Visiting Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
China is arguably the best country in the world to spend months travelling in. It has so much more than just the Great Wall of China! I was in Chengdu, trying to hold a panda and I heard about a beautiful place north of the city. Jiuzhaigou National Park. Although it was tricky to get to. A 10-hour bus journey just to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Was it worth it? 100% Yes! I spent a full day hiking and walking in Jiuzhaigou National Park, and it was probably the most beautiful national park I have been to in all of Asia.
Where is Jiuzhaigou National Park?
It’s about 500km north of Chengdu. It took me 8-10 hours on a bus, but apparently, now the road has been fixed and it can be a little quicker.
How much does it cost to enter the 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 in the park?
Get there early (7 am in high season, 8.30 am 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 Chengdu, spend only one day there, and 8 hours back to Chengdu?
If you have time you can stop off 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 get to Jiuzhaigou?
From Chengdu, it’s an 8-10 hour bus journey (147 Kwai/$23). You get the bus from Xinnanmen station at 8 am. 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 4 day tour from Chengdu that goes to the national park and the Tibetan city of Songpan.
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. Expect cold water showers and squat toilets!
Visiting Jiuzhaigou National Park; My Experience
My lonely planet suggested I entered the park early to ‘avoid the crowds’. So I set my alarm for 6 am, 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 for nothing, Lonely Planet! The park opens at 8.30 in low season (November to March). I stayed until around 4 pm 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. 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.
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