Experience the extraordinary natural splendor of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong National Parks during your 2-day independent tour. Forested mountains, snow-capped peaks and glaciers comprise the wondrous Huanglong Valley (Yellow Dragon Valley) and Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area — both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Though, the parks are especially known for their limestone formations and crystal-clear pools formed by calcite deposits amid an otherworldly travertine landscape.
With self-guided sightseeing on foot and by hop-on hop-off bus, it’s easy to explore the many waterfalls, lakes, ponds and mountain streams at your own pace.
Choose single or shared accommodations at the 5-star Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort. Guest rooms come with amenities including bathrobes and slippers, high-speed Internet access, LCD flat-screen TV and natural spring water.
Please note: The sights mentioned below are to give you an idea of the variety of attractions in each national park, but this is only a sample itinerary; how much time you spend and what you see at each stop is entirely up to you!
Day 1: Chengdu – Jiuzhaigou (D)
Make your own way to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport for your 50-minute morning flight to Jiuzhaigou. Upon arrival, you’ll be transferred by private vehicle to Huanglong National Park, where you have up to five hours of free time to sightsee independently.
You’re provided with a detailed tourist map and sightseeing guide to explore the UNESCO-listed area at your leisure. Follow the raised wooden boardwalk on an easy footpath to the summit for outstanding alpine views before hiking back down the same way. Alternatively, you can choose a 10-minute cable car ride to the top (wait time depends on crowds, and fare is at own expense), then hike the way down, which takes about four hours round-trip.
Walk alongside gurgling streams and waterfalls over magnificent travertine formations, stopping en route to marvel at Five-Colored Pond, Golden Sand and Huanglongsi — an ancient Buddhist temple set amid dozens of milky-blue ponds that are the park’s main attraction.
Afterward, walk back to the parking lot to find your driver waiting for you. You’ll be transferred to your hotel in Jiuzhaigou, where you can check in and enjoy a restful evening. After dinner at one of the on-site restaurants featuring continental and Asian cuisine, head to the lobby bar (own expense) if you’d like to enjoy handcrafted cocktails, international wines and cigars.
Make use of the indoor swimming pool or relax in the dry or wet sauna; the resort's spa provides massages and other services such as a foot bath with Tibetan plateau herbs (own expense).
Overnight: 5-star Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort in Jiuzhaigou
Day 2: Jiuzhaigou – Chengdu
Prepare for another full day of self-guided sightseeing, but this time in Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park. Since your hotel is located less than a mile (1 km) from the park entrance, you can walk the 20 minutes there and back. Alternatively, to save time or preserve your stamina, it’s easy to take a local taxi (own expense).
With your tourist map and sightseeing guide in hand, use your bus ticket (received with your park entry ticket) to hop on an excursion bus. You can get on and off anywhere along the well-organized route, and sightseeing is made easy with bus stops at every scenic spot in the valley!
Ride the coach to Long Lake, a deep crescent-shaped lake, and visit a series called Seasonal Lakes that are easily accessed along the main road. The lower lake is surrounded by a lovely grove of birch trees while the middle lake sparkles like a sapphire nestled in woodlands. The uppermost lake is also called Dragon-hiding Lake for the mythical beasts that are said to live there.
Then head to the nearby Five-Color Pond, which is fed by Long Lake and is considered the most magnificent, albeit the smallest, lake in Jiuzhaigou. Marvel at the rich hues of its underwater landscape as you peer through the clear waters before hopping back on the bus to two waterfalls: Nuorilang and Pearl Beach.
Nuorilang Waterfall descends 82 feet (25 meters) and is Jiuzhaigou’s widest waterfall at 105 feet (32 meters) across. A spectacular sight in any season, the multiple cascades flow from a flat plateau surrounded by vivid foliage in autumn, but freeze into icicles and whimsical snow shapes during winter. On sunny days or during rainfall you might see rainbows, making for great photo ops from your perch at the railing across the way.
Another stunner is Pearl Waterfall, accessed from Pearl Beach. The thunderous falls drop 131 feet (40 meters) from a cliff into another roaring crescent, which you can view from a boardwalk over the rapids.
However you choose to spend your time in Jiuzhaigou, just be sure to complete your independent excursion before 4pm to ensure you arrive at the hotel in time for your driver to transfer you to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport for your evening flight back.
When you arrive in Chengdu, make your own way to your hotel or next destination.