10 hours north of Chengdu is Jiuzhaigou and it’s amazing UNESCO National Park. After my horrible bus journey yesterday, I finally made it to my dodgy youth hostel ($6 per person) and hit the sack for the night.
My lonely planet suggested I entered the park early to ‘avoid the crowds’ , so I set my alarm for 6am, slept late until 6.45 and rocked up to the park at 7.15 am. The park is in the extreme east of the Himalayan mountain range, it’s almost at 3000m altitude and the temperature was about -5 degrees. Thanks a lot lonely planet, the park opens at 8.30 in low season (November to March). I stayed until around 4pm and managed to ‘do’ the whole park in one day, 2 days would be fine but for me one day was grand.
I paid my 80 kwai ($12) entrance and my optional but beneficial 80 kwai ($12) hop-on/hop-off bus ticket and entered the park, and what a sight to behold! Probably the most awe-inspiring national park I’ve ever been to. The park is full of multi-coloured lakes, huge snow-capped mountains, undulating hills and vast forests. Check out some of the pics below, and read the FAQs at the bottom for more info:
How much does it cost to enter Jiuzhaigou national park?:
In high season, April to September, it costs 220 Kwai ($35) or 115 Kwai for students ($18). You also really, really should buy the hop-on/hop-off bus ticket for 80 kwai ($12) otherwise you have a 14km hike to start the day, plus another 30km or so to see everything!
What’s the best way to see everything at the park?:
Get there early (7am in high season, 8.30am in low season) and beat the tour groups. The park is shaped like a ‘Y’, so take the first bus to the first drop-off point, and from there walk to fork in the road. Take another bus to the top of either the west or east roads, walk back down to the fork, jumping on the bus between lakes/scenic spots if you’re tired and then take the bus to the top of the other fork and make your way back down again. This takes about 4 hours for the eastern fork, and about 2 hours for the western fork.
If you do it correctly, one day is more than enough to see everything.
Is it worth spending 8 hours to get there from Chendgu, spend only one day there, and 8 hours back to Chendgu?!:
If you have time you can stop of at Songpan on the way back to do some horse trekking but if you’re on a time budget (like me), then you can’t! So it is worth it? Absolutely, it’s really awesome and definitely worth the journey.
How to I get to Jiuzhaigou?
From Chengdu, it’s an 8-10 hour bus journey (147 Kwai/$23). You get the bus from Xinnanmen station at 8am. The park is about 700m from Jiuzhaigou bus station.
You can also fly to Jiuzhaigou from Chengdu, it costs around $130 for the 50min flight (ouch!). Or you can remove all the stress and take a Jiuzhaigou tour.
Are there any good hostels in Jiuzhaigou?
Ermmmm, not really. China has the best hostels in the world I reckon, especially for the price but Jiuzhaigou is a small town of about 50, 000 people, no-one speaks English and there are no backpacker-type hostels. There are a few ‘fake’ YHA ‘hostels’ that cost around $7 a night, but expect cold water showers and squat toilets!