Located in the remote area northeast of Lijiang in Yunnan Province, Lugu Lake (泸沽湖) is situated in a beautiful landscape that certainly qualifies as an "off-the-beaten-path" adventure. However, the positive sentiments I hold for Lugu Lake come with equivalently cautious "buts" that need to be addressed.
Getting to Lugu Lake from Lijiang is neither a cheap, short, or easy feat. The cost is around 150 Yuan per person each way, which gets you stuffed into a small 8-seater van for a bumpy six hour ride into the mountains. Along the way there are several rest stops that will make anyone weak in the stomach lose their appetite for a week. That said, once you get there, the sights are well worth the wait. It should be noted that you can take a private car out there from Lijiang for around 700 Yuan in total, which might be worth considering if you have a group of 3 or 4 people.
Lugu Lake is a place where you can experience three seasons in a day. In the Spring, which is a good time to go, the days are warm and sunny, though a shower or two is likely. When the clouds roll in along with thunder and lightning, it begins to feel like a scene from a Halloween movie, only to make way for a rainbow laden sunset.
In terms of things to do in Lugu Lake, the natural environment lends itself to a lot of great hikes and mountain biking, while you can also stick to the paved road around the 68 kilometer lake via rented scooter or bicycle. For the water-faring types, there is also boating and kayaking available, though rather mild in intensity since the lake is very calm. Overall, it can be an excellent place to rest and relax, especially if you just finished hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge like I did.
Sounds great, right? Well, just note that everything in Lugu Lake comes at a price – a steep one at that. I was shocked to find the cost of eating in a small village restaurant was nearly the same as an upscale eatery in the heart of Shanghai. Additionally, the transportation fares getting out of there are significantly more than the price getting in. I get the feeling that the local culture there is unfortunately focused on gouging visitors than creating a positive, memorable experience.
But don't just take my word for it. This blog also has a lot of great insights into their experience.