Jiuzhaigou Travel Guide
The town of Jiuzhaigou is situated about 330 kilometers north of Chengdu, the provincial capital. Jiuzhaigou lies on the world's highest tableland on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The topography of Jiuzhaigou ranges from roughly 2000 meters above sea level on the floor of the valley to more than twice that on the summit of the highest peaks, at 4300 meters above sea level.
Jiuzhai Valley, in turn, consists of three primary valleys that form an upside-down (viewed from south to north) "Y", but with several smaller valleys branching off from the upside-down "Y", one of the main smaller valleys being Zharu Valley. All of these beautiful valleys are nestled in the embrace of towering mountains.
A Dual UNESCO Role
Jiuzhai Valley is marked by a karst landscape that is dotted with travertine pools (note that travertine is a light-colored, slightly porous calcite (CaCO3), aka calcareous alabaster, or calc-sinter), but Jiuzhai Valley is also marked to an even larger extent by the bigger-picture tectonic processes - not to speak of the subsequent glaciation - that produced the mountains, valleys, pristine lakes and magnificent waterfalls of the area.
The lakes of Jiuzhai Valley eventually feed into the local river, the Jialing River, an important local tributary to the Yangtze River.
Both of these famous valley systems are UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, while Jiuzhai Valley is additionally a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Home to the Giant Panda
Jiuzhaigou Valley is also home to the Giant Panda - still an endangered species - and the Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey. Jiuzhai Valley is also renowned for its many varieties of bamboo and rhododendron, as well as for its over 140 different bird species.
How to Visit Jiuzhaigou's Valleys
Jiuzhaigou consists of a primary, Y-shaped valley system consisting of Shuzheng, Rize, and Zechawa Valleys. The visitor will typically arrive in a long-distance bus from Chengdu or in a shuttle bus from JZH Airport, both of which points of origin lie south of the upside-down "Y" that describes Jiuzhaigou.
The first of the three primary valleys to be encountered is Rize Valley, which is the southwestern leg of the upside-down "Y". Next comes Zechawa Valley, the southeastern leg of the upside-down "Y", then the trunk of the "Y" itself, Shuzheng Valley. Visits to these three valleys are generally part of any standard sightseeing tour to Jiuzhaigou.
Zharu Valley and Keze Valley are less visited since there is no shuttle bus service for these valleys. But a visit to these off-the-beaten-path valleys can be well worth the effort (if you are the type who abhors the beaten path, then you require no encouragement from me to search out these lesser valleys yourself!).
If you are of a hardy constitution, then the area's eco-tourism might appeal to you. Zharu Valley has been designated as an ecotourist site for hikers and campers. Interested parties - accompanied by ecotourist guides, who also provide invaluable information on the local flora and fauna - can tailor a trip to just about any length.
Weather & Best Time to Visit
Jiuzhaigou, with an elevation of about 3 kilometers, enjoys a plateau humid climate. It features a huge difference in temperature between day and night. The snow falls heavily from December to the following February each year.
There is little rainfall in Jiuzhaigou, with an annual rainfall of less than 600 mm, and mainly concentrates in July and August.
The snow falls heavily from December to the following February each year.
The hottest days fall in July, with an average temperature of 17 ℃, and the coldest days fall in January, with an average temperature of 3 ℃. The temperature drops a lot in the morning and evening.
Jiuzhaigou is an ideal midsummer vacation venue for those wishing to enjoy an active holiday without having to suffer stifling heat because of the cool summer climate and the tendency to clear skies.
Autumn is the very best time of year to enjoy the full beauty of Jiuzhaigou since the area is blessed with vast mixed forests, some still relatively virgin despite the former logging, with many deciduous trees whose autumn leaves present a veritable symphony of color. Read more details on Jiuzhaigou Weather
Hotels in Jiuzhaigou
There is a range of star-rated Hotels - including a number of 5-star hotels such as the Sheraton chain - located in and around the city of Zhangzhou, itself situated near the exit point of Jiuzhai Valley, which also puts the hotels comfortably close to Huanglong Valley since the city of Zhangzhou marks the boundary between Jiuzhaigou County and Songpan County, which also suggests that a visit to either of these famous valleys can conveniently be combined with a visit to the other.