Yaxi highway, an expressway in the clouds

Yaxi highway
Yaxi highway

One of China’s best-known roads, the Ya’an-Xichang Expressway (Yaxi highway), part of the Beijing-Kunming Expressway, connects the city of Ya’an to the city of Xichang in the southwestern province of Sichuan. It is nicknamed the “highway in the clouds” because it rises 7.5 meters per kilometer (24.6 feet per 0.6 mile) and because of its imposing infrastructure.

Where is Yaxi highway located in China?

Yaxi Highway, linking Ya’an in Sichuan Province and Xichang, capital of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture. It passes through the sacred Lugu Lake. This highway is located in southwest China’s Sichuan province.

You can locate the road on the map below:

Enlarge the map

Some information about the Expressway in the clouds

Yaxi Highway description:

This 240 kilometer (150 miles) long expressway is part of the G5 Jingkun (Beijing to Kunming) Highway in Sichuan Province. It starts at the edge of Sichuan and runs to the Hengduan Mountains, crossing the Qingyi, Dadu, and Anning rivers, as well as other river systems and 12 seismic fault zones, and stretching through high mountains, overlying mountains, and hazardous terrain.
The area along the route rises from 600 meters to 3,200 meters (1,970 feet to 10,500 feet) above sea level.

This road is essentially a combination of some super viaducts and some super long tunnels, and there is no flat terrain. There are 25 tunnels with a length of about 41 kilometers (25.5 miles), including 2 extra-long tunnels and 16 long tunnels.

Ganhaizi Bridge 

Ganhaizi Bridge is one of the most impressive and difficult to build on the Yaxi Expressway. It is located in Shimian County, Ya’an, Sichuan, at an altitude of 2500 meters (8200 feet). It has a total length of 1811 meters (5940 feet) and a bridge width of 24,5 meters (82 feet) with a total of 36 spans. The highest steel tube truss structure reaches 117 meters (383 feet). In fact, it is the first reinforced concrete truss bridge in the world.

Ganhaizi Bridge
Ganhaizi Bridge

How to get to Yaxi Highway ?

The road connects the city of Ya’an, previously known as Yazhou, which is a prefecture-city, i.e. an administrative subdivision of Sichuan province in China with the city of Xichang, a city of the southern province of Sichuan in China. It is a city-district, capital of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture.

So, you have to start from one of these two cities to enjoy the highway in the clouds.

You can visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:

A preview of the drive:

If you don’t have the possibility to travel to China, or you just want to watch a video of it, you can obviously just take a look at this drone video on Youtube :

Is the Yaxi highway open?

The road is open all year round. Although, always check the weather before driving there as it is a zone known for its speed-changing weather conditions.

This road is definitely not a highway like any other. Indeed, its construction began in 2007 and was inaugurated in April 2012, that is to say, less than 6 years of work at a cost of 20.6 billion yuan (3.3 billion dollars). If you are a fan of road infrastructure, you must absolutely take an interest in the Yaxi Highway.

Pictures sources: 1. https://www.pinterest.fr/pin/54817320452248676 / 2. Eric Sakowski on HighestBridges.com

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