Nestled between the jagged peaks of the Cangshan Range and the ear-shaped Erhai Lake, Dali was once the ancient capital of the powerful Nanzhao Kingdom; in the intervening centuries, Dali saw its share of turmoil, yet managed to safeguard a good deal of its traditional structures and buildings. Because of its well-preserved old town, Dali has recently begun to draw a steady stream of visitors. Like the rest of Yunnan, Dali hosts a large population of ethnic minorities, the most numerous of whom are the Bai.
Given its high elevation, Dali's climate is gentle and mild much of the year, with June to September being the rainiest months. Popular activities include touring the nearby countryside, particularly the waters around Erhai Lake, by bike; hiking or riding the cable car up the verdant slopes of the nearby Cangshan Mountains; and visiting the historic Three Pagodas.