How to make the most of the wonder of Sichuan
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve since 1997, Jiuzhaigou National Park is not only one of the wonders of Sichuan, but arguably one of the wonders of China itself. With lakes so clear you can see the bottom tens of meters down and water iridescent with blues, greens and turquoise, all backed by forested slopes and snow-whitened peaks, its commonly attested other-worldliness is justified. During winter, snow covers the frozen lakes, and waterfalls that threw up spray not too many months before remain in silent inertia, giant icicles now hanging where water previously flowed down.
Among the most spectacular attractions in the park are Five Flower Lake, The Pearl Waterfall, Nuorilang Falls and Mirror Lake. It is also said that the park is home to around twenty Giant Pandas and the equally endangered Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey, though the chances of seeing either in the main tourist areas are next to none. For How to Get to Jiuzhaigou and What to Take see my previous post The Bus to Jiuzhaigou.
Opening Hours and Ticket Price
From May 1st to November 15th the park is open from 7:00am to 7:00pm.
From November 16th to April 30th the park is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm.
Peak Season lasts from April 1st to November 15th.
Off Peak lasts from November 16th to March 31st.
Adult Ticket Price
Peak Season: Y220; Off Peak: Y80
Student/OAP Ticket Price
Peak Season: Y110; Off Peak: Y40
Visitors are not allowed to stay inside the park overnight. If you want to spend a second (consecutive) day inside, the second day ticket price will be Y20. If you do not purchase this at the same time as your first day ticket, you will need to inform the park staff as you leave the park after your first day. The option to purchase a second day ticket is only available in the Off Season.
Getting around Jiuzhaigou
A One Day bus ticket costs Y90 during peak season; Y80 in the off peak. Buying a bus ticket is not mandatory, however, if you do not buy one at the entrance and later want to purchase one inside the park, you will need to pay Y140.
Once in the park, the idea is that buses run from site to site and act as a hop-on hop-off shuttle service. It is true that there are plenty of buses and plenty of people being shuttled about, but we were constantly being told to hurry back to the bus by the driver as we were holding everybody up. We were thus travelling with the same passengers and the same driver throughout the day.
It is possible to walk to Nurilong Waterfall in the middle of the park in around three hours (10km). From here, it is said that drivers will not check your bus ticket and it is therefore possible to continue around the park without having to pay to travel. However, in my experience, since buses tend to travel with the same passengers, getting on the bus without being asked to present your ticket might not be as easy as it sounds.
Furthermore, if you do intend to do some significant walking whilst in the park, please note the following from the official Jiuzhaigou National Park website:
During the winter season the park is at its driest and the threat of forest fires is at its highest. Because of the destruction that fire could cause the local eco-system and residents (most villagers still live in wooden homes) some trails and parts of the park are closed.
In such cases, travelling by bus may be your only option.
Jiuzhaigou in a day
If you do intend to follow the bus-walk-bus route, the best way to see the park in one day is to get there as it opens and get the bus to either the Virgin Forest or Long Lake. You can then walk the trail around the forest and down to Swan Lake. After Swan Lake, take the bus down to Arrow Bamboo Lake and walk all the way down to Nuorilang.
If you are going to Long Lake first, you can walk down to Five Colour Pool then get the bus down to Nuorilang and walk down to the Bonsai Shoals before taking the bus to the entrance.
Be aware of the distances involved though, as the park is far from small, and you don’t want to be stranded near to closing time somewhere off the beaten track. Also, if planning to make your own way in the park, make sure you will be able to get on a different bus later on and that your bus will go straight to the top of the park without stopping at every scenic spot along the way.
Check out the official Jiuzhaigou map here.