In this guide I explain how to organize a trip to Puzhehei, just one hour from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan.
Puzhehei is located in Qiubei County (丘北县) about 280 km from the capital of Yunnan, Kunming. This makes it the ideal destination for a day trip from Kunming, especially since the area has been connected by fast train (it takes about an hour from Kunming to Puzhehei).
This place is famous for the typical karst hills (312 to be precise) similar to those that can be seen in Yangshuo and Xingping near Guilin, for the many rivers and ponds (54 in all), and also for the many caves (over 100). In addition, in summer the ponds are filled with lotus plants in full bloom, which makes the landscape even more beautiful.
Puzhehei is located at an elevation of about 1400 meters but the climate is relatively warm all year round: in summer there are over 30 degrees and in winter the average temperature is around 15 degrees.
Most of the people living in the area, which covers about 165 square kilometers, belong to the Yi ethnic minority. They named the area which in the local language means “ponds filled with fish and shrimps”.
What to see in Puzhehei (普者黑) and how many days to stay?
One day is more than enough to visit the area. If you also want to see the sunrise then I suggest you stay for two days and one night.
Here are some of the things to do and see in Puzhehei.
Qinglong Mountain 青龙山
The Qinglong Mountain is the ideal point to see the sunrise. Like all similar places in China, you will find a path full of steps that will take you to the top of the hill in about 15/20 minutes. From there you can have an almost 360° view of the entire area. The path is located near the area where I recommend staying for the night.
Torch Cave (火把洞)
Exactly below the mountain, there is a cave called Torch Cave. The ticket costs 16RMB and can be an idea to spend some time sheltered from the sun in the afternoon. As it happens all over China in a similar place, the caves are lit with psychedelic lights. Another example, also in Yunnan, are the Jiuxiang caves. I talked about them here.
The caves are kinda ok but given the very low ticket price it can still be worth it.
To access the caves look for this small structure towards the end of the trail at the foot of Qinglong Mountain.
A boat ride
If you feel like spending 170RMB you can take the boat that will take you around most of the scenic area of Puzhehei. It can be a different way to explore and photograph new places especially if you don’t have a drone.
You will need a waterproof action camera as you’ll most probably get wet since people on other boats will likely throw water on you.
Exploring the area on foot
The whole area is full of trails so the best way to explore it is on foot. The Chinese obviously stay on the main trails and that means that, especially in August, they can be quite crowded. So I suggest to avoid them and explore the secondary ones.
There are also many horse-drawn carriages but I would personally avoid this option.
In summer the sun is very strong and unfortunately, there are not many areas in the shade so bring sunscreen and, why not, an umbrella to protect you from the sun.
The village of Puzhehei has nothing interesting to see. It’s currently being renovated but, unlike other areas such as Lijiang, the houses are not built using local materials and the village is ugly and anonymous.
When is the best time to visit Puzhehei?
The best time to visit Puzhehei is when there are lotus flowers and this happens between July and August.
That said, unlike places like Luoping where the only reason to go there is to see the flowers, Puzhehei can be visited all year round. Non-summer months are considered low season and hotels are much cheaper.
Where to sleep in Puzhehei and what to eat
If you plan to visit this area during the high season keep in mind that the hotels are very expensive, at least by Chinese standards and unfortunately there are not many of them that are allowed to host foreigners. I advise you to stay close to the Qinglong mountain (青龙山) and near the bridge that you see in the picture above, for example in this hotel.
The food is honestly not great. The restaurants are all of very low quality and are very expensive, especially compared to Kunming. This has been confirmed to me both by friends who have visited the place before me and by the owner of the hotel where I stayed.
I advise you to eat only where you see a lot of other customers because the food will necessarily be fresher. One of the typical dishes of the area is mini purple potatoes. They are first boiled and then fried. The dish is called Xiao zi yang yu (小紫洋芋).
How to get to Puzhehei?
Getting to Puzhehei is very easy especially if you leave from Kunming. Puzhehei is often mentioned together with Wenshan in other articles but keep in mind that the city of Wenshan is about 100 km far from Puzhehei.
- The fastest way is to take the train from the Kunming south train station (昆明南站) to Puzhehei. The ride takes about an hour.
- Once arrived at the Puzhehei station get out and turn right, then you will see the bus station.
- From there take the bus to the scenic area of Puzhehei (the other buses take you to the city which is 30 minutes from the scenic area). Look for this writing: 普者黑风景区. The ticket costs 5RMB (the driver will not exchange the money if you don’t have the right amount). From the station to the village it takes about 40 minutes. The taxis will ask you at least 100RMB.
Alternatively, you can take the bus from Kunming to Qiubei and once in Qiubei, you have to take another bus to Puzhehei.
If you are going to visit Puzhehei mainly to take photos keep in mind that 90% of the photos you see in this article were taken with a drone. It’s possible to take good pictures even without one, but there is only one panoramic viewpoint (Qinglong Mountain) and the view is partially obscured by trees as you see in the picture below.
The best view from the mountain is at sunrise. Remember that, as I explained in this article about the rice terraces in Yuanyang, you have to get up very early if you want to place the tripod in the best position. In this article, you will find some information about the use of drones abroad.
In this page you can find some more pictures I took in Puzhehei. Here you can read an article about the colorful rice fields in the Maidichong village. Here an article about Mile and Fuxian Lake, both very close to Kunming.