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3 Days in Chengdu: Suggested Itineraries

By Viator, June 2014

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The fifth largest city in a country of over a billion people, Chengdu rarely sees a moment where there isn’t something happening. More than just a metropolis of businessmen, the city which first gave the world paper currency (the jiao zi in 1023) is also surrounded by the culturally-rich mountains of Sichuan and sits right on the doorstep of the Tibetan plateau. Circled by UNESCO World Heritage sites and brimming with thousands of teahouses and pubs, Chengdu is the perfect jumping off point for a foray into the wonders of Sichuan. Though the province warrants extended exploration, here is a brief three-day itinerary to get you on your feet.

Day 1: Mt. Qingcheng, Dujiangyan Irrigation System, and a classic Sichuan opera


After spending a night in a city of 11 million people you’re probably going to want to find some peace and quiet. At the same time, you just arrived in Chengdu so you won’t want to travel too far to get away. At 35 miles outside of the city center, the forested wilderness of Mt. Qingcheng is just the right distance for planning your escape. The preferred trekking destination of choice for local Chengdu residents, the summit of the most sacred mountain in Taosim is reachable via a 4 hour climb past ancient temples and lonely caves. Or, if you’re short on time, peruse the confines of Jianfu Temple at the base of the mountain and then ride the cable car to within 20 minutes of the summit. Though much of the surrounding village was flattened in the 2008 earthquake, construction efforts are aiding Mt. Qingcheng in rebuilding the cultural riches that earned it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. After working up a sweat on the mountain, be sure to head over to the Dujiangyan Irrigation System for a look at one of the world’s most ingenious no-dam waterways. While there, discover how Governor Li Bing found a way to blast a tunnel through a mountain during an era prior to the advent of explosives. If you still have the energy once back in Chengdu, finish off the day with a Sichuan opera or cultural show for a rousing evening of face-changing performers, thumping percussion and high-flying Chengdu acrobats.

Day 2: Giant Panda Breeding Center, Green Ram Temple, and Renmin Park

You’ll want to be up early in order to reach the Giant Panda Breeding Center, easily Chengdu’s most famous attraction, for the 9am feeding time—the best chance you’re going to have of seeing active giant pandas. After learning about the curious mating techniques of captive giant pandas, take a taxi back into town for a gander at the famously strange sculpture at Qingyang Palace. Often referred to as “Green Ram Temple,” the “Green Ram” refers to a bronze goat which has the characteristics of all 12 animals found in the Chinese zodiac. Relax and enjoy a cup or two of green tea to bolster your energy for the evening dancing found over at Renmin Park. Locally known as “People’s Park,” the evening hours here are frequently bustling with crowds of Chengdu locals who find exercise in the form of impromptu dance. .

Day 3: Day trip to the Leshan Buddha

Although it’s located over an hour outside of Chengdu, there is no way you can come this close to world’s largest stone carved Buddha and not take a trip out to see it. A masterfully created figure with toes taller than a human and 18 foot (5.5 meter) long eyebrows, the Leshan Buddha can legitimately be considered as one of the spiritual wonders of the world. Many visitors often combine a trip to the Leshan Buddha with a two-day hiking excursion on Mt. Emei, so those with more than three days in Chengdu are encouraged to head further afield and climb the ancient slopes of what is the tallest of all the sacred mountains of Buddhism.

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