Must see attractions in Sichuan

  • Sights in Sichuan

    Jiuzhaigou National Park

    The raw mountain beauty and sparkling lakes of Jiuzhaigou National Park was, for many, a highlight of China. However, in August 2017 a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck near Jiuzhaigou, affecting the parks infrastructure. At the time of research the park was closed to independent travellers while renovation work takes place. Check with hostel staff in Chengdu as to whether the park has reopened before venturing up here.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dzongsar Valley

    Dzongsar Monastery

    One of the oldest, most important and certainly most visibly impressive monastery complexes in Kham, the remote Dzongsar Monastery sits on a sharp ridge above the main village of the Dzongsar Valley. The monastery was originally founded in 746 by a Bönpo lama, but has been much reconstructed since and, considering its importance, is quite a small structure, though it's none the less magical for it.

  • Sights in Yaqing

    Yarchen Gar Buddhist Institute

    On a quiet bend of the Dzin-Chu River in the remote grasslands of Garzi Prefecture, this massive Nyingma (Red Hat) community of nuns and monks living in improvised housing under the shadows of magnificent golden-roofed temples has always been one of the most arresting sights in Sichuan.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Southern Garze Prefecture

    Yading Nature Reserve

    The magnificent Yading Nature Reserve, 140km south of Daocheng, centres around three sacred snowcapped mountains, a holy trinity encircled by forested valleys, crystal-clear rivers and glacier-fed lakes. These are, quite simply, some of the most stunning landscapes you'll ever see. There are opportunities to hike, ride and camp here.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Le Shan

    Le Shan Grand Buddha

    Le Shan’s serene, 1200-year-old Grand Buddha sits in repose, carved from a cliff face overlooking the confluence of three busy rivers: the Dadu, Min and Qingyi. The Buddhist monk Haitong conceived the project in AD 713, hoping that Buddha would protect the boats and calm the lethal currents.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dege

    Bakong Scripture Printing Press

    This fascinating 1729 printing press houses an ongoing printing operation that still uses traditional woodblock printing methods and maintains more than 290,000 scripture plates, an astonishing 70% of Tibet’s literary heritage. It's the biggest and most important of three such printing presses (the others are in Lhasa and Gansu). It's more than just a mere printing house though; this is a religious and pilgrimage site, and throughout the day and early evening scores of pilgrims circumambulate the outside of the building.

  • Sights in Seda

    Larung Gar Five Sciences Buddhist Academy

    Of all the Buddhist sights in western Sichuan, there is none as striking as Larung Gar. The future of Tibetan Buddhism is contained here in this school, one of the largest of its kind in the world, cradled in a valley some 170km northeast of Ganzi.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Chengdu

    Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

    One of Chengdu’s most popular attractions, this panda park 18km north of the city centre is the easiest way to glimpse Sichuan’s most famous residents. Don't, however, make the mistake of thinking you'll be seeing wild pandas. They are kept in large enclosures and have a dedicated team of scientists and keepers tending to their every need. As well as living, breathing pandas, there are some fascinating panda information centres and museums explaining panda conservation and husbandry.

  • Sights in Dujiangyan

    Qingcheng Shan

    Covered in lush, dripping forests, the sacred mountain of Qingcheng Shan has been a Taoist spiritual centre for more than 2000 years. Its beautiful trails are lined with ginkgo, plum and palm, and there are caves, pavilions and centuries-old wooden temples to explore.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dzogchen

    Dzogchen Gompa

    Backed by mountains, the massive Dzogchen monastery complex sits halfway up a steep ridge overlooking a valley dotted with stupas, shedras (Buddhist colleges), dormitory blocks, and further chapels and prayer halls. One of the most important seats of the Nyingma (Red Hat) sect, the monastery was originally established in 1685 but almost everything you see today was rebuilt with flamboyance from the 1980s onward. Visiting the monastery and other Buddhist sites in the valley takes at least a day.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tagong

    Ser Gyergo Nunnery

    Known locally as ani gompa (Tibetan for ‘nunnery’), Hépíng Fǎhùi is home to around 500 nuns and more than 100 monks. Lama Tsemper was a revered hermit who spent much of his life meditating in a cave about two hours' walk across the grasslands from Tagong. Nuns would bring him food and look after him, so when he requested a temple be built here just before his death in the 1980s it was decided that a nunnery be built too.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Litang

    Former Residence of the 7th Dalai Lama

    Kelzang Gyatso (1708–57), the seventh Dalai Lama, was born in a cold, dark, cave-like room in the basement of this house during a period of intense political struggle. He eventually grew into a visionary leader, and under his rule Tibet established a national archive, instituted civil-service training programmes and formalised the Tibetan government structure. While the building is officially open from 9.30am to 5pm, in practice the hours are erratic. Chinese tourists are normally forbidden from entering inside the building.

  • Sights in Baiyu

    Pelyul Gompa

    A remote settlement in the mountains of the former Tibetan province of Kham, here you can get a semblance of the spectacle of monastic life through a visit to Baiyu Si (Baiyul; 3150m), a small monastery village of striking beauty. Wander the temples and observe the 200 monks living here, then explore the maze of lanes that wind among the red and white houses clinging to the hillside.

  • Sights in Manigange

    Yilhun Lha-tso

    It is said King Gesar's beloved concubine Zhumu was so taken by these stunning turquoise-blue waters that her heart fell in. This now-holy glacial lake, 8km southwest of Manigange, is still awe inspiring. Follow a small dirt track around the north edge of the lake to a marshy plain at the far end, from which you can take in the spectacular views of peaks and glaciers from right up close. Locally, this area is also known as 新路海 (Xīnlù Hǎi).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ya'an

    Ya'an Bifengxia Panda Base

    Ya'an Bifengxia Panda Base was established in prime forest in Ya'an in 2003 for research purposes rather than tourism, and its mission expanded in 2008 following the earthquake that severely damaged its sister reserve at Wolong. Bifengxia is now home to 80 pandas, some of which may eventually be returned to the wild.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Northern Sichuan

    Huanglong National Park

    Unaffected by the earthquakes that have so impacted nearby Jiuzhhaigou National Park, the lesser known but almost equally gorgeous Huanglong National Park is a stunning valley with terraces of coloured limestone ponds in blues, greens, oranges, yellows and white. The best time to come from is June to October, ideally during mild July and August. Outside of this period, lack of water in the pools significantly reduces the visual impact of the park.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Zigong

    Dinosaur Museum

    Relive your childhood palaeontology fantasies at this spectacular dinosaur museum. It was the first museum of its kind in China and is arguably one of the best dinosaur museums in the world. Built on top of the Dashanpu excavation site, which has one of the world’s largest concentrations of dinosaur fossils, the museum has a fine collection of reassembled skeletons as well as partially excavated fossil pits.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Four Sisters Mountain

    Haizi Valley

    Considered by many the most beautiful of the three valleys in the Four Sisters Mountain area, Haizi Valley's eponymous lakes and majestic views of the Four Sisters peaks make it hard to disagree. It's a steep walk for much of the way, so acclimatise in the other valleys first if possible. The entrance to the 19km-long valley is about 500m from the tourist centre, up an obvious staircase to the right of the building.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yulongsi Valley & Mt Gongga Shan

    Gongga Monastery

    Set at an altitude of 3941m and cut off from the outside world by winter snows for months on end, the Gongga Monastery (also known as the Minya Konka Monastery) has an unforgettable location with views directly over to the glaciers of Gongga Shan. The small monastery dates from 1285 and is of the Kagyu, or Black Hat, sect of Tibetan Buddhism. There are some impressive wall murals within the main prayer hall.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ganzi

    Degongbu Temple

    Surrounded by the mud-brick buildings belonging to the smaller of Ganzi's two Tibetan quarters, this 13th-century temple's two dimly lit halls (one historic, the other finished in 2007) are filled with the smell of yak-butter candles and the sound of spinning prayer wheels as locals make a small kora (circumambulation of a sacred site done as a pilgrimage) around both the exterior and interior of the compound. It's one of the most atmospheric temples in Kham.