Northwest Sichuan Circuit
Northwest Sichuan Circuit Route
Location: Northwest Sichuan
Chengdu-> Jiuzhaigou-> Songpan-> Zoige-> Langmusi-> Zoige-> Tangke-> Hongyuan-> Maerkang-> Miyaluo-> Taoping-> Wenchuan-> Chengdu.
One can also make it in reverse direction as:
Chengdu-> Siguniang Shan-> Danba-> Maerkang-> Hongyuan-> Tangke-> Zoige-> Langmusi->Zoige-> Songpan-> Jiuzhaigou-> Wenchuan-> Chengdu
Best time to go: middle Oct. - early Nov., but if your target is the vast grasslands in Zoige or Hongyuan, summer is the best season.
D1: Chengdu-> Jiuzhaigou
Take a Jiuzhaigou-bound bus from either Chengdu Xinnanmen or Chadianzi Bus Station. The journey takes 9~12hrs, arriving in the evening or night. Lodging at Zhangzhazhen for Y20-25/dorm in one of the Tibetans' home. Choices of hostels and restaurants along the road.
D2-3: Explore Jiuzhiagou Nature Reserve
It takes 2 full days to explore all the water sights inside the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve. Try to avoid the crowd in those hot spots like Changhai, Wuhuahai, Panda Sea...by either getting there before 9:30am or after 3:30pm. Walking along the plank road on the mountain side is amazingly pleasant experience. For more details, pls refer to Jiuzhaigou.
D4: Jiuzhaigou-> Songpan
After Jiuzhaigou, lots of tourist will move to Huanglong, another park 2hrs away at a turning direction on the way back to Songpan, which is too commercialized,crowded, demanding expensive entrance fee(Y220 high season) but not too much to see comparing to Jiuzhaigou. Almost every one complains and regrets after a visit to Huanglong. We reccomend you skip the place and go to Songpan directly.
D5-6: Songpan horse trekking
Songpan is a very historical and multi-cultural city, with one street stretching from the main road to the old city(just called "Old City", but all building were rebuilt, only a few bridges remain as they were). You can spend half a day to explore around. The weather in Songpan changes frequently.
Horse trekking is the most famous and welcome activity in Songpan, which shouldn't be missed. Details pls refer to Songpan.
D7: Songpan-> Zoige-> Langmusi
Take an early morning bus to Zoige, an ugly stopover. Try not to stay if you can catch a connection bus to either Langmusi in the north or Tangke in the south. If you come in summer, the grassland around Zoige is worth a few days' wandering. A horseback gallop over the blossoming world is fantastic.
D8: Explore Langmusi and the river valley
Langmusi is a remote Tibetan village straddling the Sichuan-Gansu border with 2 gompas nestled in a valley of alpine scenery and meadows. More about Langmusi.
D9: Langmusi-> Tangke(via Zoige)
Tangke hosts the First Bend of the Yellow River and the fabulous Tibetan monastery Suokezang Si, which faces exactly the first bend. An overnight stay will offer you the opportunity to enjoy the sunset/sunrise over the spectacular site. Link: Zoige
D10: Tangke-> Hongyuan-> Maerkang
It takes around 2hrs to arrive Hongyuan, a dusty concrete town which is also frequented as a must stopover, just like Zoige. Buses to Maerkang depart 8:30am and 12:30 noon. The grassland dotted by groups of flocks and herds along the road from Hongyuan offers great view, with clear blue sky on top and snow-capped ranges shiny in a touchable distance in the sun.
D11 Explore Maerkang
Maerkang, the county seat of Aba Autonomous Prefecture, is a beautiful and peaceful town along the Suomo River valley, and also an important stop on highway G317, which extends to Tibet westwards. The Zhuokeji Tibetan Mansion is a treasurable piece in oriental architecture history. Jiarong Tibetan village and Zhibo Watch towers are worth a visit. Link in the site:Maerkang
D12 Maerkang-> Miyaluo
Less than 2 hrs ride. Miyaluo's charm lies in its autumn color. Red leaves spreads all over the mountains and plains. The town itself is not interesting at all, a few hours walk to the valleys around is not a bad choice. Some guidebooks may recommend people go to the Guergou Hot Spring, if you are not too hunger for an outdoor bath, pls don't go there. The charge is ridiculous comparing to other hot spring sites in China.
Bipenggou nearby Miyaluo is still an intact eco-system, housing non-polluted virgin forests, alpine lakes, valleys and snow-capped mountains. A trek through the gully to Siguniang Shan is adored by Chinese outdoor enthusiasts these years. A one-day trip is highly recommended for regular travelers. But there is no public transportation to ferry people there, the only possibility is to charter a van from Miyaluo Town to Bipenggou for around Y300/day. The driver can take you at Taoping Qiang village after, unless you want to return to Miyaluo. Same price, wherever you end the trip. Details available at Miyaluo.
D14 Taoping-> Wenchuan-> Chengdu
Taoping Qiang Village is home to the nomadic Qiang ethnic minority, known as the "Ancient Oriental Fortress" for its aged stone houses and watchtowers, which amazingly survived weather erosion, wars and frequent earthquakes for centuries. Quite different with the colorful Tibetan buildings, the Qiang built their houses without any painting on the outside wall, though also with stone, timber and mud. More on Taoping Qiang Village.
After an overnight and half day random walk in the village, it's time to leave now. Buses from north to Chengdu pass by Taoping, but there are more choices in Wenchuan, a fairly mordern city half an hour ride away. Legions of good restaurants along the Wenchuan street. Dining is cheaper and tasty than that of Taoping Qing families.
For lodging and traffic details, pls refer to our Destination guide - Sichuan for each site.