This park is about the scenery, scenery that takes your breath away, scenery that begins with the flight over dramatic snow-capped mountains, forested canyons, rivers, and lakes to land at Jiuzhaigou Airport, itself perched on the mountaintop.
Jiuzhaiguo means "Valley of the Nine Villages", and the nine villages remain spread around the valley within the Park, home to about 110 Tibetan and Qiang families. Agriculture is not permitted so the locals mostly work either for the Park itself, or with the nearby hotels.
The Park covers a little over 700 sq km and there's a further buffer zone of just under 600 sq km. It lies on the northern border of Sichuan Province, and is part of the magnificent Min Shan mountains on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. Jiuzhai Valley first became a Park in 1978, although it would be 14 years before it earned World Heritage listing, during which time work was aimed mainly at restoration and halting logging activities.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, and in 1997 awarded the status of UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, and has since received many other, well-deserved listings.
The sides of the valleys are covered in dense vegetation. The wildlife here is shy, but the range is equally impressive, including 27 protected rare and endangered species like the giant panda, golden monkey, gnu, white-lip deer, black-neck crane, swan, lovebirds, red-belly golden pheasant, snow leopard, forest musk deer, and otters. However, visitors are more likely to spot some of the 141 bird species than one of the very few pandas remaining in the park.
It is an extravaganza of natural wonders, a pure unspoiled land which contains waterfalls, alpine lakes, tranquil grasslands, snowy mountains views and Tibetan villages. You won't know what the area will offer until you have been there. Jiuzhaigou is incredibly picturesque particularly in autumn when the mountains, valleys, lakes are shrouded in autumn colors. Warm days, cool nights, and great vistas of saturated yellows, reds, and green mixed with the blue lake water are autumn scenes of Jiuzhaigou. It is one of the best places to see fall colors in China.
The Park did not suffer any major damage during the 2008 earthquake, and is very definitely open for visitors.
It takes its conservation and sustainability role extremely seriously, and has sister park relationships with Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Olympic National Parks in the USA.
Outside the Park there's a range of accommodation options, including 3, 4 and 5 star hotels. In the evening the local music and dancing shows are tremendous, and great fun. Usually Tibetan themed, they feature wonderful costumes, song and dance, with a mixture of ethnic performance and popular music. In some cases local audiences can be as enjoyable as the show,(depending on where you go) and often rush up to drape a singer with the hada (a white silk scarf that is presented to everyone on arrival), and pose for photos, with the singer continuing all the while. A truly memorable experience.
Continue to read How to Arrange Your Schedule in Jiuzhaigou Valley