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South of the Clouds, Yunnan province

Follow the Red River via the scenic Vietnamese hill stations of Bac Ha and Sapa to the World Heritage rice terraces of Yuanyang before heading north to the Tibetan Plateau via medieval Dali & Lijiang

Vietnam and China tour

A 16 day Vietnam and China tour; South of the Clouds. When a Yunnanese Prince crossed the cloud covered mountains of Sichuan Province to visit the imperial Chinese court, he informed the Emperor his Kingdom lay ‘south of the clouds’ and the Mandarin translation – Yunnan – has stuck to the present day.

It is, without doubt, China’s most diverse and fascinating region, both culturally and scenically. Bordering Burma, Laos and Vietnam, this remote, borderland province includes everything from wild elephants and tropical jungles in the far south to the yaks and snow-capped mountains of the Tibetan Plateau in the north and is home to over 25 different ethnic minorities.

Linked to our existing range of Southeast Asian itineraries, our highly original Yunnan tour takes you to China by train through the spectacular mountains of Northern Vietnam. We’ll cover our regular mixture of essential sites and hidden gems; cultural highlights and historic towns such as Hanoi, Sapa, Dali, Jianshui and UNESCO World Heritage Lijiang; the awesome scenery of Yuanyan;, the Yangtze’s Tiger Leaping Gorge and the dramatic mountains of Eastern Tibet.  The tour also leaves plenty of time to explore the exotic markets, check-out the bustling street life and meet the local people, in one of Vietnam’s most picturesque regions and in China’s friendliest province.




Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.

Day 1 - Hanoi - arrival and time to explore

Arrival in Hanoi and check-in to a downtown hotel. Afternoon free to relax or explore the city before an evening performance of the unusual water-puppets.

Extra nights in Hanoi prior to your tour are available on request.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.

Overnight: Hanoi Transport: Walk,  Meals: D,

Day 2 - Hanoi - Day tour of some of the City's sites

Day tour of some of the city’s sites, including Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, the 11th-century University, Hoan Kiem Lake and a walking tour of the narrow streets of Hanoi’s bustling old commercial quarter. Evening departure by sleeper train for Lao Cai in the far north.

Overnight: Night sleeper train Transport: Minibus, Train, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 3 - Bac Ha - the hill-tribe market and on to Sapa

Morning arrival and drive to nearby Bac Ha to visit the colourful local market. After lunch we’ll continue to Sapa, a picturesque old French hill-station overlooking a spectacular valley & lying in the shadow of the mist-shrouded Fansipan, at over 3,100 m the highest summit in mainland Southeast Asia.

Overnight: Sapa Transport: Minibus, Train, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 4 - Sapa - hike through the hills

Morning hike through the area’s incredible scenery, known to the French as the Tonkinese Alps taking in Dzao and Hmong minority villages, picturesque rice terraces, bamboo forest and towering peaks. Afternoon at leisure to explore the town or roam its bustling market. 

Overnight: Sapa Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, L,

Day 5 - Yuanyang - cross the border and Hani rice terraces

Crossing into China’s Yunnan Province at the town of Hekou, we’ll follow the scenic Red River Valley northwest into the Ailao Ranges and the small mountain-top town of Yuanyang. Afternoon visit to the region’s truly awe-inspiring and now UNESCO World Heritage, rice terraces – carved out of the mountainsides over thousands of years by the local Hani & Yi minorities.

Overnight: Yuanyang Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 6 - Jianshui - dawn over the terraces and on to Jianshui

Optional dawn trip to the fabulous terraces before returning to town to check-out the lively market, a trading centre for myriad local minority peoples. On to historic Jianshui and a visit to some of the town’s sites including the 14th Century Chaoyang Tower and Confucian Temple, the 2nd largest in China, and the amazing Zhu Family Garden mansion, a complex of 42 courtyards & 250 rooms. Overnight in a family-run hotel in the heart of the old town.

Overnight: Jianshui Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 7 - Jianshui to Kunming - via Tuanshan and Fuxian Lake

Morning visit to the fascinating village of Tuanshan, one of the very few remaining fortified villages in Southwest China. This village, originally founded during the Ming Dynasty, receives very few visitors despite being recently added to the UNESCO Protected List. Leaving Jianshui district we’ll continue north, via the picturesque Fuxian Lake, to the Province’s capital, Kunming.

Overnight: Kunming Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 8 - Kunming - the Stone Forest and afternoon at leisure

Morning trip to the spectacular karst formations known as the Stone Forest – another of Yunnan’s UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. An afternoon at leisure in Kunming to discover some of the City’s pagodas, perhaps the lively flea market or just a walk in the fascinating Green Lake Park?

Overnight: Kunming Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L,

Day 9 - Weishan - up the Old Burma Road to Dali

Morning drive along the route of the old Burma Road to Weishan Town – one of the oldest and best-preserved towns in Yunnan, yet one of the least visited – before arriving at our day’s destination, Dali.

Overnight: Dali Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 10 - Dali - Day at leisure

Day at leisure to explore this scenic old walled town, former capital of the powerful Nanzhao Kingdom, now centre for the ethnic Bai people – beautifully situated between the Azure Mountains and the shores of Lake Erhai. Explore the old streets, check-out the market or handicrafts, walk the city walls or take a cable car to a  nearby mountain nature reserve?

Overnight: Dali Transport: Walk,  Meals: B,

Day 11 - Shibao Mountain - sacred mountain and on to Lijiang

Early departure to catch the bustling morning market in the lakeside Bai village of Xizhou, before continuing north to Lijiang by way of the superb temple grottoes of sacred Shibao Mountain.

Overnight: Lijiang Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 12 - Lijiang - explore the World Heritage town

Discover the ancient centre of the Naxi Culture and now World Heritage Site Lijiang.  Dramatically situated beneath the towering peaks of the 5,500m Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.  Wander the beautifully preserved cobbled streets that line the streams running through the picturesque old town and visit the scenic Black Dragon Pool Park.

Overnight: Lijiang Transport: Walk,  Meals: B,

Day 13 - Tiger Leaping Gorge - into the mountains

Morning visit to one of the outlying villages to discover more of the unique Naxi culture, before heading north towards the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge via the famous ‘First Bend in the Yangtze’. Our overnight stay will be at the friendly, family-run and stunningly situated Sean’s Guesthouse in the village of Walnut Grove in the centre of the Gorge itself.

Overnight: Walnut Grove Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 14 - Tiger Leaping Gorge - take a day hike or explore the village

Day in Tiger Leaping Gorge.  Options, depending upon fitness and inclination, include a day hike along the gorge, pony trekking, a walk around the scenic village and surroundings, or merely relaxing on the guesthouse terrace taking in the superb views.

Overnight: Walnut Grove Transport: Walk,  Meals: B,

Day 15 - Zhongdian - onto the Tibetan Plateau

Scenic morning drive to the Baishui limestone terraces and on to the Tibetan Plateau itself and the town of Zhongdian – now officially renamed Shangri La. Lunch at a Tibetan family’s house followed by a visit to the spectacular monastery (Ganden Suntseling), with a short hike through the surrounding hills to check out the scenery and the local villages.

Overnight: Zhongdian (Shangri La) Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L,

Day 16 - Kunming

Morning at leisure in Zhongdian and afternoon flight to Kunming.  End of tour.

Extra nights in Kunming after your tour are available on request.

Please note, we encounter high altitudes on the Tibetan Plateau, (up to 3,200m), but we’ll ascend gradually.

Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.

Overnight: Departure Transport: Minibus, Plane, Walk,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary


The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.

China, Home cooking

Just a few of the many highlights

Hanoi, Bac Ha hill-tribe market and Sapa's scenery provide the Vietnam highlights before moving on to Yunnan's World Heritage Hani rice terraces, Stone Forest and Lijiang old town

  • Explore the old mountain-top hill station of Sapa with its spectacular scenery and myriad traditional hill-tribes
  • Explore historic lakeside medieval Dali Town with it's old city walls, lanes and handicraft shops or stroll through the nearby mountain park
  • Optional hike down the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge - spectacular scenery guaranteed
  • The incredible yet little known rice terraces of Yuanyang - certainly amongst the most spectacular of Asia
  • Stay in the heart of World Heritage Lijiang and explore the labyrinth of narrow cobbled lanes, ancient houses, streams and bridges
  • Sample the superb and highly varied local food of northern Vietnam and southern China

Air Departures (UK)

  • 13 September 18 3,400 GBP
  • 10 October 18 3,500 GBP
  • 18 April 19 3,500 GBP
  • 5 September 19 3,500 GBP

Land Departures

  • 14 September 18 2,500 GBP
  • 11 October 18 2,625 GBP
  • 19 April 19 2,625 GBP
  • 6 September 19 2,625 GBP

Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed

*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Hanoi

*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.

We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...

MK Premier Boutique Hotel, Hanoi

  • Not sure about the name but the hotel's great
  • Located in the heart of Hanoi's picturesque old town
  • Handy for exploring or just relax in their street-side cafe

Sunny Mountain Hotel, Sapa view

  • Our choice in the old French hill-station of Sapa
  • Hmong chic at our favourite Sapa hotel, the Sunny Mountain.
  • Friendly staff, comfy rooms, great views make a fine spot

Lin An Hotel, Jianshui view

  • Our clear favourite for exploring picturesque Jianshui
  • Beautifully decorated, with large well-appointed rooms
  • Central location in Jianshui old town

Landscape Hotel, Dali view

  • Central location in UNESCO World Heritage Dali Town
  • Recent construction but faithful to traditional style
  • Choice of bars and restaurants and in-house massage and spa

Old Town Castle Hotel, Lijiang

  • Hill-top location overlooking Lijiang Old Town
  • Set in the heart of the World Heritage City
  • Great views, comfortable rooms, helpful staff

Sean’s Guesthouse, Tiger Leaping Gorge view

  • Simple but comfortable family run Sean's Guesthouse
  • Vertiginous views across Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Meet Sean & his wonderful family & try their awesome cooking

*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.

Visa Info & Notes

Vietnam: Visas are no longer required for citizens of some countries, including Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the UK for single-entry visits of up to 15 days.  A visa MUST be obtained in advance for longer visits, or for citizens of other countries. They are available from your nearest Vietnamese embassy at a cost of about £40 (c. $60). Further information, as well as e-visas on arrival are available on the internet, for example or

China: A visa must be obtained before arrival in China. Your entry point in Hekou on day 5 of the itinerary. You will be arriving by road from Vietnam. Your address in China is c/o China Panorama travel & Yunnan Panorama International Travel Service Co. Ltd..

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