Old Town of Lijiang

Old Town of Lijiang
Photo by Els Slots.

The Old Town of Lijiang represents a fusion of indigenous Naxi architecture and culture with external influences.

The Naxi-minority descends from Tibetan nomads. They have a matriarchal family tradition and an over 1000 years old script. This script consists of pictograms, and is kept alive by some individuals. 

Lijiang has an ingenious ancient network of waterways, that is supplied by the mountain springs. Via canals the houses in town are connected to this network. The cobbled streets, bridges and houses add to the picturesque picture of this ancient town.

Map of Old Town of Lijiang

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Community Reviews

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Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 28-Dec-22 -

Old Town of Lijiang by Zoë Sheng

Lijiang is a must-see for any China trip, and of course there is plenty to do while you are coming to Yunnan even from Lijiang itself. Most people do a Dali -> Lijiang -> Shangrila tour and maaaybe, like me, a sidetrip to Lugu Lake which nowadays also has an airport which may save some time. There is also a saying that Lijiang is a place to hookup for young Chinese because pretty much the entire center of old town is a huge bar and clubbing area where the alcohol, holiday spirit and some sort of vibe seems to mark the visitors with a "what stays in Vegas" attitude.

Lijiang is beautiful and has lots of features. Waterways, stone bridges, old houses one both side of the cobble streets, red lanterns, temples, multi-level layers that seem to go on forever plus surrounded by mountains. Being a major tourist destination it's also trying hard to keep clean and tidy. The water system is helping there and the money pouring in keeps everyone busy to stay traditional as much as they can so you will definitely not find skyscrapers or even tall buildings anywhere near the city center (my visit has been years ago but I'm sure not much changed in the core area).

Overall I spent 3 days in Lijiang mainly because of my Lugu sidetrip so I would overall think 2 are enough if you just want to enjoy and soak up the town. It's become quite monetary about running bars in oldtown which is a negative aspect but you can still enjoy the town during the day and get a glimpse of the nightime before it gets loud and raunchy.

Frederik Dawson

Netherlands - 02-Aug-11 -

Old Town of Lijiang by Frederik Dawson

Lijiang, a town in northwestern Yunnan with its beautiful culture of Naxi people, unique old wooden houses along the canals, picturesque gardens and breathtaking surroundings, is truly one of a real gem of this region but also maybe one of the worst examples of tourism industry development in China. Lijiang has two faces, in daytime; the Black Dragon Pool Garden is the place to see, its Five Phoenix Hall in the middle of the pool with the Jade Dragon Mountain as the background, is one of the iconic views of Southern China. While the town is beautiful with Naxi architecture which has some details different from mainstream Chinese and along the street is full of interesting handicraft shops, and don't forget to go to the top of the hill behind the town for absolutely gorgeous view.

After sunset, Lijiang is brightly lit with red lanterns and spotlights, and I have to admit that Lijiang by night is very pretty; however, the town is full of clubs and bars with really loud Chinese music and dancers, some show is traditional or modern, but some is quite dirty. Almost everywhere is quite chaotic and packed with diners and fun seekers, the scene that you never expected to see in UNESCO protected zone! In my opinion Lijiang is maybe one of the worst examples of tourism industry development in China, and from my observation, Lijiang by night has more tourists than in the daytime, sadly that they don't come to admire fascinating culture, but for fun in clubs scene.

Although the authenticity of Lijiang is maybe lost forever as many parts of the town are already changed, the ancient buildings become souvenir shops, boutique hotels, restaurants, clubs and bars with Naxi cultural show for tourists, the town is still have some place to admire especially in the suburbs of the old town and the Black Dragon Pool Garden where local Naxi are living. All in all, Lijiang is a great place to visit at least to see how China sells minority culture for tourism.

Durriya and Babar Jhumra

Canada and Pakistan - 11-Jul-10 -

We went there for 4 days - and ended-up staying for 2 weeks and that too was not enough. We LOVED IT. At some time in our life - we want to live there for as long as we can. Its beautiful, lovely, friendly and the weather is just perfect (most of the times). One of the best places we have ever visited in all my travels.

Sara Dyer

Australia - 29-Apr-09 -

I have just returned from Lijiang (April 2009) and am still mesmorised. Like one of your other commentators, I could easily live there. No more hectic, crazy modern world.

Picturesque, haunting, friendly, warm -- I could go on forever. I shall certainly return.

Robert Peters

USA - 26-Feb-06 -

Lijiang has to be one of the nicest small cities in China. It is true that there has been an increase in tourism there, but you can escape from the tourists easily enough by escaping down some of the backstreets (which are more interesting anyway). The architecture of the city is great and the Naxi people carry on with their lives just as they have been for centuries. You should absolutely trek Tiger Leaping Gorge, very near Lijiang. The trek runs through the gorge created by Yulongshueshan (5500+ meters) and offers great views of the Yangtze river at its wildest. It can be tackled by a moderately fit person in two days. In the Fall there is an explosion of spiders along the trail. We had to walk by (and sometimes under!) huge webs with dozens of beautiful orange and green spiders in them, which was a bit unnerving, but wonderful at the same time.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 14-Oct-94 -

Old Town of Lijiang by Els Slots

Lijiang is situated in the remarkable Yunnan province, in the Southwest of China. I went to Lijiang via a very long bus trip through the mountains. Nowadays, there even seems to be an airport.

The little city certainly deserves a stay of a few days from tourists that are interested in culture and history. The food also is recommendable: I still remember the baked cheese with sugar (?!!).


U.S.A. -

I was in Lijiang a few weeks ago. The Old Town square has become quite popular with lots of tourists, shops and restaurants with more Westerners than Chinese. But a few minutes away from the tourist filled spot, and the city is breath-takingly exquisite. Lijiang is very tranquil and a cool oasis away from the mad rush of commercialization and industrialization that is taking place throughout the rest of China. Lijiang is definitely a "must visit" before it gets swallowed by the growing commercialization of China.


Thailand -

I went to the Old Town Lijiang in November 2003. It was quite an experience, especially a warm and friendly comfort from local Naxi people.

When you see the city in the first minute, the over-crowded tourists might turn you down a little. Once you having stayed long enough, horsed round those cannals and bridges, and tryed Baba cake and local food, you will love this town.

I will travel back to Lijiang.


Malaysia -

The winding cobblestoned streets in the old town are just waiting to be explored. you truly experience the magic at dusk, when the busloads of daytrippers with flag-bearing guides who clog up the narrow pathways during the day depart for their comfortable hotels in the new town. then, it is truly a pleasure to sit and watch the world passing by, next to the gurgling streams and shady walkways. i went there during summer, at the height of tourist season and could not get a single hotel accommodation. then a family asked me if i wanted to stay in their home for the night. it was very spartan, just a room in a noisy household, with the entire family sharing a squat toilet, but that was the place i really remembered from all the places i stayed in yunnan.

Site Info

Full Name
Old Town of Lijiang
Unesco ID
2 4 5
Urban landscape - Asian

Site History

1997 Inscribed


The site has 7 locations

Old Town of Lijiang: Dayan Old Town Lijiang, Yunnan,
Old Town of Lijiang: Heilongtan Pool Lijiang, Yunnan,
Old Town of Lijiang: Heilongtan Pool Lijiang, Yunnan,
Old Town of Lijiang: Baisha Village Lijiang, Yunnan,
Old Town of Lijiang: Baisha Village Lijiang, Yunnan,
Old Town of Lijiang: Shuhe Town Lijiang, Yunnan ,
Old Town of Lijiang: Shuhe Town Lijiang, Yunnan ,


The site has

Human Activity
Religion and Belief
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process


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A. Mehmet Haksever Adrian Turtschi Alex Goh Shaw Peng Alex Marcean Alfons and Riki Verstraeten Alfredchu Ali Zingstra Alice Alicemears AliciaLee711 Angel Ying Liu AniaCh Anna Wludarska Ansitong Artur Anuszewski Atila Ege Baiqitun Bin Bob Parda Boj Catherine Rankine Chalamphol Therakul Chen Taotao ChenMing Chenboada Christravelblog Cjones Colossus DOn Szumowski David Gang XU David Marton Drinkteatravel Drk9Stormy Dwight Zehuan Xiao ERIC ZHOU Els Slots Eric PK Erik Jelinek FGKJR1492X Fan Yibo Fernweh Filip Murlak Fool79 Frederik Dawson Gcjdavid Ge zhang Geert Luiken Gernot Gianmarco Gisella Greg Grzegorz Andruszkiewicz HE SHAOMIN Haining Guan Handballrama Hanming Harald T. Harry Mitsidis Houqian Howard Howard Brayer Hugo Zou Iain Jackson Izzet Ege J Mitchell Jacob Otten Jaehyeon Jay Park Jakecarlson Jan Zimmermann Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jason and Corrinna Jaynew Jeffrey Chai Ran Jennifer Prout Jiangliu bian Jiangnan Cai Jianzhao Zhu Joanne Lee Johnson Zhao Jonathanliao Jos Schmitz Joyce van Soest JudyWalsh Julio Moreno Jun Zhou Junwang111 Kasper Kbtwhs Kevin McFarland Lameduck99 Laobada Larry F Lichia Lisa Ross Liu tuo Lucio Gorla Ludvan Luke LOU MaYumin Maki Wang Malgorzata Kopczynska Marcobrey Marek Mariam Mariellex55 Matthewrw Michael anak Kenyalang Michal Kozok Michal Marciniak Monica Tasciotti Nicole Kilian Nihal Ege Omnisppot Panacci Pang Liang Fong Patrick Matgen Patty Verhoeven Pchxiao Peter Alleblas Petteri Pieter Dijkshoorn Plutomu Polyommatus_icarus Qin Xie Qqalexqq Rainlover91125 Red Reinhardt Reza Rica Duchateau Rob Wilson Rogerding Ryan watkins Ryan09sb S.camel SHIHE HUANG Saxondean Sergio Arjona Silverlining Sinan Socon Stanislaw Warwas SteO153 Susan Stair Tcchang0825 Teebs Theresa Goh Thomas Buechler TimAllen Tingsukhua Tingying He Tjark Tony0001 Tristal Vincent Cheung Voyager Wang Qin WantRain Watkinstravel Weecheng Xinyue(Alice) Sun Xiong Wei Xiquinho Silva YAO WEI YY Yang Chengyu Yinming Zhang Yiqun Jin Zhang xiaozhong Zhenjun Liu Zhou Yan Zos M Zoë Sheng