Located in the northwest part of Yunnan, 392km northwest of Kunming and 150km south of Lijiang It's an obligatory stop on the backpacker's grapevine. Swarming with foreigners, Dali has become a tourist haven and can be a welcome break from the harder realities of other parts of China. Situated at the foot of Cangshan Mountain and on the bank of the Erhai Lake, it covers an area of 1,800 square kilometers, and has a total population of 3,063,000, of which minority nationalities make up 1,553,000. Dali is home to the ethnic Bai people.The Bai people make up 33.2 percent of the total population and the Yi, Hui, Naxi, Miao and other minority nationalities account for a total of 16 percent. It has an average annual temperature of 15.1 and an annual rainfall of 1,079 mm. The rainy season comes from May to October.
Dali was once the capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom, a powerful entity separate from China. The region was invaded and subjugated by the Mongols in the 13th century. The largest ethnic minority is the Bai, who speaks a Tibetan-Burmese language and whose traditional architecture can be seen at Xizhou, north of town. Dali is famous for its marble, lending its name to the Chinese word for the stone (dalishi). Marble pictures can be bought along the main shopping street or viewed at the Dali Museum.
Dali is also celebrated for its scenic beauties of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake. And also, Dali enjoys a very high fame for its "Four Grand Scenes", namely, Xiaguan's wind, Shangguan's flowers, Cangshan's snow and Erhai's moon. Especially Xiaguan's wind, which impresses people so deeply, makes Xiaguan such a place that you should go if you are interested.
It is widely acclaimed as the "Oriental Switzerland" and the "Chinese Geneva". Dali is one of those few places in china with an infectious ambience that waylays those who pass through. Travelers sit back with foaming cappuccinos and banana pancakes, tell tales of their travels, strum guitars, and swap their hiking gear for ethnic togs. Some come to stay for a few days but remain for months.