China is home to more than 56 minority groups, over half of which can be found in the South West of the country within the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou.
Yunnan, meaning 'Beautiful clouds in the South' is one of China's most diverse and naturally beautiful provinces with terrain ranging from snow capped, alpine mountains to tropical rainforests. During a trip to Yunnan you will find cormorants still being used to catch fish on Erhai Lake, trading communities living in bamboo houses in the sub-tropical regions along the Burmese border, volcanoes in the west and excellent walking in the mountains, where you can get a true taste of the diverse range of flora and fauna on offer.
Yunnan is home to the towns of Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled beneath the Jade Dragons Mountains with a wonderfully atmospheric old town and Dali with its lakeside location. The province stretches to the borders with Tibet and as one journeys beyond the famed Tiger Leaping Gorge towards the town of Zhongdian it is possible to get a real feel of Tibetan life at the 300 year old Tibetan Monastery of Ganden Sumtseling Gompa which is still home to around 600 monks.
Guizhou is well known for its hospitable people and enjoys more folk festivals than any other province in China - the colourful clothing, traditions and individual cultures, which are particularly prominent at festival times, are still an unexpected sight in China. The unusual and varied scenery of Guizhou includes striking karst formations, rolling mountains, terraced fields, limestone caves, verdant forests and Asia’s biggest waterfall.
A visit to the province of Sichuan in the South West is also the place to see China's most iconic animal, the Panda at the Giant Panda breeding research centre in Chengdu or for the more adventurous you could trek into the mountains to search for these elusive creatures in their natural habitat.
When to go to The South West of China
Overall, the best time to visit the South West is in the Spring (April / May / June) and the Autumn (September / October).
Watch our video of some of the highlights of South West China taken on a recent trip.