a colorful fairyland

Jiuzhaigou lies at the southern end of the Minshan mountain range. It is part of the Jiuzhaigou County in the Aba, or Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province. It is home to numerous primitive forests and 108 lakes. It has a reputation as a “fairy world”. The total length of the Jiuzhaigou scenic spot is about 60 kilometers, including Zechawa Gully, Shuzheng Valley and Rize Valley which are in the shape of the letter ‘Y’.

Rize Valley, as the right branch of the "Y" shape, has the most important and most scenic spots in Jiuzhaigou: The Primeval Forest, Grass Lake, Swan Lake, Arrow Bamboo Lake and the Falls, Panda Lakes and the Falls, Five-Flower Lake, Peacock River Channel, Pearl Shoal and the Falls, Mirror Lake as well as Nuorilang Falls.

The left branch of the "Y" shape is Zechawa Gully, whose main attractions include Long Lake, Five-Color Pond and the Seasonal Lakes (which consist of the upper and lower lakes). The upper and lower Seasonal Sea cannot be reached by the sightseeing vehicles and is beyond the common walking distance.

Shuzheng Valley is the lower part of letter Y, whose main attractions include Rhino Lake, Tiger Lake, Shuzheng Falls, Shuzheng Mill, Shuzheng Village, Shuzheng Lakes, Sleeping Dragon Lake, Flower Lake, Double Dragon Sea, Reed Lake and Bonsai Shoal.

Quick Facts
  • Chinese name: 九寨沟 jiǔ zhài gōu
  • Duration: 1-2 days
  • Entrance fee:
    for peak season (April 1 to November 15), RMB 110 per person and for off season (March 8 to March 31 and November 16 to December 31), RMB40 per person.
    Tour vehicle ticket: RMB 90 per person all year round.
  • Opening hours:
    7:00-19:00 (between April 1st and November 15th, the entrance opens at 7:45)
    8:30-17:30 (between November 16th - March 31st, the entrance opens at 8:45 admission.)
  • Address: Jiuzhaigou County, Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of northwestern Sichuan province, China.
  • Opening hours: 08:00-17:00 (Slack season: December 1st – March 1st the next year) ; 08:00-18:00 (Busy season: March 2nd – November 30th)
  • The best season: from late spring to early fall, especially September and October. Jiuzhaigou is extremely gorgeous when it comes to the late fall.
  • How to get there: Take the intercity coach from Chengdu Xinnanmen Station and get off at Jiuzhaigou Station. The tour takes about 8 hours.
  • Official Website: http://www.paifangqun.com/

Highlights of Jiuzhaigou

1. Five-Flower Lake (or Wuhua hai)

five flower lakeFive-Flower Lake

(Travelers may have heard of this place on the news with the earthquake that closed the park for a while.) Wuhua hai is located in the middle section of Rize Valley, the upstream end of the Peacock River, with an elevation of 2472 meters and a water depth of 5 meters. Due to the carbonate deposition, and various colorful algae, along with colorful forest reflections on the shore, the lake features blue, green and turquoise colors.

Visitors take the eco-vehicle to Wuhua hai. A section of the boardwalk set on the west side of Wuhua hai offers one of the best viewing spots. The calm lake reflects the colorful forests and blue sky and white clouds. The forests take on attractive yellow, orange and red hues in the fall, making that season a popular one for visitors. The boardwalk ends at the outlet of Wuhua hai into the Peacock River. The mountain road is about 100 meters north of the Peacock River. Walking along the mountain road to the southeast, you will see a huge stone. This is call Tiger Mouth Stone. It is the best location to take panoramic photos.

2.Five-Color Ponds

five color pondsFive-Color Ponds

The Five-Color Ponds are located in the southern section of Zechawa Gully. Water from Long Lake injects into the Ponds. As the smallest and most beautiful scene here in Jiuzhaigou, they are ice-free. The neat, pure Ponds show no difference all year round as their levels alter very little. The lake water is rich in calcium carbonate, exhibiting different colors, making the upper part of the Ponds greenish blue, the lower part orange-red, the left part azure and the right part olive green. Visitors can see through the clear water and observe the texture of the rocks on the bottom. When the sun is shining, a photo taken from one angle is widely different from the one taken from another angle.

3.Mirror Lake

Jinghai, named after the lake, is as placid as a mirror. This is a good place to simply watch the reflections in Jiuzhaigou. Every day before 9:00 am and after 5 pm when there is no breeze, the reflection of trees, mountains, the sky and the clouds are identical to those in the real world. It is a good opportunity to take brilliant photos.

The Mirror Lake is adjacent to the lower reaches of the Empty Valley. The long narrow lake is a kilometer long and is surrounded by trees. The mountain cliff opposite is like a huge stone screen. On clear days, when there is no breeze, the water mirrors the whole scene without any distortion. In the Mirror Lake, there are quite a few giant 20-30 meter wind-felled trees floating in the water, allowing shrub-like ferns to settle on top of them like giant bonsais in the center of the lake.

pearl shoal fallsPearl Shoal Falls

4.Pearl Shoal Falls

The Pearl Beach Falls are 2,445 meters above sea level. They are the largest travertine waterfall in Jiuzhaigou. Melted snow falling into the valley from the place 21 meters high has made them the fiercest and loudest rapids in the whole scenic area. The best spot to watch the waterfall is on the boardwalk on the left side of the rapids. Pearl Shoal Waterfall is located between Mirror Lake and Golden Bell Lake. At the plunge pool of the waterfall, lush forests produce intoxicating air. Walk along the boardwalk with the rapids, the east side of the Pearl Shoal is reached a moment later. The clear water is not safe to drink because of the high sulfur content.


1. The altitude of Jiuzhaigou is 2000-3000 meters, and Huanglong is 3900 meters (the highest peak). Altitude sickness may have a mild to serious effect on people. When visiting high-altitude attractions, it is wise to drink little water, walk (run slowly if you have to), postpone your bath (a cold in such an altitude can be very dangerous), eat less and breathe deeply. It is critical to keep warm. Try to avoid catching a cold here. When you have a headache, slow down or take some oxygen. Prepare some of the herbal supplement Rhodiola rosea in your backpack to counter the altitude reaction. A small oxygen cylinder (which can be bought in Chengdu) and family medication should also be in your backpack.

2. People with heart problems, high blood pressure or coronary heart disease (CHD) may find the trip highly impractical.

3. Smoking is forbidden in the Scene. The only smoking area is in the Nuorilang Falls Service Center.

4. The UV rays in the scenic area are very strong. For time spent outdoors, wear a sun hat and apply sunblock cream.

5. The temperature can change dramatically in Jiuzhaigou, even in the summer. Bring warm clothing. It doesn’t rain much throughout the year, but learn the weather report in July and August.

6. Wear waterproof hiking boots to walk along the extremely long boardwalks set in Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. Visitors have to wade in the shallows sometimes.

By Shirley Li
Web Editor
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