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Guides / Itineraries

A road trip to the west of Sichuan

By Minjun Xu

September 9

Driving on National Highway G318 offers the chance to experience landscapes that vary from basin to plateau.

Driving on National Highway G318 offers the chance to experience landscapes that vary from basin to plateau.

A road trip is the best way to explore the west of Sichuan. At any time or place you’re free to stop to take photos with the magnificent mountains or see the real-life “Kung Fu Panda”. Let’s start from Chengdu and begin this 500-mile journey!

Day 1: Mount Siguniang 四姑娘山

Mount Siguniang[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Dong Nianlong]
Mount Siguniang[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Dong Nianlong]
About 220km west of Chengdu, Mount Siguniang has four continuous peaks, of which the highest —Yaomei Feng (幺妹峰) at 6250m — is known as the “Queen of Sichuan’s peaks.” Mount Siguniang is home to many rare animals, including giant pandas and golden snub-nosed monkeys.

Entry: free

Day 2: Larung Ngarig Buddhist Academy 色达五明佛学院

Larung Ngarig Buddhist Academy [Image Credit: CFP]
Larung Ngarig Buddhist Academy [Image Credit: CFP]
Founded by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok in 1980, Larung Ngarig Buddhist Academy is one of the largest and most influential centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. The view over the valley from the hill might be one of the most breathtaking panoramas you‘ll ever see, with sprawling red houses built by Buddhist monks and nuns surrounding the temples.

Entry: free

Day 3: Xinduqiao 新都桥

Xinduqiao[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Lai xinlin]
Xinduqiao[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Lai xinlin]
Luckily for you, autumn is the best season to visit Xinduqiao. A small town 81km west of Kangding County, it is a paradise for photographers where you can see vast meadows, running streams, and golden forests. Xinduqiao also boasts the famous Mount Gongga (贡嘎雪山), which has been strongly recommended by National Geographic.

Entry: free

Day 4: Litang County 理塘县

Litang County [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Feng Jun]
Litang County [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Feng Jun]
Built 4,000m above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau, Litang County is known as one of the highest towns in the world. Litang, which means “a mirror-like meadow” in Tibetan, gets its name from the immense Maoya Grassland. Every summer from Aug.1st to Aug.15th, the traditional Litang Horse Racing Festival is held — a superb opportunity for you to experience authentic Tibetan culture.

Entry: free

Day 5: Daocheng & Yading Scenic Area 稻城亚丁风景区

Daocheng&Yading Scenic Area [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]
Daocheng&Yading Scenic Area [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]
First described in National Geographic by American explorer Joseph Rock in 1928, Daocheng, on the southwestern border of Sichuan, is know as the “last Shangri-La” among world travelers. With three sacred mountains worshipped by stream of pious Tibetan pilgrims, the Yading Scenic Area at the south edge of Daocheng County is also a must-see.

Entry: 150 yuan/person

Day 6: Moxi Ancient Town 磨西古镇

[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Fan Jiashan]
[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Fan Jiashan]
Moxi, near the entrance of Hailuogou Glacier Scenic Spot, is a well-preserved town at the foot of Mount Gongga. The town is lined with numerous ancient Ming and Qing-style residences. At the end of the one narrow street stands a historic gothic church where Chairman Mao once lived.

Entry: free

Day 7: Bifengxia Panda Reserve, Ya’an 雅安碧峰峡熊猫基地

Bifengxia Panda Reserve, Ya’an [Image Credit: CFP]
Bifengxia Panda Reserve, Ya’an [Image Credit: CFP]
After the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, many pandas from Wolong Panda Reserve were transferred to the Bifengxia Panda Reserve in Ya’an. The dense forest, numerous waterfalls, and cool weather make Bifengxia a pleasant habitat for these cute creatures. It even offers volunteer programs which give an opportunity to get close to the animals.

Entry: 120 yuan/person

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