Jiuzhaigou has been likened to a land from a fairytale. The scenery is breathtaking with its lakes, waterfalls and, above all, the plants, trees, and waterscapes, which, in their many hues and forms, provide the landscape with a truly magical quality.
There are two main recommended scenic areas: Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area and Huanglong Scenic Area. The two areas are extensive and so, if you only have a few days in which to visit them, how should you organize your time?
Here is our recommended two-day and two-night detailed itinerary, which takes in some of the more extraordinary sites Jiuzhaigou has to offer.
When planning a tour, you need to know how to get to your destination. There are no direct international flights to the scenic areas. You will need to get to Chengdu first.
Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan Province and also the gateway to Jiuzhaigou. There are flights and also regular buses from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou. The regular buses usually depart before 9am (single trip: about 140 yuan/21 USD).
In order to maximize the time available, book your flight to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport to arrive in the morning, with a return flight the day after the following morning (single trip: about 1,500 yuan/221 USD).
Pre-book your hotel and the chartered bus to save yourself some additional time. There's a lot to see there, and you want to waste as little time as possible on trip administration once you arrive.
Huanglong Scenic Area is not as large as Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area. You can save time by using the cable car inside the park. Your are suggested to pre-booked chartered bus that will take you to Huanglong Scenic Area (1 hour).
Once you arrive, take the cable car to the top of the peak. From there, you will have an easy walk down through the scenic area — 3 to 4 hours will do the area justice. Walking down the mountain, you can see the main sites of Five-Colored Ponds, Mirror Ponds, Welcoming Guest Ponds, and a waterfall, as well as some temples and caves.
If you decide to do the whole trip on foot, forgetting the cable car, then allow yourself 5 to 6 hours for a slow hike up while you take in the scenery and a faster walk back down again.
Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area should be visited on the second day as this scenic area is very large and you can spend the whole day inside the park. Therefore, we recommend that you take an electric shuttle bus inside the park to help you visit the best highlights in one day. Note that the shuttle bus requires an extra fee of 100 yuan per person.
The park's valley forms a "Y" shape and you are recommended to take a shuttle bus to Rizegou to begin your tour inside the park, and then have a rest at the joining point of the "Y" at Nuorilang Tourist Center. After a good rest, visit Zechawa Valley by shuttle bus. Afterwards, spend your time visiting Shuzheng Valley, which has the most attractions in the park.
Best highlights to get off the bus and see at each valley:
After Huanglong tour: After you have finished the Huanglong tour, you are advised to drive to a hotel outside Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area, so that you can get into the park early the next morning. Have a good rest in your hotel and prepare for the Jiuzhai Valley tour by recharging your phone and camera.
After Jiuzhai Valley tour: Travelers are not allowed to stay inside the park at night. There's a range of accommodation options including branded hotels, such as Sheraton Hotel or InterContinental Hotel.
Remember to book hotel in advance and to have the name of your hotel handy to show the taxi driver. The travel time to Jiuzhaigou is about 2½ hours.
If you don't want to spend an extra night outside the park, you can book a late flight from Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, but the ticket price can be more expensive than the price of a daytime flight.
Try to book your return flight late enough that you don't leave the scenic area before 5pm in the evening. It's about 90 minutes' drive back to the airport (90 kilometers), so make sure you leave yourself adequate time.
The best time to visit Jiuzhaigou is from June to October but September to October is particularly recommended for the charming scenery with golden fall foliage. However, it's also the peak season for the scenic area.
Don't visit Jiuzhaigou during the National Day holiday (October 1st to 7th) as the scenic area will be filled with crowds.
Walk along the wood path and avoid traveling on the road during the peak season, as the main roads are used by tour groups.
The scenic area's attractions form a "Y" shape, and you can pick another route when you arrive at the conjunction to avoid the crowds.
Clothing: The climate can by trying, in particular the low temperature between the cold mornings and evenings, so bring warm coats. Be prepared not only for this but also for the intensity of the sun at this altitude. Sunblock and sunglasses may be necessary, as well as protection against possible rain.
Altitude sickness: The altitude varies a lot in different areas of Jiuzhai Valley. For example, the entrance to the valley is at about 2,000 meters, while the airport is at about 3,500 meters. Vulnerability to altitude sickness varies from person to person, so it's suggested you consult your doctor prior to your trip.
A great deal of hiking involved:Although the trails through Jiuzhaigou are well-blazed, the distances you will need to walk to take in the sights you want to see will prove strenuous. So if you are visiting Jiuzhai Valley, please prepare comfortable hiking shoses.
1-Day tour is not suggested — Very Tiring: If you only have one day, then you are recommended to just visit Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area, and possibly miss some of the attractions inside the park. Get to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport early in the morning and leave late at night. This way, you can finish the tour in one day with an early morning start.
Don't miss the tour bus if in a tour group: If you are touring with a group, always make sure, when getting off a tour bus, that there will be provision for you to continue your journey or to return in the evening. In some less-visited locations in particular, don't risk leaving yourself stranded.
Travel with China Highlights and we will help you solve these issues. We can adjust your itinerary during the tour. Considering your interests and requirements, we at China Highlights recommend the following tours for inspiration:
If you have got some ideas for traveling around Jiuzhaigou, just tell us and we will tailor-make your Jiuzhaigou tour.