8-Day Three Parallel Rivers Tour

The Three Parallel Rivers Protected Area was listed as a World Heritage site in 1993. On this trip you will discover the torrential rivers, soaring mountains, deep gorges and rare flora and fauna that led to that decision. You will also appreciate the area’s rich history in places such as Shibaoshan Grottoes and Shaxi Ancient Town and have the opportunity to learn about and interact with the Tibetan, Naxi, Lisu and Bai peoples.

Tour starts/finishes: Dali/Zhongdian
Fitness level required: Average
Time of year available: March-November
Time of year recommended: May-June, October-early November

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Cangshan Mountain- Shaxi (L, D)
Visit Cangshan Mountain. Ride the cable car up to Zhonghe Temple and walk along the Cloud Pass enjoying for incredible views over Erhai Lake and Dali city. Come down the mountain and drive for 3 hours from Dali to Shaxi, the most intact horse caravan town on the Ancient tea route leading from Yunnan to Burma and Tibet. The Sideng market square of the town of Shaxi was added to the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2001. Overnight in Shaxi in a small guesthouse.

Day 2: Shaxi-Shibaoshan-Shigu (B, L, D)
Get up early in the morning to see the sun rising over the Yujing bridge. If it’s Friday, join in the market in Sideng town square, where Yi and Bai merchants from the surrounding areas trade and sell their homemade goods. Visit Shibaoshan’s 7th century Buddhist rock carvings- evidence of the spread of Mahayana Buddhism into Yunnan from Tibet.  Hike into the grottoes carved into the mountainside or just walk around the temples seeing very tame monkeys on the way. In the afternoon, drive on to Shigu (Stone Drum) town where the Yangtze River bends for the first time after flowing uninterrupted in a thousand-kilometre arc from its source on the Tibet/Qinghai border. Overnight in Shigu in a small hotel.

Day 3: Shigu-Tacheng (B, L, D)
Have a look around the area of Shigu. Part of the Red Army chose this point to ford the river during the Long March in April 1936, breaking through Nationalist lines under the guidance of the spirited Communist general He Long. Then drive for 3.5 hours to Tacheng, a beautiful village which is  the home town of Yunnan golden monkey. Visit the Damo Temple, a remote mountain Buddhist monastery. Overnight in Tacheng in a simple guesthouse.

Day 4: Tacheng-Cizhong (B, L, D)

Visit the Tacheng Black Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park to try to catch a glimpse of this endangered species in its natural habitat. Then drive for 5 hours from Tacheng to Cizhong, a Catholic wine-growing village of around 1000 people set amidst a beautiful mountain valley, down by a river. Enjoy dinner at The Red Wine Guesthouse where you can taste delicious wine made by the church’s caretaker!

Day 5: Cizhong-Mekong River Gorge-Feilaisi (B, L, D)

Visit Cizhong Catholic church, built in 1909, and now used for worship by Catholics from Tibetan, Naxi, Han and Li villages in the nearby area. Climb to the top of the tower for breathtaking views. Then drive for around 3.5 hours to Feilaisi, enjoying impressive views of the Mekong River and the deep, river canyons it has carved. Overnight in Feilaisi.

Day 6: Feilaisi-Mingyong-Feilaisi (B, L, D)
Get up early to watch sunrise over the Meili Snow Mountains, then proceed onto Mingyong Glacier, a 12km long glacier on the Kawa Karpo Peak which has been a pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists for thousands of years. To reach the viewpoint, you have the option of a 3 hour trek through the forest, or a 1.5-2 hour horse ride. After coming back down from the glacier, drive back to Feilaisi for the night.

Day 7: Feilaisi-Zhongdian (B, L, D)
Drive from Feilaisi to Zhongdian (5 hours drive). On the way we will stop at Baimang Snow Mountain Nature Reserve, the first bend of the Jinsha River and Dongzhulin Monastery. On arrival in Zhongdian, we will explore the old town, and join with the local Tibetans in their evening dance/exercise routine int the Old Square. Overnight in Zhongdian.

Day 8: Zhongdian-Lijiang (L)
Take a dawn visit to the Songzanlin Monastery. Then drive back to Lijiang, stopping for lunch at a guesthouse overlooking the Middle Rapids of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tour concludes.

Tour prices

The following table shows the price per person for groups of varying sizes.

2 people 3 people 4-5 people 6-7 people 8 + people
Single supplement
Price p.p. 7000 CNY 5150 CNY 4500 CNY 4100 CNY 3900 CNY 700 CNY

Price inclusions

  1. Accommodation: 2 nights in simple guesthouses, 5 nights in nice guesthouses
  2. Entrance tickets: Cangshan Mountain (80 CNY), Shibaoshan Grottoes (30 CNY), Mingyong Glacier (70 CNY), Omega Bend of Jinsha River (30 CNY), Dongzhulin Monastery (30 CNY), Songzanlin Monastery (85 CNY)
  3. All transportation: Transportation for the duration of the tour is by 2WD or Jinbei vehicle.
  4. Meals : 6 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners as indicated on the itinerary. Lunches and dinners will be standard Chinese food including rice and a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Breakfasts will be Chinese breakfast foods (noodles, steamed buns, eggs) and western food (pancakes, fried eggs) where available.
  5. Guide: An experienced English speaking tour guide

Price exclusions

  1. Snacks, drinks and western food
  2. Travel insurance
  3. Horseriding fees
  4. Personal expenses such as phone calls and laundry


  1. Surcharges will be charged for peak travelling times such as Chinese New Year, May Day (May 1st-7th) and National Day (October 1st-7th). For tours at these times please contact us for a customized quote.
  2. The prices quoted are to be used as a guide only. A final tour quote will be provided to you at the time of enquiry which may be higher or lower than the price listed above.


Below are some images from previous tours in this area. Click to view larger images.

Travellers’ feedback

Tracey Harper writes…..

This is the second trip my family and myself have been on with Backroads of China. We met with Jonathon our guide, who bent over backwards to provide a fantastic trip- no request was too much. The scenery, connection with villagers, and food were amazing. I ended up cooking a meal with the lady who owned one of the guesthouses, language was not a barrier. After the meal we all were taught local dances, with lots of laughter. Shangrila was a highlight, dancing with local women one evening, to the haunting rhythmic music. As I am an enthusiastic photographer, I was able to capture many dramatic shots of scenery, and wonderful portraits of the local people. This trip was not your average tour, it gave us an insight to the real China.

Jeanne Gadol writes…..

When we arrived in Dali and met Jonathan we were thrilled.  His warmth and humor and positive attitude added so much to the Yunnan portion of our trip.  Our driver didn’t speak any English but was fun and joined in as best he could.  His vehicle was well built and quite comfortable and I always felt his driving was attentive and safe.

Jonathan continually tuned in to our needs and did whatever he could to adapt the itinerary to our hiking abilities and interests.  I so appreciated that and as a result we spent more time in monasteries than we might have otherwise and visited a wood carving store and studio, a tie-dye facility and an extra marketplace. The highlights for me were the Buddhist monasteries, stupas and prayer flags in the beautiful Himalayas. The hike up to the monastery/glacier, the grottoes, the Yunnan Golden Monkey Reserve, Dali, Shaxi, Tacheng and the many market places were fabulous.  I also had a great time on our raft trip down the Yangtze which we added in.  I jokingly called it our cruise down the Yangtze Backroads China style!

Tania, thank you so very much for the wonderful job you did putting this trip together.  I will never forget it and am so glad I got to experience rural China.

Yen Phan writes…..

Firstly, I want to say that your up front ability to tailor a plan and revisit the plan was without exception the best we’ve seen.
This trip provided our family with amazingly memorable experience of  China mountain ranges, especially with Jonathan as a tour guide. He went beyond the tour guide’s duties to interact with our children. We could not think of any better way to explore the Yunnan region as a family.
The activities you planned for us were exciting, challenging and appropriate for everyone in the family from 8 years old to 70 years old. We will be happy to be a reference via email if any of your future clients needs one.


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