Jiuzhaigou Minshan Mountain Area
The Jiuzhaigou Minshan Mountain region is located in the remote northeast area of Sichuan, China and is a beautiful, lush area. The Minshan Mountain Range is home to several lakes, waterfalls and a wide variety of wildlife, including the giant panda, antelope, smaller pandas and the golden monkey. In addition, there are nine Tibetan villages located in the Minshan Mountain valley, which offers visitors a rare glimpse into the life of the Tibetan people. For those seeking to experience a side of China that is peaceful, beautiful and has some of the region’s most distinctive and intriguing animals, a visit to the Jiuzhaigou Minshan Mountain is for you.
About the Jiuzhaigou Valley
The Jiuzhaigou village region is not well off financially but the people are friendly and peaceful. Enjoy some of the local teahouses and visit the town of Songpan, which is a small farming village that offers horseback tours of the area. You can also travel up into the Minshan Mountains to visit the nature preserves and see the giant pandas, golden monkeys and other local wildlife.
As more tourists come to visit the area, particularly to see the famous China great panda, the area is becoming better known and offers more accommodations for tourists.
The Minshan Mountains have elevations that range between 6,530 feet and 15,630 feet above sea level and have lush hills, beautiful lakes and waterfalls but is best known as the home of the giant panda. The largest panda habitat in China is located in the Minshan Mountains, giving visitors a chance to hike around and study the gentle giants in their natural habitat. China named the area a national park in 1982 and opened the park to tourists in 1984. In 1992, the Minshan Mountain range was named a World Heritage Site and as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997.
Overall, there are 18 different nature reserves in the Minshan Mountains. Some of the most well known reserves include the Wolong Nature Reserve, Tangjiahe Nature Reserve, the Wanglang Nature Reserve and the Jiuzhai Valley National Park.
Ask about transportation from your hotel to the local nature reserves.
Jiuzhai Valley National Park
The Jiuzhai Valley National Park is open year-round, although the peak season is between April and November and the off-peak season is from November to March.
Daily entrance tickets range in cost. An adult peak ticket will cost 220 RMB and 80 RMB for off-peak, while a student (with valid international student identification) ticket costs 170 RMB during the peak season and 70 RMB during the off-peak season.
A bus ticket costs 90 RMB during the peak season and 80 RMB during off-peak, with a bus ticket for 90 RMB for students and 80 RMB for students during the off-peak season.
Additional tickets for second-day entrance tickets are available at the park entrance.
Ask about transportation from your hotel to the Jiuzhai Valley National Park.
In order to reach the Jiuzhaigou Valley Minshan Mountains, fly to Chengdu, which is the capital of the Sichuan region. From Chengdu, take a flight into Jiuzhaigou Huanglong Airport if possible. From the airport, there are bus rides available to Huanglong, which takes about an hour, or directly into Jiuzhaigou, which takes about an hour and a half.
If there are no flights available, take the bus ride from Chengdu. This bus ride takes about 10 hours and follows the Minjiang River Canyon before reaching Jiuzhaigou.
Hotels are available in Zhangzha at the bottom of the Jiuzhaigou Valley and there are five-star resorts such as the Sheraton in Songpan County.
While you are visiting the Jiuzhaigou Valley, stop by the nine different Tibetan villages in the area. Some of the villages remain populated, such as Shuzhen, Heye and Zechawa and have snacks and tourist souvenirs available for sale. Some of the smaller villages also have residents, including Rexi, Panya, Jianpan and Yana.
Be aware that agriculture is not permitted in the area since the region is a protected natural region, so the locals depend on tourism for income.
A less common tourist experience is a trip to the Zharu Buddhist Monastery in the Zharu Valley, considered the primary area for eco-tourism in the Jiuzhaigou area. Hiking and camping is allowed and there are both day and overnight hikes available. You will need to hire a guide, available at most nearby hotels, to show you where to go and how to identify some of the unique features of the area, such as unusual plant species and wildlife.
Packing for your Trip
The Jiuzhaigou Valley is subtropical with an active monsoon season. Temperatures generally range from 46 degrees in the winter to 63 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime.
The rainy season is between May and October. As you move up in elevation in the Minshan Mountains, be prepared for more and more rain. Bring plenty of clothing layers, including sturdy, closed-toe shoes and rain gear. If you are going up to the Nature Preserves, bring hiking boots and sturdy clothes that can get wet and dirty. Since it can be very cool at night, bring sweaters and jackets for cooler temperatures.
Enjoy your trip to one of the most beautiful and interesting areas of China and the home of the giant panda.
I updated this article on December 14, 2012
See all my travel articles