Home China Guide Lijiang Attractions Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan National Park

The Yunnan Three Parallel Rivers National Park

three parallel rivers

Basic Facts

The Three Parallel Rivers Protected Area is the place where the headwaters of the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze flow close together. 

These great rivers and the ecology is protected by a national park 310 km by 180 km in size. UNESCO World Heritage calls it one of the world's most biologically diverse temperate regions on the planet. Now this protected area is a site for ecotouring.

The large ecotourism preserve has Diverse flora and fauna, rugged landscape, very tall mountains, and four major rivers distinguish this area.

  • Chinese: 云南三江并流 Yúnnān Sānjiāngbìngliú /ywnn-nan san-jyang bing lyoh/ 'Yunnan Three Rivers Parallel Flow'
  • Location: Yunnan Province in southwestern China, between Burma and Lijiang
  • Altitude: from 760m to 6,740m (Meilishan); 118 peaks over 5,000m, many glaciated
  • Area: about 40,000 sq km. (15,000 sq mi.)
  • Popular activities: Ecotourism tours, hiking, sightseeing, river boating, wildlife appreciation
  • Time needed for a visit: a day, or two or more to acclimate for mountain hiking

The Three Major Asian Rivers

The Yangtze (Jinshajiang), Mekong (Lancang) and Salween (Nujiang) flow down north to south through deep parallel canyons in the National Park. In places, the gorges are 2,000 meters deep. At their closest, the three canyons are 18 and 66 km apart.

The Mekong runs through a gorge 310 km long. It crosses both Cambodia and Vietnam, and is the source of much of the food supply in both countries.

Yangtze cruiseA Yangtze cruise will take you through steep gorges.

The Yangtze River is China's largest river and the world's 6th biggest. It stretches from here through Chongqing and Wuhan and ends at Shanghai. The river is China's favorite place to enjoy a cruise boat tour.

The Salween is important for the livelihood of the ethnic people in Burma and Thailand. The river valley in Burma is known for its beauty, and it flows to the Indian Ocean.

Seventy kilometers away on the west side of the reserve in Burma, there is a fourth parallel river called the Dulongjiang that runs through Burma where it joins a large river called Irrawaddy River. So the place could be called the "Four Parallel Rivers Region."

Natural Highlights

Rugged Landscape of Deep Canyons, Super High Mountains, Lakes, and Glaciers

meili mountain Meili Mountain, the highest in Yunnan

On this land, there are high mountains, deep valleys, snow-capped peaks, large glaciers, lakes with potable water, wild forest, marshy grassland, rare animals and precious plants. In a word, there is a lot to see here.

The tallest mountains have glaciers, and the deep valleys, at some places 3000 meters deep (twice the depth of the Grand Canyon), create isolated ecological habitats with a great diversity of creatures and sub-tropical plants and animals at the lowest elevation.

Animals and Plants

This is a biodiversity hotspot mostly covered with temperate coniferous and broadleaf forests. Tropical plants are in the deepest valleys. There are 6,000 species of plants, and many species are endemic to the region. There are 200 varieties of rhododendron and more than 100 species of gentians and primulas.

There are 173 species of mammals, of which 81 are endemic, and 417 species of birds, of which 22 are endemic. The rare mammals inhabiting this region include the black snub-nosed monkey, Indian leopard, snow leopard, Gongshan muntjac, Chinese shrew mole, stump-tailed macaque, Asiatic wild dog, black musk deer, takin, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear and red panda.

Social Highlights

The preserve has within it land of 3 prefectures and 8 counties including Lijiang City, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture with a town the Chinese call Shangri-la after the fictitious novel, and Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture.

The isolated valleys have sixteen different ethnic groups with different, languages, religions and customs, and we can help you visit them.

Touring there with China Highlights

tiger leaping gorge Tiger Leaping Gorge

Nearby Attractions