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Ultimate Chengdu Itineraries: How Long to Spend in Chengdu

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Aug. 28, 2023

Chengdu is a vibrant city and a popular tourist destination, with its cute pandas, natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and delicious food.

Are you planning a trip to Chengdu and wondering how much time you need to fully experience this vibrant city and its surroundings? Let us help guide you with our ultimate Chengdu itineraries.

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How Long to Spend in Chengdu

We recommend spending three days in Chengdu for a more varied and in-depth experience at a relaxed pace.

However, if you only have one or two days to spare, you can still focus on the pandas and some city sightseeing.

Alternatively, if you have a longer holiday, consider extending your trip from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou (3-5 days), the western Sichuan region such as Daocheng (4-5 days), or the northern Sichuan region (4-5 days).

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Chengdu in 3 Days (Classic)

With three days in Chengdu, you can indulge in a range of activities, such as visiting the adorable pandas, enjoying a food tour, and paying a visit to the famous Leshan Giant Buddha, the world's largest Buddha carved in a huge mountain.

  • Day 1: Arrive in Chengdu and go on a panda tour and a food tour
  • Day 2: Visit Leshan Giant Buddha
  • Day 3: Departure

The Chengdu Panda Base is currently home to the largest number of giant pandas. Here, you could see pandas playing outdoors, eating bamboo, climbing trees, and even their babies!

If you would like a closer encounter with these creatures, we can arrange for you to participate in a one-day panda volunteer program, where you could make panda cakes, clean the glass of their enclosures, watch them being fed, and receive a volunteer certificate.

After visiting Leshan, you could also plan a one-day trip to Mount Emei if you have more time, and enjoy the beauty of the sub-tropical forest and waterfall. Check out our 5-Day Chengdu, Leshan, and Mount Emei Tour.

Chengdu in 2 Days (Essence of Chengdu)

For a two-day trip to Chengdu, you can dedicate one day to pandas and the other day to sightseeing in the city.

  • Day 1: Arrive and go on a city sightseeing tour (such as a food tour, museums, and more)
  • Day 2: Experience a panda volunteer program and depart

For the best panda experience, our panda volunteer program will allow you to observe pandas more closely and understand them better.

But if you only want to have a look at the pandas, we could make adjustments for you. All our tours are customized based on your interests and needs. Just contact us to create your Chengdu itinerary.

Chengdu in 1 Day (Time-Smart)

If you only have one day to spare in Chengdu and you're a big fan of pandas, we recommend spending an entire day participating in the panda volunteer program. Check out our 1-Day Dujiangyan Panda Volunteer Program Tour.

While If you want to enjoy other visits in Chengdu besides pandas, consider combining it with a visit to the Sanxingdui Museum or a food tour. Check out our 1-Day Pandas and Sanxingdui Museum Tour.

Side Trip Itineraries from Chengdu

If you have time, we highly recommend taking a side trip from Chengdu to explore the many natural and cultural highlights in the surrounding areas – from unspoiled colorful pools to breathtaking valleys, snow-covered mountains, and off-the-beaten-path Tibetan villages.

1. Jiuzhaigou – Most Popular

Jiuzhaigou is the most popular choice for its quiet environment and unspoiled beautiful scenery. In the summer, it is also an excellent place to enjoy cool weather.

There, you could see colorful alpine lakes that change color throughout the day and year. Walk around the valleys to feel the fresh air and immerse yourself in harmony with streams, waterfalls, and mountain forests.

A trip to Jiuzhaigou will cost about three to five days from Chengdu. Here is a classic five-day itinerary from Chengdu that includes a panda experience:

  • Day 1: Arrival in Chengdu and free exploration
  • Days 2-4: Visit Jiuzhaigou and nearby Huanglong, a plateau wetland national reserve
  • Day 5: Visit pandas at Dujiangyan Panda Base

For more options, check out these popular itineraries for Jiuzhaigou and Chengdu:

2. Daocheng Yading – Best for Autumn

Yading Nature Reserve in Daocheng offers breathtaking natural views, especially in autumn when the leaves turn golden, complemented by snow-capped mountains, crystal rivers, rolling meadows, and lakes.

There, you could also immerse yourself in the culture of Tibetan Buddhism. The scenery along the way from Chengdu to Daocheng is also spectacular. We will arrange a private car to escort you all the way, so you can enjoy the views at your own pace and in comfort.

It will take about five days for a trip to Yading:

  • Day 1: Chengdu to Xinduqiao (gorges, mountains, and bridges)
  • Day 2: Xinduqiao to Daocheng to Riwa (grasslands, mountains, and monasteries)
  • Day 3: Riwa (snow mountains, lakes, and farms)
  • Day 4: Daocheng (lakes, mountains, and old towns)
  • Day 5: Departure

3. Holy Tibet

After enjoying Chengdu's leisurely pace of life, delicious food, and cute pandas, you can explore further west into Tibet for different cultures and plateau scenery.

Chengdu, on the east side of the Tibet Plateau, is the most surefire way to get into Tibet (especially for flights with more routes than anywhere else).

A trip to Tibet would take about four to eight days to visit its essential highlights. Here is an 8-day Tibet itinerary:

  • Days 1-3: Arrival and Lhasa city highlights tour
  • Days 4-5: Shigatse (visit Lake Yamdrok, glaciers, and visit a Tibetan family)
  • Day 6: Mt. Everest Base Camp
  • Day 7: Visit a canyon when driving back to Lhasa
  • Day 8: Departure

4. Bipenggou – Best for Winter

If you want to find a natural ski resort with stunning winter views around Chengdu, Bipenggou Valley is an excellent choice.

There, you could enjoy the winter charm of plateau lakes, glaciers, and snow-capped mountains, ski on a less-crowded slope, and relax in a hot spring.

A trip to Chengdu and Bipenggou will take about five days:

  • Days 1-2: Chengdu city tour (such as a Sichuan cooking experience, enjoying a Sichuan opera, visiting a tea house, and more).
  • Day 3: Watch pandas at Dujiangyan Panda Base
  • Day 4: Sightseeing in Bipenggou with a skiing experience
  • Day 5: Visit some minority villages on your way back to Chengdu and departure

5. Northern Sichuan – Less Touristy

If you want to find an off-the-beaten-path route from Chengdu, consider going to Northern Sichuan. There's a lot of undiscovered beauty there.

You could find the source of the Yellow River and enjoy stunning sunsets when the glow is sprinkled on the ribbon-like bends of the Yellow River. Explore the homeland of Tibetan and Qiang people, and visit less touristy monasteries.

You may need about five days to explore the highlights of Northern Sichuan:

  • Day 1: Chengdu to Songpan (visit Songpan ancient town)
  • Day 2: Visit Ruoergai and Tangke (lakes, grasslands, and the Yellow River sunset)
  • Days 3-4: Aba (monasteries, lamaseries, lakes, and peaks)
  • Day 5: Visit a Tibetan village on your way back to Chengdu

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