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Dashanbao (大山包): Yunnan off the beaten path

Dashanbao (大山包) is a remote place in China in the Southern Province of Yunnan. Find out why it is worth a visit and what are some things to do and see.

gru dal collo nero in cina

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 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 this was a unique chance to visit a place 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 it, and why should you go

things to see in dashanbao

Dashanbao is located in the eastern part of Yunnan province, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and diverse provinces in China.

Yunnan (here is my guide) is quite a popular tourist 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. Those places are definitely worth visiting, but Yunnan has much more to offer.

Almost no one, however, explores the northeastern part of Yunnan. There are several reasons for this: it is not highly publicized, it is not easy to get there, and few facilities are equipped to accommodate foreign tourists.

Despite these difficulties, I must say that those who will go this far will not be disappointed. The landscapes are truly majestic, and despite being over 3000 meters, the climate is not as cold as expected. The Dashanbao area is a huge plateau with several wetlands or wetlands. The average temperature throughout the year is 6.2° C. So if you don’t like the humid heat typical of Asia, you will have no problem here.

Another good reason to visit Dashanbao is to see the rare Black-necked crane. Only about 6000 of them are left in the world, and from September to March, they spend the winter on this plateau.

black necked crane china

Finally, I must say that the people are welcoming. Communicating is difficult since many speak only local dialects in many remote areas of Yunnan. However, you will have a way to make friends or at least try to interact with someone local: Chinese people are very curious, and it is not every day in this area that they see a Laowai (a foreigner).

If you can walk the streets of this plateau, you will meet herders who have lived the same way for hundreds of years, women who walk miles every day with wicker baskets on their backs to go to the village to buy food, and a few Chinese tourists.

If you can visit this remote place, you’ll see shepherds still living a traditional and simple life. In this part of China, development is quite behind: better if you can get there before it’s too late!

The Black-Necked Crane

If you like photography, Dashanbao is a great place for you, too. Besides beautiful landscapes, you’ll be able to see and photograph the Black-necked cranes, and you can get pretty close: the municipality has built a big hide where you can observe those beautiful birds without disturbing them.

Even if you can see them closely, I suggest a zoom lens. You can see the cranes only in Winter, don’t forget that.

How to get there

dashanbao map

Getting to Dashanbao is not easy. The closest city is Zhaotong, 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 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.

Before heading to Dashanbao, I suggest you rest for one night in Zhaotong if you are coming from a long trip. You can find a hotel on Then, in the morning, you can head to Dashanbao. Two days in the plateau should be enough for most 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 this is the place to go, even if you only want to see a different side of China, which is rarely mentioned in Western mass media.

This destination is not for everyone: it’s hard to get there, and there are no 5-star hotels, but if you can sacrifice your comforts, you will be rewarded by the beauty on this plateau.

You can find my travel guide about Dongchuan, not far from Kuning. Another hidden gem in Yunnan is Shaxi Old Town. Here is a post about the Jiuxiang caves always in Yunnan.

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