Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Last updated by fabiowzgogo at 2014/5/2
Situated in Northern Sichuan, Jiuzhaigou is one of the most unique and beautiful nature reserves in China. It contains many snow-capped mountains, oxygen saturated forests, massive waterfalls, Tibetan style villages, and dozens of lakes that are different shades of blue and green (caused by calcium carbonate). Jiuzhaigou is also tourist friendly and can easily be seen in one day if you arrive at the park in the early morning. The town outside of the nature reserve also has a lot of charm and beauty. After visiting the park you can enjoy a meal at a restaurant next to a river, get a massage, or walk around and buy souvenirs at the market area.
Points of Interest
Every single point of interest located on the map is worth seeing and is easily accessible (you can buy a map for 5 yuan). However, if you really want to get the out of Jiuzhaigou, I recommend walking along the path and getting away from the other tourists (see the recommendations section for the best route).
My favorite area's of the park include:
The Five Color Pool (Colorful Pond)- this small pool has the most colorful water in all of the park.
Grass Lake, Swan Lake, and Long Lake- These lakes have the most beautiful reflections of the largest mountains in the park.
The Multicolored lake- This large lake has the most vibrant contrast between green and blue water.
Waterfalls of Panda Lake and Nuorilang Waterfalls- These waterfalls are a great place to sit and enjoy lunch.
Arrow Bamboo Lake and Panda Lake- These Lakes have many trees that have fallen into the clear blue water.
How to get there
You can take a flight from many major cities throughout China to Jiuzhaigou.
You can go to Chengdu and take a day long bus trip through a mountainous area. The benefit to this route is that you can see some really beautiful scenery and it is cheaper. However, there is a time disadvantage and it is possible to develop car sickness if your not used to the winding roads.
When you visit this park you can take the bus to the last stop (primitive forest) and hike to Swan Lake. Here you can get on a bus to Arrow Bamboo Lake and hike to Shuzheng Village (Tibetan town that are full of shops). From here you can take a bus to Long Lake, walk to the Five Color Pool, and gradually work your way down to Zechawa Village. Although this park is very touristy, I found that most people take buses to the different points of interest. Therefore, if you walk along the path you will be able to enjoy the park's nature without being bothered by other people.
Check the weather before going here if you take the bus from Chengdu. Since the area is mountainous they may cancel buses because of landslides.
Bring at least one set of warm clothes even in the summer. At night the temperature may be cold sue to the high altitude.
Tickets are 220yuan
Bus Ticket is 90yuan
You can find hostels for 40+yuan or hotels/guest houses that range from 100+yuan
If you go to a hotel or guest house make sure and ask if they can lower the price.
If your inexperienced at traveling or lack the time to look for a hotel it might be convenient to reserve a hotel online, but you might pay a little more.
Other nearby places of interest
Huanglong Park: This park is around 5 hours away from Jiuzhaigou on bus. Contains a calcified lake and other strange natural scenery.
Songpan: you can do a 3 day horse trek through some Tibetan areas.
4 Beautiful Girls Mountain (Siguniangshan): A good place for hiking
Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area, aka Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park, is a series of interconnected valleys situated in a high mountain range along the northern border of Sichuan Province near the province's border with Gansu Province. Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park, or Jiuzhai Valley as we will call it here for the most part (Jiu-zhai-gou means "Nine Villages Gully", or "Nine Villages Valley", so in the following we will eliminate the redundancy and refer to the area simply as Jiuzhai Valley though "on the ground", i.e., in the Jiuzhai Valley area, you will quite likely hear it referred to as Jiuzhaigou Valley), and the city of the same name, lie some 300 kilometers, as the crow flies, almost due north of the provincial capital of Chengdu .
Jiuzhai Valley is, as indicated, situated in a high mountain range, where the lowest point lies at 1998 meters above sea level and the highest point, Mount Ganzigonggai in Zechawa Valley, lies at 4764 meters above sea level (by comparison, the city of Denver, aka the "Mile High City", located in the U.S. state of Colorado, lies in a 1600-meter-high valley just east of the Front Range Mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range - the latter known in North America as the Continental Divide, since the weather pattern and the topography west of the mountain range is distinctly different from the weather and topography east of the mountain range).
The "nine villages"* of Jiuzhai Valley are spread among the valley's network of five interconnected valleys. Jiuzhai Valley's main framework is a set of three large valleys - Shuzheng, Zechawa and Rize Valleys - that form an upside-down "Y", looking northward. To the north, Shuzheng Valley represents the "Y's" trunk while Rize Valley represents the southwestern fork of the upside down "Y" and Zechawa Valley represents the "Y's" southeastern fork. Zharu Valley branches off from Shuzheng Valley in a southeasterly direction near Zharu Monsastery (Zharusi).
The entrance to Zharu Valley lies about 12 kilometers above (north of) the fork in the main valley system, where Zechawa and Rize Valleys end and Shuzheng Valley commences. The last of the five valleys that make up Jiuzhai Valley, Changhai ("Long Lake") Valley, is an extension of Zechawa Valley (the latter valley being, as indicated, the southeastern branch of the valley system's upside-down "Y") and consists of, besides Long Lake and Five-Color Pond, two large natural runoff lakes - Shangjijiehai ("Upper Runoff Lake") and Xiajijiehai ("Lower Runoff Lake").
Each of the five valleys has its own special attractions (see the links below or click on "Attractions" in the Table of Contents in the upper left corner). The slopes of the mountains that line each of the five valleys are covered in dense vegetation. Since the altitude range goes from roughly 2000 meters to roughly 4800 meters, the vegetation varies accordingly. At high altitudes, conifers and black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) dominate while at medium altitudes deciduous trees dominate. At the lowest altitudes, a much broader palette of plants abound, such as ferns, orchids, rhododendrons, grasses, reeds and a variety of smaller bamboo, with many aquatic plants growing around the edges of the lakes. There are over 2500 plant types that thrive in the Jiuzhai Valley area, some of which are under state or local protection.
Similarly, there is an abundance of wildlife that have made a home in the Jiuzhai Valley area, 27 of which are either threatened or endangered species, including the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), the golden monkey (Cercopithecus kandti, aka, the Sichuan Snub-Nosed Monkey), the white-lipped deer (Przewalskium albirostris, aka Thorold's Deer), the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), the musk deer (family Moschidae), the Asian Small-Clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea), and water fowl such as the mute swan (Cygnus olor), the black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis), the Chinese Monal Pheasant (Lophophorus Ihuysii), the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus, aka Chinese Pheasant), and the Sichuan Jay (Perisoreus internigrans). An introduced species, the so-called Fischer's Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri), one of many such parrot species that stem from Africa, is near-threatened.
Alas, most of Jiuzhai Valley's giant pandas have long since been collected and relocated to the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve and Research Center near Chengdu, though a few still roam about in the valleys of Jiuzhai. The visitor is much more likely to run across one of the 141 species of thriving birds (less the above-listed threatened species) of Jiuzhai Valley. The park area proper of Jiuzhai Valley spans some 700 square kilometers, with a buffer zone around the park area that covers an additional 600 square kilometers.
Getting around in the park area is facilitated by a shuttle bus service that continually runs the length of the main "Y", with twice as many buses operating on the trunk of the "Y" as on each of the branches of the "Y's" fork. There are excellent boardwalks throughout the valley system, making it easy to alternate between catching the shuttle bus and sightseeing on foot. Access to the two secondary valleys, however, is strictly by foot. Thus, those who prefer to avoid crowds can easily do so by visiting Zharu and Changhai Valleys. Both have their unique highlights: Changhai Valley has its magnificent lakes, including Wucai Chi ("Five-Color Pond"), a so-called travertine pond whose floor and walls are formed of mineral deposits (for a brief explanation of how Mother Nature produces travertine, read the first footnote of the Jiuzhaigou Overview article) that reflect light in a rainbow of colors; while Zharu Valley has been designated as an ecotourist site for hikers.
Zharu Valley contains 40% of all of the plant species that exist in present-day China, making it a half-microcosm of Chinese flora, which is one of the prime reasons behind UNESCO's designation of Jiuzhai Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area as a World Biosphere Reserve.
Jiuzhai Valley is well-maintained, with as reduced a human footprint as possible while still offering the public the opportunity to enjoy the pristine nature of Nine Villages Valley. The leadership that oversees Nine Villages Valley takes its responsibilities for the sustainability of Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park very seriously, a measure of which is the sisterships that Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park has established with other wild parks abroad, including the Plitvice Lakes area of Croatia, the Cradle Mountain area of Tasmania, and the following national parks in the U.S.: Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Olympic National Park.
Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park came into being in 1982 and was opened to the public two years later, though the influx of foreign tourists would first begin in earnest a decade later still, or in 1992, when the transportation infrastructure (highways and airports) was finally in place, which also corresponds to the period when the park was recognized internationally; Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List in 1992 and was listed as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1997.
In more recent times, the park has been recognized by the Green Globe 21 initiative, part of the 1992 UN Earth Summit Agenda 21 Principles for Sustainable Development relating specifically to eco-friendly tourism. Prior to the area's UNESCO recognition, Jiuzhai Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area became a Chinese National Geological Park and a Class 4A (the country's highest rating) National Scenic Site. To learn more about the highlights of each of Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park's component parts, click on Changhai Valley, Rize Valley, Shuzheng Valley, Zechawa Valley and Zharu Valley.
* The Jiuzhai Valley system actually consists of 9 - 2 + 3 villages, or 10 villages in all. The explanation? Two of the valley system's villages, Guodu and Hejiao, are today uninhabited (their inhabitants have been moved outside of the park area in order to preserve the very delicate, very pristine nature of the area in question), while three additional villages, Penbu, Panxing and Yongzhu - technically lying beyond the valley system proper - are now considered a part of Jiuzhai Valley.
Solo Adventure Tips:
How to Get There?
See the Jiuzhaigou Overview article for information on how to get to the park from Chengdu (click on the How to get there link in the Table of Contents).
1) Sturdy, well broken-in walking shoes are a must. Since the valleys are pristine (meaning that one cannot expect to find a 7-Eleven convenience store on every corner), there is little in the way of refreshments to be purchased in the park, therefore it is also a must to bring along adequate drinking water. Similarly, you should bring along any medications that you think you might need, and note that if you intend to visit the area's higher elevations, such as Mount Ganzigonggai, you should consider bringing along altitude sickness pills. (One very happy note in this connection: Jiuzhai Valley is all but mosquito-free!) Smoking is also strictly forbidden in the park's open areas, and the visitor is required to follow the designated walking trails, out of respect for the delicate flora, and of course one should not pick flowers nor efface the calcium deposits of the travertine pools ("Look but don't touch!" is a respectful rule to follow).
2) The climate of Jiuzhai Valley ranges from a comfortable summertime high during the month of July (the July mean is 17º Celsius) to a chilly wintertime low during the month of January (the January mean is -3 º Cesius), with the heaviest period of snowfall occurring between the months of December and February. Note that since the altitude is high here, the temperature can feel warmer than it actually is as long as the sun is out, though during the same clear weather, the evening temperature, even during the summer, can accordingly fall rapidly, and for this reason layered clothing is recommended if not a must during the summer, and warm, insulated clothing is an absolute must for a wintertime visit. The period of rainfall is from May to October, when 80% of the annual precipitation occurs, which means that a good umbrella or a light rain suit is also a must.
3) Outside the park proper can be found a number of 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels. Both here and in the villages of the valleys, local ethnic-minority entertainment (usually Tibetan) is regularly staged for the pleasure of the tourist. The colorful, elaborate costumes and the lively song and dance of the ethnic performers adds an extra dimension to a visit to Jiuzhai Valley. Don't hesitate to ask the performers to pose with you for a memorable snapshot – they will do so with good cheer, singing and dancing all the while to the merriment of everyone, including the local villagers. Don't be surprised if someone presses a strip of silk ribbon, called hada, in your hand, for this is an ancient Tibetan greeting custom among strangers that was later adopted by the Mongolians, who also adopted Lamaism, or Tibetan Buddhism.
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