Dali, Yunnan, China
Alpine Meadow Hidden in Dali's Cangshan MountainsEvery day, thousands of tourists pass through the streets of Dali old town 大理古城, one of China's top tourist destinations. Some will venture into the nearby Cangshan Mountains 苍山, mostly by horse or cable car. Few, however, know about a secret alpine paradise just 25 km north of Dali. From Xizhou town 喜洲镇, a trail along the Wanhua Creek 万花溪 leads to Huadian Valley 花甸坝, which at 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) is one of the highest meadows in Dali. Hemmed in by richly forested mountains on all sides, Huadian is home to but a few dozen herders and growers of medicinal plants. There are far more horses, sheep, goats, and yaks here than humans. Winters can get very cold with heavy snowfall. Late spring and early summer are the prettiest time of year, when the bounty of local flower species come into bloom, including azalea, camelia, and rhododendron. Visitors can find a room and a meal at Huadian's state-run medicinal plant farm 药材场.