Yunnan Province, 392km (243 miles) NW of Kunming, 15km (9 miles) N of Xiaguan, 150km (90 miles) S of Lijiang
The charming town of Dali, traditionally one of the best places in China to tune in, turn on, and drop out for a while, remains a wonderful place to visit despite the increasing commercialization brought by tour groups. Its small size belies its important place in Yunnan's history: During the Tang dynasty (609-960), Dali was the capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom, and during the Song dynasty (960-1079), it was the capital of the Dali kingdom. Deserted after Kublai Khan overran Dali in 1252, it was reconstructed during the Ming dynasty (1382). Today's Dali is the capital of the Bai Autonomous Prefecture (although it's run from Xiaguan). Located in a mountain valley at an elevation of 1,948m (6,496 ft.), Dali is sunny year-round, though winter nights can be chilly. The best times to visit are between February and October, when the majority of festivals take place. The Dali Folk Festival now includes a rock festival featuring top rock bands from Kunming and Dali in May. The festival coincides with Dali's Third Moon Market, with scores of shops selling food, handicrafts, traditional Chinese medicines, and more (www.dali360.com).