Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan – An Immense area of Ecological Wonder

The Three Parallel Rivers originate in the Tibetan Plateau flowing from north to south for 170 kms to Yunnan Province crossing several mountains along the way. It consists of the Salween River (怒江 Nujiang River), the Mekong River (澜沧江 Lancang River) and the Yangtze (金沙江 Jinsha River) and its mountain ranges. It is a UNESCO World Heritage protected area.

It forms a natural geographical landscape where the rivers, uniquely, do not meet. In the meantime, the shortest straight line distance between the Minjiang River and the Jinsha River is 66 kilometers, and the shortest straight line distance between the Lancang River and the Nujiang River is less than 19 kilometers.

The area is packed with scenic landscapes and is one of the most important ecological areas in China. This area accounts for less than 0.4% of China’s land area, but it has more than 25% of the country’s plant species. It is also home to 77 species of rare and endangered animals such as golden monkeys, antelopes, snow leopards, Bengal tigers, and black-necked cranes.

The Three Rivers Parallel Natural Landscape consists of the Nujiang River, the Lancang River, the Jinsha River and its mountain ranges, covering a total of 1.7 million hectares. It includes 9 nature reserves in Lijiang City, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Nujiang Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province and 10 scenic spots.

The Three Rivers Parallel Area is divided into the following eight main areas:

Hongshan District 红山区
It includes the typical plateau planes in the Jinsha River Basin, the ancient glacial remnants with rich topography and features, rich plant ecosystems, plateau lakes and other landscape types. Among them, the most typical significance of the geological landscape of Nikko Nanbao Grassland and Xiaoxueshan Qikou Plateau.

Qianhu Mountain Area 千湖山区
The Qianhu Mountain area is covered with alpine icy lakes. According to incomplete statistics, there are more than one hundred high-altitude lakes of different sizes. Among them, Sanbi Sea and Big Black Sea. It has a unique landscape value of plateau forest lakes.

Yunling area 云岭片区
The area is home to a large population of golden monkeys. The protected area has a forest coverage rate of 76%, mostly in its original state, and its biodiversity is quite rich. Wild animals in the area are widely distributed. According to preliminary investigations, 28 species of mammals were recorded, belonging to 7 orders and 13 families.

Laojun District 老君山区
It features plateau lakes near Longtan and abundant flora forming amazing landscape views. Also in the area is Laojiang Mountain in Lijiang, which is the largest and most developed Danxia landform in China.

Laowoshan District 老窝山区
Located downstream of the Lancang River Basin, it features landscapes of alpine lakes, high altitude meadow of wildflowers and resources for conservation. The main attractions include Xinhua Lake, Laowo Mountain Alpine Ice Lake Group, Lalu River, Hongyan Cave Cave, and Lidiping Wild Flower, which are still in the original undeveloped stage.

Gaoligong Mountain Area 高黎贡山区
A concentrated display area for plant species diversity in the “Three Parallel Rivers” region. The Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve is the largest nature reserve within the World Heritage area.

Meili Snow Mountain 梅里雪山区
There are typical geomorphological features and rich geological relics in the Lancang River Basin, and it is the original habitat of the golden monkey.

Haba Snow Mountain 哈巴雪山区
The main peak of Haba Snow Mountain is 5,396 meters above sea level and is one of the most famous mountains in Yunnan. It is located on the northwest side of Tiger Leaping George.


  • Chinese name: 云南三江并流保护区 – The Three Parallel Rivers Protected Area
  • UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site
  • Location: Lijiang, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province
  • The three rivers: Salween River (怒江 Nujiang River), Mekong River (澜沧江 Lancang River) and the Yangtze (金沙江 Jinsha River)
  • Parallel river length: 170 km
  • Protected area: 3500Km2

Three Rivers Attraction Map

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