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China's Southwest
(Lonely Planet) ISBN 978-1741041859

This Lonely Planet book is a detailed guide to the lush and exotic scenic beauty, wild outdoor treks, foods and diverse ethnic cultures of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou and Chongqing.

The 536-page guidebook is straightforward, well-organized and very detailed.

Things to see and do

A comprehensive introduction includes Top Ten Treks in Southwest China (e.g., Tiger Leaping Gorge), Top Attractions (e.g., the fortified town of Laitan in Chongqing) and the Top Ten Festivals (e.g., Litang Horse Festival). The History chapter lists the Chinese dynasties, the years they existed and their capitals.

The Culture section describes the non-Han minority cultures, including the Mosu, Naxi, Bai and Yi of Yunnan, nomadic Tibetans in Sichuan, and the Miao and Dong in Guizhou.

Outdoor activities

Environment topics include top nature reserves in Southwest China (e.g., Sanchahe) and information on yaks (size, domestication and sperm bank). The Outdoors section provides information on hot air ballooning with the Xian Flying Balloon Club, birdwatching, river journeys, caving, cycling and trekking.

The Food and Drink chapter describes food specialties like Sichuan and Guizhou hot pots and minority dishes like black glutinous rice. Readers learn about non-alcoholic drinks, such as jasmine tea, and alcoholic beverages ranging from Tsingtao beer to baijiu (white spirits).

Translate Chinese words

A language guide features Chinese characters and phrases for foods, drinks, cooking terms and utensils like chopsticks. Advice includes etiquette on who pays the dinner bill and dos and don'ts for chopsticks.

For the gateways of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, China's Southwest provides information on Internet access, sightseeing, where to eat and how to get around. Chapters on the five regional provinces describe history, climate, festivals, language, how to get there and the cities (tourist information on where to stay, where to go, what to eat and how to get around).

City maps

Sidebars add more details on Southwest China bus timetables, minority festivals and activities, such as bird watching and meeting ethnic minorities.

Color photos in two sections illustrate ethnic people, like a Zhuang girl drying red peppers, sacred sights, such as the Grand Buddha in Leshan, and landscapes, including the terraced limestone pools in Huanglong National Park in Sichuan. Plentiful and useful monochrome regional and city maps have symbols for routes, transport, boundaries, sights and places to eat.

Useful tips

Numerous sidebars provide helpful information on topics such as:

  • recommended vaccinations for travel to China
  • English newspapers and radio broadcasts in China
  • popular street food, e.g., mahua (fried, sweet and savory wheat flour twists)
  • hot springs in Chongqing
  • Sichuan food specialties, e.g., gongbao jiding (spicy chicken with peanuts)
  • how to get to Laos from Yunnan, China
  • where to find dixi (Sichuan open-air opera)
  • how to get to Vietnam from Kunming, China

Where to see giant pandas

Readers learn about the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu, Sichuan — how to get there, opening hours, admission fee, mating season, panda baby nursery, feeding times and museum exhibits on panda evolution.

A sidebar discusses the giant panda habitat in five mountain ranges in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, the giant panda population (about 1,000 in the wild) and their bamboo diet. The Lonely Planet travel guide provides information on the 11 panda reserves in southwest China, the success of captive panda breeding programs and the number of giant pandas in Chinese zoos (200).

The Cruising the Yangzi chapter helps readers decide which boat (international and Chinese Yangzi cruise ships and hydrofoils) to pick for cruising the world's third longest river (6,300 Km). China's Southwest describes the routes from Chongqing to Wanzhou and Wanzhou to Yichang, with information on the Three Gorges Dam, sightseeing stops, tours and prices.

China's Southwest (Lonely Planet Regional Guide)


  • On the Road
  • Highlights
  • Getting Started
  • Itineraries
  • Destination Southwest China
  • History
  • The Culture
  • Minority Cultures
  • Environment
  • Southwest China Outdoors
  • Food and Drink
  • Gateway Beijing
  • Gateway Shanghai
  • Gateway Hong Kong
  • Guizhou
    • Central Guizhou
    • Western Guizhou
    • Eastern Guizhou
    • Northern Guizhou
  • Guangxi
  • Yunnan
    • Nujiang Valley
    • Southeast Yunnan
    • Xishuangbanna Region
    • Baoshan Region
  • Sichuan
    • Central Sichuan
    • Western Sichuan and the Road to Tibet
    • Northern Sichuan
    • Southern Sichuan
  • Chongqing
    • Around Chongqing
  • Cruising the Yangzi
The Authors
Behind the Scenes
World Time Zones
Map Legend


Damian Harper, Tienlon Ho, Thomas Huhti, Korina Miller, Eilis Quinn

Damian Harper has studied in Beijing, worked in Hong Kong and contributed to more than a dozen Lonely Planet guide books.

More things to see and do in China:

Shanghai Guidebook

Xian China Tour

Beijing Travel Guidebook

Beyond the Great Wall - Recipes and Travels in the Other China

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