If you’re like I was before I moved to China then you may not have even heard of Sichuan province, or many of the other provinces for that matter, even people who visit China for the most part only tend to visit the more well known hotspots such as the Great Wall near Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an to visit the Terracotta Warriors, and don’t get me wrong these are all fantastic places but if you’re thinking of visiting China then I implore you to broaden your horizons and travel to some of the less visited areas, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
In my previous post about Jiuzhaigou I gave a short brief on getting to this area from Chengdu and you can kill two birds with one stone as the Jiuzhaigou valley isn’t very far away from Huanglong. If you can’t be bothered going back to find my previous post then here it is, as previously mentioned you can take a pretty long but enjoyable bus ride from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou for around 300 RMB and it will take roughly 6 hours from start to finish, or you can take the more expensive option by taking a plane from Chengdu airport to Jiuzhaigou, but where’s the fun in that?
I recommend that if you visit these areas then you should stay around Jiuzhaigou as it is a better base with more places to stay, eat and drink. As far as duration goes, I think maybe 3-4 days is an adequate amount of time to spend in the valley. For this trip we spent around a week and a half in Sichuan province visiting Jiuzhaigou, Huanglong, Chengdu and Leshan.
To get from Juizhaigou to Huanglong you can take a bus or you can hire a driver, unfortunately the bus didn’t fit in with our schedule so we decided to hire a guy to drive us there, which was actually pretty good value, it cost roughly 500RMB which split between three was easily affordable even though we were all budget travellers.
The journey from the Jiuzhaigou valley to Huanglong takes between an hour and an hour and a half, we were expecting a pretty smooth journey but once half an hour passed we started to realise just how high up we were, the car started to struggle due to the reduced oxygen in the air, we started to struggle for the same reason, it didn’t take long for us to start to drift in and out of short sleeps and develop headaches. The roads got higher and higher until eventually we were in the clouds driving through cloud piercing peaks that were still covered in snow despite it being the end of summer/start of autumn. The environment at this altitude was harsh; it was cold, windy, and nowhere around us were signs of life, just jagged rocks peeping out from under the snow.
Eventually we reached our highest point on the journey and started to descend towards Huanglong which for the most part sits at around 3,500m which is much more bearable than the 4,500-5,000m journey that you take to get there. Once you get to this area things start to become green again.
Huanglong is quite a large area with some of the pools being very low down at around 2,500m and the rest of the pools are at around 3,500m, you can take a cable car from the bottom to the top and from there you will walk around the national park along a boardwalk.
The admission ticket into Huanglong costs 200RMB during peak season and the cable car up will cost 80RMB. I recommend that you go during peak season as you may be a little disappointed otherwise; non-peak season is quiet for a reason, since the pools are filled with melt-water from the mountains, during the winter period you may find that some of these pools are empty and the waterfalls aren’t flowing, this goes for Jiuzhaigou too. I’d recommend going at the start of summer for the best experience.
I hope you’re lucky enough to visit this amazing part of China one day.