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Guides / Itineraries

A driving tour along the 318 national highway

By Teng Mu

September 29

A driving tour of the 318 national highway lets you travel at your own pace and make your own adventure.

A driving tour of the 318 national highway lets you travel at your own pace and make your own adventure.

The 318 national highway, linking Shanghai in the east to Tibet in the west, is named by Chinese National Geography as China’s Landscape Avenue.

Starting from the eastern coastal city Shanghai, spanning across Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing and Sichuan provinces and ending finally in Tibet, the 318 national highway is the longest and the most beautiful national highway in
China.

The 5476km road passes plains, hills, basins and plateaus. The winding 318 highway in Sichuan. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Qiu Haiying]
The 318 began being built in 1950 and took 4 years to finish. Most people start their self-guided tour from Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The section from Sichuan to Tibet is the most perilous but boasts the most breathtaking scenery.

Beautiful autumn scenery along the 318 national highway. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jiasheng]
Beautiful autumn scenery along the 318 national highway. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jiasheng]
It climbs more than 10 mountains with an average altitude of over 4000m and crosses 3 torrential rivers — the Jinsha, Nu, and Lancang. You might just experience four seasons in one day of driving, during which you have to watch for landslides and rock-fall.

The grassland along the 318 national highway. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Lai Xinlin]
The grassland along the 318 national highway. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Lai Xinlin]
During your ride, some famous scenic spots along the way include West Lake, Mount Huang, Mount Lu, Shennongjia, the Three Gorges, Zhangjiajie and Mount Emei. Further westward are snow capped mountains such as Minya Konka, Hailuogou,Namjagbrawa and Mount Qomolangma, with their altitudes getting higher and higher. Of course, you won’t be alone on the way. You’ll probably encounter plenty of walking pilgrims, cyclists, motorcyclists, and photographers.

The snow mountain view. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Tingquan]
The snow mountain view. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Tingquan]
Generally speaking, a 15-day tour is appropriate, and the best time to do it is in May, June or October. Here are some tips:

1. Be prepared for altitude sickness. Have some glucose, brown sugar and medicine in case of emergency. Make sure you don’t set out if you have a cold.

2. Rent a SUV so that you can traverse some rougher roads.

3. Book your accommodation in advance in case of unavailability.

4. Check up road conditions before your trip.

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