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Visiting Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan, China

Updated on May 25, 2014
Iammattdoran profile image

Matt is an avid traveller and self-confessed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, and about travelling.

Jiuzhaigou, China

Welcome to Jiuzhaigou Valley, China
Welcome to Jiuzhaigou Valley, China | Source

Jiuzhaigou, China

Jiuzhaigou Valley is an area located in the northern part of the Sichuan Province in the Peoples Democratic Republic of China. Jiuzhaigou is roughly 10 hours north (by bus) of Chengdu, Sichuan's largest city. Covering an area of approx. 72,000 hectares, at an elevation of between 2000 and 4500 metres, Jiuzhaigou Valley was made a national park by the Chinese Government in 1982 and was opened to the public in 1984. Jiuzhaigou National Park was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 followed by being designated as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997.

Where is Jiuzhaigou?

A markerjiuzhaigou -
Jiuzhaigou, Zhangzhazhen, Jiuzhaigou, Aba, Sichuan, China, 623402
get directions

Jiuzhaigou National Park

Although the Jiuzhaigou area has been a national park for over 30 years, there are seven villages within the park that are inhabited by Tibetan families. Jiuzhaigou Valley actually means 'Nine Village Valley' as there were originally nine Tibetan villages but two of them are no longer inhabited. Jiuzhaigou National Park and the wider province have long been home to many Tibetans going back for generations. Jiuzhaigou Valley is located on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, part of the Minshan mountain range.

Jiuzhaigou National Park

Minshan Mountain Range, Jiuzhaigou
Minshan Mountain Range, Jiuzhaigou | Source

Tibetan Village near Jiuzhaigou

Tibetan Village
Tibetan Village | Source

In Jiuzhaigou National Park

Unfortunately it is not possible to stay within the park. Rumours circulate that certain Tibetan houses in the villages will take in curious foreigners for the night for the right price but this is against the rules of the Park Administration and it's difficult to find out about these offers. The town around the entrance to the park has rapidly developed, much the same as all towns in China, and has a multitude of large hotels and restaurants. The town itself is the usual sterile new-build town devoid of character and charm. However, if you do your research there are a couple of gems located outside of the town. One such gem is a Tibetan Homestay called Zhou Ma's Jiuzhaigou Experience which is a big old Tibetan house in a lovely mountainous village only 10 minutes outside of the town. We stayed here for three nights and food and transport was included. It was an experience of a lifetime, especially as we never actually got to visit Tibet during our trip. Please take the time to also read my hub about our experience of the homestay here.

Jiuzhaigou National Park Picture

Transparency of the lakes at Jiuzhaigou National Park
Transparency of the lakes at Jiuzhaigou National Park | Source

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Jiuzhaigou Paradise

Visitors generally only need a day to explore Jiuzhaigou National Park but as it gets very busy during the day it's a good idea to get there early. Visitors are only permitted to walk on the designated walkways so there are only a limited number of routes available - it's still possible to cover them all within the day, but there's a lot of walking involved! To begin with, it's best to take the shuttle bus all the way to the top of the park and then make your way back down via the walking tracks throughout the day. Or alternatively, make your way yo the top on foot and catch the bus back down at the end. Either way you'll be able to see everything.

Jiuzhaigou Lakes

Some people refer to Jiuzhaigou National Park as 'fairy land' and it's easy to see why. From the first lake you set your eyes on you'll stare at it trying to work out how such a thing of beauty is even possible. I had certainly never seen anything like it. Crystal clear water that actually magnified and sharpened the details of everything that lay beneath the surface. Most of the lakes have fallen trees lying on the bottom but the lakes are so still and transparent that it's like watching the most High Definition TV imaginable. That maybe doesn't make much sense if you've not been there as you'd think the real thing is always going to be better than a TV image but I just can't describe the sharpness enough.

Jiuzhaigou Park

Beautiful clear lake at Jiuzhaigou Park
Beautiful clear lake at Jiuzhaigou Park | Source

Jiuzhaigou China

Many of the lakes at Jiuzhaigou National Park feature different colours due to various minerals found within their basins. Within the same lake there could be hues of blue, green, red, yellow. Each one more grand and more magnificent than the next. But it's not only the lakes that will leave visitors wide-eyed and open-mouthed, The surrounding Jiuzhaigou landscapes are breath-taking. From the towering snow-capped minshan mountain peaks, to the waterfalls flowing from the hills, to the multi-coloured Jiuzhaigou forests all around, it's easy to see why Jiuzhaigou National Park is known as fairy land.

Plan your visit to Jiuzhaigou Park

China Survival Guide: How To Avoid Travel Troubles and Mortifying Mishaps, Revised Edition
China Survival Guide: How To Avoid Travel Troubles and Mortifying Mishaps, Revised Edition

Originally released in time for the China Olympics, this little book immediately caught on with first-time and seasoned travelers thanks to its compact format, affordability, and reliable information delivered with savvy humor. The authors have now improved their work with new sections on critical issues like air travel and appropriate clothing, lots of data updates and fresh recommendations, plus all-new photographs and captions to make the book even more fun to browse. Uniquely designed to address all the travails of being a foreign tourist in China, it includes practical check-lists on transportation, lodging, walking, haggling, medical and bathroom emergencies, etiquette, crowds, and learning the twin arts of patience and persistence.


Where are the Panda's?

Chances of spotting wildlife in Jiuzhaigou National Park are slim as the vast visitor numbers have put paid to that. There is wildlife out there though. Within the Jiuzhaigou Valley area there are still some Giant Panda's living in the wild, although the number is estimated to be as low as twenty. The area is also home to the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey as well as over one hundred and forty species of bird.

Mirror Image - Jiuzhaigou National Park

No Golden Snub-nosed Monkey's here, Jiuzhaigou Valley
No Golden Snub-nosed Monkey's here, Jiuzhaigou Valley | Source

Nuorilang Falls

Nuorilang Falls, Jiuzhaigou National Park
Nuorilang Falls, Jiuzhaigou National Park | Source

Jiuzhaigou Weather and Entry

The best time of year to visit Jiuzhaigou National Park is between April and October when the Jiuzhaigou weather is warm. It rarely gets too hot but it can get very cold during the winter months - it is of course at altitude remember. Entry to the park costs approximately 220RMB ($35US) and visitors need to pay for a one day bus ticket in order to use the shuttle. Visitors are wise to pay this as the length of the walking circuit to the top of the park is approximately 30 kilometres, It's best to buy the ticket and then hop on and hop off when you need to use it. Anyone travelling with a valid student ID is in luck as the student entry price is only 70RMB ($11US) but the full fare is required for the bus ticket.

Essential Sights at Jiuzhaigou Park:

Five Flower Lake
A multicoloured shallow lake with crystal clear water showing criss-cross fallen trees at its bottom
Five-colour Pond
Small but stunning lake that is probably the brightest and clearest of all the lakes in the park
Nuorilang Falls (pictured)
Beautiful waterfalls that are both spectacular yet incredibly modest and subtle at the same time.
Mirror Lake
This lake beautifully captures the incredible landscape around it, reflecting it off it's pristine still surface
There are many lakes and waterfalls within the park, as well as a lovely walk through the ancient forest. Above, are just a few of the must-see highlights.

Lake at Jiuzhaigou Park

Jiuzhaigou Valley
Jiuzhaigou Valley | Source
The Good Earth (Oprah's Book Club)
The Good Earth (Oprah's Book Club)

The New York Times: A comment upon the meaning and tragedy of life as it is lived in any age in any quarter of the globe.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: One of the most important and revealing novels of our time.

Boston Transcript: One need never have lived in China or know anything about the Chinese to understand it or respond to its appeal.


After a thoroughly enjoyable but exhausting day visitors can reward themselves with a tasty Yak steak and a couple of bottles of Snow (local beer).

National Geographic Traveler: China, 3rd Ed.
National Geographic Traveler: China, 3rd Ed.

This beautiful guide makes the vast enigma of China accessible to every traveler. Filled with a myriad of useful information and travel tips, it features cut-away illustrations of renowned structures, detailed maps, and sumptuous photographs. Broken into chapters by cities and areas, it describes the best sites throughout the country, including Beijing; dynamic, modern Shanghai; the fertile Yangze region; Guilin and its fabled limestone pillars; Tibet; the Silk Road; Inner Mongolia; Hong Kong; and Macau, all prefaced by an elaborate introduction to the rich Chinese history and culture. n invaluable planning tool chock full of exciting activities and interesting historical and cultural information, this guide is essential for pre-trip preparation.



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    • profile image

      AnnaSui 3 years ago

      Really useful information about Jiuzhaigou

    • Iammattdoran profile image

      Matt Doran 4 years ago from Manchester, UK

      Cheers Mike, much appreciated! By the way, I should point out my user name often throws people... it's I am Matt Doran - my name's Matt. Don't worry, lot's of people read it as Ian! Cheers

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      Great hub Ian and very beautiful pictures. Voted and pinned!

    • Iammattdoran profile image

      Matt Doran 4 years ago from Manchester, UK

      Hey guys thanks for the nice comments. It really is an amazing place. I can honestly say I've never been anywhere like it, although I'm aware there are parts of Canada that may be similar - a visit is planned for the future! There are at least 7 or 8 lakes in Jiuzhaigou - all amazing! Thanks for reading and commenting. Matt

    • ameliam.michelle1 profile image

      Ameliam Michelle 4 years ago from London, England

      Matt like April, I am feeling jealous too, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Especially, Jiuzhaigou Park and the lake looks absolutely divine and the falls are just mind-sweeping. Hope I travel to this beautiful country soon. Thanks for sharing such a well-written hub on this ethereal landscape

    • April Dawn Meyer profile image

      April Dawn Meyer 4 years ago from Belle Fourche, South Dakota

      You visit the most gorgeous places and I am extremely jealous :)