China is a unique country that is home to many natural wonders.
The Yuanyang Rice Terraces are one of these hidden gems located in the south of the Ailao Mountains in the Yunnan Province.
Here, visitors are met with stunning views of the terraced fields, which beautifully reflect the colors of the sky and the sun’s rays.
Also unique to this tourist destination is the culture of the Hani people, who cultivated the rice terraces for centuries.
View their lovely mushroom-shaped homes and take part in the various traditional Festivals like the Ang Ma Tu Sacrificial Festival.
There is plenty to do and see throughout Yuanyang. To ensure you get the most out of your visit, we have compiled the ultimate Yuang Rice Terraces travel guide.
Tip: If you wish to visit another one of China’s natural wonders, check out this travel guide to Jiuzhaigou National Park.
The Yuanuang Rices terraces have been named one of China’s 17 most attractive scenic places and a real natural wonder.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China – All you Need to Know
Yuanyang is located in the HongHe prefecture. The elevation here ranges from 144 meters to 3,000 meters. As such, the climate varies a lot depending on where you are.
During the course of several centuries, the Hani people took advantage of this region’s unique climate by building rice terraces up the mountain’s steep slopes.
The Hani people’s ancestors came to this area around 2,500 years ago. In their struggle against the hilly terrain here, they successfully build these impressive terraces, where they grew rice to make a living.
The technology of developing fertile land on rugged mountain slopes didn’t spread all over China and Southeast Asia until the 14th century.
To ensure your trip to the Yuanyang Rice Terraces is perfect, I have included the best time to visit, how to get there, where to stay, and many more useful insights.
The Yuanyang Rice Terraces is often regarded as the largest and most spectacular Rice Terraces in the world, often together with Batad & Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines.
Best Time to Visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China
Yuanyang lies on the Tropic of Cancer and enjoys a mild climate without seasonal extremes. However, it is notably cooler in the morning and evening in comparison to the afternoon.
It is recommended that you take a jacket along with you, especially if you plan on catching the sunrise.
Most of the rain falls between May and October.
During May, the locals plant the seedlings. They then harvest in September and irrigate the rice fields in December. Depending on when you visit, you will be exposed to different views.
To many, the best time to visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces is between January and March.
This is shortly after the rice fields have been irrigated. During this time, the China terraces boast the most spectacular views as the sunlight colorfully reflects off the water in the fields.
The scenery is also especially beautiful during early spring, particularly between late February and March.
If you visit at this time, you will be greeted by a sea of pink cherry and peach blossoms, white pear blossoms, wild kapok, and clouds.
How to Get to Yuanyang Rice Terraces
The Yuanyang Rice Terraces are located around 350km / 218miles south of Kunming. There are no airports nor trains heading to the terraces. The best way to travel to Yuanyang is via the roads.
NB: When traveling to the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, be sure to bring along your passport.
The road towards Yuanyang runs very close to the Vietnam border. And be aware that there is a strict passport control near the Vietnam border, and the last thing you’d want on your trip is to be turned away or detained.
Kunming to Yuanyang by Bus
The most cost-effective way to travel to Yuanyang Rice Terraces is by taking a long-distance bus from Kunming South Coach Station.
From here, three buses depart each day – at 9:30, 12:30, and a sleeper bus at 18:00.
The journey takes around 8 to 10 hours to reach the destination.
The bus ticket cost 139 RMB
Note: The schedule can change, so it is best to check beforehand or book your tickets in advance.
Your hostel or hotel in Kunming can book it for you for a small fee.
Additionally, English-speaking services may not be available as the buses are mostly run for locals.
Travel to Yuanyang by Private Car
Traveling by private car is the easiest way to travel to Yuanyang. While it is more costly, you are ensured a worry-free transfer.
You may even be able to make some additional stops at some other Yuanyang attractions, including the Stone Forest and Jianshui Ancient Town.
All hostels in Kunming offers trips to Yuanyang with a private driver.
Distances around Yuanyang County
The Yuanyang Rice Terraces are spread over a vast area in Yuanyang County, so it´s important to know where you will stay and which part you want to visit.
You will arrive in Xinjie Town by bus from Kunming.
But the four areas of the Rice Terraces that stands out as the “best” ones to visit are:
Qingkou terraced fields scenic area – 6-8km from Xinjie town.
Bada terraced fields scenic area – 16km from Xinjie town.
Duoyishu terraced fields scenic area – 24km from Xinjie town.
Laohuzui terraced fields scenic area – 23km from Xinjie town.
Where to Stay in Yuanyang County, China
Once you arrive at the bus station in Xinjiie, a local woman named Belinda usually meets every bus once they arrive at the bus station and asks if anyone needs a guest house, she speaks excellent English and is extremely helpful.
She will arrange a driver to drive you around the area. She will also show you a way to get into the scenic spots without having to buy a ticket!
Yuanyang is a remote county located in a more rural area; however, there are still plenty of lovely accommodations to choose from.
Visitors can choose to stay in a hotel in Xinjie Town, which is ideally located near several restaurants and stores.
For a unique experience, choose to stay in a boutique hotel or hostel in scenic areas.
There are several accommodation options in Duoyishu Rice Terraces and Shengcun – often boasting beautiful Hani ethnic style decor.
For travelers eager to catch the sunrise over the rice fields, spending a night amongst the Honghe Hani rice terraces is recommended.
Regardless of where you stay, you’ll be met with incredible views of the surrounding scenery. Below are some noteworthy accommodation options in Yuanyang.
1) Jacky’s Guesthouse: A comfortable accommodation in Xinjie Town in the Yunnan region. The guesthouse has an onsite bar, shared lounge, and a sun terrace providing incredible views of the mountains.
2) Tian Yuan Mu Ge Homestay: A stunning homestay situated in Xinjie Town, Yuanyang. This accommodation features several modernly designed rooms. The rooms have large floor-to-ceiling windows, providing an unobstructed view of the terraced fields below.
3) Green Hostel & Sunny Guesthouse: A beautiful accommodation in Shengcun village amongst the rice terraces. The guesthouse features a restaurant, bar, shared lounge, and garden in Yuanyang. A tour desk and ticket service is also available to guests.
4) The Twelve Manor Terraces Lodge: A boutique hotel in Shengcun. From the elegantly designed rooms, guests can enjoy stunning views of the rice terraces below. There are also plenty of walking trails nearby, waiting to be explored.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Yuanyang is a dreamlike destination comprising hilltop villages and seemingly endless rice fields cascading down mountain slopes.
These rice fields, known as titián amongst the locals, are renowned for portraying a sea of colors during sunrise and sunset.
Yuanyang is home to several rice terraces, with three of them being included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2013.
These three main scenic areas include the Bada Rice Terraces, Duoyishu Rice Terraces, and Laohuzui Rice Terraces.
To accommodate tourists, observation platforms have been built in each of these areas. Access to these platforms costs around $15 USD (100 Yuan).
From these platforms, visitors are provided with some of the most exceptional views in all of Yunnan.
Below are highlights of each of the main three scenic areas.
Entrance ticket to Yuanyang Rice Terraces
One day ticket 100 Yuan including Jingkou Folk Village, Bada Rice Terraces, Duoyishu Rice Terraces and Laohuzui Rice Terraces (Tiger Mouth Rice Terraces)
3 Day Ticket is valid for 10 days. It is 180 Yuan per person
1 Year Ticket 360 Yuan per person.
Yuanyang County are Changing Fast
Unfortunately so are things changing fast in the area, there´s a lot of development going on with big housing units and huge hotel´s getting built, also a bigger and better road so I’m sure it wouldn’t take long before the place has lost a lot of it’s the charm.
It’s just not gone be the same when walking around, you will get the natural wonder from the Yuanyang Rice Terraces on one side, and huge buildings on the other hand, and just think of all the garbage that people will leave behind in the area.
Bada Rice Terraces
“Bada” is a direct translation from the Hani language meaning “the nearest place to the sky”. This is a fitting name as the area is known to provide the best sunset views amongst the Yuanyang rice terraces.
Here, visitors can marvel at the rice terraces which extend from the base to the top of the hills, like ladders to heaven. As the sun sets, the rice fields begin to change color – going from pink to a rosy hue, and eventually a stunning dark red.
In the area are 17 Hani minority villages. Exploring these villages, viewing the traditional architecture, and engaging with the friendly locals is more than worthwhile.
Duoyishu Rice Terraces
While Bada is the best place to see the sunset, Duoyishu is the best place to see the sunrise. For this reason, many tourists opt to stay here so that they can walk to the platforms early to catch the sun as it slowly lights up the many-tiered rice fields.
Duoyishu is also famous for the sea of clouds that cover part of the terraces during the early morning. Duoyishu Rice Terraces is named after the nearby village and is often referred to by the locals as “the paradise on earth”. This name is more than fitting for this incredibly scenic tourist destination.
Laohuzui Rice Terraces
Laohuzui Rice Terraces, also known as Tiger Month Rice Terraces, is around 40 minutes from Bada by car. The scenic area is situated in the core area of the Yuanyang Rice Terraces. It is renowned for its steep hills and more rugged rice terraces.
From the platforms, visitors can enjoy views of colorful layers which extend for miles. Unlike Bada and Duoyisu, Laohuzui is dotted with trees.
For the most exceptional views, it is recommended that you visit Laohuzui Rice Terraces during sunset. As the sun goes down and the light gets dim, the rice fields go from clear blue to gold, and eventually red.
More Attractions Near the Yunnan Rice Terraces
While the Yuanyang Rice Terraces may be the sole reason for your visit, Yunnan County has plenty more to offer. Below are some additional attractions near the rice fields in Yuanyang.
Tip: Be sure to check out this 10 day Yunnan itinerary before planning your trip.
Jianshui Ancient Town
The Jianshui Ancient Town is located in the southern Yunnan Province near the Yuanyang Rice Terraces.
The popular tourist attraction features unique folk houses and ethnic Hani customs. Some highlights from visiting the town included the 600-year old Chaoyang and Qingyuan towers, as well as the Zhu family gardens.
The Stone Forest
Like the nearby Yuanyang Rice Terraces, the Yunnan Stone Forest is a remarkable and unique sight to behold. This attraction is a must for anyone visiting Kunming.
Here, people can enjoy views of the incredible karst formations, waterfalls, lakes, and magnificent scenery. Some highlights from the Stone Forest include the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests and Naigu Stone Forest.
Mengzi Ancient County
Another popular attraction near the Yuanyang Rice Terraces is Mengzi Ancient County. This spot is famed for the 100-year-old, French-built railway.
This was the first railway connecting China to a foreign country which brought in new opportunities for trade and commerce.
As such, many towns were developed – one of them being Mengzi. Today, tourists visit to view the railway and old French-style houses, as well as to try the famous Yunnan rice noodles.
Plan Your Trip to Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China’s Natural Wonder
Yuanyang Rice Terraces is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the Kunming and Yunnan County areas.
Whether you plan to stay a few nights or enjoy a day trip, the stunning views of these mountains and valleys cannot be missed.
Providing a picturesque escape from reality, the Yuanyang Rice Terraces offer an off-the-beaten-path adventure like no other.
For another fun outdoor adventure, check out this travel guide to Longsheng Rice Terraces – the Dragon’s Backbone in China.