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Two days in Heqing (鹤庆县): discovering the ethnics minorities in China

Heqing (鹤庆县) it’s a small Chinese town. Find out why it’s worth spending a couple of days in this place in Yunnan.

heqing pear trees bloom yunnan

In this article, I talk about another off-the-beaten-path corner of Yunnan, one of China‘s most fascinating provinces. After visiting Dashanbao and Luoping it’s time to explore Heqing, one of those places that are really never mentioned in the travel guides.

How to get to Heqing and when it’s the best time to go

heqing yunnan

Heqing is located halfway between Dali and Lijiang. It can easily be reached by train or by plane. Lijiang airport is closer to Heqing than to Lijiang itself.

If you are planning to visit Dali and Lijiang, Heqing can be a good alternative to avoid the hordes of Chinese tourists at least for a few days. Heqing is geographically located on a plateau, like most of Yunnan, and is characterized by warm summers and cold winters. The climate is fairly dry and rarely rains during the year. The rainiest months are in summer.

The best time to visit Heqing is spring, around the second half of March, when in the nearby town of Qifeng (奇峰) you can see over 20000 pear trees in full bloom.

Traveling around China (here’s my guide) it’s relatively more difficult than in any other country. This is especially true in places like Heqing where no one can speak English and most of the local people can’t even speak mandarin: they speak local dialects. That’s why I recommend to use a local travel agency.

Things to do in Heqing

bai qifeng

Most of the population of Heqing belongs to the Bai ethnic minority, one of the several ethnic groups in Yunnan. Visiting this small town is a good opportunity to learn more about them and to see the differences between the Bai and the Han (the largest ethnic group in China). Here are other things you can do in this town and the surrounding area.

Heqing Qifeng (奇峰) pear flower festival

minority tibet

In 2016, the local government organized the first festival in Qifeng to celebrate the pear blooming season. The local authorities invited me and I gladly accepted. The festival was held on March 15 and the program included dancing and singing by some of China’s ethnic minorities.

As it often happens in areas like this, I was the only foreigner and the locals were really friendly and welcoming.

Here some of the pictures I took during the festival:

Walking around the pear trees in full bloom

Spending some time walking in the countryside surrounded by beautiful scenery it’s probably not the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about China. But that’s exactly what you can do in Heqing.

Relaxing in one of the many parks

yellow dragon pond heqing 1

There are several nice ponds around Heqing. The biggest ones are the Yellow Dragon Pond and the Black Dragon Pond. The Yellow Dragon Pond has a footbridge that stretches over a part of the lake and it’s really peaceful.

yellow  dragon pond heqing

Furthermore, TNC has worked hard to create a natural reserve in one of the wetland areas in Heqing. Every year there are more than 8000 birds coming in this small town during winter.

Exploring the countryside

heqing farmers

If you walk around a bit you’ll see how most Chinese people live: working hard in the fields for many hours every day. Men and women alike have a tough life and I’m sure you’ll return home appreciating a bit more the comforts we enjoy.

Visiting the Heyang Temple

heyang temple heqing 1

When I visited the temple, it was still under construction. I guess it should be finished by now.

It’s located on a hillside and the scenery it’s truly beautiful and peaceful.

A visit to one of the several silver workshops

heqing silver smith

One of the cliches about China is that everything made in this country has poor quality. While most of the time this is true, in Heqing you can find many incredibly talented silversmiths. They can create beautiful teapots made of silver or gold. The prices are not cheap though.

Final considerations

temple heqing 1

I can say that I really liked Heqing and it was a nice surprise. It’s certainly not as famous as the nearby Dali, Lijiang, or Shaxi old town but this does not mean that it’s not an interesting place to visit.

It’s not a tourist destination and that’s why it’s still authentic. People are very kind and there are even a few hotels that can accommodate foreigners.

Before visiting China remember to get a good VPN to access censored websites like Google. I use ExpressVPN.

If you decide to visit Heqing, you will certainly be welcome and if you arrive at the right time you might even end up on a local TV like me…

interview in china

Here some of the pictures I took in Yunnan. Here my travel guide to Jiangsu Province. Here an interesting post about the conservation efforts of TNC in China.

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