Sichuan is one of the most beautiful places in China, loved by photographers for its endless opportunities for taking beautiful pictures. The nature lovers love its national parks. The animal lover loves it for the adorable pandas that we can get close to it. Sichuan about the size of California has 2507 scenic spots, tourist will be spoilt for choices. In this article, I will attempt to highlight the key places and adventures you must take.
Adventure with Sichuan’s pandas
The only place in the world you can get real close to pandas and even see them in the wild. There are 4 research centres in Sichuan, one in Chengdu, one in Yaan Bifengxia, and another in Dujiangyan and the last one in Wolong. Due to the earthquake in 2008, the pandas in Wolong has been moved to Yaan Bifengxia centres and it remains uncertain if the government will rebuild the Wolong center.
Volunteering at panda centres of Dujiangyan
The one in Chengdu is easier to reach, you can take public bus 198 or 198a to the zoo and walk over to Chengdu panda breeding and research centre. To reach the other 2 centres, you will need to take tourist buses. You can even volunteer to be a panda volunteer, feeding and cleaning them. I was in the Wolong centre 15 years ago and was given the opporunity to feed them and even care for the baby panda. I decided then not to cuddle the baby panda because they felt so fragile, something I have been thinking since. Having said that, you need to be certified you don’t have a transmittable disease to qualify as a volunteer. You can read here to find out more. We have a group going to visit the pandas Oct 2017, click here to find out more.
There is at least 10 ancients town in Sichuan that is worth visiting. The most famous Huanglongxi Ancient Town that is 1700 years old at the edge of Shuangliu Chengdu. It is also most popular among the locals. The Luodai ancient town 1800 years located 10km away from Luoquan Chengdu. It is famous for its Hakka immigrants and therefore is a great place for anyone that wants to understand the Hakka cultures. The Pingle Ancient Town 2000 years old, also the starting point of Southern Silk Road.
The Shangli Ancient Town well-known for its fairyland ancient setting. The Lizhuang Ancient town of 1460 years famous for its culture centres during the anti-Japanese war period. The Liujiang Ancient Town built over 800 years ago, famous for its 108 trees that are 1000 years old, ancient wharfs and also the world largest lying Bodhisattva. The Luocheng Ancient town famous for its ship-shaped street nicknamed the Noah Ark of China.
UNESCO world heritage Jiuzhaigou
A UNESCO world heritage site, there are 68 scenic spots in Jiuzhaigou. Famous for its colourful pristine lakes, waterfalls, snow-capped mountain and Tibetan villages that change scenery with each season. Autumn is the most popular season with a variety of leaves colours such as red, yellow, and orange, contrast with its pristine clear multi-coloured lakes, the snow-capped mountain with clear blue sky.
The most spectacular part of the park is at the higher altitude, therefore it is best that you take the park’s shuttle bus to the top and walk down or ride down. Head to either Long Lake or Swan Lake, then go down to the Nuorilang junction.
A trip to Jiuzhaigou without Huanglong will not be complete, colourful pools formed by calcite deposits. It is like those found in Turkey Cappadocia and Iran.
Adventure to Shangri-La, the most beautiful highway, the photographers’ corridor
Sichuan Daocheng Yading was made famous by National Geographic in 1928 when Joseph F. Rock published photos and stories of this place. It was nicknamed since the last Shangri-La. There are 51 scenic spots and the most popular are Yading scenic area, Milk Lake, 5 Colours Lake, Pearl Lake and, Luorong Pasture. Give yourself 2 days to explore Daocheng area.
You can start your journey either from Chengdu and move down south Lijiang or vice versa. If you just want to visit Daocheng area then starting from Lijiang is a shorter route. If you start from Chengdu, you will be driving on the most beautiful highway of China, highway 318. Along the way you will get to visit Ancient towns, Hailuogou National Park famous for its glaciers and primeval forest, Tibetan towns such as Litang and green pastures rolling up to its snow-capped mountain.
I would recommend starting your journey from Chengdu especially during autumn as the leaves changing colours adds to the vibrancy. I believe everyone will be able to take beautiful photos somehow. There is a group taking this route this Oct 2017, join them if you to visit this beautiful part of China.
For those that don’t have the time, you can fly to Daocheng airport.
Adventure to the UNESCO heritage Siguniang National Park
The area is reputed to be the “Oriental Alps”, Mount Siguniang National Park was identified as a UNESCO Heritage Site. Most come here to take beautiful photographs, visiting Changping Valley, Haizi Valley and, Shuangqiao Valley and others to trek the mountains.
Sichuan is one of the starting points to Tibet. You can reach Tibet via road or rail starting from Chengdu. It is also home to some of the largest Tibetan Autonomous areas outside of Tibet. As such you will be able to see very strong Tibetan culture throughout Sichuan, is especially so for the scenic areas mentioned in this article. You should not miss out visiting their Tibetan temples such as Litang Temple and Tibetan villages such as Yading village just outside of Yading scenic area.
Anyone that one to study Tibetan Buddhism can go to Setar which is a county of Ganzi prefecture, where the largest Tibetan Buddhist Institute in the world is located. It is however now closed to foreign travellers since Jul 2016.
Sichuan’s Rich History
Humans have been living in Sichuan for over 4000 years. The famous Shu Han Country of Three Kingdoms founded by Lui Bei had based their capital in Chengdu. It has been strategic to many dynasties and even the Republic of China made Chongqing another major city in Sichuan their base when Japanese occupied the other major cities during WW2. While in Chengdu you can visit Jinsha Site Museum, the site is believed to be the ancient civilization centre of Yangtze River.
Dujiangyan irrigation system the only dam free irrigation system in the world that is 2000 years old. Wu Shrine Museum dedicated to ZhuGeLiang that lived during the Three Kingdom period, the famous statesman and military strategist. Dufu cottage dedicated to Du Fu a famous poet during Tang Dynasty. There are several temples and pavilions that had been around since Tang Dynasty that is worth visiting.