LIJIANG, capital of the Naxi Kingdom, nestles 150km north of Dali at foot of the inspiringly spiky and ice-bound massif of Yulong Xue Shan, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Surrounded by green fields and pine forests, the town’s winding cobbled lanes form a centuries-old maze, flanked by clean streams, weeping willows and rustic stone bridges. It is also, however, China’s biggest tourist black spot, in many ways little more than a cultural theme park, and the template against which all “old towns” in China are being remodelled. Hordes of visitors pack out the streets, while the Naxi family homes that line them have been converted into rank after rank of guesthouses and souvenir shops, mostly run by Han Chinese posing in ethnic costumes. Despite this, it’s easy to spend a couple of days in Lijiang, especially if you’ve been out in the wilds and need a good feed and a hot shower. Fairground atmosphere aside, there’s also some genuine culture lurking around the town’s fringes, and plenty of potential excursions into the countryside.

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