Chengdu travel guide
Located in the fertile plains of the Sichuan Province's Red Basin, Chengdu seems like such a small town that it can be easy to forget it is one of China's largest cities. With nicknames like 'Heavenly State', 'City of Hibiscus' and 'Land of Milk and Honey', it is no wonder that Chengdu is also ranked as one of China's most liveable places.
Still a hidden gem for many tourists in China, Chengdu lacks the famous historical sites that draw crowds to tourist magnets Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an. This doesn't mean that the city lacks historical importance though, as it was the site of origin for the Bronze culture, the Southern Silk Road, and printed the first paper currency. Chengdu is full of history, and travellers can visit attractions like the Wenshu Monastery, Wuhou Memorial Temple, Tomb of Wang Jian, Green Ram Temple and the Thatched Cottage of the ancient poet Du Fu.
Chengdu is an important culinary destination in China, and visitors can attend traditional Chinese tea ceremonies at many teahouses, including Wenshu Monastery and Guanghe Chalou. The food in Chengdu is some of the best in the region, offering fiery Sichuan dishes like hotpots, Chongqing duck neck, and spicy dragon prawns from roadside carts or stylish restaurants.
The top attraction in Chengdu, however, is located in the lush valleys surrounding the town. The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is the world's only centre of its kind, and offers one-of-a-kind opportunities to see pandas and their cubs.
Chengdu makes a great base for exploring the Sichuan Province, and is within easy distance of the Giant Buddha of Leshan, Mount Qingcheng, and the Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area. It is also a convenient stopover on travels to Tibet, as there are almost daily flights to Lhasa.
Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center
The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre is a must-see for
animal lovers and anybody interested in wildlife conservation. The
largest centre of its kind, Chengdu is part zoo, part lab, and part
habitat. It is focused on increasing the population of giant pandas
in captivity so that more may be released into the wild; with this
in mind, the Chengdu centre is the best place on earth to see
ridiculously cute panda cubs. Research focuses on the advancement
of wildlife conservation and, as it is impossible not to be
enchanted by these seriously endangered creatures, visitors will
leave the centre with a new passion. The park is also a home to
many red pandas and other endangered Chinese animals, like the
South China Tiger and golden monkey, though the famous giant pandas
are the main attraction. The Giant Panda Museum has interactive
exhibits designed to teach visitors about the fascinating
creatures, and the work of the centre.
It takes about two hours to walk the grounds, or visitors can ride in a tour cart. It is best to go for feeding time (9am-10am) which is when the animals are most active. Also, if travellers get there nice and early they are more likely to get the chance to hold a baby panda. People have to pay extra to cuddle a cub but, although it is expensive, it is a very special experience and the donation goes towards a worthy cause.
Address: Xiongmao Da Dao
As a tourist attraction, Mount Qincheng really does have
something for everyone. It is located approximately 41 miles (66km)
from Chengdu. The mountain is one of the most famous Taoist
mountains in China, and is a popular destination for international
travellers and locals alike. It is usefully divided into two sides,
which provide very different experiences. The front side of Mount
Qincheng (anterior) is the more touristy side, and boasts an
impressive array of cultural and historical landmarks. A number of
temples to be visited include the Jianfu Palace, Shangqing Palace,
and the Tianshi Cave. However, for those who prefer to travel off
the beaten track, the back side (or posterior) is relatively quiet
and unspoiled, offering a stunning hiking route along narrow
mountain passes, past waterfalls and through wooded areas. This
trip is a must for those interested in the flora and fauna of the
Whether travellers are keen on the more frequented front route, or the adventurous trail at the back, the views from the summit are spectacular. Although the paths are very well-maintained, the hike is pretty demanding on both sides; nevertheless, there is a cable car which can be taken half-way or all the way up. The mountain is the ideal travellers escape from crowded urban sightseeing and makes for a delightful excursion from Chengdu.
Kuanzhai Ancient Street
Kuanzhai Ancient Street is one of three historic preservation
areas in the city and scores highly on most visitors' lists of
things to see and do in Chengdu. It is formed by the confluence of
three alleys: Kuan Alley, Zhai Alley and Jing Alley. The area once
boasted 45 Qing Dynasty (18th-century) courtyards, and Kuanzhai
contains the only three which remain well-preserved.
Kuanzhai is now trendy and artistic and is an entertaining cultural experience for visitors, with ancient Chinese architecture contrasting with modern restaurants and art galleries in a captivating way. It is particularly interesting to walk this street in the evening when the ancient attractions are juxtaposed with a lively modern nightlife and bright city lights. There are lots of souvenir shops and craft stalls selling ceramics, silk and embroidery. There are also a number of restaurants, pubs and food vendors to sell you a variety of local cuisine; and places like Starbucks to provide international staples.
Another good reason to visit Kuanzhai in the late afternoon or evening is the entertainment provided by cultural displays, dancing groups, and locals doing their daily aerobics. The area is intended to be a cultural hot spot and often even the walls display photo exhibitions. Kuanzhai is a great casual tourist attraction in Chengdu, a place where you can wander freely and just absorb local flavour.
Address: East of Tongren Road and West of Changshun Street, Qingyang District.
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
Location: Chendgu International Airport is located about 10 miles (16km) southwest of downtown Chengdu.
Time: GMT +8
Transfer between terminals: The terminals are within walking distance, however shuttles are available to transfer passengers.
Getting to the city: There are shuttle buses running to downtown Chengdu, as well as long-distance coaches to other cities in Sichuan Province.
Car rental: There are no car hire facilities at the airport, however rental cars are available in downtown Chengdu and airport pickup services are available.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside of Gate 2 of Terminal 1, and Gates 4 and 5 of Terminal 2.
Facilities: Airport services include an information centre, baggage trolleys, a smoking room, ATMs, phone chargers, vending machines, luggage storage and packaging, a lost and found, medical services, a baby-care station, VIP and first class lounges, restaurants and shops, and business services.
Parking: Parking is located in front of Terminal 1. The first hour is RMB 4, and every 30 minutes thereafter is an additional RMB 2.
Hiring a car in Chengdu is not advised due to heavy and chaotic traffic, especially at rush hour times. Metered taxis are available, though difficult to find in some areas. Note that it is necessary to have your destination written in Chinese as most drivers don't speak English. There are plenty of public transport options, however, most of which are marked on tourist maps available from the airport, railway station, and souvenir shops.
Public transport in Chengdu is mostly comprised of an extensive bus network. It is worthwhile to buy a transit card, which offers discounts and eliminates the need to carry exact change. The other half of Chengdu's public transport is the metro, which connects the North and South Railway Stations. Fares are CNY 2-5 depending on distance. A second line, running northwest and southeast, has recently been completed.
Chengdu has a humid subtropical climate, with four distinct seasons: spring is long and warm, summer is short, wet and steamy, autumn is cool and rainy, and winter is cold and foggy. Average minimum and maximum temperatures range from 28°F (-2°C) in the winter (December to February) up to 86°F (30°C) at the peak of summer (June to August). Chengdu is humid and foggy for most of the year, which reduces sunlight hours and can exaggerate the feel of the temperature. The rainy season is in July and August, when occasional storms are experienced. The best time to visit Chengdu is in the spring and autumn, including April to June and September to November.
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