With two days to spend in the Sichuan capital, you’ll have time to see the giant pandas; gawk at the Leshan Giant Buddha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and take in the sights and sounds of this busy city of 14 million people. Read on for tips on how to make the most of your 48 hours in Chengdu.
Day 1: City Sights
Morning: Get an early start to see one of Chengdu’s most popular attractions, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Join a guided tour for hassle-free transportation from your hotel to observe these gentle giants as they eat breakfast and play in their naturalistic enclosures. You’ll also have the chance to see red pandas and other regional species, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see baby pandas in the center’s Panda Nursery.
Afternoon: Take the afternoon to explore the streets of Chengdu, the gateway to Southwest China and Tibet. Hit the pavement for a walking tour of the city’s historic shopping streets, or pedal past the city’s most famous sights by bike. Consider visiting Wenshu Temple, Qingyang Palace, or the busy Song Xian Qiao antique market. Opt for a private sightseeing tour for greater flexibility to see what you want and skip what you don’t.
Night: After a day of sightseeing, reward yourself (and your tastebuds) with the fiery flavors of Sichuan during an evening food tour of the city. A local guide can take you to the best city eateries to sample some of the foods Chengdu is famous for. Book a hot pot tour to enjoy the city’s most famous food, or choose a back-alley food tour to try everything from noodles to savory pancakes.
Day 2: Giant Buddha
Morning: Now that you’ve had a taste of Chengdu, rise early for a day trip into the countryside to see one of the region’s most famous attractions, the Leshan Giant Buddha. Most day trips to this statue—the largest of its kind in the world—start with a 2-hour drive through the countryside, followed by time to hike to the temple atop the Buddha’s head or explore the surrounding temples.
Afternoon: It’s possible to spend an entire day at the Giant Buddha statue. If you’ve visited the top and bottom of the statue in the morning, take the afternoon to take a river cruise to see it from the water, or visit Wuyou Temple, where you’ll find one of the best spots for viewing the statue. Some tours also include an afternoon visit to a local fishing village for insight into the day-to-day lives of Sichuan’s residents.
Night: End your trip with a bang by booking seats at a cultural show. Sichuan opera is a popular option, with its unique face changing, folk music, acrobatics, and folk dance. It’s possible to combine an opera performance with a traditional Chengdu hot pot dinner.