Erhai Lake, located in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, is one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. As an alpine fault lake, the 2nd-largest highland lake in China after Dianchi Lake, it has been described as “a deep blue gem in a green land”. It is also set against the majestic Cangshan Mountains, whose peaks are often mirrored in the lake, along with the sun and moon. There are three ways to explore Erhai Lake: hiking, cycling, and cruising.
A cruise around the lake and its islands is a convenient way to explore it. Some of the sites to visit along the way should include:
- Nanzhao Folk Island – one of the lake’s 3 main islands; it includes 8 man-made sights; about 5 minutes from Shuanglang Town by cruise ship.
- Little Putuo Island (above) – the lake’s smallest island, located along the lake’s eastern shore near Wase Village.
- Jinsuo Island (“Golden Shuttle Island”) – the largest island on the lake, located in Haidong Town.
- Shuanglang – a lively town located on the northeastern shore that is full of shops.
- Wase – a beautiful small fishing village, located on the eastern shore, which still retains a number of Bai-style ancient gate towers dating from the late Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) and early Republic of China era (1912–1949).
- Haidong – a small town of the local Bai ethnicity, located along the southeastern shoreline. The Bai people are famous for their fishing method, using trained cormorants to catch the fish. The birds are prevented from swallowing the fish due to fixed rings placed around their necks. The town’s Luoquan Peninsula, which faces Dali Old Town across the lake, features several Buddhist sites worth exploring, including Luoquan Temple and the Guanyin Pavilion, which was built by the local fishermen to honor the Buddhist goddess of mercy, in an effort to control the wind and waves for protection.
- Xizhou Ancient Town – located on the lake’s western shore, it has over 1000 years of history and features traditional Bai houses. It is somewhat quieter compared to Dali Old Town.
- Zhoucheng – located just north of Xizhou, travelers can learn how to make a tie-dyed cloth here.
- Erhai Park – located on the lake’s western bank, it features 270 stone steps leading to two viewing decks.
The name Erhai (“ear-shaped sea”) comes from the lake’s shape.
- Visited: 1996