Jiuzhaigou Park and Nature Reserve is located in the Jiuzhaigou Xian County in the north of Sichuan Province, southwestern region of China. Jiuzhaigou park is particularly famous for the beauty of its waterfalls and lakes. According to Tibetan tradition, a God offered a mirror to the Goddess that he loved. The Goddess dropped the mirror, broke into the 118 pieces, forming so many lakes. For the Chinese, the Jiuzhaigou Valley is a magical place like no other.
The limestone of an ancient ocean floor is the main geological feature in this region of the Tibetan Plateau. The dissolution of the limestone gives the emerald or turquoise shade to the waters or reinforces the shimmer of a blue sky. Avalanches interrupted the flow of rivers and formed the lakes. The Jiuzhaigou ecosystem is among the ecosystems of temperate hardwood forests and woodlands with a mixed system of mountains and highlands. Virgin mixed forests cover nearly 330 km2 of the central zone. These forests take attractive yellow, orange and red hues in the fall, making this season one of the most popular for visitors and tourists. There are many plant species such as the endemic varieties of rhododendrons and bamboos. The valley is home to about 140 bird species including Falco naumanni, Certhia familiaris khamensis and the Chinese monal.
History of Jiuzhaigou Park
Jiuzhaigou, literally means “Valley of Nine Villages” in Chinese, takes its name from the nine Tibetan villages located along its length. Tibetan and Qiang people inhabited this remote area for centuries. Before 1975, few people knew this inaccessible area. Jiuzhaigou was the site of extensive logging until 1979, when the Chinese government banned such activity and made the area in 1982 a national park. The site was opened to tourists in 1984 and the development of facilities and regulations were completed in 1987.
It is a reserved natural park in American style, a kind of Chinese Yellowstone National Park of U.S. Jiuzhaigou was a backdrop for Kung Fu movies, such as ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, in 2000. The valley was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992 and became a biosphere reserve in 1997. The reserve protects 720 km² of what the United Nations considers “the most bio diverse temperate forest” in the world. Since its opening, the tourist activity of this national park grows every year.
Useful Tips to Visit Jiuzhaigou Valley
The site of Jiuzhaigou park includes 4 important valleys:
- Shuzheng valleys
- Zechawa valley
- Rize valley
- Zharu valley
The first three form a “Y” shape. The most famous tourist sites in the whole national park are:
- The lake of five flowers
- The waterfall of the pearl
- The rhinoceros lake
- The pond of the five colors
- The lake of the reed
Since supply materials are all brought in from outside, the price of feeds in the valley is very high. Tibetan villages keep traditional customs and habits. People can have a meal with Tibetans. Yak meat, Yanyu Ci Ba, Barley wine and Ya Tea are among the local food of Jiuzhaigou that you should not miss to taste.
Some days, the Jiuzhaigou Reserve is at the limit of its capacity; 280 buses make the shuttle to transport their approximately 10,000 daily visitors. The entire valley has been converted into a controlled access tourist site where private vehicles, in particular, are not allowed. Visitors can use a shuttle bus to go from one place to another, and take footpaths arranged in respect of the sites. These shuttles run on natural gas to limit their impact on the environment.
Transportation to Jiuzhaigou Valley Park
For now, there is only the bus and the plane. In general, you can fly to Chengdu, Chongqing and Xi’an airport to go to Jiuzhaigou. Jiuzhaogou is 460 km from the city of Chengdu, you have to put a full day bus. However, after the earthquake of Wenchuan, we propose not to take the bus because of the difficulty.
Jiuhuang Airport is located in the middle of these two valleys, 88 km from the Jiuzhaigou Valley (about 1.5 h by bus), 50 km from the Huanglong Valley (about 1 h by bus). It takes 2.5 – 3 hours by bus between the Jiuzhaigou Valley and the Huanglong Valley.
Where to stay in Jiuzhaigou park?
The picturesque sites of Jiuzhaigou are very varied and numerous. According to the code, to protect the environment, it is forbidden to stay or camping in the valley and you need to stay in the town of Jiuzhaigou entrance.
Entrance Fees to Jiuzhaigou natural park
- High season (April 1 to November 15): The entrance is 220 RMB and the environmental bus 90 RMB.
- Low season (November 16 to March 31): The entrance is 80 RMB and the environmental bus 80 RMB.
This is a hiking visit and we suggest to bring sufficient drink and some snacks for yourself, but not too many personal belongings such as a luggage as there are a lot of walking. Also please make sure that you are following your guide to avoid accidents.
Climate and the Best Time to Visit Jiuzhaigou National Forest
- Spring: It is very cold in Jiuzhaigou Park. There is a large difference in temperature; the average temperature is between 9ᵒC and 18ᵒC. You can still see the snow on the earth and it is not completely melted since winter. It is better to wear a thick coat in spring.
- Summer: The temperature is high and stable; the average temperature is between 19ᵒC and 22ᵒC. In the day, you can wear only a T-shirt; but at night, it is a bit cooler.
- Autumn: The weather is nice, the temperature is between 7ᵒC and 18ᵒC, but there is a large temperature difference between day and night; Especially at the end of October.
- Winter: The temperature is between 0ᵒC and 3ᵒC , the difference in temperature between day and night is not great, but it is very cold and dry. Thermal and moisturizing products are essential.
You can take the trip to Jiuzhaigou all year long, but the best time is from September to October, where the leaves are colorful and seductive.
People in Nearby Areas
Tibetans in the valley are different from those in neighboring areas in terms of their traditions, costumes and language. It seems that they are the descendants of a tribe, living at the foot of Amne Machin Mountain. They followed Songtsen Gampo, the 33rd Tibetan king and founder of the Tibetan Empire, in his campaign against China in Songzhou Province around the year 635 AD and then they settled in the valley.
Seven of the nine Tibetan villages are still inhabited today. The main settlements that are easily accessible to tourists are Heye, Shuzheng and Zechawa, along the main tourist trails, where the travelers can find and buy various handicrafts, souvenirs and snacks. Behind the village of Heye are the villages of Jianpan, Panya and Yana. Those of Guodu and Hejiao are no longer inhabited. The villages of Panxing, Penbu and Yhongzhu are located along the road through Jiuzhaigou / Zhangza City outside the valley.
Due to the protected nature of the park, there is no permission for agriculture in the valley and its inhabitants rely on government and local tourism subsidies to earn a living.