Known as a UNESCO site and national park, Jiuzhaigou National Park or Jiuzhai Valley is a picturesque fairyland, featuring sparkling lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and colorful leaves.
The park is a Y-shaped valley with three main sections: the Zechawa, Rize and Shuzheng valleys. You will need 1-2 days to explore the highlights.
- Must-See Highlights – The 3 Valleys
- How to Visit Jiuzhaigou
- Best Times to Visit Jiuzhaigou
- How to Get to Jiuzhaigou
1. Shuzheng Valley — Most of the Lakes and Waterfalls
Water, the soul of Jiuzhaigou, gives it an enchanting beauty. The lakes in Jiuzhaigou are crystal clear and green all year round, surrounded by ancient trees and flowers.
More than 40% of Jiuzhaigou's lakes and ponds are situated in Shuzheng Valley.
For short-visit travelers, Nuorilang Waterfall, Shuzheng Waterfall and walking from Tiger Lake to Shuzheng Waterfall are recommended. You're likely to only take 2–3 hours to wander around these awesome sights.
The Shuzheng Lakes
At the gate of Jiuzhaigou, the Shuzheng Lakes include 19 lakes of different sizes, like an emerald and diamond necklace adorning the valley. Trees, lakes, and waterfalls interweave closely and form terrace-like scenery. It is one of most photographed sites in the park.
Shuzheng Waterfall is the most representative attraction in Shuzheng Valley. It's the smallest waterfall in the valley at 72 meters wide and 25 meters high. The lakes upstream, among the shoals and stepping stones, make the waterfall more magnificent.
Praised as the most beautiful waterfall in Jiuzhaigou, Nuorilang Waterfall is also one of the widest in China (at 300 meters wide). Frequently seen on TV, it is regarded as a symbol of Jiuzhaigou.
You can have a panorama view of the falls from the platform opposite. It is more fabulous in the morning, especially if attended by a rainbow in the sky.
In winter, it's a frozen feast for the eyes. The ice — which should be as white as jade — becomes transparent blue. The blue frozen waterfalls and clear blue lakes comprise a beautiful and magical snow world. This is rarely seen — on only about a dozen days at the end of January and early February.
2. Rize Valley — the Epitome of Jiuzhaigou
Rize Valley offers an astonishing diversity of spectacular landscapes: its picturesque reflections, colorful lakes, and stunning waterfalls require less walking.
For a short visit, you're suggested to visit Panda Lake, Five Flowers Lake, Arrow Bamboo Lake, Pearl Beach Waterfall, and Mirror Lake. Walking among those attractions takes about 2–3 hours with photo stops.
Five Flowers Lake
Multicolored and famous, Five Flowers Lake is named after the flamboyant algae in the water. With colors of goose yellow, black green, russet brown, magenta, and emerald green, these lakes are like a tapestry of multicolored brocade. You can walk up to Tiger Mouth platform to overlook the Lake.
Arrow Bamboo Lake
Scores of tall bamboo canes, the favorite food of giant pandas, grow around Arrow Bamboo Lake. Reflections of bamboo and the surrounding mountains in the water create a wonderful sight! In 2001, the famous movie Hero, directed by Zhang Yimou, was shot amongst the charming scenery there.
Giant pandas used to love living near Panda Lake in Jiuzhai Valley, hence its name. They went there to drink, have fun, and look for food. Thanks to the great quality of water, fish can be seen in this clear lake, even some rare species.
Pearl Beach Waterfall
With the highest drop (40 m) and width (310 m), Pearl Beach Waterfall drops from the cliff and forms a crescent waterfall. Walking down along its plank path, you will have a lovely views of the waterfall. Its roaring, splashing, and rushing create the best watery sights in Jiuzhaigou, because of the rapid section of torrents there. The plank trail on the left of the rapids is the ideal place to view the splashes of the waterfall.
3. Zechawa Valley — the Largest Lake and Smallest Lake
Zechawa Valley is about 18 km long, at the highest altitude in the park (3,101 meters). The must-sees are two neighboring lakes: Long Lake and Five-Colored Lake. 1½ hours is enough to explore its beauty.
Long Lake is the largest lake at the highest altitude in the park. At the upper end of Zechawa Valley, the Lake is surrounded by snowy mountains and cedars. It never floods nor dries up.
Following the wooden plank path, you can walk down to the lakeside, and enjoy the peace of this dark blue lake. Snow-capped mountains, verdurous trees, changing clouds... all reflects in the lake and make a breathtaking oil-painting vista.
As 'the eye of Jiuzhaigou', Five-Colored Lake may be the smallest lake, but it has the most colors in Jiuzhaigou. As the light changes and the seasons go by, the lake takes on different hues and tones. The colorful pools are the result of the cooperation between sunlight, algae, and sediments. Illuminated by sunshine, you can see different colors in the one lake: baby blue, azure, light green, yellows and reds...
- 3-Day Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong Highlights Tour
- 6-Day Essential Chengdu and In-Depth Jiuzhaigou Tour
- 7-Day Chengdu, Mount Emei and Jiuzhaigou Scenic Tour
How to Visit Jiuzhaigou
Jiuzhaigou National Park opens from 8am to 5pm in peak season (April 1 to November 15) and opens half an hour later in low season (November 16 to March 31). You have to enter the park before 2pm. A one-day ticket costs CN¥280 (US$44) in peak season and CN¥160 (US$25) in low season.
Shuttle buses are included. They run between 8am and 5pm among the three valleys (Shuzheng, Zechawa, and Rize) in a circular manner. But they stop heading to the top (Zechawa) around 2pm. In the peak season, you might need to wait in a long line for a shuttle bus. So, the only way to avoid queues then are to be the first ones to the park or walk. In off season, fewer shuttle buses are available.
Time is tight if you want to fully explore the park in a day, therefore you need to focus on the key highlights, take advantages of shuttle bus, and control your schedule well.
If you'd like to explore at a leisurely pace or have a photography tour, a two-day tour is highly suggested. A two-day pass is CN¥465 (US$73) in peak season and CN¥280 (US$44) in low season. A simple itinerary is suggested below:
Day 1: Walking in Zechawa Valley and Shuzheng Valley
Day 2: Leisurely walking in Rize Valley
One-Day Tour Planning: the Regular Choice for Most People
- In the early morning, take a shuttle bus to the end of Rize Valley, the Primeval Forest. After that, take a bus to Panda Lake. From there, have a short hike to Five-Flower Lake and Pearl Beach.
- Have a rest at the joining point of the "Y" — Nuorilang Tourist Center. There, visit the most iconic attraction of Jiuzhaigou — Nuorilang Waterfall.
- After a good rest, visit Zechawa Valley by shuttle bus. Walk on the plank road to visit Long Lake and Five-Color Lake.
- Afterwards, spend your time visiting Shuzheng Valley. Then, hike down through Shuzheng Valley to Reed Lake. As you walk along the way, you can enjoy the great natural scenery interspersed with traditional Tibetan villages.
Lunch tips: A buffet lunch can be arranged in Nuorilang Restaurant, the only restaurant inside the park. It is quite crowded at lunch times (10:30am to 2pm) in peak season. Moreover, the food is overpriced, but quite simple. Thus, a picnic lunch is helpful to avoid the long queues during peak season and guarantee a better food experience.
Best Times to Visit Jiuzhaigou
Jiuzhaigou ('Nine Village Valley') is particularly picturesque in autumn. Warm days, cool nights, and great vistas of saturated yellows, reds, and greens reflecting off the blue lakes are typical of autumn there.
Autumn (September to October): Gorgeous Seas of Colors
Temperature: Averaging 18°C (64°F) at the warmest, it falls to below 8°C (46°F) at night.
The orange sumac, golden birch leaves, red maple trees, and dark red wild fruit — all of these dark and light colors splashed across the mountains and valleys comprise a dizzying oil painting appearance. Jiuzhaigou is a gorgeous sea of colors.
As autumn is a peak season, hotels, flights, and English-speaking guides are in high demand. If you are going to visit Jiuzhaigou in fall, we recommend booking at least two months in advance. Taking some photos while visiting is a good option - see some photography tips.
Spring (March to May): Verdant Mountains and Peach Flowers
Temperature: 9°C (48°F) to 18°C (64°F) in the day, dropping to 6°C (43°F) on average at night
The spring sunshine brings everything back to life. The snow begins to melt in Long Lake, while flowers begin blooming at the entrance. Peach flowers hang beside the lake gracefully and occasionally sway in the wind. Other wild flowers decorate the valley and make an evanescent scene of beauty.
Find more things to do in spring.
Summer (June to August): Green Forest Summer Retreat
Temperature: 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F) in the day, but around 10°C (50°F) at night
Escape from the summer heat in Jiuzhaigou as it turns greener and the lakes are a deep dark blue. Summer is also the rainy season when the water flows from the lakes and waterfalls increase in magnificence. After the rain, the fresh mountain air is calming and stress-relieving, making it a therapeutic leisure choice for those who lead busy modern lives.
Winter (November to February): A Snow-Covered World
Temperature: 0°C (32°F) or below
The snow turns Jiuzhaigou into a silvery world during winter. Snowflakes pile up and turn to ice flowers all over the trees, and even the waterfalls freeze. The lakes on a clear day are even bluer during winter.
Winter is the off-season:
- There are fewer travelers and you can enjoy favorable prices.
- Some attractions will be closed during the winter.
You might be interested in more Jiuzhaigou weather>>>
How to Get to Jiuzhaigou Valley
Chengdu is the best-preferred landing city if your departure point has an international flight to Chengdu. After arriving in Chengdu, you can take a plane or high-speed train to Jiuzhaigou. If you are flying to another city such as Beijing or Shanghai, you can continue from these cities to Chengdu and then head to Jiuzhaigou.
How to Get to Jiuzhaigou from Chengdu
Chengdu, located 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Jiuzhaigou, is the best gateway to Jiuzhaigou. Direct flights and high-speed trains are two common ways to travel from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou.
The flying journey is about 1 hour and the high-speed trip takes about 1.5 hours.
After you get off the plane or train, you need to take a 2.5-3-hour drive and finally get to the Jiuzhaigou Valley.
Where to Stay in Jiuzhaigou
Staying inside the Park is not allowed. So, we recommend staying in Zhangzha Town, which is closest to the entrance of Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area. Zhangzha Town has a wide range of accommodation, from 5-star hotels to budget hostels. 3-star hotels or budget hostels are not suggested because of their low-quality service and lack of air-conditioners.
The following hotels are well equipped with modern facilities and air-conditioners:
Hilton Jiuzhaigou Resort: 5-star, from US$126
17 minutes' driving from the Jiuzhaigou entrance, the Hilton has a blend of modern and Tibetan styles. Lying in a natural valley, the hotel offers perfect views of snow-topped mountains and forests. It's an ideal place to enjoy a tranquil night.
Howard Johnson Tianyuan Jiuzhaigou Resort: 4-star, from US$113
12 minutes' driving from Jiuzhaigou's entrance, the rooms are quite spacious. A hot spring is its highlight. Moreover, you can easily find restaurants and a shopping street nearby. If you are interested in a night show, Songcheng Romancer Park is right by the hotel.
Sanroyal International Hotel: 3½-star, from US$58
5 minutes' driving from the Jiuzhaigou entrance, it is a Tibetan-styled hotel, which has it own theater and gallery.
You are free to contact us for more recommendations. We are happy to give you suggestions according to your requirements and travel schedule.
Traveling Independently vs. With a Tour Guide
People always give a 5-star rating to the scenery of Jiuzhaigou without any hesitation. However, if you check on TripAdvisor (the No. 1 website for travel reviews), 80% of uncomfortable experiences are due to the crowds and communication problems.
Thus, if you are not a Chinese speaker, an English-speaking tour guide is highly recommended. An experienced guide can help to maximize your time, avoiding the crowds, overcoming language problems, and even making in-depth cultural experiences with locals possible.
Will I Get Altitude Sickness in Jiuzhaigou?
For most travelers, altitude is not a problem inside the Valley. Most scenic spots in Jiuzhaigou are under 3,000m (9,843 ft), with only Long Lake at 3,101m (10,174 ft) and Jianyuan Virgin Forest at about 3,060m (10,039 ft) being slightly higher.
But outside the Valley, the airport is at about 3,500m (11,483 ft) and Huanglong ranges from 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) to 3,600 meters (11,811 ft). Hence, you'd better prepare for possible altitude sickness before arriving.
Vulnerability to altitude sickness varies from person to person, so it's suggested you consult your doctor prior to your trip. Anyone with heart disease or high blood pressure should be particularly careful and take precautions when traveling to Jiuzhaigou. Also a breathing condition, like asthma or a cold, can make mild altitude sickness feel far worse.
While there, it's advisable not to do any really strenuous exercise, or to drink wine. Keep warm and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Nearby Attraction: Huanglong Valley
Just one hour's driving from Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, Huanglong Valley is often the first stop for travelers who arrive by flight. After Huanglong Valley, they drive the 2 hours to Jiuzhaigou.
Like Jiuzhaigou, Huanglong Valley features with crystal clear waters and travertine lakes. Thus, you're recommended to avoid the dry season between January and May, when the ponds are dry and lose their beauty. The best time is from June to October.
Huanglong is a steep and huge valley in which a river flows. You'd probably need 5–6 hours to walk up and down it. So, most travelers take a cable car up the valley and walk the 3 hours down.
Tour Jiuzhaigou with Us
You can use our Create My Trip service to tailor-make your tour. With rich experience in designing and arranging Jiuzhaigou tours, our travel experts can help you arrange your transportation to make your trip smooth and comfortable. See our recommended Jiuzhaigou tours: