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China - Jiuzhaigou N.P. in Sichuan - a multicolored jewel

Treasures for the eyes and the camera, once you have left the crowd and chaos at the entrance behind you


View Jiuzhaigou (China), Malaysia, Singapore Autumn 2012 & Netherlands beyond the typical tourist places & Wine Expeditions in France, Italy, Spain and Other Places on westwind57's travel map.

Attention: In August 2017 the magnificent Jiuzhaigou N.P. sustained heavy damage to the natural attractions, and has been closed. The park's official website does NOT mention anything about this. There is talk that it will be open in March or May 2018 again for tour groups only, and with a maximum of only 2,000 people per day. If I find updated info I will mention it in my forum topic ( link ).

Today was going to be the day that I had been looking forward to, and the reason was Jiuzhaigou National Park. I am going to keep the text short, the pictures should speak for themselves.
• Located in the very north of Sichuan province.
• UNESCO World Heritage status since 1992, and the status of World Biosphere Reserve since 1997
• The park spreads over a total area of 720 square kilometers around valleys, which on the map look like an upside down "Y". In the middle of the park, near Nuo Ri Lang waterfalls, the Rize river and the Zechawa river come together to form the Shuzeng river. The Shuzeng river forms the joint part of the "Y" and streams into Baihe River.
• Elevation between 2,000 and 4,500 meters. The entrance is at the lower end of the valley, where the.
• The rivers find their sources in the Min mountain range (Minshan), and both flow through their respective valleys forming many very colorful lakes (due to the minerals, different algae and the vegetation in the lakes), waterfalls and rapids.
• The slopes of the valleys are forested and often very steep.
• Jiuzhaigou means Nine Villages Valley, referring to the nine Tibetan villages in the valley.
• Seven of them are still inhabited by the original people (Awa-tibetans and Qiang people).
• The entrance gets very crowded before opening and it’s a chaos. Once inside, it is fantastic hiking. Yes, there are people, but real crowds only on a few places.
• High frequency shuttle bus system with many stops. Comparable to Grand Canyon N.P.
• For visitors it is not allowed to stay overnight in the park, due to environmental concerns and to reduce the risk of forest fire.
More details after the pictures.

Juizhaiguo - the chaos at the entrance, but there will be a reward

Juizhaiguo - the chaos at the entrance, but there will be a reward

Juizhaiguo National Park - the Tibetan village inside the park

Juizhaiguo National Park - the Tibetan village inside the park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

Juizhaiguo National Park

The park has become a very popular tourist attraction for the Chinese, and the tourism industry focuses on Chinese speaking tourists mostly. There are a few western hotels, including Sheraton resort, and (further away) an Intercontinental resort and a Holiday Inn.

Relatively few tourists from western countries have found their way to this remote area, partly due to the long road drive from Chengdu. The only alternative is a flight to Jiuzhai Huanglong airport. Very few people in the hotels, shops etc. speak English, and if you travel on your own not speaking a word of Mandarin, you may have a hard time getting around in the area. A few words of Mandarin (or just an honest try) will do wonders with the people in the hotel, the village and the park. Most of them are patient, very friendly and smiley and will try to help you. However, the National Park has an excellent website with good English translations and information, and also plenty of documentation available in the visitors’ center.

We got up really early for breakfast in the dining room of the hotel, a huge round room, with a fully Chinese style breakfast buffet. There is coffee (sometimes, and not bad), and the usual "orange juice", which is not juice at all, but luke warm tea with orange flavor. And except for boiled and fried eggs, the food is almost only Chinese food, quite decent though. I was getting used to it, although still craving for the fresh pressed real orange juice that I hoped to find some time later on the trip.

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

What we found there, was a huge mass of people already waiting in front of the office. And when the military men, who assist in controlling the crowds, opened the glass doors of the ticket office, total mayhem broke loose. A collapsing fence in a soccer stadium full of hooligans looked like children's play, compared to the troup of hungry wolves that tried to be first at the ticket counters. The soldiers needed to use force to control the situation and closed the glass doors again, leaving hundreds inside the office like sardines in a can, and many more people outside, ready to raid the next time the doors would open.

Somehow my friend bravely managed to get inside, and after quite some time came out with the tickets. The entrance fee in the season is quite steep: RMB 220 per adult person per day for entrance, and another RMB 90 for using the hop-on-hop-off bus system (which is highly recommended). In the low season (winter, starting in November) the prices are considerably lower. In the low season is possible to buy two days' tickets, which require a passport size photo.

It is possible to visit the three valleys and the main attractions in the park in one (full) day. But if you want to really take your time for hiking, or if you are a nature lover or an avid photographer, you may want to allow yourself two days (or even more). However, the hop-on-hop-off bus system is very adequate and practical, and enables you to really visit a lot of different highlights of the park in one full day.

There are roads (for the buses) and a big system of paths and boardwalks along all the three rivers and all the lakes, waterfalls and rapids.
The place in the park where the two rivers flow together to form Shuzheng river, is a hub with change points for the buses into Rize and Zechawa valley, restaurants, shops and other facilities. There are toilet buildings along many of the boardwalks and the signage is quite good (also the English translations). Maps are available in the visitor centre near the entrance.

Once we were in the park and on our first hop-on-hop off bus, there were still loads of people but it was not chaotic anymore. We would see crowds of people throughout the day at the most scenic places, but on the other hand, there were long stretches of the boardwalks that were quiet.

With so many people around you won't see much wildlife along the main paths. For that you would have to follow the few hiking paths that divert up into the mountains. However, the main attractions of the park are the rivers and the lakes and waterfalls, and in autumn (like now) the color of the foliage often reflected into the lakes.

The famous colors of the lakes have everything to do with the vegetation (algae and water plants) in the lakes, the minerals that are feeding them and the reflection of sky colors. Lakes and other scenic spots have interesting names like Rhinoceros Lake, Five Coloured Pond, Swan Lake, Tiger Lake, Arrow Bamboo Lake and Waterfall, Pearl Shoals and Pearl Shoal Waterfall, Panda Lake, and others, and at the top of Rize Valley there is a primeval forest called Virgin Forest.

Along the valleys there are several Tibetan villages that you can visit, but some are quite commercialized. It is adviseable to bring drinking water, snacks etc. especially if you intend to hike a lot along the paths and boardwalks. These boardwalks are well maintained and sometimes go up by long series of stairs, so a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Posted by westwind57 11:35 Archived in China Tagged mountains lakes snow rivers nature bus china autumn sichuan national_park colors crowd foliage tibetan jiuzhaigou tibetans awa aba qiang Comments (0)

China - Juizhaigou - Flight to a very, very elevated airport

Breathtaking views, and thin air after landing


View Jiuzhaigou (China), Malaysia, Singapore Autumn 2012 & Netherlands beyond the typical tourist places & Wine Expeditions in France, Italy, Spain and Other Places on westwind57's travel map.

Attention: In August 2017 the magnificent Jiuzhaigou N.P. sustained heavy damage to the natural attractions, and has been closed. The park's official website does NOT mention anything about this. There is talk that it will be open in March or May 2018 again for tour groups only, and with a maximum of only 2,000 people per day. If I find updated info I will mention it in my forum topic ( link ).

I never heard of Jiuzhaigou until shortly before this trip. But it is one of the most scenic areas in China, in the very north of Sichuan province. By road it is about 450 kilometers north of Chengdu in a sparsely populated area, where originally the Awa people (sometimes written as Aba) are living, who are very closely related to Tibetans. Actually, it is not very far from the eastern border of Tibet.

It is possible to travel from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou by bus or car, but it will take 8 to 12 hours. There are a few different routes. Some of the roads may be in repair, because of landslides. caused by heavy weather and sometimes by earthquakes. It makes a lot of sense to inquire about the road conditions before deciding which route to take.

The more expensive alternative is flying to Jiuzhai Huanglong airport, the third highest airport in China at an elevation of almost 3,500 meters. Many flights go there from Chengdu (and some from other cities) on a daily basis, but due to its position, the risk of flights not going on time or being cancelled is quite high. Also, the flights are not cheap, unlike many other flights in this part of the world. Due to limited time we decided to fly. We were lucky with a delay of 55 minutes only.

The airport is close to the village of Songpan, and is served by China Southern, Air China, Sichuan Airlines and other regional and local companies. It has been built and expanded to serve both the scenic areas of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. The flight from Chengdu takes about one hour. Unless the sky is completely clouded, the view from the plane on approaching Juizhai Huanglong airport is totally spectacular. I can use many words to describe it, but let the attached pictures speak for themselves.

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport


From the airport, many buses and minibus companies are available for transport to Juizhaigou national park (about two hours driving) and to Huanglong National Scenic area (about one hour). This kind of transportation is cheap, we paid RMB 45 per person (about Euro 4.50), but beware: the minibuses only will leave until they have passengers filling up the last seat. So it may happen that you have to wait for a while before the minibus leaves. There are dispatchers who try to recruit passengers and make sure the buses get filled up.
The road to Jiuzhaigou National park and the villages around it, is very well maintained and runs through a beautiful area. From the airport on the top of a rim of mountains, it goes down into the valleys, where you will see yaks, Tibetan horses, people in traditional Tibetan dress, remote villages and a spectacular mountain and forest scenery.

Song Pan - hotel complex built as an ancient village

Song Pan - hotel complex built as an ancient village

Juizhaiguo - yaks along the road

Juizhaiguo - yaks along the road


On the way to Zhangzhazhen - Tibetan horsemen

On the way to Zhangzhazhen - Tibetan horsemen


Juizhaiguo, arriving at Zhangzhazhen village

Juizhaiguo, arriving at Zhangzhazhen village


After 2 hours we arrived at our hotel, Qian He International Hotel, almost next to the Sheraton Resort, and about 1.5 kilometer from the entrance of Jiuzhaigou national park, another UN World Heritage, and rightfully so.

Juizhaiguo - the river flowing through Zhangzhazhen

Juizhaiguo - the river flowing through Zhangzhazhen


The village is lively, and clean. Even though many young people from other parts of China work here, the local people seem to be in charge, and they are all proud of their scenic area. Things are well maintained generally, there are shops catering to locals, tourists and even some bar areas along the river. Traffic in the village is busy with many buses, taxis and private car offering taxi services as well. Outside of the village, roads are quiet and almost always very scenic.

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel


That evening we had dinner in the hotel, about which I will write a review, and ventured to buy tickets for visiting the National Park the next day.
However, they don't sell tickets ahead, so you will have to get there in the morning (open from 7 a.m.) to get tickets. Be prepared to deal with crowds when buying the tickets. Especially around 7 a.m. it may be a total mayhem. There seems to be a way to order them online and pick them up at the second floor of the ticket office on your visiting day. I could not find confirmation of this on the internet, but if you can, then this seems to be a better idea than struggling yourself in the chaos to buy tickets. After dinner we called it a day and went to sleep early, waiting for our visit to the national park, the next morning.

Posted by westwind57 11:10 Archived in China Tagged mountains snow road_trip flight airport river china sichuan songpan altitude tibetan jiuzhaigou tibetans awa aba jiuzhai_huanglong Comments (0)

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