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Danba (丹巴), also called Rongzhag (རོང་བྲག), is a county of eastern Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan Province. It is known for its unique fortress-like homes, ancient watchtowers, and unparalleled beauty. It is a Jiarong Tibetan area, sprinkled with picturesque villages and fruit orchards.
Popular Danba Tibetan villages to visit include Jiaju (甲居藏寨), Supuo (梭坡乡), and Zhonglu (中路). Jiaju, for example, is an incredible ancient village consisting of about 140 homes, each with a distinctive crown-shaped roof, red eaves and white walls.
They are scattered among winding brooks, with the occasional kitchen chimney puffing up smoke from a wood fire. Grove upon grove of apple and pear trees invite you to soak in their beauty in the spring, or pick their lush fruit in the fall. Emerald terraced fields stand in stark contrast to severe mountain heights and white snow peaks.
Danba is famous for its ancient watchtowers. Built of mud and stone, some have stood for more than 1,000 years, helping protect the local inhabitants from invaders or to call for help with the use of beacon-fires. They normally have four to eight sides, can be as tall as 60 meters, and are often connected with civilian housing. Since they are often privately owned, you may be able to pay to climb inside of one.
Danba borders the Tibetan part of Sichuan and the Han Chinese part of Sichuan. This means you can find both kinds of food! Tibetan foods include Tsamba, Yak-meat dumplings, and smoked beef or yak, among other dishes. Make sure to try Yak-butter tea! And don’t think “tea” as much as “broth”. It’s slightly salty… and absolutely delicious! Additionally, if you come in the spring, you can find abundant locally grown pear and apple.
The most ideal months for travel are in April, May, September, and October, due to moderate highs of around 18° - 24°C (64° - 93°F) and the vibrant colors of spring and autumn. In spring, blooming flowers dot the landscape and the fruit orchards are heavy with pink and white blossoms. Autumn is also enchanting with bright yellow, orange, and red falling leaves. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Siguniang Mountain Town: If you’re taking a hired car back to Chengdu, consider stopping at Siguniang Mountain Town (四姑娘山镇) on your way. Translated into English, Siguniang means 'Four Sisters' or 'Four Girls'. The town, also known as Rilong Town, is at the base of the Four Sisters Mountains, which are a National AAA scenic spot reaching a soaring 6,250 meters (20,505 feet) above sea level at their highest peak. It is about a 2 hour and 40-minute drive from Danba. Activities include hiking, horseback riding, and visiting local cultural sites.
Kangding Town: Alternatively, you could first drive about 3½ hours south to Kangding Town (康定市), the capital of Garzê. Set in a steep valley, Kangding used to be an important trade center between Chinese and Tibetans, lying as it did on the so-called Tea Horse Road. Tibetans from the west used to meet in Kangding to trade horses with tea porters from China. Today it is a fascinating blend of Chinese and Tibetan culture, and still bears evidence of that shared history. From Kangding you can fly back to Chengdu, if you prefer.
Read about these and other nearby options in "How to Explore Western Sichuan: A 9-Day Tour Plan".
There are two options for getting to Danba from Chengdu: 1) take the bus, or 2) hire a private car.
Bus : There is a bus that departs each morning at 6:30 am from the Chadianzi Bus Station (成都茶店子车站) in northwest Chengdu to Danba (丹巴). From Danba, it is about 11 kilometers (7 miles) to Jiaju Village. The price listed online as of July 2019 is 71 RMB ($10.00). You’ll need to take a taxi to the bus station the morning you travel, since the subway isn’t open early enough to get you there on time. We advise you get your tickets ahead of time.
Chadianzi Bus Station:
Driving : Hiring your own car will get you there an hour or two faster. If you’re counting the time it takes to get to the Chadianzi Bus Station in the morning, you’ll be saving even more time! Additionally, you’ll have the freedom to stop at scenic spots along the way. Once you identify a driver, you should reach an agreement on the time and price before starting out. It is possible to rent different vehicles at different towns along the way. You can find drivers at the service desk for hotels, hostels, and tourist centers, or on the roadside at the entrance/exit areas of the smaller towns.
Most people in Danba speak Jiarong Tibetan and Chinese, but hardly any English. Allow us to tailor-make a tour for you, so that you can make the most of this remote treasure.
Alternatively, consider the Chengdu to Shangri-La Driving Group Tour (10 days). See the giant pandas in Chengdu, enjoy breathtaking scenery and local Tibetan culture in western Sichuan Province, and explore the lost horizon in Shangri-La.