Get ready to visit one of the most beautiful places in China in the province of Sichuan. Jiuzhaigou National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve, has it all: turquoise blue lakes, multi-level waterfalls, deep woodlands, a Tibetan Temple and the Min Mountains in the background. Jiuzhaigou means ‘Nine Village Valley’, a reference to the nine Tibetan villages dispersed in the parklands.
Below we explain how to get from Xi’an to Jiuzhaigou National Park and give hints to make the best of this multiple day journey.
It was not very clear for us what the best way to Jiuzhaigou National Park from Pingyao was. After analyzing train and bus connections, the most optimal and nicest route was to go to Xi’an first. From Xi’an we took a train to Guangyuan – this is the closest city from where you can take a bus to Jiuzhaigou Xian’s station (8 hours, 93¥, departing 6:30am)*, and we prefer to spend more time in the train than in the bus for comfort reasons. We booked a hard sleeper (146¥)* (we don’t advise a hard seat if your journey takes more than two hours, unless you don’t mind to mind feeling like a sardine in a can, sharing a very uncomfortable seat with a complete Chinese family).
-> General rule in China: Book your train ticket as soon as you decided on your next destination. The soft and hard sleepers are quickly booked. Book your ticket preferably at the train station or post office. There are several options to book tickets online, but you must pick-up your ticket, and you might queue for two hours to get it. A final option is to book your ticket through an agency but expect to pay some commission.
Our journey from Xi’an to Guangyuan took longer than anticipated due to the rain during the trip, forcing the train to stop for safety reasons. It increased our journey time with 9 hours. During this safety stop we couldn’t leave the train, but luckily, we were prepared for it. We would like to share our “packing list” with you, since in China you never know how long your journey will take:
– toilet paper
– hand sanitizer
– water / soft drinks
– cookies or any other sweet
– instant noodles – all Chinese trains offer free boiling water 😉
– a thin sleeping bag (normally the sleepers are clean, but it’s good to ensure comfort in case they aren’t)
– cash money (it is also possible to buy food and drinks in the train, only cash is accepted)
The train and long distance bus station in Guangyuan are connected, so we just had to wait another 3,5 hours and take the bus to Jiuzhaigou Xian’s station.
Jiuzhaigou Xian’s station is 40km away from the park entrance and Pengfeng Village – where you will stay. In the bus, they offered to take us until Jiuzhaigou central bus station (2km from park entrance) for 10¥ per person. Bear in mind that no one in the bus is likely to speak English. Download the Chinese language package on Google Translator on your smartphone. It works without internet and will help you a lot!
– If you haven’t booked accommodation at Pengfeng Village don’t worry, there are plenty of hotels and hostels on location. Our advice is to arrange an accommodation when you arrive. The competition is high which ensures low prices. Take your time negotiating and compare the pictures, prices and services. Free pick-up and delivery from and to the park is nice and who can resist free laundry service?! Katy from Ya Le Xuan hotel approached us at the station. She spoke “English” and had a brand new hotel. Highly recommended.
– Arrive at the park early (7am). The park is enormous and for the most beautiful views you need to do some walking. It’s impossible to see everything in one day so you have to make a choice. Or take dedicated busses (a hop-on, hop-off system which is included in the admission fee) from one location to the other or simply spend two days at the park.
– The most optimal route is the following. First, take the bus to Long Lake where it might be less crowded, then, take the bus back to the Nuòrìlāng bus stop and take a bus to Primeval Forrest. Here, make your way down to the other sights. Don’t expect to be “somewhere” alone in the park – it is busy no matter where you go
– Some parts of the park have no real views or sights. Save time and your legs by taking the bus
– Although it is very close to the park entrance/exit, safe the Zharu Temple (Zaru Gompa) for last and you will have it all for yourself. When leaving from Nuòrìlāng bus stop, take the bus until the bonsai lake and walk down until the temple – around 4,5 km of serenity.
*Times and prices of the day of writing – subject to change