Dashanbao (大山包) is a remote place in China in the Southern Province of Yunnan. Find out why is it worth a visit and what are some things to do and to see.
If you have never heard of the natural reserve of Dashanbao don’t worry: you are not alone. Just Google Dashanbao and you’ll see that the only info about this place is from my blog and a few other websites.
The idea of visiting a place with an altitude of over 3000 meters, in winter, didn’t sound so appealing to me. But when the Local Tourism Bureau invited me, I knew that this was a unique chance for me to visit a place that is virtually untouched by mass tourism.
Long story short, after a few days I was in a car with two Chinese drivers, heading to Dashanbao!
Where is DaShanBao and why you should go?
Dashanbao is located in the eastern part of Yunnan province, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and diverse provinces in China.
Yunnan is a quite popular touristic destination but most of the time people visit Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La or the rice terraces of Yuanyang. After that some head to Tibet (remember that you need a special Visa to access that area) or fly somewhere else in China. I think those places are definitely worth a visit but Yunnan has much more to offer.
For example, few people know that in the south in Xishuangbanna, near the border with Laos, there are wild Elephants in the only tropical forest in China. In the opposite direction, the alpine forest in the north of the province is home to the last Yunnan Snub-Nosed Monkeys. In previous posts, I talked about another unique place in Yunnan: Luoping, famous for its huge canola flower fields that few people know about.
Of all the places I just mentioned, Dashanbao is, if possible, even less known. In fact, even many Chinese people who live in Yunnan have never heard of it.
The average altitude of Dashanbao exceeds 3000 meters but the weather in winter is not as cold as you would expect. The yearly average temperature though is quite low: 6,2° C. If you don’t like the humid tropical weather so common in Asia, Dashanbao is the right place for you.
Another good reason to visit Dashanbao is to see the rare Black-necked crane. There are only about 6000 of them left in the world and in the months from September to March, they spend the winter in this plateau.
Finally, I have to say that people are really welcoming and friendly. Communication is quite difficult because even if you can speak Mandarin, most people speak local dialects.
Dashanbao is in fact home to the Miao and Yi minority besides 21 other ethnic groups. Nevertheless, Chinese people love foreigners and they will certainly try to communicate with you. All you need is a big smile and a lot of patience.
If you have the chance of visiting this remote place, you’ll see shepherds who are still living a very traditional and simple life. In this part of China, development is quite behind: better if you can get there before it’s too late!
These women belong to the Miao minority.
The Black-Necked Crane
If you like photography, Dashanbao is a great place for you too. Besides beautiful landscapes, you’ll have the possibility to see and photograph the Black-necked cranes, and you can get pretty close: the municipality has in fact built a big hide where you can observe those beautiful birds without disturbing them.
The entrance of the hide
Even if you can see them quite close I suggest at list a 100-400mm lens if you want to take some portraits of the cranes.
You can see the cranes only on Winter, don’t forget that.
How to get to Dashanbao
Getting to Dashanbao it’s not easy. The closest city is Zhaotong, which is about 80 km from the plateau.
As far as I know, there is no public transportation and even if there might be some buses, once you get to the plateau you definitely need a car to explore it. Zhaotong itself is not connected to many other cities in China. You can fly to Zhaotong only from 5 cities: Chengdu, Chongqing, Guiyang, Kunming, and Beijing.
For these reasons I think that using a local tour operator will be a better idea. One of the best in Yunnan is Wonders of Yunnan Travel. They speak english and can tailor-make a tour for you. Feel free to tell them that you got their contact through my blog.
Before heading to Dashanbao, if you come from a long trip, I suggest you rest one night in Zhaotong. You can find a hotel on Booking.com. Then in the morning, you can head to Dashanbao. Two days in the plateau should be enough for most of the people.
Remember that in China the internet is censored and you won’t be able to access Gmail, Instagram, and Facebook unless you use a good VPN. I use this VPN and it’s very reliable.
Dashanbao is a great place for photography, hiking, and relaxing. But even if you only want to see a different side of China, one who is almost never mentioned on western mass-media, then this is the place to go.
This destination is not for everyone: it’s hard to get there and there are no 5 stars hotels, but if you can sacrifice your comforts you will be rewarded by the beauty on this plateau.