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Thousand Islets Lake

Thousand Islets Lake

Written by Ruru ZhouUpdated Aug. 24, 2023

Located in Chun'an County around 160 kilometers west of Hangzhou, in East China's Zhejiang Province, ( see China Map)Thousand Islets Lake is currently the largest man-made lake in China. It got its name from the 1078 islets in the lake. The lake is famous for its crystal-clear water and picturesque scenery. Covering an area of 573 square kilometers, the lake is more than one hundred times larger than West Lake in Hangzhou. A forest covers nearly 93 percent of the lake area, which is home to over 1,800 varieties of plants and 2,100 wild animals. With an average depth of 34 meters, its water visibility can reach 7 to 12 meters. See all beautiful lakes in China

Ancient Underwater Cities

Apart from its tranquil natural scenery, the lake is also a popular diving spot for scuba enthusiasts, because below the surface lie the remains of two magnificent ancient cities: He Cheng and Shi Cheng ('Lion City' 狮城 /shrr chnng/).

About These Underwater Cities

Both ancient cities have been submerged for 55 years. They were not discovered until a local tourism official explored the lake's potential as a scuba diving spot in 2001. The diving crews found that the cities were intact including brick walls, wooden beams, and stairs, even after being submerged for so long.

He Cheng, also called Chun'an Ancient City, was built in AD 208. It was an important town in Zhejiang in ancient times, with convenient waterway transportation and a rich culture.

Shi Cheng (Lion City) was built in 621 AD, and acquired its name from nearby Wu Shi Mountain ('Five Lion Mountain' 五狮山 /woo shrr shan/), which is located just behind the city. There are many places of interest: ancient pagodas built in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911), memorial archways, City Gold Temple (城隍庙Cheng Huang Miao /chnng hwung myaou/), Five Lions Academy, and other ancient architecture.

Why the Cities Are Underwater

In 1959, in order to supply the electrical needs of the fast-growing city of Hangzhou, the Chinese government built the Xin'an River Hydroelectric Station. A dam was constructed, and these two ancient cities were submerged in the resulting artificial lake. Besides these two ancient cities, 27 towns, more than 1,000 villages, about 50,000 acres of farmland, and thousands of houses were left at the bottom of the lake. 290,000 people had to relocate for this project.

How to Visit the Underwater Cities

At present these two ancient cities have not been explored by the local tourist administration. The only way to visit the ancient cities is by diving, which can be arranged through a diving club like Big Blue Diving Shanghai.

The ancient cities are now between 26 meters (85 feet) and 50 meters (164 feet) underwater. Diving conditions are very complicated. The water temperature is only about 7 °C (45 °F) on average. The underwater visibility of the lake is low, generally about 2–3 meters, but sometimes less than 1 meter. The best visibility is 5 meters, but this is rare.It is not safe for people without diving training to visit the ancient cities. Only well-qualified divers are allowed to visit the ancient cities.

Biking Around the Lake

Biking around the lake is an interesting adventure. The road is in good condition. It may take two days to bike all the way around. See our Thousand Islets Lake biking guide for more information.

On of the most popular ways to visit the lake is to Take a cruise boat around the lake and enjoy its beautiful scenery. There are many cruise routes for travelers to choose. All routes take travelers to some of the islands.

Boats Cruising

Cruise Routes

  • Route A: Plum Peak Island (Meifeng Dao, 梅峰岛), Ostrich Island (鸵鸟岛),Monkey Island (猴岛) and Three Pools Island (三潭岛).
  • Route B: Shenlong Island (神龙岛) – Lonshan Island (龙山岛) – Wulong Island (五龙岛)
  • Route C: Guihua Island (桂花岛) – Tianchi (天池) – Mishan Island (蜜山岛) – Huangshan Jian (黄山尖)

Cruise Boat Price

Boats starting from the central lake district:
Luxurious cruise boat: 45 yuan/person; 25 yuan/person for children between 1.10 meters and 1.40 meters tall
Normal cruise boat: 30 yuan/person; 15 yuan/person for children between 1.10 meters and 1.4 meters tall
Yacht: 60 yuan/person for Route A and 50 yuan/person for route B
Route A+B: Yacht (60 yuan/person


There are three wharfs along the lake.

Thousand Island Lake Wharf (千岛湖旅游码头); Location: Xin'an Avenue

In the spring, summer and autumn, tickets for the route A cruise are sold starting at 7 am, and the cruise boat departs at 8 am. Tickets for the route B cruise are sold starting at 12 am, and the boat leaves at 1 pm.

In the winter, tickets for the route A cruise are sold starting at 7 am and the ship departs at 8 am. Tickets for the route B cruise are starting at 12 am and the cruise starts at 1pm.
Maozhu Yuan Southeast Wharf (毛竹源东南旅游码头):

The boat departs at 8 am and returns at about 4 pm. The touring route is: Tianchi (天池) – Mianshan (蜜山) - Peacock Garden (孔雀园) – Three Pool Island (三潭岛) – Monkey Island (猴岛).

Xiyuan Wharf (西园旅游码头)

Location: South Xin'an Road, Qiandao Lake town (千岛湖镇新安南路). Boats depart when there are passengers, and they take travel route C.

China Highlights can help you customize a tour from Hangzhou. Shanghai and other places to visit Qiandao Lake. Read more information on Qiandao Lake

Transportation between Thousand Islets Lake and Hangzhou

Direct buses are available at Hangzhou West Long Distance Bus Station(杭州汽车西站). Buses are available from 6:00 to18:40 ,and run every 40 minutes.

Direct buses from Thousand Islets Lake are available at Qiandaohu Long Distance Bus (千岛湖长途汽车站). From 5:20 to 18:00, buses depart every 40 minutes.

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