Sometimes called the Sleeping Beauty Hills -- their contours are said to resemble the outline of a sleeping maiden when viewed from afar -- this densely forested range of hills on the western banks of Lake Dian is home to a number of Buddhist and Daoist temples and pavilions carved into the sheer rock face.
From the park's entrance, it's a 5km (3-mile) hike uphill to the parking lot and cable-car station, though most visitors prefer to take the bus from Gaoyao directly to the parking lot. Along the way, the first major temple is the large and impressive Ming dynasty Huating Si (¥20; 7:20am-6:30pm), which has statues of 500 arhats. About 2km (1 1/4 miles) later is another Ming temple, Taihua Si (¥5; 8am-6pm), which was built in 1306 and boasts large gardens that contain camellia, plum, and osmanthus trees.
At the minibus and cable-car terminus is Nie Er Zhi Mu (free admission; 8am-6:30pm), the tomb of the famous Yunnan musician Nie Er, who composed China's national anthem before he drowned while in Japan in 1935. From here, you can take a chairlift for ¥45 to the summit at Dragon Gate (Long Men), or you can take a tram for ¥20 to Sanqing Ge, a Daoist temple dedicated to the three main Daoist Gods that marks the beginning of the climb to the Dragon Gate Grottoes (¥30). This series of grottoes containing various deities was carved by a local Daoist monk, Wu Laiqing, and his band of monks between 1781 and 1795, all of whom must have been hanging by their fingertips as they painstakingly hacked away at the sheer rock face. The path on the cliff edge leading to Dragon Gate is so narrow that only one person can pass at a time. Below is a precipitous drop of about 600m (2,000 ft.) to the shores of Lake Dian. Those with vertigo should avoid this path. The stunning views from here of the lake and Kunming in the distance are worth the trip.
To get to Xi Shan, take a taxi for ¥100, or local bus no. 5 from the Kunming Hotel to its terminus at the Liu Lu Chechang. Change to bus no. 6 to the village of Gaoyao, where minibuses and van taxis will run you up to the tomb of Nie Er for ¥15. Minibuses also make the run to the tomb from the Liu Lu Chechang, but these are unreliable. You can also leave Dragon Gate by cable car for ¥60 one-way, ¥100 round-trip. It crosses Lake Dian down to Haigeng Park and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. The cable-car terminus is at the tomb of Nie Er.