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Erhai Lake in Dali – One of the Most Beautiful Lakes in China

12:08 | 13/08/2022

Erhai Lake in Dali – One of the Most Beautiful Lakes in China

Geographical Location

Erhai is situated at 1,972 metres (6,470 ft) above sea level. In size, the North-South length of the lake is 40 kilometres (25 mi) and the East-West width is roughly 7–8 kilometres (4.3–5.0 mi). Its area is 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi), making it the second largest highland lake of China, after Dianchi Lake. Its circumference reaches 116 kilometres (72 mi), its average depth is of 11 metres (36 ft) and the total storage capacity of 2.5 billion cubic metres (2,000,000 acre·ft).


Erhai Lake, one of the top attractions in Dali, is a fault lake and a place with ultimate environment and amazing scenery. It is close to the famous Cangshan Mountain, beautiful Butterfly Spring and the Dali Ancient City. The record of this Lake can be traced back to Han Dynasty. It has been one of the oldest lakes in China. Its name was got from the shape of this lake. Seen from the sky, the shape of this lake likes ear, so local people gives this lake the name (The pronunciation of the word ear in Chinese is Er). This lake covers an area of about 251 square kilometers and is with a depth of 11.5 meters on average. At present, it is the second largest freshwater lake in Yunnan province and a place enjoying rich resources. Talking about this lake in Dali, there is one thing must be mentioned. It is the mother river of Bai people. As one of the important ethnic minorities in Yunnan province and a big group in Dali, Bai people affect the history and culture of Dali. Many Bai people still live on the bank of this lake. If you take a Dali tour to this lake, you can get closer to this ethnic group in Yunnan, which is a good chance for you to know them.

There are three islands, four islets, five smaller lakes and nine bends on the lake. The three islands are Jinsuo Island, Chiwen Island and Tianer Island. Four islets are Qingshabi, Daguanchu, Yuanyang, Malian. The five smaller lakes are Nantang Lake, Beitang Lake, Lianzhu Lake, Longhu Lake and Bozhou Lake and the nine bends are Lianhua Bend, Daji Bend, Poji Bend, Fengyi Bend, Luozhou Bend, Niujiao Bend, Boyin Bend and Gaoyan Bend.


The Little Putuo Island – Dali travel(小普陀)

Inside the Erhai Lake, there is a tiny island existing with tones of fames – The Little Putuo.

The little Putuo is an island composed by limestone. Because of its round seal shape, Chinese named here as “hai-yin”, literally translated as “seal of the sea”. It is legendized there were always some storms and big waves appear because of the flood dragon stay around the Erhai Lake; while the Guanyin (Goddess of Buddha) make use of this “seal” to control the dragon. Fishermen who lived around the little Putuo then build up this 2-story pavilion on the small island and consecrate the statue of Guanyin, which is the reason why people also named the Little Putuo as “Guanyin Ge” (Guanyin Pavilion).

On the East of the Little Putuo, there is a natural harbor named “Baishiqu” close-by the Erhai shore. The villagers lived around the harbor are mainly Bai minority people. Today, they are still keeping their Bai minority traditional customs. Occasionally you can see some villagers reach the island by swimming since the distance between the village and Little Putuo Island is just 130 meters.

Erhai Lake Food

People who take a tour to Erhai Lake  never forget to taste the food in Erhai Lake . As a city having various Chinese ethnic minorities, the local food is different from the one in other places. All the foods in Erhai Lake  feature local culture of ethnic minorities, and all the materials are from this place. It is the creation of local people and the work of human wisdom. This article will take you into the local life to discover the stunning food in this Yunnan city.All the foods talked about below are the representatives of local food and the essence of local food culture. They are also the top recommended ones to tourists who will be or have been in Erhai Lake .

1.Fried Fish(炸鱼)

Fresh fish catched from Erhai Lake ,then fisher fried it and sells it by the roadside.Small shrimp as well.

2.Parou Ersi(扒肉饵丝)

Dali Parou Ersi is a unique snack in the Weishan Yi Hui Autonomous County. According to legend, when King Piluoge had used it to treat Datang envoys, so it became more and more famous from that time.

3.Sour and Spicy Fish(酸辣鱼)

Sour and spicy fish is so popular in China. This colourful and  delicious dish is originally from south and west of China. Fish can be steamed, boiled, fried or grilled.  Hot chilli and pickled vegetable are used to top up the fish, adding sour and hot spicy flavour.


Rushan (rǔshàn乳扇) is made of the local milk of cows. The creation method is: After heat” the sour water” firstly, then ladle up the fresh milk to flutter lightly, it becomes the form of downy, then stand the thin slice with the bamboo chopsticks, dries by air on the bamboo. Because the shape likes inclined, it is called Rushan. The Rushan not only has the taste only, the nourishment is abundant, implies various materials of protein, amino acids…etc. that human body need, but also has the in harmony with spirit, blood and tranquilizes the nerves to cultivate mental calm, is good for the stomach to repair falsely etc. effect, it is the good product of the human body health to strengthen the physical endowment and promote. The cooking method of the Rushan is varied, fried, steam, roast, very hot, fry, boil all can. Take the Rushan together with other meat or vegetables; you can boil to make a series food of various milk of a pleasant change of atmosphere. The Rushan also can eat without boiling, in the past, there weren¡¯t highways in Shenxi, the conveyance depended on horses, the people of riding horses often took the Rushan and brown sugar as the food when they were tired.

5.Pawpaw Chicken

Pawpaw Chicken is another famous dish in the culture of Bai nationality.Pawpaw is sour but palatable..In Eryuan,people often treat their guests with pawpaw chicken.This dish has some medical effect. It is good for treating rheumatism, gastritis and makes you calm.

6. Sand-pot Fish(砂锅鱼)

Sand-pot fish (shā guō yú砂锅鱼) is a famous local dish of Dali. Put slender chicken and more than ten seasonings like dried mushrooms into the sand-pot. Then add some bow fish or carp caught in Erhai Lake into the pot. Stew them slowly. The tourists can taste sand-pot fish on the yachts or in all the restaurants in Dali or Xiaguan. Sand-pot fish is 20 yuan every pot. One pot is enough for three to four people. It is really delicious.

Erhai Lake Entertainment


One of the travel highlights is said to be a boat ride. People can ride boats and visit temples and small islands in the lake, and they may enjoy the local cuisine and the Bai tea ceremony while they are doing so. In the simple ceremony, three different kinds of Bai tea are served. Islands in the lake include Guanyin Ge (Guanyin Pavilion), Jinsuo Island, Nanzhao Fengqing Island and Xiao Putuo Island.

The lake is an important source of food, and the Bai fishermen catch fish in an interesting way. They train cormorants to catch fish and return it to them. The cormorants can’t swallow the fish because they have constricting rings around their necks. Imagine a dinner of cooked carp that was caught in the clean water by a cormorant on the banks of the lake.

The lakeshore can be explored by hiking and bicycling. Bikes are available for rent. Nearby are many historic sites such as the Three Pagodas and the ancient city of Dali and Xizhou. There are many villages you may visit. Some are mainly Bai villages and some have a mixed population.

The nearby high mountains can be explored by hiking, on horseback, or by car. There is a road linking the various sites on the 19 peaks. But the mountain is a good hiking area, which waterfalls, forests, and high peaks to climb. You can bring tents. A cable car that passes high over a forest connects the ancient city of Dali and one of the central peaks.

Highlights around include Erhai Lake Park and the Butterfly Springs on the western bank of the lake. Erhai Lake Park 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. It is a good place to enjoy the sights of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake. The park has an arboretum, a zoo, and a public swimming pool, and there is a path through the park to an observation area on the mountain.

Cycling Around Erhai Lake

In Dali ,the best way to spend your leisure time is cycling, That is a good choice.

Bike trips in the surrounding countryside are a popular excursion for visitors to Dali Old Town (大理古城). Short trips to Erhai Lake (洱海) or to nearby villages can be a great way to get out of the touristy centre and get some exercise.

With Erhai Lake being so dominant in the Dali geography, it’s tempting to tackle a lap as an extended bike excursion. Cycling around lakes can be a straightforward undertaking (water’s flat, right?) but some planning is still worthwhile.

On a recent trip, GoKunming cycled a portion of a lap, from Xizhou (喜州) clockwise to Xiaguan (下关). Here’s how it went down:

We cycled north from Xizhou on the Dali-Lijiang road (大丽线), a two lane asphalt road. If you start at Dali Old Town or Xiaguan, a better choice is the smooth eight lane concrete G214, which also follows the west side of the lake, but further from the shore than the Dali-Lijiang road. Both roads are well surfaced and gently undulating, but the G214 has less vehicle traffic.

As you approach the north end of the lake, the roads converge until they’re in sight of each other, and you’ll need to cut across to the road nearer to the shore in order to continue the loop. It’s in the village of Jiangwei (江尾) that you’ll turn off the main road, shortly after crossing a couple of water channels.

We’d covered 15km from Xizhou by this point, and couldn’t help noticing we’d done it rather fast. Despite feeling pretty strong after our ride from Kunming to Dali, the large energy-generation turbines up on the hill gave us a better clue: this region gets some strong winds.

After Jiangwei, the road surface is rough for approximately 20km, due to age and construction traffic. Yet another highway is being built by the lake, this time along the east side. Expect detours and an unclear route in the northeast quadrant of the lake until construction is complete. It had rained the day before we did the loop and some sections were very muddy, with our speed falling to less than 10km/h.

This section will take you past Shuanglang (双廊), distinctive for its peninsula and small offshore island. Shuanglang would make a great place to stop for some lunch.

Just south of the village of Qingshan (青山) the road improves considerably. It’s recently been resurfaced, and would make for some very fast riding were it not for the strong southerly headwind. Weaker riders might prefer to plan a ride that goes north on this section.

The road stays right by the shore for pretty much all of the east side of the lake. You’ll pass the village of Wase (挖色), which also has lunch options, the tiny island temple of Xiao Putuo (小普陀) and later the big two-peaked island of Hai Dao (海岛).

At the south-east of the lake, the road from Dali airport joins the lakeside road and the traffic load increases. The road surface remains good though, and some shelter provided by the hills means that a fast pull into Xiaguan is possible. As you enter Xiaguan, there’s an option of staying on the main road and heading uphill into the town, or staying by the lake.

Advance planning here will serve you well – we took the road into town so we could head to the bus station. If you’re continuing around the lake, the lakeside road will be the more pleasant ride, but be sure to have an idea how to connect up to the G214 again to complete the loop.

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