The ancient city of Dali (Dali Gucheng) is the Dali you may have heard of as the perfect place to take a break from the rest of China and just relax. Dali, along with Yangshuo near Guilin, is one of China¡¯s backpacker¡¯s paradises. Here you¡¯ll find unrestricted rest and relaxation, plenty of budget hostels, inexpensive western food, and friendly local people.
Some travelers may be confused when the bus from Kunming to Dali drops them off in Dali City, less than an hour to the south (actually the city of Xiaguan and the seat of Dali prefecture). The travel paradise of Dali is known by the locals as Dali Gucheng. This Dali is arguably one of the best tourist attractions in Yunnan and a nationally renowned cultural city. The city was first built in the 15th year of the Emperor Hongwu during the Ming Dynasty.
The ancient city of Dali is a great place to relax and explore. The streets and alleys crisscross throughout the town in a typical "chess board" pattern. All the buildings are roofed with dark blue tiles and the tall walls of the town¡¯s Bai ethnic houses are white and gray. Since the climate is almost perfect and the locals are fond of planting trees and flowers, there tend to be gardens in every home, with camellia, azalea and orchid sprouting forth. Streams from snowcapped Cangshan Mountain (in the west) flow through the city,finally joining Erhai Lake to the east.Also in the east past Erhai Lake is a remote vision of Jizu Mountain, one of the holy mountains of Chinese Buddhism. Within the city you can explore the famous Three Pagodas, the market of the March Fair and much more! The ancient city (Dali Gucheng) is not large by any means and you can easily walk from one end to the other in a morning.
How to get there: From Xiaguan, the ancient town is about 12km north and the most common way to reach Dali Gucheng is by bus. The No.4 bus leaves from the area opposite the Dali Hotel on the intersection of Jianshe Lu and Renmin Lu in Xiaguan, running from 6:30am-8pm and takes about 40 minutes for RMB1.2. The No.8 bus leaves from the Xiaguan railway station and takes 40 minutes and costs RMB1.5 (buses stop running before 8pm.) Perhaps the most convenient means of transport is by minibus from the intersection of Jianshe Lu and Wenhua Lu in Xiaguan. The cost is RMB1.5 and the trip takes 30 minutes. Minibuses do not have set hours of operation, but they continue to run later than other public buses.