Kūnmíng is known as The City of Eternal Spring for its mild, sunny climate and abundance of flowers. Sitting on China's Yunnan plateau with the vast green Diān Chí Lake to the west, the city's an attractive mix of urban buzz and natural beauty. Most of old Kūnmíng has been replaced by modern shopping complexes and cultural venues that are well used by the city's lively student population. To the south, you can see the traditional Yunnan way of life in ancient villages such as Jincheng.
Some Kūnmíng hostels have roof terraces where you can chill with other travellers, and one place has a gleaming, industrial-style bar. You could grab a plate of homemade treats from an on-site restaurant. Look for a Kūnmíng hostel with leafy gardens and one that organises activities such as food tours and movie nights. Most stays have dorms and private rooms, while free Wi-Fi is handy when you're researching the best nightlife spots.
The central Green Lake Park is surrounded by streets lined with stylish teashops and cafés. It's a short stroll to Beimen, a neighbourhood of parks and temples with a stunning display of cherry blossoms. West of downtown is the former factory area Chuàng Kū, where you'll find galleries and cultural spaces specialising in Yunnan artists. Diān Chí Lake is southwest of the city and is a popular place for boating, cycling and walks. From the lakeside promenade, you'll have views over the hilly western shore.
Temples are a popular sight here. The 500 figurines, including 70 surfing Buddhas, of Bamboo Temple are particularly unusual. Browse the huge variety of stalls at the Flower and Bird Market, where you'll also find jewellery, pieces made of jade and clothes. To learn about the indigenous cultures, you could visit the lakeside Yunnan Ethnic Village. Adventurous travellers can climb (or take the cable car) to Dragon Gate in the Western Hills to see its sculptures, grottoes and pavilions. Make a day trip to the UNESCO-protected Stone Forest, a 3-hour drive, to wander the maze of towering limestone formations.
To reach the city, fly to Kūnmíng Wujiaba International Airport and take the airport bus into the city (30-40 minutes). If you're travelling by bus there are five bus stations, all outside the city; allow an hour to reach any of them by bus or taxi. To travel by bus to other destinations around China and Yunnan province, check which station you need. For getting around the city, you can use the subway or bus.