Sunday, October 19, 2008

Travel tips Jiuzhaigou

English name/Chinese pinyin name:
Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve/Jiuzhaigou Ziran Baohuqu

Overland by car/bus/train: At the moment (Oct 2008) the overland road from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou via Dujiangyan/Wenchuan/Songpan (792 km) is closed due to the 2008 earthquake. There is another road open via Mianyang/Jiangyou/Pingwu/Nanping (475 km). Public bus from Chengdu takes 10 hours and costs ca 125-150 y. You can also access Jiuzhaigou from Ma'erkang, Jiangyou (train/bus access), Songpan, Ruo'ergai and Mianyang. 
Plane: Jiuzhaigou is reached via the Jiuhang airport near Songpan. Four airlines traffic this route: Sichuan Air, South China Airways, Air China, China Eastern and direct flights arrive from Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing and Xian. Jiuzhaigou is ca 80 km from the airport and it takes 90 min to drive. Standard taxi fee is 200 y per vehicle. Airport minibus: 45 y per person if more than 5 people (fills up quickly). 

Entrance fees:
One-day tickets only and you are forced to pay a fee for bus transportation within the park, even if you choose to walk everywhere. If you want to stay in the park longer than one day you must buy a new ticket for each day. Price per day for adults is 220 y entrance + 90 y bus = 310 Y. Children over 130 cm: 170 y + 90 y = 260 y. Children under 130 cm: free. NOTE! There are off season reductions and Chinese student cards are allowed. 

Opening times:
May 1 - Nov 15: 7am to 6 pm
Nov 16 - Apr 30: 7 am to 6.30 pm
Peak Season: April 1 - Nov 15
Off Peak: Nov 15 - March 31
During peak season the lines quickly start getting very long so it is recommended to get in place as early as possible. The park is large and there is a lot to see so a full day is highly recommended but this will entail using buses between all major sights. Optimum time to see most sights in the park is 2 full days, walking from sight to sight and only taking buses along less interesting stretches (however very little in Jiuzhaigou is "less interesting"!). Three full days would give you time to explore the Tibetan villages and side valleys.

You can visit the Jiuzhaigou/Huanglong area at any time of year but winter can be very cold (but also dry) and have snow with the possibility of inaccessibility and parts of the park closed. The best season is (and the preferred season for domestic tourists with large numbers of visitors) is autumn and especially October when the leaves turn yellow, orange and red. Summertime is wonderful with all the trees green and lush. Late spring with give you some flowers and lot's of sunshine but less water in the lakes and waterfalls. Wintertime the waterfalls are frozen. The photographs included here were taken Oct 16-19. Anytime around a Chinese national holiday will see huge amounts of tourists in the park (except Chinese New year).

There are over 100 hotels in all price ranges outside of the gate in the area known as Zhangzha Town. This means over 20,000 beds which is just about enough to take care of peak season daily visitors to the park. If you are coming on your own and not with a group then my recommendation is to stay as close to the entrance gate as possible. A good option is the VIP Lodge (Gui Bing Lou) which is right beneath the gate, tel: +86-837-7739136/+86-837-7734084, mobile: 13909044987. Price: 160 y/dbl rm/Oct 2008. Sleeping inside the park is illegal but intrepid backpackers (foreigner and domestic) still surreptitiously find homestay accommodation with Tibetan families in the villages within the park area (but please note that this is an added strain on the park's water and waste disposal resources so is not recommended). 

There are a number of tourist shops and a few minimal supermarkets serving tourists in the hotel strip area. Here you can pick up snacks, fruit and drinks. Souvenirs can be bought outside the park, at the Nuorilang Visitor Center and in the Tibetan villages within the park. 

Within the park food is slim pickings, best to stock your daypack with snacks and goodies that will keep your legs walking a full day. There is a large "feeding hall" at Nuorilang Visitor Center that serves high-priced buffet-style food, instant noodles, water and sodas. Outside the park in Zhang Zha Zhan, Peng Feng and Huo Di Ba towns there are numerous restaurants, hotel restaurant, street stalls, bars etc. 

There are toilets and rest-stops easily accessible all over the park. Bring your own loo-papper and wet-wipes. 

Elevation/altitude sickness:
Jiuhang Airport is situated at a wopping 3500 meters (which is only a few hundred meters lower than Lhasa) on a plain near Songpan. Luckily most of Jiuzhaigou is 1000 meters lower (Long Lake (Changhai) is at 3100 m). Most people have no problems but if you do take adversely to the elevation the only solution is to go lower and quick.

Official website:

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