Long before the tourists began to flock to China’s Jiuzhaigou region, local Tibetans revered the national park for its breathtaking natural beauty in naming it “son of the sea” . . . a “fairytale world” in western culture.
Since 1984, when the region was officially recognised as the Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area, the number of guests has grown from a mere 5000 a year to more than 2.5 million.
Such is the area’s magnetism that during peak seasons, a quota of 12,000 tourists a day is enforced.
What attracts the visitors to Jiuzhaigou – at the southern end of the Minshan mountain range, 330 km north of the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu – are the incredible natural multi-coloured lakes, multi-level waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, wildlife, grasslands and the fascinating Tibetan villages.
In 1992, Jiuzhaigou was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, five years later a World Biosphere Reserve.
A little more than 50 per cent of the highly elevated area is covered by forests, bamboo and a variety of flowers and herbs. Each autumn, the forest turns a colour of yellow, red and orange – a photographer’s dream.
The wildlife habitat is best known as a Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary. Each day visitors watch in awe as pandas feed and play, not far from the fascinating waters of the park’s lakes with their shallow turquoise colours and the sometimes snow-capped peaks and pines.
Jiuzhaigou features highly in a number of group tours from China specialist Helen Wong’s Tours.