Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve is a protected natural park in the north of the Sichuan province of South Western China, which is also known as Jiuzhai Valley. This amazing natural wonderland is home to wild giant pandas, multi-level waterfalls, and colourful lakes, and is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located within the Min Shan Mountains, this area stretches over 80 km of lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and ancient villages. The stunning landscape is dotted with high-altitude karsts (rock formations) formed by glacial and tectonic activity and several green, blue and turquoise coloured lakes.
While you are in China, visiting this amazing natural area is a great opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and see some of the country’s most spectacular scenery.
Why are the Lakes So Colourful?
The lakes within the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve formed as a result of the ancient movements of glaciers. They were trapped inland due to these natural phenomena, and then were filled over millions of years with deposits of calcium carbonate. This makes the lakes so clear that you can often see through to the bottom even when the water is very deep. According to the depth of the water and the mineral residue within the lake, the water appears to be different colours. Each of the lakes throughout the park is different, and they have names such as Five Colour Pool, Grass Lake, Swan Lake, Five Flower Lake, and Mirror Lake.
Home of Giant Pandas
Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve is the natural habitat of one of the most well known Chinese endangered species, the Giant Panda. There are apparently around 20 of these beautiful black and white beasts living within the park, but due to the park’s large area there is not a very good chance of spotting one. You will have a better chance of seeing a panda in Zaru Valley, which is the area dedicated to eco tourism. However, throughout the park you are sure to see many beautiful birds, insects and fish.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Plan your hiking or sightseeing journey to Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in the spring or the autumn. The summer is sunny, but it can be more crowded and it is likely to rain in July and August. The winter provides some stunning frozen scenery, but accessibility by road might be limited. In spring the flowers throughout the region are in bloom and the weather is pleasant, but by far autumn is the most scenic time of year because of the bright red, gold, and orange tones of the leaves.
How to Get Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve
A huge range of carriers currently operate out of China, with regular flights to Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing scheduled daily. Many visitors access the nature reserve by road. You can drive there yourself, or take a trip with a tour company. Keep in mind that although the nature park is only 460 km away from Chengdu, the trip will take at least 8-11 hours because you will need to wind through mountain roads through the rivers and valleys. Your tour company might break the journey into two days by stopping in Maoxian or Mianyang. The stunning scenery that you will enjoy along the way will make the trip more than worth it.
This article about the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve was written by Elena Price on behalf of Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national carrier.