Dali is one of the most popular spots for independent China travellers and hugely popular with those studying and working in southern China. About 50 min by plane or 4-5 hrs by bus from Kunming (Yunnan's capital), Dali is considered by some the perfect place to relax in southern China.
Dali is the seat of Dali Prefecture and includes Dali New City (下关, Xiàguān) and Dali Old Town (古城, Gǔchéng). The Old Town has a population of only 40,000 but the 10,000+ km² (3500+ mi²) prefecture as a whole holds 3 million. When discussing or travelling to "Dali", it's important to be clear which you are talking about. Xiaguan is usually where transportation to "Dali" arrives but is an standard industrial Chinese city. Tourists are usually trying to get to the Old Town, which is famed for its traditional architecture, beautiful scenery (the dramatic Cangshan range, the expansive Erhai Lake, and small handworked fields of pleasantly varied produce), minority cultures (mostly Bai but also Yi and Hui), and nightlife. There is also much to see and do in the surrounding countryside.
The climate is temperate with moderate summers and mild winters, though it can get rather windy in autumn and winter and the tropical latitude means some will need to bring extra sunblock.
Despite Dali's fame as a backpacker heaven, foreigners are now hugely outnumbered by Chinese tourists, as the town has developed a reputation as the country's go-to for one-night stands. Dali has recently been overshadowed by nearby Lijiang and many foreign tourists either bypass it or give it 1-2 days stay. Dali deserves more.
Dali has a long and rather glorious history. In 738, the Nanzhao Kingdom was established with Dali as its capital and covered a large area of Yunnan and northern Burma and parts of Sichuan and Guizhou. The original capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom was located in Weishan (within Dali Prefecture) and later moved to sites around Erhai Lake. The territory conquered was quite substantial and held over a long period. The kingdom survived almost 200 years and had 13 kings before collapsing. After several decades of chaos the Kingdom of Dali emerged in 937.
The Kingdom of Dali established by Duan Siping in 937 was controlled by the Duan clan and survived until conquered by the Mongols in the 12th century. The Kingdom retained a close alliance with the Tang Dynasty, and was one of the major transit points for the introduction of Buddhism throughout the rest of China. By 1000, Dali was one of the 13 largest cities in the world.
1856-1872 Dali was the headquarters of the Panthay Rebellion led by Du Wenxiu. That rebellion commenced as an uprising against local oppressive rulers by the Hui muslim minority and ended as open rebellion against the Qing Dynasty. The Palace of Du Wenxiu is on Fuxing Road and serves as the local museum (the museum exhibition on the rebellion paints it as a patriot workers revolt which it was not). The rebellion was brutally crushed by the Qing and hundreds of thousands of Yunnan muslims were killed in revenge.
Many local people in Dali have the surname Duan to this day (rare in other parts of China). These historical events are immortalised in the Martial Arts literature of Hong Kong author Jin Yong (read by every Chinese school kid), giving Dali a fame nationwide. Both the Nanzhao Kingdom and the Kingdom of Dali had a military alliance with the Tang Dynasty against the aggressive Turfan (Tibetan) Empire which made regular and aggressive incursions into their respective territories.
The rulers of the original Nanzhao Kingdom were probably precursors to the modern Yi peoples, while the Kingdom of Dali rulers were precursors to the modern Bai minority.
A huge memorial stele to the Pacification of Kingdom of Dali was built during the Ming Dynasty and remains standing at the end of Sanyue Street past the city's West Gate. Entrance is free. The Mongols destroyed the old capital and palace of the Kingdom of Dali, located just to the south of the Three Pagodas. Almost all records of both the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms were burnt or destroyed, leaving much unknown about these periods. In addition, the Mongols brutally displaced many of the inhabitants of the prefecture, with the result that Bai minority people were forced as far east as Hunan Province. Many ethnic Han also moved into the Kunming area during this period.
The old Dali City was rebuilt in the early 1400s by the Ming Dynasty. What you see in Dali Old Town today is the rebuilt Ming town. Since then, the fortunes of Dali have declined and its importance as a cultural and economic centre in the Yunnan area have been overtaken by Kunming, the provincial capital.
Buses from Kunming West Bus Station take about 4-5 hours and costs ¥138 for an ordinary bus and around ¥180 for an express luxury bus, and will bring you to Xiaguan (下关, Dali New City). Some buses go to Dali Old City, too, so check with the driver. In Xiaguan, there are three different bus stations, to reach the train station, go east along Jianshe Lu and Dianyuan Lu. From Xiaguan Train Station (in Dali New Town) you can take bus 8 and bus 4 (¥2, 40 min approx. 18 km (11 mi)) to Dali Old Town, 13 km (8 mi) to the north (Bus 4 also runs through the town). If you took an express bus from Kunming it will drop you off at the old bus station. You will be greeted by an array of locals trying to sell you rides to Dali Old Town. You can avoid them and make a right out of the bus station, then another right and walk then make a left when you hit the Y/T intersection and walk approx. 100 m (330 ft). There will be a bus stop there for bus 8 to Dali Old Town (no real sign, just see where the locals are waiting). From the new express bus station you can hang a right out of the station and walk approx. 500 m (1,640 ft), see the aforementioned Y/T intersection and cross over the street to catch bus 8. It's also possible to catch a white mini-bus on Jianshe Lu that run between Xiaguan and Dali, there's usually a white sign displayed inside the front wind shield that reads (大理<->下关) in Chinese. The cost for the mini-bus is ¥3. Taxi fare between Xiaguan and Dali should be around ¥40.
Buses coming south from Lijiang are about ¥60-80 and stop outside the old town, from where it is possible to get a taxi or walk to the main guesthouses. You can save about ¥20 on the Lijiang bus by simply hailing one on the highway east of the old town.
There is a bus service to Xiaguan from Jinghong, Xishuangbanna province, which has buses running at 17:00 and 21:30, possibly earlier too. Tickets are ¥195 and trip is 17 hours. The bus used on this route is a sleeper bus so you get a fairly comfortably bed and a blanket. This service may be useful for people who have arrived in China from northern Laos, e.g. Luang Namtha.
There are several night trains from Kunming to Dali Train Station (in New City) leaving 20:00-23:00, and arriving from 6-8 hr later. The cost is ¥105 for a night trains sleeper bunk, and ¥31 for day trains hard seat.
Bus 8 to the old town leaves regularly for ¥2 from just outside the station. After around 30 minutes it will stop near the East Gate, recognisable by the array of helpful people that will try to guide towards their taxis, restaurants or hotels. Head west along this street and you'll soon arrive in the centre of the old town. If you miss this stop stay on the bus for a few more minutes and get off at the end; this is the far north end of the city. Take the first right where the departing buses are waiting, continue straight (west) past the gate for the hospital and you'll come to the North Gate of Fuxing Rd.
There are currently (2014) at least 4 trains daily from Lijiang to Dali and back. The ride takes nearly 2 hours. ¥30 for hard seat.
There are at least (2014) 3 trains to Dali from Lijiang each day, the first one at 08:26 (K9612), the next one at 17:00. The last one is with the overnight sleeper to Kunming. The price is ¥34, for the hard seat. You do not need to go to the train station to book tickets, there is a train ticket shop on Yumihe Commercial Pedestrian St off Fuhui Rd. You may need to ask for directions but if you're walking down Fuhui Rd from Lijiang old town, walk on the right of the road and turn down the first open pedestrian street to your right, just before the bank on the corner. The shop is approximately 200 m (650 ft) down on the left hand side. There's a ¥5 surcharge on the tickets purchased from here as advised in English on the official government notice. (Feb 2013)
Alternatively, you can go to Kunming Wujiaba International Airport by plane. It is located in the southeast of Kunming. You can then take the Airport Shuttle bus from Kunming airport. They operate 06:30-22:00.
Old Town is small enough to get around on foot, and being laid out in a grid format it is relatively easy to navigate. The major landmarks are the South and North Gates with Fuxing Rd running between them, and Yangren St (Westerner's St) lined with cafés and tourist shops. City maps are readily available for around ¥5 but tend not to follow the usual north-at-the-top standard because the natural orientation of someone in Dali is to look towards the huge, looming Cangs Mountain which runs north-south next to the city. As you look at the mountains and face west, the lake is at your back (east). This method of orientation makes even more sense when you realize that the entire town gently slopes from the mountains to the lake, making those two landmarks a natural way to find your bearings.
Bikes are also available at many guesthouses and rental huts around town and cost ¥5-40 per day. Bikes vary greatly in quality so shop around for the best deal. Merida and Giant are among the better brands to consider.
Taxis in Dali Old Town generally cost ¥5 for under 3 km (1.8 mi) (though most drivers will ask for ¥10). For other locations outside Old Town, all prices are negotiable. A taxi to New City will cost around ¥40, to the railway station ¥50. A private car will cost the same (sep. 2014).
In addition to the Old Town, Dali is a Prefecture of over 10,000 km² (3,861 mi²). A whole range of destinations exist within the prefecture that are perfect for the adventurous traveller. All are relatively easily accessible from either Old Town or New City, the major city 13 km (8 mi) to the south. A lot of useful information is available from the cafes within the old town on day trips around the prefecture.
You might also take one of the tour buses by private operators starting in Old town. It costs 80-100 RMB a day. They take you to the cable car (included in the cost) followed by a simple lunch (included in the cost). Then they take you shopping to a Jade show room. They don't seem to force you to buy anything. Then a boat ride in on the lake with a little cultural show. Finally they take you to a tea sampling place and drive around the lake and return to Old town around 8:00pm.
If you visit Dali, plan to spend at least one day up in the mountains. You can also overnight at guesthouses behind Zhonghe Temple, enjoying the most blissful peace and quiet available in China. Well worth it!
Map of the trails and cable cars in Cangshan Mountains of Dali
The mountains are a national level Geopark and Nature Reserve and have much to offer plant, bird, flower and hiking enthusiasts.
Chairlifts available to go up the mountains and hike about 3—5 hours to the other chairlift to go down again (as of Apr 2012, the Zhonghe chairlift is not operating. As of Aug 2012 there is a new chairlift going up to around 4,000 m (13,123 ft). Recommended to purchase tickets before 12:00. ¥230.)
There seems to be efforts to deter hiking up the mountain to the Cloud Traveller's Path, and side trips from the path. All side trips seem to be closed (marked as do not enter, including one's marked as scenic sites on older hiking maps). Most maps on boards and at the ticket booths only indicate the Cable Cars, and ones that do show the trails are out of date and incomplete.
The path, called Cloud Traveller's Path, is extremely well built and in a better condition than many sidewalks in Chinese cities. It's supposed to be at an altitude of 2,500 m (8,202 ft). Most signs along the way are in Chinese and English. There is a cablecar at Gantong Temple.
The path is occasionally closed due to rockfalls, particularly in the section between the Seven Dragon Pools and the Phoenix Eye cave, as was the case for large portions of 2012.
From Zhonghe Temple you have a choice of paths running north or south, with each offering equally spectacular views of the mountains, valley and lake. The entrance to the walking path (the chairlift no longer runs to Zhonghe temple) is at walking distance from the city / Lily Pad / Jade Emu, although the start is hard to find (ask at your guesthouse or hotel).
The northern route of 6 km- (4 mi-) of path offers one of the sharpest cliff views of the entire Dali valley, and on a clear day you can see Jizu Mountain well beyond Erhai Lake. At the bend in the main valley it also offers a path up the mountains for 2 km (1 mi) which ends at a mountain pool where you can take a swim on a warm day.
Northern view on the Cloud Path in the Cangshan Mountains
The southern route winds down for 11 km (7 mi) through a few valleys to Gantong temple. This hike will lead you to most of the sights mentioned below and will take 3-4 hours. At Gantong temple, you have an option to ride the chairlift down or to hike down one hour along the well built path. You can even turn this into an 8-hr hike if you continue southwards Xiaguan along good paths (with several early exit points down the mountain) and enjoy the spectacular view.
Cangshan Gorge Starts at the southern end of the Cloud Travellers Path (Gantong cable car). The path is entrance is well marked by a viewing platform sign, 100m south of the 1st Gantong Cable car path (if approached from the north) and another path down to the cable car starts directly opposite. The viewing platform is only 20m from the main path and well worth the small flight of stairs. A cobbled path continues beyond, it passes three small pavilions, before becoming more overgrown (but still easy to follow) for about 20 minutes past the viewing platform up the valley terminating in the river bed. For the adventurous it is possible to continue up the river bed by clambering over boulders. The gorge offers arguably the best scenary accessible from the cloud travellers path.
A suggested route would be to hike up to Zhonghe Temple, take the northern path for 3 km (2 mi) enjoying the clearest view of the entire valley, then head back south past Zhonghe Temple towards Gantong Temple. You can buy refreshments at the temple, so take a break, then keep walking the full 11km until you reach Gangtong. Continue 100m past the first ropeway sign south and checkout the changshan gorge viewing platform (and if you still have time and energy do the walk - see above). If you are not up to the full walk, you can exit the mountain about 3km past Zhonghe Temple down a well made stairway behind Dali Tianlongbabu TV City.
You can also start Gantong Temple and go the opposite direction. This seems to be the common way for tourists. If you go by public transport, take bus 4 (¥2) and stop at Quanyintang (near a temple), after you need to walk about 30 min up to go to south chairlift.
You can start at the base station of the Changshan Cable Car, buy your entrance pass from the booth (or try your luck at heading straight up the path), then head 50m-100m south of the ticket booth (right if looking up the mountain) to the start of the path (corner of the parking lot. The path joins the trail 1.5km north of Zhonghe Temple.
Entrance to the Mountain Park costs ¥40 (sep. 2014) purportedly for keeping the mountain clean. If you're walking up to Zhonghe temple, the ticket booth can be avoided: Walk up towards the main (cablecar) entrance and turn right before the main gate. Continue for about 150m, and turn left when the path forks. When you reach a larger dirt road, turn left and walk downhill for about 100 m (328 ft) until you reach the old chairlift. A dirt path snakes uphill beneath the chairlift until you reach several small temples and the paved Cloud Path. An alternate route may be possible by turning rigt at the dirt road, but some travellers have reported running into uncomfortable confrontation at a poorly marked army camp; driveways, buildings, and courtyards near the start of this route should be cautiously avoided.
Chairlift ¥80 round-trip or ¥50 one-way.
A taxi to/from the Zhonghe temple chairlift is ¥15, to/from Gantong temple (about 8 km (5 mi) south of the old town) is ¥30.
Return minibuses from Gantong temple are ¥30. You can also walk 30 min to the main road, cross the street and walk to the right 50 m (165 ft) to a bus stop, costing ¥2 to return the south gate of old town.
If you are particularly dedicated, you can gain an access (also ¥30) to the mountain by taking a longer route behind the One Pagoda (follow the stone road) and up the stairway behind the Dali Tianlongbabu TV City.
Each of the four valleys you walk through offers spectacular views of both the mountains and forests as well as the entire Dali valley.
The Seven Dragon Pools, 6km from Zhonghe temple is a stunning set of mountain stream pools of varying colors and one of the highlights of the walk. (The pools are closed for construction work until Oct 2010.) In Aug 2010 the Phoenix' Eye Cave was also closed for unknown reasons. Both the pools and the cave are still closed as of Jan 2013. Still closed as of May 2014 and look closed indefinately.
The mountains themselves are home to beautiful wild camelias, orchids, rhododendrons, azaleas and abundant bird life. Dali is home to some of the rarest camellias in China and Cangshan was the source of most of these. The stock for most azaleas grown in Europe was sourced from wild azaleas on Cangshan. Most of the lower slopes are covered in replanted pine forests, with higher slopes, and steep valleys showing areas of more natural forest cover.
Erhai Lake Villages (洱海湖山庄). Total of 17 villages are spread along the Western shore of the Erhai Lake between Xiaguan and Xizhou. Take a tour by bike by riding East from Dali Old Town until you reach the lake in Caicun Village and then North beside the lake shore taking local paths and roads. A great opportunity to see village life at its best, meet locals, see the Banyan trees in each village square and admire local architecture. There are three Qing Dynasty bridges along the route. It is also possible to hike around Erhai Lake, following the West Erhai Ring Road (环洱海西路). There are various hostels and guesthouses you can stay at along the lake, as well as small restaurants selling specialist Bai minority food. It is a 6-8 hour hike from Dali Old Town to Xizhou, and you will pass through various small villages along the way. A more relaxed way would be to split the walk into two days, stopping off at a lakeside hostel for one night.edit
Erhai Lake. Visit Guanyin Temple and several islands. Go with a group and enjoy a great day out. Boats can be easily arranged as the owners come into town to drum up business and you can see what you are getting from the photobooks they carry. Ferry rides at real stations cost around ¥30. There are signs indicating that fishing boats and paddle boats can't carry tourists, although it is unclear what the definition of tourist is.edit
Butterfly Spring, (catch a minibus from outside the W gate). A shallow pool that periodically swarms with countless butterflies. Otherwise the site includes a fairly nice park, a small butterfly breeding centre and an utterly bizarre exhibition hall with various pictures made from hundreds of dead butterflies of different colours which were presumably raised and killed on-site.¥60. edit
Wase Market. Combine a trip to Erhai Lake with a visit to the Wase Market on the eastern shore of the lake. Wase is a traditional and conservative Bai town with a weekly market aimed at both townspeople and nearby farmers. The market offers an interesting look at life in a quiet country town, and runs every 5 days (5th, 10th, 15th, etc.).edit
Dali's famous Three Pagodas
Tang Dynasty Three Pagodas, (10 min by bike to the NW of Old Town (next door to Three Pagodas Hotel)). The compounds behind the pagodas were destroyed during the 1920s earthquake and later during the Cultural Revolution and were rebuilt starting in 1986. The Central Pagoda is almost 1,200 years old and represents a period when Dali was a Buddhist Kingdom. The Congshen Temple behind the Three Pagodas has recently been rebuilt and reopened, after deteriorating in the 20th Century due to earthquakes, fires and the Cultural Revolution. It is a massive complex that continues far up the mountain, where a climb to the top of the pagodas rewards with a beautiful overlook of Dali Ancient Town and Erhai Lake. Worth a visit for the Tang architecture, numerous statues of the Buddha and Guanyin with influences from both India and China, dragon fountains, and two small museum showcases.¥121 (student ID gives a 50% discount). edit
Shaping Market, (30 km (19 mi) N of Dali). Shaping Town offers a lively weekly market with plenty of local color. The market starts early. A great chance to see local farmers out in force and literally watch plenty of horse trading. Not much to buy (unless you are a farmer) but gives you the feeling of life in a small country town.edit
Xizhou, (20 km (12 mi) N of Dali). Xizhou has almost 200 national heritage listed private houses dating from the Qing Dynasty. The houses are among the best examples of traditional Qing architecture in China and are exquisitely detailed. Building craftsmen from Xizhou were famous throughout Southeast Asia and travelled to Vietnam, Myanmar and throughout Southwest China to build and decorate houses. When they made their fortune, they returned to Xizhou to build their own dream home. As most of these houses are currently occupied, you will need to be on your best behaviour, knock and enter with permission. The best way to see the finest examples are with a local guide as many of the interesting houses are difficult to find. Nonetheless, with a little legwork and good manners you can locate plenty of interesting architecture on your own. The family estate of the Yan clan is preserved as a museum and open to the public, and while an excellent example of the architecture of the very rich is too commercial and compares poorly with more ordinary family homes in the township. An American family helped to restore three nationally protected buildings in Xizhou, Xilinyuan, Yangzhuoran and Baochengfu. They used only local workers and their model of sustainable tourism has been embraced by the national government. They are working on other sites throughout Western Yunnan. Guests can tour their main site- The Linden Centre- for free from 1-5 every day. Baochengfu, which will open in January 2015 after two years of restoration, will have a cafe, restaurant, ceramics and cooking school, and Spa- all open to the public. In 2012 a new tourist robbery place have been opened near at the entrance of the city, it has the name of (喜韵居) they ask for entrance ticket (¥20) or in the national holiday obligatory performance ticket (¥60), but it is actually just a shopping place (tea/silver) with new buildings. To get to Xizhou （喜洲）from Dali Old Town, walk to San Yue Jie （三月街） which is on the northwest corner of the Old Town. There you will see a number of minibuses parked along the road with 喜洲 or 双廊 marked on the front. These depart regularly all day, and cost ¥8-10 for the 20 minute journey. To get back to Dali Old Town, you can flag down a southbound bus along the main road for roughly the same price.edit
Dali Bai Nationality Autonomous Prefecture Museum, Erhe Nanlu 8, Xiaguan (云南大理市下关洱河南路8号 (Bus 8 from Old Town and get off after the bridge, follow the river E (left) until just before the next bridge), ☎ +86 872 2128-614. closed 11:30-14:00. Worth a visit. It has an extensive collection of exhibits, with most signs in both Chinese and English. The museum grounds are beautiful as well, the exhibits are set around a traditional garden.Free, but requires ID to enter. edit
Eryuan. Eryuan is a small town next to Cibihu lake. After taking a bus that leaves every hour for ¥13 from the intersection with 214 National Rd near the North Gate market you can get off in Eryuan or anywhere along the way. If the bus is overloaded the bus driver's assistant will walk past police checkpoints with passengers that didn't have a seat. Cibihu Lake is about 3 km (2 mi) downhill from the usual bus stop in Eryuan. Very few motorbikes for hire go to the lake, so if you walk in, expect to walk out.edit
Chiyumo art space (赤与墨), No.C1 Hong Long Jing Rd (Old Town), (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Gives the opportunity to international artists to come exchanging an artistic experience in Dali, Yunnan, including Exhibition Shows, Artist in Residency programs, Artistic Creation and Meetings, indeed Collaboration with Chinese and foreign artists living in Dali.edit
Jizu Mountain (lit. Chicken Foot Mtn), (Further away from Dali to the northeast behind Wase on the east side of Erhai Lake, take a bus (2 hr) from Xiaguan Northern Bus Station to Binchuan and from there change to a minibus or bus (1 hr)). The mountain and its ranges look like a chicken's foot. Actually a 2-3 day trip in its own right. The top and slopes are covered in temples, many in a state of disrepair. Some have been restored and have resident monks. This is a difficult hike with the summit at 3,200 m (10, 500 ft). Be prepared. Or there are horse rides and a cable car that starts halfway up.edit
Xiaguan Hot Springs (下关温泉), (From the train station take bus 21 (Bus 8 runs from Old Town to the train station)). This swimming pool is called a hot springs resort because it probably really uses naturally hot water. Other than that it might be a little different from what most people might expect. These days it is a regular, pretty run down swimming pool (one pool on the inside, one on the outside, otherwise identical) with all the spa's (that are still on the price list) being closed. Interestingly there are places to stay in the resort with rooms around ¥280.¥12. edit
Dali day trips to minority villages and rural china, Café de Jack located on the Boai Street, number 82, 博爱路82号, Dali Old Town, Yunnan, ☎ '''+86/18487554791''', . Guided trips in English, Spanish and Chinese for independent travellers or family travel, minorities trip, hiking and biking day trips. We happy to organise your Dali adventure hussle free with unlimited fun.edit
Rice & Friends Chinese Cooking School, 1 Honglongjing, Old Town, ☎ +86 151 2526 4065, . Rice & Friends Chinese Cooking School offers hands-on Chinese cooking courses, highly rated on tripadvisor. Beautiful open-air setup with mountain views. Authentic and very personal 5-hr cooking experience, including outdoor-market shopping for ingredients, introduction to the theory of Chinese cooking, hands-on preparation of three dishes with a recipe booklet to take away and plenty of time for everybody to sit down together and enjoy the meal they cooked themselves.edit
As ever, be prepared to bargain when shopping in Dali. See Yangshuo#Tourist_stuff for advice on prices in Chinese tourist towns.
Dali has a number of famous local products.
Fried cheese - Yes, contrary to what many Chinese will tell you, China not only has but produces cheese! You might want to try the local rushan that is a crispy snack often wound around bamboo skewers. Available at many restaurants or from street stalls.
Marble - Dali has exquisite marble (a little difficult to carry) which is carved into all sorts of products: vases, ashtrays, carved animals and more. The marble stone can also be cut and polished revealing pictures on the surface. These are known as chushi and can be bought framed and make beautiful wall decorations. Many people can mistake them for traditional Chinese paintings. Cheaper chushi (generally the white and grey type) will sell for ¥60+ per item. More expensive and colored stone with clear mountain landscapes can be priced at ¥10,000+. The Chinese word for marble is Dalishi or Dali stone, indicating just how famous Dali marble is throughout China.
Tie-dye - The local tie-dye fashioned from dye and wax is also popular and cheap. One of the main production places is the Bai village Zhoucheng, about 40-min ride from Dali. This village also has a nice daily small afternoon market and some nice old Bai houses as well.
Embroidery - You can also purchase beautiful minority embroidery (generally Miao minority from Guizhou Province) at a number of shops. The embroidered items include baby carriers, clothing or decorative patches that were attached to traditional costume.
Teahouse - Dali has great teahouses. Relax in one regularly, buy a little tea and you will be welcome to come back at any time, with friends -- usually for free. Sample new teas and as long as you buy something every so often, you will be welcomed again and again. (Really what you're doing is buying exorbitantly and then not being asked to buy for a while -- it all works out.)
Antiques - There are many antique shops very close to each other on Yù'ěr Lù (玉洱路). Start at the intersection of Yěyú Lù (叶榆路) and walk west. It can be very interesting to browse here. Even if you're not a regular collector you will probably be tempted to buy something when you see how badly some of these treasures are being handled and stored.
Artisanal handicraft, (Upper end Renmin Rd), ☎ +86 872 250-1902, . 09:00-20:00 (closed M). The Birdbar Cafe now offers a wide range of hand made produce, all made by local dali artisans. Fresh roasted coffee beans, hemp body oil, soaps,handi-crafts ext.edit
In Old Town, Western food is widely available and cheap. For a traditional Chinese meal served catering for four people along with beer expect to pay ¥80. Western meals average around ¥50, including a bottle of local beer. Breakfast prix fixe menus are served everywhere and average around ¥25 including coffee.
Fruit stands and corner stores abound. Try to get a feel for prices before buying if you want to avoid paying exorbitant prices. You can buy apples for ¥1-2/shijin (0.5 kg/1.1 lb), a bottle of water for ¥1.5 and noodles/dumplings for ¥4/plate.
Golden Local-Style Noodles, Renmin Rd (Near Fuxing Rd, several storefronts to the left of Bad Monkey). Noodle shop that specialised in Cross-the-Bridge Noodles, a local specialty where a bowl of hot broth is brought to the table and the rice noodles and a number of plates with small quantities of other foods is immediately added by the waiter. The menu is all in Chinese but there are pictures displayed throughout and ordering should be no problem.edit
Vegetarian, Beef and Pork Dumplings, Renmin Rd. Great place for fresh homemade dumplings. Nine (9) dumplings with sauce just made and freshly steamed only cost ¥3.5.edit
Vegetarian Buffet (一然堂; YiRanTang), Boai Road (N of Mingcheng Art Garden Hotel, just off of Boai Rd), . 11:30-13:00, 17:30-19:30. All-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet operated by Buddhists, the choices are usually six different vegetable dishes, soup, rice, and pickled vegetables. You may fill your bowl as many times as you like, but you are expected to lick it clean in the end, and return it to the kitchen. There are also free tea and snacks.￥5. (25.688928,100.160961)edit
Marley's Cafe, Huguo Rd (Central Old Dali Town cross with boai), ☎ +86 872 267-6651. 1F restaurant. Bai dishes. Cheap and has a narrow balcony great for people watching. edit
Om Shanti, 245 Renmin Rd, ☎ +86 872 2679-306. Vegetarian restaurant which serves great food and has a laid back atmosphere. The staff are very helpful too and can give you loads of helpful information.edit
Sun Island Cafe (太阳岛; Tàiyángdǎo), 324 Renmin Rd, ☎ +86 872 267-6075. A couple of steps away from the main tourist avenues lies this hybrid of Chinese and Japanese culture. Genuine Japanese food cooked up by the Chinese/Japanese/English speaking owner or relax to some chilled out music. The Japanese crew that manages the place might even throw a Jombei, Didgeridoo, Jews harp party which guests are more than welcome to join in on using any of the plentiful instruments. If the night creeps up on you after to many drinks or smokes then there is also a dormitory for ¥20 a night.edit
Bakery 88 (88号西点店; 88hào Xīdiǎndiàn), 17 Renmin Road (人民路17号; Rénmín Lù) (Bakery 88 is currently closed for renovations and will reopen in its new location on April 13, 2014), . This German style bakery is easy to spot and has a great cake selection visible from the street. Run by a long term German resident, Karine, popular with visiting foreigners and locals alike. Delicious.edit
Bill's Place (火柴人), 105 Bo'ai Rd. On 2F. Large, comfy cafe serving properly made coffees (lattes, cappuccinos, etc) ¥25 for a large Americano. Seating on the terrace overlooking Bo'ai Rd. The entrance is on the corner, south of the blackboard opposite Foreigners' St entrance. Free WifF. Full menu.edit
Black Dragon Cafe (墨龙咖啡馆 mòlóng kāfēiguǎn), 42 Centre Sq, Foreigner St 人街中心广场42号 (In the alley two doors down from Bakery 88), ☎ +86 133 3055 6685 (+86 872 2670-535), . 09:00-?. Coffee and generous, mouth-watering meals - the wraps (chicken, beef, smoked tofu) are a speciality. An amazing collection of books to borrow or buy, from classics to the latest best sellers.¥28. (25.693305199641248,100.15970885753632)edit
Cafe de Jack (樱花园咖啡; Yīnghuāyuán Kāfēi), 82 Boai Rd (博爱路82号; Bó'ài Lù) (Closed as of April 2014, as the landlord is kicking out most of the tenants on this street. It will reopen later in a new location.), ☎ +86 872 2671-572. Definitely Dali's oldest Western cafe. Has a fireplace, great apple pie, pleasant atmosphere and a great rooftop garden. While the menu is a little tired, the breakfast is good, the chocolate cake legendary, and the lasagne just delicious. Spread over three levels, Cafe de Jack is the largest and most successful of the backpacker cafe/bars in Dali. Very popular with locals and travellers alike. The owners, local brothers Jack and Tim, are often on hand to provide good travel advice.edit
Goodfella's Pizza, 20 Renmin Rd (Follow Renmin Lu all the way to the western edge of Gucheng, nearly to the highway). Philadelphia native owner serves up the only authentic pizza pies in all of Dali -- or so it's propositioned. Locally sourced ingredients (ranging from sun-dried tomatoes to the spinach that goes into the pesto) are all incredibly fresh and delicious. Pizza not your thing? Perhaps the homemade hummus or upstairs bouldering wall will whet your whistle!.edit
La Dolce Vita (翡翠庄园), Opposite the Jade Emu International Guesthouse, ☎ 18687285211, . Newly opened in Dali, La Dolce Vita is a contemporary Western restaurant specializing in reasonably priced cuisine served in a beautiful and relaxed environment. All food is made to order from the finest fresh ingredients. A choice of homemade pastas are available alongside authentic pizzas, healthy salads, decadent mains and desserts. The Mediterranean style dining rooms and garden are the perfect settings for a lazy afternoon or a sophisticated evening. Also a popular Western Buffet in the garden every Saturday night, 6:30pmedit
La Stella's Pizzeria (新星比萨房; Xīnxīng Bǐsàfáng), 21 Huguo Rd, Old Town (护国路21号, Hùguólù), ☎ +86 872 2679-251. A well-run operation making generous portions of delicious wood-fired pizzas, pastas, salads and Chinese dishes at good-value prices. They also have a wide selection of alcoholic beverages. The staff speak English and there is a travel agent out the back of the three-storey restaurant. Worth a visit.edit
LP café (咖啡), A18 Hong Longjing Rd (红龙井A18号). LP café is the sort of place every neighborhood would be lucky to have. The staff is friendly, the food thoughtfully composed and prepared! LP café offers delicious deli styled sandwiches and snacks made with high quality ingredients to ensure that taste buds are titillated. Don't miss their great selection of imported wine and liquors.Last but not least, their amazing Lavazza expresso with a potent aroma and a flavour similar to freshly ground coffee, will satisfy the coffee lover.edit
Old Dali Four Seasons Inn (四季客栈; Sìjì Kèzhàn), 55 Boai Road (博爱路55号; Bó'ài Lù), ☎ +86 872 2670-382. Great place to meet people and pick up travel tips; the Inn is a major backpacker hangout and many discuss their next expedition over breakfast. Unfortunately, this place relocated and no longer provide all-you-can-eat breakfast.edit
Pirates' Pizza, (百合国际青年旅舍; Bǎihé GuójìqīngniánLvSshe), 13 Shizu, Ximen Village (西门村十组13号; Xīméncūn Shízǔ), at Lily pad Guest house (5 min from the center of Old Town, in the street just behind Jade Emu), ☎ +86 182 8720 9975 (email@example.com), . 10:00-23:30 daily. Real Italian thin crust pizza. Pizzas are made with daily fresh ingredients, natural yeast derived from fruits fermentation and homemade mozzarella with local milk. The menu has pure vegetarian pizza and meat pizza. Take away and delivery available.¥25-60. edit
Ruben's Belgian Waffles (比利时挖福饼; bǐlìshí wāfúbǐng), cnr of Fuxing Rd and Honglong Jing (Waterfall St), next to Dico's (红龙井和复兴路的十字路口,德克士旁边), ☎ +86 135 7701 5005 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 14:00-22:30 daily. This Belgian waffle place with a small terrace next to the water is run by Belgian expat Ruben and offers different types of delicious Belgian waffles. You can choose between Liege-style and Brussels-style Belgian waffles, with a choice of several toppings (hot Belgian chocolate sauce, whipped cream, chocolate/strawberry/mango/blueberry ice cream, etc). There's also a wide variety of Belgian beers available.edit
Serendipity (大理美国小馆;), No. 53 Guangwu Road (广武路53号) (At the intersection of Guangwu Rd. and Foreigners Street in Dali's Old City), ☎ 0872-2510086. Set up by a native New Yorker, this American style dinner serves all day authentic American breakfast. Come before 11:00, and get a free glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and endless coffee refills with your meal. This is also a great place to chat with locals, as the place has very steady regulars and the atmosphere is very friendly. Prices are reasonable for western food.edit
The Sweet Tooth (Sweet Tooth 甜点屋; Sweet Tooth Tiándiǎnwū), 52 Boai Rd, Old Town (博爱路52号; Bó'ài Lù). This cafe specializes in pastries and desserts. The cafe is owned and operated by the local hard of hearing. The owner, having studied culinary arts in the U.S., produces delicious and high quality desserts, coffee, and milkshakes among other items.edit
Tin Tin Belgian Waffles (丁丁挖福), 241 Renmin Rd (云南大理古城人民路241号 ) (near Dali No. 4 Middle School), ☎ +86 151 9838 7715 (email@example.com), . Tu-Su 10:00-22:00. In the old city. Offering Brussels-style Belgian waffles with a variety of toppings including their very own hand-made ice creams. Other menu items are sundaes, banana splits, fresh brewed locally-grown coffee, hot and cold teas, fresh fruit juices, milkshakes and Belgian Beers. Both indoor and outdoor seating¥8-18. edit
A 500 ml (17 fl oz) bottle of Dali Beer will cost you around ¥10-12 in a bar and about ¥3-4 from a grocer. A large selection of beer is on offer but some are coloured green and require an acquired taste. But for the price, there is no excuse not to sample the lot.
Bad Monkey (坏猴子; Huàihóuzi), 59 Renmin Rd, Dali Old Town (人民路59号; Rénmín Lù), . From 09:00. Dali's longest running foreign bar. It is hosted by two well-traveled Englishmen Carl and Scott who entertain guests before the dancing starts later in the evening with a Derek and Clive patter of jokes and one-liners. The Monkey is a magnet to travelers both foreign and Chinese (many of whom seem to wander in and never leave), as well as remaining popular with Dali locals. The bar has a pool table, dancing pole, a huge selection of local and imported beers and spirits (as well as their own pints of various Bad Monkey Beers on tap, made locally at the bar's microbrewery , and regular performances by bands and DJs. Opens in the morning as a cafe, providing real Western breakfasts; Thai, Indian, Chinese and Western cuisine are also available throughout the day.edit
Sun Island Cafe (太阳岛). A cool relaxed place where people come with music to spin. Owned by A Chun, an awesome, friendly girl from Lin Cang, this is a place to come and meet people and listen to music. Well worth a visit for a few drinks, well worth a stay in the rooms they have for visitors in the courtyard.edit
ClimbDali (大理攀岩), 20 Renmin Lu, . Boulder bar offers bouldering (and shoe rental), cheap beer, and information on rock climbing around Dali. Has a small bouldering wall upstairs and can arrange kayaking and rafting tours as well. Part of Goodfellas pizza. edit
非常麻辣烫 (Fēicháng má là tàng), Xiaguan, Renmin Jie (下关，人民街） (It may be hard to find since this is deep territory, but well worth a trip into Xiaguan, so bring a Chinese friend if you can't speak any Chinese, though if not, then if coming from Old Town in the north, ask a taxi driver to take you to the intersection of Tiānbǎo Lù （天宝路） and Rénmín nán jiē （人民南街）, from there it's a short walk south and on the right hand side, though the signage will be in its Chinese name). For most people who stay in Dali for more than a couple days, Xiaguan tends to get extremely short shrift. Dismissed as the more developed and industrial reminder of China that most foreign travellers in China want to blissfully forget, it contains more than a few gems that are regrettably passed over by the wash and lure of Old Town's all too visible tourist scene. This restaurant/bar makes an evening trip to the south of the lake worth it, though those wishing to stop there first while arriving in town would not be disappointed, since it tends to stay open late. They offer extremely kitschy Revolution-era Chinese military and cultural memorabilia decor, as well as one of the most friendly and talkative owners in the area (for those who speak Chinese, though you can always pretend you don't if you want a quiet evening), but the real deal is in the food and booze. Try their various homemade flavored liquors made from every fruit in the area, the Plum baijiu is one of the favorites (梅子酒）. The food is just unpretentious and absolutely delicious local comfort food, the stir-fried erkuai with peanuts and chives (炒饵块) and dumplings tossed in chili sauce shouldn't be passed over. Vegetarian options are limited, though its still worth the trip as a strictly drinking place for those coming from the Old Town. This place is closing within a year [as of March 2012] because the local government wants to demolish their block to probably make way for some fancy apartment buildings or drab retail center, and as one of the more interesting places in China outside of the huge metropolises, with honest staff and excellent quality food and drink, it deserves your patronage. Support this place and let them know their business would still be appreciated in a new location.
Neverland Cafe. On Bo'ai Lu, has homemade wine and fruit wines, needs your help in advising how to blend good wines. Great baked potatoes with tuna fish topping. Owner speaks English and listens to Billie Holiday. edit
金钻 KTV, (Opposite the West Gate). For those of you who are more used to Chinese style entertainment, the KTVs opposite the Old City West Gate offer a much cheaper alternative to Waterfall Street. Prices should be around ¥200 for a room and a dozen bottles of Dali beer. They have a surprisingly large selection of English language songs too. edit
The Linden Centre, Xizhou Village. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful settings to drink coffee or eat lunch, The Linden Centre has three elegant dining areas, a fully-stocked Western bar, and a terrace that floats above the surrounding rice fields and offers unimpeded views of the mountains and historic complexes of Xizhou village- all housed in a restored national relic! A must if you are visiting Dali!
The Backyard (后院酒吧), 100m South of Erhai Gate, HongWu Rd. (Hard to find, look for the X flag on old house or the light with logo at night), ☎ 18787291279. 6pm - late. Designed for local foreign and Chinese residents of Dali, but opened to tourist, The Backyard is focused on activities. There is a petanque field, darts, Foosball table, beer pong table and a pool table. Beer, Cocktails and snacks are available.10¥ - 50¥. (25.697961,100.170697)edit
Dali has some of the cheapest accommodation options available in all China, and as a hostel hotbed, is perhaps no surprise. Expect to pay ¥15-30 for a dorm bed, ¥40 and up for rooms, ¥60-300 for a double room with private shower and toilet.
Bird Nest (鸟窝), 22 Renmin Road (Tucked into a courtyard Bai house at the top of Renmin Rd), ☎ +86 872 2661-843, . Unique atmosphere and very comfortable range of rooms from dorm beds, single, double and suite rooms to a private, 3 bedroom courtyard house with kitchen. Free wifi, 24 hour hot water, chill bar, good pizza and great Greek style yogurt.¥30-500. edit
Dali Hump, 53 Hong Long Jing (Go to the intersection of Hong Long Jing with Bo'ai Rd. Walk up Hong Long Jing towards the mountains. Last on the right), ☎ +86 872 267-6933, . Run by a community of artists, musicians, performers, writers, tea enthusiasts, and food lovers from across China and around the world. Musicians can play and get free meals, and special prices for artists. Dorms and private rooms set around a Bai traditional style courtyard, all with private balconies and en-suite bathrooms (24-hr hot water). Stay for one week and the 7th night is free. Nightly music jam sessions. Free Djembe drum lessons. Outdoor bar, foreign and local beers. Free internet and WiFi. Nightly bonfires. Pool Room. Board games. Special rates for long term accommodation available. Regular events, parties and exhibitions.¥18-180. edit
Dali Garden Bed & Breakfast, 130 m from Erhai Lake (10 km (6 mi) N of Old Town), . Not a hotel or guesthouse. In the B&B you are a special guest and you can use also private parts of the house, such as the comfortable living room with TV. As guests, service and hospitality have a high priority. The B&B is build in Bai architecture with European influence. Guestrooms (doubles on 1F and twins on 2F) have modern Western facilities and an attached bathroom with shower. Includes: free pick-up (with minimum stay of three nights) from Dali airport/ Express bus station, Welcome Drink and Snack, Extensive Western Breakfast, Yunnan Coffee, Tea, free use of Bicycles, free WiFi, all mineral Water, Soft Drinks and Dali Beer you need during your stay and free Travel Information.edit
Dali Mingtong Yinxian Youth Hostel, Caicun Dock, Dali Old Town, ☎ +86 872 269-1261, 138 8863 5082. Just right on the lakeside of Erhai Lake, you can see the enjoyable view of the whole lake from the terrace on the third floor. Located in a Bai village, it is very quiet there at night.Dorms ¥25, ensuite doubles from ¥80. edit
Dali Three Pagodas Youth Hostel (Hostelling International), (Situated north-west of the old town, just west of the main road, and only a five-minute walk away), ☎ +86 872 266-6398, 135 2965 1981 (firstname.lastname@example.org). This hostel is quite new, has friendly staff and is clean and pleasant. They are still working on the courtyard and gardens but they already look great. There is a large comfortable lounge with two PCs and free internet access, self-catering kitchen, roof terrace with great views and a travel service. The hostel is empty off-season.edit
Dragonfly Garden Guest House, (Erhai Lake, a short ride on bus 2), ☎ +86 159 1260 0503, . Beautiful gardens with mountain view. DVD players in rooms. Set in authentic Bai village next to great swimming spots.Rooms ¥10-100. edit
Five Elements (五行客栈), Old Town W Gate Dazhifang 69 (W side of 214 Hwy, opposite of Hong Long Jing gate, walk N for 50 m or 500 m S of W Gate, on your R), ☎ +86 130 9985 0360 (email@example.com), . Facilities include: Staff that are fluent in both English and Japanese, comfortable rooms, organic food, freshly ground coffee each morning, clean spring water, convenient location (2 min walk to the town, and a beautiful garden area. Oh, and two cute golden retriever dogs. Drinks are also available.Dorm bed from ¥15, queen bed from ¥9o. edit
Hidden Plum Hostel (大理深巷杏花青年旅舍), 39 N Gate Rd, Old Town 大理古城北门街39号 (continuing of Fuxing Lu, one of the main streets going from the S Gate to the N Gate. From there walk out of town, crossing a little bridge, from there walk 100 m and you will see our sign on your left), ☎ +86 872 5363-591, . Situated around a huge and sunny courtyard featuring a wooden deck, a brick terrace and a huge area where guests use to play football, badminton or whatever they like, the wooden house features the reception area, bar, tourist information, couches, a computer free to use, free drinking water and 2 double rooms. The new part is where are located the dormitories, wide, clean and clear with tables and chairs at the front to chill and talk between friends. We offer as well book exchange and laudry machine, both free of charge. The staff organizes different kind of CS friendly parties out or in town, sometimes bbq if asked gently. ¥20-25 dorms, ¥80 double. edit
Higherland Inn, Zhonghe Temple, Cangshan Mountains, ☎ +86 872 2661-599 (+86 139 8853 9680), . Up in the Cang Mountains behind the Zhonghe Temple at 2600m altitude, with a spectacular view of the lake and valley. Usually peaceful, but the owners are not very welcoming, and tend to demand ridiculous prices for food, drinks and services; a place to overnight while exploring the Cangshan Mountains. Booking advised as capacity is limited.edit
The Jade Emu and The Jade Roo International Guesthouses, (outside the west wall), ☎ +86 872 2677-311 (+86 138 8723 2726, firstname.lastname@example.org), . Built in 2008 and the Jade Roo opened in 2010. Won the Hostelbookers Award for Excellence, 2010 and 2012 - Top 3 Hostels/Guesthouses in Asia. They are run by Dave (from Australia) and his partner Song (from China). Double, twin/triple share, singles, family suites and dorm rooms available, all are modern, clean and comfortable. Facilities include spacious courtyard and rooftop balcony, Facebook access, pool table, table tennis table, Foosball table, bar/cafe with outdoor home theatre system, free internet (6 PCs including Wi-Fi throughout the buildings), satellite TV, printing/scanning facilities, laundry service and/or free access to a washing machine, electric bike rental, discounted tours. Long stay discounted rates available．Dorms from ¥25-50, Private rooms from ¥65-180. edit
Lee's Guesthouse, Old Town, ☎ +86 872 2671-385, 3156-069 (email@example.com). Setup in 2008 and run by Lee's family from Inner Mongolia. It provides quality accommodation for backpackers. Cozy, clean and comfortable. Facilities include local Bai minority courtyard, mosquito-free accommodation, free internet & Wi-Fi, free movie, family dinner 7PM (book one day ahead), fax/printing/scan, cd/dvd buring, laundry service, quality bike rental(shimano system), 1 yuan/min international call and travel agency. English spoken.Dorm rooms and double rooms ¥25-290. edit
The Lily Pad (百合国际青年旅舍; Bǎihé GuójìqīngniánLvSshe), 13 Shizu, Ximen Village (西门村十组13号; Xīméncūn Shízǔ) (On the street just behind Jade Emu), ☎ +86 139 8856 9807 (+86 872 2677-807, firstname.lastname@example.org), . Recently expanded, the Lily Pad offers beautiful bedrooms (some of them en-suite) with a roof that has views of the pagodas, lake and mountains. The bathrooms have running spring water that comes from the same hills that supply the Dali mineral water plant. WiFi is available in all the rooms. Cheap laundry service, printing and a lounge for watching moves are also on offer but the real draw of the Lily Pad is the relaxed family atmosphere that the staff encourage. Food is good value for money, with bacon and eggs for ¥18 and a family style home-cooked group meal for lunch or dinner for only ¥15.Dorms start from ¥20, Doubles with shared bathroom from ¥35, ensuite from ¥60, cheaper for longer stays. edit
Mama Naxi Guesthouse Dali, 88 Fu'an Alley, Renmin Lu (Walk to E Gate on Renmin Lu. Go R after the No. 5 guesthouse (should be on your R). You should also see Wang Jia Zhuang Hotel written on the wall at the end of the St. Go there and then turn L. Walk until you reach the end and turn R), ☎ +86 151 9832 0421. Same as the one in Lijiang. Competitive rates for clean comfy dorms, double and triple rooms. Quiet, convenient location with friendly, knowledgeable English-speaking staff. Free internet and WiFi. Bike rental. Bus, train and airplane bookings. Discount tickets for local sights. Breakfast and family dinner. There is a nice courtyard to sit and meet other people. (CLOSED, now Lily's Garden Inn)¥25-?. edit
Rainbow‘s Nest International Guesthouse, 104 Guangwu Rd, Old Town, ☎ +86 153 48721 086 (email@example.com), . Newly built Bai style house with 9 separate apartments (incl the new ones on 3rd fl as of 8/13) each one equipped with living rooms, 2 w/"kitchens" and all have private bathroom. Open sunny courtyard garden. Rooftop entertainment area and chill out room with free movies. Washing machine, bike rental, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Free WiFi. Fridge available. Traveler information and bookings. Fluent English and Chinese staff. Discount Rates for weekly and monthly stay. Deal : Stay 6 nights get one Free. Monthly rate from 3600(Jul 2013). 3 new units (for short people) on 3F.Private rooms with living room and kitchen ¥170-288. edit
Dragonfly Hostel (清亭国际青年旅), 200 Pingdeng Rd, Dali, China (From train station or long distance bus station take the bus #8 to its terminal station then head south along Yeyu road for 500 meters then at Pingdeng road turn left and walk for 100 meters), ☎ (+86) 1800 872 4682, . Owned by an experienced hostel staff from Chengdu's mix hostel and her Dutch-American husband. The location of the hostel is inside the ancient city of Dali but far from the noise of the touristic spots. It is brand new, opened in 2014. Dorms beds have privacy curtains and extra wide IKEA beds. Cheap beers and large roof top area to smoke and eat BBQ. Suitable for long term stay. 25-165. edit
Smile Cafe, Renmin Rd, Old Town (5 min further downhill from the tourist concentration), ☎ +86 872 2670-565 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Intimate, charming and cheap with the comforts of Dali's best Guesthouses. The young English speaking couple that run Smile Cafe have befriended many a traveler with laid back attitudes, approachability, and helpfulness. Smile Cafe is on Renmin Ro, a main street. Cheap accommodation with nice rooms, laundry, free internet, hot water, courtyard with sun and Ping Pong, TV and DVD player.Dorms ¥25-30. edit
TTF Cafe Hostel, 11 Luyu Rd, Old Town 大理古城绿玉路11号 (1-min walk on Luyu Rd (绿玉路) from south end of Boai Rd (博爱路) where intersects with Yita Rd (一塔路)), ☎ +86 139 8853 6165 (email@example.com). This may be the best bargain in the area. Free green tea, internet machine, WiFi, 24-hr solar-hybrid hot shower, western-style toilet. Dorms and private rooms available.Dorms ¥15 (¥10 for members). edit
Bookworm Dali, Renmin Rd, . Run by a well travelled Beijing lady who speaks Japanese and French in addition to Mandarin and English. It was originally a bookstore and expanded to include a guesthouse at the urging of its customers. Bookworm is popular with the crowd who are in Dali for longer stays, making it useful to book in advance. They are among the few places in Dali who accept email bookings. edit
Dali Private House, Dali Jiulong Ju A3-4 (opposite Gurong Hotel), ☎ +86 158 9453 3443, . checkin: 14; checkout: 14. Private house to rent with all appliances provided. Discount for socially active tenants (baking cakes, helping in BBQ, painting etc.) possible.¥180. edit
Jim's Tibetan Hotel, Lu Yu Xiao Qu Yu Yuan Xiang 4 (walk outside the Bo'ai Lu S Gate and keep going up until you see a sign for Jim's Tibetan hotel), ☎ +86 872 2677-824 (+86 138 8723 5081, firstname.lastname@example.org), . Very comfortable, clean and well appointed single, double and 3/4 bed family rooms. Relaxed service. Downstairs is a cosy and good cafe & restaurant. Owner Jim (a local) is a fluent English speaker and was the first local to start business with foreigners, interesting guy! Together with his wife he organizes great (day)trips: trekkings, overland to Tibet etc, can be found on their website. Bookings accepted by e-mail.Singles/doubles from ¥300. edit
Koreana Guesthouse. This Korean-themed guesthouse is on the Foreign St very close to the Chinese Construction Bank ATM. The staff is pleasant and well-trained and the manager speaks good English. They have Western toilets! They also provide a quick and free laundry service. Avoid rooms facing the street as they can be quite noisy in the evenings and mornings.¥150-300. edit
MCA Hotel, Wenxian Rd (150 m from S Gate), ☎ +86 872 2673-666, . checkout: 12:00. Charming courtyard with potential for a really nice hotel, this place currently is a mere shadow of itself - the empty pool says it all. Friendly staff with actual desire to be of help. Plenty of genuine regional, fair-priced restaurants just next door. Bus #19.Double w/ bathroom from ¥80. edit
New No. 5 Guest House, (Down Renmin Rd near E Gate). A nice, quiet spot on the East end of Old Town. It's rooftop deck claims a very nice view of the area. English is spoken here, but the guests are typically Chinese.edit
No. 3 Guesthouse, Huguo Rd, ☎ +86 872 2664-941. Nice, inexpensive, quiet option just outside the gates of the old town. The helpful staff speak Korean, Chinese and English and will accommodate most reasonable requests. Rooms on the second floor are pricier than those on the first. Restaruant on the first floor specializes in Korean fare but offers other dishes as well. Rooms are relatively clean.You should be able to bargain a double down to ¥70-80, including private bathroom. edit
Sam's Hotel, Yuxiu Rd, 2 Yuyuan St, Old Town (Just outside South Gate), ☎ +86 135 0872 4012, . Run by Bai local Sam, the hotel offers peaceful and spacious modern bedrooms with bathtubs. The hotel also offers a family suite and a comfortable modern group room. There is a restaurant and a bar serving Chinese, Bai and Western food. There is a rooftop deck with a nice view. Sam speaks excellent English and he is of help to anyone journeying in China. ¥80-120. edit
Tibetan Lodge, 58 Renmin Rd, Dali Old Town, ☎ +86 872 2664-177, 2678-917. A guest house and restaurant with a lot of character and atmosphere. Cheap but with mediocre service. Sometimes no A/C. Room types available include singles, doubles, triples, family, and suites. Slow but free internet is provided (wireless or on very slow desktops in the lounge). The restaurant downstairs is good, but a little on the expensive side.Single rooms from ¥39. edit
Youyu Hotel, FuXing Rd. A 10-bedroom hotel located just south of the North Gate (head south from the gate, and it's on your right after about a five minute walk). Has WiFi throughout, free use of a washing machine and drying space, and friendly staff (although they speak little-to-no English). Double with private bathroom (including bath) and spare bed from ¥60 (Dec 2013)From ¥60. edit
Yu Yuan Guesthouse, (A block W of the main tourist area), ☎ +86 872 2673-267. New, clean, with friendly English-speaking staff. Doubles with bathtub and electric blankets. The breakfast is good.Doubles ¥80 including breakfast. edit
Jim's Tibetan Hotel, Yuxiu Lu 13 Yuyuan 4 (just outside the small S Gate in Old Town), ☎ +86 872 2677-824, 2440-014 (+86 138 8723 5081, email@example.com), . Beautiful spacious rooms with colouful and handmade furniture. Singles, doubles, 3 and 4 bed family rooms. Great garden, rooftop bar and terrace. Playground for kids. From ¥300 incl BF. Same owner as Jim's Guesthouse (see above). Owner Jim (a local) is a fluent English speaker and was the first local to start business with foreigners/ Organizes great (day)trips: trekkings, overland to Tibet etc, can be found on their website. Bookings accepted by e-mail.edit
Landscape Hotel (大理古城兰林阁酒店; Dàlǐgǔchéng Lánlíngé Jiǔdiàn), Yu'er Rd, Old Town (大理古城玉洱路96号; Dàlǐgǔchéng Yùěrlù) (At the foot of Cang Mountain close to Erhai Lake), ☎ +86 872 2666-188 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +86 872 2666-189), . Spacious rooms with internet access against surcharge. Business center, currency exchange, gift shop, ticket office, massage and sauna available. Chinese restaurant, coffee shop and room service.Listed rates for doubles from ¥460, discounted from ¥250, incl breakfast. edit
The Linden Centre, 5 Cheng Bei Xizhou (19 km (12 mi) N of Dali in Xizhou), ☎ +86 872 2452-988, . In one of Southwest China's most pristine examples of traditional Bai architecture. Developed and managed by an American couple who has been involved in China since 1984, offers 14 upscale double rooms in the completely restored, nationally-protected villa. The Centre also has a small museum, two restaurants, a cafe/bar, library, conference rooms, exercise room, and four elegant courtyards full of gardens and outdoor seating.edit
Linden Centre. 喜林苑 is one of the only national relics open to overnight stays in China. Long time China residents (since 1984) and American scholars Brian and Jeanee Linden (Stanford and University of California) spent three years restoring one of China's most impressive examples of pre-revolutionary architecture. The Centre has been chosen as China's Hotel of the Year by Tripadvisor.com, and the Lindens have been recognized with international accolades such as Travel and Leisure's Global Vision Award and Society of American Travel Writers Phoenix Award. The Linden Centre has 16 guest rooms, a restaurant, bar/cafe, fitness centre, game rooms, etc., and a library of 2000 volumes highlighting the history and traditions of the region. The Lindens have two other nationally protected sites in Xizhou: 1. The Linden Commons, which has 14 elegant guest rooms, a Western and Chinese restaurant, ceramics/painting/textiles workshops, holistic Spa, and upscale cooking school; 2. The Education Annex, which houses innovative learning programs for international schools and universities, including Sidwell Friends Semester Program and Shanghai American School's Micro Campus. The three sites, along with the Lindens' 75 staff, most of whom are locally trained and supported by the Lindens, make Xizhou one of the most uniquely authentic rural destinations in China.
Regent Hotel (大理风花雪月大酒店; Dàlǐ Fēnghuāxuěyuè Dàjiǔdiàn), Yu'er Rd, Old Town (大理古城玉洱路; Gǔchéng Yùěrlù) (On Cang Mountain facing Erhai Lake), ☎ +86 872 2666-666 (email@example.com, fax: +86 872 2682-082), . Five star hotel in Bai architecture style. Very large rooms with free internet. Business center, currency exchange, gift shop, beauty salon, ticket office, karaoke, night club, billiards, table tennis, fitness, tennis, massage and outdoor swimming pool available. Chinese and Western restaurants as well as coffee shop and bar. The hotel comes with everything you can expect from a Chinese five star hotel, but lacks something in taste, service and Western breakfast compared to what you will find in larger cities.¥880-5,800 incl breakfast. edit
The Public Security Bureau (for visa-related affairs) is on YuHua Lu, and can be reached very easily by taking the number 8 bus and getting off when you go past the big building with the Eiffel tower-lookalike antenna on the roof; this is the PSB.
There are a few scams and petty crime targeting tourists in Dali. Watch your belongings carefully to protect from pickpockets and theft, though perhaps the major risk you take if staying in cheap accommodation is theft by other foreign travellers. Overall Dali is a very safe place with little crime directed at tourists.
If you are planning to hike up the Cang mountains, travel in a group both to protect yourself from robbery and as back up in case of accident. Stay on the paths and don't take any risks climbing no matter how experienced you are, as fatal accidents do happen!
As with most places in China, make sure you get your tickets to attractions from a reputable source. Touts outside may try and sell you used tickets. Cangshan Cable Car tickets are hole punched so easily spotted, although they may try and cover up the hole (especially when you point it out to them).
Drugs disguised as strange artifacts are usually sold by women in traditional Bai costume, who will then lead you to their homes. Marijuana was widespread in Dali's foreign bars before 2009, when police crackdowns and arrests forced the smokers back into the alleys and guesthouses. It is still widespread, of course, but it is no longer tolerated in public. It is not uncommon to see marijuana growing in the wild. Women may also offer you "opium," though it is just worthless garbage, possibly sesame oil pressed with some unknown substance. The summer of 2012 all the old ladies and other dealers have disappeared or do not sell any weed anymore.
Don't get your shoes fixed by men approaching you on the corner of Fu Xing Rd and Foreigner St. Even if a price is agreed, they will add a couple of extra stitches and charge ridiculously inflated prices (¥200-300). You're in a difficult position to argue because they have your shoes! Just go to a regular established shoe shop (there are several towards the East end of Renmin Rd) where you can get your shoes repaired well for less than ¥10.
To Kunming (340 km/210 mi), direct buses from Old Town to the West Bus Station can be arranged through any hotel or travel agent in town for around ¥120. Direct flights to Kunming, as well. To the Kunming Airport, an express shuttle runs between the Kunming West Bus Station and the airport for ¥8, taking approx 45 min.
Many travelers from Kunming continue on from Dali to Lijiang or hopping around to the different points around Dali's er'hai lake. Consider staying at Xizhouzhen (38 km/24 mi to the north) if you like quiet old towns.
Consider taking the smaller bus through the mountains toward Jianchuan (can be picked up at the main bus station in Xiaguan - "New" Dali City). Get off the bus at the fork in the road in the village of Diannan (about 8 km south of Jianchuan). Get into a minibus and visit the Old Southern Silk Road town of Shaxi. The town has been well preserved and still holds much of its traditional character. The valley around it is littered with Qing and Ming Dynasty homes, bridges, theatres and temples. It is also the main jumping off point to visit the beautiful grottoes at Shibaoshan. After your visit to Shaxi it is easy to continue your journey. A minibus from Shaxi or Shibaoshan can take you to the main bus station in Jianchuan. From there it is easy to get a bus on to Lijiang.
There is also a sleeper service to Shangrila, coming from Xiaguan, and passing Dali at 20:30h (¥120). However, it fills up quickly and can only be booked at a few agencies on Foreigners Rd (as of Oct 2009). Buses depart from Xiaguan North bus station every half hour in the morning until 12.30pm. The #8 bus can be taken to get here from old town.
The border with Myanmar (Burma) is approx 240 km (150 mi) southeast of Dali; a bit closer is Nujiang and the Three Parallel Rivers Area of Yunnan.
This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!