Dali Erhai Lake
'Erhai' means 'sea shaped like an ear' in Chinese. The lake is so called because it is ear-shaped and as large as a sea. About two kilometers east of Dali, it is located at an elevation of 1,972 meters (about 6,500 feet) on the eastern side of Cangshan Mountain. It is a long and narrow lake that is about 41 kilometers long. Its width varies between 3 and 9 kilometers. It has an average depth of 11 meters. Covering an area of 250 square kilometers, Erhai Lake is the largest highland lake next to Dianchi and the seventh-biggest freshwater lake in China.
Against the backdrop of the Cangshan Mountain, the water of Erhai Lake is clear and crystal, mirroring the green mountains. The lake and mountain radiate with each other to create the stunning landscape picture commonly described as 'Silver Cangshan and Jade Erhai'.
Lining the lake’s banks in the valley are fishing villages, Bai farming villages, ancient temples, historic towns and the ancient city of Dali. Tourists can visit the nearby fishing community of Bai Minority to experience its attractive Bai culture and lifestyle. The surrounding islands are worth visiting too, including Guanyin Ge (Guanyin Pavilion), Jinsuo Island, Nanzhao Fengqing Island and Xiao Putuo Island. The most famous one is Xiaoputuo Dao (Lesser Putuo Island), set on an extremely photogenic rocky outcrop. Traced back to the 15th century, it was originally devoted to Bodhisattva Kwan-yin. The temple on the island depicts the typical ancient Chinese Buddhist temple's unique architectural styles. It is a hot spot on the Erhai Lake not only for its stunning scenery, but also for rich Buddhist culture.
One of the travel highlights is to take a boat on the lake, enjoying the natural beauty, taste the local cuisine and experience the ‘Three Course Tea’.
Presently, roads encircle the lakes so it is possible to explore the lakeshore by mountain bike. On the way, visit historic sites and villages of the Bai Minority, like the Three Pagodas, the ancient city of Dali, Xizhou. A great day’s bike trip is from Dali to Shaping.
The nearby high mountain is a good hiking area dotted with waterfalls, forests and high peaks. There is a road linking the various sites on the 19 peaks. A cable car that passes high over a forest connects the ancient city of Dali and one of the central peaks. Alternatively, visitors can explore it by horseback or car.
To enjoy the convenience of watching the lake, visitors can go to Erhai Lake Park. It is on Tuanshan Peak at the southern end of Erhai Lake, and it is about two and a half kilometers away from the modern sector of Dali. In the park, visitors can hold a good position to enjoy the sights of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake. The park has an arboretum, a zoo, and a public swimming pool; all of these will enrich your journey.