Yanjin County is the kind of city that makes you do a double-take. Situated at the bottom of a steep valley, the dense cluster of buildings that sit along the banks of the murky brown Nanxi river are dwarfed by towering green surroundings. No matter which angle you look at it, the whole effect is very dramatic and rather bizarre. We've done some investigating to discover the story behind this curious city - alleged to be the narrowest in the world.
How narrow is the city?
Apparently, at its narrowest point, Yanjin County is 30 metres and 300 metres at its widest. This short video captures just how jaw-droppingly narrow some parts are:
Where is it located?
Yanjin County is located in the northeast of Yunnan Province, which lies in the southwest of China. The city is under the jurisdiction of Zhaotong city which serves as the regional administrative centre and is situated about 100 km south of Yanjin.
What else is known about the city?
Hemmed in by steep mountains on either side, the city looks like it has squeezed itself into an impossibly tight space in the hope of not being discovered. And it’s done quite a good job of remaining off the radar too, as it was only until recently when some epic drone footage did the rounds on social media, that the city started getting attention. Floods of tourists haven't been pouring in, however, as not only is the area pretty remote, but apart from being remarkable visually - the city itself has no specific tourist attractions.
A little exploring on Google maps (the coordinates for Yanjin County are 28°03'45.6"N 104°14'26.5"E) reveals Yanjin County to be a normal kind of city complete with a middle school, a hairdressing centre, a BBQ joint, a furniture salesroom, a couple of hotels, and what seems like more than its fair share of automobile repair shops.
Estimates state that today about 375,000 people live in Yanjin County and historically, the city was known for having an ancient salt well, with salt being produced in the region and transported along the river (this is where Yanjin gets its name from). The area was also once home to the Bo people - a now extinct ethnic group who are known for burying their dead in coffins on the sides of cliffs. These cliff face burial sites can be visited not too far from Yanjin County.
How to visit
Due to its remote location and the size of China, getting to Yanjin County isn't that easy. Luckily, the Chongqing-Kunming highway runs through the valley and right by the city making arrival by road relatively convenient. The closest cities to Yanjin County are Yibin and Zhaotong, and while a road trip is off the cards for international travellers (China doesn't recognise international driver's licenses), there are a number of ways you can get to Yanjin using public transport.
Catching a high-speed bullet train to Kunming, the provincial capital, from Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong is one way to do it. Kunming also has an airport, but in the spirit of eco-friendly travel and beautiful scenery - we encourage opting for a train journey which will take you in the region of 7-12 hours, depending on where you travel from.
Once you arrive in Kunming, it's still quite a way to Yanjin County itself. Local information states that you can take a long-distance bus (about a 6-hour ride one-way) or a train to Yanjin Country from Kunming. It's hard to find specific information about the train online, but if you are keen to find the best possible route to Yanjin, it's worth contacting a local travel company like this one, who are likely to have up-to-date intel on inter-provincial trains, accommodation, and tips on the best way to explore Yanjin County and the surrounding areas.
Seeing Yanjin County for the first time made us question what other astonishingly narrow cities exist out there but, alas, no worthy competitors could be identified - making Yanjin a city in a league of its own.
Check out this amazing detailed drone tour over the city: