Five Flower Lake

Jiuzhaigou: A Journey to the Mythical Valley

It is said that if there should be a paradise on earth, Jiuzhaigou must be one of them. According to Tibetans, there is no equal elsewhere that has overwhelming sceneries as this valley. It combines serene crystal clear lakes, thundering waterfalls, lush green forests, and snowed-capped mountains.

Positioned on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in northern Sichuan, Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟) is famous for its breathtaking landscape. The valley stretches over 72,000 ha from north to south and comprises a series of dramatic karst peaks. Wedged between these snow-covered pinnacles are dense forests, multi-tiered waterfalls, stunningly beautiful lakes, as well as diverse ecosystems.

For centuries, Tibetans and other mountain dwellers such as the Qiang peoples have habited in this remote corner. They form settlements along the jagged valley, hence the name “Jiuzhaigou” (literally Nine Settlements Valley). Yet the mountainous region has only been known to the outside world since 1992 when UNESCO inscribed it as a World Heritage Site. These days, Jiuzhaigou is one of China’s most popular natural wonders, attracting millions of visitors annually.

1. Huanglong Scenic Area

The first stop on my journey to Jiuzhaigou is Huanglong Scenic Area (黄龙). Located 370 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Chengdu, this valley is renowned for its magnificent travertine terraces. Eon of calcite deposits has formed these step-like geological structures. They stretch for more than three kilometers and create numerous turquoise-colored pools.

Due to these spectacular formations, UNESCO described the area as “unique in all of Asia” and declared it as a World Heritage Site in 1992. The bizarre landscape is flanked by lush forests and the lofty Min mountain range. There is also an ancient temple located right next to the pools, giving the whole scenery a mystical feeling.

Travertine terraces in Huanglong Scenic Area
Snow-capped mountains surround Huanglong Valley
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2. Jiuzhaigou

From Huanglong, it took several hours on the winding road to reach Jiuzhaigou. The trip is long but the fairytale landscape is definitely worth the effort. In this valley, towering alpine mountains soar above a carpet of green and yellow. They embrace mesmerizing lakes, majestic waterfalls, as well as other limestone structures. Unlike in Huanglong, the water here has an unusual peacock blue color. It is so clear that visitors can even see to the bottom.

Aside from the remarkable sceneries, the myth surrounding Jiuzhaigou is no less intriguing. It began with a mountain deity named Dago who had a crush on the goddess Semo. In order to win her heart, Dago bestowed a mirror that was made of wind and cloud to her. However, unforeseen circumstances brought evils in the lovers’ path and the goddess dropped the mirror inadvertently. The mirror shattered into 108 pieces, which fell down to earth and became 108 sparkling gem-like lakes.

Crystal-clear lake in Jiuzhaigou
Shuzheng Waterfall
Rhinoceros Lake

Tips for visiting Jiuzhaigou

  • Having your own vehicle is probably the fastest and most convenient way to travel to Jiuzhaigou. The whole trip takes up to 11 hours, including a stop at Huanglong Scenic Area.
  • There are regular buses running between Chengdu Bus Station and Jiuzhaigou, depart at 07:00 and 08:00. But you should ask your hotel receptionist to book the ticket in advance.
  • Jiuzhaigou has a maximum capacity of tourists per day. So it is recommended to buy the ticket in advance from their website (only available in the Chinese version though) or show up at the ticket office early.
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47 thoughts on “Jiuzhaigou: A Journey to the Mythical Valley”

  1. Fede – Human, temple and culture lovers and travelaholic. I attend university in Siena where I study languages but as soon as I have enough money and free time, I organize trips around. Trying to get the best out of my travels and getting to know better the world ;)
    Fede says:

    Wow the nature is absolutely stunning here! I did not even know about the existence of this place, so beautiful! When I go to China, I will check it out 😘

    1. Indeed, it is totally contrast to the image of a polluted Beijing. The air here is fresh and the water is so clear you can even see the bottoms of the lakes 🙂

  2. Shweta Jain – A decade and a half later in Journalism, I took to writing my travel experiences. Through Rang Birange, I endeavour to write about and promote the faraway and unseen India.
    rANG bIRANGE says:

    Truly paradise

  3. Monalisa – Limra Hospitality Pvt Ltd is approved by the Ministry of Tourism (Govt. Of India) as an inbound tour operator. A traveler will hence be able to select areas of interest based on their preferences and subsequently identify destinations to visit. The intention is to provide customers with access to exclusive travel destinations, service to fully appreciate destinations through information packages, not just sightseeing, and access to special interest travel according to the group's/individual's preferences.
    Dudhwa National Park says:

    Genuinely paradise…Wow the nature is completely staggering here!…

    1. Thanks, for visiting 🙂 I reminded that there was no wind at all. The only objects, which are moving, are us – the tourists. It looks just like a painting.

  4. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
    Jolene says:

    Somehow I don’t remember China as being so pretty, or human-free! 😉 Definitely postcard perfect in your shots though. Do you mind if I ask what camera you use?

    1. Haha it is never human-free in China, even in this national park. Actually, I was surrounded by a legion of tourists while making this photo. For my camera, I am using the Fuji X30. Relatively small camera, it can fits even in my coat, but the quality is quite ok 🙂

  5. Babl – United States – SV3DPrinter@gmail.com. SV3Dprinter is for only 3D Printing's educational hobby platform for future research analysis. The 3D printing market's growth is bright and shiny like a star. Each day, our site generates highlights where peak demand and the changing 3d printing measures throughout the year. With our big data and quantitative and qualitative background, 3D printing technology is motivated by Data Science to solve any problem or create a new analysis over the years. Our 3D printed data timeline generation sources have been made for you. Our sites are free from violent and abusive comments and images.
    babl says:

    I plan to share your post in my blog https://hellocreativestimes.com. Since you have enabled sharing on your post, I am assuming that you are allowing others to share this post. However, if you have any objection to sharing your post, please let us know as soon as possible. Thank you.

    🙂

    1. So sorry for my very late response! Akismet somehow filtered your comment. Surely you are welcomed to share my post 🙂 Thank you

      1. Babl – United States – SV3DPrinter@gmail.com. SV3Dprinter is for only 3D Printing's educational hobby platform for future research analysis. The 3D printing market's growth is bright and shiny like a star. Each day, our site generates highlights where peak demand and the changing 3d printing measures throughout the year. With our big data and quantitative and qualitative background, 3D printing technology is motivated by Data Science to solve any problem or create a new analysis over the years. Our 3D printed data timeline generation sources have been made for you. Our sites are free from violent and abusive comments and images.
        babl says:

        So nice to say. Thank you so much. 🙂

  6. happyface313 – Where to begin? I love all kinds of beautiful things and yes, the most important to me is a positive outlook on life, hence my blog name. Enjoy my blog and I’ll be happy to hear from you!
    happyface313 says:

    🙂 Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!
    Have a very HAPPY week 🙂

  7. jmacindoe – Toronto, Ontario – New blogger writing about travel, photography and whatever else peaks my interest. http://macindoe.ca/
    jmacindoe says:

    Lovely shots!!

  8. Megha's World – I’m a mother of a smart and energetic seven-year-old. I started expressing myself creatively since the last two years. Since then I have been continuously inspired by events in my life and around me which has helped me in penning my thoughts. I’m an avid reader, loves to sing, an ardent lover of poetry and sometimes can scribble few lines too. Loves to dance in the rain, have an undying love for nature, can watch the beautiful sunset for hours. Love to kiss and hug my loved ones. I have worked in the IT field for almost a decade as a manager, worked crazy hours and traveled around the world. In that busy schedule, I never got the time to creatively express my thoughts. Now every time I finish a poem, free verse anything it fills me with so much happiness and excitement and a feeling to have created something of my own. I’m planning to post at least one creation of mine weekly. Lastly, a million thanks to all who visit, like or follow my tiny bits of creation. Every time you do that, I get to know one more beautiful person in my life and get the chance to see their creation too.
    meghasworld says:

    Absolute stunning pictures. Very beautiful and breathtaking place.

  9. Grammy Writes – State of Kansas, USA – At "Grammy Writes" I share poetry, prose and photos. Nature, travel and children seem to be my topics of choice, but a word prompt or photo challenge can inspire me as well.
    grammywritesblog says:

    Beautiful!

  10. viilar – A few things about me, then. Sometimes I say and do weird things, but that's okay - I have the personality to pull it off. When I am not working on something, I am reading, daydreaming, or eating sweets. You can find me talking to my friends (one of my favourite pass-times). In fact, I have such good friends that not talking is just as good as talking. If I could put excellent friend-finder on my CV, I would do it. So this is my life: friends, books, and the occasional date. Oh and I also like travelling (and reading about travelling), taking photographs (usually with a friend by my side) and writing (the one thing I do completely on my own). Thanks for stopping by, I hope it was equal parts amusing and informative.
    viilar says:

    Your photos are beautiful. I like how balanced the colours are and how they complement each other. Very vivid – it makes me want to visit so I can see it through my own eyes.

  11. dreamydamselblog – I amjoyous person. I crave for travelling, food , fashion and new experiences in life. Moved to California with my husband recently. This blog is about my life and everything that touches it.
    dreamydamselblog says:

    It’s indeed looks like heaven.. love the way u describe the places too

  12. Translation apps are definitely needed in China! Pretty much no way to get around without them.

    1. Those apps are real lifesavers! I had studied Chinese before, but it was still a huge challenge for me to get around. I could speak some basic sentence, but I forgot most of the Chinese characters 🙂

    1. Actually I was pushed away 🙂 You don’t see it in the photos but there were a massive crowd surrounding me. They don’t mind pushing other people to get a selfie spot.

  13. mydustyflipflops – I'm a forty-something, travel loving technophobe! I have a full-time job but enjoy getting out to explore the world when I can. Hope you enjoy some of the tales of my adventures! Search for:
    mydustyflipflops says:

    What a beautiful place and your photos are fantastic! The contrast of colours is really striking!

  14. Wow! That’s a long journey but it looks absolutely beautiful. The fall colours make it even more extraordinary. What part of fall was this?

  15. Mr. Ramdolfi – A Los Angeles native, Mr. Ramdolfi lives north of Hollywood Hills with his best friend and life-long partner, his wife. He likes to spend his leisure enjoying married life, drinking coffee, taking pictures, and writing for you.
    Mr. Ramdolfi says:

    These pictures are stunning!

  16. Alison and Don – Occupation: being/living/experiencing/travelling In our sixties, (Don is now 77) with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our apartment and car, sold or gave away all our stuff and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia, South America, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We will continue travelling until it's time to stop - if that time ever comes. So far it suits us very well. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both. Interests: In no particular order: travel, figure skating (as a fan), acceptance, authenticity, walking/hiking, joy, creativity, being human, adventure, presence, NOW. Same for Don except replace figure skating with Formula One motor racing.
    Alison and Don says:

    Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous place. Thanks for sharing.
    Alison

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