Located in Honghe prefecture in the Ailao mountains - 50 kilometers north of the border with Vietnam - Yuanyang is well known for its spectacular rice-paddy terracing. A famous highlight of Yuanyang are the rice terraces.
Yuanyang covers an area of 2200 square kilometers of which 88% belong to ethnic minorities and 95% is associated with agriculture. The majority of the inhabitants of the county are from the Hani ethnic group. To the south of the Old Town of Yuanyang, you will find the town of Panzhihua. This city is positioned near the top of another major valley of rice-terraces. There are a total of 928 settlements in Yuanyang county, 826 of them being inhabited by only one single ethnic group. The main ethnic group is the Hani. The Hani and Yi, the original inhabitants of this region, are the creators of the rice terraces. Their villages can mainly be found between 1,300 and 1,600 meters above sea level. Dai-people moved to this area 700 years ago, while to Zhuang arrived about 400 years ago. Their villages are below 700 meters elevation. The Miao and Yao are the most recent newcomers, they arrived about 200-270 years ago. The life in the cooler and drier upland areas at an elevation between 1,600 and 18,000 meters above sea level. They grow mainly maize. One can easily spend 4-5 days in Yuanyang, ideally two days for the markets and two to three days for hiking.
Nature - Yuanyang highlights
Thé highlight Yuanyang: world's largest and most spectacular rice terracesNot only are the Yuanyang rice terraces among the world's largest and most spectacular. They also are the least known, which keeps the tourist count low. But, the Yuanyang rice terraces are without a doubt the most beautiful in China. When the sunshine is reflected in the flooded fields, the divine charm of the scene will capture your heart. The terraces marry the perfectly sloping contours of the hills and blend with the tropical vegetation of the region in a unique way.
You get an extra sense of adventure when you are there. The terraced areas are mainly found between 1,000 and 2,000 meters above sea level. About 28,000 acres of hills with rice terraces. Due to winter temperatures - although never freezing - only one harvest per year is possible. After the harvest, from mid-September till mid-November, the terraces are filled with water until April, when planting starts.
The small village of Yuanyang itself isn’t so attractive. The entire region of Yuanyang is inhabited by the Yi and Hani minority peoples.
Without a doubt, these rice terraces are a Yuanyang highlight.
The best time to visit the Yuanyang rice terraces
This enchanting landscape fantastically changes with the seasons. The views are always different. But, the best time to admire the Yuanyang terraces is between January and May. In May, the terraces are bottle green because of the new bed out rice seedlings by the Hani people. Gradually, the terraces go from green to yellow before reaching harvest in October. Eventually, it all depends on what scenery the visitor prefers.
Hiking through the rice fieldsGet close to the people and have breathtaking views with other perspectives than seen from the road: hike through the fields, walk from village to village. There are trails that connect all the villages, these paths follow the contour of the hills. You might need a guide if you like to avoid getting lost.
Culture in YuanyangYuanyang is also interesting for its intense minorities’ life. You can find a Hani and Yi colorful market each day..... Another highlight of Yuanyang.
Qingkou village living museum
In the middle of the Bada terraces, there is the small village of Qingkou. This village of the Hani minority is a living museum that showcases the ethnic diversity of Yunnan. Even before setting foot in the village, one realizes the authenticity of the village and the simplicity of life. Made with a mixture of stone, mud and wood, the village is the best example of Hani architecture.
MarketsMarkets tend to be very colorful when different minorities trade and socialize with their own traditional costumes.
Shengcun is a small village located directly on the road between the terraces of Bada and Duoyishu. Given its location, the village has become a spot for all the locals when holding a market. It is not only Hani but also the Yi ethnic group who come to trade things of all kinds in traditional dresses. The market is consistently held three times every twelve days. It recognizes the days of the pig, goat, and rooster, according to the Chinese calendar.
Consult the schedule in advance to be sure not to miss this colorful festival and display.
Laomeng marketSix different minorities visit the flamboyant Laomeng market every Sunday. All minorities still dressed in their own traditional style.
Local festivitiesThe most exciting encounter is to participate in one of the numerous local ethnic festivals such as Dragon Feast, Amatu, Torch Festival. These festivals are a highlight in Yuanyang and make your visit to this region more than worthwhile.
Would you like to visit Yuanyang. We have several options:
- A tailor made tour to Jianshui and Yuanyang
- A 9-days round-trip through Yunnan including Yuanyang