Jiuzhaigou, literally, means the “Valley of Nine Fortified Villages”, which reflects that it takes its name from the nine Tibetan villages along its length. Locating in the north of Sichuan province (often included as part of a Chengdu Tour), China, it is a nature reserve and national park and has won the world reputation for its fabulous sceneries such as many multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks. Each year, Jiuzhaigou will receive a great number of tourists from both domestics and overseas.
Jiuzhaigou is composed of three valleys arranged in a Y shape. The first one flows from the entrance to the Luorilang Service Center (the main valley), the second flows from the Luorilang to the primeval forest (Rize valley), and the third stretches from the Luorilang to Long Lake (Zechawa valley).
The main attractions are concentrated in the Rize and main valleys, especially the Rizegou. Jiuzhaigou’s best-known feature is its dozens of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes. The local Tibetan people call them “Haizi” in Chinese, meaning “son of the sea”. There are two ways to tour the valley, by tour bus or by hiking. Generally, people combine the two ways, because the whole scenic zone is really large. When you buy ticket you can buy the tour bus ticket together.
Recommended Hiking Route for 1-Day Jiuzhaigou Tour
The one day hiking tour in Jiuzhaigou covers the most important attractions in Jiuzhaigou Valley. Here is the sample hiking route for a full day Jiuzhaigou tour.
In the Morning：Entrance – Arrow Bamboo Lake – Panda Lake – Five Flower Lake – Pearl Shoal – Mirror Lake
In the early morning, around 7 a.m., you can take the shuttle bus from the entrance of Jiuzhaigou National Park to Arrow Bamboo Lake. Then you can get off the bus and start to hike the wooden boardwalks all the way to Pearl Shoal, which is the most classical line. If the journey is too much for you, you can hike from the Five Flower Lake and get to Pearl Shoal (this passage you have to hike).
It takes about 2 hours from Five Flower Lake to Pearl Shoal, while 4 hours from Arrow Bamboo Lake to Pearl Shoal. When you pass by the Panda Lake waterfall, you will see two paths, one leading to Laohuzui where you can overlook the Five Flower Lake. After you finish this section, it is almost at noon when there must be crowds everywhere. You are suggested to take the bus at Pearl Shoal to Mirror Lake, where you can quickly appreciate the scenery.
In the Afternoon：Long Lake – Five Color Lake – Luorilang Waterfall – Shuzheng Valley
Back from Mirror Lake to Luorilang Service Center, it would be at noon. You can take a short rest and have your lunch there. After lunch, you can pay a visit to the largest waterfall near the service center, the Luorilang waterfall. Then, it is suggested to take the tour bus all the way to Long Lake. You can get off the bus and start from there to hike to the Five Color Lake.
After finish this section, you can take the bus back to Luorilang. Then you are recommended to hike from Rhinoceros Lake to Double Dragon Lake, namely, the line of Shuzheng Valley. Then you can take the tour bus to visit Reed Lake. After that, you can leave the entrance.
Classic Hiking Route for 2-Day Jiuzhaigou Tour
For tourists who want to fully explore the beauty of Jiuzhaigou, a 2-day Jiuzhaigou tour is worthwhile. The following is the sample itinerary for your reference.
Day 1: Rize Valley (mainly) and Zechawa Valley
It is suggested to get up early in the morning and enter the Jiuzhaigou National Park around 8am. Then you can take the tour bus to Nuorilang and get off there. From there, you are suggested to hike along the mountain road and enter the Rize Valley. Your journey’s first highlight is Mirror Lake, which is much more beautiful in the early morning when there is no wind. Then you continue hiking along the mountain road, and you can appreciate the whole scene of each lake (Five Flower Lake, Panda Lake, Arrow Bamboo Lake, etc.). Next, you come to Swan Lake. After Swan Lake, it is the primitive forest.
But there is no necessity for you to go there. You can save time for the visit of Zechawa Valley in the afternoon. Around noon, you can take the bus back to Nuorilang service center and spend one or two hours to visit scenic spots such as Nuorilang waterfall and so on. Zechawa valley is the longest among three valleys with a total length of 18km. You are suggested to travel it by tour bus. The recommended highlights are Long Lake and Five Color Lake. You should visit these two places by walking. After that, you can take bus back to the entrance and have a good rest at hotel.
Day 2: Shuzheng Valley
At 7 a.m., you can take the sightseeing bus to Bonsai Shoal and spend half an hour waking along the mountain road to the Sparkle Lake, where you can appreciate the rare scene – spark in the Sparkle Lake (literally spark sea). After visiting this attraction, you continue to walk on the wooden boardwalks toward the Luorilang direction, which you will pass Shuzhenggou boardwalks.
Along this way, the scenery is breathtaking. It is so fabulous that you would thought you are walking in a picture. Finally, when you come to Luorilang, you can take the bus back to the entrance. Or, if you have spare time, you can hike any other sights you are interested.
Best Time to Hike in Jiuzhaigou National Park
Best time to hike in Jiuzhaigou is from September to October. The last 20 days of October is the most brilliant period of Jiuzhaigou. At that time, the weather is fine, sky clear, and leaves turn into red and yellow, creating a colorful world. But this time is also the peak season, and the National Day holiday happens to be the same time, therefore, there must be many people. So you are suggested to avoid the holiday.
In fact, Jiuzhaigou in different seasons has different features. In spring, Jiuzhaigou starts to wake from the winter and everything is new and nice. In summer, there is plenty of water, so lakes would be very fabulous. But if you want to hike, you must take the chance of coming across the rainy day into consideration. In winter, Jiuzhaigou becomes a world of white.
Although you may not find many waters, the whole zone is quite and breathtakingly beautiful. And the price is very low. Anyway, you can go to visit Jiuzhaigou at any time, but it is the sunny day when its full beauty would be displayed.
How to Get to Jiuzhaigou Valley
Going to Jiuzhaigou, there are various approaches that are available, by plane, by long-distance bus or by self-driving. But generally, the most efficient and convenient way is to take the plane to Jiuzhaigou Valley. Inside the Jiuzhaigou scenic area, there are buses for sightseeing or you can choose to walk the wooden boardwalks. If you want to reach other tourist attractions around the Jiuzhaigou, you have the options such taxi, chartered car, or the direct bus between the attractions.