Lost in colorful Jiuzhaigou Valley 

Written by Nov 18, 2011 21:12
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Once I visited Jiuzhaigou Valley in winter. I remembered that the roads were empty. Blue sky, rolling mountains, colorless lakes…. The landscape was fascinating but I felt a bit empty. I have been told that Jiuzhaigou looks most beautiful in autumn because the lakes and mountains are in full colors. But I have never been there in autumn before.

In this year’s autumn, I finally fulfilled my dream together with my dad and mom. I learnt some good lessons before setting off. You know, I planned to go with my parents. My dad and mom are not young anymore. So I booked three air tickets and hotels according to my itinerary in advance.

My itinerary:
Oct. 9 flew from Hangzhou to Jiuzhaigou via Chongqing and stayed at Jiarongxing Palace (a hotel) in the Chuanzhusi Town.
Oct. 10 one day tour in Huanglong Natural Reserve and settled down in Qianhe Hotel near the entrance of the valley
Oct. 11 spent a whole day in the valley and slept at a Tibetan’ house
Oct. 12 spent another day in the valley and slept at Qianhe Hotel again
Oct. 13 flew to Chongqing and stayed at The GLENVIEW ITC Plaza hotel
Oct. 14 flew back to Hangzhou

I planned to visit the Huanglong Natural Reserve first. The sea level in Huanglong is higher than Jiuzhaigou. If I went there after I visited Jiuzhaigou, my parents and I would have felt too tired. On the other hand, the landscapes in Jiuzhaigou are much better than Huanglong. If I went to Jiuzhaigou first, I wouldn’t have found the beauty of Huanglong.

When I was reading the travel tips, I felt a bit confused. Many travel tips just said the best time to visit Jiuzhaigou was in autumn (especially from mid Oct. to mid Nov.). It wasn’t accurate. Finally, a tourist who went there gave me a piece of good suggestion. He said that he went there on Oct. 15 last year and the leaves began to fall at that time. He suggested that I go there before Oct. 15. I took his suggestion and finally decided to set off on Oct 9.

Actually, you can decide your departure date according to the ‘red leaf index’. On the first level, 10 to 35% leaves turn yellow. On the second level, 35-60% leaves turn yellow, red or orange red. On the third level, 60-95% leaves turn dard red or purplish red. Apparently, you should visit the Jiuzhaigou when 60-95% leaves turn dard red or purplish red.

The red leaf index is on the first level from Oct.1 to 7, the second level from Oct.8 to 14 and the third level from Oct. 15-30. Unfortunately, I saw this too late because I already booked the air-tickets and hotels.

Well, the red leaf index isn’t always right because the climate is changing. Only some lucky people can get there at the proper time and visit the most amazing scenery. The driver who drove us from Huanglong to Jiuzhaigou said one of his guests came here four times to see the best scenery. Unfortunately, he didn’t fulfill his wish.

Oct. 9

We arrived at the Jiuhuang Airport in the evening. Getting out of the airplane, I felt a bit breathless since I didn’t get used to the high altitude. It was ok and I finally survived haha. We called a taxi to Chuanzhusi Town. It cost us 50 yuan. On our way to Chuanzhusi, I asked how much it cost if we hired his car to travel between Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou. “800 yuan including airport pick-up and a round trip for Chuanzhusi-Huanglong-Entrance of Jiuzhaigou Valley”, the driver said. It was almost the same as the travel tips said. So we decided to take a taxi ride to visit both places.

About 1/2 hour later, we arrived at Chuanzhusi Town. The driver took us to Jiarongxin Palace and left. I chose it because it was a brand new hotel. So I guess their service wouldn’t be bad. Last time, we stayed at Jiuzhai Tian Tang (Jiuzhai Paradise). The food was extremely expensive there. I was prepared for the expensive food but didn’t think it would be so expensive.

Unlike Jiuzhai Paradise, the food prices in the Jiarongxin Palace were acceptable. We ordered ‘Fried Julienne Potatoes (Chao Tu Dou Si)’, “pork in a spicy soup base with some greens (Shui Zhu Rou Pian in Chinese)”, “Double Cooked Pork Slices (Hui Guo Rou)”, “Fried cucumber with eggs (Huang Gua Chao Dan)” and a bowl of vegetable soup. It just cost 147 yuan.

The central heating system in the hotel didn’t work because it wasn’t too cold. But there was electric blanket on the bed. By the way, the hot water was served with no time limit. I was happy to stay here.

Tip: The hotel is ecology-friendly. It doesn’t offer free tooth brush, comb, towel etc. You have to bring them on your own.
Lobby  in the hotel
Delicious Foods

Oct. 10

Around 4 o’clock, I woke up and couldn’t fall into sleep again. Due to the altitude stress, I was suffering serious headache. At 6:30, I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth and waited for may parents to get themselves ready. At last, we headed to the Huanglong Natural Reserve at 08:30.

I had checked the weather report many times when I was in Hangzhou. According to the weather report, it would rain during my trip. I was worried a lot, honestly. But it turned out that my worry was totally uncalled-for.

Our first stop on the way to the Huanglong Reserve was a viewing platform which was 3800 meter above the sea level. Unfortunately, the fog was too heavy and I couldn’t see anything 50 meters away. I should say that I was connected with the fog. When I visited the Yellow Mountain, I met heavy fog. When I went to Zhangjiajie, I encountered the heavy fog again. This time, I met the heavy fog in Huanglong.
Viewing Platform

Vendor on the viewing platform

Luckily, the heavy fog disappeared when we got down from the viewing platform. My head still ached but I was happy because it was a sunny day.
Clear sky and Snow Mountain

I didn’t know how long we spent on the taxi but we eventually arrived at the Huanglong Natural Reserve. Because of the high altitude, we decided to take the cable car to the top and then walk down to the entrance.

Tip: The entrance fee for the Huanglong Natural Reserve is CNY 200. The cable car costs CNY 80 per person.

We got out of the cable car at 09:40 and then began hiking.
Walking on the wood-paved Road
Multi-colored Pond

You know, my parents were aged so we walked slowly. I took this chance to shoot many pictures. At 12:20, we arrived at the Huanglong Temple. One tourist was surprised that we took so long to get here. He told me that it just took about 40 minutes if you walked quickly. I just smiled to him and said nothing. If I walked too quickly, I wouldn’t have time to enjoy the amazing scenery.
Picturesque Hill
Multi-colored Pond
Multi-colored Pond

Multi-colored Pond

After seeing the muli-colored pond, we began to descend. Then I heard a tour guide saying “the scenery on each side of the plank road was just so so. You could climb to the Huanglong Temple and then take cable car to get down the mountain.” The fact turned out that he was totally wrong. The scenery was good in my eyes.

I saw some old men and women who were above 70 walking slowly on the plank road. One of them told us that they wanted to climb to the Huanglong Temple. I admired their courage but they actually needn’t do this. Why not take a cable car to the Huanglong Temple and then walk down? It was easy and you wouldn’t miss the scenery.

Multi-colored Pond

Gradually, more and more people appeared on the plank road and climbed very hard to reach the Huanglong Temple. Then I realized why our driver suggested us visiting the Huanglong Natural Reserve in the morning. There wouldn’t be too many tourists inside the reserve in the morning.

Tip: Go to visit the Huanglong Natural Reserve in the morning if you can. Thus, you will avoid the crowd and enjoy the best scenery.

At 15:30, we finally finished our trip in the Huanglong Natural Reserve. I couldn’t believe that we spent nearly 6 hours in the reserve. Our driver was surprised too. He had planned to pick up other tourists in the Jiuhuang Airport. Due to our over-stay, he didn’t make it. He didn’t blame us but made an exchange with another driver who sent passengers to the airport. So we took another taxi to the Jiuzhaigou Valley.

Qianhe Hotel is about 3 kilometers away from the entrance of the valley. When I entered the hotel, I felt very happy. The decoration inside was just so so but they had air-conditions and hot water. Again, it was another eco-friendly hotel. They didn’t offer toilet articles. The lights on the floor were sound controlled and the lamp inside the toilet would turn off automatically if you let it on for a while.

Forgot to say, the food inside the hotel was delicious. I like the Yak Meat in the Stone Pot the best.

Oct. 11

Jiuzhaigou Valley is the most important destination in our trip. Since I came here once, I knew that one day was definitely short for me to appreciate its beauty though the sightseeing bus was convenient inside the valley. So I decided to stay inside the valley.

Before I set off my journey to Jiuazhaigou and Huanglong, I already knew that it wasn’t allowed to stay inside the valley. If you were found to stay inside the valley, you would be fined. But I still decided to take a risk. Once I was caught, I would pay for the fine. Lucky me, my parents and I were not caught.

October is the peak season. The visitors from all over the country swarm into the valley to see the best scenery. Of course, I am one of them. But I didn’t want to spend a long time queuing for buying the ticket. I bought the tickets online and thought it would be easier to take out the tickets from the office than queue for buying the tickets.

I was wrong. When I got to the entrance at 09:00, I saw hundreds of visitors waiting outside. Then I hurried to the ticket office to get my tickets. I didn’t expect that there were dozens of visitors who queued for getting their tickets. However, some ticket offices were free and no one went there to buy the tickets. Later, someone told me that the tour guides also got the group tickets for their customers in the same office together with us. I regretted buying the tickets in advance.

Tip: Personally, I think it unnecessary buying tickets online in advance. By the way, pay attention when queuing because some people might jump the queue to buy the tickets.

I didn’t remember how much time I spent at the ticket office but I got the ticket finally. We followed the crowds and entered the valley. What a shock! When an empty sight-seeing bus came, hundreds of visitors elbowed into the bus. We were pushed into the bus by the crowds and didn’t have time to see where the bus was to go.

Bad luck! The bus just stopped at the Shuzhengzhai and the driver ordered all passengers to get off. Again, we were shocked by the crowd after getting off the bus. Then I asked the driver where to take the bus if we wanted to go up to the next attraction. He told us we had walk on the wood paved road for 800 meters to the next bus stop. The road was narrow but there were too many visitors. If we stayed here and walked behind them, we wouldn’t reach the primitive forest until noon.

To save time, we decided to take off the heavy bags and called a hostel near the Shuzhengzhai to see if we could put our luggage in their hostel. Lucky me, a sight-seeing bus came and stopped in front of us. The ticket inspector shouted “Get on quickly.” We jumped into the bus after I confirmed that the bus would stop at Nuorilang. Getting off the bus, we walked about 400 meters to a stockaded village and found the Tibetan house I booked in advance.

We threw our luggage at the house and then went out to appreciate the scenery. According to the map, the Long Sea (Chang Hai in Chinese) is the nearest spot. So we walked to the Long Sea. There we saw the crowd again because the Long Sea and Primitive Forest are the first two spots that the group visitors visited. I just took a shot immediately and then followed the crowd to get to the multi-color pond.
Long Sea
Multi-colored Pond
The crowds

Since we had to get to the Tibetan house before 17:00, we just took the sight-seeing bus to the Primitive Forest. Then we walked on the wood-paved road to see the Swan Lake, Arrow Bamboo Lake and Panda Lake. We finished around 16:30 and got back to the house.


The route we took on the first day in the valley:
In the morning: Nuorilang (bus)-Long Sea(on foot)-Multi-colored Pond(bus)-Nuorilang-lunch
In the afternoon: Nuorilang(bus)-Primitive Forest(on foot)-Swan Lake(bus)-Arrow Bamboo Lake(bus)-Panda Lake(bus)-Nuorilang

We had the supper at the house. Three dishes and a soup, very delicious. After supper, I chatted with the uncle’s son. We learnt that he was going to attend a wedding ceremony soon. So I begged him bringing me with him. He agreed.
Tibetan House
Inside the house

Making buttered tea

It’s the first time that I had attended a Tibetan wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, the bride and the groom didn’t wear Tibetan costumes. Perhaps, they had been influenced too much by the Han people. After eating the big feast, we also joined the bonfire. Then we got back near 23:00.
The bride and groom propose a toast to the guest

Dancing together


Oct. 12

We got up very early because we wanted to visit the Mirror Lake. It is said that the mirror lake can reflect the scenery clearly if there is no wind. Thus, we needed to arrive there very early.

Last night, I asked the uncle how to get to the Mirror Lake quickly. But we still had some trouble in finding the correct way. But we finally got it right. We passed the Nuorilang Waterfall on our way to the Mirror Lake. It was magnificent.
Nuorilang Waterfalls

At 08:00, we arrived at the Mirror Lake. It was amazing!
Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

I wished I could stay here forever but I knew that the following scenery might be more beautiful. We crossed the Pearl Waterfall to reach Pearl Shoal where the TV serials of the Journey to the West was filmed. Then we got back and headed to the Multi-colored Lake. We found an abandoned viewing platform by the lake and had our lunch. In order to see the full extent of the Multi-colored Lake, we decided to climb the Tiger’s Mouth(老虎嘴). At last, we climbed to the Tiger’s Mouth. The landscape was nice.
Peacock Riverway
Peacock Riverway

Pearl Waterfalls
Pearl Waterfalls

We stopped at the Multi-colored Lake for very long. Then we took the sight-seeing bus to Nuorilang and changed the bus to the entrance of the valley. Perhaps, I had seen the best scenery at the Multi-colored Lake. The scenery at the Rhino Lake, Tiger Lake, Shuzheng Waterfalls, Shuzheng Lake, Crouching Dragon Lake etc wasn’t attractive to me.
Multi-colored Lake
Multi-colored Lake
Multi-colored Lake
Multi-colored Lake
Shuzheng Village
Shuzheng Waterfalls

My parents and I had been walking around 10 hours since we got up in the morning. Frankly, we were very tired. But we made it. In front of us was the Reed Lake. We all hoped that we could take the sight-seeing bus to Bonsai Lake. Unfortunately, we found that the tourists just got off the bus here and were not allowed to get on. The Bonsai Lake was 1.5 kilometers ahead of us.
Reed Lake
Reed Lake

To give up or not? My parents said “No”. So we kept walking and finally got on the bus to the Bonsai Lake at 17:30. After finishing our short trip to the Bonsai Lake, my parents and I felt very hungry. All we wanted was to get back to the hotel quickly and feed our stomachs.

When we got back to our hotel, we ordered a table of dishes because we were two hungry. After the supper, we felt very tired and went to bed very early.


My parents and I had a very sound sleep last night. Thinking of departure, we all felt a bit sad because we didn’t want to leave. But we couldn’t spend our whole lives here. At last, we went to the airport, took flight to Chongqing and stayed there for a night.

Oct. 14

Every trip has an end. Our trip to Huanglong Natural Reserve and Jiuzhaigou Valley has ended. Today, we had to get back to Hangzhou.

A journey has ended but life has to carry on. Perhaps, I will come to Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou again in the future.

 More Jiuzhaigou Travel Reviews
1. A journey to Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong Natural Reserve---Part II LONELYJOURNEY from China Sep 2, 2011 03:53
2. Useful Tips for Jiuzhaigou Travel TIM from China May 27, 2011 01:59
3. ZHG in winter 2009 DOROTHY from Singapore Jun 7, 2010 01:19
Comments (20)


Mar 27, 2015 15:33 Reply

Mr.LUCY from USA said:

This is a really nice daily activities. I enjoyed reading it. But now I am worried because I only plan to stay in Jiuzhai for a day. Obviously it may not be enough.



Jun 5, 2014 09:33 Reply

Mr.ALAN from Malaysia said:

Hi LittlePeach,
Just to say I enjoy reading your travelogue. Thanks for the detailed description you gave . I admire the filial piety you have for your parents. It's amazing to see that it's them who pushed you to carry on when you are very tired at the Reed Lake.
We are going there in mid Sept this year. I just hope the crowd is not that overpowering and scary. But if your parents can survive it , I think mine can too.
Does the shuttle bus have writings in English to indicate where they are going? Do they check your bags to disallow food to bring inside the reserve?
Thanks for sharing your travels. Enjoyed it.

Jun 8, 2014 19:56

I am sorry, Alan. I didn't notice whether there were English signs on the bus. There are many sight-seeing buses. You can raise your hands and ask the driver to stop. Just make sure that you choose the right direction and the right buses.


Jul 8, 2013 04:58 Reply



I was told that the shuttle bus is only available during the peak season. I have no idea about where it stops and how frequently it departs. Last time I went to Jiuzhaigou, I and other three travelers shared a taxi together.

Jul 8, 2013 04:59

You may call 0837-7243612 to learn about the latest schedule for the shuttle bus.


Jul 3, 2013 05:01 Reply


The taxi fare from the airport to Jiuzhaigou valley is around CNY 200 (daytime) and CNY 260 (in the evening). If possible, you may catch the airport shuttle bus. It just costs CNY 45. Please call 0837-7243612 for airport shuttle bus schedule. Actually, you can share the taxi fare with other travelers if you travel alone. It saves you some money.

The busiest time is from Mid OCT to Mid NOV. I suggest you book a hotel in advance.

Jul 3, 2013 20:40
Mr.SANDY from Indonesia replied:

Thank you, yes I read a little bit that there is a shuttle bus from the airport to the JZG valley, that is to Jiulong bridge.
Is that bridge close enough to the area where the park entrance, hotels are?

How often/frequent is the shuttle bus frequency?

It is a dilemma here that Oct is the best time to go, but also the most crowded....:(


Jul 2, 2013 08:58 Reply

Mr.SANDY from Indonesia said:

Great review you have there, make me want to go to JZG even more!
I plan to go in this coming October, hope to experience the best view.

I understand that from the airport we can take a taxi to go to the hotel in Chuanzhusi (Qiande?), and also from hotel we can also take a taxi to the entrance of the JZG park. From the entrance, there is a sightseeing bus that will take us around (is this bus ride unlimited? is it included on the park's entrance fee?), and we can do the touring around in 1 or 2 days as many as we can with the daily ticket. (unnecessary to pre-purchase the ticket online)

Also I understand we can hire a cab if we want to go visit Huanglong park, day trip, for around Y800. (?)

One concern, do you think one can travel/survive without being able to speak Chinese? How's the English in general people on the tourist industry there?

Many thanks before!

Jul 2, 2013 20:55

Why not take a taxi from the airport to Jiuzhaigou first? There you can find some hotels to live. Next morning, you can visit Jiuzhaigou directly. As for the sight-seeing bus ticket, you need to buy it separately. The entrance fee doesn't include the sight-seeing bus fare. With the ticket in hands, you can take the bus as you wish.

You come to Jiuzhaigou in October, right? It's the busiest time. So you need to buy two tickets if you want to visit the valley in two days. If you plan to hire a cab from Jiuzhaigou to Huanglong (round trip), you should bargain with the driver. CNY 800 is too expensive.It should be CNY 450-500 for a round trip. CNY 800 should include picking you up at the airport and the round trip from Jiuzhaigou to Huanglong.

It's ok for a non-Chinese speaker to visit the Jiuzhaigou. I saw many foreign visitors in the valley. Don't worry. The signs are written in both Chinese and English.

Jul 3, 2013 02:02
Mr.SANDY from Indonesia replied:

Thanks for the quick response, it is very informative!
How far is the distance between JZG airport to the JZG park? I browsed for a lot of hotels near the entrance of the JZG park....but understand that JZG airport is 2 hours drive away, so it is quite far, is it right? How much would be the estimated taxi fare?

Also 1st week October is National holiday week...how about the 2nd week of October, will it still be very busy?
Will I need to really book the hotel before arrival?

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