Not to far away from Lijiang is the Yulong Xueshan Mountain, or the Jade Dragon Mountain, visible at clear weather from the upper part of Lijiang. Distance is about 40 km. To go there, I took the public bus No. 7, starting from the sqare of the Mao statue. When you are leaving the ancient town on the south-gate, turn right in the big avenue of the new city, walk 10 min. and you'll arrive at this sqare. If the bus is not waiting there, you'll see on the oil traces, where he will arrive... Cost are some Yuan. It's not the most modern aircom bus, but OK, it's not a private car. Please ask your hotel to write the chinese name of Yulong Mountain on a paper, the bus will stop a several small, and pitoresc villages and you go out at the last stop.
This terminal is situated at about 2900 m. For comments on horseriding high up in this Yulong Mountain, please turn over to my of the beaten paths tip.
I see lots of foreigners actually do biking around the sceneries of Lijiang. It could make sense for sights that are not too far away like Shu He old town or even the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The good thing of doing bike is that you can enjoy the sceneries and the clean air throughout the process ;-)
The best way to get to the sights around Lijiang is by hiring a cab. Most of the drivers have a bit of knowledge of the places so they will explain a bit on the road as well. Some of them can be hired for daytrips or even overnight trips to farther places like Lugu Lake or Shangrila. Just ask your hotel staff to help book, they usually provide such service.
Most travellers probably come to Lijiang via Kunming/Dali by bus. In this case it might be useful to take a plane back in order to safe time. Southern Airlines for example fly to Kunming for approximately € 40-60. I think there at least 2 daily flights, you can buy your ticket for example at the very small travel agency at the market square.
There are many buses going from Dali to Lijiang, the transportation is cheap and the journey only takes around 3 hours, which is nice to get an impression of this beautiful province. Most guesthouses also offer the possibility to book the trip directly through them, in this case you will be collected at your guesthouse by a minibus. Very easy and comfortable!
We took the bus from Dali, Took the number 8 city bus to the long distance bus depot. From there to Li Jiang it was 37 RMB, we luck out and got a nice bus (Bigger bus, soft seat, no smoking...for the most part) But in Chinese style you never go directly to you destination, spent a about an hour rive the back roads trying to pick up more customer. The waited another half hour in the old part of the city for a few more passenger, but once we were under way it was on ok ride, only about 4 hour.
Leaving Lijiang for Dali our luck was not as good on the bus, a small bus, smokers all the was, and the person who handles the ticket head head out the window yelling the whole way back tying to get more passenger. Went via a few small towns ( to drop off some hitch hikers that we picked up on the way.) But we made it back in about 3.5 hours The small bus was pretty cramped.
There has been an airport build, so that more tourists can reach this wonderful region in China. Well I am not ver yhappy with all the crowds of tourists falling onto Lijiang but I can understand, that many people like to see this overwhelmingly beautiful landscape.
Lijiang can be reached by airplane form Kunming.
Inside the town, the best way to linger around is by foot.
The best way to go to suburbs including Yulong Mountain, Lu Gu Lake or Tiger Leaping Gorge is to rent a taxi. There are buses going either of the places, but the buses go like 1 or 2 per day, and there are still a lot of places you will miss travelling by bus.
if it's not peak season, the taxi can be very cheap. Another advantage of renting a taxi is that with a local driver, you will discover a lot of really local stuff.
Lijiang sits on a huge plateau some 2,400 m above sea level. The surrounding area is littered with small villages, often accessible only by path from the main road. There is virtually no traffic on the roads, except the occational cart, bike or a very occasional lorry! The roads around are all yours and well worth exploring.
I set off with a fellow traveller I met over breakfast int he square. We hired bikes from the dealers at the Mao statue just outside the main gate of the old town, but bike hire is also available through many hotels and inns. Our bikes were good quality. Just wander out of the old town, you will find the main square with old Mao very easilly, and the bikes are sitting just waiting for you, around his feet.
Bike hire was not at all expensive and in plentifull supply. We paid around 10 RMB for the day, but I met someone who found a bike for 5 RMB. You will probably need to leave some documentation (they normally ask for a passport) to guarantee that you will return the bike.
Bus from Lijiang to Zhongdian took 6-7 hours. RMB27. It was a mini bus. So, my advise is go to bus station 30 mins earlier, wait for your bus and try to get a good seat in front (more leg room). Otherwise it was ot really fun to squeeze yourself for 6-7 hours along the bumpy road.
There are numerous bus stations in Lijiang which becomes confusing. I was in Lijiang in the summer of 2003 and used 3 different bus stations (perhaps there were as much as 4). This seems like so many bus stations for such a small town, but it is partly caused by construction of some sort.
So take notice of your arrival station, and the station at which you depart because they may be different.
The luxury bus with service to Dali and Kunming has its own station, which requires a short taxi ride from the tourist area of the old and new towns.
YNTAC operates a luxury bush between Lijiang and Kunming. The bus is a Volvo, has air-conditioning and a television with VCD/DVD. They play a few movies on the trip.
The bus is very clean, smoke-free, and you get a meal at a nice hotel in Dali on the way there. The price is 151 yuan, which I think is a good deal considering a regular bus costs about 90 yuan. I took both buses and think the YNTAC luxury bus was well worth the extra money.
There are 3 departures each day. The trip is 11 hours and the bus stops in Dali.
The biggest bus (Volvo) costs RMB 50. Non-smoking. Takes about 4 hours.
Don't fall asleep as the ride includes some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding area.
There are about 3 trips per day. The lastest (on this luxurious bus) is at 2:30pm. Just ask at any bus agent in the old town.
There are 2 other types of bus. They are smaller and allow smoking. They run at more frequent intervals.
The flight ticket from Kunming costs between RMB 340 to RMB 420. Ask a few travel agents.
There is a RMB 50 airport on top of that.
The taxi ride from the airport into Lijiang costs between RMB 60 to RMB 80. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
In Lijiang city, taxi is RMB 6-7/trip; no auto vehicle is allowed inside of the ancient town of Dayan, thus walk is the best way to explore the town along the the stone streets. One can choose to bike, but not too easy.
Buses are available to several major sightseeing places, or take daily bus tours.
Or, hire a taxi for flexibility and convenience (RMB 300 for Tiger Leap Gorge, 1st Yangtze Bend, Shigu for a day; RMB 200 for Snow mountain, Baisha, Dongba Culture park etc for a day - could bargain down further). Taxi gives you the flexibility, wherever and whenever you want to stop and see along the roads.