Lesser Three Gorges (Little Three Gorges)
A popular side trip from the classic Three Gorges Yangtze cruise, the Lesser Three Gorges extend along the Daning River, a Yangtze tributary that meets the main river at Wu Gorge. Also known as the Little Three Gorges, Small Three Gorges, or Xiao Sanxia, the three are: Dragon Gate Gorge (Longmen Xia), Emerald Gorge (Dicui Xia), and Misty Gorge (Bawu Xia).
Book your Lesser Three Gorges boat trip as an add-on to your Three Gorges cruise. Highlights of Dragon Gate Gorge include an ancient plank road in the cliffs and the towering Daning River Bridge; mysterious hanging coffins in the cliff are the signature of Misty Gorge; and look out for monkeys on the green slopes of Emerald Gorge. It’s also possible to visit from Chongqing or Yichang, but that makes for a very long day’s travel. Standalone cruises typically depart from the town of Wushan, where the Daning River meets the Yangtze.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Three Little Gorges are a must for lovers of landscapes and natural beauty.
If visiting from a Yangtze cruise, book your Three Little Gorges excursion ahead of time. Tickets can often sell out.
Most Three Little Gorges boats are not wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
The Lesser Three Gorges run north from the Wu Gorge on the Yangtze in Chongqing province toward Dachang Ancient Town. They’re most commonly visited as a side-trip from a Three Gorges cruise, which usually run between the cities of Chongqing and Yichang. Standalone tours generally leave from the town of Wushan, but some operators include transport from Chongqing.
When to Get There
Hot, wet summers and surprisingly cool winters make spring and fall the best seasons to visit the Three Gorges area, including the Lesser Three Gorges. Avoid the major Chinese holidays, particularly Golden Week, at the start of October, and the period around Lunar New Year, in late winter, when prices and crowds surge. Aim to visit midweek for a more intimate experience.
Three Gorges, Lesser Three Gorges, or Mini Three Gorges?
The Three Gorges—Qutang, Wu, and Xiling—run for around 125 miles (200 kilometers) along the Yangtze, and most cruises connect the cities of Chongqing and Yichang. The Lesser Three Gorges are an offshoot of the main Three Gorges, extending north from the Wu Gorge. The Mini Three Gorges, in turn, run off the Three Little Gorges at Emerald Gorge. Their names are Sancheng Gorge, Qinwang Gorge, and Changtan Gorge.