China (mainland)Orienteering Landscapes seriesYunnan

Orienteering Landscapes: Yunnan Orienteering Waves—Big Dipper 10 Days, China

Yunnan, China high altitude orienteering - #OrienteeringLandscapes

China is a great country for orienteering, and the Orienteering Waves—Big Dipper 10 Days in 2019 took this to a high altitude—to Yunnan, in the southwest of China.

Yunnan is a province in the southwest corner of China, and a highland province—its elevation averages around 2000m. It’s also one of the most ethnically diverse provinces of China, with almost 40% of the population belonging to one of the 55 recognised ethnic minorities in China.

It borders three Southeast Asian countries, namely Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma); Thailand is only around 120 km away. In fact, the southernmost part of Yunnan is populated by, for example, Tai and Shan people that are ethnically and culturally related to people in Thailand and Myanmar (Shan State) respectively. Yunnan is, therefore, a major gateway between China and Southeast Asia; developments in railway infrastructure will bring .

The province boasts a large variety of landscapes and terrains for orienteering; from the tropical lowland river valleys of the Mekong (Lancang) River in the south (Xishuangbanna), to the highland plateaus that span much of the province with major cities and attractions such as Kunming and Lijiang (UNESCO World Heritage Site), to the snow mountains near Tibet that peak at 6740m (Kawagebo Peak). Beside lakes, rivers and forests, Yunnan also has open fell terrain and, characteristically, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (another UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Orienteering Waves and Big Dipper: two major orienteering series in China

Orienteering Waves and Big Dipper are two major orienteering series in China, both popular with orienteers nationwide, taking place in different locations in China each year but more frequently in Guangdong in Southern China where there are especially many orienteers (a vibrant community that has close relations with the orienteers in Hong Kong).

Orienteering Waves is a 7-day orienteering event. Big Dipper refers to the constellation of that name, which is also the name for China’s Global Navigation Satellite System (Beidou), thus giving an additional layer of significance to the navigational sport of orienteering.

In 2019, the two series joined forces to produce a 10-day event under the title “Big Dipper—Orienteering Waves 10 Days“, near Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. The event includes races in and around Kunming with varying formats such as sprint, middle distance and urban orienteering.

The event was attended not only by many orienteers nationwide, but also international orienteers from Europe.

Despite its near-tropical latitude, Yunnan's high altitude endows it with a cool to mild weather all over the year.
Despite its near-tropical latitude, Yunnan’s high altitude endows it with a cool to mild weather all over the year. (Courtesy of Big Dipper—Orienteering Waves 10 Days)

Yunnan: a possible high altitude training ground for orienteering?

Yunnan is a highland province. In fact, the area of Big Dipper—Orienteering Waves 10 Days features terrain ranging from 1900m to 2400m above sea level, comparable to many popular altitude training grounds: higher than St. Moritz, Switzerland (1800m) and reaching the level of Iten, Kenya (2400m) and Bogotá, Colombia (2600m).

Altitude training is a way to increase performance through acclimatising in highland areas with less oxygen, thus increasing red blood cells and encouraging more efficient use of oxygen by the body. The effect may be especially significant on orienteering as it involves active engagement of both the body and brain in navigation.

With good orienteering opportunities and tourism infrastructure, Yunnan is a potential high altitude orienteering training ground for international orienteers.

Stay tuned for more orienteering news in China


Orienteering is a popular sport in China that receives great support from the government. Besides general recreation and sport, orienteering is also significant in school, college and military sports in China. It’s also increasingly popular as a general tool for local authorities to market history and culture through sports tourism, as seen from events such as

Stay tuned to more orienteering news in China.

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