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Sichuan Province, in south central China, has towering mountains and beautiful natural scenery, panda parks, national parks, Sichuan opera and hotpots, and ancient places. Here is our list of the top 12 things to do and places to go in Sichuan. Enjoy!
Sichuan's cute creatures are famous around the world, and in Dujiangyan Base (an hour and a half drive from Chengdu) especially, and at Bifengxia Giant Panda Base (two hours), you can not only see and touch them, but get involved in caring for them.
The Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center (half hour drive) is the closest, but there are no volunteer programs there.
If you simply wish to hold and take a picture with a panda, we suggest Dujiangyan. The details keep changing, but 40 tourists per day might be able to hold a panda and take photos for one minute for a donation of about 2,000 RMB. If you are interested, please tell your guide one day in advance. For details, see How to Plan a Giant Panda Tour.
Jiuzhai Valley National Park is one of China's best with colorful limestone pools of water, but its remoteness keeps it relatively less visited relative to comparable great parks. It is 7 or 8 hours away from Chengdu by private vehicle.
The high elevation of 2,000 meters and above (above 6,600 feet) may pose a risk of altitude sickness. But if you love spectacular nature, hiking and high mountains, we recommend Jiuzhaigou and its neighboring valleys including Huanglong for fantastic scenery, great hiking, and Tibetan villages. A small domestic airport nearby at an elevation of 3,500 meters affords quick access.
The best time to visit is September and October when the leaves turn colorful. In winter, it is extremely cold in the area, and the waters and lakes freeze, so is best avoided.
The Leshan Giant Buddha is the largest single stone carved Maitrye Buddha statue in the world. It was carved in 713 BC to calm the turbulent waters in the region. It is 71 meters (233 feet) high and is located east of Leshan City at the confluence of three rivers: the Min, the Qingyi, and the Dadu.
The Giant Buddha is featured in many poems, songs, and stories. You can visit it on a boat or climb to the steps underneath. To avoid large crowds, visit earlier in the day.
Mount Qingcheng has famous Taoist temples and offers well-prepared paths up the peaks. Chinese tour groups love the area, and it is popular with foreign tourists too. TripAdvisor rates it with a Certificate of Excellence in 2018 as one of the best Things to Do in the Chengdu area.
Kungfu Panda 3 took inspiration from this location — known as the birthplace of Taoism.
It is about an hour's drive from Chengdu and about half an hour from Dujiangyan (see below). You might want to visit the two places on the same day.
Jinli Pedestrian Street is said to be the "oldest commercial street" in Chengdu and was documented 2,000 years ago. It is half a kilometer long with restaurants and shops for crafts and souvenirs, and it has Sichuan Opera (see below), folk music, and other entertainment. It gets a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor in 2018.
It is now a part of Wuhou Temple Museum that has a long history and a large park. There are festival activities during Chinese traditional festivals such as Chinese New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival.
The Wide and Narrow Alleys are another set of popular pedestrian streets, exhibiting Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) architecture.
Sichuan hotpot is a great way to have a fun and delicious dinner with friends or family. You can try your hand with concocting a delicious fiery dish as you add the ingredients in the soup yourself.
You can choose your ingredients and condiments (garlic, ginger, wine and etc). If you are not used to spicy food, you can split the boiling pot into spicy and non-spicy sections.
Sichuan Opera is an important part of Chengdu culture and is also popular in Chongqing, Yunnan and Guizhou.
The performances feature actors who wear masks and change their masks instantly. It is a remarkable show.
Two local opera theaters are Shufeng Yayun Garden in Culture Park and Sichuan Opera Theater (20 Zhuangyuan Street).
The Dujiangyan Irrigation Project is one of the great irrigation projects of ancient China. It was built by Li Bing in 256 BC to prevent floods of the Min River (a tributary of Yangtze river), and it is still in use draining off floodwater, irrigating farmlands, and providing water to factories.
Along with seeing the outstanding ancient engineering, the natural scenery is beautiful, and it also gets a Certificate of Excellence in 2018 on TripAdvisor. It is also the place to taste delicious local snacks.
The Jinsha Museum and the Sanxingdui Museum house the artifacts and remains of an artistically advanced civilization with advanced metal-working technology that existed about 3,100 years ago. If you enjoy history and archeology, these are very good museums to see.
The Jinsha Museum is in the center of Chengdu so it is easy to visit. The Sanxingdui museum is in the outskirts of Chengdu. The Sanxingdui Museum's exhibits are bigger, older and more amazing. The Sanxingdui Museum received a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor in 2018.
Dufu’s Thatched Cottage is a museum and memorial for a famous Chinese poet named Dufu (712-770 AD) in western Chengdu. It is easy to reach with its own subway station on Line 4.
The museum is in a park that covers 24 acres (97,000 square meters). Visitors to the park learn about Dufu’s life, his poetry, and his times and enjoy the large contemplative park. If you enjoy poetry or Chinese culture, it is a captivating place to go.
Mount Emei's highest peak can only be reached by foot.
Mount Emei (3,099 meters (10,167 feet)) is another mountain scenic area that received a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor in 2018. It is one of the Chinese people's most favorite scenic hiking mountains. Cable cars can take tourists part of the way up.
Emei is one of China's Four Buddhist Peaks, and has a rich cultural aspect, with many temples.
The high elevation of 2,600m (8,530 ft) may mean altitude sickness for some people. For people interested in going higher up to Mugecuo National Park or Gongga Mountain, it is a good place to acclimatize to the altitude.
Kangding is about 5 hours by fast vehicle and about 8 hours by bus, but an airport at 4,000 meters (one of the highest in the world) allows for quick transport to Chengdu.
Sichuan is such a large and complex province that going with a tour guide and driver helps make your visit less stressful and more rewarding.
Our well-designed tour plans cover the highlights of Sichuan in ways that experience and customer feedback shows are best.