Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area / 九寨沟风景名胜区

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Jiuzhaigou Valley

Jiuzhaigou (map) is a nature reserve in the north of Sichuan province in south western China. It is officially known as Jiuzhai Valley in English. It is known as the habitat of giant pandas and for its many multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Jiuzhaigou is all about seeing! The colours of its lakes, trees and mountains are breathtaking and defy adequate description. The best time to visit Jiuzhaigou is autumn, especially September and October. Besides, with the snow scenery, Jiuzhaigou winter is attracting.

Most visitors will first take the shuttle bus to the end of Rize and/or Shuzheng gully, then make their way back downhill by foot on the boardwalks, taking the bus instead when the next site is too distant.

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Jiuzhai Valley (Jiuzhaigou) is a major feature of the Sichuan Scenic Area, located 350 km north of *Chengdu (map), the capital of Sichuan province. The Town of Zhangzha (map) at the exit of the valley and the nearby Songpan County feature an ever-increasing number of hotels, including several luxury five-stars, such as Sheraton.

+ Jiuzhaigou Travel Guide – How to Plan a Trip to Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou’s best-known feature is its dozens of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes. Jiuzhaigou is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape. The Rize and Zechawa valleys flow from the south and meet at the centre of the site where they form the Shuzheng valley, flowing north to the mouth of the valley. The mountainous watersheds of these gullies are lined with 55 km (34 mi) of roads for shuttle buses, as well as wooden boardwalks and small pavilions.

Zharu Valley is the home of tourism in Jiuzhaigou. The valley has recently been opened to a small number of tourists wishing to go hiking and camping off the beaten track. Visitors can choose from day walks and multiple day hikes, depending on their time availability.

> MAP > en.jiuzhai.com

The 18-kilometre-long (11 mi) Rize Valley (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 (原始森林) is a preserved ancient woodland. It is fronted by views of the surrounding mountains and cliffs, including the 500-metre-high, blade-shaped Sword Rock (剑岩).

Swan Lake (天鹅海) is a 2250-metre-long, 125-metre-wide lake named for its visiting swans and ducks.

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

Arrow Bamboo Lake (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 (熊猫海) features curious color patterns of blue and green. Giant Pandas were said to have come to this lake to drink, though there have been no sightings for many years. The lake empties into the multi-stream, multi-level Panda Waterfalls, dropping 78 m in three steps.

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

Pearl Shoal (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-metre-wide broad curtain of water. A scene of the television adaptation of Journey to the West was filmed there.

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

> MAP > en.jiuzhai.com

The Zechawa Gully (则查洼沟) 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 (长海) is crescent-shaped and is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou, measuring 7.5 km (5 mi) 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 (五彩池) is one of the smallest 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.[citation needed] According to legend, the pond was where Goddess Semo washed her hair and God Dage came daily to bring her water.

The Seasonal Lakes (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.

> MAP > en.jiuzhai.com

The Shuzheng Valley (树正沟) is the northern (main) branch of Jiuzhaigou. It ends after 14.5 km (9 mi) 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 (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, the widest travertine-topped waterfall in the world, and one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou.

Nuorilang Lakes (诺日朗群海) and Shuzheng Lakes (树正群海 Shùzhèng Qúnhǎi) 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 (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 (芦苇海) is a 1375-metre-long, reed-covered marsh with a clear turquoise brook (known as the “Jade Ribbon”) zigzaging through it. The contrast is particularly striking in the autumn when the reeds turn golden yellow.

It is part of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. The main scenic area stretches 80 km (50 mi) long in the form of a letter Y comprising of three main valleys – Shuzheng, Rize and Zechawa. The name means “Valley of Nine Villages”, derived from the 9 ancient Tibetan villages that call it home. Today, 7 of those 9 villages are still inhabited by ethnic Tibetans, while the remaining 2 have been abandoned.

The main agglomerations that are readily accessible to tourists are Heye, Shuzheng and Zechawa along the main paths that cater to tourists, selling various handicrafts, souvenirs and snacks.

There is also Rexi in the smaller Zaru Valley and behind Heye village are Jianpan, Panya and Yana villages. Guodu and Hejiao villages are no longer populated. Penbu, Panxing and Yongzhu villages lie along the road that passes through the town of Jiuzhaigou/Zhangza outside the valley.

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+ Jiuzhaigou Transportation (chinahighlights.com) • Getting around the park (jiuzhai.com)

BAOLAU.com – transportation network in Asia includes flights, trains, buses and ferries.

The most common direction-finding app used by the Chinese themselves is Baidu Maps, though it is only available in Chinese. Amap is effectively the Citymapper for the whole of China.

Transportation • Tips for Your China Train Trip (chinahighlights.com)

 BUS >   A coach or bus in rural China is a different experience. City buses vary from city to city. However, if you can understand the bus routes then they are cheap and go almost everywhere.

 RAIL >   Train travel is the main method of long-distance transportation for the Chinese, with an extensive network of routes covering most of the country. >> seat61.com  (*Rail travel in China)

 AIRPORTS >   The main international gateways to mainland China are Beijing (Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport), Shanghai (Shanghai Pudong International Airport) and Guangzhou (Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport).

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