Believe it or not, they’ve managed to monopolize a lake. Once upon a time there were ferries that would take you to different places around Erhai Lake. These days, you’ll have to sign up for an overpriced tour if you want any sort of boating experience on the lake. These tours can be organized through travel agents, cafes and guesthouses in the old town – you won’t get a better deal if you go to the port yourself. Look for a tour that includes a visit to a couple of the lake’s island and the popular town of Wase on the east shore. Average prices are around ¥150. Truth be told, it’s not really worth it.
A better option might be to hire a bike and cycle around the lake, stopping in several villages along the way. This could be done in one long day by fit people (10 hours or so with some exploration time). The total trip is around 120km. Otherwise, you could break up the journey by staying overnight in Wase. But note that there isn’t a lake-side track – the road is a bit in from the shore.
Random facts for those who care: Erhai Lake is roughly 42km north to south and 7km east to west. It is the 7th largest freshwater lake in China. The name translates as “Ear-shaped Lake”. Look at a map – it kind of is ear-shaped.
Directions: Most boats leave from the marina at the village of Caicun (才村), directly east of Dali. Bus #2 from near the north gate will get you there or it’s about a 40 minute walk.