WHS: Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan, China

So in our last visit, to the Old Town of Lijiang, we mentioned that the way we recommended to get there was by flying from Tibet. Not only is that a notably cheap way to work in a visit to an otherwise rather out of the way place, on your way there you get some really spectacular views of the Himalayas, and in particular the

Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

Three Parallel Rivers National Park


Located in the mountainous north-west of Yunnan Province in China, the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is a natural serial property consisting of 15 protected areas, grouped into eight clusters. The Property contains an outstanding diversity of landscapes, such as deep-incised river gorges, luxuriant forests, towering snow-clad mountains, glaciers, and alpine karst, reddish sandstone landforms (Danxia), lakes and meadows over vast vistas.

The 1.7 million hectare site features sections of the upper reaches of three of the great rivers of Asia: the Yangtze (Jinsha), Mekong and Salween which run approximately parallel, north to south, through steep gorges which, in places, are 3,000 m deep and are bordered by glaciated peaks more than 6,000 m high.

The property spans a large portion of the Hengduan Mountains, which is the major arc curving into Indochina from the eastern end of the Himalayas. Being located in the convergent regions of the three world’s major biogeographic realms, the property is in an epicentre of Chinese biodiversity. It may also harbour the richest biodiversity among the temperate areas of the world…

Trust us, that shot up there really doesn’t do justice to the sheer scale of the scenery on the Tibet-Lijang leg. It’s hard to even come up with words that do. “Monumental?” “Legendary?” Those are still merely human scale. “Epic” perhaps?

The iconic place to experience this site on the ground is Tiger Leaping Gorge:

Three Parallel Rivers National Park

Tiger Leaping Gorge (Chinese: 虎跳峡; pinyinHǔ tiào xiá) is a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River. It is located 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Lijiang CityYunnan in southwestern China. It is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site.

At a maximum depth of approximately 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) from river to mountain peak, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world.[1] The inhabitants of the gorge are primarily the indigenous Naxipeople, who live in a handful of small hamlets. Their primary subsistence comes from grain production and hikers, foreign as well as Chinese…

Didn’t quite fly over close enough to get a direct overhead shot of the gorge itself — that’s the lower reaches of the Jinsha, according to GPS, looking up towards it. But you get the idea.

The most wondrous natural wonder in the area not to miss, though — in fact, anywhere in the area there’s pretty much no way to miss it — is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain:

Three Parallel Rivers National Park


The view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool (Heilong Tan) in Lijiang is noted as one of China’s finest views … The Park operates a tourist cable car that elevates to 4680 m for close views of the snow peak, which is criticized for accelerating the melting of the snow and reducing the water retention by the mountain.


p dir=”auto”>So if you’re looking for some hiking in the Lijang area, that’s where to go! But really, we recommend the flying over it approach from Tibet — there’s no way you could ever appreciate the vastness of it from the ground!


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  1. […] visit we were telling you that the best way to appreciate the scale of the Three Parallel Rivers WHS was to fly over it from Tibet, so now let’s talk about what to do before you fly, and that is […]

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