It's the Loch of Yunnan, next to a village which long have been secluded from the outside world by rolling mountains. To go there, hire an experienced coach driver so your coach doesn't roll down the cliff halfway into your journey there.
The people are hospitable, and you can go for a boat ride to the temple, a night in a campfire and roast goat served with curry pepper. Horse rides are available too.
Accomodations are catered by small family-run inns in the village.
The hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge is spectacular. Take your time - too many rush through in 2 days and don't see anything. Best to take 3-4 days. Go down to the river - it's worth it. I'll have a full travelogue with photos published once I get home.
Most of the tourists tend to spend their time strolling in the very center of Old Town, near Square Market and the Water Wheel. Take the time to get out of the center and wander through the beautiful cobblestone sidestreets. We fell in love with the people and the culture as we quietly made our way "off the beaten" path.
Within an hour or two, you can cycle out of Lijiang and make your way through traditional Naxi villages that are not on the tourist trail... just like the one in the photo.
These villages, built in traditional stone clusters, are often quite a distance from any tarred road, and can be found by following quite rough paths through the meadows. You will not find any tourist facilities: no bars, restaurants, shops, just the family units, living in community, and working on the land.
While "lost" tourists are obviously a curiosity, don't be surprised to find that the streets empty as you arrive. People clearly liked to keep their privacy and would rush off into their houses as we approached.
We remained discrete. We didn't poke around in private property, and certainly didn't try to take photographs of people who clearly didn't want to be committed to film. You can get a sense of these villages from the photograph.
There is no clear destination... you just head off and you can't fail to stumble across some paths leading from the main roads... you will certainly not be able to cycle all the way - the paths are rough. However it makes for a great day out and the scenery is spectacular.
For many of the places I visited in Yunnan, I rented a bicycle and drove away from the town in some random direction. Lijiang proved to be a great place for this aimless cycling.
There are many sites in which buses bring Lijiang tourists to visit. There are these popular sites, lakes, mountains, and people living the traditional Naxi life all within 20 kilometers of the new town.
In the new town there is a statue of the great Chairman Mao, here in this same square there are two backpacker restaurants which rent bicycles. I do not recall the price but it is about 20 yuan per day and the bicycles are of high quality. So when you see the Mao statue, the bikes will be outside in the square.
So just hop on a bicycle and go in some random direction, it always delivers me to an interesting place.
In this photo I ended up at a small river which is a religious site, about 15 kilometers from the new town.
Unavoidably, after Li Jiang becomes well known all around the world, the central town is pretty commercialized. It's beautiful, but more or less artificial.
If you want to explore into the real old town, follow me to bump into the lanes.
On my way from the airport to Lijiang, I was delighted by the most beautiful rice fields i've seen in a while. There were even palms all over the place. It's a really nice view. So if you get a chance, rent a bike and head that way. Alternatively, if you have a driver, ask him/her to take you there to look at the fields.
Leaping Tiger Gorge. Start at Daju, take a brake at Woody's cafe, then hire Xia Yingu to take you to the river rapids, spend a night or two at Tina's Guest House, spend another night or two at Half Way Guest House, awe in amazement on Tiger Leaping Stone, toast the end of the trip with a beer at Tiger Gorge Cafe owned by chinese/australian couple in Quintou. Read or see more about the trek in my travelogue.
Not sure of the location, but just ask the taxi driver. Can easily be combined with a trip out to the mountains.
There is a great abundance of scenery when you take the road that leads from Lijiang Airport into the city.