There are many places to see lovely giant pandas in China. But where is the best place for you to go for a special panda trip? What is the best time to go? We will give you some insiders' recommendations and suggestions on how to plan a panda tour.
Where Are the Best Places to See Giant Pandas?
The four panda bases around Chengdu are the best places to see giant pandas. Which one is best for you depends on how much time you have and what kind of experience you want to have.
If it's just to SEE pandas…
If you just want to see giant pandas, we recommend you go to Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Base. It is the most easily accessible panda base. You can see pandas at different ages, from the oldest to the newborns.
This base is huge but usually crowded. A private tour is the best way to get around the base to see the most pandas and get the best experience.
For a deeper panda experience...
There are three recommended activities for a deeper panda experience:
1. Join a panda volunteer program.
Giant panda volunteer programs are available in three panda bases: Dujiangyan, Wolong, and Bifengxia. Their durations are from 1 to 3 days or longer.
Dujiangyan is the best place for a one-day program. If you want a less-crowded environment, consider Wolong and Bifengxia, though they require 2 or more days.
Your work would include weighing and cleaning bamboo, making panda cakes, watching pandas being fed, and cleaning pandas' enclosures. At the end of the program, you will receive a panda keeper certificate.
2. Join in a Red Panda Volunteer Program.
Unlike with giant pandas, you can have a zero-distance encounter with red pandas — you can feed a group of them without a fence in between. If you are interested in red pandas, you can join in our red panda volunteer program in Wolong Panda Center.
3. Hike into the Habitat of Wild Pandas.
If you are a lover of pandas and outdoor activity as well, consider having a hike in wild panda habitat in Wolong. Go panda tracking, and see if you will be lucky enough to see a wild panda. See our 2-Day Wolong Panda Volunteer Program Tour.
|Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center||Chengdu City||Seeing pandas||½ day||Very crowded|
|Dujiangyan Panda Base||1½ hours from Chengdu||Giant panda volunteer program||1 day||Quiet|
|Wolong Panda Center||3 hours from Chengdu||Giant panda, red panda, panda baby volunteer program, hiking in panda habitat||2 days||Quiet|
|Bifengxia Giant Panda Base||3 hours from Chengdu||Giant panda volunteer program||2 days or more||Quiet|
2 Fantastic Days in Chengdu with Helen
We had an amazing couple of days in Chengdu as part of our 2 week holiday in China. Helen was our tour guide and she was fabulous!! She had so much passion for her job it was infectious!! We went to see the pandas and Helen was able to navigate the site to ensure we were able to see the various panda houses and try and minimise the waiting time, we then experienced very local Sizhuan Opera which was intriguing and very entertaining. The following day we went to the peoples park which was very interesting and Helen was able to give us the background to the park and introduced us to some amazing activities and encourage us to participate. Our last stop was the Wenshu Monestry which was beautiful and again Helen was very knowledgable and led us around the monestry with great explanations behind what we were seeing. Helen also took us to some fabulous local restaurants and we ate incredibly well. Thank you Helen for making the few days in Chengdu so special and we will for sure be back!!more
Aug 2023, Sandra
Qingcheng Mountain Your Chengdu
I booked a tour with China Highlights to visit Qingcheng Mountain. Aaron was a brilliant tour guide! It was great to visit the birthplace of daoism- the temples were breathtakingly beautiful and the atmosphere was serene. Aaron was incredibly knowledgeable about the mountain, and was a really helpful guide for my stay in Chengdu!more
Aug 2023, Stuart
Chengdu Guide was Awesome!
Our guide, Helen, made our time in Chengdu terrific! She was very knowledgeable and got us to everything we wanted to see efficiently. She knew all the "insider tips", like which restrooms to use to avoid long lines, excellent food for lunch, etc. Helen was very flexible and changed our itinerary so we could see an additional site. She even entertained our six year old so we could enjoy more of a museum. Definitely NOT her job, but greatly appreciated! Helen was awesome and we would recommend her VERY highly!more
Jul 2023, Suzann Demianew
Best guide in Chengdu
Our expert guide in Chengdu, China, was Helen. She was just totally amazing! She had lots of energy and was able to get us everywhere we wanted to go. She was very flexible and changed the itinerary to add an additional site. That meant she and our driver had an extra long day. She really knew all the sights and little things like which bathrooms to use to avoid long lines. Restaurants she took us to had very tasty food. Could not have had a better guide. I highly recommend Helen!more
Jul 2023, Suzann D
We spent few wonderful days at Chengdu as part of our China trip. Our guide - HenryLi from China Highlights did a wonderful job and everything went as planned in the itinerary. Henry answered all our questions was flexible and made sure all our needs were met. I would highly recommend China Highlights and if you are going to Chengdumore
Jul 2023, Viki B
Best Tour of Chengdu
In July, we went to Chengdu as a part of our large tour of China. We went to see the pandas, visited a Sichuan Opera, and toured the local streets of Chengdu with traditional Sichuan Cuisine. Our guide Helen was very helpful during this trip. She was always trying to get us to places on time and made sure we did everything we could. This was especially helpful during our stop to see the pandas as it was really crowded and busy. In addition to this trip, she was able to get us last-minute tickets to visit an authentic opera with famous face-changing masks. During our car rides, she was very informative, making sure we had all the information about the beautiful city. We recommend staying there for more than a day as there are more things to do other than seeing the pandas. Helen was very attentive and always cheerful. We definitely recommend her for people who want to be more knowledgeable of Chengdu and want someone who is very caring towards their needs.more
Jul 2023, Jimena M
Helen wad fantastic!
Helen in Chengdu was absolutely fantastic! She is very knowledgeable, speaks English well and is very active. She was flexible, practical and ready to make changes. She offered various extra options and was very sweet with my child.Highly recommended!more
Jul 2023, Chiara G
Chengdu more than pandas
Our family of 4 including 2 teens visited Chengdu. I just want to say that we did much more than the Panda activities. Our favourite one was cooking and talking with a local family in their house. We had a hands on cooking experience. It was fun, relaxing and got us to catch a bit of real chinese lifestyle. Our guide Alex was so great at arranging this! He understood our preferences in all the trip. We had a great time. By the way I accidentally lost my phone one day. Sharon (the planner girl) and Alex solved the situation in no time. More than I expected from an agency. 5 out of 5.more
Jul 2023, gilberto b
Jiuzhaigou/Huanglong in Sichuan is a must visit!!!
my mom and I had a fantastic time in Chengdu visiting the city, Leshan Big Buddha and Panda Conservation. But the best part of the trip was travelling to Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong (these two scenic spots are a MUST visit!!!) Our guide Mary was fantastic! We highly recommend her. She was accommodating, knowledgeable, and super friendly. She even helped carried our heavy water bottles for us (thank you so much). I highly highly recommend her and would seek her out again if I go again!more
Jul 2023, Sandy
Custom Chengdu with great guide!
Our guide Jason was a joy to travel with! He answered our million and one questions that had nothing to do with our itinerary, made us comfortable in unusual situations, was flexible, and made sure our every need along the way was met. We had a great time and would highly recommend China Highlights—and if you’re going to Chengdu, definitely request Jason as your guide.more
Jun 2023, Renata R
Great trip around Sichuan
My girlfriend and I booked a tour with China Highlights (Lucia Zheng was our contact there) around Sichuan. We have been visiting Emei Mountain, Kangding, Danba, Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, and many other impressive locations always accompanied with our guide Dong Jing and our driver. We are very satisfied with the attention and service offered by them, always being helpful and adapting to our needs. Dong Jing speak great english an german even better :) We would very happy do another travel with them. Thanks for a great experience!more
Jun 2023, Alberto S
Great Trip Planning Experience
My family decided to have a trip to chengdu in Dec-2023 and due to the winter time concern, I have decided to try a trip planner instead of self planned tour; and I found Chinhighlights,com.Roger Li is assigned as my trip planner and it is a great to have him assisting in my trip. Roger is very knowledgeable in what he is doing with a great sense of urgency; He is very upfront on his proposal and willing to listen on my feedback. Roger also taking the extra steps to prepare itinerary in 2 different language; English and Mandarin as my kids prefer to have details in chinese and my wife only on English. Thanks a lot Roger. We managed to finalize and signoff the trip plan within 1 week. Well done. I hope I will have an equal or better experience with china highlights on my upcoming china trips. Will update with next review after my trip ends. Cheers.more
Jun 2023, Kenneth Chin
Family China trip
We enjoyed our trips around Chengdu with Jason, China Highlights. We were on two trips - Panda Research Base and Leshan Budda. Jason took us to really good restaurant with dumplings as we told before that we like them :) The next day he presented the famous hot pot and helped us to cook it. During the trips he was very careful with our needs and was following them, what is really important while travelling with small kids. Our driver was also good, helpful with luggage and good-driving. They also had 2 baby carseats. Definitely recommend.more
Jun 2023, XX
Chengdu visit - Henry Li guide
I traveled to Chengdu and visited the Giant Buddha statue that is carved in the mountain. We had Henry Li as a guide and he was excellent. He knew a lot of history about the place and answered a lot of our questions. He also took us to the local restaurants so we can experience the local cuisine. I recommend Henry, as a guide, to anyone that wants to visit Chengdu and the surrounding areas. Thank you Henry for the amazing experience.more
Jun 2023, Adrian Iancu
Great long weekend in Chengdu
My husband and I are Aussie expats living in China. We just finished a great 3 day weekend in Chengdu with China highlights and our wonderful guide Helen. It was a real pleasure to have Helen as our guide - she was friendly, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about Chengdu and the sites we visited. She was also very diligent at meal time to ensure my food intolerance was accommodated - so we were able to still enjoy the delicious and famous food in Chengdu without any worries. Helen also organised for us to go to an evening show at the professional Opera one night which we really enjoyed. During our trip we also visited a little local opera house and had tea, saw the panda sculpture at IFS, went to Jinli old street, day trip to Leshan for a boat ride and walk at Leshan Buddha, Panda Breeding and research centre and a stroll around a local park to see how the locals enjoy their leisure time. The itinerary was great for the time we had and we enjoyed everything. It was also a very comfortable trip - our driver Mr Ren was very nice and we always felt safe with him at the wheel.more
Jun 2023, Rhiannon E
Memorable family vacation in Chengdu
As our group has elderly and children, our guide Michael was knowledgeable and flexible when we had to change plans. The LeShan journey was pleasant, driver was careful on the road, the MPV transport and freeway are in good condition. Thoroughly enjoyed the Giant Buddha river cruise. Hike to the pagoda was perfect for close-up photos. My parents were happy to experience the local delicacies, and we were pleased to stop by Taikoo Li for a personalised Lego minifigure, perfect Chengdu souvenir for our kids.more
Jun 2023, Jean
Jason was our wonderful guide. It was the perfect day to see the pandas. A little misty and few people. The pandas were out at every stop, along with the red pandas and peacocks. A fun walk at a great outdoor shopping areamore
Jun 2023, Pamela B
Fantastic Chengdu family visit
We explored wonderful Chengdu and surroundings in 4 days. City tour in a relaxed way with delicious local snacks, really nice! Spectacular new dinosaur museum, Dujiangyan (combined Panda and dam in one outing, very recommendable), Leshan Buddha. All above super cool with the kids (ours are 7 and 4). Emei Shan impressive, maybe a little long driving to explore it and watch out for the hotels there, not all are nice and in the town itself there is nothing. But we were blessed with perfect weather on the top and perfect views. Eating hot pot is spectacular in Chengdu, but watch out how spicy it can be. Michael is just a perfect tour guide! He speaks super fluent German and has a very relaxed and competent style of explaining, which made the whole tour so nice. We love Chengdu and will definitely come back!more
Apr 2023, Stefan P
Giant Pandas - Giant Buddha - Mount Emei
We had a wonderful 3 days in Chengdu area,visiting the Panda breeding Center, Leshan Giant Buddha and hiking at Mount Emei.We have been travelling several times with Chinahighlights and everything was well organised as usual. Our guide Michael (fluent in English and German) was great showing us the beauty of Sichuan. We can highly recommend travelling with him and Chinahighlights.more
Mar 2023, steffenwet
Two amazing tours
Both tours were led by excellent guides who knew a lot about everywhere we went, and were very helpful and friendly. The agent was equally helpful and quick in responding to questions which was ,especially in covid restrictions time, extremely convenient.more
Jul 2022, Elizabeth
Panda Tour itineraries
Here are three panda tour itineraries suitable for different needs/interests:
1. One-Day Panda Volunteer Tour
Dujiangyan Panda Base is the best place for a time-smart one-day program.
We will help you maximize your experience in your limited time. Our private transfers and flexible itineraries are the most efficient.
Activities include going into their enclosures, learning where they play, cleaning up, watching pandas fed at a very close distance, and making their favorite cakes. For more details, see One-Day Dujiangyan Panda Volunteer Program Tour.
There is a daily quota of 60 volunteers for the Panda Volunteer Program. We suggest an early inquiry and booking quickly to secure your place — preferably six months in advance.
2. 2-Day Panda Tour with a Wild Panda Habitat Exploration
If you have more time to spend with pandas and want more activities, we recommend a visit to Wolong Panda Base where you can enjoy more panda activities.
- Day 1: Explore the wild habitat of pandas and try to find evidence of wild giant pandas
- Day 2: A one-day panda volunteer program
If you are interested in this itinerary, check out our 2-Day Wolong Panda Volunteer Program Tour.
3. 2-Week China Tour with Pandas
If you want a complete China tour itinerary that includes the panda experience, you can check out this itinerary.
Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai are must-see cities. Chengdu is definitely included if you want a panda tour. We also recommend a Yangtze River cruise, which would start in Chongqing near Chengdu, to enjoy China's natural views.
Here is the suggested itinerary:
- Days 1–4: Beijing arrival and exploration with must-sees including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
- Days 5–6: Xi'an sightseeing with a visit to the Terracotta Army and clay-warrior-making experience
- Days 7–8: Chengdu panda tour with a keeper program — make panda cakes, see pandas being fed at a close distance, and clean their enclosures.
- Days 9–11: Yangtze River cruise with excursions
- Days 12–13: Shanghai exploration with a visit to the Bund and some free time.
Further reading: Ultimate Chengdu Itineraries: How Long to Spend in Chengdu
The Cost of a Panda Tour
It is not expensive to get a ticket to see the pandas. But if you want to have a volunteer program, it may cost a little more, about US$250–300 per person including private transfers, lunch, and a guide.
For a private China trip with a panda experience, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5-star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport. Kids under 10 will get 30 to 50 percent off.
Best Times for a Panda Tour
The Best Season to Visit
Giant pandas don't hibernate. You can visit them in all four seasons. Spring and autumn are the best times to see pandas when they are most active and temperatures are most comfortable.
As a bonus, if you visit between August and November, you will probably see adorable panda babies.
If you visit during Chinese holidays, e.g. May 1st–3rd, October 1st–7th, we recommend you visit Bifengxia Panda Base, which will be less crowded.
- 1-Day Chengdu Panda and Sichuan Cuisine Tour
- 1-Day Dujiangyan Panda Keeper Program Tour
- 2-Day Wolong Panda Keeper Program Tour
- 4-day Wolong in-depth Panda Tour
The Best Time of Day
Giant pandas spend almost half their time sleeping. So, if you want to see them walking or climbing, it's important to know their general rest schedule.
Grown-up giant pandas in captivity usually eat twice a day: early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They usually sleep around noon, any time from around 10:00 a.m. to around 2:00 p.m.
We recommend you get to a panda base as early as possible (8:00 to 10:00 a.m. is optimal), when it is less-crowded and the pandas are at their most active.
If you visit Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Base and Dujiangyan Panda Base, you can stay in a hotel in Chengdu city.
If you visit Wolong or Bifengxia Panda Base, we suggest a staying at nearby hotels, because the two bases are far away from Chengdu or the airport. Getting back and forth that day can be tiring and rushed. Hotel options are limited compared with in the city, and the standards are not as high. But we would carefully select the best hotels available to suit you.
When booking with us, we would coordinate your hotel booking, transfers, and lunch for a stress-free panda experience.
Popular Panda Tours
Just contact us and we'll create your ideal panda trip. We would create an itinerary according to your interests and any other requirements.
Our consultants listen to and answer your inquiries carefully and promptly and prepare the best tour plan for you.