Lijiang (2400 meters above sea level) has a history dating back more than 800 years. Lijiang Old Town is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges.
Sometimes it is called the 'Venice of the East'. Once, it was a confluence for trade along the old tea horse road. It is a Unesco Heritage Site since 1997. The entire old town has been rebuilt and even enlarged, but using strictly authentic traditional methods and materials. All streets are paved with red breccia (sedimentary rock), which is neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season.
The old town of Lijiang differs from other ancient Chinese cities in architecture, history, and culture. The city is famous for its unique Naxi culture. The Naxi originate from Tibetan nomads and they dress in black or deep blue. They have a matriarchal family tradition and their own script that dates back more than 1000 years.
Other smaller minority groups live around Lijiang, including the Lisu, Pumi and Nuosu Yi. The Pumi is more brightly clad than the Naxi people, and the Lisu can only be seen by visiting the more remote districts close to the Salween River.