Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Top choice in Chengdu

Pandas at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

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.

Home to nearly 120 giant and 76 red pandas, the base focuses on getting these notoriously love-shy creatures to breed and has been remarkably successful at it. March to May is the ‘falling in love period’ (wink wink). If you visit during summer or autumn, you may see tiny newborns in the nursery incubators.

Try to visit in the morning, when the pandas are most active. Feeding takes place around opening time at 8am, although you’ll see them eating in the late afternoon, too. Pandas spend most of their afternoons sleeping, particularly during the height of midsummer, when they sometimes disappear into their (air-conditioned) living quarters, though some of these have public viewing areas.

At the best of times, it can be very busy. At weekends you'll be lucky to spot a panda through the swarms of humans.

From exit A of the Panda Avenue (熊猫大道) station on metro line 3 , a free D025 bus transfer is available from 8.30am to 4pm. A taxi from the city centre costs about ¥50, or hostels run trips here. There are also various dedicated buses from the city centre to the gates of the research base. The Panda Bus is one such company and it charges ¥10 from the Wide and Narrow Alley, the Wenshu Monastery and various other locations.