Vestige of Another Era: Day Trips Around Kunming’s Dianchi Lake

Vestige of Another Era: Day Trips Around Kunming’s Dianchi Lake
By Caitlin Dwyer ,

Twentyyears ago, Dianchi was a country lake. Kunming residents could escape the city for a daytrip out on the water, boating or fishing. Dianchi developed a reputation as a resort – a moniker that has stuck even as the area developed into a suburb. The Dianchi National Tourist Resort, a government-designed zone, still hosts many urban day-trippers.

These days, few people fish in Dianchi. At sunset, the lake glows a fragrant, electric green – a result of the algal bloom spreading through the water. Efforts have been made to reclaim parts of the lake with aquaculture, but pollution remains a major problem.

However, Dianchi still holds an iconic place in the minds of Kunming residents. While swimming might no longer appeal, the lake's perimeter has many activities. From hiking to bird-watching to learning more about Kunming's minority cultures, the Dianchi area makes a relaxing jaunt from the city. Many of these shorter activities can be combined into a full day.

1) Haigeng Park (海埂公园)View In Map
This large waterfront park stretches along the lake's northwest shore. Like most Chinese parks, it has more than its fair share of activities, including barbeque areas, mini-golf and classical-style pavilions. Crowded on weekends, Haigeng nevertheless feels less packed than Kunming's inner-city parks, which positively teem with karaoke and kabob vendors on Saturday afternoons. Shady spots make for nice picnics.

Haigeng Park also houses the Kunming Minorities Village (民族村), a sort of theme-park devoted to the cultures of Yunnan's many minority groups. With performances, local architecture and food, the village makes an easy introduction to Yunnan's unique minority cultures – although some argue that it lacks authenticity.

Add: 1318 Dianchi Lu, Xishan District, Kunming
地址: 昆明西山区滇池路1318号
Opening Hours: 8:30 – 17:30
Price: 10 RMB
Getting There: Bus Nos. 44 and 73 run to the park entrance

2) Dianchi Waterfront BoardwalkView In Map
A raised boardwalk looks out on the north finger of Dianchi and the hills. Groups can rent bicycles or multi-person carts and cycle up and down the boardwalk. Boats still offer occasional pleasure cruises out on the water. Pleasant for a stroll, this area connects at one end to Haigeng Park and the cable-car to Xishan.

The annual migration of Siberian seagulls, which fly to Yunnan from Siberia during the winter months, draws many visitors. Vendors sell cheap bread to feed the birds. The gulls circle and squawk, posing for photos as they peck apart baguettes. If you find seagulls cute and cuddly, join the crowds. If not, avoid the boardwalk until they return to Siberia in spring.

Add: Guangjing Lu, Xishan District, Kunming
地址: 昆明西山区观景路
Getting there: take Bus No. 73 or 44 toward Haigeng Park. At the large traffic circle on Dianchi Lu (滇池学院), transfer to No. 94, or walk about 20 minutes west toward the lake

3) Xishan (西山森林公园)View In Map
Xishan Forest Park covers a vast area of the western hills. Perhaps Kunming's most popular outdoor area, the park has a full day's worth of shady walks and old architecture. The Dragon Gate (龙门) attracts most visitors. Cut into a cliff, the trail winds perilously up through grottoes and overlooks Dianchi; the cliff falls away steeply from the handrails. From the cable-car station, regular buses run to the Dragon Gate.

Xishan has excellent day-hikes for all skill levels. The stroll between Taihua and Huating Temples, which runs along a lightly forested slope, makes for an easy half-hour walk. More aggressive hikers might want to try the full summit, climbing from Gaoyao bus station to Sanqing Ge, a mansion at the top of the hill.

Add: Xishan Gonglu, Xishan Forest Park, Xishan District, Kunming
地址: 昆明西山区西山公路西山森林公园
Opening Hours: 8:00 – 17:00
Price: The park itself is free, but individual attractions cost 6 RMB
Getting There: the cable-car from Haigeng Park takes about 20 minutes. Bus No. K1 runs from Green Lake Park; transfer to Bus No. 6 toward Gaoyao bus station (高峣村公交车站).

4) Xihua Wetlands Park (西华湿地公园)View In Map
This small but pleasant park is farther south along Dianchi than other attractions. Half nursery, half wild space, the Wetlands Park consists of raised wooden walkways, which pick their way through the algae-green waters of the lake shallows. Tall, dry rushes rasp in the wind; in the distance, the hills rise brown and dry. The wild spaces, where native grasses have been allowed to flourish, feel genuinely natural, but the wetlands also have rows of planted palms and cherry trees, meant to create the illusion of a forest.

The Wetlands Park is difficult to reach without a car. A two-lane road runs parallel to the highway and traces the edge of the lake. It lacks a bicycle lane, although experienced cyclists, who don't mind breathing some fumes, might attempt the ride. No. 33 bus from Remin Lu runs to Xihua Lu, from which you can backtrack and walk across the overpass. The park appeared to have no central ticketing office or gate; visitors can simply walk in during daytime hours.

Add: Dianchi western lakeshore, Xishan District, Kunming
Opening Hours: Dawn-dusk
Price: Free
Getting There: from Haigeng Park, drive across the dyke (Hubin Lu) beneath the cable car. Turn left on 014 Country Road (the smaller road that runs briefly beneath the main highway, 高海高速). After about 12 km, you'll see Xihua Road (西华街); turn left across the bridge. A small parking lot is at the end of the dirt road.

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Keywords: Dianchi lake Kunming Xishan forest park Kunming Kunming day trips and activities Haigeng Park Kunming fun things to see in Kunming


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