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When tourists piece together a travel itinerary for China, they usually focus on big-name attractions in the east. The Great Wall, Shanghai's Bund and the Xian's Terracotta Army are too inspiring to overlook. Many don't realize how much is hidden away in Yunnan, China's southwest province. With Kunming City at the helm, Yunnan offers a tantalizing mix of rugged landscapes, exotic cultures and cosmopolitan energy.

Kunming means 'City of Eternal Spring', a reference to its pleasant, year-round climate. Hotels near Kunming are on par with those in any major city, with ample five-star service on offer. One of the newest local trends is golf course development, and Kunming has consistently landed high on world's-best lists these last few years.

The city itself has many temples, a lively Islamic quarter and great shopping potential, but it's most often used a launching pad for province-wide excursions. Northwest of Kunming is a trail of ever more evocative towns. Dali and Lijiang boast beautifully restored centers, and the latter offers access to Tiger Leaping Gorge with its spectacular trekking and rafting potential. Further on is Zhongdian, a Shangri-La-like Tibetan outpost with a beautiful monastery.

For first-time visitors, a trip to Stone Forest is a must. With its sprawling karst topography, this natural garden of boulders and spires can be seen on a daytrip but also works as a weekend outing. It's easiest get here in a shared minivan, which can be booked through the front desks of hotels in Kunming.

Zhaotong Airport is a regional gateway with connections to Southeast Asian capitals and a few major Chinese hubs. Taxis and buses connect the airport to the city center, and there are also a few airport hotels onsite.

For more information on hotels and landmarks in the different areas of Kunming, click on the interactive Kunming map on the left-hand side of the page.