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Western Sichuan is a place of wild beauty. For those who dare to step off the beaten path of the well-known tourist destinations, you will find yourselves a wide and spacious world where history and culture will meet you face to face.
We recommend the following route:
The best starting place is Chengdu. If you are travelling in a group of four, total round-trip costs should be around 3,000 RMB per person.
Note: All of the prices quoted in this article are for 2012.
While taking the bus is an option, we recommend hiring private vehicles owned by local drivers for several reasons. They will know the roads, and if you speak Chinese they can explain to you all the local sites. Additionally, this gives you the flexibility to change your plans or to stop as long as you like at any scenic spot along the way. Finally, if you are travelling in a group, this can also save you money!
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. On average, expect to pay 1,000 RMB per day.
Chengdu (成都) is the best place to start your tour of Western Sichuan. There are plenty options for hotels and hostels. Or, if you’re a fan of Airbnb, your options are limitless.
Consider finding a place near one of the local tourist attractions, such as Wuhou Memorial Temple, and enjoy a nice stroll and perhaps some hotpot before hitting the road.
Day 2: On day two you’re ready to drive the 220 km to Siguniang Mountain Town (四姑娘山镇), also known as Rilong Town. Siguniang is translated as “Four Sisters”, or “Four Girls”, in English. There are plenty of hostels to choose from. Prices vary, depending whether or not it is tourist season (prices especially go up during holidays).
The four mountain peaks of Four Sisters are a National AAA scenic spot, reaching a soaring 6,250 meters (20,505 feet) above sea level at their highest peak. Once you settle in, you can set off for the Maobi Liang (Cat’s Nose Bridge, 猫鼻梁), where you will enjoy a full view of the snowy mountains.
Day 3: On day three, you can catch a sightseeing bus into Changping Gully (长坪沟) to the ruins of the Lama Temple. There you can rent horses or continue on by foot the 3,500 meters to Kushu Tan (Dead Trees Beach, 枯树摊). Scenery includes snow-capped mountains, forest, and a lake. If you have time to keep going, the trail will take you to the foothills of the Four Sisters.
Day 4: On day four, you can take a tour bus to Shuangqiao Gou (Double Bridges Gully, 双桥沟). Alternatively, you could catch local transport heading towards XiaoJin 小金, since it will pass the entrance. Once in the gully, the bus stops at five different sites, leaving time to take photos.
Danba County (丹巴) is about 115 kilometers (81 miles) from Siguniang Mountain Town, but depending on the condition of the roads it can take up to 3 hours to get there.
From Danba, you can find a new driver to take you to Jiaju Tibetan Village (甲居一村), a picturesque fairytale village boasting white homes with distinctive crown-shaped roofs, nestled between pear trees and gemlike green terraced fields. If you want to add an extra day to your trip, this is a place to do it! (Read more about Jiaju Tibetan Village)
From Jiaju Tibetan Village, you can continue on to Xindu Qiao (Xindu Bridge, 新都桥镇). Known as the “Light and Shadow World”, its grasslands, rolling cattle-covered hills, winding streams, and flourishing trees make it a great location for photography lovers! (For further reading, check out Xinduqiao: a Photographer’s Paradise).
Day 6: On day six, continue on towards the ancient town of Moxi (磨西镇) in Luding, which is also the entrance to Hailuogou Glacier National Park (海螺沟国家森林公园).
The landscape on the way to Moxi is breathtaking, particularly the Hongshi Tan (Red Stone Beach, 红石滩). There are many strangely shaped red stones scattered along the roadside, taking their color from a type of algae living on them. If touch them, your fingertips will turn yellow for a while.
Moxi is a small and clean town, and the Hailuogou ticket window is open from 7am–12:30pm and reopens again at 3pm. If it’s already the afternoon, you can buy a ticket to Hailuogou for the next day, and rent a car for 80 RMB to visit Gongga Holly Spring. The ticket for the spring is 90 RMB - 118 RMB, depending on whether you get it at your hotel or at the spring. A nice dinner in town is between 30-50 yuan each.
Day 7: The ticket to Hailuogou is 72 RMB, with a 10 RMB discount for travelers aged sixty or older, half price for travelers aged seventy and older, and free for travelers older than eighty. The tour bus is an additional 80 RMB, and a cable car ticket is 150 RMB with a 10 RMB discount for trevelers over sixty. The view of Mount Gongga, the highest peak in Sichuan Province (7,000 meters), makes the cable car is well worth the extra cost. If you head out early in the morning, you may get mist-free skies!
From the cable car stop you can climb down a little ways to enjoy the glaciers and explore the “grey stones” - big chunks of ice! The slopes are slippery and can be difficult to climb back up, so enjoy with care. The view is spectacular.
After finishing up at Hailuogou, you can either hire a car to take you to Ya’an City (雅安市) for around 700 RMB, or take a bus the next morning for 70 RMB each. It takes about four and a half hours in a private car, so if you leave that afternoon you can get there by 7:30 pm. You can find a hotel room near the Western Gate Station for around 118 RMB per night, making it easy to catch a bus back to Chengdu the next day. The buses run every 20-40 minutes, and cost 50 RMB per person. There are also plenty of restaurants and snack bars offering local specialties near the bus station, so you won’t go hungry!
Take a taxi from the Ya'an bus station to the Tour Station, and from there catch a bus to Bifeng Gorge. Bifeng Gorge and the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base (大熊猫研究中心碧峰峡基地) are at same place, and you can get a ticket for 118 RMB to the two sights at the same time. Travelers over sixty or with a student ID only pay 60 RMB.
It’s best to visit the pandas first, and the gorge second. The pandas are more awake in the morning, and you can enjoy watching them play, role down the hills in their pens, and eat their breakfast. Additionally, Bifeng Gorge involves lots of walking up and down, and may tire you out! So dress lightly, since you’ll warm up with the exercise. Bifeng Gorge will take around two and a half hours, and boasts beautiful scenery, including a lovely waterfall.
Once you’ve finished these sites you’re ready to return to Chengdu. It’s possible to find someone looking to share the cost of driving to Chengdu in a business car for a similar price to the bus, and who will be willing to drop you off directly at your hotel.
Read more about the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base - the Largest Giant Panda Base. Additionally, you may enjoy reading learning about The Top 4 Places to See Giant Pandas in China.
On day nine all that’s left to do is fly home. And, of course, take many great memories with you!
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