Erhai Lake, Southwest China, China

Also known as:  Er Lake, Yeyuze, Kunming Lake (historic)

Known as the Pearl of the Plateau, Yunnan’s Erhai Lake has been enchanting both native and foreign visitors for thousands of years. Nestled like a shining gem in a tectonic fault on the Tibetan Plateau in Yunnan Province, the lake is somewhat crescent or ear-shaped. The name translates as Sea of Ear and has always been the lifeblood of the native Bai population. The lake provides irrigation waters to local – READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Erhai Lake! Article topics include:

Looking for Erhai Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore more of our favorite travel partners.

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Erhai Lake! Article topics include:

Looking for Erhai Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore more of our favorite travel partners.

All About Erhai Lake

Lake Locations: China - Southwest China -

Known as the Pearl of the Plateau, Yunnan’s Erhai Lake has been enchanting both native and foreign visitors for thousands of years. Nestled like a shining gem in a tectonic fault on the Tibetan Plateau in Yunnan Province, the lake is somewhat crescent or ear-shaped. The name translates as Sea of Ear and has always been the lifeblood of the native Bai population. The lake provides irrigation waters to local small farmers and is a prolific source of fish to provide much of the local diet.

In keeping with the Chinese tradition of naming scenic features – inflowing streams, small islets on the lake, rock formations near the shore, manmade bridges – all have poetic names and often long-standing stories and legends attached. Parks have been created to frame beautiful vantage points overlooking scenic views.

Cangshan Mountain towers above the lake’s western shoreline, offering a jade green backdrop to complete the lovely scene. Eighteen named brooks contribute their waters to Erhai Lake. The mountain, with multiple peaks above 11,480 feet, provides an inviting place to walk among 3000 species of native plants consisting of primarily evergreen trees and bushes. During the spring, rhododendrons and azaleas bloom in riotous profusion across the hillsides, followed by camellias in summer. Flower enthusiasts the world over know Cangshan Mountain for the lovely blooms that are grown there.

Hardy hikers can trek to near the top on a narrow pathway clinging to the mountainside at dizzying heights. Many more take the cable-car gondolas to the top, where they can visit temples, a giant chessboard, and multiple vistas of the lake and valleys far below. Often shrouded in mists, the ever-changing cloud formations and unpredictable weather make for both oft-told local legends and a need for clothing for inclement weather all year long.

Lying along Erhai Lake’s southwestern shoreline, the old City of Dali is the cultural repository of hundreds of years of area history. Located on the old South Silk Road route, Dali has experienced the effects of several differing cultures, the remnants of which appear preserved in the very walls and architecture of the city. Always interesting, Dali has a number of outstanding points of interest that most visitors wish to see.

Dali’s Ancient City was the seat of government during the Ming Dynasty. Portions of the old city walls and gates remain, along with churches and temples, marketplace and hand-crafted artwork produced by the Bai ethnic minority residents. The Dali Municipal Museum, housed in the reconstructed mansion of Du Wenxiu, features examples of stone carving, wood carving, pottery, jade carving, paintings and calligraphies. The museum also holds an important collection of over 120 stone steles (upright slabs or pillars) carved during different dynasties as far back in history as the Song Dynasty.

A short distance from Dali, Butterfly Spring is famous for the hoards of colorful butterflies that appear at the spring when the ‘butterfly tree’ blooms above the pool. An annual festival is held in honor of the butterflies. Zhoucheng Village near Butterfly Spring is a must-visit destination to observe traditional Bai tie-dying of fabric. Here, visitors may be treated to the traditional three-course tea ceremony for greeting visitors. One short sightseeing trip all visitors must make either on foot or by bike is to the Three Pagodas. The Central Pagoda is nearly 1200 years old and one of the best preserved Buddhist structures in China. Although the original temples of the complex were destroyed by earthquakes in the 1920s, the three pagodas are still sound and offer excellent views across Erhai Lake. A series of hallways and rooms carved into the adjacent mountain make for an interesting tour.

Boat tours may be taken on the lake where guides point out legendary spots and allow passengers to observe the traditional fishing methods of the Bai. Many stop at one of the small islands on the lake featuring a temple. Bicycles may be rented in Dali to tour the lake; a roadway circles the lake past several temples, scenic viewpoints and parks. The Erhai Lake Scenic Area holds the Water Moon Pavilion, Kwan-yin Pavilion, the Haishe, Heavenly Mirror Pavilion, Xizhou Mid-sea Pavilion, the Zhuhai Pavilion and Small Putuo Hill. Erhai Park offers lovely gardens overflowing with a profusion of flowers along the shore.

Lodgings are available along the lakefront in a series of small local inns. Dali holds a few modern hotels and other forms of accommodation. Ethnic foods and cafes can be found throughout the city, with many meals featuring fresh-caught fish as the basis for the main course. Erhai Lake has become a popular tour destination, with many tours of the area recommending two full days to see everything of interest. First-time visitors might be well-advised to allow tourist agents to arrange for suitable lodgings as there is little information available on the smaller inns.

The second-largest highland lake in China, Erhai Lake covers over 62,000 acres and has an average depth of 36 feet. The lake is home to a diverse group of carp species, including several that are found only here. These fish are caught by local fishermen using a unique method of training domesticated cormorants to bring the fish to them. Uncommon in much of China, the lake’s waters are still quite clean and clear, but area population is growing. In 1997, an infestation of blue-green algae spurred local officials and scientists to take action to head off future problems, and pollution controls were begun to avert future issues. The algae are gone and efforts are underway to alleviate water quality problems at the first sign of trouble. Continued vigilance will assure that Erhai Lake remains clean and scenic for future generations of both native and visiting populations to enjoy. Come and see the flowers . . .it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Things to Do at Erhai Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Museum

Fish Species Found at Erhai Lake

  • Carp

All About Erhai Lake

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Erhai Lake

The Erhai Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.


More Ways to Book a Erhai Lake Vacation

While our interactive map above is perfect for comparing LAKENAME rental homes (with VRBO) and nearby hotels (with Booking.com), there might be times when you need to expand your search with a different type of accommodation. Here are some other LAKNAME lodging partners you might want to explore:

Check TripAdvisor
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Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission. Read our full disclosure policy here.


More Sites to Book a Erhai Lake Vacation

Our interactive lodging map shown above is perfect for comparing LAKENAME VRBO rental homes and nearby Booking.com hotels, there are times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodation. Here are some other LAKNAME lodging partners you can explore:

Check TripAdvisor
Explore RV Rentals
Find a Campspot
View All Resources

Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission. Read our disclosure policy here.


More Sites to Book a Erhai Lake Vacation

Our interactive lodging map shown above is perfect for comparing LAKENAME VRBO rental homes and nearby Booking.com hotels, there are times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodation. Here are some other LAKNAME lodging partners you can explore:

Check TripAdvisor
Explore RV Rentals
Find a Campspot
View All Resources

Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission. Read our disclosure policy here.


Recommended Sites to Book a Erhai Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Erhai Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
ALL TRAVEL RESOURCES

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 62,080 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,470 feet

Average Depth: 36 feet

Water Volume: 2,026,783 acre-feet

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More Erhai Lake news from LakeLubbers.com

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Do you have a vacation rental property at Erhai Lake? Coming in 2022, LakeLubbers will have an opportunity for you to showcase your listing and put it in front of thousands of lake lovers searching our site for homes, condos or townhomes to rent for their upcoming lake trip this season.

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Looking for the Erhai Lake forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here.

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Click here to advertise your Erhai Lake vacation rental or local business.

The former Erhai Lake forum is closed. Find out why here.

New Erhai Lake photo gallery is coming soon.

Please share this article with your fellow lake lovers!

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Explore local Erhai Lake vacation rentals and hotel accommodations using our interactive map. Clicking on listings below will allow you to compare nearby properties, best rates and availability for your dates.

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New Erhai Lake photos coming soon!

Vacation Home Name

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  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • hot tub
  • wifi