Days
13
Price from
$3,750AUD

Discover the delights of Sichuan Province on this unforgettable journey in China.

From the famously spicy hot-pot to the world’s greatest tea culture, Sichuan Province is the birthplace of many of China’s iconic exports. It's also where most of the remaining giant pandas hide in lush bamboo forest, where the high temples of sacred Emei Shan cut through the mist, and where fading ancient cultures endure the forces of modernisation and natural disaster. Journey across these incredible landscapes and discover larger-than-life Buddhist treasures, Tea Horse Trail remnants, old-world villages, world-class national parks, and cultures new and old – from the colourful embroidery of the Qiang people to local fine arts in Chengdu. At every step of the journey, taste a new culinary delight, be it Mapo tofu, Sichuan pepper, fine black tea or a bamboo banquet. This is one for the Sinophiles, nature lovers, culture buffs – and the epicureans.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2018:
A magnitude-7.0 earthquake hit southwestern China on 8th August 2017 — killing 25 people and injuring 525. The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong National Parks, which our Secrets of Sichuan trip visits on days 9-11, was seriously affected and is closed until further notice. We are currently looking into alternate destinations to replace the days spent in Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong should the parks remain closed. Please check back closer to your departure for updates.


Start
Chengdu, China
Finish
Chengdu, China
Country
China
Style
Peregrine
Code
PCSS
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
3 reviews
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Visit not only Bifengxia Panda Base, but also a sanctuary and rescue centre outside Chengdu to learn the plight of China’s endangered moon bears (Asian black bears).

  • Wander through Huanglong, then spend a full day exploring the stunning landscapes of Jiuzhaigou National Park, where layered waterfalls and vivid blue lakes abound.

  • Break up the scenic journey to Jiuzhaigou by visiting Qiang and Tibetan minorities in mountain villages, and learn more about the impact of the 2008 earthquake on these communities and their traditional cultures.

  • Discover the old world charm of Shangli and join in some age-old local pastimes, from tofu-making to mahjong.

  • Ride the cable car to the Golden Summit of sacred Emei Shan, and visit a nearby tea farm to see how China’s most beloved beverage is produced.

Is this trip right for you?

  • With plenty of cultural immersion and a wide variety of experiences on offer, this trip is well-suited to the inquisitive traveller.

  • Be prepared for some long drives – up to 8–10 hours in a day, on winding mountain roads. All transport is private, however, and the scenery is often spectacular.

  • A reasonable level of fitness is required, due in no small part to the high altitude reached. The fitter you are, the more you'll get out of visits to national parks and villages.

  • Please note that some accommodation outside of the big cities may be of a lower standard than you're used to, due to limited options in these locations.

Itinerary

Nimen Hao. Welcome to China and the capital of Sichuan Province, famed for its food and the pandas living in the mountains. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or no later than 14 days prior to travel. A transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Your China adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm this evening – please have your important documents and details on hand for this meeting. Your evening is free for your first exploration of the city – perhaps get a taste of Chengdu's famed food scene. Its hot, spicy dishes are considered by the Chinese to be the best cuisine within China. In such a food-loving country, this is no mean feat.
Accommodation
  • Chengdu Garden City Hotel 成都花园城大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Embark on a walking tour around Chengdu. You might visit Tianfu Square, where a giant statue of Chairman Mao stands tall, and see one of the most popular parks in Chengdu – People's Park. Here locals sit on a bamboo chairs, sipping tea and enjoy casual chitchat. There's mahjong, badminton, or even join in singing and dancing. Don't be surprised if somebody comes up to you with an offer of cleaning your ears! In the afternoon, take a cooking class, then enjoy the fruits of your labour as an early dinner. The food of Sichuan province is perhaps best recognised for its fiery quality and the tingling, tongue-numbing sensation produced by its most famous ingredient, Sichuan pepper. Although only introduced to the region in the past few centuries, Sichuan pepper quickly gained a stronghold in local dishes. After your meal you'll head out and experience the colorful, musical, comedic, and highly dramatic Sichuan Opera – a riveting way to conclude the evening.
Accommodation
  • Chengdu Garden City Hotel 成都花园城大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chengdu - Walking tour
  • Chengdu - Sichuan Opera
  • Chengdu - Sichuan cooking class
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Board a private bus and travel to the China Bear Sanctuary to meet some of the gorgeous resident moon bears. The rescue centre here was the first of its kind in the world – a safe space of semi-natural rehabilitation areas and bamboo forest enclosures designed to give these rescued moon bears (Asian black bears) a stimulating environment for the remaining years of their lives. Afterwards, drive to Zigong (approximately 2.5 hours) and visit the Zigong Dinosaur Museum. Witness its world-class collection of prehistoric fossils, which includes nearly all of the known dinosaur species in the Jurassic era of 205-135 million years ago. After spending some time exploring this vast museum, retire to your hotel in Zigong for the evening.
Accommodation
  • Huidong Hotel 汇东大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chengdu - Moon Bear Sanctuary
  • Zigong - Dinosaur Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Embark on a day trip to Shunan Bamboo Sea, the verdant landscape used in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is China's largest and oldest bamboo forest, and one of Sichuan's most delightful natural wonders. 58 different types of bamboo stretch across a beautiful landscape of mountains and valleys. Enjoy a hike around the winding paths of the park, taking in the fresh air and quiet ambience and visiting waterfalls, lakes and streams. Sit down to a banquet lunch which includes dishes that are, fittingly, made from bamboo.
Accommodation
  • Huidong Hotel 汇东大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Zigong - Bamboo Sea & Bamboo Banquet
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Departing Zigong, head to the World Heritage-listed site of the Leshan Giant Buddha. This World Heritage site is a statue of Maitreya (a Bodhisattva usually represented as a very stout monk with a broad smile on his face and with his naked breast and paunch exposed to view) in sitting posture. Facing the river, the Buddha is beautifully captured in its solemn stillness. (approximately 2 hours). This 71 metre-high colossus is the largest ancient Buddha of its type in the world. Carved out of a sandstone cliff overlooking the confluence of the Dadu, Min and Qingyi rivers, it strikes an impressive pose, with human body-sized fingernails and a soft terracotta hue. Continue to Emei Shan, a temple-studded mountain of great Buddhist significance. Emei Shan is one of the holiest places in China, long associated with bodhisattva (person committed to the enlightment for the sake of others) Samantabhadra. Sichuan is the province where tea was born, so make a visit to a tea farm in the area. Depending on the season, see the production process – from picking to drying and of course drinking. After sampling some varieties, sit down and enjoy a delicious dinner here at the farm.
Accommodation
  • Yixianzhuang Holiday Hotel 逸闲庄度假酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leshan - Giant Buddha
  • Emei - Tea Farm Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
At just over 3,000 metres high, this mountain of thick forest has been a centre of pilgrimage for over 1,800 years, with over a hundred temples and monasteries hidden in its peaks. The area is stunning at any time of year, from the lush greens of the summer, to the golden reds and yellows of autumn, and the clear, mystical whites of winter. Ride the cable car up the mountain to see this sacred landscape from the ultimate vantage point. Take in the spectacle of temples peeking through the mist as you ascend. The views from the peak are truly spectacular on a clear day. After completing this memorable excursion to the Golden Summit, spend your second night here in Emei Shan. 
Accommodation
  • Yixianzhuang Holiday Hotel 逸闲庄度假酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Emei Shan - Cable car & Golden Summit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel from Emei to the town of Shangli, a once-important stop on the Tea Horse Trail (approximately 3 hours), where tea would head in one direction and horses in the other. Head to Miaoxia Village for a walk around the ancient roads of the town with a local guide, then join in making tofu before sitting down to a local lunch. Later on, at your guesthouse in Shangli, the tiles will come out – learn a thing or two about mahjong, that most Chinese of traditional games that dates back to Qing times, while the sound of clacking tiles echoes through the stone streets.
Accommodation
  • Hanjia Dayuan Neiwei Shoufu Hostel 雅安韩家大院内卫守府驿站上里古镇 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shangli - Tofu making
  • Shangli - Mahjong lesson
  • Shangli - Miaoxia Village walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
Please note that as Shangli is a small town, accommodation options here are limited. The standard tonight is not as high as on the rest of our trip, but has plenty of local character.
Make the short trip from Shangli to Bifengxia to visit the panda centre today. As these fascinating creatures play, eat bamboo and climb the trees, learn about the conservation efforts being made to save this treasured endangered species. There are only around 1,000 pandas left in the world and 80% of them are found in the mountains in Sichuan. Next, settle in for the long drive to Maoxian. This town is home to the country's largest population of Qiang, the mountain-dwelling ethnic group who were severely affected by the earthquake of 2008. You'll stay in a basic hotel in Maoxian tonight, a place where you can appreciate the unique architectural features and culture of the Qiang people.
Accommodation
  • Jiudingshan International Hotel 茂县九顶山国际大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ya'an - Bifengxia Panda Base
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Continue to Jiuzhaigou (approximately 4 hours). Along the way, stop and visit a Qiang village to see the unique watchtowers built by the Qiang people in their moutainous villages. The towers can reach up to 60 metres in height, and can date back 1,000 years. They were used as places to store valuable goods, to worship, but primarily as warning beacons to help defend against would-be attackers. Today's explorations reveal a poignant picture of a traditional culture in decline, due not only to modernisation but also the devastating earthquake of 2008. Also we'll have the chance to visit a Tibetan village along the way. Tibetans in China are not confined to the land of Tibet. In the greater Tibetan region, bordering Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan, Tibetans are also trying to maintain a traditional life as well as blend into a fastly modernizing world. After you arrive into Jiuzhaigou, check into your hotel and enjoy a restful afternoon before you begin to explore the national parks tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Qian He International Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jiuzhaigou - Qiang & Tibetan village visits
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
For the next 3 days, you will spend most of the tiime at altitude higher than 2500m. It's important to stay hydrated at high altitude and take things slow to acclimatize.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Huanglong National Park is full of colourful limestone lakes – greens, blues, oranges, yellows – snow-clad mountains, valleys and forests, the majority of which are found in a 3.6 square-kilometre area of Huanglong Valley. The waterfalls here in season are also a sight to behold. Explore some of the hiking trails in this area today. Notice the layered calcium carbonate deposits which have created a dragon-like shape in the landscape; these, along with a golden tint, have earned the area its name, which translates Yellow Dragon Valley. You'll visit the park today and explore some of its hiking trails before returning to your hotel in Jiuzhaigou tonight.
Accommodation
  • Qian He International Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Huanglong - National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
In recent years both Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong have become extremely popular with domestic tourists, to the point where on national holidays the number of visitors has to be capped. We aim to visit outside these peak periods and manage the crowds as best we can in the times we do visit. Domestic tour groups tend to stick to a strict schedule based around taking photos at scenic spots and not explore independently, so even if there are crowded places at the most popular sights of the park, you are bound to find more tranquility if you explore on foot and walk between sites. We still think that these national parks are some of the jewels of China, and a definite highlight of Sichuan province.
Make the most of an entire day spent in Jiuzhaigou ("Valley of Nine Villages") National Park. With its multi-tiered waterfalls, radiant blue lakes and stunning foliage, this area is a highlight of not only Sichuan Province but for many, in all of China. Explore this peaceful place, taking in the sight of snow-dusted peaks on the skyline. You are free to spend time with your leader or explore on your own today. The park has a network of shuttle buses between scenic spots and walking trails along the valleys. Your leader will offer advice on how to best get around the park, as well as advise when and where to meet to be transported back to the hotel at the end of the day.
Accommodation
  • Qian He International Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jiuzhaigou - National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Make the journey back to Chengdu (approximately 8 hours). Stops will be made along the way for lunch, to stretch our legs and for some photo opportunities. Arriving by early evening, gather with your fellow travellers for a final dinner before departure day tomorrow. What better way to conclude this Sichuan experience than with a sumptuous hot-pot feast. Known in Sichuan as 'huo guo' (which roughly translates to 'fire pot'), huo guo is thought to date back more than 1,000 years, originating from a meal enjoyed by boatmen working on the Yangtze River in the nearby city of Chongqing. Consisting of a communal pot of spiced broth, everyone can select their own ingredients to be cooked up in this delicious hot liquid.
Accommodation
  • Chengdu Garden City Hotel 成都花园城大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
There are no activities planned for the final day, and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (11 nights), Guesthouse (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Chengdu - Walking tour
  • Chengdu - Sichuan Opera
  • Chengdu - Sichuan cooking class
  • Chengdu - Moon Bear Sanctuary
  • Zigong - Dinosaur Museum
  • Zigong - Bamboo Sea & Bamboo Banquet
  • Leshan - Giant Buddha
  • Emei - Tea Farm Visit
  • Emei Shan - Cable car & Golden Summit
  • Shangli - Tofu making
  • Shangli - Mahjong lesson
  • Shangli - Miaoxia Village walk
  • Ya'an - Bifengxia Panda Base
  • Jiuzhaigou - Qiang & Tibetan village visits
  • Huanglong - National Park
  • Jiuzhaigou - National Park

Reviews

Our Secrets of Sichuan trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Secrets of Sichuan - Limited Edition, September 2017

Victor Neldner

Secrets of Sichuan - Limited Edition, May 2017

Frances Morgan

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip.
2. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
3. This trip goes to high altitude above 3000m, so a challenging form is required to be filled out by all passengers. Please consult your doctor before coming on the trip on advice of going to high altitude

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.