Kaili Travel Guide
Kaili, the capital of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture in east Guizhou, is home to 33 minority ethnic groups. Among them, Miao and Dong groups dominated the population, accounting for about 49% and 30% of its total population respectively, hence its nickname “the Pearl of Miao and Dong”.
All the ethnic people in this area practice and preserve their unique traditions in clothing, architecture, food, festivals or ceremonies, songs, dances, craft arts, etc., making Kaili a popular destination to experience the culture and life of China’s diverse ethnic minority groups.
Chinese: 凯里 kǎi lǐ
Location: Southeast Guizhou
Population (urban area): 717,000
Fast Facts of Kaili
- Location: Southeast of Guizhou
- Climate: Subtropical monsoon climate, with four distinct seasons and abundant rainfall
- Recommended Activities: Visit ethnic villages, learn to make handicrafts, explore natural scenery
- Best Time to Visit: March to November
- Time Needed: 3+ days recommended
Kaili Tourist Attractions
Attractions in Kaili are never ending. It’s diverse in both culture and life experience. One of the highlights is the many ethnic villages which immerse visitors in the authentic way of minority group’s life, with unique culture, customs, folk houses, and local delicacies. A Kaili trip is not confined to a museum-style explanation or sightseeing, it is more of an in-depth experience, including trying your hand at crafting local handicrafts or participating in local festivals and celebrations. Below are some of the top places in Kaili to experience its charm.
Top Things to Do in Kaili
If you don’t know how to plan your Kaili itinerary like a pro, or wondering what to do in Kaili? The following recommended activities in Kaili will be a good inspiration for you.
Visit Local Ethnic Villages
Kaili’s top highlight lies in its ethnic diversity and rich culture. For an in-depth experience of local ethnic minority culture, the best way is to visit some of the local ethnic villages where you can contact locals, experience their handicrafts, see many traditional architecture, and join in some of their ceremonies. With a seamless blend of modernity and rich tradition, the ethnic villages in Kaili are always ready to bring you a unique captivating travel experience. Below are some of the most recommended villages in Kaili:
- Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village: It is the largest Miao village in the world which is popular, yet a little commercialized. The thousands of wooden stilted houses in the village are built one next to another along the hillside, forming a spectacular view. A can’t-miss experience here is to enjoy the panoramic view of the village from viewing platforms on the opposite hill.
- Upper Langde Miao Village: This village is also called the Long Skirt Miao group because local women all wear their distinctive long skirt costumes. On a visit to Langde, locals will warmly welcome you with the grand Welcome Ceremony and their traditional singing and dancing performances.
- Matang Gejia Village: This is a small village inhabited by the Gejia people who are a branch of the Miao group, but practice their unique language and customs. The Gejia people are talented at batik and embroidery, and here you’ll get a chance to learn to make your batik with a local master.
- Shiqiao Miao Village: Besides the authentic Miao culture and customs, Shiqiao Village is especially known for its ancient papermaking, which has been passed down for about 1,500 years. Here you can follow a local villager to learn how they make durable paper with the bark of mulberry trees.
- Kongbai Miao Village: A lesser-known village on the hillside of Leigong Mountain, Kongbai Miao Village is known as the “The Last Silversmith Miao Village”, showcasing an idyllic landscape with wooden houses, rice fields, and lush forests. In Kongbai, you will not only enjoy exquisite silver artwork but also have a chance to learn to make your silver work with a master.
Participate in Local Festivals
The variety of ethnic festivals is another highlight of Kaili. Thanks to the presence of over 130 ethnic festivals throughout the year, Kaili earns the moniker “Hometown of a Hundred Festivals”. Participating in local festivals is a great way to delve deeper into local culture, and it will be an exultant experience to join locals in their joy and experience their colorful celebration activities.
Some of the most important festivals in Kaili include Lusheng Festival, Sisters’ Meal Festival, the Miao New Year, etc. See the following calendar to learn more about Kaili’s ethnic festivals with the main activities and the themes.
Kaili Festivals Calendar for 2024
|February 25-30, vary in different places
|Celebrating the soul of the Miao people with the bamboo wind instrument
|Playing the Lusheng, dancing, singing, bullfighting, horseracing, etc.
|Sisters’ Meal Festival
|April 23-25, in Shidong Town, Taijiang County
|The oldest Valentine’s Day in China for the Miao people
|Preparing and exchanging special rice balls, dressing up, singing, dancing, bullfighting, horse racing, etc.
|Miao New Year Festival
|November 5, in Leishan County
|The beginning of a new year for the Miao people
|Singing, dancing, eating, drinking, visiting relatives and friends, etc.
|Dragon Boat Festival
|June 30, in Zhenyuan Ancient Town
|Celebrating the memory of the poet Qu Yuan and the dragon culture
|Racing dragon boats, eating zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), watching folk performances, etc.
|July 29, in Kaili City and nearby villages
|Praying for a good harvest and driving away evil spirits
|Lighting torches, dancing around bonfires, setting off fireworks, etc.
|New Rice Festival
|August-September, vary in different places
|Thanking the gods for the new rice and sharing the joy of harvest
|Offering sacrifices, eating new rice, singing, dancing, playing games, etc.
Recommended Tours with Kaili Festival Experience:
Explore Zhenyuan Ancient Town
Zhenyuan Ancient Town is a can’t-miss if you want a Guizhou tour that combines natural beauty, cultural heritage, and ethnic diversity. Boasting a history of over 2,000 years, Zhenyuan Ancient Town stands out for its large amount of well-preserved ancient folk houses, ancient alleys, and wharves along the rivers. The meandering Wuyang River flows through the town and divides it into two parts, forming it a breathtaking water town.
It is also a culturally diversified place where over 20 ethnic groups live together harmoniously. There are many important festivals and events held in Zhengyuan Ancient Town throughout the year, including the Dragon Boat Festival, the Miao New Year, etc.
Cultural Exploration in Kaili Ethnic Minority Museum
Housing over 12,000 ethnic items, the Kaili Ethnic Minority Museum provides a run-through of the history, culture, and art of the various ethnic groups in Southeast Guizhou. Its collections are categorized into different artifacts and displayed in different halls, including the Clothing Hall showing the embroidery and dyeing skills of the Miao and Dong people, and Minority Features Hall introduces the daily lives, food, entertainment, marriage, beliefs, and more of the various ethnic groups.
Visit Kaili Sunday Market
To understand a new place or a new culture, one of the best ways may be to visit a local market, where you can see how locals choose their clothing, their taste in food, and their choice of articles for daily use. And in Kaili, we recommend the Sunday Market at Kaili Old Street, which offers a snapshot of the colorful and diverse culture of the local people. The market is held every Sunday, and you can spend half a day there to take great photos or just wander around the variety of goods, such as fresh food, vegetables, fruits, craftworks, jewelry, herbs, clothing, and musical instruments. It is a perfect way to enhance your trip to Kaili.
Kaili Foods: What to Eat in Kaili?
People in southeast Guizhou like to prepare various pickled vegetables and meats all year round, and Kaili is no exception. Spicy and sour food are especially popular in Kaili since locals believe that the sour and spicy food can clear dampness, given the humid climate in this area. Below are some of the most popular Kaili dishes for your reference:
- Sour Soup Fish: This is the most popular dish among Miao people, with chili, tomatoes, fresh fish, soybean sprouts, and fried bamboo shoots as its main ingredients, and seasoned with hot and sour flavors, very appetizing.
- Pickled Fish: A traditional Dong food by pickle carp with tomatoes and pepper powder for months. It has a unique flavor mixing sour, hot, salty, and sweet.
- Colorful Glutinous Rice: A popular festival food in Kaili and Guizhou representing good luck and happiness. It is made of glutinous rice, which is dyed into different colors with purple sweet potato, carrot, spinach, or other colorful natural ingredients.
Kaili Weather & Best Time to Visit Kaili
Kaili enjoys a subtropical monsoon climate, with its average annual temperatures running around 15°C. Extreme hot or cold days are rarely seen here. The hottest month is August when the average temperature ranges around 22°C, and the coldest month is January when the average temperature is around 7°C.
Due to the abundant rainfall, this area may be foggy and humid in some periods, especially in September which is the rainiest month of Kaili.
Best Time to Visit Kaili
Wondering when to visit Kaili? Below are our recommended times:
- Best time for pleasant weather and natural scenery: March to June and September to November, with comfortable weather, blooming flowers, and lush scenery.
- Best time for ethnic festivals: from late January to February (the first lunar month), and late September to November (after local fall harvest).
How to Get to Kaili?
How to Travel around Kaili?
Taxi and city buses are both convenient ways to travel around the Kaili city area.
To visit the ethnic villages in the mountainous areas, taking a long-distance bus is possible but not suggested considering the rough roads and difficulty in English communication. A relatively convenient way is to rent a private car with a local driver.
Or, for your best experience, you can customize your private Guizhou Tour with Kaili with our professional team. We will arrange the itinerary based on your preference and requirements, and you just need to sit back in the comfortable private vehicle and follow our local English-speaking guide to delve deep into culture and life in the ethnic villages.
What’s the Accommodation Like in Kaili?
In Kaili’s downtown area, there are a variety of hotels of different stars and levels to suit to visitors’ differing needs.
Many travelers like to experience an overnight stay in the ethnic villages which will offer a better opportunity to immerse into local ethnic groups’ culture and life. But please notice that the hotel options will be limited in the remote mountainous areas, which are mostly guesthouses and boutique hotels with relatively basic facilities.
Useful Kaili Travel Tips
- Many ethnic villages in Kaili are built along the hillside and embraced by rice terraces, and lush forests, if time permits, you can hike around the villages to admire the natural beauty.
- A guided Kaili tour is strongly recommended considering the remote distances between each ethnic village and the language barriers.
- Bringing some cash and small change is still necessary though mobile-phone payment is popular nowadays.
Recommended Guizhou Tours including Kaili
- 7 Days Guizhou Tour to Guiyang, Kaili, Libo
- 6 Days Guizhou Tour of Guiyang Kaili Fanjingshan
- 6 Days Guizhou Ethnic Minority Tour