Winter is now descending on Yunnan. Yet because of its geographical diversity, its effects differ according to the latitude and altitude of specific destinations. The northern half of the province, famed for its snow-capped mountains, is.higher and colder, but a greater scenic attraction at this time of year. Both Kunming and Dali lie at about 2000 meters, Lijiang at 2400 meters and Shangrila 3200.
Temperatures from now through February in central Yunnan cities range from 3-5 degrees at night to 15-18 degrees in the daytime. In the northwest, in Lijiang and Weixi it drops to around zero at night and rises to 13-15 in the afternoons. Shangrila is even chillier, down to ten below zero at night and only up to 7 or 8 in the daytime. March temperatures are two or three degrees warmer day and night. Snow will be visible further down the slopes of high mountains, but precipitation is light all season. When snow does fall, it rarely impedes the passage of road traffic. And in the far northwest, yaks are down from the higher elevations and grazing on the Shangrila plains.
South of Kunming, towards Xishuangbanna or the Red River counties, the elevation of the land gradually decreases to just a few hundred meters along the rivers and even the hill towns are not nearly as high as the plateau cities of the north. Places like Mojiang, Jinping and Xinjie experience temperatures from lows of 8-10 to highs of 18-20, while in Menglian it is a little warmer in the daytime and in Jinghong even warmer, already 30 degrees by early March.
Morning fog characterizes the low-lying parts of southern Yunnan in the early winter weeks. When it lifts, the temperatures rise quickly, for winter days are usually sunny. It rains infrequently and snow is extremely rare, even on the highest mountains. Market days are quite active, especially around Lunar New Year, and winter is the best season to view the water-filled terraces south of the Red River.