This week I fulfilled a 9-year old dream: to visit Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan Province, China. I’ve been hearing about this park and seeing pictures since the first year I taught in China when students recommended it as a must visit. I didn’t get a good opportunity to go until a few weeks ago when some friends invited me to go along with their family to visit Jiuzhaigou and Chengdu, both in Sichuan province. Jiuzhaigou is up in the mountains, and is a sister national park to Yosemite (you can see a map with Jiuzhaigou and Beijing marked on the Yosemite website).
“Jiu zhai gou” means “Nine Village Valley” because at one time there were nine Tibetan villages in the area. As the legend goes, Jiuzhaigou was created when a jealous devil caused a goddess to drop a magic mirror that was a present from her lover. The mirror dropped and shattered into 118 turquoise lakes.
There are still many Tibetan people in this area, and we saw Tibetan prayer flags both in the park (they may or may not be there primarily to add local color for the tourists, I’m not sure) and in various (more authentic) places along the road we took from the airport to the hotel. We also ate Tibetan food—including yak—one evening, and I enjoyed yak yogurt for breakfast.
The park is just beautiful. The lakes really are that blue/green color! We never did figure out exactly why, but we think it has to do with the depth of the lake or river and possibly the minerals that are found in each lake. It is really a stunning place.
You can’t drive in the park, but there is a hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus service to help you get from point to point. We started by driving up one of the valleys and then working our way back down. We went most of the way on the boardwalk, using the shuttle bus when the distance was father or our feet were getting tired. As we walked down, we walked along (and often over) various forms of water—rivers and creeks, shoals, ponds, and lakes. There are several waterfalls throughout the park. We also saw a variety of plants, flowers, and a few birds. In general, there are too many people for good wildlife spotting.
Pearl Shoals Waterfall
This really is a beautiful piece of God’s creation! It was wonderful to get out of the concrete jungle that is Beijing and visit somewhere so lush and green and wet. If you want to see more pictures, I put them in a Facebook album (that you can see even if you don’t have Facebook).