How to get to and from Jiuzhaigou National Park
On the road to Jiuzhaigou we could have died a thousand times. From landslides to falling rocks, a head-on smash or fatal plunge, we could have been undone by either one on our ten hour ride through earthquake country from Chengdu.
The 2008 Sichuan earthquake had rendered the main expressway impassable, the only way now to reach the park being to use a much longer alternative route along narrow, potholed roads, passing evidence of the devastation that killed 68,000 people only two years previously. Bridges were fallen, landslides had covered the former road, burying cars just visible, crushed under rocks, and we still had to negotiate our own way through the wreckage.
The road itself climbs up into the 2000m–4000m altitude of Northern Sichuan, where the average December high is a chilly -3°C and the redness in the cheeks of the locals attests to the rawness of the winter climate. For information on how to make the most of the park when you get there, see my post Jiuzhaigou National Park.
How to Get There
At the time of writing, there is a bus to Jiuzhaigou three (maybe four) times daily from Chadianzi bus station in Chengdu. It is scheduled to leave at around 7:20am, 8am, (8:40am) and 2pm and costs Y130. There is also a bus to Jiuzhaigou from Xinnanmen station at around 8am. But whichever bus you take, it is advisable to buy your ticket the day before or get to the bus station as early as possible in order to get a seat. Buses in China tend not to pay too much attention to schedules and timings. Demand and the whim of drivers is usually that which dictates when and if they run.
The first day we attempted to travel there were no more buses heading to the park despite it being not long after 9am. The following day, after not doing the sensible thing of buying an advance ticket the first time, we were lucky, as the 7.20am bus had already gone and only because there were several others wanting to travel to Jiuzhaigou that morning, an extra bus was arranged to take us. This was, admittedly, in December, but it still pays to have a contingency plan. There is also a daily bus to Jiuzhaigou from Songpan and one from Huanglong National Park, each of which make an ideal stop if you want to break up the journey with an extra day and night along the way.
On the alternative road currently in use, it takes the best part of ten hours to travel to Jiuzhaigou, often longer. It is not uncommon for the 460 km journey from Chengdu to take 11-12 hours, particularly in wintertime, when roads can affected by snow and even closed. If you do make it to the park during winter however, as can be seen from the photographs, the frozen waterfalls and snowy backdrops lend the place an extra beauty unique to the season. Though of course, if you travel to Jiuzhaigou at any time of the year, you will be rewarded with spectacular sights at every turn.
Visit between September and November for clear blue skies, falling leaves and vivid autumn colours. December through February will see temperatures mostly around freezing but nothing to prevent you enjoying the park as normal if you can reach it. Prices are also lower in the off season, as are the crowds, which, along with autumn, make it an ideal time to travel. Visit in summer to enjoy a more crowded experience and a decent amount of rain. Avoid the Chinese Golden Week between the 1st and 7th October unless you fancy sharing the experience with half of China.
Climate & What to Take
The park’s elevation and position results in a fairly variable climate year round. There are no particular extremes to be found here, still, as always, it is a good idea to check the weather forecast before you travel and come prepared.
Warm clothes are essential during winter and likely needed in autumn and spring too. It is also a good idea to pack sun lotion and sunglasses whenever you travel to Jiuzhaigou due to the stronger sun at such elevations, while you will certainly need to take something to keep you dry should it rain.
|Average Temperature (°C)||1.7||4.4||9.3||14.0||17.2||19.7||22.0||21.8||17.5||13.2||7.7||3.0|
|Average Precipitation (mm)||15||24||36||43||87||96||104||82||76||54||26||18|
There is a bus station near to the park entrance that has buses travelling to Chengdu, Songpan, Huanglong and other select destinations in Sichuan for similar prices and travel times to buses to the park. Bus times, as ever, vary, but expect to be leaving early morning, between 6:30am and 8am.
You can find current, up to date travel information at the official Jiuzhaigou website.