a place that you should go if you pay a visit to Dali. It is the greatest delight to you to admire the full moon on a boat at the Erhai Lake. Under the moonlight, you can have an exceptional charming picture of Mt. Cangshan looking at the handsome shadow of itself. When the moon is hazy, the reflection of the Buddhist Temples looks even more mysterious, set off by the dark blue canopy of the heavens in the still of the night. When the moon is clear and bright, Erhai turns to be a unique fairyland, an integral whole of moonbeams, mountain pose and crystalline ripples. But, unless you are personally on the scene, you would not have any idea of its splendor. n spite of all, the summit of Mt. Cangshan, 4,000 meters high, perennially covered with snow offers a beautiful sight. Though it is in winter, you could feel the spring in the air, at the same time enjoy the translucent snowy summit, glittering under the moonlight.

The Bai nationality having lived there for generations is the chief inhabitant. Bright and cheerful in disposition, amiable and easy of approach, the Bai people are very hospitable and conversational. Their national costume looks neat and graceful. Both sexes have partiality for white color. A Bai man usually wears a short black gown over his white jacket with buttons down the front, whereas a woman, coiling up the hair over head, often wears a black or blue gown over her white jacket. The daily attire for a maiden is very attractive, i.e., a red close-fitting jacket without sleeves. The Bai girls like to wear one pigtail tied with red string with a colourful towel wrapped round and snowy teasels waving to and from on the right. Their artistic tradition is quite distinctive, too. They like carved doors and windows, and delicately whitewashed walls. Their national music sounds very sonorous, showing the nation's bold and uninhabited character.

Dali Facts
Dali History
Dali Geography
Dali Climate & Weather
Best Time for Dali Travel

Basis Information

• Chinese Name: 大理
• Location: west of Yunnan middle area
• Dialing code: (+86) 0872
• Zip Code: 671000
• Area: Dali has an area of 28,536 sq km.
• Main attractions in Dali: Erhai Lake, Mt. Cangshan, Dali Ancient Town

Administrative Division:

Dali's newly finished administrative district that houses the newly opened Dali International Convention Center is in Longshan District. The Dali government's urban planning keeps its old and new districts separate, so those coming here for the first time often feel they have entered a time tunnel.


It has a population of 3.1854 million. The population of Han covers 50.84 percent with 1.6196 million. Bai covers 33.22 percent with 1.0584 million.

Dali is one of the birthplaces of the earliest culture in Yunnan. According to the record, in the 4th century, Bai ancestors lived here and a lot of clan and tribe scattered here, and they created the splendid Neolithic culture. In Qin and Han dynasties, Dali is the only way that must be passed on the "Shu-Hindu Road" (the road lead from Chengdu city Sichuan province, the Dali city Baoshan city in Yunnan province into Myanmar, and then to India), is transfer station of "southern silk road" from Sichuan to India. In Kingdom of Shu-Han in Zhuge Liang’s Southern Campaign there was established Yunnan Prefecture in Dali, and in the Tang dynasty Kingdom of Nanzhao established capital here, in Song dynasty Dali kingdom established capital here. This city is the political, economic and cultural center of Yunnan in early. In the long history of the years, Dali has a prominent position and role. Long history and culture make Dali has won the laudatory title of "historical city with culture".

Capital of Sutras Collections
Dali is one of the earliest cultural birthplaces in Yunnan and is also center of the development of the early culture of Yunnan, which enjoys a reputation of “Capital of Sutras Collections ". As early as the period of Nanzhao kingdom, Dali culture was developed; Three Pagodas are the symbol of ancient culture. And Zhangshun, Wang Fengzong’s Nanzhao picture scroll, Zhang Shengwen Dali Landscape etc, fully illustrates the Dali is an ancient historic city.

The hometown of camellia
Dali camellia cultivation has a long history. Since Nanzhao and Dali kingdom period, camellia has become important cultivated varieties of garden, and in Yuan and Ming dynasty, it became more prosperous. Dali camellia is large evergreen trees, which can up to 10m tall. From December to April in the following year, each species gradually open.

Qing and Han DynastyEarly History
According to historical records, in the 4th century, the ancestors of Bai thrived here, with many tribes spread in Dali. They created a splendid Neolithic culture.

221BC, the Qin Dynasty began to develop the southwest China, and established administrative machineries in the Southwest region, began the rule of Dali.

During Han Dynasty, in 109 BC, Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty defeated Kunming’s tribes, and set Yeyu County at today’s Dali. He also opened the South Silk Road, and made Dali the hub on the road.

The Three Kingdoms Period
Three Kingdoms Period, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan were known as Nanzhong, belonged to Shu. Zhuge Liang pacified insurgency and rebuild Dali County.

Sui and Tang Dynasty
During Sui Dynasty, in 597 years, Kunming happened rebellion, Sui sent Shi Wangsui pacified it; In Tang Shizhen years, Tang Dynasty set Rongzhou Government, counties in Dali area were under its jurisdiction.

In 7th Century, nearing Erhai Lake, there were 6 tribes, called “Zhao”. Mengshe was located at the south of these Zhaos, and called Nanzhao. In 8th Century, the 6 Zhaos, in support of Tang Dynasty, established Nanzhao Regime. At the late Nanzhou, with internal disorder, the country fell apart and disappeared.

In 937, Kingdom of Dali was established by Duan Siping. The Kingdom last for over 300 year.

Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty
In 1253, Kublai Khan led his army south to capture Dali from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The last king of Dali was captured. Dali Kingdom was subjugated.

In 1274, Yunnan province was established; in 1276, it was renamed as Yunnan Road and Yunnan officially became the name of a province.

In 1382, the Ming army attracted and broke Dali City, setting government. Qing Dynasty basically followed the prescribed system.

Modern and Contemporary
After the founding of New China, on February 1, 1950, the Dali Commissioner's Office was established.
On November 22, 1956, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture was established, Xiguan was set as the capital of the Autonomous Prefecture.

Dali urban area is 46.3 kilometers from east to west and 59.3 kilometers from south to north. It covers an area of 1,457.27 square kilometers, of which 229 square kilometers, or 15.71 percent of the total area consists of irrigated territory; 978.927 square kilometers, or 67.27 percent of the total area is mountainous; and 249.343 square kilometers, or 17.02 percent of the total area is occupied by Erhai Lake. The city has Binchuan and Xiangyun to the east, Midu and Weishan to the south, Yangbi to the west and Eryuan to the north. Dali is also the juncture of the Yunnan-Myanmar and Yunnan-Tibet Highways. With these unique geographical conditions, Dali is a communication hub and distribution center of materials in western Yunnan Province.

Dali is located between the Cangshan Mountain and the Erhai Lake. This location makes it one of the most beautiful and relaxing places in China. The weather pattern of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture is defined by its latitude and topography.

Because Dali lies at a low latitude in the northern hemisphere, it tends to have a warm, subtropical monsoon climate, but because it is situated on a high plateau, it tends to be cooler than more low-lying regions, such as neighbouring Kunming, about 315 km to the east. Therefore Dali has a relatively temperate climate year round, with no extremes in summer or in winter. It has a unique plateau climate, which is spring like all the year round being warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

The average temperature is 15.1ºC. The coldest temperature is 3.4ºC in January, and the hottest is 26.6ºC in July. It is called the "Sweden of the East," and has 126 days during which the temperature is 18.7-20.6ºC, the best climate for convalescence in the world. The climate of Dali is generally characterized as a subtropical highland monsoon climate, with lots of sunshine and fresh air. Its rainy season begins in June and last till October.

Climate Data Table for Dali

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
16.8 17.8 20.4 23.4 26.2 25.6 26.6 25.7 24.2 22.3 19.1 16.7
3.4 5.1 7.8 10.7 13.8 17.2 17.6 16.5 15.6 12.1 7.6 3.7
Rainfall (mm) 20.8 28.1 42.1 25.4 61.9 164.9 185.8 209.1 168.6 96.8 41.2 11.1
Days of rainfall 0.7 0.9 1.3 0.8 2.1 2.8 7.1 6.6 5.8 3.2 1.3 0.3

The average temperature is 15.1 degrees Celsius. The coldest temperature is 8.7 degrees Celsius in February, and the hottest is 20.1 degrees Celsius in July. It is called the "Sweden of the East," and has 126 days during which the temperature is 18.7-20.6 degrees Celsius, the best climate for convalescence in the world. Moreover, 229 days are frost-free, providing a suitable environment for the growth of various kinds of plants. Flowers blossom all the year round.

Best Time to Visit Dali

Spring (March to May): In the spring, the wind season isn’t yet to come, and the local geographical location can hold back from the outside cold snap, so the temperature is just suitable. Spring in Dali is a season of sunshine. And each year during March to April, there are a lot of Bai ethnic festivals and events held here. So travel at this time tourists can feel the rich ethnic customs.

Summer (June to August): Summer in Dali is in its rainy season. But due to the not obvious temperature difference in the spring time, it is heater in summer. It is better to pay attention to the strong sun light which may cause tourists discomfort on the skin.

Autumn (September to October): It is a cool season and also a peak season for Chinese domestic tourist in autumn. During this period, tourists should be careful about the temperature difference in daytime and night time. Short-sleeve cloths in day and a jacket at the night will be better.

Winter (November to next February): Winter in Dali is a dry season with the strong sunshine. There is no severe cold climate last for long time in Dali. It is rather a late autumn than a winter in Dali. And because of its geographic location, Dali may experience some sudden bad weather such as frozen, windy, etc.

Dressing Tips

Spring (March to May): it is warm in spring and the temperature is moderate, but it is a little cool with rains. A thin coat is enough. In the beginning of March every year in the spring people can put on spring dress.

Summer (June -August): Dali sunny day has strong ultraviolet; it is recommended wearing sun hat and sunglasses. In the beginning of May, summer dress has been popular in Dali. Since the rain after turn of the summer and fall (generally for July and August), the temperature drops quickly, suggest taking a few long-sleeve cloth in case of catch a cold.

Autumn (September to October): The rain in Dali is more concentrated in the rainy season in May to October, suggest bringing rain gear when you go out, and wear thin unlined upper garment.

Winter (November to February): In the middle of October and November, people in Dali can wear autumn dress, but after mid-November to Dali, people have better to bring winter clothing in their luggage for unexpected need.


Travel to Dali, no matter what the season is, there can encounter a big difference in temperature change, so it is best to bring summer clothes, windproof clothes. Xiaguan Dali, where is the famous "windy city", if tourists need to stay in Xiaguan during the tour, windproof clothes must be taken and suggest taking a fleece jacket and gauze kerchief.

Try to plan your Dali tour to avoid the peak holidays. Because they are popular with Chinese tourists, Dali attractions become more crowded in these periods.

The most crowded seasons in China are Chinese Spring Festival (usually in late Jan or early Feb.), International Labor Day (May 01 to 03) and National Day (Oct 01-07). Spring Festival and the National Day golden week are the most crowded time for travelling.