Skip to main content

Yunnan is an inland province with no coastal area, but it is nevertheless remarkably rich in water resources, with a great variety of inland bodies of water, including  rivers, lakes, springs, pools, and glaciers, all couched within gloriously beautiful landscapes.

First Bay of Yangtze River

More than 600 rivers run through Yunnan, which all belong to the six major river systems, the Yantze River (Jinsha River), Pearl River (Nanpan River), Red River (Yuanjiang River), Lancang River (Mekong River), Nujiang River (Salween River), and Irrawaddy River, which run into either the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean. Two of those rivers, the Pearl River and the Red River, have their sources in Yunnan. Nujiang River, Lancang River, Red River and Ruili River (Irrawaddy River system) are international rivers. The Lancang River flows through Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and is sometimes called the "oriental Danube River". It is extremely rare for a single province to be so well endowed as to have six river systems that drain into one of two oceans, including four that are international rivers.

Fuxian Lake

Fuxian LakeOne of Yunnan’s best features is its lakes. Yunnan has hundreds of plateau freshwater lakes, more than almost any province in China, including 37 that are larger than 1 square kilometer in area.

Yunnan’s lakes are the beating heart of Yunnan life. A number of Yunnan’s lakes are world famous lakes of the "plateau pearl", including Dianchi Lake, Yangzong Lake, Fuxian Lake, Xingyun Lake, Qilu Lake, Yilong Lake, Er'hai Lake, Chenghai Lake and Lugu Lake. These are primarily tectonic lakes formed by fractures in the earth’s crust, which cause the rise of lakes surrounded by picturesque mountains. The clear, fresh mountain water is good for fish and shrimp breeding, and it also helps to moderate the climate. Water from the lakes is used to irrigate farmland, as well as to provide boat transportation; the beauty of the lakes makes them some of Yunnan’s most popular tourist attractions.

Rehai Hot Spring in Tengchong County

Yunnan is graced with a great abundance of natural springs, which are widely distributed across the countryside. There are more than 1200 hot springs in Yunnan, about one-third of the hot springs in China, with hot springs in almost every county in Yunnan. Here you can find the famous "Hot Spring City" - Kunming, the "Hot Water City" - Eryuan, and the "Hometown of Geothermal Energy" - Tengchong.