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Home Travel in Sichuan Jiuzhaigou
Jiuzhaigou

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Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve (jiǔ zhài gōu zì rán bǎo hù qū 九寨沟自然保护区) is located in northern Sichuan (sì chuān 四川) in China. The UNESCO World Heritage is famous for miles of attached lakes with brilliant blue and green colors and accompanying waterfalls.

Understand
Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve is a component of the Huanglongsi-Jiuzhaigou National Park (huáng lóng sì jiǔ zhài gōu guó jiā gōng yuán 黄龙寺--九寨沟国家公园). Jiuzhaigou is a major feature of the Sichuan Scenic area which encompasses a 400 km by 100 km area due north of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Jiuzhaigou is at the north eastern end of this Scenic area in the Min Mountains (mǐn shān 岷山). It is part of the Aba (ā bà 阿坝) Tibetan and Qiang (qiāng 羌) Autonomous Prefecture. The main scenic area is some 80 km long in the form of a letter ‘Y’ made up of the three valleys – Shuzheng (shù zhèng 树正), Rize (rì zé 日则) and Zechawa (zé chá wā 则查洼) covering 720 sq km and offering stunning views of lakes, waterfalls, and mountains. The valley derives its name from the fact that there are 9 ancient Tibetan villages within it. Its highest point is 4,700 m above sea level at the end of the valley with the main sight seeing areas between 1,980 m and 3,000 m high.

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History
Jiuzhaigou valley was “discovered” by a Lumberman in 1970 when exploring the area for timber resources. In 1987 it was listed by the local Authorities in the best forty scenic areas and by 1990 it was top of the list. In 1992 Jiuzhaigou valley was inscribed by UNESCO into the “World Natural Heritages List”. 1997 saw Jiuzhaigou recorded in the reserve net of ‘Man and Biosphere’.

The Park is accessed directly from the town of Jiuzhaigou which has rapidly developed as a tourism centre to serve the park’s 2.5 million+ annual visitors. The main entrance to the park and its Administration Office is at the southern end of the park.

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Landscape
650 km² of the Minshan Mountains provide the catchments for the water system of Jiuzhaigou. The highest peak in the range is a mountain sacred to the Tibetan people of the Valley; this is Xuebaoding (xuě bāo dǐng 雪包顶) with a height of 5,588 m. The waters of Jiuzhaigou are high in carbonates and deposit large quantities of light yellow travertine, a soft porous rock that hardens with exposure. As the waters flow through the valley the travertine deposits are responsible for the creation of picturesque waterfalls and dams that hold crystal clear lakes.
The average visibility of the water in the lakes of Jiuzhaigou is 12 m. Fallen trees and other lake bed features are clearly visible and are preserved by the travertine deposits.
On the shelves of shallow water leading to the Nuorilang (nuò rì lǎng 诺日朗) and Pearl Shoal Waterfalls the travertine deposits have created a natural wonderland of Bonsai trees and bushes.

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Flora and Fauna
The park is the natural habitat for two of China’s most treasured endangered species – the Giant Panda (dà xióng māo 大熊猫) and the Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey (jīn sī hóu 金丝猴). Due to the parks size however, and the large number of tourists, the chances of seeing them are very small. You're much more likely too seen birds, insects and fish. Despite all the lakes in the park, Jiuzhaigou is amazingly free of mosquitoes. 

The flora changes greatly with altitude. In the lower regions of the valley grasses and reeds abound. These are quickly replaced by the bamboo forests which in term give way to a wide variety of deciduous trees and conifers at the upper end of the valley. Beyond them the rocky slopes and snow capped peaks of the Min Shan range dominate the view.

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Geography and Climate
Jiuzhaigou lies at the southern end of the Minshan mountain range, 330 km north of the provincial capital of Chengdu. It is part of the Jiuzhaigou County in the Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of northwestern Sichuan province, near the Gansu border.
The valley covers at least 240 km², with some protection organizations giving the area as 600 to 720 km², with buffer zones covering an additional 400 to 600 km². Its altitude, depending on the area considered, ranges from 1,998 to 2,140 m to 4,558 - 4,764 m.
The climate is cool temperate with a mean annual temperature of 7.2 °C, with means of -1 °C in January and 17 °C in July. Total annual rainfall is 661 mm, 80% of which occurs between May and October.

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Rize Valley
The 18 km long Rize Valley (rì zé gōu 日则沟) is the south-western branch of Jiuzhaigou. It contains the largest variety of sites and is typically visited first. Going downhill from its highest point, one passes the following sites:

The Primeval Forest (yuán shǐ sēn lín 原始森林) is a preserved ancient woodland. It is fronted by spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and cliffs, including the 500 m high blade-shaped Sword Rock (jiàn yán 剑岩). 

Swan Lake (tiān é hǎi 天鹅海) is a 2250 m long, 125 m wide picturesque lake named for its visiting swans and ducks. 

Grass Lake (cǎo hǎi 草海) is a shallow lake covered in intricate vegetation patterns. 

Arrow Bamboo Lake (jiàn zhú hǎi 箭竹海), covering an area of 170,000 m², is a shallow lake with a depth of 6 m. It lies at an elevation of 2,618 m, and was a main feature site for the 2002 Chinese film Hero. 

Panda Lake (xióng māo hǎi 熊猫海) features curious color patterns of blue and green. It empties into the multi-stream, multi-level Panda Waterfalls, dropping 78m in 3 steps. 

Five Flower Lake (wǔ huā hǎi 五花海) is a shallow multi-colored lake whose bottom is criss-crossed by ancient fallen tree trunks. 

Pearl Shoal (zhēn zhū tān 珍珠滩) is a wide, gently sloping area of active calcareous tufa deposition covered in a thin sheet of flowing water. It empties into the famous Pearl Waterfalls, where the shoal drops 28 m in a 310 m wide broad curtain of water. A scene of the television adaptation of Journey to the West was filmed there. 

Mirror Lake (jìng hǎi 镜海) is another quiet lake casting beautiful reflections of the surroundings when the water is calm. 

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Zechawa Valley
The Zechawa Gully is the south-eastern branch of Jiuzhaigou. It is approximately the same length as Rize gully (18 km) but climbs to a higher altitude (3150 m at the Long Lake). Going downhill from its highest point, it features the following sites:

Long Lake (cháng hǎi 长海) is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou, measuring 7.5 km in length and up to 103 m in depth. It reportedly has no outgoing waterways, getting its water from snowmelt and losing it from seepage. Local folklore features a monster in its depths. 

Five-Color Pond (wǔ cǎi chí 五彩池) is one of the smallest but most spectacular bodies of water in Jiuzhaigou lakes. Despite its very modest dimensions and depth, it has a richly colored underwater landscape with some of the brightest and clearest waters in the area. 

The Seasonal Lakes (jì jié hǎi 季节海) are a series of 3 lakes (Lower, Middle and Upper) along the main road, that change from empty to full during each year. 

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Shuzheng Valley
The Shuzheng Valley is the northern (main) branch of Jiuzhaigou. It ends after 14.5 km at the Y-shaped intersection of the three gullies. Going downhill from the intersection to the mouth of the valley, visitors encounter the following:

Nuorilang Falls (nuò rì lǎng pù bù 诺日朗瀑布), near the junction of the valleys, are 20 m high and 320 m wide. They are reportedly the widest highland waterfall in China, and one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou. 

Nuorilang Lakes (nuò rì lǎng qún hǎi 诺日朗群海) and Shuzheng Lakes (shù zhèng qún hǎi 树正群海) are stepped series of respectively 18 and 19 ribbon lakes formed by the passage of glaciers, then naturally dammed. Some of them have their own folkloric names, such as the Rhinoceros, Unknown, and Tiger lakes. 

Sleeping Dragon Lake (wò lóng hǎi 卧龙海) is one of the lower lakes in the area. With a depth of 20 m, it is notable for the clearly visible calcareous dyke running through it, whose shape has been compared to a dragon lying on the bottom. 

Reed Lake (lú wěi hǎi 芦苇海) is a 1375m-long, reed-covered marsh with a clear turquoise brook zigzagging through it. The contrast is particularly striking in the autumn when the reeds turn yellow. 

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Others
The Zharu Valley (zhā rú gōu 扎如沟) is a smaller valley that runs southeast from the main Shuzheng gully; It is the newest scenic spot recently in Jiuzhaigou.

The Fairy Pool (shén xiān chí 神仙池) lies 42 km west of Jiuzhaigou and features travertine pools very similar to those of the nearby Huanglong Natural Reserve.

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altWhen to Go
Elevated at a height of about 3,000 m, Jiuzhaigou is influenced by the typical highland humid climate. As a result, this area is frequented by mild temperatures and extremely variable weather all year round. Therefore, several warm outfits are necessary during your trip here. Although the temperature is not extreme, Jiuzhaigou still maintains four distinct seasons. Noted as a legendary 'Fairyland' and 'Earthly Paradise' with numerous charming mountains and lakes, Jiuzhaigou shows you a totally different but never-the-less amazing landscape at any time of the year. 

Actually, with an average temperature of between 6 C(42.8 F) and 12 C (53.6 F), the spring of Jiuzhaigou is not as mild as most places in China. The temperature here also varies greatly between day and night although it enjoys plenty of sunshine during the day. Besides appropriate sun block and a thin T-shirt for the daytime, several warm overcoats are also necessary when you come here in spring.

The temperature rises again in summer with little diurnal variation between day and night. The temperature varies between 13 C (55.4 F) and 21 C (69.8 F) on average. Sun cream, a pair of sunglasses, a sun hat and a solar umbrella is all helpful for you to resist the strong ultraviolet rays effectively. Fortunately, the summer nights in Jiuzhaigou are comfortable, with cool temperatures.

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Comparatively, Jiuzhaigou has the most enchanting landscapes in autumn. Frankly, it is the most colorful and vivid season in Jiuzhaigou. Every year, during the Golden Week (from 1st to 7th of October) a great number of visitors from home and abroad come to enjoy the natural scenic beauty, making this time the peak tourist season. However, during this season, the average temperature varies greatly between 4 C (39.2 F) and 13 C, so some warm clothing and sun cream are also necessary at this time. On the other hand, the rainy season of this region also happens in autumn, especially in July and August. Therefore, please take an umbrella with you!

Distinctive from the colorful autumn, Jiuzhaigou will be covered by a thick layer of white snow in winter. The whole valley is so quiet that it has become another highlight of Jiuzhaigou. Although the temperature varies little in winter, the average temperature hovers between 0 C (32 F ) and 3 C (37.4 F). So, please keep yourself warm enough when you come here in winter.

 

altFestival
Although located in south China, Jiuzhaigou still has its own appearance in winter. Without too many visitors, you can enjoy the special site of Jiuzhaigou covered by white snow. Actually, ice and snow has become one of the tourist highlights of Jiuzhaigou in recent years. Three times previously, the Ice-waterfall Tourism Festival of Large Jiuzhai, Aba and the Southern Ice and Snow Festival of Sichuan, China have been successfully held here simultaneously. They are usually held when winter comes to Jiuzhaigou, lasting about two months. During this time, a series of activities related to the beautiful Jiuzhaigou Valley are held successively, such as a photographic competition, ice sports, concerts and the Tibetan celebrations for Spring Festival.

As mentioned, the local Tibetans will hold some celebrations during Chinese Spring Festival. The most important and largest one is the Mazi Fair (má zī huì 麻孜会) held in Zharu Temple (zhā rù sì 扎如寺), which is located in Shuzheng Valley. Held annually on May 15th of the Chinese lunar calendar, it is a vital religious event for Tibetans living in Jiuzhaigou. It is said that this fair is held to commemorate a brave deity of Benbo (běn bō 苯波), which is one branch of Tibetan Buddhism. This deity is called Mazi, responsible for vanquishing demons and monsters. Three days before the festival, all of the monks in Zharusi Temple will be gathered together to celebrate being a reverent Buddhist and practicing vegetarianism. On the day, Tibetans will dress up and come here to participate in the celebration.

altFast Facts
Tourist Area: 50 square kilometers (about 123, 55 acres)
Residents: Tibetan, Qiang nationality and Han
Area Code: 0837
Zip Code: 624000
Useful Numbers:
Tourist Complaints: 0837-7739309
Tourist Inquiry Telephone: 0837-7739753
First Aid Telephone: 0837-7739818
Fire Alarm: 0837-7739909

Banks
There is no Bank of China located around Jiuzhaigou Valley, so you have to exchange enough cash before coming here.
Communication:
Usually, mobile phones can be used in the valley. On the other hand, you can use the IC telephones near the entrance gate.

Shopping
After visiting the astonishing natural scenery of Jiuzhaigou, you must want to take home some special souvenirs. Several years ago, it was difficult for visitors to find a good place to buy mementos. Now, the number of shops open in and around Jiuzhaigou Valley has grown with the developing local tourist industry, so your suitcases will certainly fill up with souvenirs by the time you leave.


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What to buy
The most attractive souvenirs sold here are the variety of mysterious, exotic and colorful Tibetan decorations. For generations, Tibetans have inhabited Jiuzhaigou Valley. They are happy to share their beautiful native arts and handcrafts with people from all over the world. The Qiang people, another ancient minority in China, also live in this region and keep their distinct ethnic culture alive. A piece of beautiful Qiang embroidery is praised as one of the best souvenirs in Jiuzhaigou.

Additionally, the area also produces some tasty fruits such as delicious Diwen (dǐ wén 底纹) apples. Other bounties of the natural environment are a number of rare Tibetan medicinal herbs such as Chinese caterpillar fungus and fritillary. Of course, yak beef is another delicious snack which you can easily find around Jiuzhaigou. However, please check your country's Customs restrictions before buying some beef to take home.

If you want to share the charming beauty of Jiuzhaigou with your friends, some beautiful cards of the Jiuzhaigou landscape are the best gifts to give. These cards can be bought in shops all around Jiuzhaigou.


altWhere to buy
Although Jiuzhaigou does not have any large department stores or supermarkets, it still has a few shops to meet visitor's needs. You can easily find a number of small shops and supermarkets out in the valley, some of which are managed by local Tibetans. Tibetan handcrafts and other souvenirs are available at these shops. Generally speaking, the price of goods sold around Jiuzhaigou is a little high, but bargaining is allowed. Usually, the Tibetan decorations can be purchased at a reasonable price. If you are interested in Tibetan herbal medicine, you'd better buy them at the normal drugstores, which ensure good quality.

There is a tourist bazaar open and waiting for you, just outside the valley. Bianbian Street(边边街) is about 1 km from the entrance of Jiuzhaigou Valley. This street, said to be the fourth most popular tourist district in China, is about 2.2 km long and is constructed in the traditional Tibetan architectural style. Shops selling local and exotic goods, restaurants and amusement centers located on the street will add a spice of excitement to your visit. On the other hand, the special atmosphere of Bianbian also makes it a tour highlight for Jiuzhaigou's visitors. Lingering at a Tibetan shop, looking over the crystal lakes and emerald forests, hearing the village monks chanting and feeling the cool breeze on your face will be a memory you will treasure forever.


altEat
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Park in China does not mean it would be fully decked out for you and me. There is a centrally located, sort of a HQ area with a restaurant serving buffet lunch. Typically Chinese stir fry dishes. At the entrance there is a Chinese Fast Food outlet serving fried chicken.

I would advise a one-day stock of muesli bars would help, especially if you plan to take in all the heavenly sights on foot, through the wooden planked pathways. Halfway through my own walk, I regretted not lugging along my hot water bottle and some pre-mixed coffee sachets. In autumn and spring the weather would be nice to rest along the wooden plank path and have a nice warm coffee while you wait for the lighting to be just right for your next photo shoot.


Sleep
Despite whatever they tell you, lodging in the Park is illegal.


Stay safe
The highest tourist destinations reach heights above 3,000 m and altitude sickness is a possibility.

In the winter months the park is extremely cold and it is necessary to dress warmly to prevent frostbite.

Chinese tourists dread standing in line and there is a lot of pushing and shoving getting on and off buses. Make sure you don't get pushed in front of an oncoming bus. Crowded trails can also be dangerous and if you walk on the edge of a path it is likely a shoulder or elbow with push you off.

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Access to the site
Jiuzhaigou, compared to other high-traffic scenic spots in China can be difficult to access by land. The majority of tourists reach the valley by a 10 hour bus ride from Chengdu along the Minjiang River canyon, prone to occasional minor rockslides and in the rainy season, mudslides that can add several hours to the trip. The new highway that had been constructed along this route was badly damaged during the May 12th 2008 earthquake. Jiuzhaigou is now accessible by an 11 hour bus journey from Chengdu via Mianyang (mián yáng 绵阳), Pingwu (píng wǔ 平武) and Wenxian (wén xiàn 文县).

Since 2003, it has been possible to fly from Chengdu or Chongqing to an airport on a 11311 ft. high mountain side near Songpan (sōng pān 松潘), and then take an hour-long bus ride to Huanglong, or a two-hour bus ride to Jiuzhaigou. From 2006, a daily flight to Xi'an had been opened in peak season and new flights are being added all the time from different parts of China. There are further flights from cities such as Beijing that are chartered by travel agents. There is also a new helipad near the valley. Jiuzhaigou or Huanglong National Parks did not experience any damage during the earthquake of May 2008 and never closed after the event.

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Inside the Park
Smoking and lighting fires within the park are forbidden.

For environmental protection reasons, no personal transport, not even bicycles, are permitted within the park. However, with a bus pass you can take a bus to all of the sites within the park. Your pass gives you access to an efficient hop-on hop-off bus transport system. Every few minutes a bus will come to a site to pick up passengers. The buses are frequent and sometimes crowded during the peak season, running from early morning until the park closes. Don’t miss the last bus or you must walk out! When entering the park you will be herded effectively and politely into one of the many queues waiting for transport. Once in the system you are a free agent with respect to where you go and what you see. An effective way to use the system is to take the bus to the head of Rize Valley and walk back towards the entrance and Administration building. Walking is a great option in the park, as wooden-plank trails wind through the lakes and forests. It is best to combine walking with taking the bus as the park is quite large and you won't be able to cover enough ground on foot.

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Fees/Permits

Ticket

The Jiuzhaigou Administration centre contains the Ticket Office. Tickets are sold from 6:30a.m. till 7pm every day. The price is 220 RMB per person which includes an insurance fee of 3 RMB. Disabled visitors, seniors between 60 and 70 years of age, students and soldiers get a discount price of 170 RMB. Children no taller than 1.3 m in height, Government Servants, and seniors over 70 get in free.

A one day bus ticket costs 100 RMB, and even if you plan on walking in the park it is recommended to get to the furthest reaches of the park.

Tickets are only valid for one day. Previously there were two day tickets that are no longer on sale during the peak season.

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