The World's Narrowest City Is A Breathtaking Destination Sandwiched Between Mountains

Communities have been built along rivers and coastlines since the beginning of humankind, but few are quite as special as China's Yanjin. Yanjin is a city located next to the Hengjiang River in the Yunnan province, sandwiched between two steep mountains. Because of this landscape, the city is incredibly narrow, even thought to be the most narrow in the world. In some spots, Yanjin is only 30 meters (98 feet) wide.

Centuries ago, the city's river made for easy trading, leading some workers and their families to settle on the thin strips of land surrounding it. Today, Yanjin's population has ballooned to over 400,000 residents, despite the city's lack of space.

A trip to Yanjin reveals a city where the buildings are positioned on stilts and an unobstructed view of the water is the norm rather than a rarity. In fact, as Yanjin grows, more homes and structures are built lengthwise along the river, currently stretching a total of five kilometers. Multi-story buildings with several staircases are another way the people of Yanjin adapt to the lack of land. Though it may seem cramped, the Chinese city is bursting with life and filled with breathtaking scenery wherever you look.

Experience the local lifestyle in Yanjin

If you decide to book a trip to the ultra-narrow destination, keep in mind that, compared to other Chinese cities, Yanjin is considered to be quite small and obscure. For reference, Shanghai, one of the most populated cities in the country, is home to over 23 million residents, as per Shanghai Highlights, making Yanjin's 400,000 seem minor in comparison.

With that said, you won't find any major attractions in Yanjin — the city is the attraction. Visiting the town, tucked between the cliffs of Yunnan's mountains, is a great way to experience true Chinese culture outside of the touristy metropolises. Do as the locals do and browse the shops that spill out onto the streets (finding the main market streets won't be hard, as there are only two main roads in the area). Nestled between them are humble restaurants and food stands, where you'll find authentic homemade dishes, many of which have a kick of spice thanks to the influence of Sichuan cuisine in the region. No matter what flavors you prefer, however, you'll likely find them in the packed streets of Yanjin, from warm rice cakes made with local herbs to fresh tofu to big bowls of noodles.

Then, escape the bustling markets and walk over the few bridges connecting the banks, where you'll get the best perspective of the narrow city's towering cliffs and teetering buildings.

What to know before booking your trip

Tourism in Yanjin is picking up as more people learn about its reputation as the world's narrowest city. However, reaching the Yunnan municipality isn't easy. Kunming Changshui International Airport, the province's largest airport, is a roughly six-hour drive from Yanjin. There's also no direct passenger train into the riverside city. Therefore, you'll have to book a long bus ride or private car to reach the area.

Once you're in the narrow town, you can mostly get around on foot, but be prepared for the steep stairs found in the buildings and along the cliffs. If you're not comfortable using stairs, you may find Yanjin difficult to navigate. You should also expect a language barrier, especially if you don't know Mandarin. Even as more people from all over the world learn about Yanjin, it still isn't a major tourism hub, and many locals only use their local dialect, which can be difficult for outsiders to decipher. Studying some essential words and phrases can help bridge the gap.

Finally, keep in mind that Yanjin's river is known to flood, which can make for a frightening trip. Try to book your stay outside of rainy periods when possible, and avoid a visit in July or August, when flooding is most common.