Lijiang Weather

The overarching factor that affects the weather of the entire area, including most of Yunnan Province and parts of neighboring Myanmar and Sichuan Province, as well as Arunachai Pradesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region), is that it is a highland plateau situated at a low latitude, very near the Tropic of Cancer. The peculiar combination of a high altitude – meaning a tendency toward cooler temperatures and clear, sunny skies – and a low latitude – meaning a tendency toward a hotter, more humid weather pattern – results in, for the most part, a climate that is characterized by cooler summers and warmer winters, combined with heavy rains in the monsoon period, but relatively clear weather throughout the rest of the year.

The exceptions to this general pattern are mountain tops, where it is cold year round (sometimes snow-capped year round as well), and the bases of deep gorges, which vary depending on whether they are located in the north of the province or farther south: deep gorges located to the north have hot, dry subtropical climates while deep gorges to the south have hot, humid subtropical climates, such as the climate around the wild elephant reserve, Xishuangbanna.

Another regularity regarding the climate of Lijiang, and Yunnan Province in general, is that the temperature swing is greater on a daily basis than it is on a season-to-season basis, meaning that layered clothing– at least the use of warm outer clothing in the mornings and evenings – is imperative.

The area around Lijiang in the north is the most typical for the province, with cooler summers and warmer winters, and with heavy rains concentrated in a distinct monsoon period, which makes the area very accessible to the tourist year round except for the worst parts of the monsoon period. Lijiang’s rainy season begins in May and ends in October, with the heaviest and most recurrent rainfall periods (some locals would swear that they can set their clocks by it) occurring during July and August, meaning that this is hardly the ideal time of year to visit the Lijiang area.

But like all highland areas that are bordered by mountains, the weather, due to highly fluctuating heat and wind patterns (the Indian Ocean to the south has great influence over the winds arriving here, including their temperature and water content), can change several times in a single day. In fact, there is an apt saying in the north of Yunnan Province that captures this climatic instability: “in the north of Yunnan Province, you can experience all four seasons within the span of a single day!”

The Weather in Diqing

The prefecture named Diqing, also alternately called Deqen Prefecture, Zhongdian and Shangri-la, is an idyllic meadowland, dissected by the Three Parallel Rivers (the Yangtze (locally called the Jinsha), the Mekong (locally called the Lacang) and the Salween (locally called the Nujiang)), and surrounded by mountains, which is how the mythical land called Shangri-la – now believed to be identified as the prefecture of Diqing – is described in the 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, by the British author and adventurer, James Hilton.

Diqing lies on the southern extremity of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, at an altitude of 3380 m (3696 yd), surrounded by the Nushan, the Yunling and the Gongga – aka Minya Konka – Mountains, collectively known as the Hengduan Mountain Range. Since Diqing is located at a low latitude – it is only 4.5 degrees latitude (1 degree latitude is equal to 111 km/ 69 mi) north of the Tropic of Cancer, meaning that it belongs to the subtropical zone – it can be warm, but because the prefecture is situated on a high plateau, it can be cold.

The way this odd mix actually works out as regards Diqing is that by day it is warm, while by night it is cold – seasonally, very cold indeed. This general pattern is true for all of Yunnan Province except for mountain heights (they are frigid) and deep gorges (they are tropical). In addition to the extreme daily temperature swing, there is a slight seasonal swing in temperature in the province, just as precipitation generally follows a seasonal pattern.

For example, on the mountains surrounding Diqing, the temperature in spring is rising at higher elevations, releasing water on the terrain below, but this leads to evaporation, which, by night, can result in cold mists, so Diqing nights during springtime seem as cold if not colder than during winter, and since the daytime temperature is also rising on the plateau in springtime, it feels as if the daily temperature swing is greater than it actually is, from 5-20 degrees Celsius. Summer is the warmest season and also the rainiest – unlike many other regions of the world, where spring and autumn are the seasons with the most rainfall. The daily temperature swing in the Diqing area during the summer is 15-30 degrees Celsius. The daily temperature swing in Diqing during winter is at its greatest, from below 0 to 20 degrees Celsius, with lots of snowfall on the surrounding mountains and the occasional blanket of snow in the meadowland below.


Summer and autumn are the best periods to visit Diqing. Autumn offers the usual spectacular color changes, when the leaves of the trees are ablaze with color and when Shangri-la is at its most enchanting. Regardless of when one visits the area, it is absolutely imperative to bring along clothing suitable for a hot summer day as well as a frigid winter night, as both can come into use on a daily basis.

Dali Transportation

By Air

Dali Airport is located roughly 13 kilometers east of the city of Dali. At present, there are only domestic flights to and from the city of Dali, namely, between Dali and the cities of Kunming and Xishuangbanna. Note that there is local transportation to Dali Airport from Xiaguan, a suburb of Dali, where you can reach the airport via Bus No. 7. Note also that plane tickets are available at a number of Dali’s major hotels, as well as at the travel agencies on Jianshe Road, in the suburb of Xiaguan.

Airport Inquiry Tel: (0872) 231-5335

Ticket Office Tel: (0872) 217-1999

By Rail

There is a major railway line between Dali and Kunming, and from Kunming on to Chengdu, and, of course, from Chengdu to anywhere else in China. Trains between Dali and Kunming, which operate daily, arrive at and depart from Dali’s Guangtong Railway Station. There is also a minor railway route that runs between Dali and Lijiang, and from Lijiang on to Shangri-la.

Railway Station Inquiry Tel: (0872) 232-5579

Ticket Office Tel: (0872) 216-6588

Regional Bus Service

From the regional bus station near Dali’s western gate, there are daily buses to the regional city of Zhongdian/ Shangri-la (north of Lijiang). There are also express buses to the cities of Lijiang (to the north), and to Kunming (to the east). In addition, there are minibuses from this regional bus station that serve the Dali-Lijiang route. Lastly, there is a bus that departs the same regional bus station for the city of Shaping – and its famous marketplace – every Monday morning.

Dali Municipal Bus Service

There are 17 bus routes serving the municipal area of Dali, with in all 11 buses in service, which, together with the other transportation modes outlined above and which connect the city of Dali, both regionally and nationally, to the rest of the country, make for a satisfactory and varied transportation network that meets the needs of both the indigenous population as well as visitors.