Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

In the 1980s, an expert at the United Nations found a marvelous natural scene on a satellite map of the Northern Hemisphere. In the northwest area of Yunnan Province, there are three rivers flowing parallel from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to the south, but never converge. This is the 29th project of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage in China, Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas.
Three Parallel Rivers in Yunnan
The First Bend of the Yangtze River
The Tiger Leaping Gorge
Hutiao Valley, Yunnan
Originating in the Tanggula Mountain on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Jinsha River, Lancang River and Nu River flow parallel along the Hengduan Mountains for several hundred kilometers. It is a very rare phenomenon that the shortest distance between the Lancang River and Jinsha River is only 66 kilometers (about 41 miles) and between the Lancang River and Nu River the distance is less than 19 kilometers (about 12 miles). Interestingly, their entrances to different seas are thousands of kilometers away.

This protected area covers Nu Jiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Lijiang District. The Three Parallel Rivers have spectacular scenery that is composed of the rivers, mountains, rare plants, animals and 16 ethnic groups' inhabitation.

In this protected area, you can see the typical topographic feature of Yunnan, comprised of the wonderful view of the parallel rivers, high mountains and deep gorges. The height of snow-covered mountains in this area varies from 2,000 meters (about 6562 feet) to 6,000 meters (over 19,600 feet), and there are over 100 snow-covered mountains higher than 5, 000 meters (over 16, 400 feet). Among them, the most famous one is the Meili Snow Mountain, which is regarded as a Holy Mountain by the local Tibetan People.
Snow mountains, Yunnan
The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The Dongba Gods
Lijiang Dongba Wanshen Park
Correspondingly, the gorges are very deep. Nu River Gorge, Lancang River Gorges and Jinsha River Gorges are particularly famous. The average depth of Nu River Gorge is 2,000 meters (about 6562 feet) and it was so named 'the Oriental Grand Gorge'. The famous Tiger Leaping Gorge , which is a part of Jinsha River Gorge, is the deepest gorge of the world. The gorge bottom consists of the subtropical climate, dry and hot, while half way up the mountains it is cool and pleasant. The summits of the mountains are covered with snow all year round. Within the height of several thousand meters, the climate and natural landscape change greatly.

Due to vertical climate differences, there are 20% Higher Plants and over 25% more animals in this area. Some rare plants and animal can also be found here, such as Yunnan golden monkeys, antelopes, snow leopards, Bengalese tigers and black necked cranes.

The protected area of the Three Parallel Rivers is also a region inhabited by 16 different ethnic groups. It is a peculiar place where multi-ethnic groups, different languages, various religions, cultures and manners and customs co-exist. The place where the Naxi Dongba Religion culture originated, Baishui Tableland  and  the Lijiang Old Town , as well as the Mosuo People which has the characteristic of a matriarchal society attract numerous visitors from all over the world.

The protected area of the Three Parallel Rivers has great value in science, aesthetics and a unique culture of ethnic groups. It is a stirring attraction for scientists, explorers and visitors world wide.

How to get to Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

Visitors need to get to Liuku in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture first, and then they can take bus from there to Fugong, Gongshan and Bingzhongluo Village. This itinerary gives visitors a chance to explore the Nu River Gorge.

From Kunming

Visitors can take regular bus from Kunming West Bus Station to Liuku. Buses depart at 09:30, 11:00, 14:30, 18:00, 19:30, 20:00. It takes around 9 hours.

From Lijiang

Take bus from Lijiang Bus Station to Liuku at 09:00, which takes 6-7h. Then, follow the above-mentioned route.

From Dali

Take bus from the Express Bus Station (near Longxi Road Crossing) to Liuku. Buses are available from 7:10 to 19:00 and it takes about 4-5h.
- Last updated on Apr. 12, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas
Asked by calvin chong from MALAYSIA | Nov. 06, 2015 01:05Reply
what is the distance from three parallel to lijang old town?
Answers (1)
Answered by Mayer from CANADA | Nov. 06, 2015 19:57

The distance is about 73 miles.
Asked by Jolan from CANADA | Feb. 05, 2015 00:16Reply
Three Parallel Rivers Tour
Where can I find organized tours in Lijiang to the Three Parallel River area (Laojunshan Mountain, Golden Monkey etc.) Which month of the year the rhododendron forests are in bloom?
Answers (1)
Answered by Michuyi from JAPAN | Feb. 05, 2015 00:44

Well, the best time to watch the rhododendron blossom is May.
For tours, I really don’t know. But you can ask the hotel you book there to help you with this.
Asked by Lily | Dec. 27, 2013 18:15Reply
i'm wondering what lake is better to visit among these three: Bita, Shudu or Napa Lake? Which one is the most beautiful in May?
Answers (1)
Answered by Angela from USA | Dec. 27, 2013 20:36

During yout trip there in May, both Bita Lake and Napa Lake are very beautiful and they both derserve a visit.
Asked by JJ from SINGAPORE | Nov. 21, 2013 00:54Reply
I plan to bring my family to Lijiang in the mid of December. We will take a flight from Singapore to Lijiang via kunming.
We plan to stay in LiJiang for 6 days and use LiJiang old town as a base. How would you recommend us to spend the 6 days. We definitely want to spend time looking around the old town and Jade dragon Snow mountain. Beyond these two places, appreciate your recommendation that can be covered within the 6 days. Thanks.
Answers (1)
Answered by Arina from SPAIN | Nov. 22, 2013 01:26

Here is my general suggestion for your reference:
D1: Lijiang Old Town
D2: Impression Lijiang Show and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as well as Yak meadows
D3: the Ancient Tea and Horse Road (Cha Ma Gu Dao) and Tiger Leaping Gorge
D4: Lashihai and around
D5: Lugu Lake
D6: Lijiang town visiting and ready to return

You can also refer to the link below to arrange your itinerary:
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