Erhai Lake – Dali, Yunnan

Dali Erhai Lake, the Ear-shaped Sea, offers a beautiful landscape and water which is crystal clear. For this reason, it is common to hear the “Pearl of Plateau” and “Jade Erhai Lake” in reference to the lake. The “Silver Cangshan Mountain” is another common name since it is located at 1972 meters above sea level. In Yunnan, only the Dianchi Lake is larger than the Dali Erhai Lake.

The landscape of the Erhai Lake includes nine bends, five lakes, three islands, and four continents. The lake runs from Dengchuan in the north with its south end at the Xiaguan city. It is 9 kilometers in width and 40 kilometers in length. On the east bank of the lake, you can find the Wase Village, Shuanglang village, and the Haidong village while the west bank has the Shangguan Flower Garden, Zhoucheng, Three Pagados of Dali, Dali Old Town, Butterfly Spring, and Xizhou Ancient Town. Hiking or by boat are the two ways of exploring the Erhai Lake.


Where should you explore in Erhai Lake?

Nanzhao Folk Island

This is one of the three islands which you find in Erhai Lake. It is also popularly known as the Nanzhao Love Island. There are various sights to see on this island including eight which are man-made. You can find the Nanzhao Summer Palace, the Guanyin Acuoye Statue, the Taihu Rocks, Square of the Patron Gods, the Statues of “Mother Shayi”, and more. You can enjoy a 2-hour visit to this island for a fee of 50 Yuan.

Little Putuo Island

This is an island which is very close to the Wase Village and is the smallest of the islands present. One of the greatest attractions of this island is the Ming-dynasty Little Putuo Temple. Worshippers can visit either of the two floors available in the temple to worship Avalokiteshvara or Buddha Bodhisattva.

Jinsuo Island

Translating the name of this island to English, it translates to the golden shuttle. There is also a Yinshuo Island, the silver shuttle, which is smaller and is located at the southeast of the Jinsuo Island. The Jinsuo Island is also home to the Jade Dragon Palace. As a traveler, there is a visitation fee of 20 Yuan. The Three Courses of Tea which the Bai houses provide is something to enjoy.

Luoquan Peninsula

If you want to get a great view of the Jade Erhai Lake and the Silver Cangshan Mountain, then the Luoquan Peninsula is an excellent location to visit. Other attractions include the Guanyin Pavilion and the Luonquan Temple. Entry ticket into the Luoquan Peninsula costs 30 Yuan.


Where should you explore around Erhai Lake?

Erhai Park

There are two viewing decks available in this park which are the Long Corridor and the Observation Pavilion. There are 270 stone steps which you climb to this location for an excellent view of the Cangshan Mountains and the Ehrai Lake.

Xizhou Ancient Town

If you want to learn a lot about the Bai people, then Xizhou Ancient Town is one place to visit. The sights include Bai houses, architectures, as well as a taste of the “Three Courses of Tea” of the Bai people. The Yan Family’s Courtyard also holds a lot of historical values worth learning about.


The Land for National Tie-dye, Zhoucheng is a popular stop for travelers interested in learning the cloth making techniques utilizing tie-dye. You can find out about traditional techniques through a visit to any Bai Family workshop.

Shuanglang Town

Fishing serves as the most prominent source of income of the Bai ethnic people who are locals in Shuanglang.


Erhai Lake Cruise

There are two recommended ways to travel when visiting Erhai Lake. You can choose from either a cruise or cycling method. If you like cruising, you can choose between these options:

Erhai Lake Long Cruise

  1. If you are ready by 8:00 – 9:00, you can choose the Erhai Lake Pier (Xiaguan Pier) as your point of departure. You will have a great time with the Bai People’s Three Courses of Tea when you visit the Nanzhao Folk Island. After this, you will reach the Taoyuan Pier;
  2. Between 13:30 – 14:00, there is a cruise departure from the Taoyuan. Pier. From here, you can make a stop at Nanzhao Folk Island, have a great time while sipping the Three Courses of Tea by the Bai people. Around 17:30 – 18:00, you will arrive at the Longkan Pier.

Erhai Lake Ecological Cruise

  1. You can get to the Longquan Peninsula through the Longkan Pier by a boat which leaves around 09:00~10:00. You can also choose to go to Jinsuo Island instead with the Three Courses of Tea as the main treat. Between 12:30 – 13:00, you should be at the Taoyuan Pier.
  2. Take your leave from the Taoyuan Pier from 14:00~14:30 and stop at the Nanzhao Folk Island for the Bai’s Three Courses of Tea. This cruise will end around 17:30 – 18:00 when you finally get to Longkan Pier.


Cycle around Erhai Lake

Cycle on the west bank of Erhai Lake: Start at the Dali Old Town and go through Three Pagodas then make a stop at Xizhou Old Town. After exploring the town, you can go on to your last stop, Zhoucheng. Once you get to this point, your 23-kilometer journey will be complete and you can complete the drive back.

One Circle around Erhai Lake

  • First Day
    Your first day will be a 50 Km journey. This 4 hours ride will take you Dali Old Town, Three Pagodas, Xizhou Town, Zhoucheng Village, Taoyuan Dock, Shangguan Town, Shuanglang Village (Nanzhao Island).
  • Second Day
    This will be a 6 hours ride during which you will cover 80 kilometers. Places you will go through during this ride include Shuanglang Village, Wase Town (Little Puto Island), Haidong Village, Jinsuo Island, Huanhai Road, Airport Road, Erhai Dock, Haixi Village Highway, Caicun Dock, and Dali Old Town.


Getting to Erhai Lake

There are different means of getting the Lake. There are various piers which are available for travelers wishing to take a boat.

From Dali Old Town to Caicun Pier: For a fare of 20 RMB, travelers can take a taxi to complete this 4 km journey. There is also a Bus C2 which takes travelers to Caixum Pier from the North Gate.

From Dali Old Town to Longkan Pier: To get to Longkan Pier, you can wait at the Regent Hotel Stop for a Bus no. 8 to the Yuexicum Station. This is a 4.5 km journey and you can walk for 3.5 km to get to reach Longkan Pier. There is also a 30 RMB taxi for travelers or a Bus No.3 which goes from the North Gate to Longkan Pier.

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