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How to Plan a Chengdu Tour (Things to Do, Itinerary, Best Times)

How to Plan a Chengdu Tour (Things to Do, Itinerary, Best Times)

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Dec. 18, 2023

Chengdu is a city of leisure. Its surrounding landscape is mostly flat and known as "the land flowing with milk and honey". There are so many places to visit in Chengdu: giant panda bases, the giant Buddha, the old streets... How can you make the best use of your time and enjoy a leisurely Chengdu tour? Read on to get some inspiration.

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The Best Highlights You Won't Miss

1. See Giant Pandas

Panda volunteer programThe Panda Volunteer Program: our guests are cleaning pandas' playground

There are three giant panda bases in and around Chengdu, and China Highlights recommends that you visit Dujiangyan Panda Base, as you can not only see the lovely giant pandas but also interact with them. See 1-Day Dujiangyan Panda Volunteer Program Tour

If you plan to visit wild panda habitat, Wolong Panda Center is a good option. It is considered to be "the real hometown of wild pandas". It is less crowded because of its longer distance from Chengdu (around 3 hours by car). See 2-Day Wolong Panda Volunteer Program Tour

If you just want to see the giant pandas, you could visit Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center. It's the closest base in downtown Chengdu and the easiest one to get to, but it could get crowded especially on weekends and public holidays.

If your main reason for coming to Chengdu is the pandas, see how to plan a panda tour.

2. Leshan Giant Buddha — Almost as Tall as the Statue of Liberty

The Leshan Giant Buddha is a huge statue carved out of the side of a mountain. It's about 71 meters (236 feet) high and 24 meters (79 feet) wide. It has a history of more than 1,000 years. It's the world's tallest and largest Buddha.

Transportation: Take a bullet train from Chengdu to Leshan (1 hour 10 min), and then take a 20-minute taxi ride to Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area. For a hassle-free tour that's flexible and comfortable, we recommend our private transfers, which take about 2 hours. Send us a free inquiry for details.

3. Recommended Summer Destination — Mount Emei

Mount Emei is one of the most popular summer destinations in China for its cooler weather and beautiful natural scenery. Also, it's well-known in China for its Buddhist culture. There is a golden Buddha on the top with a total height of 48 meters (157 feet). It's also a good place to see autumn leaves.

Transportation: From Leshan, it takes another 1 hour by car to reach Mount Emei.

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4. Recommended Winter Destination — Xiling Snow Mountain and Bipenggou

BipenggouBipenggou in Winter

Xiling Snow Mountain, 2 hours by car from Chengdu, is the highest mountain in Chengdu. Its habitats are well-protected and you can see many wild animals, such as monkeys. You can enjoy hot springs at the foot of the mountain in winter, and ski at Xiling Snow Mountain Ski Resort (mainly for beginners). There's also a toboggan run, hot-air ballooning, and many winter sports.

Tips: Being one of the best resorts and the nearest big ski resort to Chengdu, Xiling Ski Resort has become more and more crowded during peak times like weekends and public holidays. Waiting in a queue for 1–2 hours in peak times is common. If you don't mind taking a 3-hour car ride from Chengdu, we recommend Bipenggou Ski Resort (mainly for beginners) for less crowding and its wonderful hot spring.

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How Long to Spend in Chengdu

2–3 Days Arrangement: City Center and Giant Panda Base

If you are taking a long tour of China and want to stop at Chengdu for a couple of days, you are recommended to visit the Panda Breeding and Research Center, Jinli Old Street, and Leshan Giant Buddha. Also, explore the nightlife of Chengdu and watch a Sichuan opera show, or enjoy some leisurely time in a teahouse.

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

4-Day Arrangement for Panda Lovers: Go Deeper to See Wild Giant Pandas

If you are a panda lover, don't hesitate to go to Wolong National Nature Reserve, a habitat for giant pandas. You are recommended to take part in the giant panda keeper program, to get closer to giant pandas.

5–7 Days Arrangement: Go Further to See Historical Sites and Natural Scenery

If you only visit Chengdu and want to spend a week there, besides the city center trip, you can go deeper and further to see the Leshan Giant Buddha, Mount Emei, and even travel an extra mile to Jiuzhaigou Valley or Daocheng Yading. They are fairylands with charming natural scenery.

If you have more days for this tour, we suggest extending your trip from Chengdu to Shangri-la in Yunnan or journeying deeper into less-explored areas around Chengdu.

Best Time to Go

  • Best times: March–June and September–November
  • Hottest/wettest time: July and August is the peak of the monsoon season in Chengdu. Also, it's the summer holiday for Chinese students, so the popular attractions will be more crowded. Booking 3 months in advance is recommended.
  • Winter time: December to February is quite cold in Chengdu, and not so pleasant for travel. However, it's nice for skiing on Xiling Snow Mountain or Bipenggou, and cheaper.
  • Crowded public holiday times: Avoid traveling during the first weeks of May and October.

Eat Delicious Food

Chengdu has many delicious foods, such as Sichuan hot pot, dumplings, wheat noodles, and clear noodles. Although most dishes are very spicy and oily, they are definitely highlights of Chengdu. There are many famous and authentic restaurants in the city center. If you are coming to Chengdu, don't forget to put authentic local food on your menu.

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International/Domestic Transportation to Chengdu

Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Australia, and the U.K. have direct flights to Chengdu. If you travel from the U.S., you may most likely need to transfer to Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong.

Chengdu has two international airports: Shuangliu Airport and Tianfu Airport. Shuangliu Airport is closer to the downtown area, about 40 minutes to 1 hour's drive. Tianfu Airport is a little further away, about 1 to 1.5 hours' driving.

You could choose the flight based on your available time, price, etc. Our private tour will include all your transfers in Chengdu and throughout China, and it is worry-free.

The usual choice for travel from major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai to Chengdu is by flying, with a flight duration of approximately 3 hours. Bullet trains are the main way to travel from nearby cities such as Chongqing and Kunming. We would manage your domestic transport in China, booking train/flight tickets in advance for you.

Where to Stay — from Inns to 5-Star Hotels

Chengdu is a provincial capital and a popular tourist city, so it is well endowed with a variety of hotels ranging from inns to 5-star hotels.

In Chunxi Road: There are famous old shops and delicious snack shops around this area. Located in the city center, it can be quite noisy to stay there, and the price is relatively higher than other places.

Near the Wide and Narrow Alleys: This is a must-visit place in Chengdu, which mostly has boutique hotels. The nightlife is colorful.

Near Wuhou Temple (Jinli area): This area is full of delicious food and you will enjoy staying there. It's relatively quiet, and you can wander to Sichuan University for a walk in the evening.

Getting a Visa… or No Need to Get a Visa?

Chengdu is visa-free for visitors who hold a confirmed airline ticket and valid visa to a third country or region. As Chengdu has many direct international flights, you can get a connecting flight through Chengdu to explore "the panda's hometown".

If you plan to visit other destinations in China, you need to apply for a China visa.

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